Ask Team Practical: Father-Daughter Dance

Alyssa is back with Ask Team Practical Fridays, and today we’re tackling the father-daughter dance. This was an interesting subject to tackle. Alyssa had a father-daughter-dance and it meant a lot to her. I didn’t even consider having a father-daughter-dance (though we had a family dance, more on that to come), because like a lot of complicated gender issues, it made me super uncomfortable. So, I can tell you that, hands down, this has been the most debated and most talked over Ask Team Practical column ever. And I’m happy with what we came up with. So lets dive in.

Today we have the following question from Amanda:

I am planning my wedding for next October, and have started thinking about which traditions I wanted to incorporate into our ceremony and reception.  One thing I am really struggling with is the Father-Daughter dance.  On the one hand, I can see how that tradition could be very important to my dad.  On the other hand, I find the tradition to be a little creepy, and I can think of about a million other things I would rather do with those 3 minutes. It seems like a vestige of the system of fathers’ ownership of their daughters, with the dance being the last exercise of dominance (I am also leaning towards having both my parents walking me down the aisle instead of just my dad for the same reason). I was wondering if anyone over at Team Practical knew anything about the history of the father-daughter dance? Do you have any recommendations on how to have this conversation with my dad?

Well, Amanda,  I did some preliminary searching for you, but I couldn’t find any concrete evidence that the father-daughter dance has any real basis as an exercise in dominance. I could search further, but I’ll let you do that if you’re truly interested in its roots. (Plus, ten bucks says some savvy reader will give us an answer, possibly with links.)  But let’s discuss tradition for a second.

In the end, does the history of a tradition matter? Walking a bride down the aisle definitely has its root in ownership and dominance, but sometimes a tradition is a tradition because a lot of people started doing it all the time. Even if there are sinister roots, there comes a point when something doesn’t hold its original meaning anymore, when that’s not what people think of when it occurs. There comes a point when we can grab a hold of a tradition and say, “F*ck it, this is OURS and it means whatever the hell I say it means.” For example, if you pay attention to what a tradition originally meant and assume that it still holds that meaning, wouldn’t both your parents walking you down the aisle mean that you’re contributing to the notion that they both own you and are handing you over? Maybe, but that’s clearly not what’s happening at your wedding. You are asking your parents to take you on a final walk before you head into the next part of your journey as an adult, right?

So it’s possible for the father-daughter dance be just that: a tradition that may or may not have roots in sexism, but is now a chance for you to have a brief public moment with your father. I can guarantee that none of your guests would think, “Ah.  He doesn’t own her anymore, now her husband does,” as you dance with your father to “Wind Beneath My Wings.”  (And anyone who does has deeper issues and should be ignored.)

But the problem is that YOU may well think of that as you dance with your father, or heck, you might just not be comfortable with that (Meg wasn’t, she requests that you don’t get her started on the subject.) You’re already having both your parents walk you down the aisle, so there is no reason for you to force the issue with a father-daughter dance. That makes it seem simple, which it isn’t always. And you know that, so that’s why you’re writing to Team Practical.

At the end of the day, you don’t want to have the father-daughter dance.  And you don’t have to.  As you said, “I can think of about a million other things I would rather do with those 3 minutes.”  Those of us who had a father-daughter dance did it because we wanted those three minutes.  However, you don’t, and you will serve yourself best by being honest about that with your dad. Tell him that you’re not comfortable with doing the dance. Maybe he’s not comfortable either. This might not be a moment that he’s been looking forward to, or even cares about. He might be shy, or he might just be doing it because he thinks you want to. Chances are, if you talked about both parents walking you down the aisle, and he’s okay with that, he probably knows you and will be okay with your wishes to omit or modify the father-daughter dance.

Meg had a family dance, which is a great option to let everyone dance together in honor of your union.  They had both families join them on the floor after the first dance, and everyone danced with everyone else. Meg danced with, in no particular order: her dad, her mom, her sister, David’s dad, and David’s brother. And David. And quite possibly some other family members, but she can’t exactly remember. But everyone danced with everyone else, and it was excellent. A family dance gives the same expression, but incorporates ALL of your family, no longer highlighting a father-daughter relationship but all the important relationships in your life.  Which is really beautiful.

I did want a father-daughter dance with my dad, but because it was something that meant a lot to him.  My father had a quintuple bypass when I was in college, and when discussing his recovery with his doctor, he said that he was going to do everything the doctor said because he wanted to be able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding and dance with her at her reception. Knowing that, there was no way I could take the experience away from him, regardless of my feelings on it. The song we picked ended up being a little long, so I set it up with a few family members beforehand that when I gave them the nod, they would join us on the floor with their own fathers. It lessened the strangeness of people staring at us for 4 minutes, and it gave them their own nice moments. (Plus, it gave me the chance to give someone The Nod.  That’s always fun.)

And if he’s not okay with eliminating or changing the father-daughter dance? Well, that’s where it gets harder. But if you don’t have that kind of relationship with your father, you shouldn’t fake it at your wedding.  If you two aren’t the type to have a father-daughter dance, that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.  You don’t want to have a father-daughter dance.

So don’t do it.

There should not be recriminations if you don’t do the father-daughter dance, just as there shouldn’t be any shame in your not doing any of the other dozens of traditions that society says we must. But, if you do get flak, you’re just going to have to decide if placating your father is easier than standing your ground for what you believe in and know is real.  It’s part of that journey to adulthood and creating your baby family.

Part of the reason that fathers like the father-daughter dance is that it’s a moment to have with their little girl.  (Editor’s Note: And before anyone starts, yeah, I called the reader her father’s little girl.  Y’all, you will always be, in a small way, your parents’ little girl/boy.  Doesn’t mean you’re not an adult.  Deal with it.) It’s a way for your father to go, “Hey. Look at her. She’s all grown-up, gorgeous and smart.  I was given this precious person to raise and I didn’t kill her. Yay for me and her mother.” Weddings aren’t just for you, they are for your families also. A father-daughter dance for some men can be a later in  life rite of passage that they look forward to. If this is something that your father really and truly wants, but something that you really and truly DON’T want to do, you should not do it. But respect his feelings on the subject and work together to find something that you both could do in order to fill that moment he thinks he might be missing.

Maybe you and your father can brainstorm together on another way he can be a part of the ceremony/reception. You find something else you can do together to celebrate the moment, and it doesn’t have to be public.  Take a small walk together, find an alcove to hide in and drink scotch together, have him write a letter to you explaining what your wedding means to him. Make sure that he understands that there are other ways that the sentiment he feels can be expressed. It might be hard, but it’s one of those talks you’ll just have to have.

So, what say you Team Practical?  How did you handle dancing with your family? How did you handle other tricky gender roles at your wedding?

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  • Margaret M.

    Wonderful advice, Alyssa!

    My dad and I always danced together in our living room when I was growing up. My favorite memories are of being flung around to his favorite jazz and swing records. When I got older, we danced together less often but always at other people’s weddings. So a father daughter dance was a foregone conclusion, and it was a crazy whirlwind of a dance. We danced to Blue Skies and that song has such a special significance in my life now. It can make me tear up at the drop of a hat. I am crying now, even!

    You don’t have to if you don’t want to. But it’s also okay not to analyze it to death, too. Do what makes sense for you and your family.

    • pixie_moxie

      I have a very similar relationship with my father. We even took it to a roller skate version of the jitterbug at the skating rink back in the days of going to the roller rink! The cultural traditions of the dance have not even entered the decision process. Having the moment at the reception to dance with my dad, who lives states away, will. But that is just me and my relationship. Everyones releationships and experiences are different.

      “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. But it’s also okay not to analyze it to death, too. Do what makes sense for you and your family.”

      I second Margaret M.

    • Margaret M.

      By the way, one of the more traumatic moments in wedding planning was when my mom aired her sincere worry that my dad might choose to dance to “Roly Poly” by Bob Wills for our dance, which features the line “Daddy’s Little Fatty.” So even though a dance with my dad was a foregone conclusion, I didn’t entirely escape family angst over the thing.

    • Kashia

      I also grew up dancing with my dad in the living room (although mostly two step). And so dancing with him at my wedding is a given. Where I put my foot down was with everyone watching us. The boy and I want the first dance to be one that starts the party (it’s a fast song) and after about 30 seconds of us dancing have other people join us. So by the second dance, although I will dance with my dad, I want other people dancing and having a good time. Neither my dad or I are good at public displays of affection so that would be just awkward. I don’t want to be on display any more that I have to that day. I honestly think that if I were forced to have everyone watch me during my dance with my dad I would not do one.

      • I reckon this is the way to do it. Have a special dance with your dad if you want, but nobody has to WATCH you dancing: it’s between nobody other than you and your dad.

  • Oh my father would have cried and cried if I told him I didn’t want to do the dance. I wanted to, but I did worry about leaving my mom out of it, but at the end of the day, my Dad didn’t ask for much from our wedding. So we did the dance and it was a lot of fun. My mom and dad both walked me down the aisle, which made my mom feel included in some of the traditions that might exclude her, so that was how I balanced it. We did a family dance at the end of the night, which was also wonderful.

    A quick tip for anyone doing the father-daughter dance but worried about length – pick a children’s song that you liked growing up – they are generally pretty short and easy to dance to.

    • Agreed. Our DJ actually suggested cutting the songs to about 2 minutes each to minimize awkwardness (this is after I insisted on no introductions, no bouquet, no garter, etc), and it was a great solution.

      I guess there are two questions I would consider when making the decision regarding a father-daughter dance.

      1. Are you a shy person who isn’t into dancing in front of people ever? In my experience as a shy person, our wedding was (to my complete surprise) the most unselfconscious day I can remember. When it came to dancing with my husband and my dad, I didn’t care one tiny bit that 175 people were watching us. It’s a special day, and you may find that you just don’t care and that you enjoy it.

      2. Do you object to dancing with your dad because of something about your relationship with him or dominant/sexist implications? If you don’t want to do it, don’t. For me, the father-daughter dance wasn’t the issue but being walked down the aisle was. We rehearsed having my dad walk me down the aisle but not doing any of the “who gives this woman” stuff. Immediately after the rehearsal I realized this cut my dad out of the ceremony more than I wanted, so I talked to the minister and my dad and we changed it (using the language “who brings this woman”). Did it make my feminist side cringe? A little. Did I care about that more than how happy it made my dad to be a bigger part of our ceremony? Heck, no. It’s your wedding, so ultimately do what you want, but leave yourself room to change the plan in the middle of things. Many of us do things during our weddings that make us cringe but make people we love happy, and that’s okay sometimes.

      For the record, my dad and I are not close, and my dad is very shy and very rarely expresses any emotion. I am far from a daddy’s girl, and we ended up dancing to an Avett Brothers song called “Murder in the City”. During the wedding weekend, I was surprised by the strong connection I had with my dad, and his inclusion in our wedding strengthened my relationship with him.

    • Another Rachel

      After considering all the gender issues and talking with our parents, we decided that we really wanted parent dances and found that my mother and his father didn’t mind sitting this one out. We felt strongly about avoiding any creepy incest vibes or long, awkward dances with everyone watching.

      So, we ended up choosing medium-length songs, and about 2 minutes in, the DJ invited our guests to join us on the dance floor to dance with their parents. Lots of relatives and family friends had parents present who they could dance with. Mostly fathers and daughters and mothers and sons, but we had a couple of mother-daughter pairs, too! I love the photos of our guests from this dance. To me, this was about celebrating ties with our families of origin in addition to our families of creation.

      • Margaret M.

        Really? An incest vibe?

        • Some songs have… inappropriate overtones? I’ve heard people who have looked at the lyrics of seemingly sweet songs only to find that they’re MUCH more sexual than originally thought or intended.

          For example, my father and I adore jazz and the movie “When Harry Met Sally”, and the idea of using Harry Connick Jr’s “It Had To Be You” came up. While the lyrics aren’t too bad, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with how amorous or romantic the song felt, so we didn’t use it.

          • Leona

            I can see this and I’m really close with my dad. Actually, the song Something Stupid weirds me out because it’s a father-daughter duet that’s very romantic. Pretty song but a touch creepy.
            When I was considering a father-daughter dance, I settled on Death Cab’s Passenger Seat. It’s a pretty neutral, sweet song.

          • Our father-daughter dance was to a song called, “If a Brontosaurus Came to Lunch Today” and it wound up being very very cute. My sister and my Dad danced to a song about a daughter that takes care of her senile father. There are some great father-daughter songs out there that aren’t creepy, but I’m always weirded out when people dance to really lovey-dovey songs with their dads, even if it’s songs their fathers sang to them as children. I would say that shy/uncomfortable people should go with an upbeat or swing-type song, that way it feels less weird as well.

          • Loz

            My Dad and I danced (or, I should say, drunkenly sang arm in arm while swaying) to ‘Teach Your Children Well” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Totally appropriate, and an old favourite of Dad’s.

