The Wedding Dance

You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out, you put your right hand in and then you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about.

Or is it? As far as wedding dances go, anyway, the Hokey Pokey is not what it’s about at all anymore.

Instead it’s a whole lot more sophisticated these days than it used to be. From the couple’s first dance, to choreographed wedding party entrances, to the music chosen for the entire event, the wedding dance has become an essential consideration in the planning process.

“It’s not mom and dad’s wedding rehashed,” said Jamie Scognamillo, part-owner of FM Productions LLC, a professional DJ and entertainment service based in Southington. “A lot of couples are making it more modern and less traditional.”

According to Scognamillo, who has worked hundreds of weddings, the evolution of the wedding dance has not only changed with the times, but with the technology too.

He said it’s not uncommon to have couples provide them with a computer flash drive fully loaded with all the music they want played, beginning with the cocktail hour and lasting until the end of the night.

“We’re their boom box, if you will,” he said.

Although many couples are still content to let him pick the music, they’re asked to provide a list of the songs they would like played, along with ones they don’t, to ensure the experience is tailored to their tastes. “We want it to be a customized experience,” Scognamillo said.

He’s also seen an increase in couples and wedding parties performing fully choreographed dances, including one wedding party that surprised guests by breaking into the infamous routine from the Michael Jackson “Thriller” video.

Another couple brought down the house when they recreated the iconic last dance from the film “Dirty Dancing.”

“They did it from start to finish, including the lift,” said Scognamillo. “It was the first time I’d seen that; it was fabulous.”

In pursuit of a memorable first dance, whether showstopping or just more refined than rocking back and forth, many couples are taking dance lessons weeks, sometimes even months, before the big day.

dance converse

“Wedding couples have definitely evolved immensely over years,” said Frank Rende Jr., director of Arthur Murray Dance Studio of New Britain. “They know they’re going to do that first dance in front of 150 people and they want it be special, to feel confident, and comfortable.”

Rende said that most of the time they come with a song already picked out, and depending on how much lead time there is before the wedding, and what they want to do, the dance they learn can be simple or intricate.

Either way he suggests starting early because the closer the wedding gets, the harder it becomes to carve out time to learn.

“We recommend couples start six to 10 months ahead of time and the reason is that it’s not just the first dance, we can show them some other dances too, so they can enjoy dancing to other music; not just the one dance,” Rende said.

Beyond instructing couples, Rende said that they also teach entire wedding parties that want to do something as a group, as well as fathers and daughters or mothers and sons who want to do something more memorable during their spotlighted dance.

“We’ve evolved from the Hokey Pokey,” he said. “Dance lessons are becoming a big part of wedding planning, like photographers and videographers. A lot of people see it at other weddings or on YouTube and say, ‘I want that at our wedding.’ ”

After recently attending a relative’s wedding where the couple did a choreographed first dance, South Windsor residents Marina Camblor and fiancé Chris Soverns want to plan something for their own wedding, coming up in May.

“I went to a cousin’s wedding and they did a choreographed first dance and it was phenomenal. It was a highlight and everyone still talks about the first dance.”

So she and Soverns plan on taking some lessons in advance of their nuptials. Nothing crazy, she explained, but a dance that captures the moment for her and her future husband, and their guests too.

“I think that first dance is something very special; it’s the first dance as a married couple and we want to do something a little special, something interesting to watch, that people will remember and we will remember.”

Beyond that, she said, they are not too worried about the rest of the music at their wedding dance, they just want it to be fun and for people to have a good time.

“We’re pretty much up for anything; the Electric Slide if they want to do it, the Macarena. I love dancing, I’ll dance to anything.”

What about the Hokey Pokey?

“That’s pushing it,” she said. “I draw the line there.”

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