Monday, April 19, 2021

Micro Weddings Still Deserve a First Dance!

Due to Covid, micro weddings and Zoom weddings are common right now and general dancing may be cancelled but LOVE is not cancelled. The First Dance can still be the highlight of the reception!

The First Dance is the most sacred ritual of the wedding reception. It is the physical manifestation of your ceremony vows of unity and with a little preparation it becomes the romantic highlight for the couple and the guests. Can you imagine a ceremony with no microphone for all of the guests to hear the vows? Unthinkable. Dance moves give voice to the First Dance as a nonverbal expression of a couple's love. It has the potential to be the most magical, sensual and exquisitely romantic moment of the whole reception. Ceremony vows are intended to be backed up with action since actions speak louder than words.

Plus learning a life skill like dancing means you can make romantic, priceless memories after the wedding forever! Now is the time to invest in yourself by dancing and romancing!

About Your Dance Coach

Deborah Joy Block is a national expert on wedding dance, pre-marital coaching, professional matchmaker and certified wedding planner who has worked with over 10,000 couples. Located in the DC area, her award-winning company, The Wedding Dance Specialists is recommended by the media and is the most recommended wedding dance company in the DC area. It specializes in helping couples, bridal party and families sparkle in the spotlight! We offer many unique services customized to the special needs of engaged couples.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Wedding Speeches

by Deborah Joy Block, Certified Wedding Planner, National Wedding Dance Expert, Matchmaker and Certified Relationship Life Coach

For Western weddings, the vows, the First Dance and speeches are the most sacred rituals of the entire wedding day. All three are expressions of your love and none can be outsourced to a vendeor or delegated to your bridal party. All three focus on the reason why you got engaged and married. These three rituals acknowledge special people and make everyone feel connected regardless of the size of the group by sharing your true emotions. You will have several opportunities to briefly thank your guests during the receiving line, visiting tables and written thank you notes but this will be your only way to publickly expresss yourself in a more substantial way and have your sentiments recorded on video. Possible speech topics might include talking about what you love most about your spouse, what lessons you learned from specific honored guests about marriage, what marriage means to you, etc....Here are a few tips for giving a great speech:

Who speaks? Traditionally the groom speaks on the bride’s behalf but in modern times guests enjoy hearing from both the bride and groom. Both sets of parents should be represented as well as the Best Man and Maid of Honor. Let everyone know ahead of time when their speech will take place in the timeline and ask them to keep their speech to no longer than 3 minutes.

Acknowledgements: Begin your speech by acknowledging and thanking the speaker who came before you for their kind words.

Humor: Opening your speech with a bit of humor is a great way to get the attention of your guests.

Keep it short: There is a good chance that your wedding includes several speeches. For that reason, it is a good idea to keep all speeches under 3 minutes.

Name Names: If you plan to name names when it comes to who helped with your wedding, it is a good idea to make sure that you have the names written down and share how they hellped you have a perfect wedding. Also mention a general thank you to all who have contributed but have not been specifically named to avoid hurt feelings.

Timing: The engagement party, bridal rehearsal and reception should all include speeches. The timing can affect the energy flow of the so it is important that it fits into the timeline. Most commonly speeches occur during the cake cutting or dinner.

Practice makes perfect: You should practice reading your speech out loud several times. This isn't necessarily to memorize the speech. You should have a few bullet points that you can improvise from the heart so that you will not have to stare at the paper the whole time. Instead, you should be looking around at your guests as you speak.

Thank your parents: This is the perfect time to tell them how much you love them and appreciate everything they've done for you and how special they are and how proud you are of their accomplishments and contributions to your growth. Regard your wedding speech as an opportunity to reassure your parents that they are not losing a child but gaining a son/daughter. You could also thank them for teaching you specific values that you feel will contribute to helping you be a good spouse to your partner.