        • meg

          Yeah. I think that can be one of the many many issues surrounding them. Not for everyone, obviously, yes. Absolutely. It’s a loaded topic.

          • kyley

            @margaret m:

            It’s not inherently creepy, but it *is* uncomfortable for some people, and this is part of it for some.

          • liz

            margaret, i don’t find dancing to be inherently sexual. nor do i find kissing to be inherently sexual. but there have been both father/daughter dances and father/daughter kisses that have made me feel uncomfortable. i get what rachel’s saying.

          • Alyssa

            The problem with referring to something as having “incest vibes” is that it implies that those who do participate are playing into that situation.

            However, that wasn’t Rachel’s intent (I didn’t ask, but I’m gonna speak for her,) so it’s all good.

            Let’s stop talking about incest before we jack up APW’s Google search terms.

        • Heather

          Speaking of incest vibe and father/daughter songs, am I the only one thinking of the Arrested Development episode where Michael and Maeby sing Afternoon Delight? Please tell me I’m not.

        • Sarabeth

          My husband is not American, and had never heard of the whole father-daughter & mother-son dance traditions. And when I explained it to him, he was really weirded out, precisely because of this. I think that within the cultural context of American weddings, it’s not weird because that subtext is overwhelmed by a different, broadly shared narrative. But to an outsider, that was the first thing that struck him.

      • Lacey

        The fact that you mention the incest vibe reminds me of a specifically uncomfortable couple-of-minutes at wedding I attended where they did a mother-son dance. The groom and his mother seemed very sweet at first then as he started crying and repeatedly kissing her (cheeks, but still) it got uncomfortable and odd – to me. I felt like a bad person for viewing it that way, but that’s how I felt. To each their own. *shrug*
        That in mind, I discussed it with my fiance and he feels the same. He’ll be skipping the mother-son dance in favor of just dancing informally with her while everyone else is on the dance floor.
        As for me, I don’t mind dancing with my dad if he’s into it, but that brings to mind a new debacle. In this post the subject of the father walking you down the aisle and “giving you away” was mentioned. This will be wedding #2 for me, so I’ve already been given away. Do I have dad walk me again? Do I have my mom and dad both walk me? Or do I walk alone? Alone makes most sense to me since again, I won’t be “given”, but I don’t know. I guess I could talk to my dad and see if he’d be heartbroken if he didn’t get to walk me again…

    • NF

      If you’re worried about length, one option that I really liked doing was having just my father and I dance together for about 1 minute, and then everybody was invited to join in. It was great, I didn’t have to worry about yet another dance where everyone was looking at me for the whole time and it was way more fun in general.

  • Carbon Girl

    One idea I wanted for my wedding but didn’t happen was doing a father/daughter and mother/son dance at the same time. I thought that would alleviate some of the pressure and get the dances over with faster. We ended up doing two separate dances.

    My dad and I are not very coordinated nor our we emotional people, we never had a relationship like the ones in those make-everyone-in-the-room-tear-up songs about daddy and his little girl. My mom was really pushing those types of songs on us–every time I was in the car with her she was playing another one. My dad and I did not budge and thought of what we do share, which is a love of rock n’ roll. We ended up with Guns n’ Roses Sweet Child of Mine. It was not sappy, it did not involve fancy dancing, and it was “us”. Towards the end of the dance my mom and brothers spontaneously joined us, which was really fun.

    • Classic rock, FTW. I similarly do not have a super emotional relationship with my dad, but I knew he would be crushed if we didn’t do a father/daughter dance.

      I asked my dad to choose a song that meant something to him and he picked Black Sabbath’s “Changes” (the Kelly & Ozzy version). Since my parents were stupid teenagers in the 80’s, I grew up on a lot of Guns ‘n Roses, Black Sabbath, Tom Petty, etc. and choosing a song that reflected my childhood actually ended up meaning a lot to me. Now, like the sap that I am, whenever I hear “Changes” I get really nostalgic.

      Point being: cool songs can sometimes make up for awkward traditions.

      • Yes, I totally agree! I have been feeling weird about the father daughter dance, mostly because although my Dad and I are close, it isn’t in an emotionally showy way, and I don’t think we have ever danced together.
        But the other day it occurred to me, we could choose “Sunglasses at Night” which was apparently my favorite song as a toddler, to which I used to dance around the living room. So maybe thats a solution?

        **note: I still love the song. I have “I wear my sunglasses at night” on the back of my iPod.**

        • clampers

          I like the idea of a funny song to deal with the awkwardness.

          • Alyssa

            One of my very good friends and her father did most of the twist competition dance from Pulp Fiction.
            It was quirky and totally them, and very very short.

        • meg

          We used Kermit singing The Rainbow Connection for our family dance. It seemed very appropriate, since it’s a kids song. Plus David loves it. Big hit.

          • Denzi

            Oh, man, Meg, there is no way I could ever use that song because I would BAWL LIKE A BABY through the whole dance. But totally A++ for song choice!

    • Casey

      YES! The most amazing father-daughter dance I ever witnessed involved headbanging to Metallica. Absolutely unforgettable.

  • A-L

    Like the person who asked the question, my dad’s and my relationship is not exactly the traditional one where we’d do the father-daughter dance (at least my feelings are that way). And since the father-daughter dance is usually paired (or combined) with the mother-son dance, I asked my then-fiance how he felt. He really didn’t want to dance, but he’d do it if he had to. So we nixed the dance. But I did pick a song to be played in French partly because of one friend, but also because I knew my dad and his side of the family would appreciate it. And before it played (DJ gave me the heads up) I told him a special song was coming on for him. And that song got him out on the dance floor, and it worked. Plus I had already had brunch with him alone that morning, so he’d had plenty of time with his “little girl” one last time before the wedding.

  • I’m not married yet, but these are all questions I struggle with, too. I was a gender studies major (and am getting my Masters in Social Work now) so these issues are pretty important to me. What I’ve come to is that I’m having my brother walk me down the aisle (because I was the best man in his wedding and he was my support growing up) and then we are going to have father-daughter, mother-daughter, brother-sister, grandfather-granddaughter, etc. dances but just not spotlighted. It shouldn’t be about having other people watch you dance, it should be about that moment that you have together with your loved ones. At least that’s what I think.

    • I have to second this comment! At some point during my reception, someone came to me and said that my grandfather wanted to have a special dance with me, but at that point I was so emotionally exhausted that I didn’t want to make a fuss of it. We just had the dj announce it, but instruct everyone else to stay on the dance floor. So we got our moment without being a spectacle for everyone.

    • sophia

      I should have commented but we did this too and it worked great. The first dance people watched but the other ones were cued when the people in question felt like dancing and there was no announcement. Definitely made it less awkward, imo.

      • No announcement dances for the win!! I get really uncomfortable being in the “spotlight”, so making sure to have a time to grab the people you love and dance with at some point in the reception without it being highlighted would be ideal! AND it would save you all the trouble of having to pick out so many different songs. Or, you could pick them out, put them on your must play list and then it would be your secret cue to dance with that particular person.

    • meg


    • YES! My dad and I have a complicated relationship. I think the choice isn’t “have a father-daughter dance vs not dance with your father at all.” If you reject that as a false dichotomy, you can decide what feels best for you.

      I didn’t even want a first dance. We had a band, and they kind of sprung it on us, so we just went ahead ahead and did it. We took salsa lessons in advance of the wedding, because we didn’t want to “waste” the band, but was it ever excruciating!

    • Anna

      Yes! This is exactly what we did. I did want to dance with my dad, I just didn’t want everyone looking at me while we were doing it. We did the same for my husband and his mom.

  • Caroline

    I didn’t think a lot about the father-daughter dance pre-wedding. I didn’t think about it because I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I have an awful relationship with my father, which is a widely known fact. I walked myself down the aisle, and this didn’t even come up as an issue – my father never even inquired about it. So what was the problem?

    Oh, I forgot to tell our DJ.

    Note: This was exacerbated by the fact that, due to snow, the DJ that showed up was not the DJ we booked. And the DJ that showed up was the type of DJ that would begin to play, after our first dance, one of my least favorite songs of all time. He played a Celine Dion song.

    I can imagine, in hindsight, that if I had a good relationship with my father, this could have been a truly touching moment. But at the end of a day that we had worked so hard to make authentic, it literally felt like my individual cells were going to explode with the wrongness of it. My husband caught my deer in headlights look, and grabbed me as his mother pulled him on the dance floor, and suggested that I dance with his dad. But it was too late. My father had already gotten up and was beelining toward me.

    And you know what? It was okay. It was not great. It was kind of awful at the time. But I could see how much it meant to him. And for someone who so infrequently shows that he cares about me, I just took it for what it was, for one day. And it was okay.

    So, y’all are smart to be thinking of this now but don’t forget to TELL THE DJ, unlike me. And know that if it all goes t*ts up, it will still probably be okay.

    • meg

      Yes, this. If you have a DJ, TELL THEM. In fact, tell them anything you are doing that isn’t coloring by numbers, and INSIST that they honor your wishes. Like, no tip for them if they do what they think is best, regardless of what you asked them to do.

    • kris

      As a someone who DJ’s for fun who’s started getting asked to DJ weddings, I have to second this. Communicate with your DJ exactly what you want but more importantly if you’re shelling out dough for someone to play music it’s their job to ask exactly what you want (and what you do NOT want). It’s a definite DJ no-no to just go making assumptions about what you *think* a couple might want to hear.

    • Teresa

      I am having some issues with this myself at the moment and any advice you could give is appreciated. My dad has made it clear throughout my life that he doesn’t particularly care to be involved in well… anything, even though we always lived in the same household. He makes a point of keeping up appearances, especially in front of his family.

      I’m the only child and I am really scared to have the conversation with him about if he wants to be involved with the wedding day at all. There’s part of me that really wants him to want to be part of it, but another part makes me feel like I’ll be faking, or even worse, that he won’t want to be part of it at all.

      Did you talk to your dad about this while planning? Or did it just kind of come up organically while planning your ceremony and reception?

      • Jess H.

        Maybe before you jump into a big scary “Conversation”, you could test the waters a little by asking for his thoughts on some choice you are making about the day. Or, if you don’t want to open yourself up to criticism, by inviting him to join you for some part of the planning process that you think he might enjoy (or at least tolerate).

        If you think that might be a little to intense to start with, you might want to just tell him some of your ideas without looking to him for any particular response. This might help him see that, if he wants to be involved, you wouldn’t be opposed to it.

        Maybe once you see how he responds to these smaller gestures, it might start happening more organically and you won’t have to put him on the spot with a ‘conversation’. Or maybe it will eventually come down to having a formal chat with him about it. But I kind of think that if you are really worried his answer might just be ‘no, leave me out of it’, and if you know that this will hurt you or maybe take away from the joy of the day, a conversation might not really solve anything and might just put the spotlight on some longstanding issues that may not be resolved just because you are getting married.

        I’m learning the hard way right now that a wedding doesn’t necessarily change those habitual behaviors that lead to family tensions over time. In fact, the pressure of putting on a big event like this seems to exacerbate them. This is probably not true for everyone, of course….
        so advice given with the caveat that I may be completely wrong!

      • Caroline

        There were some things that I really care about – like him not walking me down the aisle. And those I took as fact, and didn’t have a conversation about. I made it known, I said it to others as a non negotiable. But I did give him an option to speak at our welcome reception two days before the wedding. He said he couldn’t. (And then changed his mind waay after the fact and tried to cause a scene.) But I felt like at least I gave him a way to be involved, but on my own terms. It has always been really important for me to set my own boundries with him, and let him know what I want or expect, rather than leaving things open ended – which has tended to end up messy for all. That was just me though!

        Also, we live 5,000 miles away, so that tends to help. Lends itself to telling rather than coming to agreement.

      • Donna


        this is kind of me as well. My father has been in and out my whole life, and has had zero involvement in the wedding, emotionally or financially. In fact, he might “have to” go on a work trip the week of my wedding. I’m his only child, and it really hurts, and for me it’s more of other people’s expectations of us having the dance. I dont even know if he knows that people are “supposed” to do those, and it makes it harder because my fiance has a great relationship with his mom. I don’t know what we’re going to end up doing.

  • For me, it’s not about my father giving me up. It’s about expressing to my parents that I appreciate all they’ve ever done for me. While I might not need to rely on them as much as I did as a child or as a single adult, they will always, whether I’m married or single or divorced, be my parents and I will always respect them and appreciate their support and encouragement. To me, it’s a way to honor our relationship on one of the most important days of my life.

    Our wedding, for us, is just as much about expressing our love and appreciation for all of our guests as it is for expressing our love and commitment to each other. They are the reasons that we are who we are, and we want to honor them all – If I could dance with each of them individually, I probably would (okay, not really, but you know what I’m saying, right?).

    It’s a moment of “Dad, I love you just as much now as I did before. Just in a different way. You are no longer the most important man in my life, my husband has assumed that role, but you are still important to me and still hold a solid place in my heart.”

    • I want to “Exactly” your entire first paragraph.

