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Wedding First Dance | Launch Your Disco In Style with Nicola Martin from Five Star Wedding Dance

Your Wedding First Dance is the key to launching your disco in style. There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to launch your wedding first dance. With Nicola Martin from Five Star Wedding Dance we break down exactly what you must know to give your Wedding guests a wedding first dance and a disco to remember.

Listen to Nicola on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…


Nicola Martin, Five Star Wedding Dance


James [00:00:03] Hello Nicola. Welcome back to Wedding Espresso. It’s been far too long. 

Nicola [00:00:10] I know it’s been a long time. 

James [00:00:12] Awesome. So for anybody watching that doesn’t know who you are already, you’re Nicola Martin and you run Five Star Wedding Dance. 

Nicola [00:00:19] I do. I do. I teach couples their first dance. I supply various packages from a one off lesson to avoid that dodgy shuffle on the dance floor. Or if you want to learn a full choreographed routine, then we structure a package of lessons and spread them out equally, up to the big day.

So yeah I specialise in teaching couples how to dance. 

James [00:00:42] Learning a first dance is something I think a lot people want to do, but like we were just chatting about earlier, I think a lot of people are afraid to do. But I think, if they talked to someone like you, they’re going to very quickly realise that it isn’t actually that big a deal.

So the thing I really, really, really wanted to discuss with you today was how to launch your wedding disco in style.

Because there is a way to launch a wedding disco that works, and there’s a way to launch a wedding disco that doesn’t really work so well. And a couple of things in between which we need to talk about. 

James [00:01:16]

So in terms of the first dance then, if a couple are going to go to all the effort of learning a first dance, it makes sense that they go to all the effort of understanding how to actually perform the first dance.

Because there’s a sequence of events. Now what happens normally I think you’ll agree is that often the DJ will just start playing music with the evening do. People are coming in, the music’s going, they’re not really sure if the disco started or not. And kids start to dance around and the adults go well… 

Nicola [00:01:47] What’s going on? 

James [00:01:48] Yeah what’s going on? The kids are dancing, I don’t know, I’ll just sit here and have a few drinks and maybe get some buffet or whatever. And then suddenly out of the blue the couple announce “right we’re gonna do our first dance” and so everybody’s like “okay stop the disco”. They do their first dance and then in our experience, certainly most of the time, after the first dance and maybe it’s nerves, maybe it’s nerves and they need to be kind of discussed beforehand,

but people do the first dance and then rush off the dance floor. And nobody really wants to then restart the dancing. 

Nicola [00:02:22] Yes. 

James [00:02:23] And I know in the gap that we haven’t spoken you have actually got married yourself haven’t you? And been through this entire experience. 

Nicola [00:02:29] I’ve been through the whole thing. 

James [00:02:30] You’ve been through the entire experience so do you want to explain, or just tell us a little bit about actually what happened at your wedding? Because I think that’s a really important point. 

Nicola [00:02:38] Yes. So people who come to me for lessons would think that me being a first dance teacher that I’ll be really prepared when it comes to my own wedding. But I got married peak wedding season. Well actually, just as wedding season was probably just starting to kick off. I got married in May. And I had all my wedding dance couples, I had all my enquiries coming in. I’ve booked everybody in. Great, great, great. And then my husband works away, so obviously I was limited to the rehearsal time that I had. Now I know what I can do, and I know what I can kind of put on to him and stuff but Matt’s to his own devices.

Anyway we ended up with the week before the wedding, and I’m thinking right, I need to teach you to dance.

And he’s like “yeah, yeah, yeah”. And I was like, “no Matt I really need to teach you to dance”. And anyway I ended up teaching Matt the full routine. We did it in about two, two and a half hours. 

James [00:03:37] That’s amazing! We had about 250 hours. 

Nicola [00:03:39] Did you? 

James [00:03:42] Just to put it into perspective, you know. 

