Absolute Beginners and Wedding Dance

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Our Daughter's Wedding: We Learned How To Dance!!

Jeff Allen is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island

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Jeff Allen's website

What is consistent from wedding to wedding is that there will be a bride and a groom to dance with each other, after that it often becomes running by the collective seats of everyone's pants! Each week I receive dozens of queries in the form of email, from those involved with planning their own or a family member’s wedding. These range in topics from music for the Unity Candle Lighting to the Exit Dance by the bride & groom. Concerns are frequently addressed about the diplomacy required of who dances with whom, through to the tastefulness, or lack of it in my opinion, of the bride participating in a dollar dance. The non-nuclear family has created a myriad of possibilities that can lead to bad feelings if the wedding dance scenario is not handled carefully. In this article I will attempt to lend some rhyme and reason as to the whys and wherefores so you can have a great reception with smooth transition and wonderful memories!

The Father / Daughter Dance
Here are 3 common examples of actual questions representing the best cross-section regarding the Bride’s dance with who would ordinarily be her biological father.

Question 1) I have both a father and a stepfather and both are very dear to me. During the wedding ceremony, they are both walking me down the aisle, but during the reception, do I dance with both to separate songs or do I only dance with my biological father? I do not want to offend or hurt either of them.

Answer 1) Communication here is very important! The simple answer is whoever is escorting you down the aisle gets the honor dance with the bride. However in this case both are, it must be a very wide aisle (make sure 3 wide will work). Each man has his feelings about you and the dance itself, etc. Approach each dad to see who would like the dance, or does it matter to either of them who dances first, - that will make them both feel important. At the very least they will both know that you are thinking of them at this important time - and the help with your decision may come from them!

Question 2) I'm getting married and my parents have been divorced since I was 5 months old. Although I know my father there is no closeness between us. Therefore, I'm having my older brother give me away. What should I do about the father/daughter dance?

Answer 2) There are a few options in the situation described. You can:

1) Not have a father/daughter dance at all

2) Dance with your brother who gave you away

3) Start a dance with your father, and then finish the dance with your brother

4) The Bride and Groom will have already danced so conduct a 'wedding party dance' with everyone changing partners to dance with everyone else (snowball dance) - and avoid the 'specialty dances' altogether. In my opinion, if you do not want a father/daughter dance, there is no rule that says you must have one. The only thing I would suggest is that omitting just the father/daughter dance if you have the other dances (Groom & his mom, etc.) may make some attendees uncomfortable. Therefore, you may want to opt for one of the 'compromise' suggestions.

Question 3) I (the mother of the bride) will be escorting my daughter down the aisle and giving her away. Her father passed away and he was the ONLY other male that could have had a special dance with her. She is so very upset that it will appear that no one cares about her to the new family. The groom's dance with his mother will just make it more obvious. The two of us have come through so much together but dancing together (as some have suggested) just does not seem appropriate. I do not want it turned into something humorous (also what others have suggested). Walking her down the aisle and giving her away, in my opinion, is a mother's privilege.

Answer 3) There are many touching queries like this and each requires an answer coupled with compassion. I do agree that although it happens, I have never felt comfortable recommending the Bride dances with another female family member. I will never tell them not to do it but I do not believe there will be broad based acceptance by those present at the reception. There may even be those who are not courteous or polite, particularly after a drink or two and apparently, your daughter does not need this type of attention. At this time, the Groom’s Dad can make a gesture of ‘welcome to the family.’ The dance will be conducted at the same traditional time alone or collectively with the Groom and his Mom. This will certainly be both touching and bonding. This dance moment will be well received by the Groom's family and guests and should be a perfect way to fill what seems to be emptiness for this important moment. The knot will have been tied at the ceremony so she will in fact have a new Father-In-Law. It is an honor to dance with the bride at this time and the Groom's Dad will probably offer no resistance.

As noted these can be very sticky situations that occur during what most girls would describe as the ‘Most important day of my life,’ they must be taken seriously. The stress of these combinations and permutations of juggling the Father / Daughter dance can begin to spoil the event for the bride well before her day.