      My husband and I are very close with both sets of parents, and including them was very, very important to us. My mother was my maid of honor, his father was his best man. We had my brother escort his mom down the aisle, and my father escorted me down the aisle. And we did a dance with my dad and his mom. Having them completely involved in our day was important to us because they have been so important to us all our lives. We wanted to honor their commitment to us, and thank them for the strength, courage, love, and support that has carried us into this new phase of our lives.

    • Rasheeda

      PRECISELY to the entire last paragraph, I totally agree with you, havent had the first dance yet but the song choice brings that to light for me. Sam Cooke’s “Nothing can change this love”…”If you wanted to leave me/And roam/When you get back/I’d just say/Welcome home,/I know that nothin’,/Nothin’ can ever change the love/I have for you”

    • ErinB

      Your commet just made me cry! This is precisely the reason I am having my wedding across the country, where both of our extended families live. I’ve been having a lot of guilt over this (because most of our friends will have to travel) — but this was EXACTLY what I needed to reaffirm. THANK YOU.

      • Rasheeda

        Awww honey- you gave me the chills!

    • Tonia

      Amen sistah, cheers to love and appreciation and respect.

      I still just don’t get why there has to be a rank of importance. Honestly, my dad and my husband are equally important to be.

      • I suppose it’s not that one is more important than the other, but that they are important in different ways…They have different roles in our lives, and those roles evolve as we do.

        • Tonia

          Ok, I’m right there with ya on that. :)

    • alyssa

      I want to EXACTLY this a million times! I want to show both of my parents that they got me to that point, to be strong enough to have myself and a family of my own. And that I remember every single dance on the top of my dad’s feet when I was little.

  • Meghan

    Oh man, this just made me cry and I didn’t expect it.

    I see exactly what you’re saying and I definitely understand the hesitations, the meanings, the significance, et cetera. But looking back? My dad died in 2008 and regardless of any of my feelings, if I could have had him at my wedding to dance with me and walk me down the aisle I would have taken it in a heartbeat. This really made me miss him a lot.

    It’s funny that some of the only very difficult moments for me have been at the few weddings I’ve attended and seeing the father daughter dance.

    I’m not judging or anything, it’s just interesting how your perspective on the subject changes when you really can’t make the decision, ie you don’t have the choice one way or the other.

    • Madeline

      My daddy died when I was seven, and I totally know what you mean about watching other women’s father-daughter dances at their weddings. I’m a big crier, so I now know better than to get too involved in watching those dances. Of course, having said that, for my wedding I’m planning to dedicate a song to my daddy – In My Life by the Beatles, his favorite – and ask all of the father-daughter pairs in attendance to join my FH and me on the dance floor. I’m setting myself (and pretty much everyone else) up for a really big, ugly cry on that one, but I think it’s the best way to honor a man who is still so important in my life, even after all these years.

  • katie

    We ended up doing both the parent dances at the same time – to a Bob Dylan version of Forever Young (cut short). I’m not super close to my dad – not a bad relationship but in recent memory the only times we chat are when I’m buying computer stuff or doing my taxes. (My mom is one of those super talkers and I think all these years have just lead him to be the quiet dad.) I wasn’t crazy enthusiastic leading up to it – basically gave my dad the heads up a few weeks before and we didn’t talk any more about it. But in the moment and afterwards I’m glad we did. That and having him waiting “in the wings” with the gushy bridal party before the walk down the aisle are those random funny moments that I love looking back on. I know weddings are just the start of the more important marriage, but I realize time and again that my wedding provided me with moments I’ll cherish since they were so fleeting. For me, a lot of that was extra time with family and friends that live far away.

  • This is such good advice.
    We didn’t do a father-daughter dance because my dad hates dancing and hates being in the limelight. But he did walk me down the aisle. I thought of having both my parents walk me in because I liked the symbolism of it, but in the end I let just my dad do it because as Alyssa put it,
    “It’s a way for your father to go, “Hey. Look at her. She’s all grown-up, gorgeous and smart. I was given this precious person to raise and I didn’t kill her. Yay for me and her mother.””
    It became about him showing me off (in a good way), supporting me in a hugely emotional moment and symbolising his blessing (not permission!) of our marriage. And nothing to do with ownership. I loved it :)

  • Lily Briscoe

    Oh, the dance! I *dreaded* the whole idea of it. My father and I get along just fine, but I wouldn’t exactly say that we’re close, and all of that “Daddy’s little girl” stuff feels completely icky to me. But from the minute Mr. Briscoe and I got engaged, my father was talking about it, and I didn’t have the heart to say no. Worse, he wanted to dance to some terrible Perry Como song. So, in the days before the wedding, I dutifully practiced waltzing poorly to Perry Como around my parents’ living room. It was awful; we couldn’t agree on how to waltz, and I felt worse and worse about the whole thing. The only thing that made it better is that my father found some old polka CD, and in between rounds of Perry Como, we would polka around and laugh our heads off. Who knew we both knew how to polka?

    Then the moment for the awful dance arrived, and, as I was bracing myself, my father turned to me and said, “You know what? I think we should just skip Perry Como and polka.” (We did the iPod thing, so this was an easy switch.) And that’s what we did. In every picture, we are laughing our heads off, and it’s one of my absolute favorite memories from my wedding. (Also, my mother’s Polish family thought it was some kind of tribute to them.)

    So, I guess I’m saying that (as with, you know, every other damn wedding tradition), you should see if there’s a way to do it that makes you feel joy. If there is, do that. And sometimes your dad will surprise you and see it before you do. (Also, everyone should learn to polka.)

    • I haven’t had any qualms about about doing a father daughter dance – other than having to worry about just how much my super-emotional dad will cry during it – and we’ve both been excited since we started planning to be able to dance to country music. We’re the only 2 people in our family who like country music, and my mom and my fiance are both always complaining and trying to switch the radio station when we’re in the car, so we’re going to pick a sappy, twangy country song to dance to and they’ll have to listen to it with smiles on their faces!

    • Kashia

      This made me smile. I love to polka!


      Thanks for sharing!!

      Had a beautiful song that always makes me tear and smile picked out, but my dad and I aren’t really the beautiful teary kind. But polka has always made us laugh! My dad’s side has PA roots so this might just be perfect for us. Just gotta see if the soul/funk band we booked can learn how to polka now…

    • “So, I guess I’m saying that (as with, you know, every other damn wedding tradition), you should see if there’s a way to do it that makes you feel joy. If there is, do that. And sometimes your dad will surprise you and see it before you do. (Also, everyone should learn to polka.)”

      Wonderful words of wisdom on all accounts.

  • Are you not doing a mother-son dance? I ask because there may be more hurt feelings if one side of the family gets tradition when the other side does not. Which may be ok or it may not depending upon a given situation.

    • sophia

      I commented below but we did a mother son dance and no father daughter dance and it worked well because it wasn’t a tradition my dad cared about. If both parents wanted a dance an only one got a dance there would have been issue.

  • My dad and I have that super sappy “daddy’s little girl” relationship and a large part of me knew that I wanted a dance with him, but another part of me didn’t because I didn’t want to awkwardly sway back and forth sobbing in front of people. At first our reception wasn’t going to even have dancing so I wouldn’t have to deal with it, but two weeks before the wedding, our previous venue fell through and we ended up at a venue with a dance floor, so dancing suddenly entered the picture. But to combat the tears, my dad and I decided to do a dance kind of like those youtube videos, where it starts off with something sappy and then suddenly starts with something bouncy and wacky. So we danced to Octopus’ Garden by the Beatles, which he used to sing to me when I was a little girl. We did an underwater sequence and everything. It was awesome (and I didn’t sob!).

  • sophia

    We didn’t do a father daughter dance and my husband and I walked down the isle together. I’m close with my parents but we’re Russian and it’s not part of our culture. I felt weird and awkward about the gender role aspect of it and was relieved that he didn’t express interest. Also, my parents are divorced and were fairly sensitive about being included/notified/etc unequally early in the planning process so I tried to tread carefully. My parents are both remarried and not big dancers. My mom danced with her mother most of the night and my dad group danced as well. I think that if I knew that my dad really wanted a father-daughter dance we would have had one. My mother in law wanted a mother-son dance and we had that and no one noticed (or commented) that it was odd that I didn’t have a solo dance with either parent.

    • Lauren

      I was waiting to see a comment about divorced parents- this issue is made much more complicated when you also have a step-father present. I grew up living with my stepfather and mother, but my stepfather and I have a horrible relationship. I didn’t see my father nearly as much, but we are very emotionally close. Like Sarah, my sets of parents are VERY sensitive about being included/excluded and the sets of parents do not get along or even talk. If I were to cut my step-father out of the wedding stuff, which is what I would like to do, that would result in hurting my mother.

      That all being said, the walking-down-the-aisle and the first dances are the things that I’m most dreading in the wedding planning. I also don’t like the gender issues involved, and I am much closer to my mother and sister, so why should my fathers get the spotlight?

      The tricky thing is when you start to have these conversations with your family, sometimes you realize that everyone had a plan in their head of how it should go, or how they want to be involved. Navigating their expectations, while still wanting to honor the important relationships in your life, is hard stuff.

      • sophia

        My parents have each been divorced twice and are married to their third spouses (whom I both adore). These are marriages that happened when I was in college or beyond so my experiences may or may not relate to you. We included my stepfather in the ceremony. He played the music before the ceremony (prior to the processional in which he walked with my mom) and the recessional music immediately following the ceremony. My stepmother baked some of the deserts. I didn’t like the idea of my dad walking with me, plus then my stepmom would walk alone. If I walked with both parents then what would the step parents do? It sounds insane now that I’m married but it was such a stressful and agonizing decision to figure these things out while trying to be mindful of peoples’ feelings and our sanity so I can totally sympathize with your situation even though it’s not identical to mine. For us, walking down the isle together felt right. I liked the symbolism in us walking to this new stage of married life hand in hand (I’m cheesy like that).

        Issues like seating and guest lists were touchier for us than most so my advice is to try to be sensitive of your parents’ (which you clearly are). However, if your normally reasonable parents are acting out (mine did) and you’re you’re going mad trying to reason with them, I highly recommend calling in a sibling (if you can) to talk sense into them.

        • Lauren

          Thanks Sophia!

          You are SO right about the sibling talk…my wonderful sister has already offered to be the “buffer” between all the parents. Don’t know what I would do without her!

          I also LOVE the idea of walking down the aisle together with your spouse-to-be.

        • A-L

          My parents are divorced and my dad remarried when I was in college. But I wanted them to both walk me down the aisle, as they were both responsible for raising me. My dad found it a bit odd at first, but on the weekend of the wedding it went off without a hitch. My brother escorted my stepmother, and both my parents walked me down the aisle. Then my dad sat with my stepmom, and my mom sat with my grandmother, and there was no weirdness at all. Of course, this is the same family where my older brother (different mom from me) got married about a month before me. The front row had his mom, then my mom (his stepmom), my dad, and our stepmother (his 2nd stsepmother). Talk about hilarious!

  • Sarah M

    I have to admit that the father daughter dance was a foregone conclusion for me. What we ended up doing was having our first dance, and then part way through the song his mom and my dad cut in and we finished up that way. Mostly because C hates being the center of attention and is a miserable dancer, so did not want to dance even for the 2.5 minutes that our song ran.

    I have to say though, that for me, the father-daughter dance was a way to spend a few moments with my dad, who I then barely saw all night. It was a moment of appreciation for me– for all the fighting we do, he’s the man who taught me how good men treat women, what a marriage partnership looks like, and what to look for in a partner. He gave me the confidence to not take any $hit and keep looking until I found a man that could keep up with me. And having seen what a struggle it has been for some of my friends that didn’t have that relationship and now struggle in their own partnerships, I will always be grateful for that confidence and sense of self-worth he helped me grow into.

    • Marley

      We’re planning on doing the cut in to the first dance too. Nobody involved (myself included) really enjoys being the complete center of attention, especially if dancing is involved, so it’s going to be short and sweet. My dad and his mom are so thankful that we don’t expect them to do some sort of 5 minute choreographed waltz routine.

    • Kayakgirl73

      Totally agree, with the spending time with your dad on your wedding day part of this post. It was the only time I got with just my dad and me. We are very close.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    “Weddings aren’t just for you, they are for your families also. A father-daughter dance for some men can be a later in life rite of passage that they look forward to.”

    Exactly. I was really surprised by my dad when I got engaged. He’s usually really laid-back (he tends to be drowned out by the two headstrong, opinionated women he raised), but he took his responsibilities *really* seriously at our wedding. He found out what all the traditional father-of-the-bride duties were and attacked them with enthusiasm. And really? That was the cutest thing ever.

    Since the majority of the day (and the engagement) was shared with my Mom and sister, the dance was a great opportunity to hug my Dad. He didn’t come along for hair & makeup, or help me get ready so I’d hardly seen him before the reception.