Nicola [00:03:44] Well it was just to the point where all my couples are going “Oh Nic, I think I need an extra lesson” okay no problem, no problem. Then you’re going “oh okay when am I going to fit mine in?” And we literally pushed the table to one side in the kitchen and used our dining area. And I was like right Matt, “this is the structure of the dance” and then he was like “okay”. I taught it to him literally in two one hour slots.

And then fortunately, we got married on the Sunday and on the Friday, a dance teacher friend of mine said “Nic would you like a studio” because Matt suddenly went “I need a mirror”. 

James [00:04:15] Right. 

Nicola [00:04:16] And anyway we were going to do a cut version of our song. But actually we worked it and Matt went “I think we can do the whole thing”. And we did the whole thing. We did the whole three minute number, and it was great. So yes. So I wouldn’t recommend that to my couples, to do the whole three minute number a week before the wedding. We do organise it so that we’ve got spread out lessons leading up to the big day. So I wouldn’t advise that, but it can be done under certain circumstances. But yes so it got to our big day and obviously you’re so caught up in the whirlwind of events that’s happening. And then I remember the night before, Matt and I had a quick run through in our friend’s hotel room, and then it was bye, see you tomorrow. Love you! Separate! 

James [00:05:00] Brilliant, yep! 

Nicola [00:05:00] And then obviously you get caught up in the whirlwind of everything. And then it gets to, what did we do? We had the cutting of the cake. And obviously we’d had the wedding breakfast and everything like that. Cutting of the cake and then in the next minute “Nic and Matt we need you on the dance floor. it’s first dance time, and we kind of went “oh yeah”. So we kicked our evening off with, they announced our first dance, we had our first dance, and then it led into the DJ taking over and then going into the evening dance celebrations. But we also actually had a band called The Jersey Guys, who have all been in the musical, Jersey Boys. So we had our first dance and then it kicked off with set one of The Jersey Guys. And we had a 20 minute in between where people got to have nibbles and stuff, and then it went into set two. And then it went into full on DJ after that.

So I would recommend doing your first dance at the start and then leading into your DJ or your band, evening entertainment, personally. 

James [00:05:59] I’m fully in agreement with you Nicola. I think it’s a conversation isn’t it? I think it’s very easy to say let’s book DJ, and then obviously they know what they’re doing, and their job is to play music. So if they don’t have any other instruction, they will play music. That’s what they’re there to do. 

Nicola [00:06:15] I think communication is key as well. Communicate with your DJ. For example, you could say to your DJ, “I’m doing Ed Sheeran blah blah blah blah blah” and he’ll come in with the remix of it. And you’ve got the normal slow version. So you need to just make sure that you fully communicate with your DJ.

And actually one thing that happened with our wedding is the DJ kind of got into his usual spiel of halfway through the dance, “right ladies and gents get up on your feet, give them a hand, help them out, join them on the dance floor”, when actually Matt and I had a full choreographed routine.

And in my head I was thinking “No please don’t join us”. Luckily nobody paid attention because they were watching our full dance and we did the full three minute number, whatever it was. But also communicate that, if you want with your dance instructor, if you want to have just half the song and then people join you, I do that a lot with my couples as well.

I encourage them to do the full song because I want them to, you know it’s nice, and actually they get to halfway through and they go “Oh Nic, actually I think we could do the whole song” and I’m like “I’m really glad you said that.”

But sometimes they just get to a certain point or if it goes into like, it gets up beat or something and they’re like, “now we want our friends to join”. Just communicate that with your DJ so that he knows. 

Nicola [00:07:33] We had a bit of a Matt likes lights. He’s a stage manager. We had these things called Sparkulars, which are like big sparklers by the side of the stage. He didn’t tell me, this was a surprise.

So in the middle of our dance there’s a key change. We’re doing this spin and the Sparkulars went “pow”. 

James [00:07:52] Awesome! Love a bit of drama, that’s amazing. 

Nicola [00:07:55] Bit of theatre. So yeah. 

James [00:07:58] So I just want to get like a permanent marker and draw this round in people’s brains. Talk to the DJ and tell them what you’re doing, because it’s really, really important. Especially if you’re doing a full choreographed routine. 

