Grooms put their best foot forward

Looking silly — or worse — during the first dance as a married couple rates way up there on the scale of wedding stress for grooms who are terrified of anything fancier than the high school prom sway.

"It's not Emily Post's dance anymore," said Crista Tharp, a wedding planner in Kokomo, Ind. "Some are doing rap, hip-hop, break dancing in little snippets. Most grooms would probably nix the dance, but they're not given that option."

Motivated by television's "Dancing with the Stars" and wacky wedding dance YouTube videos, more couples are building fancy footwork into their big-day budgets, turning up the pressure on members of the wedding party with two left feet.

For those who can't dance — but will be singled out by cameras and watching guests — setting a clear goal is a good place to begin, dance instructors suggest. Are you merely looking to survive with a few basic steps, or are you going all-in with dance sequences put together with help from an instructor or a wedding choreographer?

Groom-to-be Jerry Karran, 28, a video editor in New York City, decided on regular lessons at a dance studio ahead of his wedding in July with 400 invited guests. He tried watching instructional videos online, but they left him confused.

"I'm very nervous," he said. "I'm not nervous about anything else concerning the wedding but that. I can't dance, like, at all. Everybody's looking at you. I don't want to look stupid messing up, or stepping on her toes or something."

Dance lessons helped calm Jeremy Gorelick, 30, when he got married in April at Johns Hopkins University, where he met his wife. He has always enjoyed dancing in clubs, but slow dancing was "THE worry of the wedding for both of us."

They took lessons together, but he often practiced on his own with a broom. That, Gorelick said, was a misstep because it wasn't at all like leading his bride on the dance floor.

"A broom will do whatever you do, so it was actually an exercise in futility and probably did more damage," said Gorelick, of New York City and White Sulphur Springs, N.Y.

Start taking lessons well in advance of the big day to make your movements more instinctive and less dependent on shaky, short-term memory, instructors recommend. Beginning at least six months ahead of a wedding is ideal, but six weeks would suffice, so long as at least four lessons are involved.

Start with group lessons, many suggest, to get comfortable on a dance floor and boost confidence. Then take private instruction to work on a specific dance.

James Joseph, who wrote the book "Every Man's Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing," said taking lessons is fine if couples have the time, money and inclination. For those in dance-floor survival mode, try embellishing the basic side step with a simple change of footwork, a slow rotation or some underarm turns.

"If anyone asks, tell them it's a foxtrot," he said.

Change steps when the music changes, from verse to chorus, for instance, to avoid getting lost. Making four or five changes, with a dip in the middle and at the end, can look more difficult than it really is.

Working with a choreographer, Joseph said, may be more trouble than it's worth.

"If you work with a teacher, there's a temptation to add choreography that you might not be able to handle," he said.

"Don't get in over your head."

In 2006, at age 62, bawdy TV personality Jerry Springer brought tears to the set of "Dancing with the Stars" with an on-air kiss for his daughter Katie after a waltz he learned so he could dance at her wedding that December.

"I've never really danced," Springer, now 66, said. "So the night of the wedding, it's time for the big father-daughter dance. In the middle of it, Katie says, 'Dad, nobody can see our feet.' They were covered by her big gown. My advice to dads unsure if they can dance for their daughter's wedding is to make sure they have a big gown."

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