Thank your in-laws: Thank your new parents for welcoming you into their family and express how happy you are to be part of their family. If you have tensions with them you can at least compliment them on raising a fabulous person and reassure them that you'll take care of their son/daughter.

Thank your spouse: Let everyone present know how happy you are to be married to him/her and why. Don't worry if you end up crying, your family guests and spouse will understand any outpouring of emotions you feel. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Premarital Coaching: The Benefits of Marriage

by Deborah Joy Block, Certified Life Coach, Event Planner, Matchmaker and Wedding Dance Expert

Congratulations on finding your soul mate! It is truly a blessing to marry your best friend. Your wedding day will be one of the happiest days of your life but it’s only the beginning of an amazing journey. Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, is a sacred and personal but, not private relationship as it has great public significance. Marriage is good for the couple and it also provides the optimal conditions for bearing and raising children. Marriage makes an essential contribution to the common good of society. Some specific benefits are identified below. Virginia does not allow the creation of a “common law” marriage, a relationship in which a couple lives together but have not participated in a lawful ceremony. Unlike some other states, in Virginia a couple cannot acquire marital rights and responsibilities by living together for a particular period of time. For example, as a domestic partner, you cannot collect your partner’s social security. Read on for the many benefits of a lawful marriage.

Sex gets even hotter: By now you've learned eachother's hot spots and pleasure zones and you really know and trust each other. What you may have wondered about before can be something you work out together. Little is off limits and you don't worry about being judged when you express your needs and desires.

Your appreciation for one another grows: You may have appreciated the gestures your partner did while you were dating but his loyalty and commitment holds even more weight when you are juggling a busy household together or navigating stressful moments in life which inevitably arise in marriage. Plus when you see some of your other friend's partners, you may just appreciate how awesome yours is.

The love you feel gets even stronger: The reality is that falling in love and being in love are very different chemically in our brains so don't expect the daily fireworks you had in the first year of dating. In many ways though your love can grow deeper and stronger through time. And even though you may not want to makeout all the time like you used to, you can still find time for novelty, play and adventure. Marriage magnifies everything. Some of your partners quirks become more irritating but your partners strengths will become even greater as you grow closer. In a good relationship you grow together and make each other better people. 

Marriage and Health: On average, husbands and wives are healthier, happier and enjoy longer lives than those who are not married. Men appear to reap the most physical health benefits from marriage and suffer the greatest health consequences of divorce. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than single or cohabitating mothers, probably because they are more likely to receive practical and emotional support from their child's father and his family.

Marriage and Wealth: Married couples build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples. Married men earn more money than single men with similar education and job histories. Married women are economically better off than divorced, cohabiting or never married women. 

Marriage and children: Children raised by their own married mother and father are less likely to be poor or to experience persistent economic insecurity, more likely to stay in school, have fewer behavioral and attendence problems and earn four year college degrees. They are less vulnerable to serious emotional illness like depression and suicide and are more likely to have positive attitudes towards marriage and greater success in forming lasting marriages.

Marriage and Crime/Domestic Violence: Married women are at lower risk for domestic violence than women in cohabiting or dating relationships. Boys raised in single parent homes are more likely to engage in criminal and delinquent behavior than those raised by two married biological parents. Married women are significantly less likely to be the victims of violent crime than single or divorced women. Married men are less likely to perpetrate violent crimes than unmarried men.

Marriage and Society: The institution of marriage reliably creates the social, economic and affective conditions for effective parenting. Being married changes people's lifestyles and habits in ways that are personally and socially beneficial. Marriage is a seedbed of prosocial behavior. Being married changes peoples lifestyles and habits in ways that are personally and socially beneficial. Marriage is a seedbed of prosocial behavior. Marriages generates social capital. The social bonds created through marriage yield benefits not only for the family but for others as well including the larger society.