Nicola [00:08:09] Just make sure that your tracks match. Just make sure that, you know, because there are so many versions of a song. A slow version, a DJ mix, like a remix, or whatever. Just make sure that you communicate with your DJ. And also if you decide actually we want to just fade out at a certain point, because we’re going to finish there, just tell him or her. It does help. 

James [00:08:32] You’re absolutely right. Our first dance song was, I’ve got to really dig deep here. But it was like a swinging 60s remix of a cover that an industrial, like techno band had covered. There was actually a cover of a French techno track, so it gone through like so many variations. 

Nicola [00:08:55] OK, yours is very individual. 

James [00:08:57] It was, it was very special. But if we’d relied on like the DJ to bring it, it would have been like the original French techno version, and we would have been lost. Without the swinging 60’s and the pace and the beats and everything that we’d learnt. 

Nicola [00:09:07] Exactly.

And you’ve put all that effort in as well and you’ve paid to have lessons and you and you want it to go well. Obviously nerves can kick in, but actually nine out of ten times I’d say all my couples come back and say “oh my gosh, it went so well”

and I’m like “yeah. I knew you could, I’m so proud”. 

James [00:09:29] No greater buzz. And I think, I just picked up on something you were saying earlier about couples take it half way, and then suddenly they want to do the rest. And I reckon that really does apply to grooms to be, because… 

Nicola [00:09:42] Oh one hundred percent. 

James [00:09:43] Especially because they’re thinking well I don’t really want to do it. And then they have a go and think actually this is really good fun. That’s what I found. 

Nicola [00:09:49] Actually James what you’re saying is so funny.

So most of the time, because I tend to teach couples in the comfort of their own home. Just because it’s a familiar surrounding, they can have a glass of wine, a cup of tea. They can be, you know, just comfortable. 

James [00:10:02] Themselves, yes. 

Nicola [00:10:03] And then sometimes they choose to learn their dance away from their homes. Say for example if they’ve got lots of kids, or they’ve got family staying, and they don’t want family to know that they’re having lessons. Then we hire a studio and we do it separately that way. Or they do half and half and go for the last one, we want a mirror, just to make sure we’re really, really on form. Actually most of the time, it’s the Groom that is literally a rabbit in headlights. Up against the wall going “I can’t do this”. That’s OK. That’s why I’m here. I mean we’re not expecting you to know what you’re doing because otherwise what’s the point of paying me to come and help you. And then after lesson one, you see they’re like “oh yeah, it’s OK”. I love that. I do love that about the Grooms. And I taught a couple called Nat and John recently. I posted a little video recently and my Instagram where I’m basically in the role of the bride, and I was counting it through. And John, he was super enthusiastic from day one. He was like “yeah let’s do this”. I love that. 

James [00:11:10]

I think one of the secrets that not many people know is that, if you’re going to learn a full choreographed dance, much of it is repeated isn’t it?

Actually if you learn certain parts, you can just repeat them. And people don’t realise. 

Nicola [00:11:24] That’s like a little trick to the trade. So you know this bit here, we’re just going to repeat it, but we’ll do it on the other side. Or we’ll just do up to here, and then we’re going to do a repeat. And as soon as you say to them, repeat, they’re like “oh yeah good, we’re not learning something new, OK great”. And it’s settled, like home ground, yeah I’m cool with this. 

James [00:11:45] Yeah I mean that’s what we were told.

I think we got about 30 percent through, what was going to be our routine, and then Kathryn turned around to us and said that’s 90 percent of it guys. We’re just going to shuffle those bits. 

Nicola [00:11:59] Or shuffle them around and then you’ll get back to this point. We’ll do this little part the section you know you know this bit. So yeah it’s nice and every dance is tailored to every couple to. I mean I could have a couple come to me and go Nic we want to do a Grease megamix. Okay. 

James [00:12:17] Let’s do it, yep. 

