It was not so long ago that a couple's first dance as man and wife, as special as it was, was only an effervescent memory -- a fact that was no small blessing for couples who happened to be poor dancers. With the advent of home video, a newlywed couple's first dance is almost always recorded on tape, available down through the years for all of posterity to see.

That's why prospective brides and grooms who want to give a polished and graceful performance on their big day are increasingly opting to take dance lessons to help prepare for what may be the performance of their lifetime.

If you are planning to get married, here are a few tips on learning to dance in preparation for your wedding.

Don't wait until the last minute. Remember that your schedule will get very hectic as your wedding day approaches. Give yourselves adequate time to prepare. We recommend starting three to four months earlier to allow more time for practice, especially if you are a newcomer to dancing. Remember that dance lessons can actually be a stress reliever. Dancing is good exercise. And lessons pull you out of the hustle and bustle of the day to spend an hour or so with your partner, having fun and working together productively at the same time. Besides the Waltz and other traditional dances, the Mambo, Salsa, Swing and even the Hustle are all popular at weddings today.

If you plan to dance to a special song at your reception, feel free to bring in a recording of it to your dance lessons so you can work on it with your instructor. (And don't forget to coordinate with your wedding videographer the best "coverage" of your special dance.) Learning to dance for your wedding is a special gift that you and your partner can give to each other. Feeling confident and poised when you dance together will ensure that your very first dance together as husband and wife will be a memory you will cherish forever.