10 Unique First Dance Alternatives to Mark the Moment

photog: Chloe Mary | planning: Attabara Studio

Maybe you don’t like being in the spotlight. Maybe you want to shake up tradition. Or maybe dancing just isn’t your thing! You can choose to forego the first dance for a number of reasons, but that doesn’t mean there can’t still be a special moment to mark the start of your marriage. First dance alternatives are a beautiful way to take the pressure off without removing the sentiment behind the tradition.

As with most suggestions you’ll find here on GWS, the question to ask yourself is, “What feels true to us?” and go from there. Any number of things can be just as meaningful—or even more so—than a first dance if it truly represents you and your relationship.

We chatted with a few industry insiders to find out what modern couples are doing instead of a first dance! Jot down your favorite ideas and let’s get this celebration started!

1. Start the night with a champagne tower.

photog: Darian Shantay Photo | design: Fetelle Designs | florals: The Bloom of Time as seen in this Neutral Wedding with an Edgy Twist

“Instead of a first dance, consider a champagne tower! Not only is it a beautiful decor piece, but it’s also a super fun, celebratory event to do with your new husband or wife in front of your guests!” – Stephanie Sadowski, SRS Events

2. Kick things off with a wow-factor food moment.

“Ask the chef to provide a specialty food moment (like a flaming cheese wheel to serve up pasta) or a bartender kick things off with a cocktail show! Foodie couples, this is perfect for you – it’s a great alternative to having a first dance if that’s not your thing!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

3. Perform a song for your guests.

photog: Gladys Jem | planner: They So Loved Events | venue: The Presidio Log Cabin

“For Carey & Gabriel, two artists from San Francisco, it was more fitting for the two of them to sit together, play their instruments and sing for their guests in lieu of a first dance. Carey changed out of her wedding dress into sparkly tights and a velvet dress. She and Gabriel then took their guests on a musical journey with their voices in harmony. The connection between the couple during this time was palpable and guests were absolutely captivated by this most special one-of-a-kind performance.” – Stacy Wichelhaus, Event Planner, They So Loved Events 

4. Treat yourselves (and your guests!) to a special performance.

“There’s a reason serenades are so popular in romance movies: they’re romantic! Skip the first dance and instead choose to have your band, a live musician, or a local artist perform a special song. It’ll feel like a private concert for you and your guests, and will still create the special ambiance that a first dance tends to bring.” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

5. Open it up for a karaoke moment.

“Dancing doesn’t have to be the only ‘all eyes on you’ option for the wedding day. With a little additional coordination between your DJ or AV vendors, you can substitute a formal dance with a karaoke performance. Not only does this add a unique touch to a wedding day tradition, but it allows for an additional entertainment piece for guests throughout the entire reception.” – Ari Busch, Operations Manager and Lead Planner, Bridal Bliss

6. Share the spotlight.

wedding party dance party as an alternative to the first dance
photog: Ellie Asher Photography | Planner: Bridal Bliss

“If you and your partner aren’t too keen on having all eyes on you for a first dance, why not take the opportunity to honor your guests? You can open up the dance floor in many ways. Perhaps it’s honoring your grandparents that have been married for 50+ years. Or asking the entire bridal party to join you. Or opening it up to all the married couples to honor their unions, too. This not only takes the ‘solo performance’ pressure off but also celebrates your loved ones and shows them your appreciation! From there, opening up the dance floor to everyone in attendance is a natural next step.” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide

7. Incorporate your guests with a song or dance.

“We love the idea of making the grand entrance the moment to focus on the bride and groom instead of the first dance. Guests could serenade (with musical accompaniment) the couple as they enter their reception together. Escort cards or place settings for guests could include printed lyrics to the song and guests could rise and begin their serenade as the couple walks in. Their wedding party or family can help lead this symbolic and touching moment.” – Andaleeb Firdosy, Atelier Azure Invitations

8. Head right into speeches.

first dance alternatives share signature cocktail
photography: Cody & Allison // see more on GWS

“Don’t want all eyes on you? Pass off the attention to your nearest and dearest that will be giving speeches! Head straight to your seats and have someone provide a welcome toast, then dive into your maid of honor and best man speeches to kick off the evening. This works especially well if you have a plated dinner as guests can have their food served while they listen to speeches!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

9. Break the ice with a welcome toast.

“Instead of the traditional first dance with just the bride and groom, I love the idea of welcoming the couple with a toast and then inviting everyone on the dance floor for a group first dance. When this took place at one of my weddings, it broke the ice between all of the guests and put everyone in a more lively, festive mood.” – Lisette Gatliff of Lisette OC Photography

10. Play slide show with songs you love.

“We’ve seen couples let guests still their ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ by creating a fun slide show set to music. It could highlight your path to your big day, or just a great collection of Instagram posts capturing all the fun you’ve enjoyed together. At the end of the day, guests just want to support and love you, so find a way that works well for you as a couple to do that!” – Melissa Wilmot, Founder + CEO, WedBrilliant 

11. Form your own “first.”

first dance alternatives sparkler wedding
photography: El Momento Perfecto Fotografo // see more on GWS

“Sometimes it’s nice to shake things up a bit, so why stick with the formal first dance if you don’t want to? You can do a ‘first’ anything with your partner! Customization is what makes a wedding special, so pinpoint the things that make your partnership unique and celebrate that. This is your chance to get creative, so give yourself permission to buck tradition and form your own “first”.” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide