In Catalyst Wedding Co. editor Liz Susong's weekly column devoted to the feminist bride, she dives headfirst into the crazy history behind common wedding traditions we may take for granted. Liz investigates here.
Ah, the father-daughter and mother-son dances, a.k.a. time for the guests to Instagram their cocktail hour photos #BenandHeatherForever. At best, these dances can provide a sweet moment of family connection; at worst they feel a little Oedipus complicated, if you catch my drift.
If you've read any other article in this column on the history of wedding traditions, you're probably just as over dad's role in transferring his little virgin to the next guy as I am. So you won't be surprised to learn that originally the first dance was reserved for вЂњthe moment when the father led his daughter, the bride, onto the floor,вЂќ as wedding historian Susan Waggoner puts it in oddly romantic terms. Originally, the father/daughter dance came before the first dance as an extension of the вЂњgiving awayвЂќ as well as the dowry-the father would demand a final dance before giving their daughters to their new man (often a stranger). Then the bride and groom would have their first dance. Today, however, the newly married couple typically shares the first dance, followed by father-daughter and mother-son dances.
I've seen couples begin with the father-daughter and mother-son pairings, but then break off halfway through the song to pick a new partner, making the dancing more inclusive. Jessica of Texas says that after the traditional dances, вЂњWe had a song where I danced with my father-in-law, he danced with my mom, and then we switched and danced with our own parents.вЂќ Kinzie of Missouri chose to approach these family dances in a unique fashion, as well. вЂњWe did one song that was both mother-son and father-daughter, and then the next song was mother-daughter.вЂќ This second song turned into a вЂњsnowballвЂќ dance: вЂњMy mom and I danced together for a while, and then our DJ shouted 'snowball' every so often. The couples dancing split apart and each picked a new person to dance with from the crowd. By the end of the song, we had the entire group of wedding guests dancing!вЂќ
Personally, I'd love to see more mother-daughter dances like Kinzie's. Julie of Ohio says, вЂњI'm not a big fan of the bouquet and garter toss hoopla, so when it came time for me to throw my flowers, I instead gave them to my mom and invited her to dance. It just felt like a better way to honor both of us.вЂќ Amanda Summerlin, a photographer in Georgia says, вЂњOne of my clients, who was named Stacy, did an epic dance with her mom to the song 'Stacy's Mom' a couple years ago, and it is one of my all time favorite wedding moments.вЂќ Amanda says mother-daughter dances are not unusual: вЂњOver the years, I've had quite a few female clients dance with their moms, often because their fathers had passed. It's always a beautiful moment.вЂќ
Beth of Colorado lost her father two months prior to her wedding, so she elected to skip family dances altogether. She shares the story of how she and her dad created their own father-daughter dance moment prior to the wedding in the dressing room where she tried on her wedding gown for the first time: вЂњHe had limited mobility and my dress was still two feet too long, but my mom played Pachelbel's Canon on her phone, and that was our 'dance.' вЂќ
Wedding traditions are not one-size-fits all and should not be treated as such. Sometimes, it's necessary to educate your wedding professionals if you are adjusting the usual wedding traditions to better fit your actual life and family relationships. Christina shares, вЂњMy friend grew up with her mom, not her dad, so she did the father-daughter dance, but then also a mother-daughter dance. Unfortunately, because of the stereotype of the father-daughter tradition, the photographer only captured pictures from the father-daughter dance (which my friend didn't really care about), so she doesn't have any photos that capture the dance with her mom, which was one of the most special moments of the day for her.вЂќ
See more: Wedding Traditions Debunked: The Bachelor Party
Casey of Virginia shares, вЂњWhen my wife and I married, I danced with my father, but hers refused to dance with her.вЂќ Now Casey is a wedding planner for queer couples, and she says, вЂњI see this happen really frequently, and it causes others just as much pain as it caused my family.вЂќ I asked her if it is time to retire the father-daughter dance tradition, to which she responded, вЂњNo, because I see how meaningful the sense of continuity and family is for so many couples.вЂќ But she does think that вЂњwedding traditions need to catch up to our society, and fast.вЂќ She acknowledges that families come in all shapes and sizes, and our closest family relationships may not be with an opposite-sex parent. вЂњLike so many wedding traditions, I think we need greater flexibility in our collective imagination,вЂќ she says. вЂњThe 'right' wedding is totally subjective, and so are all the pieces that contribute to the day.вЂќ