Have you ever been to a wedding where the first dance has been done very early in the proceedings and then afterwards the dance floor is empty for a long period?
Most of the guests at that wedding will be oblivious to the fact that very often this is due to the photographer pressuring the bride and groom to do the first dance early as it happens quite often, because many photographers are paid up until the first dance and then they can go home.
The problem with this is that guests will not dance until they are ready to dance/until they’re in the mood to dance, and if the first dance is done before the guests feel like dancing then there is probably going to be a lull period after the first dance until people are in the mood to start dancing, and it can then a little harder for the DJ to get the dancing started in the first place and it can dampen the atmosphere. Whereas when the first dance is done at the right time, the guests will just carry on dancing afterwards right until the end of the night and there is no lull period and there is a far better atmosphere.
What is the right time? that is different at every wedding and depends on many factors- the weather, the atmosphere, how long since the meal finished, how big the meal was, have the evening guests arrived yet and had time to have a drink or two and a few others as well. If the venue has a nice terrace/veranda etc and the weather is very warm they invariably will stand outside for a while chatting and this will often delay many people being ready to dance.
At every pre-wedding meeting I have with clients I always inform the couple of what many photographers can be like, and the undue pressure that many unprofessional photographers put on the B&G to do the 1st dance as early as possible just so they can go home (and watch telly!).
I always advise them that they should the 1st dance when THEY feel ready for it and when they feel their guests are ready to dance, not when the photographer is ready!
When it comes to weddings, timings very rarely go to plan (especially in warm weather), and it’s almost the norm for things to run late and the first dance is almost always later than the originally scheduled time. Therefore from the photographers point of view, rather than spoiling a good atmosphere just so they can get home a little earlier, it seems to me they should either make the B&G aware during the pre-wedding meetings of the fact that it will probably run late and that they’ll need to be there until at least 9pm or alternatively offer a wedding package that lasts until after the 1st dance and for them to accept the fact that often they’re not gonna leave before 9pm and to therefore price the package accordingly. But to spoil someone’s wedding just so you can go home a little earlier week after week is inconsiderate and ignorant behaviour.
I feel it’s important for the B&G to be aware in advance of this issue and not to have it suddenly dropped on them on the most important day of their lives and pressured into doing something that they don’t realise could have a detrimental effect on the reception.
The many professional photographers that I know are very unlikely to be upset by my comments here because they work with the bride and groom to create a special day and realise that going home half an hour or so earlier isn’t gonna make a great deal of difference to their lives. The one’s that are likely to be upset/offended by the comments are probably precisely the one’s that have a bit of an attitude and don’t see that providing a service for someone’s wedding is entirely different to any other type of event that they do and that it deserves special consideration.