Ask Us Anything: Expert Advice On First Dance Songs, Sustainable Catering and Plus-Size Gowns

A bride and groom on a lake at their first dance.
Plus: making your wedding a place for your families to get to know one another.
Written by
Becky Kazana


Spring/Summer 2020

Q: Help! We want a first-dance song that isn’t a cliché. Where can we find inspiration?

A: All that matters is that your first-dance song means something—to the both of you, says Tim Leutbounshou, DJ manager with Bellagala in St. Paul.

“Sometimes, couples focus too much on the literal meaning of the lyrics,” says Mitch Zacharias of Instant Request in Bloomington. “The song doesn’t need to be directly about love to still be a beautiful song that tells your story.”

If your favorite song feels a little tired, look for different artists, instrumentations or arrangements to make it stand out. Leutbounshou points to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” as an example. “One version is a duet with Beyoncé, another is with Andrea Bocelli, and then an acoustic guitar version. I like listening to a playlist on Spotify titled ‘acoustic covers’ for inspiration.” Zacharias suggests searching for “jazz vocal standard” or “the great American songbook” for lists of songs that have been recorded by a wide variety of artists through every era.

Another idea is to have your DJ create a special mix of songs for your first dance. “Start with a slower, more traditional love song for the first minute and then a faster, upbeat song for another minute and end the final minute with another slow song,” suggests Leutbounshou. “This creates a unique twist in your dance, it can reflect your personalities and it makes for exciting photos and videos.”

The important thing is how the music makes you feel. “The song can be fast or slow, as long as it carries meaning,” adds Zacharias. Your guests will feel it too.

“One first dance still stands out to me,” says Leutbounshou. “I had a couple choose "Next to Me" by Imagine Dragons for their first dance. I listened to the song and thought to myself, ‘This isn’t a traditional love song.’ ”

“The bride and groom had gone through a lot over the course of their relationship, but they got through it together. Their love changed their lives for the better. As I introduced them to the dance floor and the song started playing from the speakers, it was like the entire world stood still at that moment, for them. Everyone around them felt it, with tears and hands on their hearts. But what made this perfect was the bride and groom’s smiles, holding each other so naturally as they swayed back and forth. Nothing too fancy, just enjoying the moment as they danced to their song.”

D'Amico Catering

Q: My fiancé and I try to prioritize local, organic and sustainable foods when possible. How can we do this with our wedding catering?

A: Let the seasons inspire the menu, advises Rachel Bruzek, design and culinary manager for D’Amico Catering in Minneapolis. That way, your caterer can use readily available local produce at peak freshness.

For autumn, Bruzek suggests squash, beets, apples, and pepitas for local touches, along with warm comfort foods such as braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts—perfect for fall weddings.

In Minnesota winters, the focus shifts to root vegetables and delicious local meats and cheeses. In the spring, morel mushrooms, ramps (a type of wild leek) and lamb are all options that can be locally sourced.

Of course, in summer, the Minnesota bounty really begins. “Summer opens up so many wonderful options,” Bruzek says, with tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, carrots, corn, radish, peppers, basil, chard, spinach, lettuces only a sampling of what’s available. “We customize our menus based on what the couple asks for.”

If you’re looking to produce a completely organic menu, talk to your caterer to learn more about your options. Bruzek notes that couples can have an entirely organic menu, but it won’t necessarily be local and it will almost surely be more expensive. Prioritize what’s most important for you and your fiancé, then work with your caterer to plan your menu accordingly.

Lasting Impressions Weddings

Q: We both have big families and are planning a big wedding. But they don’t know each other well. How can we make our wedding a chance for them to really mix and connect?

A: Consider a welcome party the night before the wedding, recommends Sarah Trotter of Lasting Impressions Weddings in Minnetonka; that way, everyone has already spent time together before the actual ceremony. “A longer cocktail hour also allows people to get to know each other,” she says. “Our couples have printed fun facts about themselves on napkins to get guests talking, or included interactive photo booths to help guests bond.”

Make the most of your seating arrangements, suggest Lindsay Kunz and Kimberly Seymour of Pink Peony Weddings & Events in Minneapolis. “Create an assigned seating arrangement that mixes guests from both sides of the couple’s families at each table. If guests choose where they sit, they are less likely to mix and mingle.” Thoughtful planning also means pairing people with similar interests who you think will get along.

“Family-style dinner service and round tables both help stimulate conversation during dinner,” says Trotter. There’s nothing like passing food around the table to make your guests feel at home with each other.

When it’s time for dancing, keep the floor packed by including a wide range of music. “People want to dance to the music they know, so targeting several different eras can help keep the dance floor full all night and ensure that everyone is having a blast,” says Seymour.

“We always love the ‘anniversary dance,’” adds Kunz. “The DJ invites all married couples to the floor to dance, and then counts up in five-year increments to determine which couple has been married the longest. This is a great way to include and encourage guests of all ages to get on the dance floor for at least one song, especially older guests who may not otherwise get out there; it often leads to them to dance some more.”

Luxe Bridal Couture

Q: What are your favorite shops for fashionable plus-size bridal gowns and bridal party attire? I want my friends and family to enjoy the process with me!

A: Minneapolis-based designer Mara Dietrich of Mara Marie Bridal makes a strong case for a stunning custom-made gown. “Brides today are not afraid to ask for something more daring and less traditional, and they aren’t afraid to take risks because of their size, which I love.” Her hands-on process means you’ll watch your dress being constructed, piece by piece, with fittings in Dietrich’s home studio. This is a great option for brides who know what they want and enjoy a perfect fit. “Since it was made for you, no one else in the world will have a gown like it,” adds Dietrich.

Shayna Clute of Luxe Bridal Couture wants to make sure no bride has to hold a gown up to her body and try to imagine what it might look like. That’s why her Rochester and Eagan boutiques stock more than 150 sample gowns in sizes from 14 to 34. Each bride gets treated royally with a memorable experience.

“Before they even walk through our doors, we personally call each and every one of our brides to learn what they are looking for in a gown. When she comes in, we already know her like one of our girlfriends,” says Clute.

Both locations have a semi-private bridal suite and plush robes to slip on between dresses. A personal stylist is on hand to assist you; treats and water are also available. When you find “the one,” a glass of bubbly, an “I said yes” sign and an Instagrammable photo wall (check out #luxerealbride) are all at the ready. “We want to ensure a fun, relaxing experience, because it’s such an important moment,” says Clute.

From custom-made to off-the-rack, there are more options than ever for women of every size to get the bridal look they’ve dreamed of.