The ceremony is over, the cake has been cut, the bouquet has been thrown, your guests have demonstrated every dance move from the Twist to the Stanky Leg. Now it’s time to end the official celebration with the last dance.
The purpose of the first dance is straightforward: it’s so everyone in the room can watch you and your bride, and go “Aww.” The purpose of the last dance is more varied.
It’s a nice way to finish things off, and allows everyone a last moment of communal celebration. It’s also a nice way to signal everyone that it’s time to go, and that the venue will charge you overtime if the reception goes past 11pm. In some traditions, the guests form a circle around the newlyweds and stare at them as they dance, providing a weirdly voyeuristic segue into their wedding night.
Perhaps you’re wondering whether the last dance song should be fast or slow? At this point in the wedding, everyone is drunk and sweaty and full of cake, so a ballad is a thoughtful choice, A slow song gives people the chance to cool down, and provides a sweet, thoughtful moment before the party breaks up.
On the other hand, it’s always fun to end on a high note. A faster-paced choice can create a communal rush that will send everyone on their way with a smile. And because you’ve already gotten the emotionally heavy dances out of the way (first dance, mother-son, father-daughter), you can pick something that is more lighthearted and fun.
Aside from the tempo, you’ll need to think of the lyrics. You want something that conveys the happiness and optimism of the moment. So, for instance, if you’re classic rock fans, you might go with a song by Fleetwood Mac. “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” is a popular choice from the album Rumours–though, to be honest, we’ve always prefered “Go Your Own Way.” But obviously “You can go your own way!” is not what you want to be singing at the end of your wedding. Pay attention to the lyrics (and check out our list of great last dance songs while you’re at it.)
There is one more last dance option, for power players only: the private last dance. Basically, you kick everyone out of the room and have one dance with just the two of you, alone on the dance floor, swaying under the lights. The private last dance acknowledges that you and your wife (mostly your wife) have actually pulled it off: a year’s worth of planning has come to fruition.
Then you both walk out blushing with your hair all tousled and everyone applauds and throws flowers and cheers. The implication of this applause is pretty clear, thought the possibility that you’d actually have used this private moment for some nookie is–at that stage of the evening–highly unlikely. (For strategies to actually grab a quickly during the reception, check out this article.)
Whether it’s with a romantic ballad or an uptempo burner, choose a last dance song that will give the reception a memorable ending.