    We did copy something we’d seen at another wedding and after the first 45 sec we invited all the other fathers and daughters to join us. That was super fun and more emotional than I’d expected. My mom danced with my grandpa and eventually my sister joined me and dad. We did the same thing on the Mother-Son dance 10 minutes later with equally happy results.

    • Erin

      Ooo, that’s a great idea. Everyone gets sappy with those :)

    • Bailey

      I did something similar to this. I have been blessed with both a Dad and a Stepdad in my life and I’m close with both of them. I did the traditional Father/Daughter dance with my Dad, and later on in the reception I danced to “Kind and Generous” with my Stepdad. As he’s not one who enjoys too much attention, we had all the Fathers and Daughters join us on the dance floor. It’s one of my favorite memories from that day.

  • I felt very uncomfortable with the father-daugter dance. I didn’t want to do it at all. B was decidedly not doing a mother-son dance. We were barely comfortable with a first dance. My dad was pretty cool about it when I asked his feelings on the father-daughter dance. He said it was up to me. I told him I preferred not to do it, but would love for him to do a reading at the ceremony. I also told him, I didn’t NOT want to dance with him, I just didn’t want it to be this spotlight, staged moment. He was okay with that. And we did get to dance together during one crazy fun song while the dance floor was packed. It was organic and meaningful, not staged at all and I doubt anyone was paying attention to us, which is exactly what I wanted.

  • Cass

    There isn’t any planned dancing at our reception, but I was particularly worried about not really wanting my dad to walk me down the aisle.
    After talking with my priest, I realized that it’s perfectly acceptable for the bride and groom to walk each other down the aisle. When I heard this I could have leaped for joy! (Who else would I rather have with me on my wedding day anyway??
    But then I got completely nervous! I would have to tell my dad my decision.

    When I called I was completely taken aback with how OK with it he was. He reminded me that I am not my sisters, and I do not need Daddy to walk me down the aisle. Then he went on to tell me how independent I am, and a few other rare compliments.

    Telling my dad I didn’t want him to walk me down the aisle was actually good for our relationship.

    • meg

      Sniff. I love this. It made me all teary.

  • Erin

    Kids, my dad secretly learned how to ballroom dance with my mother so we could have a dance together at my wedding. He surprised me by grabbing me in my living room for a spin around the carpet when they flew out the week before our wedding.

    There was no way we were not going to have a father-daughter dance. Especially since I owe my love of oldies to all the mornings he drove me to school with 1960’s top forty hits playing on the radio.

    We did combine our dance with a mother-son dance (does anyone have issues with gender and that?). For us, it was another way for my dad to celebrate and make new memories for our wedding. He didn’t help me and my mom and aunt make my wedding dress. He did help stamp favor boxes, but c’mon. How fun is that, compared to grooving on the dance floor?

    And I also danced with my mom and my sister and my grandma and my aunts and my uncles…. So we covered all the bases I think :)

    • Uh, ditto, ditto, ditto. My dad has taken dance lessons and demanded we figure out what song to dance to so he could calculate the time signature (I get my anal retentiveness from somewhere…). Aaaand ditto to the oldies; we did a combined father-daughter mother-son dance to the Beatles “In My Life”. It was wonderful. :)

    • Katelyn

      Your comment reminded me of my dad, making me cinnamon toast every morning of grade school while the oldies station was on – music has always been something we’ve bonded over and some of my favorite memories revolve around music and my dad. Sniff.

  • I can understand the hesitation, but I back the advice to have a discussion with your dad. I never envisioned my wedding as a little girl, with the exception of my honeymoon and the song to which I would dance with my dad (Louis Armstrong, what a wonderful world).
    My Dad is a horrible dancer and he was nervous about the dance, but in the preparation, we had a wonderful moment practicing on the porch of my parents’ house two days before the wedding, just me and him. We had a house full of family, mine and Hubby’s and it was chaotic and we could never get time alone with anyone.
    When I got engaged my Dad was thrilled, but he said he was also disappointed that he never got some of the typical father moments, like saving me from a party gone bad, or scaring off unacceptable boyfriends. He said he had raised me too well. He’s an old hippy, but a traditionalist as well. My Hubby tracked him down before proposing to ask his permission and it meant the world to him.
    Long story short (I guess) we did the father-daughter dance but it was also a mother-son dance. I don’t know how it was for my Hubby, but for me it was one of my favorite moments of the day. Just my dad and I dancing and him singing the song to me. I tear up just thinking about it.
    Your Mom probably gets to be very involved with the preparation of the day and the day itself. This is a moment for your Dad to also be involved in a way that is just for him. If you’re relationship with your parents or one parent is a bit tense, then maybe this isn’t a moment to push, but if it is a good relationship, maybe you do.
    Again, it’s a decision for you and your Dad.

  • I’m not sure father/daughter dances are that typical in the UK. If they are, we certainly never considered doing one. But I did dance with my father and my father-in-law at some point during the evening and my husband danced with his mum. I vote for letting things happen naturally – if it means something to you and your father, chances are you will end up having a dance together over the course of the dancing. And if you don’t (either end up dancing or it doesn’t mean anything to you), don’t worry about it.

    • clampers

      Agreed, why does it have to be announced? Just ask the DJ to play you and your dad’s favorite song and grab your dad when it comes on.

      • Erin

        We ended up doing that for a second “unofficial” father-daughter dance. My dad requested the ONLY SONG I EVER HEARD HIM SING MY WHOLE LIFE from the band, and we ended up being the only people on the dance floor. Great way to have a moment with your dad without calling attention to it.

        • meg


    • This is exactly what happened with us. My dad and I are close enough, but I knew I didn’t want to do a father-daughter dance — or a mother-son dance, for that matter. I just felt as if our first dance was enough of people looking at other people dancing (and even then, as other people have done, we did about half the song before we had the DJ invite everyone else up). I never mentioned the decision to my dad, and I’m not sure if he was expecting a formal father-daughter dance, but there weren’t any weird or awkward conversations, and I didn’t think twice about it. My dad, however, is always on the dance floor whenever he gets a chance, so he and I ended up busting out almost as soon as the real dancing began. It just happened, and we all had a great time. (Or maybe people just get a kick out of my dad on the dance floor, who knows.)

  • My dad and I are close but we don’t dance together. Ever. At my first wedding he didn’t even bring it up and I totally forgot it was supposed to happened. At some point before the reception the DJ asked if we were going to do it and I said no. That’s just not how we do in our family.

    But this is what happened and it might work for those that want A dance with Dad but not THE dance with Dad. Because its a party, people will start dancing. You will dance. Your dad will dance. At some point my dad asked me to dance. In the middle of the floor surrounded by family and friends. My lovely photographer was smart enough to know it was a moment to capture and I have an awesome pic of me and my dad grinning our faces off.

    So dance if you want to. Dance when you want to. Don’t ever dance if the spirit doesn’t move you. It’s your (and your partner’s) party and you’ll dance if you want to (sorry, could help it). :)

    • We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind . . . Cause your friends don’t dance
      and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine . . .

      • Mallory

        Bahaha I thought this exact same thing so glad someone else did too!

    • Annad

      That’s exactly what happened at my wedding, but we planned it that way. My dad wanted the father daughter dance, but I didn’t want EVERYONE staring at me. It was a perfect compromise for us. I was so busy during the reception that I don’t think I would even have had a chance to talk to my dad, had we not been out on the dance floor together.

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    “Weddings aren’t just for you, they are for your families also.”

    Yes, yes, YES. Adria put this spectacularly well in the comments too.

    I have a tangentially related question: for anyone with an involved parent and step-parent, or a partner with the same, what did/will you do for the dances? The boy was mostly raised by his stepmom but his mom is definitely still in the picture… the two moms have a long history of not getting along and they’re both highly sensitive about being his “real” mother. I have nightmares about one of them getting upset/offended by whatever we decide. I’m definitely dancing with my father.

    • Meaghan 2

      My cousin had this issue. Her parents were young when they had her and split up not long after she was born so she was raised by her mom and grandparents. Her dad was always sort of in the background of her life but was there for major events. When it came time for her wedding a few years ago, her grandpa and her dad walked her down the aisle and she did the same for the dance. She danced with her dad the first half of the song then her grandpa cut in. She would have preferred just to have her grandpa but involving them both just saved her endless fights.

      Hopefully that wouldn’t upset the mom and stepmom too much. Just remind them that they are both loved and important to your man but that they need to think of him instead of their own feelings for one day.

    • Kate

      I was at a wedding where the bride’s parents were still together, but the groom’s had split and each had new partners. They did a great “family dance” where all 3 couples joined them on the dance floor, then the bride and groom proceeded to cut in until they had all danced with each opposite-gender parental type. Of course, if one of your parents ended up single, I suppose this could be awkward . . .

  • Nicole

    This is something I’ve been putting off dealing with; my biological father was estranged from when I was 4 and died when I was 21 (or so I heard). My stepfather for the bulk of my childhood cheated on my mom and they divorced when I was in HS (we don’t have a good relationship, tho I’ll probably invite him). My mother is remarried but I don’t really have a “fatherly” relationship with her husband. I’ve been working on having my grandfather walk me down the aisle but he is old and VERY shy, so he’s not really into it. So I have this problem of a wealth of father alternatives but no really good father figure. If grandpa doesn’t walk me down the aisle I’ll be going solo, provided I can work up the courage. There’s no way grandpa will dance.

    So I’ve been ignoring the whole “father daughter” dance, but I LOVE the idea of the “family dance”! Meg, was it a slow dance or a fast dance? We have a disproportionate number of women in our families so I imagine it can’t be TOO lovey-dovey, but it seems like a perfect, joyful, elegant solution. Would love to hear more.

    • meg

      It was The Rainbow Connection, sung by Kermit.

      And why can’t your mamma walk you down the aisle, huh? I mean, who says it need to be a father figure? It can be the person who raised you!

      • Nicole

        Yeah, issues with that too. True, she raised me and did a good job, but let’s just say that the “emotionally absent mother” post the other day rang pretty close to home for me. She’s been kind of a nightmare through this whole process.

        But dude, Rainbow Connection is kind of perfect (especially since we’re considering “Somebody’s Getting Married/He Makes Me Happy” for the processional). Thanks!

        • Barbra

          Oh my god, that is the best ceremony music ever!

        • Colleen

          I walked myself down the aisle (father is passed, rest of my family is shy & honestly, also emotionally distant to put it mildly). I was a little nervous about walking myself, so my husband let me know that he’d meet me in the aisle & we’d finish the walk together if I looked like I was having trouble. I think we probably should have declared an official sign, a la Alyssa’s Nod, but I ended up fine walking myself down. That could be an option for you?

          • Madeline

            I’m planning to walk alone too, and I was thinking of asking my mom to be the potential rescuer, but I like your idea better. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but now that you brought it up, it seems much more natural and logical. And I definitely think The Nod could be of use in this situation!

      • I went back and forth on the walking down the aisle thing. I have a dad and a stepfather (whom I have had since I was 7 years old). I couldn’t have one and not the other. They don’t really get along, but I thought I would just go with it and then a lightbulb “I should just have my mom do it!” I asked her, she said that she would feel uncomfortable that she got to do it and my stepfather didn’t, but I couldn’t have both because that would hurt my dad. Dad ended up kinda being a jerk and didn’t come to the wedding anyway, and I walked myself out.

        While I feel like this was the right decision – I wasn’t being “given away”, I am my own person – I do think that my stepfather and mom were a little hurt. They figured since they were there, they could have done it (but my dad’s parents were there, even if he wasn’t, and I didn’t want to hurt them either). I overthought it and took everyone into consideration and I don’t know whether I did the right thing or not, but it’s done. And my husband walked back down the aisle with me and that was the good part (to our recessional music – the theme from “the West Wing”!)

        • Katie

          The only thing I ever knew growing up about my wedding (no thoughts on dress, location, cake, nada…) was that my Mom would walk me down the aisle. It’s all I ever wanted and the only thing I HAD to do.

          • Me too, except with my two dads. I have a dad and a step-dad and have spent a lot of my life defending my relationship with both to the rest of our family. Being able to have both my dads walk me down the aisle has been the first and only time I could make a public declaration of my equal love for both of them in front of all the aforementioned naysayers.

            Only thing I ever wanted and only thing I HAD to do.

  • carrie

    Here’s a semi-related question – I have my dad AND my stepdad who has been with me since I was 7. They are both walking me down the aisle, but without the “who gives this woman”. But I have no idea how to approach the father-daughter dance. I haven’t decided if there will be one, but I think my hesitance is because I have no idea how to work this logistically. Any ideas?

    Fantastic feedback, as always.

    • I have been trying to post this same comment! I was wondering what one is supposed to do when it comes to Stepdads and F-D dances? In my case however, no one is walking me down the aisle…but, my dad and I are doing a dance…my Stepdad is very involved in the wedding planning, and a huge part of my life, so I’d like to honor him somehow!

      Good question, Carrie!!