Marriage and money: Married couples qualify for an estate tax marital deduction. When one spouse dies, his or her estate passes to the surviving spouse, tax-free. That's not true for domestic partners. However there is a marital income tax penalty as you are taxed in a higher bracket as the government considers your incomes combined. You'll qualify for the gift tax marital deduction. As long as your spouse is a US citizen you can make tax free gifts of any amount to him or her. Unmarried couples may be surprised to find out that they owe gift taxes as a result of making gifts or supporting each other. You can roll over a deceased spouse's IRA to the surviving spouses's IRA. If your significant other dies with an IRA and you arent married you'll have to start taking distributions immediately regardless of your age. A surviving spouse has the option to roll over the IRA into his or her own IRA which makes it possible for a younger surviving spouse to postpone minimum distributions until a certain age. Married individuals can contribute to a spousal IRA. If you are a domestic partner and you don't work, you can't contribute to an IRA for retirement savings since you have no earned income. However if you're married and you have a working spouse, the non working spouse can use the working spouses income to qualify for IRA contributions. Married persons can receive survivors benefits from a pension plan. If your spouse is lucky enough to have a pension and they've elected to have survivors benefits, you will continue receiving pension benefits after he or she dies. You can receive the social security benefits of your spouse once he/she has died. You'll save on health insurance. Usually plans for onne plus a spouse a re cheaper than if you each have your own plan especially if it is an employer sponsored plan. This is especially helpful if one of you qualifies through your employer and you can bring the spouse on board with the plan coverage. If both of you are self employed however, health insurance is prohibitively expensive and your join income will likely disqualifiy you from Obamacare subsidies. 

Marriage and the Law: If your significant other is in the hospital, you may have more difficulty visiting him if you aren't a blood relation or a legal spouse. And if a judge has to name someone to make healthcare or financial deciasions on behalf of your partner, you may be overlooked in favor of a parent or sibling if you aren't married. You have more protection if your spouse dies. If one passes away without a will the state is going to dictate where your assets go. If your significant other still has parents and sibling in the equation they may recieve assets over a boyfriend or girlfriend. Prenuptial Agreement benefits - it's presumed under the law that when two people get married they are creating an economomic partnership. Filing taxes jointly may or may not help you depending on how much income each person earns.

Marriage and Expectations: Old assumptions may melt away. Individuals previously fearful of committment may find intimacy to be very healing. Feminists that were previously opposed to changing their names or reticent to have children may find themselves softening and welcome these changes as  a beautiful gift, as the love grows the urge to bring more love into the family increases and she sees the many blessings of relying on someone special to be her soft place to fall.

Dance Style: Waltz

by Deborah Joy Block, National Wedding Dance Expert

The German "Landler", a folk dance, is supposed to be the forerunner of the Waltz. During the 18th Century, a dance developed, which was called the walzen, German for to roll, turn or glide. The Walzen was met with outraged indignation by the older generation when first introduced into the ballrooms of the world in the early 19th century because it was the first dance where the couple danced in a modified closed position-with the man's hand around the waist of the girl. Regardless, the Waltz became popular through many parts of Germany and Austria. The Waltz was given a tremendous boost around 1830 by two great Austrian composers - Franz Lanner and Johann Strauss: they set the standard for the Viennese waltz (a very fast version of the Waltz).

The first time the waltz was danced in the United States was in Boston in 1834 by Lorenzo Papanti. The Boston, a more sedate form of the fast Viennese Waltz, danced at a leisurely 90 beats per minute. It evolved in America around 1870 and by the 1920s had slowed down even more to ¾ time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic pattern of step-step-close. This slower version of the Waltz retained the characteristic traveling and turning figures while allowing for more figures and a dip. It is popularly know n as the "traditional American wedding dance" and is often used for Father/Daughter and Mother/So n dances. Its characteristic lilt using undulating rise and fall technique and shoulder sways gives the dance an oceanic or floating quality.

