Top image: Kelly Kollar Photography, taken from Ava & Josh’s Art deco-inspired Jewish wedding
All other images: Laura DeBourde Photography, taken from Amy & Steve’s Jewish wedding
I have to hand it to Steve, my husband — he knows how to set priorities when it comes to wedding planning. We got married last month, and he didn’t care too much about many of the little details — talk of place cards and napkin rings didn’t garner much interest. But when it came to planning our wedding reception (or party, as we liked to call it), he knew exactly what he wanted.
We both love to dance and often host parties at our flat — friends end up dancing in the kitchen, the living room and even the hallway. Music was always going to be an important part of our big day. When we first started talking about what kind of party we wanted to have, Steve said it was important to him to invest our money in three things —
- A groovy dance floor to complement our largely 70’s, 80’s and 90’s playlist
- A band or/and D.J. that we respected
- Lighting to create a party mood
Do something different with the dance floor!
The venue we’d booked had a lovely wooden dance floor, which was definitely characterful (read old and creaky). It wouldn’t have occurred to me to invest some extra pounds in order to get a really amazing dance floor experience. I’m glad Steve made this a priority, because the dance floor that we hired was amazing. We invested in a light up dance floor which changed colors as people danced. The dance floor company gave us a technician for no extra charge. He was working away as we were dancing, changing the designs, patterns and words on the dance floor to match the energy of the crowd and the songs.
If your wedding playlist is in any way retro inspired (think 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s) then this kind of ‘something extra’ dance floor will add much to your party. 80 people dancing to ‘Disco Inferno’ when the floor is lit up with orange and red flames is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced! Saturday Night Fever, eat your heart out. Having ‘Amy and Steve 2015’ in lights was not something I had ever hankered after, but seeing it on the dance floor made me smile, and the guests loved it. The interactive nature of the light up dance floor contributed so much to the incredible energy of the night.
Get the most out of your Jewish wedding music
It’s all very well having a crazy dance floor, but without the music, what would be the point? We decided to hire a traditional Klezmer band, as we wanted to channel the music of our ancestry. The band was with us throughout the day — they were playing as the guests arrived at the Synagogue and then throughout the ceremony. Breaking the glass to the sound of ‘Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov’ played out with a four-piece band and then dancing our way down the aisle in the Shul after the ceremony was simply lovely. Many guests referred to the music as ‘joyful,’ which is great — that’s exactly how we felt!
Later, after cocktails and dinner, where the band played as well, they played a thirty minute set and their band leader led us in traditional Jewish dancing. It got pretty busy (some might say crazy) on the dance floor during their set — my new husband was flung in the air at one point and saved from near death by about twenty very strong men standing in two rows. To say that I wasn’t a bit worried would be a lie — but I just kept smiling (albeit a kind of terrified smile) and watched as he landed safely, narrowly missing the floor. Your face will hurt from smiling by the end of your wedding day. I actually couldn’t stop smiling the whole day. I just couldn’t help it!
I found the manic energy on the dance floor mostly really exciting — the happiness was palpable and everyone was in the mood for celebrating. There were lots of people moving very quickly in lines, in circles, doing the limbo, jumping in the air, all kinds of things. But if you have claustrophobic tendencies, or just don’t like being in small spaces with lots of people dancing around you, round and round and round, know that you can feel free to adjust the dance set according to your preferences. You can agree in advance with your band exactly which dances you want to have. It’s also okay to step out of the circle for a few minutes and stand on the edge of the floor — it’s your wedding — better to take a pause and watch everything for a minute or two than be in the middle of the circle wanting to escape!
Have a dance leader
We found that having a dance leader was so helpful — ours was provided by the band, but you can always hire your own — a friend who knows the dances can always just liaise with the band. Our leader was able to lead everyone through the dances and I, for one, appreciated having an expert on hand who knew the moves for each song. Our band even threw in a free dance lesson a few weeks before the wedding. It was so much fun dancing around the living room with my husband to be, uncoordinated as I am, a few weeks before the big day — giggles guaranteed!
Tips for the hora (chair dance)
I can’t write about Jewish dancing without mentioning the big one…like many brides, I was in equal parts hesitant and excited about the Chair Dance. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of getting a chair with arms. You may be like me, easily motion sick and a little nervous about being bounced up and down in a chair by eight of your male friends. Or you may be excited and ready for the challenge, like my stepdad, who enjoyed the dance hands-free, with the biggest grin on his face. Either way, a chair with arms is advisable! I have to admit that being up in the chair and looking down at everyone from such a height was a lot of fun— the expressions on the faces of our wedding guests were priceless! If in doubt, do this dance; you won’t regret it.
Now, let’s talk lighting…even if you decide to go with a traditional dance floor, lighting will make all the difference between a regular space and an ambient, evening, party space. We had uplighters that ran the length of our reception room and we chose warm colours — light blue and pink; they really helped to make the mood. This is one of the priorities that I wouldn’t scrimp on. The lighting also contributes towards making your photos look fantastic — think more wedding disco and less bar mitzvah!
Steve had his priorities, and I’m glad he did. But I had a few of my own, too….
Consider your dress…
Right after the Chair Dance, I changed out of my long wedding gown and into a short, white, flapper style dress. Leading up to the wedding, I had wondered if I would ever want to get changed out of my wedding dress, but after a lot of Jewish dancing, holding up my dress with a bustle, I felt very ready to have less fabric to contend with. I was so much more free in my movements in the short dress and my friends commented on how palpable that feeling was – when I emerged from the bathroom after getting changed into my dress, everyone cheered. It was nice to see my legs again! If dancing is a priority at your wedding (it was at ours — we had a late license and dancing went on until 2 am), then you might want to consider a short dress.
…and your shoes!
Talking of clothes, let’s talk about shoes. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of comfortable shoes. I completely understand the potential dilemma – you want beautiful heels, you want your legs to look long and lean, and the best way to do that is to wear heels, and heels aren’t always so comfortable. The thing is, you also want and need to be on your feet for hours. Hours. There is not much sitting down at your wedding. Begin the quest for comfortable heels as soon as you can — they can be found! There are some great heel brands that you can find in bridal stores and online….some even have mattress foam in them. Mine did — they were like walking around on a cushion!
Whichever kind of shoes you go for, I recommend wearing your bridal shoes around the house after you buy them, just to make sure you can walk comfortably. Try dancing around the house in your wedding shoes. I know so many brides like to dance in ballet flats, or even barefoot. I don’t know a bride who hasn’t ended with her shoes off at some point in the evening; I know I did. It doesn’t matter how comfortable your heels are; by 1 am you just want to kick them off. And do it!
This is your wedding; do anything you want! Most especially…dance all night… you are marrying the love of your life! As W.H. Auden once wrote — “Dance until the stars come down from the rafters! Dance, just dance!”
About the author: Amy Schreibman Walter is a teacher and poet living in London. Her second chapbook of poems, ‘Houdini’s Wife and Other Poems’ will be published by Dancing Girl Press in 2016. You can read her poems here.