      • Oh I was starting to respond to this and then saw it was you! I actually had the same situation, but tackled it a little differently. I asked both my dads to walk me down the aisle and then my biological father and I did a father-daughter dance. I meant to save some time for my-step dad and I to have a dance later in the night, but it kind of got away from me.

        I was really worried about making people sit through THREE dances (father-daughter, other-father-daughter, and mother-son) but in hindsight it totally wouldn’t have mattered if I had just done all of them. (I have a tiny bit of residual guilt for leaving my step-dad out, but I think that’s me, not him).

        That being said, I know my step-dad is not a showy guy and doesn’t like to be the center of attention. Just involving him AT ALL, I think, was important to him. My bio dad on the other hand is a little bit of a diva, so he needed the public display.

        I think that in a situation like this you can totally cater it to your dads’ personalities. If your step-dad has been super involved in the process, maybe he can make a toast?

        On a slightly separate note, my mom’s husband is a fantastic guy who isn’t really a father figure to me yet (my step-dad isn’t actually married to my mom anymore). Anyway, he ended up building us a lot of our ceremony decorations and it was really special for both of us, even if it wasn’t publicly acknowledged.

        Long story short, there are ALL kinds of ways, public and private, to acknowledge the ones that you love.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        I DID post this same comment :)

    • I didn’t have this issue, but I’ve heard of people starting a dance with one father and then switching partway through. I hope more people reply with ideas for you. Good luck!

      • Katie

        Oh man. I struggled with this and I’m going to be honest that it actually caused the most drama of my wedding. My original idea was to dance with one and then switch off in the middle of the song. Both of my dads nixed that idea – they thought it was too awkward/uncomfortable. So we ended up doing one song where I danced with my dad and my hubby danced with his mom, and then a song immediately afterward where I danced with my step dad and my hubby danced with my mom.

        In the end, it worked out ok – but it was very hard because my dads don’t get along at all – and my Dad also turned real assy and said that he would only do it if he went first. Frankly, he was going to go first anyway – but the fact that he made it an issue pissed me off (full disclosure, lots of drama here – raised more by my step dad than my real dad, yadda yadda yadda). The day-of it was fine, but it brought up a lot of heavy, old, divorced child issues for me as we tried to sort it all out that I wasn’t aware would resurface.

        I think the key here is to talk through the options with those involved – what I thought was a great idea totally made my dads uncomfortable. I think the other key to remember is that you’re not the only person who’s had to deal with this – there are tons of options and tons of us out there with step parents. You’ll make it work!

        • Ruth

          I aslo thought of starting the dance with my dad and having my stepdad cut in, but I thought it would mirror real life too closely in a way that would be really hurtful to my dad. Katie, do we have a similar father situation or what? My dad is also dramatic and needs the public recognition while my very low-key stepdad is the one who mainly raised me.

          I knew it would be really important to my dad to walk me down the aisle. There was no question in my mind that he would be in that role.
          I also wanted to honor my stepdad, though. He has been a much more consistent part of my life than my dad. I asked him to share the father-daughter dance with me, with the plan that my husband would dance with his mom at the same time. (Both of our moms were involved in a tree-planting part of our ceremony and my husband’s dad was the pastor who married us, so all of the parents were involved.)

          My brother got married two months before I did and during his wife’s dance with her dad, my dad leaned over to me and said, “What song are we going to dance to at your wedding?” Obviously, we hadn’t discussed my plans at that point. I tried to answer lightheartedly, “Well, dad, you’re walking me down the aisle, right? Isn’t that more important to you than a dance?” He responded with, “Of course I am. But I want to dance with you, too.” I said, “I will definitely dance with you at my wedding, Dad. But when it comes to the particular ‘father-daughter’ dance I have asked Dale to participate in that. He’s been a big part of my life, too, and I want to honor him in some way.” My dad was MAD. He stood up, said, “That’s bullsh*t. I’m your f*cking father, not Dale!” and stormed off. Yikes. I was in tears. Bawling. I knew he wouldn’t take it well, but I hadn’t expected it would be that bad.

          That outburst led to a heated discussion a while later which included yelling (I’m not a yeller), crying, and me doing my best to reassure my dad nothing will ever change his role as my father, nor my love for him. I told him that just because other men (my stepdad and my fiance at the time) have had and will continue to have a strong impact on my life, no one can or ever will replace him. I emphasized that it was not a competition; it was just important for me to involve them both in different ways. He finally calmed down. I hated that it happened during my brother’s wedding, but I’m so grateful we got that explosion out of the way well before my wedding weekend, and that I got to talk to him face-to-face and fully explain my choices.

          When my stepdad found out about it, he told me that if it was that important to my dad, he would bow out of the dance. I wouldn’t have it. Yes, it would have been easier to cave and let my dad have his way as a result of manipulation, but I felt it was more important to stand up for what was significant and meaningful to me on that day and in my life. My stubborn dad has had a way of getting others to do things his way because it’s easier to go along with it than to stand up to him. This was an opportunity for me to show my dad, with love, that I’m an adult who can make her own decisions, even if he doesn’t agree. It was hard, but I’m so glad I stayed true to my choice.

          Have the conversations, however hard they may be, and make decisions that you will feel right about.

      • Amanda

        A friend of mine was in this position. Luckily for her, her father and step-father have a friendly relationship. She began the dance wither her biological father and half-way through he danced her over to the step-father standing by and the two switched. It seemed so natural and pleasant and had none of the awkwardness that might be associated with the step-father “cutting in.”

        • Maddie, I love you.

          My Stepdad and Bio Dad get along great. I have a feeling it will end up being a big “family get on the floor” dance thingy…I’m hoping we do a little jazzier dance. Great advice, everyone…sometimes it’s just so comforting to know other people went through this too!

    • Tonia

      My dad and step dad also BOTH walked me down the aisle. Also without the “who gives….” part. My dad requested a song to dance to, but stepfather didnt. When my dad’s song came on, I danced with him to it. The first time my step-dad got out on the floor, I cut in and danced with him then. It doesnt have to be a big production, just a moment with a loved one.

  • It’s funny–I never saw the father/daughter dance as based in dominance and ownership. Mostly my criticisms would be that it’s a little cheesy and, after watching the couple’s first dance, do I really want to watch another? Still, I love the advice that it all comes down to whatever makes you and your family comfortable and happy, just like most aspects of a wedding. Hell, like most aspects of your life.

    I know I’ll do the father/daughter dance, mostly because it’s something I know my dad will enjoy and because he practically starts crying whenever he hears “My Girl.” But at other weddings, I can’t say I’d even notice if there were no father/daughter or mother/son dances.

  • I probably would have happily had a father-daughter dance, but my father absolutely refuses to dance, ever, full stop. So that specifically wasn’t an issue. I had heard about the family dance alternative (wouldn’t have worked well for us as none of the immediate family members had any interest in getting on the dance floor at any point) and about having other father/daughter pairs join (which would have been just my brother-in-law and nieces joining us – there is a real shortage of daughters in our families, it seems).

    So in lieu of a father-daughter dance we had the DJ play a silly family favorite song, one that my father often sang to us as kids, for the cake-cutting. My husband thought about doing something similar for his mom, but couldn’t come up with any clear choice, and decided there was no point in forcing something just for the sake of doing it. But only a few people knew the song was a tribute to my father, so it wasn’t as if there was a public privileging of one family over another, really.

    (Side note, I’d originally planned to wear my mother’s dress, which was made by my grandmother, so I made an effort to bring more things in from my father’s side – the cake-cutting song, using his family tartan, etc. And then the dress totally didn’t work and I just had one piece of jewelry representing my mother’s family. So even on my side it wound up a little unbalanced. Happily this didn’t seem to bother anyone.)

  • Oeno

    We’re not having a father/daughter or a mother/son dance. Growing up, I didn’t have a father so there is no natural person to take that place. We talked about maybe having a father-in-law/daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law/son-in-law dance, but then we realized we were trying to force something we didn’t want to do. And that was the end of that.

    • Alexandra

      Oeno, I’m in a somewhat similar position: considering an in-law dance instead, but I’m not sure if we’ll do it. My father’s dead and FH’s mother wasn’t around for a fair amount of his childhood.
      Might be better to just have un-spotlighted parent dances. Might do a family dance. ;-)

  • My wife and I did a joint father-daughter dance with both of our fathers. We also each had our fathers walk us down the aisle. I had really, really wanted to have both my parents walk me down the aisle, but the church that we got married in is *tiny*, so there literally wasn’t space for three people to fit across the aisle. I’ve been involved in my fair share of gender studies (and oh yeah, I’m gay) and felt slightly uncomfortable at first with the whole idea of my father giving me away, the weirdness of that dance, etc. But my wife and I also both knew that it was important to each of our fathers, so I got over it. My dad was not involved much in the wedding planning, so I didn’t want to take away the one or two things that were important to him (and that he had assumed would be there even before we talked about it.) Our families have both been very supportive of us individually and of our relationship, so for me this was a way to say thanks. It’s probably not what I would have picked in a vacuum, but this was one of those moments where the day was not about ME–it was about our families too. And we were fortunate in that both of our dads love some of the same music (big John Denver fans), so we were able to pick a sentimental song that we both knew from childhood (“Sunshine on my Shoulders”) that meant something to each of us, to both our dads, and wasn’t all icky and heteromantic.

  • Dad is a competitive ballroom dancer – he’d just die if I said “I’m not going to dance with you, I think it’s creepy.” An especially important middle-aged-guy rite-of-passage for him. That said, no pseudo-romantic songs (weeeird) and no songs that will make me cry (Beatles, In My Life, anyone?). I think we might just swing dance to Shake Rattle and Roll or something.

    • Aahahah, we danced to the Beatles!! Everyone has Those Songs. It’s why we combined the dances (father-daughter, mother-son); my mother-in-law said there’s no way she could do their dance without weeping, so combining it helped her through. :) I love the swing dance idea; that’s pretty amazing.

      • I mean, let’s be honest, I’ll be crying no matter what.

        • ….yeah, pretty much. :) I was more… quiet. Things were so crazy for the rest of the day, the quietness of that moment is what really touched me. I’m lucky I didn’t cry. :)

    • Chantelle

      That’s my plan, swing dance all the way…now I just have to get my dance moves up to speed. Growing up my mom was never a big dancer and my dad loved to dance, so I would be his dancing partner. I have so many great memories of dancing to swing so that gives me a great reason to avoid the tears that would undoubtedly happen if we did a slow dance. I’m an ugly crier :P

  • My father and I have a wonderful relationship. He’s been my rock and my go-to guy for as long as I can remember…until I got married. And, in some ways, my Dad is still my go-to guy (car question? career question? etc.), but now, I have a go-to guy that vowed to spend his life with me seven months ago. While that’s wonderful, I wanted to honor the fact that my Dad has been my one and only go-to guy for my entire life, up until I met and married my husband.

    The father-daughter dance was intensely important to me for the purpose of honoring this relationship. I can tell that my mother felt a bit left out, seeing as it was also intensely important to me that my Dad (and only my Dad) walk me down the aisle. But for me, that was the right choice. My mother and I have always struggled to maintain a positive, healthy, mutually respectful relationship, and she often struggled to support me in planning the wedding, despite the fact that she was helpful at times – but my Dad was always there. Always. It was his approval I sought out when picking out my wedding gown; it was his blessing on our marriage that I wanted most. And I wanted to honor him for all of these reasons (selfishly, I admit).

    My Dad isn’t perfect – he certainly had his moments of disapproval regarding my decision to move in with my now-husband before we were even engaged, for example – but he was always there to pick me up after my mother let me down. Every. Single. Time. And that’s exactly why I wanted to honor him.

  • tupelohoney

    I have a feeling there will be 300 comments today, good topic for discussion.

    Alyssa, I love your point about the origin of a tradition can (for better or worse) be overtaken by the fact that everyone just does it. Weren’t bridesmaids originally supposed to trick the spirits (or some such) into wondering who the bride was? Clearly not why people have bridesmaids today.

    My dad and I are super close, but still, the idea of a father-daughter dance seemed weird to me. I give my dad sideways/half hugs and I’m not the girl who still kisses her dad. But still, I knew my dad wanted the dance and I wanted to share that moment with him. I thought it’d be weird, but it wasn’t. It gave us about 3 minutes to say things like, “Wow, it was beautiful today.” “Did you see how everyone was hysterical when [brother’s name] walked into the reception” “I wish Grandma could see this” “You look so happy” It was short and my dad cried when it ended.

    I would NOT have done the dance if I didn’t want to. For sure. There were other elements that we left our that people “strongly encouraged” us to include. I’m glad we stuck to our true desires.

  • Erin

    I’m not particularly close to my parents, and my husband and I both have step-parents in the mix, so I knew early on that the walk down the aisle and the father-daughter dance were going to be problems. I was working on an elaborate plan to have my father walk me part way down the aisle, and my step-father walk me the rest of the way, and a group dance where I would dance with my father and then step-father, and my husband would dance with his mother and then step-mother.

