What does a professional belly dancer do for the first dance at her wedding?  Well, duh, a belly dance, of course!

Belly dancer Zaina Brown and husband Eric tied the knot in a destination wedding in Budapest, Hungary, on August 5th  and surprised their guests with an amazing dance routine.  She’s shared their story with Put A Ring On It.

A global affair

Zaina and Eric have been together for three-and-a-half years, the majority of that time in a long distance relationship, after meeting in Algeria through work.

“I had a three-month belly dance contract in a hotel, where he was the food and beverage manager,” Zaina told Put A Ring On It.

“I moved to live with him in Phuket, Thailand a month before the wedding. We were engaged for about eight months, and started planning the wedding right away.

“Our professional backgrounds definitely helped: I’ve danced in weddings worldwide, and my husband often plans events at work, including weddings,” she said.

The couple eventually settled on having their wedding in the ballroom of an old coffee house in Budapest, Hungary, and planned the whole thing from afar.


“We had no prior connection to Hungary,” Zaina said.

“My family is in Finland, my husband Eric’s family in Switzerland, and our friends around the world, so we had set out to find some kind of convenient meeting point.

“At first we looked into French chateaus, but soon realized the logistics would be too hard to plan long distance. We then turned out attention to Eastern European cities, many of which are beautiful and affordable. Budapest was our first choice, and we quickly found a planner and a venue there. I had never been there, but it had a great reputation and looked gorgeous in photos.

“We got legally married in Bangkok a few weeks before the wedding, and we had a symbolic, non-secular ceremony at the venue before the reception,” she said.

“During our engagement, I was mostly in the US, while my fiance was in Asia, and our planner and vendors in Europe. I felt like I was living on three different time zones.
“Long distance wedding planning is not for the faint of heart! We saw the venue in person for the first time a few days before the wedding. There was no cake tasting, no meeting the DJ, no makeup trial. We simply trusted that everyone the planner had hired was professional, and exchanged lots of emails. It all worked out just fine!” she said.

Just dance

As for the dance, it didn’t take much convincing to get Eric to go along with it.

“He has no dance background, but I knew he had rhythm and I was confident he could memorize some steps,” Zaina explained.

“That was a good starting point. I made sure he knew what he was getting himself into before I choreographed a three-song combo dance. There was no throwing in the towel anymore!

“We got to work when he visited me in New York in the spring, and practiced separately until we reunited a month before the wedding,” she said.


 Zaina said the dance was a surprise to most of their guests.
“They seemed pretty impressed,” she said. “I heard a lot of ‘I knew you could dance, but how did you get Eric to learn that?'”
She encourages other brides who want to do something a bit different for their own bridal waltz/first dance to just go for it.

“Do it! Make it a reflection of yourselves,” she said.

“Work within your capabilities, and rehearse until the dance feels natural and easy.

“If memorizing a choreography is too much, a slow dance with a few well-timed dips and tricks can be just as impressive.

“Rehearse with your actual wedding shoes. At least once, practice with your dress on, you can cover it up with a t-shirt and a long skirt – nothing makes you forget a choreography faster than a groom stepping on your dress!

“Make a rehearsal or three at the actual venue, and figure out where the center is, and how you enter. Finally, relax and enjoy, your audience is guaranteed to be full of love and support!

Hitting up the dance floor at the reception was the highlight of Zaina’s wedding day.

“There were many beautiful moments, but what I enjoyed the most was seeing everyone let loose on the dancefloor by the end of the night,” she said.

“The stress was all gone, the rings were on, the official pictures taken. I no longer cared about my hair getting messy, and just danced my heart out.”

You can follow Zaina’s belly dancing adventures on her website Stories of A Traveling Bellydancer  or on her Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Timea Jaska –   www.timmyweddings.com