Brides-to-Be, once you have determined who will receive this honor dance please do not forget that they too are nervous about dancing with you in front of all those present. An emotional issue will arise for your Dad or chosen surrogate about this dance and more specifically about the choice of music. When this gentleman has danced to slow music in the past it has generally been with a prospective love interest or indeed his life’s love. Dancing slowly with a daughter with whom he loves but is certainly not a love interest poses uncomfortable and awkward feelings. As I described in the previous issue (April/May 2001), “Huddled together like two monkeys in the rain,” styling or lack of it does not work with a man’s own daughter. Take a few lessons with them or perhaps share “The Complete Guide to Slow Dancing Video & Booklet,” so that you can develop a common movement in a more formal dance frame. The closer you get to the ballroom style dance position the more comfortable ‘dear old dad,’ will feel. Men DO dance when they know what they are doing!

A goodwill or value added policy for any studio would be to let the parents of the bride or grooms attend the private lessons of the wedding couple once the time is right. This type of semi-private lesson saves money and promotes better dancing at the wedding. “A funny thing happened on the way to our daughter’s wedding: We Learned How to Dance!!” Now you have increased your customer base.

The Best Timelines for the Wedding Reception
The wedding is a time of celebration, however, a lot of planning, time and money has gone into those few short hours. I have no problem with a toast with a bit of champagne after the ceremony but please warn the wedding party against 'overindulging' before all the wedding rituals have taken place (Introductions, dances, & toasts)! There is plenty of time for imbibing after the meal when the socializing begins. It may even be a good idea to appoint a "designated driver" for the wedding party. Do not let all your hard work be ruined, or your guests made uncomfortable because of an error in judgment on anyone's part. This includes the Bride and or Groom!

Have the service people avoid the dance floor while bringing food to the table. If this is not possible because of size limitations it is a good idea to have the DJ play softer music during the bulk of the main courses service time. Spills and accidents happen with drinking, eating, or being served on the dance floor so please be careful so that the dancers will not slip and fall.

An announcement should be made about five (5) minutes before the entrance is made to clear the dance floor and passageway to it for the wedding couple. This will also give those guests with cameras an opportunity to get ready.

Under no circumstances should anyone, with the possible exception of the photographer, be allowed to cross the dance floor when the Wedding Couple's first dance is taking place or any of the relatives or wedding party dance takes place. This is very disrespectful and discourteous. In fact, no one should be moving at all after all, who wants to watch a video later on that has recorded the sites and sounds of plates clamoring and service personnel moving about? Have the Photographer take candid photos during the 'important' dances. Posing the wedding couple, or father/daughter, etc., is an interruption to the emotional meaning of these moments. These posed photos can take place later.

First and most importantly conduct the Bride & Groom’s dance immediately after their announcement into the reception hall from the receiving line and before dinner! It is good etiquette for the King & Queen (Bride & Groom) to open the dance floor. Your DJ or orchestra can play dance music all night long rather than sleepy elevator music. Your guests will have a better time for a longer period. It is common for the older guests to leave earlier in the evening, unfortunately, without the opportunity to, 'cut a rug' when the wedding dance scenario is left for after dinner. The music and its tempo should become more youthful as the evening continues leaving the opportunity for all to have a great time dancing or simply watching those who can.

Bride & Groom's, Parent's, Mom & Dad's, Etc., it is not necessary to dance to the whole musical composition. Professional Ballroom & Latin dancers, like me, doing a show select or edit a composition of no longer than 2 - 2 1/2 minutes per dance. Two minutes for beginners out on the floor by themselves will seem like an eternity! Remember the longer you are out there the more can go awry and you can actually lose the moment. For instance, the Father/Daughter dance has featured and over used the song Butterfly Kisses that lasts almost 6 minutes. Only the last 2 minutes or so of the song deal with the wedding day, start there. I actually watched the Groom and other Wedding Party members pine away with loss of interest when the song began at its beginning. People are only human and even the best intentions lose interest. This may require some extra work on the part of the DJ but this should not be counted as exceptional or cost you more.