    And then I mentioned all of this to my dad. I felt it would be important to him, so I wanted to explain my plan early on to make sure he was ok with it. And he said “Well, I don’t really like to dance. And you don’t really like to dance. I mean, I will if I have to, but why don’t we just skip it altogether?” My husband’s mother agreed, and his step-mother has had a stroke and would have had a hard time with it anyway, so we decided to nix the dance, and for me to walk myself down the aisle. This felt right to me, because I very much feel that I’ve made it to where I am on my own steam, and I wanted to get to my husband on my wedding day the same way.

    I did stop at the end of the aisle to hug both of my fathers, and my step-father found me later in the evening and asked me to dance, and that worked out great. I suggest that you talk to the people involved and get their opinions before you get too worked up. You might be surprised!

  • Alyssa, I think your advice is spot on.

    We didn’t do any “spotlight” dances at our wedding. I danced with my husband, my dad, and my brother during the course of the evening, while the dance floor was packed, without everyone staring. (Although, it’s weird – it was like people couldn’t accept that we didn’t have a “first dance,” so whenever they noticed my husband and I dancing together, everyone would automatically make a circle around us. And then I’d have to be like, “No, no, no. We’re not doing this – get back in here and dance!” haha.)

    I know my dad was really looking forward to the father-daughter dance, but I just felt uncomfortable with everyone staring; that’s why my husband and I didn’t do a first dance either. So I made sure to talk to him beforehand, and to make a point to dance with him at some point in the evening, and it was great. He got to have his moment, and I didn’t have to have all our guests staring at us.

    The only person who didn’t handle the “no spotlight dances” rule very well was my mother-in-law. Even though my husband talked to her months in advance, I think she had a hard time dealing. At one point she went up to the DJ and requested the song she had wanted to dance with my husband to, but we had warned our DJ this might happen, so he said he didn’t have the song. I just happened to look up and spot what she was up to, so we cut her off at the pass, so to speak. She had intended to basically force him to dance with her in the middle of dinner. Again, although we weren’t doing spotlight dances, he had promised to dance with her – just not with everyone staring. And he did dance with her a couple times. I don’t actually know if she was satisfied with that or not; I thought I should definitely not bring it up. (I should add, this is a woman who wore a white dress to my wedding. So… what can I say. She was never going to quietly accept our request. haha.)

  • Part of the reason that fathers like the father-daughter dance is that it’s a moment to have with their little girl. It’s a way for your father to go, “Hey. Look at her. She’s all grown-up, gorgeous and smart. I was given this precious person to raise and I didn’t kill her. Yay for me and her mother.” Weddings aren’t just for you, they are for your families also.

    Oh, so true. We were going to have a separate dance for my husband and his mother, but she decided she couldn’t do it without weeping copiously, so we shared our dance– he danced with his mother (who he is VERY close with), and I danced with my father. Those few quiet moments in my father’s arms where he lead us around the dance floor…. It was amazing. I had been close with my dad when I was little (sitting in his lap, playing in the yard, going swimming), but drifted from him when I hit puberty. He’s a sweet, kind, wonderful presence in my life that I wanted to honor. At that point in the night, I’d been rushing through my own wedding reception, and those few minutes were absolutely amazing. He has taken dance lessons, so he was actually LEADING (shocker), and having him guide me like that was hugely touching. I’m getting weepy at my desk just thinking about it.

    And Alyssa is SO right- your mileage may vary, and your relationship may be different, and your feelings on the patriarchal overtones may be important. So do what’s right for you and your family- both the family you were raised in and the family you are raising.

  • saveroomforpi

    At our wedding both parents walked each of us down the aisle, we had our first dance (Jackie Wilson’s (Your love) Keeps lifting me Higher), we did a father-daughter dance (If I had a Million Dollars) and not a mother-son dance (although my dad then danced with his mother to some Sinatra), and then in the tradition of how different the families might seem, my side of the family did a lot of dancing (which is part of why I made sure that we had a dj at our midday wedding reception).

    My mother-in-law has MS and although her mobility is still quite good, she gets self-conscious about her coordination. We did make sure to ask how she felt about a mother-son dance, but expected her to politely decline.

    My family has always been the “if the music comes on we’re going to dance around the house sort of family”, so a father-daughter dance was a given. And it was the quiet conversation together sort of moment.

    My grandmother was a dance teacher when she was younger and is always one of the first on the dance floor, even at 87 years old, so it was important to all of us that we had an opportunity to dance as a family. And dance as a family we did. They are some of my absolute favorite photos of the day.

    A few weeks after the wedding D and I were eating with my in-laws and I pointed out how much I enjoyed that they were able to meet more of my family and my father-in-law said “Yes, it was very nice. They were interesting – they danced a lot!”

  • My parents are divorced, so I felt extra aware of traditions that would exclude my mom. My dad had also been looking forward to some of the wedding traditions since the day I was born, so I felt in some ways like those were gifts I wanted to give him.

    We didn’t have any formal “everybody watch us” dances. We had an Ipod DJ, so no formal introductions (our reception was pretty casual). But… I had planned a song I would dance to with each of my parents so we would have some special time. They were mixed in through the night–not all at the beginning (I knew my mom would be more fun to dance with a few drinks in, anyway). I ended up being really glad I did this. My dad came from Montana for the wedding, and I hardly talked to him during the reception. But, we had our two minutes of “Teach Your Children Well” (CSNY) and it was really special.

    My mom (and her whole family) loves to dance. For her, I chose “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes because she LOVES it. When it came on the first time, I missed it due to the pinata, I think, so we had to play it again (much to my hipster friends’ dismay). It was a blast. Also, it’s really long (whoops) and as we were shouting the lyrics to each other, there was a bit of an Arrested Development “Afternoon Delight” moment: “I can give you what you want, but you’ve got to come home with me-he.” Oh well. It was awesome–there was laughing, crying, sweating in abundance. Both my parents were honored, and I got special time with each of them.

    Do whatever you want. It should be meaningful and enjoyable to you, too.

  • m

    I plan on doing what Amanda was considering: having both parents walk me down the aisle and then do a father-daughter dance. To me, the tradition of having someone “give you away” is strange, but when I add my mom it feels like I am taking the tradition and making it my own. Plus in my personal circumstances, my mom had way more responsibility in raising me and if anyone deserved to give me away, it would be her.

    For the father/daughter dance, I agree with what others have said about having a special moment with your dad. It doesn’t seem sexist to me, it just seems hetero-normative. Mom with son, daughter with dad, woman with man ONLY. However, I’m willing to live with it and my mom will be there when I get my hair done, put on my dress, and so on, so the dance is 3 minutes for my dad.

    The problem I am having is finding a song that doesn’t make me want to barf. Someone mentioned childhood songs, and I envisioned my dad and I all dressed up in our venue, dancing to “Baby Beluga.” hahaha

  • Michelle

    Oh, geez, must be the hormones but I am leaking all over the place right now thinking about first dances. I’m fairly certain the FH & I will do a first dance, and I like the idea of a “family dance” as well – me & my dad, FH & his mom, my mom & my bro, his dad & his sis, and then whoever else from the fam feels like getting up (getting down?) AND I’m pretty sure I have PERFECT songs for both.

    However, my issue is kind of nuts-and-bolts: I’m planning to iPod DJ our wedding. How do “special” songs get introduced when there isn’t a DJ? I could introduce them myself, or perhaps delegate the “announcer” responsibilities to a wedding party member . . . has anyone done the iPod DJ thing before who has suggestions? I should probably check the comments on the iPod DJ post too – off I go. :)

    • Nicole

      We are having a good friend who is charming and trained (we are theatre people) to emcee our reception. He will announce when it’s time for dinner, facilitate speeches, announce when it’s time to head to the dance floor (in another room), announce dances, etc. He’s also helping us brainstorm how to create a “community” feel and involve everyone in a special way, but that’s a different post for another time.

      • Hmmm it may be a different post for a different time, but maybe that post is written by you and that time is soon? AKA I’m requesting that you write a post about this, because I’m having these very same questions — I’ve just got too many important people in my life (and so does my honey) to just pick a few to do readings or usher people in… I want to hear more about the community feeling in the wedding/reception!

        • Michelle

          Seconded! Our wedding party is CHOCK FULL of charming, thoughtful people, and based on Nicole’s recommendation I will likely ask one of them to help out with flow. Thank you!

          I would definitely love to hear more about how to manage a community feel – I know that’s sometimes the purview of the officiant, but our friend-officiant is kind of falling through so we may have someone we don’t know well running the service. A post about honoring friends and community would be awesome!

  • Abby C.

    I had always planned to have a father-daughter dance at my wedding. I’m close with my Dad, and I know it would mean alot to him. I had even planned to surprise him by playing a Van Morrison song, as that’s his favorite artist.

    Now, though, I’m reconsidering it, and here’s why: the groom’s dance with his mother usually comes right after the father daughter dance, at least in my part of the country.

    My FH’s mother and father used to be quite accomplished ballroom dancers. However, two years ago she had a heart problem that put her in a coma for over a month. The long-range side effect of this is that she is partially paralyzed, and uses a wheelchair. Now, I know some have done parental dances with the bride or groom standing and the parent in a wheelchair. If FMIL is ok with that, we’re good to go, and I’m sure FH will make a touching scene dancing with her in whatever way she’s able. However, if she would feel self-conscious being in front of people in her wheelchair, obviously I don’t want her to have to do that.

    I also don’t want to have her sit out the mother-son dance but be sad/feel left out while she watches me dance with my father. So, if the whole dancing thing will hurt my FMIL in any way, then we’ll just have a first dance as a couple and nix the parental dances entirely.

    That’s my plan, at least. We’ll talk about it in depth and make sure everyone has a chance to make themselves feel heard before we make the final decision. Right now, still haven’t found a venue! Ack!

    • I guess you could consider the idea of having a “dance with your parent” kind of dance? Where you and your FH dance with your parents at the same time, alleviating some of the self-conscious potential? I know it’s not the same, but maybe there’s a compromise somewhere in there.

  • Father-daughter dance is not a tradition in my country, so fortunately I did not have to cope with expectations and stuff related to that. I say ‘fortunately’ because, well, although my dad and me have a very good relationship we wouldn’t have felt comfortable with that. We have never danced together and I think it would have been embarassing to do that in front of other people. Or maybe it’s just because it’s not a big tradition that it sounds weird to me :) Actually, we did not have dance at all at our wedding, just music played from a self-made mp3 compilation and the groom singing and playing two songs at guitar for me (not a tradition as well, but a much appreciated surprise from him).

    Though, walking the bride down the aisle IS still a tradition here, too. But we skipped that as well. First, because there wasn’t an aisle to walk down (city hall civil wedding) :-D But mainly because I didn’t feel comfortable with that: my now-husband and I had been living together for a couple of years before getting married and so it just did not make sense to me to ‘play the part’ of the bride who leave her parents’ home to enter a new home and family. Plus, I don’t like the idea of my dad “passing” me to my husband. I did not want that and I did not do it. I just made sure that it wouldn’t mean too much to my dad (and it did not) and because I wanted to give him a “role” I asked him to drive the groom and me to the ceremony place. Which can look like a meaningless role, but it’s much more “my dad” and he was proud to do that (unfortunately the VW hippy van we had rented broke down at the first crossroad, but that’s another story…).

  • Darcy

    For those of you who decide to do the father/daughter/family dance, Offbeat bride did a post on non-sappy song choices

    We had music playing, but we never danced. It wasn’t important to us and we were too busy talking, hugging and playing board games to notice. The only people who danced towards the end of the night were my parents. When my sweetie doubled over laughing I was confused until I realized the song they were dancing to was Lyle Lovett’s “She’s No Lady She’s My Wife.”

    • Alyssa

      I love that list! We didn’t use anything from it, but it gave me some great songs to add to my iPod.

      We ended up with Heavenly Day by Patty Griffin. Which is about her dog. Which just proves a somg can be whatever you make it.

  • I hadn’t even thought about the potential for this to become “an Issue.” My father and I have had a difficult relationship over the last few years after he left my mom for another woman. I wouldn’t call us estranged, but there’s definitely been a lot more distance since then. I still plan to let him walk me down the aisle, but I can’t imagine us having a father-daughter dance.

    Honestly, I feel like I’ve just discovered one more reason to add to my list of why I don’t want dancing at my reception. I’m a little nervous about bucking that tradition, but my fiance is completely on board, and the more I think about it the more reasons I come up with just to avoid it altogether.

    • Other Katelyn

      Same (except my relationship with my father is difficult for other reasons). I never, ever even considered that we would do a father-daughter dance. It would be embarrassing, totally out of character for both of us, and the idea makes me feel resentful. NOT the way I want to feel at my wedding.

