Surprise dances, often referred to as “flash mobs,” took the U.S. by storm in 2003, when the senior editor of Harper’s Magazine Bill Wasik coordinated a surprise performance in a Macy’s in New York City. Intended as a “playful social experiment to encourage spontaneity,” imitators soon began choreographing and performing all worldwide. The largest recorded “flash mob” boogied through Hollywood’s Universal CityWalk in 2012, with 6,601 people dancing the Carlton.
Fans of the flashmob can find thousands of videos on YouTube, depicting creative choreography and spectacular spontaneity. For over a decade, surprise dances have been popular at weddings! These performances may be organized by the bride and groom, or by the wedding party - either way they tend to be quite lively and upbeat. If you’re planning on surprising your wedding guests, here are nine tips for avoiding faux pas and coordinating an elegant surprise dance!
- Make Some Room- It’s important to plan in advance to confirm adequate space for the performance. Only move forward with your surprise dance plans if the venue has a large dance floor. Performing in a space that’s too-small risks injury, damage to the decor; along with an embarrassing dance fail.
- Timing is Everything- No one wants a surprise in the middle of the happy couple’s first dance. Schedule an appropriate time, such as after the toasts, before giving the signal for the dancers to bust a move. It is best to confirm with the wedding coordinator to ensure that your group won’t be disrupting the reception schedule. Plan to limit the dance to 3-4 minutes, and save any longer 30 minute performance for the after-party.
- Seated Wedding Guests- Unlike most dance performances, surprise wedding dances usually occur in a populated area with limited space. Plan the dance for a time when wedding guests are seated.
- Be Appropriate- Friends and family are coming together to celebrate a blessed and special event- a wedding. Carefully consider song choice and dance moves. Choose a song with clean lyrics and an upbeat rhythm to keep the mood fun and family-friendly.
- Keep it Covered- Select dresses and clothing that doesn’t give the audience more than an eyeful. For the ladies, if the choreography includes spins or twirls, avoid a Marilyn Monroe moment by choosing a longer hemline.
- Plan and practice- Surprise wedding dances are an impressive sight to behold when well executed. Plan well and give yourself plenty of time to practice!
- Keep it simple- Choreography for a dozen or more people can be tricky, especially if guests want to join. If you’re planning a surprise dance, choose simple steps that repeat, so that everyone can learn the moves and avoid embarrassing missteps.
- Be Inclusive- Instead of the same group of people performing, include wedding party members, relatives, and guests. For example, include different age groups, genders, and family members from both the bride and groom’s sides.
- Be Respectful of Audience’s Space- If you are planning a surprise dance, be sure to work within the bounds of what is provided on that date and time. Sometimes, what is booked and what is delivered are two different things.
- Send a Reminder: A day before the wedding, send a friendly email or text reminding surprise dance participants of the plan. Be sure to let them know where they’re expected to be and when, so that everyone’s ready to dance the moment you press “play.”
Surprising the bride and groom with a dance performed by their friends and family can be a memorable way to express everyone’s well wishes and happiness for the couple. If you’re planning on a flash-mob style performance at an upcoming wedding, consider these tips for a show that sweeps the audience off their feet!
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.