Nicola [00:12:18] Or they’lI say, oh I want to do lifts. So then you get to it and go okay, so this is what we’re going to do. And they go “oh I can’t do that”. OK but you wanted to do lifts. “No, no I don’t think I do anymore”. Yeah it’s lovely. I love it and I love seeing the progression. And that’s what I really love, seeing the couple go from “oh okay. Oh so my hand goes here and which way do I turn”. Then the next lesson they’ve had a bit of a practice. We’ve videoed it, they’ve filmed me doing it and I count it all out for them. And the next lesson it’s like “oh, oh it’s in the brain”. 

James [00:12:51] Yeah. Muscle memory. Absolutely.

I’m really glad that you mentioned filming it actually because that was one of the true transitions for us. 

Nicola [00:13:02] It’s brilliant, technology nowadays you’ve got it there. Why wouldn’t you do it. 

James [00:13:06] Katherine was always saying that in your brain, you think you’re doing 100 percent. But your body’s just doing about 50 percent. You think Yeah I’m cool at this. And then you look at yourself and you think ooh no. And she said

you’ve actually got to program your brain to go 150 percent. And then when you watch the video back, you realise what that means. The more you put in, the more you get out.

Nicola [00:13:29] It’s quite funny actually because of all couples I’ve taught, there’s hundreds of videos of me around on people’s phones. Just demonstrating the dances. But they like to do that, they like to film me. I’ll either be the groom, or I’ll be the bride, or whatever. I’m just counting it out for them and then they go away and practice it. And it’s just their kind of safety blanket to refer back to in between lessons. I advise it and you know it’s great. And even with Matt and I, you know I made sure that we filmed it. And then he’d look at it and go “oh right so I need to do my foot on that bit, OK”. Yeah I highly recommend it. 

James [00:14:09] Top tip and I guess it wouldn’t be fair to kind of exclude people from this conversation who really don’t want to learn a first dance.

But in my view I think it’s worth just going for a lesson, two lessons, because it can give you that extra lift, an extra level of confidence. And then you’re going into it at least knowing that you’ve done some prep. 

Nicola [00:14:31] And also as well it doesn’t have to…

Every first dance is different. I have some couples that go right we want to do the whole thing. Fully choreographed. And then we have couples who want to not look choreographed. They want to look confident, and that’s fine.

You know there’s a moment where they think “oh I’ve never danced in a dress like this before”. Because to be fair no one’s danced in a wedding dress. Do you know what I mean. Even for me, it’s a completely different thing. You’ve got this train, you’ve got this dress. It’s heavy and you’ve got to negotiate the weight of the dress, or when you’re stepping in your heels and stuff. So yeah completely. And it doesn’t have to be anything flamboyant, it can just be so simple. I always say less is more personally. 

Nicola [00:15:16] And you know just to know how to hold each other, and then it gives them confidence if they’re going to another event, another occasion. And they feel confident to actually get up onto the dance floor.

Because before Matt would never dance with me at any Wedding. And then when he asked my dad for permission to marry me, my mum said on one condition, you dance with her at the wedding. And now he’s like “I can do this”. 

James [00:15:40] Yeah. got the confidence up. 

Nicola [00:15:41] Yeah completely. 

James [00:15:43] That’s really funny actually because my dad, when he proposed to my mum and he said, you know, will you marry me. She said on one condition. You dance with me. And he didn’t. In fairness, they didn’t have a big reception. So there was no dancing on their wedding day. But obviously on subsequent holidays and things, like Dad is really shy and he wouldn’t get up. I mean we’re talking about going back decades aren’t we? But had they had the opportunity, I think to go for a couple of lessons, I think they would have loved it. Mum would’ve loved it. You know, and she would have loved Dad picking up that confidence. 

Nicola [00:16:22] Well funnily enough I’ve got a couple that I’m teaching next month, and she has always wanted to learn to dance with her hubby to be. But they don’t get married till next year. And she contacted me and I also offer a gift voucher.

So it doesn’t have to be for a wedding, it could be for an anniversary. To their favourite song, or anything.