    • Claire

      We didn’t have dancing at our wedding – no dance floor and neither of us or our families are really into dancing. A night on the dance floor just isn’t “us” so we did it our way. We love live music though and some fantastic musician friends of ours (Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin) did a little concert for part of the reception. There was no father-daughter dance, but we did get a spontaneous, sweet moment with me and my dad standing in the back, listening to a song together and chatting quietly. My photographer got a picture of this moment, with my dad’s arm around me and my head on his shoulder that always makes me sigh happily.

  • Kate

    My dad and I danced together a lot when I was kid. He always put on music after dinner when we were cleaning the kitchen and we would dance…Tom Petty, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen. I loved dancing at weddings and parties, so my dad always danced with me then too. So I never really thought that much into the symbolism of a father-daughter dance, it was just something that we liked to do together. It doesn’t have to be that formal and emotional though if you’re not into that…we danced to My Girl, which is obviously upbeat, and my dad picked the song at the last minute. He also arranged for all my uncles to join us with their daughters after about a minute, then others jumped in too, and it was awesome and fun.

    But I definitely agonized over other decisions, in fact I think I spent a little TOO much time worrying about what EVERYTHING MEAAAANS and worrying about what it said about me if I chose x or y. It was a growing experience, and I learned a lot about myself, BUT in the end I think I decided that sometimes you just need to go with your gut, do what you want to do, and f*ck the noise. (Am I allowed to say that? Please don’t delete my comment, there’s really no other way to put it.)

  • Emily Elizabeth

    We skipped the formal dances, and just started the night off with all-inclusive super-silly contra-dancing, before switching to DJ music for the rest of the night. I don’t think anyone noticed that we didn’t do those dances, but if they did, they didn’t show it.

    My dad had wanted to do a father-daughter dance, but I explained to him that I really didn’t want to, especially when he told me the song he wanted was Black Eyed Peas “I gotta feeling”… definitely wasn’t going to happen.
    Instead, I put that song on the playlist for him, and when it came on my sisters, my parents and I all danced like crazy along with everyone else. I am very glad we did things that way too, because I got to see some ridiculous dance moves, and had a ton of fun dancing with my whole family, surrounded by friends.

    • Denzi


      We’re 95% certain that we’re not going to have dancing at our reception (First Improv Show instead, woo!), but if we were, it would totally be contra. Hot Guy is Hugely Not A Fan of “normal” dancing because he doesn’t like making a spectacle of himself out of character, so he said flat out that if we were going to have dancing, it would be something with dictated moves that everyone would do. Plus I looooove contra.

  • It’s an interesting topic… when I got married I had only thought a little bit about the meanings behind being walked down the aisle and all of that. I didn’t feel like my dad was giving me away, but it’s up to everyone’s own interpretation. In my situation, it was important to me to include my dad in as much of the wedding as I could. We were close when I was younger, but my dad has never been one to show his emotions because of how he was raised. We grew farther apart as I grew older and started to become my own person, and made decisions he didn’t ncessarily care for. I will always remember dancing with my dad at my wedding, though. In those three minutes he told me how proud he was of me, and that meant the world to me. What can I say? I guess I needed his approval more than I realized, and we both cried, and it was wonderful. I have never felt closer to my father than at that moment.

  • Vanessa

    You know- I’ve been thinking a lot about this one for my wedding in August. I’m not thrilled about the entire process- mainly because the idea of being watched dance with my goofy Pops for 4 minutes seems like the most. awkward. thing. ever. BUT- I think about how much my Mom has been involved in helping plan this wedding- of all the times I call my parents house, my Dad answers, and after a moment of chatting I ask to talk to my Mom so we can go over plates/decorations/tent/ect. I think about how my Mom is the one coming to help me find a dress, and pick the caterer and all of the funny/silly girls stuff that is so big a part of weddings. I’m keeping the dance, because it’s a way to give my Dad an important role in the wedding, and to make him feel needed, involved and loved (which he so is). And I think that means a lot to both of us.

  • Victoria

    My dad isn’t exactly a big dancer (although he danced all night at our wedding, which was absolutely hysterical), so even though I wanted a father/daughter dance, I didn’t want it to be too long. I ended up dancing with him to a upbeat paso doble (we are Spanish) and then I had the dj invite my entire family to join us after about 45 seconds. It ended up being one of my favorite wedding memories.

  • 9:30 am and so many comments already?! First, I loved this column, Alyssa. It was especially thoughtful and, this time around, I agreed with the sentiments you expressed. As for me, there was no question I was going to dance with my dad because music has always been a big part of our relationship (he taught me to play guitar and passed on his excellent taste), and I was really, really excited to be able to pick a (non-creepy) song for us to share for a few minutes (I went with Teach Your Children). I, oddly, didn’t think about the gendered implications at all. I just enjoyed getting to talk and laugh with my dad for a few minutes just us on an otherwise insanely overwhelming day.

  • fleda

    Provocative topic! Glad you brought this up. As with many other things discussed here, I think this is a matter in which everyone should figure out her own wishes.

    I know the tradition is meaningful and valuable for many people. It wasn’t that way for us. My family is _very_ into dancing (as a family, and as individuals–we had “family dancing” to “Thriller” as a regular after-dinner thing when I was a kid). But we’re also very politically liberal, and the idea of a father-daughter dance didn’t really come up. I would have felt kind of gross about it, not just because the tradition IS based in the notion and fact of woman-as-chattel, but also because (in my mind) there’s a lot of Oedipal/Electra stuff implicit in the tradition too. Which I wasn’t keen on getting into. I also wanted to express equal gratitude and love to both parents, and the dance with dad would have tipped things in his favor. (They both walked me down the aisle).

    There are other reasons too. I think the fact that my parents are divorced made me want to make the wedding about my husband and I as adults (we aren’t that young, after all) founding a new tradition of not-divorce. For that reason, I wanted to wipe out all traces of tradition that treated me as a little girl (even though I fully understand that, as you say, I will always be their little girl!) and I wanted to wipe out many traces of tradition that indicated some kind of continuity between generations… because I don’t want continuity in all respects.

    Sounds a bit cold and radical, I know. But actually it was great. My husband and I waltzed (we both love performing, so that was no problem); then we waltzed with our parents-of-the-opposite gender simultaneously, and then everyone just started waltzing like crazy. Then we changed the music and started the hardcore dance party. And we danced until closing time. Did not even take a break to eat dessert! Everyone was happy, I think–I certainly was.

    • Kat

      I find this really interesting. While for me there is no hint of ‘Oedipal/Electra stuff implicit in the tradition’, I certainly don’t think anyone who felt this way should do a father/daughter dance, but reading through your comment, to me a waltz with your husband and then with parents-of-the-opposite-gender IS a father-daughter dance!

      I think this just highlights that a ‘father-daughter dance’ can be different from person to person and can really be anything you want it to be :)

      We had a first dance (bride and groom) then I danced with Dad and, after a minute or so, husband danced with his mother, then we’d primed our bridal party and other parents etc to join in after that – no annoucements following the first dance.

  • Emily

    We did a variation where I danced with my dad while my husband danced with his mom, and then a third of the way through I danced with my father-in-law while my husband danced with my mom, and then the last third we all danced with the people we were actually married to (and invited everyone else out onto the dance floor). I really didn’t want to do any of it, but it was important to our parents, and it didn’t kill me. I just spent three minutes laughing my head off at the awkwardness of it all.

    • N

      I like this idea! Everyone gets included this way.

  • Jillian

    Another great post/topic as per usual Alyssa! This almost made me spit out my coffee:
    “Hey. Look at her. She’s all grown-up, gorgeous and smart. I was given this precious person to raise and I didn’t kill her. Yay for me and her mother.” Too funny.

    I personally always planned for a father/daughter dance at my wedding, because as others have said before, I think it will be a great few minutes for just me and my dad to spend some time together away from the hectic atmosphere of the reception. I’m really looking forward to those few quiet moments together.

  • Jessie

    A history of male dominance and “ownership” was an issue I struggled with when deciding to marry, not one I struggled with when I considered dancing. I suppose I feel that if you overlook the history of what marriage meant as a whole for a woman’s identity and make it about what it means to you NOW, things like dancing and walking down the aisle should also be about what it means to you in the present instead of what it meant to others in the past. I found that once I decided my wedding and the traditions I kept and rejected were about me and not others, all decisions were much easier to make.

  • We had a band at our reception, and one of my all-time favorite bands, at that. But, they aren’t a “wedding band” and I wanted to treat my guests to the band’s awesome and totally dance-able blues/funk/jazz/rock sounds without directing who should dance when, and with whom, and to what song.

    I also don’t like the idea of having wedding guests watching formal/organized dances – not so much out of shyness or not wanting to be watched, but because I wanted my guests to have their own fun, and enjoy the music and the company.

    So, my husband and I asked the band to play a certain song to start – one that is slow, and meaningful to the two of us, and specifically directed our wedding party and their significants to join us on the dance floor about 90 seconds into the song. It worked PERFECTLY, and was one of my favorite moments of the day. Everyone had a chance to watch my new husband and I dance together, and take some great pictures of my huge skirt swirling on the dance floor before the floor became too crowded for that, and then pretty immediately after our wedding party joined in, so did most other guests, and the dance floor never cleared the rest of the night.

    My Dad and I danced together a couple of times throughout the night, and our photographer captured one of those moments. Late in the night, my husband and I were dancing together and everyone spaced out and formed sort of a circle around us. We danced together for a bit, then he went and grabbed his mom and I grabbed my dad, and the four of us occupied the center for a minute, which gave some spotlight to my dad and I. It wasn’t planned, at all, but ended up being really nice. Still, though, I’m glad that I didn’t deliberately set aside a full or partial dance for my dad and I – he and I are very close, it just didn’t make sense with the style of our band/music focused reception. We didn’t do a bouquet or garter toss for similar reasons (although those practices also irk me in a way family dances don’t.)

  • Leona

    Well, I have a close relationship with my dad so I had him walk me down the aisle but to incorporate my whole family, my mom and brother were waiting down front and when the officiant asked, “who gives this bride?” they all said, “I do.” I wasn’t crazy about the “giving” part but my mom really wanted it and it didn’t bother me enough to start that argument with her. Actually, she initially wanted to walk me down the aisle too but I think my dad had a talk with her about wanting that moment for himself.

    We considered a father-daughter dance very early in our planning because we weren’t sure about having dancing at all at that point. I tossed it around and picked a potential song but I wound up not feeling comfortable with it and asked him if there was something else he wanted to do. He gave us a great toast instead (the Scottish “Blessed Be”) which is much more in line with his personality.

  • V

    My dad passed away before I met my husband but before that I had always wanted a father-daughter dance. So it was one of the tougher topics to address during wedding planning. Would it be strange to do a mother-son dance without a father-daughter dance? Did I want to dance with my brother (who walked me down the aisle)? Or my new father in law?

    Ultimately, we left out any planned dancing altogether. But looking back I wish I had made arrangements to play my long intended father-daughter song during dinner or something (Billy Joel, “Goodnight My Angel”). I don’t think anyone would have noticed the song, but I would have and it could have been just one more tiny way to honor him that day. I was concerned that that sort of moment might be too emotional. But what? Too emotional at a wedding?? What was I thinking!?

    • My exact experience.

    • I’m with you- my Dad passed away long, long before our wedding. If he was still here, there is no doubt I would have done a father-daughter dance. My sister danced with our Grandpa at her wedding but he had since passed away too. Without those two important figures in my life, I struggled with the dances. I didn’t want my then-fiance to skip the Mother-Son dance, although he did sweetly offer. I considered dancing with my uncles who walked me down the aisle or with my Mom.

      In the end, we skipped the father-daughter dance because I was nervous I would get too emotional, like really, really miss my Dad in that moment. We had our First Dance, then invited our bridal party to dance with their partners & 1/2 way through that song invited everyone to dance. It was one of my favorite moments of the wedding- dancing with my husband as our loved ones surrounded us.

      And somewhere during the night, my husband & his Mom had their mother-son dance. It was planned, just stuck somewhere on its own. And it was fine, I know both of them enjoyed it.

  • I don’t want to do the Father-Daughter dance either but my fiance and mom are DEFINITELY doing a Mother-Son dance and I feel like it will look weird if they do it but we don’t. I suggested doing the dances jointly but my FH and FMIL don’t want to do that either. I know I should put my foot down because it’s my wedding but it really means a lot to my FMIL and I don’t want to step on her toes. She’s done so much for us, I’m perfectly fine letting her have this moment. It also just kind of sucks to concede on things like this though it’s not worth picking a fight over.

    • Alyssa

      Well, you should have a say in it because it’s your wedding, but he should have a say in it because it’s his wedding also, and his say is that he wants it.

      It won’t look weird. Anyone who says it will look weird is going to be the same person who, had you had a father/daughter dance, would spend the dance complaining about your song choise.
      Haterz gotta hate. Eff the bastards and let your fiance have a dance with his momma.

  • Class of 1980

    The father-daughter dance doesn’t have ancient roots in anything. In American history, most weddings didn’t include dancing and when dancing began to happen, it first happened in the upper classes.