Song examples of Waltzes:

"Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog
"Fascination" by Nat King Cole
"If You Don't Know Me by Now" Simply Red
"Play Me" by Neil Diamond
"Moon River" Breakfast at Tiffany's Soundtrack
"Open Arms" by Journey
"Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof"
"Come Away With Me" Norah Jones

Waltz Song Suggestion List 

Waltz Video 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Premarital Coaching: Qualities That Make a Great Spouse

 by Deborah Joy Block, Certified Relationship Coach, Matchmaker, Wedding Planner & National Wedding Dance Expert

At first glance finding the perfect relationship can seem daunting and complex but really it boils down to values. Singles sometimes get caught up in superficial criteria such as appearance, income, education or geography but all of those factors can change. A more permanent fixture is someone’s personality or character. Initial chemistry and lust may start on a physical level but lasting love is generally created by the way someone makes us feel and how they treat us. The following four attributes are crucial characteristics from which all other traits originate. If you meet someone with all of these traits there is a strong chance you will feel a love connection:

1. Kindness – Is the person generous, thoughtful, warm and sincere?
Questions: What charities are you involved with or donate to? Describe a random act of kindness that you’ve demonstrated?

2. Optimistic – Does the person generally have a positive outlook on life?
Question: Describe a recent challenge and how you handled it?

3. Intellectually Curious – Is the person open to learning new things and growing?
Questions: What books have you read lately? Have you taken any classes?

4. Spiritual – Is the individual moral and humble before their Creator regardless of a specific religion?
Questions: Do you believe in a power higher than yourself? Do you believe in the Ten commandments and the Golden Rule?

5. Respect - The way someone treats you and how they make you feel is extremely important. Respect is the foundation for any good relationship.
Observations: Do they speak to you and others in a respectful tone? Do they listen or interrupt? Do they ask questions or monopolize the conversation? Are they bossy and domineering or supportive and empowering?

If you meet someone with these qualities, hold on tight! You have found someone very special and the chemistry will likely ignite!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

 About the Owner of The Wedding Dance Specialists

Deborah Joy Block, Founder of The Wedding Dance Specialists spent 8 years living overseas while her parents served as diplomats representing the international image of the U.S. Department of States's Diplomatic Corps where protocol, etiquette and social entertaining skills are a must for diplomatic relations. Deborah Block has since travelled to 16 countries and understands the importance of being able to deftly navigate as a chameleon among different cultures and personalities. Her extensive experience managing a large staff, working with tens of thousands of clients, working as a professional entertainer, certified life coach, image consultant, certified etiquette consultant and certified event planner over the past 20+ years solidified her conviction that kindness and respect is the "international language" that unites all people.

Deborah Block is also a celebrity wedding dance expert. As the Fairy Godmother, Deborah is the nation's leading expert in wedding dance instruction, is the most recommended and teaches more engaged couples than anyone in the DC metro area. She has been teaching and performing for 23 years and pioneered the first wedding dance industry blueprint which inspired this niche industry worldwide! Deborah was featured on the first national television wedding reality show "Real Weddings by the Knot" on Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Network. Block successfully lobbied the industry to put the "Dance Instruction" category on the map for every major magazine and wedding search engine who traditionally relegated dance lessons into the "miscellaneous" or "unique services" category. This resulted in dance studios across the nation becoming a more relevant part of the wedding planning conversation and the First Dance is now recognized as the most sacred ritual of Western wedding receptions.

Deborah is the publisher of the online newsletter and blog "Wedding Planning 411" and has won countless wedding industry awards for having the most reviews from teaching thousands of engaged couples including celebrity clients. The Fairy Godmother's dance training spans many years and includes several years as a full time apprentice and training with world champions, competition judges and visiting coaches.

Monday, October 19, 2020

We feel overwhelmed. How do we select a dance studio/instructor?


