I am not ashamed to say that at the last wedding I went to, back in December 2019, I had to be forcibly removed from the dancefloor. It was as if I knew that this would be my last big dance before the pandemic and I wanted to make the most of it. My friends, their partners and a distant relation of the groom called Valerie (aged 72 and by far the most talented dancer of our party) tore up the dancefloor to Motown Gold, as the venue staff gently, then less gently, reminded us that it was 4am and we had to put our shoes back on and go home. Or, as we actually did, to do karaoke in my friend’s living room.
Dancing is the best bit of weddings but at the moment it is not really allowed. Well, dancing indoors is banned and dancing outdoors is “not recommended”. As Robert Peston said, it is like being back in Cromwell’s England, and look how that turned out.
The bride and groom can have a first dance but no one can join them – understandably, this is a deal breaker for many. Two couples I know have decided not to have a first dance because the idea of getting up and performing is too excruciating. There is precedent for this – the first dance began in the 17th century and in the early 1900s newlyweds did not join the fun until after their guests had started. Anyway, an impressive performance goes against the first rule of dancing at weddings – it isn’t about one person looking cool. It is more democratic than that, a free for all where people of all generations and abilities are united, usually by a cheesy song that some members of the party would usually turn their noses up at – King of R’n’B Bruno Mars anyone? After the stress of wedding planning, minor disagreements fade into insignificance when everybody just wants to jump up and down and shout all the words to a song that takes them back to a simpler time.
People of all generations and abilities are united, usually by a cheesy song
Part of the appeal of wedding dancing is in the contrast with what comes before. Until the dancing, everything about weddings is formal and controlled – adhering to a dress code, standing on ceremony, sitting where you are told to. The small talk at weddings can be agonising – if you think you have missed parties in lockdown wait until you are stuck next to your friend’s schoolfriend’s boyfriend, captive as he holds forth on the merits of his job in insurance. The food is often underwhelming sub-school dinners fare and, let’s face it, speeches are usually hit and miss, so by the time the DJ comes on it is a sweet relief. Oh and you have had enough booze not to care how you look on the dancefloor. It’s liberating.
No wonder people are aghast that we can’t dance. There is a petition to bring back wedding dancing (all in good time my friends, once Covid cases are low enough) and people are lamenting about how they are supposed to get off with people now they can’t mingle on the dancefloor? I dimly remember having what I thought was an intellectual conversation with someone I wanted to impress on a wedding dancefloor, analysing why Shape of You by Ed Sheeran was such a clever and beautiful work of art. I think I mentioned the rhyme scheme. I woke up mortified. I mean, it includes the lyrics, “You and me are thrifty, so go all you can eat, fill up your bag and I fill up a plate.” I should have stuck to the dancing and not attempted to talk.
Of course, not everyone loves wedding dancing – the joyless brigade say the rules are saving us from ourselves and bad photos that will last forever of us thinking we look like John Travolta but ending up more Mr Bean. There are also no surprise flash mob routines, something I was cynical about until I had to do one and saw how happy it made the bride. I never thought I would miss flash mob dancing but I do. Especially after re-watching the Friends episode where Monica and Ross do The Routine. I also miss ceilidhs – the best sort of non-intimidating wedding dancing, where no one knows the song so you can all join in.
One woman tried to replicate the feeling that everyone dancing together creates with a game of rounders instead. She scored a home run in her 24kg Pakistani wedding dress. I hope she put on some music while she did it.
The next wedding I am going to is this August so fingers crossed the rules will have eased by then. Clear the dancefloor.