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Episode 05: The Traditional Wedding Dances

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Episode 5 of The Bouquet Toss is all about traditional wedding dances during your reception! We’re sharing where this trend originated from and some ideas for incorporating it in a way that feels comfortable to you. Subscribe to The Bouquet Toss Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app!


traditional wedding dances
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Listen to Episode #05: Traditional Wedding Dances


Why is dancing such a big part of a wedding reception?

Dancing, in general, was a large part of social events historically, so naturally the tradition got incorporated into wedding celebrations as a way to kick off the party. There are several different dances that have become tradition over the years which we’ll explore below.

What are the traditional dances that are part of a wedding reception?

The First Dance

The first dance of the newlyweds is a popular tradition in European and American cultures that originated back in old-fashioned balls. In these social events, the people with the highest social status, such as a member of the royal family, would often be the first to enter the dance floor. Once this prestigious first dance took place, the other guests were thereby invited to the floor to join the fun.

This tradition has been incorporated into wedding celebrations by having the guests of color (aka the newlyweds) be the first to kick off the dance floor at the reception. This symbolic “first dance” as a married couple is typically a photo-heavy, and memorable moment for the couple and their guests.

After hours spent getting ready, taking photos, and visiting with your guests, the first dance moment can allow the happy couple a few uninterrupted minutes to focus solely on each other.

Popular First Dance Songs:

  • Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
  • From This Moment by Shania Twain
  • All of Me by John Legend
  • A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
  • Lover by Taylor Swift

See more: Top First Dance Wedding Songs for 2021 Weddings

The Father/Daughter Dance and/or The Mother/Son Dance

Another traditional wedding dance to consider is the father/daughter or mother/son dance. Parents’ dances with each of the newlyweds are often a rite of passage for the families of the happy couple. However, couples shouldn’t feel obligated to take part in these dances if there is strain in the relationship with their parent.

Since there are so many nuances to family dynamics in modern times, the bride may opt to invite a grandfather, step-father, uncle, father-in-law, or brother to dance with her in lieu of her biological father. For brides who have absent fathers due to death or estrangement, they may opt to dance with their mothers instead!

The father/daughter dance stems from a similar tradition as the father “giving away” the bride to her new husband. The mother of the groom will often dance with her son during or after the father/daughter dance to create another meaningful moment for the other side of the family.

Popular father/daughter dance songs:

  • Butterfly Kisses by Bob Carlisle (most popular father/daughter dance song)
  • The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra 
  • How Sweet It Is,” by James Taylor
  • “My Girl,” by The Temptations
  • “Cinderella,” by Steven Curtis Chapman

Popular mother/son dance songs

  • “Because You Loved Me,” by Celine Dion
  • “I Hope You Dance,” by Lee Ann Womack
  • “Have I Told You Lately,” by Van Morrison
  • “You’ve Got a Friend,” by Carole King

The Money Dance

The money dance is a tradition at a wedding reception where the guests offer the newlyweds some money in exchange for a dance and some facetime with the happy couple. This is popular in certain cultures to help the couple establish their new life together with some extra cash on their wedding day. It is also meant as a gesture to show the couple how much they are loved by their guests.

There are a few variations on this tradition, including how and where the money is collected. In some cases, it is pinned to the couple’s clothing while in others it is tucked into a special purse the bride carries on her wrist. Depending on the culture, guests may fork over as little as a dollar to upwards of $100 for a dance with the newlyweds. If participating in this ritual doesn’t sit quite right with you, instead of money you can have your guests submit “payment” by giving you personal notes and well-wishes.

The Anniversary Dance

This traditional dance is a sweet way to celebrate the love of your longest-married guests! The Anniversary Dance invites all married couples to the dance floor, and throughout the song, the emcee will eliminate couples based on the number of years they’ve been married. This continues until there is just one couple left standing/dancing – meaning they are the longest-married pair in the room. As a toss-back to episode 1, you could opt to give your bridal bouquet to this longest-married couple in lieu of the traditional bouquet toss.

What if I don’t want to have dancing at my reception?

You know what we say, have your day your way! If dancing isn’t something you’re interested in doing at your wedding, feel free to skip it. Don’t like being the center of attention or struggle with social anxiety? You may choose to opt-out of traditional wedding dances.

If you love the sentiment but not the practice, consider some other sort of unifying activity to engage in instead. Feel free to select something that better represents your personalities.

Remember that all traditions are editable and customizable to your preferences and comfort level. There may be circumstances that prevent you from taking part in traditional wedding dances, such as a disabled or deceased parent. Remember that the main goal of these traditions is to have fun celebrating the newlyweds and/or create a tender moment for everyone to remember.

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What do you think? Will you be taking part in the traditional wedding dances? If so, which ones? Join us in the community to chat about this!


Links mentioned in this episode:

The Bouquet Toss Podcast

About The Bouquet Toss Podcast

The Bouquet Toss is a wedding planning podcast that empowers couples to plan a meaningful, authentic, and affordable wedding celebration! On the show, we will have candid conversations all about weddings and why we do them the way we do so that couples can plan their weddings based on their own values, and not on the expectations of others.

In our Budget-Savvy Wedding Planning Community, we see the same questions asked over and over again. So many couples seem to be seeking permission to plan their weddings on their own terms, and we’re here to say go for it! We believe you should have your day, your way and our goal is to help empower you to plan a wedding celebration that actually feels authentic to you. 

This podcast is brought to you by TheBudgetSavvyBride.com and is hosted by the founder, Jessica Bishop, and real weddings editor Sari Weinerman. Subscribe on Apple or Spotify today!

In case you missed it, check out our other episodes:


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The Bouquet Toss is a wedding planning podcast dedicated to helping couples plan a wedding day that feels authentic to them! We examine wedding traditions and trends so you can decide what to keep and what to toss from your wedding day plans! Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app!