We feel overwhelmed. How do we select a dance studio/instructor?

by Deborah Joy Block, National Wedding Dance Expert

What are some good signs that a studio is an authentic wedding dance specialist? A dedicated website to wedding dancing (at a minimum), wedding dance social media platforms, real photos of actual clients, media coverage, wedding industry awards, vendor affiliations, off site reviews from third party sources, testimonials with full names and wedding dates, at least 50% of the instructor's clientele are engaged couples, for those looking for a crash course be able to completely prepare you in ONE lesson, be able to attract enough engaged couples to offer group wedding dance workshops, listed high organically on Google.

 What are some warning signs that indicate that a traditional ballroom studio is falsely advertising themselves as "wedding dance specialists?" Slapping up a pink website and calling yourself a wedding dance expert is not sufficient. Stock images, anonymous testimonials, no testimonials for wedding industry vendors, show up primarily on paid wedding websites, their primary focus is on hobbyists and competitors, engaged couples are just "filler income", inflexible with addressing your specific goals, they lure you in with a free lesson or try to upsell you, do not disclose their pricing on their website or other marketing materials, do not offer any guarantees or refunds, minimal or no interaction with the wedding industry in general and have not received awards or recognition from the wedding industry or wedding media.

Good signs that a studio is an authentic wedding dance specialist:
A dedicated website to wedding dancing (at a minimum), wedding dance social media platforms, real photos of actual clients, media coverage, wedding industry awards, vendor affiliations, off site reviews from third party sources, testimonials with full names and wedding dates, at least 50% of the instructor's clientele are engaged couples, for those looking for a crash course be able to completely prepare you in ONE lesson, be able to attract enough engaged couples to offer group wedding dance workshops, listed high organically on Google.

 Warning signs that indicate that a traditional ballroom studio is falsely advertising themselves as "wedding dance specialists" : Slapping up a pink website and calling oneself a wedding dance expert is not sufficient. Stock images, anonymous testimonials, no testimonials for wedding industry vendors, show up primarily on paid wedding websites, their primary focus is on hobbyists and competitors, engaged couples are just "filler income", inflexible with addressing your specific goals, they lure you in with a free lesson or try to upsell you, do not disclose their pricing on their website or other marketing materials, do not offer any guarantees or refunds, minimal or no interaction with the wedding industry in general and have not received awards or recognition from the wedding industry or wedding media.

Below is a more detailed breakdown of what differentiates a specialist from a generalist:

1. Know the difference between a generalist and a specialist. There is a huge difference between a a generic studio who slaps up a pink website with stock images of brides and grooms and then advertises that they are wedding dance experts versus a company whose bread and butter is engaged couples, is primarily focused on that clientele and is superbly adept and addressing their needs. It's the difference between a general physician and a cardiac surgeon. One is a generalist the other is a specialist. Each has different expertise, a different focus and a different clientele. One way to evaluate a service provider is to see if they are addressing your specific goals. One of the problems with a standard dance studio or instructor is that they view wedding couples as "lost leads." This is because the wedding couple has a short term goal - - the wedding, which does not usually lead them to take very many lessons. Keep these facts in mind when you call or go into a studio and especially if they try to upsell you.

1) "FREE" lessons: You get what you pay for! Most "free lessons" at dance studios are a means to get you through the door. Much of the lesson is spent convincing you of the benefits of dance as a lifetime hobby and reviewing lengthy and expensive packages for during AND after your wedding and pressuring you into contracts. The free lesson’s emphasis is not actually on learning to dance but rather on selling you more lessons and since the first one was "FREE" the rest of the lessons will have to be more expensive and/or shorter in duration than other studios to cover the initial loss. It costs a dance studio thousands of dollars to train a dance instructor or pay a qualified instructor, promote their business and cover their expenses. Therefore, studios do not give away QUALITY private lessons for free. DO NOT expect to receive a complete routine in one FREE trial lesson.