Anyway they’re getting married next year and she purchased a gift voucher which is to the value of two one and a half hour lessons. And basically they’re just picking a song of theirs that they love. We’re having two lessons together which is just going to be for fun. And then to think about doing their first dance next year. So it’s not for a first dance, it’s purely for his birthday, and she went, we’ve always wanted to dance together. I’m gonna buy him a voucher. He can then choose what song, when we do the lessons. It’s valid for a year and then they’ve come back to me and said Roger’s onboard. Can’t wait. And given me a selection of dates that they can do. So I’m working with them in November. And they get married next year so hopefully then they’ll come back to me and go “right we want to do this”. 

James [00:17:31] Amazing. So that’s a really gentle introduction idea, that’s great. 

Nicola [00:17:35]

I do taster lessons as well, so sometimes if people aren’t sure, then I’m like “OK well how about I come to you for an hour”. Have a little chat. I did that for a couple early on in the year.

They’re not getting married till next year and they’re going to start training with me from January. You know, there’s ways of doing it. It’s not just set in stone. 

James [00:17:54] Fantastic. So there you go. I mean that’s the whole range isn’t it? Whether you want to go full in or whether you just want to dip your toe. We’re both sitting here and we’re both saying you should do it, because it is totally worth the experience. 

Nicola [00:18:04] And also, there’s not many times where you get the attention. Some people don’t like the idea of all eyes on them. But actually Kate and Tim, my couple got married about a month ago, and they were like “Nic we’re really nervous about the fact that it’s just us”. And I said “but you know what, forget about them, because at the end of the day they’re all there because they’re friends of yours and they’re happy for you”. And actually it’s all about the moment. It’s just about you two in the moment. And it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what people think. They’re all there because it’s a happy day and it’s a happy occasion. So actually they’re not going to judge you anyway. And most of the time, most people go “oh my gosh they’ve got a dance, amazing”. So everyone was going “go Matt, go Matt” and he’s counting out loud going “one, two”. And everyone was cheering him on. 

James [00:18:59]

They love it. In the hundreds and hundreds of hours we’ve spent at weddings, I’ve never seen anybody be anything but thrilled at watching someone. 

Nicola [00:19:14] Happy and thrilled and encouraging. Yes. So anyone who is thinking “oh no I don’t want to do it”. It doesn’t have to be flamboyant and it doesn’t have to be like a cha cha cha. It doesn’t have to be anything. It can just be something really simple so that you know how to hold each other, how to negotiate the dress and just be in that moment together. And that’s that. 

James [00:19:33] It’s as simple as that. I think I recall from our wedding first dance, I don’t think I remember even seeing anybody. It was just Rachel, me. Just total blinkers on, total blinkers on the whole time. 

Nicola [00:19:44] I just remember the sparklers going POW. 

James [00:19:46] That would get your attention. Yeah we did something similar. We did confetti cannons at the end, just to signal to everybody that now is disco time. You know it is a similar kind of idea. 

Nicola [00:19:59] Yes we did it on the key change. So we did Michael Buble, Everything. And there’s a key change in the middle. But I didn’t know, this was a surprise. So that in the spin, Matt’s grinning to himself and he just loves a bit of theatre. Tada! And everyone was like “wow”. It was cool.

James [00:20:16] Awesome. I mean I think that’s the tip in closing then Nicola really isn’t it?

If you can think of that little thing just to pop it out. A bit of flair goes down goes down really, really well. We’re both pretty advocates.

We’re both advocates. 

Nicola [00:20:36] Yes. 

James [00:20:37] Cool. Nicola thank you so much. That’s been an awesome chat and I mean there’s some seriously high level tips there that people should probably just scribble down in their notebooks. Because you know, it’s the way to get things right and then they’ll have those happy memories for the rest of their lives. So thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and your experience with us. 

Nicola [00:20:57] You’re welcome. 

James [00:20:58] Cool. And we can’t wait to get onto Wedding Espresso in the near future. It’s been too long. So we’ll shorten that gap. 

Nicola [00:21:06] Okay cool. 

James [00:21:07] Thanks again Nicola. 

Nicola [00:21:08] No problem! 

James [00:21:08] Thanks again. All right take care, bye. 

Nicola [00:21:09] Bye! 

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