After Vish Iyer and Jensen Ishida said “I do” on September 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, 500 guests watched as they spun around the dancefloor to the choreographed dance they’d been practicing for months. A month later, Vish says more than 1 million people around the world—from Malaysia to India to Korea and beyond—had witnessed the original number in a “little cut” she uploaded the week after the nuptials on TikTok.
“Honestly, I get goosebumps every time I tell this story,” admits the bride. “It happened like overnight. I would open Tiktok, and I’d have 10 notifications. Then, 100, and it didn’t stop for like an entire week. It just kept going and going and going.”
And it didn’t just spread on TikTok. The video truly went “viral,” with people sharing the clip—along with several more that she posted after—on Instagram, WhatsUp, and, eventually, more syndicated media platforms than Vish could name.
So, why the viral success? Vish predicts it being a combination of things. First, she and her husband Jensen designed the dance to celebrate their intercultural union (she is Indian; he is half-Korean and half-Japanese). They did this with their song choice, as well as with their decision to do one dance together instead of the multiple, more traditional dances with women on one side and men on the other. “We wanted it to be something that incorporated our cultures and meant something to us as well,” explains the bride. “I think that’s what made it special, and that’s what made it intriguing.”
The song choice—Blueberry Eyes (feat. SUGA of BTS) – MAX—was also a big factor, according to Vish. “It’s rare to see an Indian or intercultural wedding dance to an American song,” she explains, saying that the music tends to be Indian (at least at the Indian weddings she’s been to). “And, it’s not just that! It’s such a fun song, and I’m not sure it’s really been done before for a first dance. But it’s really so perfect and so sweet. It’s just such a romantic song in a very cute way.”
Interested in making your own first dance go viral? We spoke with two professional dancers, a wedding photographer, and a recent bride who “went viral for all the right reasons” for dos, don’ts, and must-know tricks for how.
First, Decide If a First Dance Is Right For You
It’s 2021, and you’re allowed to break whatever wedding traditions you want! And that goes for the first dance, too. Just as you can choose to forgo traditional vows or skip the father-daughter walk down the aisle, you can say “no” to the first dance with no reason other than you don’t want to do it.
“In all honesty, I don’t think first dances are for everyone. [Not] every couple doesn’t want to do a first dance, and that’s OK,” admits photographer Ruby Simmons of Ruby Olivia Photography in New York City. “My advice is to not do it if you don’t want to, because, if you’re just going to stand there, then that’s uncomfortable for everybody else. I think what makes a good first dance is, honestly, wanting to be there and wanting to do it.”
Make It Your Own
“Focus on what YOU think is fun, and not pleasing other people,” advises Austin and Marideth Telenko, the newlywed couple and choreography duo behind Cost n’ Mayor. They went viral during the pandemic and now have 2.8 million TikTok followers. (There are even 10.5 million likes on their first dance alone.) “When you look back on your wedding day, you’re going to remember how you felt in the moment, not how loud everyone clapped or what they said to each other on the way home.”
To accomplish this, “focus on what feels natural, what feels fun, and what feels like YOU,” adds the couple. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. “If you’re having fun and being yourself, you can’t go wrong!” Ruby Olivia agrees. “That’s the beauty of the first dance—it’s kind of a moment for you to be publicly like this is us, this is our dance,” she says.
Create Some Original Moves
To that point, Vish encourages couples to think beyond traditional dance moves and instead look at how you and your partner interact with each other naturally. While she admits that she watched plenty of YouTube videos for inspiration, she also took her own advice before choreographing her first dance with husband Jensen, who she admits is not a comfortable dancer. “I wanted to come up with something close to your heart so I studied what we did on a day-to-day basis and even filmed us,” she says. “You’d be surprised what looks good! Some of our best moves come from an inside joke.”
Choose a Meaningful Song
“Don’t stress out about finding a song that means something to you,” Vish says. “In the process of building this dance, the song becomes special. So, if you both love it, go for it.” That said, a great song can go a long way. After witnessing nearly 100 first dances behind the camera, Ruby Olivia has a few pointers, here. The most important being that it’s fine to skip the classics! “Who cares about those songs, anymore?!” she adds with a laugh.
In addition to the five favorites above, Ruby Olivia points to a recent couple’s first dance as the perfect example. “This wedding was in Dallas, but they were moving to New York the next month. So, they danced to ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra,” she recalls. The BTS video was her first to go viral on TikTok, partly because of the song choice, but also because lightning struck in the back of the video at just the right moment. “I was kind of all the elements! It was a really tender moment. It was clear that this was a tip for brides; and it was just sentimental,” she says of it going viral. “It really hit home.”
Involve Your Friends
“For our wedding dance, we involved our entire wedding party… including our parents!” says Austin and Marideth. “There were many different levels and abilities we had to consider when choreographing the number. We were worried it might be a mess, but genuinely knew in our hearts that if it DID end up being a train wreck, it would only be that much more memorable! Sometimes, a good train wreck is what makes the best and funniest memories to look back on. If you think about it like that, it’s a win-win!”
This is another good move for couples who don’t love the spotlight, Robin Olivia says. Instead of dancing for two minutes alone, coordinate with your wedding party or simply wave everyone in after 30 seconds.
Practice But Don’t Expect Perfection
“Make sure you’re creating a dance that you feel comfortable with!” advises Austin and Marideth. “It’s a moment to enjoy, not a moment to go for the gold and attempt something difficult or out of your comfort zone. Everyone is there to celebrate you! So have fun, be yourself, and know there’s no pressure”
And, when in doubt, remember: everyone loves a good dip and a special move here and there.
Simply Have Fun!
Last, but not least, the most important piece of advice: Have fun! “People have fun watching people have fun! It’s less about how perfect a dance is or how clean and precise the steps are. The BEST memories are created when people just lose themselves in the joy of a moment,” says Austin and Marideth. “Dancing on your wedding day is the most incredible feeling, and it’s so impactful when a viewer can feel that elation with you. A super fun choreographed number is INCREDIBLY fun to watch and experience, but the way you laugh, smile, and radiate happiness dancing on the best day of your life is what will leave the lasting impression.“