2) One dance style versus a variety: The Wedding Dance Specialists leaves the decision of how many dances to learn up to you-the client! Most wedding couples are on a tight schedule and limited budget, they want to focus their attention on feeling comfortable for their first dance in front of their guests. In contrast, general dance studios may discourage students from studying only one dance for various reasons (primarily the bottom line). Complicating a small program (3-5 lessons) with additional dances may result in needing to purchase more lessons and cause a sense of confusion and discomfort on your big day. Feeling comfortable with new dance material generally requires about 5 hours. Depending on your skill and comfort level,it’s O.K. to reevaluate your progress and comfort level after the third or fourth lesson to consider learning the very basics of a second dance but be wary of teachers too insistent on focusing on more than one dance from the onset.

3) Experience of the instructor: Since wedding couples generally purchase small packages (less than 25) many studios have their most inexperienced instructors teach the wedding couples. Our instructors have been specially trained for the unique needs of wedding couples and are all competition or performance level dancers. Dance lessons are as important as any other service you might hire for your wedding. You have every right to ask how long your instructor has been teaching. Would you want to hire a chauffeur who just moved to the area, got his license last week and has never driven the limo before?

4) Flexibility in package options: Be wary of studios who insist you cannot benefit from just one lesson or worse do not allow you to purchase only one lesson at all! Often traditional studios sell pre-packaged combinations of privates with "free" group lessons and practice parties yet you are not given the option to deduct the value of unused or unwanted groups or parties. Even one lesson with the right instructor can show remarkable results. Some students time or budget do not allow for more than one lesson. We understand this and are flexible. We GUARANTEE that you can look and feel more elegant on the dance-floor with ONE lesson compared to just trying to “wing it.”. The Wedding Dance Specialists cater to the unique needs of wedding couples. We created this niche in the metro/DC area years ago because we saw a need was not being met. A couple years after our inception, we have been flattered by those attempting to imitate us. Your wedding dance preparation can be the most relaxing and romantic aspect of your wedding planning process IF you have the right instructor! We encourage you to do your research and compare!

5) The Teacher: The personality, demeanor, image, teaching style are all important factors to consider when selecting a dance teacher.  Just because they are good dancers does not guarantee that they will be good teachers. The teacher must genuinely enjoy working with beginners and ideally have compassion and understanding of the unique pressures that wedding planning involves. Our staff also stay abreast of the wedding industry by reading our two complimentary online newsletters called "Wedding Dance 411" and "Marriage 411" which provide professional planning advice, resources and we have negotiated exclusive vendor discounts on your behalf! We hope you'll read it and benefit too!

6) Price: The rate an amateur dancer can expect to pay for a professonal private lesson can range anywhere between $65 - $140 per lesson depending on where you live, what type of facility is hosting the lessons, the length of the lessons, the quality of the instruction and specific services provided. Ongoing group lessons generally cost about $15 per person. Special workshops cost $25 - $35 per hour/person.

7.) The Duration of the lesson: Lessons that are lower in price but also shorter in duration often end up costing the exact same or even more than lessons that are higher per lesson but longer in duration. The actual cost per minute of instruction may come out even in the wash and the longer lessons will save you a lot of extra commuting time and avoid you having to reserve extra studio visits in your busy wedding planning calendar. If you calculate in all your wasted time, the shorter and "cheaper" lessons may actually cost you more in the long run. The industry standard is :40 - :45 minutes. Our lessons are 55 minutes.

8.) Reputation: Do they have outside reviews from reputable sources? Do they use the last names of their "testimonials"? Do they use real photos of real clients or just stock images? Are they a brand new fly by night or time tested? Do they have a solid relationship with many vendors in the wedding industry that vouch for them? Are they recognized by the media?

9.) Boutique vs Franchise: Stick with sole proprietors or family owned boutique studios. AVOID franchises.: Just like you would not go to a fast food franchise for a gourmet meal, do NOT go to a franchise for a wedding dance specialist. Their business models are not flexible enough to address the unique needs of engaged couples. You will spend more time, more money and learn less than anywhere else. If your goal is to have the best results in the shortest amount of time for the least money, a franchise is not for you. It is geared toward longer term hobbyists with disposable time and money.