    I never saw a father-daughter dance as anything to do with ownership – it’s just a fairly recent created custom. Most men don’t think about it that deeply. They just know what is customary in the culture we live in. Because they are used to it, a lot of men do feel hurt when an expected ceremonial role is denied them. They might think it’s a rejection of them personally.

    Meg’s dad seems intellectual enough to embrace the rejection of patriarchy, but a lot of men don’t even think of it in those terms. You really have to consider the individual father and circumstances.

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  • Krista

    When we did parent-child dances, we just didn’t announce it or tell anyone. We and our parents were the only ones who knew what the song was or that it was important. That way we got a quiet moment with the parent, a dance, and no one staring (at least that I noticed). We also did that with cutting the cake – it was important for us to do it for us, but not important to have an audience for.

  • We didn’t have structured dancing like that, but I had very similar reservations about my father walking me down the aisle. I wanted to walk down the aisle with my husband since we were starting our new life and we are both adults. But…

    In the end it came down to- my father would be shattered if I didn’t ask hime to walk me down the aisle, and I would be merely annoyed if I sacrificed on this point. So he did. And it was very nice. A little archaic, but it made me happy to do something that was so significant for him.

  • L

    Let me start off by saying that we didn’t have any dancing at all at our wedding, so father-daughter dance wasn’t an issue. (But I can never hear that phrase without thinking of my sister-in-law’s wedding. She danced with her father to a song that hang particularly–well, depending on your point of view, either cheesy or touching–lyrics. My brother -in-law had never heard the song before, and he spent the entirety of it crying. Not cute moist eyes, but full out head buried in the napkin sobbing. It’s totally my favorite part of the wedding video.)

    I always struggled with the “giving away the bride” thing. I remember one interracial marriage I attended where the bride’s family was NOT happy about the union. That giving away was chilling, because it literally felt like they were handing her over, and considered a major part of their relationship with her to be over. (Things have imrpoved since then, but at the time….)

    I hate the patriarchal roots of the tradition, but I love my father, who is a wonderful, sweet, sentimental man. It was important to me to give him his moment, and plus, my sister and I wanted to watch him cry. That’s always cute. So he walked me up the aisle, and then went to sit with my mother. Immediately. No one literally handing me over to the groom–I did that myself.

    A few minutes later, when we reached the traditional part in the service about who gives this woman, my parents both answered. For themselves. My mother has her own voice, and my father answering “Her mother and I” for both of them wouldn’t be an accurate portrayal of their union. I chose to leave this in the service, because I think it’s important for the parents to have a moment to publicly signify their blessing of the union. But not my parents alone–the pastor also asked the same question of the groom’s parents. (They were skeptical of this invented ritual, but went along with it.)

    The other place these gender issues arose was when my husband decided to propose, and had to work out whether to talk to my parents first. That’s a story for another time, but it does raise issues of how to deal with these issues when the parents disagree amongst themselves on how to handle tradition v. feminism.

    • m

      hehe.. my sister’s fiance talked to our parents first before proposing. My fiance knew it wasn’t important to me and didn’t do it. Boy was my dad surprised when I called him and told him we were engaged… guess he was expecting to give permission.

  • Steph

    I guess it depends on each couple.

    I knew I wanted a father/daughter dance. Although I”m not a “daddy’s little girl” our relationship has evloved for the better, I understand him more and love him for who he is and wanted to share that moment with him. I chose a traditional song (“I hope you dance”) that had personal meaning to me and him. We shuffled along awkwardly (neither of us are great dancers) and we loved every minute of it.

    I went to a friend’s wedding where she didn’t want a father/daughter dance, but the groom wanted a mother/son dance. The father and daughter love singing and have great voices and so they serenaded the mother/son during their dance. Best. Solution. Ever!

    I hope that you are able to come to a solution that works for everyone involved and honors you and your values.

  • Anonymous…Sorry!

    Um. This is eeerie, the posts this week couldn’t have come at more syncronistic times for me. When the post about emotionally absent mothers was up, I had to go dress shopping with my mom THAT VERY SAME DAY.
    And last night, I was tossing and turning for hours thinking about who is going to walk me down the aisle. My grandpa was always there for me on a level that my father has never been. There were about 5 years of my life that I didn’t even speak to my father on the phone and he has always lived in a different state. There was a time that I would have no trouble making the decision to have my grandpa walk with me. But in the past 4 years, I’ve really worked hard to create a relationship with my dad (it hardly matches up to a “fatherly” relationship, but it’s a relationship nonetheless). He and my step mom will be at my wedding and it seems like I would be slapping him in the face if I had my grandpa walk me down. I’m not into making statements or blaming anyone for the past, so I’m in the middle of deciding to have my fiance walk down the aisle with me and explaining it to my family as “I’m a strong independent woman who is not being GIVEN away” approach.

    For those of you who walked down with your partners, did you have any regrets about this afterward? Was the reaction from the crowd hard to deal with? Are you happy with your decision? Any advice would be helpful.

    • sophia

      We walked down the isle together. I gave reasoning in an earlier comment if you’re interested (culture, remarried parents, step parents etc). We loved it. I wanted to spend as much time with my husband on our wedding day and who better to approach the ceremony site with? The aisle walk was one of the happiest parts (for me) of a ridiculously happy day. We had our moment of seeing each other for the first time 30-40 minutes prior which was so special, private and memorable. A bunch of our guests commented that they loved that we walked together and if anyone grumbled it wasn’t to our faces. I know it’s not right for everyone but it was 100% right for us.

    • Anonymom

      No regrets whatsoever and this was back before many of you were born! My dad and I had some issues, my fiancee and I had been living together and were marrying one another. Our attendants/wedding brigade preceded us down the aisle already paired up so we weren’t really a surprise. It was the best thing for us and it was a good visual for those who didn’t already “get it” that we were a couple before we arrived and one when we left. Do what best represents how you see you and your partner before, during and after the wedding and on into the marriage. You will make the right decision for you two.

  • AKliz

    Great Topic!

    My Dad and I are pretty close but he is not really the dancing type. My Fiance and I will definitly have a first dance. I really like the idea of a family dance! I would love to have that special moment on the dancefloor with my dad, mom, sisters and brother too! Now I have to find a good song..

  • Alyssa

    Can I suggest (cause I forgot to do it in the post) that if anyone looking for family dance song ideas, you should go to APW’s Facebook page and start a discussion?
    That page is not just for book club! Especially when you might need local help or ideas!

  • I get the feeling the comment thread is gonna make me cry a little, so I’ll start with my own post.

    Just like the first commenter, my dad and I danced around all over growing up. Since he was younger then, and I was much smaller, we did all those crazy swing moves where he’d slide me under his legs and all that.

    Every wedding I’ve been to, at least for as long as I can remember, we’ve done a father-daughter dance. And every single time, he’s said something along the lines of “one day we’ll be doing this at your wedding.” I’ve never actually had my own date at a wedding, but I imagine that even this year, when my fiancé will accompany me to the 2 family weddings (not even including our own, and a friend’s who my dad doesn’t know) that we’re invited to, we’ll make time for that moment. It seems to mean a lot to him–music and dancing are things that we’ve always shared in a special way–and so it wasn’t even something I thought about. I knew I’d do a father-daughter dance. I even had this idea that I’d let him pick the song, though now that we’re having a band I’m not so sure how easy that is to work out.

    When it comes to being walked down the aisle, that decision was just as obvious to me: No. F*cking. Way. Because that tradition screams to me “handing the bride over to her new master,” and it just doesn’t sit right. And that was one of the ones where my fiancé had not quite the same reaction, but it was also a non-starter: why would either of us have any of our parents take us down the aisle?

    And now we’re having a Quaker ceremony, so there won’t really be an aisle or a procession or anything anyway (NB: I don’t know if some Quaker ceremonies have processions, but the idea of drawing so much attention to oneself doesn’t sound very Quakerly). But even if there was that walking-down-an-aisle moment, I’d be doing it on my own.

  • Cat

    I love tradition so I had no problem with the Father Daughter dance . . . but I also had a special dance with my Mom and another special dance with my brother later in the evening . . . (although those two were surprises to them and the father daughter dance was expected). Just do what feels right.

  • Eva

    Great advice. I agree about traditions being re-shaped with time, and that intentionality regarding them can be just as much of a resistance to gender oppression as just throwing them out (which is also a totally valid resistance).

    For me, I dislike the heteronormativity of the father-daughter mother-son dances. As a queer, I feel like it’s weird to dance with my dad and prioritize the male-female binary; on the other hand, I think it would be *really* weird to dance with my mom! Maybe just because of who my mom is, but also because I think changing that tradition by switching up the genders points out a bit too loudly a weird sexual dynamic. Like– “I’m gay, so I’m dancing with my mom instead of my dad” — doesn’t that inscribe a weirdly sexual dynamic into the whole thing? And yet I don’t want to go along with the necessary male-female coupling either.

    So, I’ll be ditching the dances altogether. I LOVE what Meg did. That’s probably what we’ll do, too. Just get all family folks out there together. I love how that can expand the notion of “family” to something beyond just biological nuclear family, something that is also super, super important to me as a queer who in many ways makes my OWN “family.” And since my parents are divorced too and are very touchy about being treated equally by me and my siblings, that will equalize everything too.

  • Jo

    I commented about this very topic earlier in the week, so a quick recap is this:
    I discovered after my wedding that I had plenty of time around the wedding with my mom, but nowhere near enough with my dad. We DID have a father-daughter dance (to Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are, which also can be read two ways, but we love the words of it so it worked for us), but that wasn’t enough. It barely gave us a chance to say hi. It was however very important to my dad. So anyway, I’m saying, pay attention to this part of Alyssa’s (awesome) response:

    “Take a small walk together, find an alcove to hide in and drink scotch together, have him write a letter to you explaining what your wedding means to him.”

    Consider what you DO want to do with your dad around your wedding, and focus on that. Positive conversations (“I’d love if we could…”) are much easier to have than negative ones (“I don’t want you to…”).

  • Amanda

    I haven’t read the other comments, so maybe this has already been said, but my main advice is to make sure you have the conversation BEFORE your reception. I assumed that I would not do the father-daughter dance because my father does not dance. I assumed he wouldn’t want to, and I definitely didn’t want to. Plus, we were doing almost nothing else traditional, so why would we do that?
    Now, picture this:
    Our Ipod playlist started with our first-dance song (Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend”, ah!), and then bled into the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” to get the party started. Well, apparently everyone, including my poor father, thought the second song would be for me and him to dance, and for and my husband and his mom to dance. So, yes, I ended up dancing to “I Gotta Feeling” with my dad-that-does-not-dance in front of everyone. MORT.I.FYING.
    Point being: whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s arranged ahead of time and everyone is on the same page.

  • This is interesting. My dad is a cancer survivor and had his leg amputated. I decided early on that I would not make it awkward for him (who passionately hates dancing) by having a father/daughter and mother/son dance. My mother in law really wanted one but in the end she understood, he is after a cancer survivor and it was one small point in the evening. I also really hate being the center of attention and I don’t like dancing in front of people watching so we elected to have no first dance as well.

    My dad and I got in a big fight because he thought the only reason I choose not to have a dance was because he walks on crutches when that was only part of the reason. I understand how he would feel so bad but really it was not that big of a deal why we did or didn’t. (And I would blame it on myself when he would start feeling guilty.) After the cake the music kicked in and some buzzed friends took to the dance floor. That’s all that had to happen for people to understand the dance had begun!

  • Emily

    I am having a similar problem — I don’t want anything resembling a father/daughter dance and I definitely don’t want my dad walking me down the aisle. But he just kind of assumes that we’ll do both of those things, and he’s taking the possibility that it not happen very poorly. As an example, my father said to me while I was visiting at Christmas: “You are. Full. Of. Crap.” No joke. I have to keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be a happy occasion.

    Obviously I know he’s being unreasonable and petty and awful. That’s how he is about this stuff, which is specifically why I don’t want to have to fake my way through my wedding, pretending he’s been a loving and supportive father. And honestly, if it were totally up to me, my boyfriend and I would just elope and then have a low key party later. But having a wedding with family and friends is really important to him and his family (while my family is big and I’m the only unmarried sibling, his family is small and his parents have yet to see either of their kids get married, so it’s a big deal to them). And I love him and they will soon be part of my family, so we’re doing a wedding and I am focusing on the aspects of it that make me happy (getting to marry the man I love, being at a party with my friends, wearing a pretty dress).

    But the tricky part for me has been balancing my need to minimize the participation of my family, especially my parents and extra especially my dad, with my boyfriend’s need to involve his family. As a commenter mentioned above, you worry that having the groom’s family involved in a certain way (like with a mother-son dance) creates an expectation of the bride’s family also participating in that way. And it’s not just about other people thinking it’s weird — it’s about exacerbating the degree to which my dad feels snubbed by my choices, since he will point out that my boyfriend’s family is more involved.

    It’s pretty stressful, and I just realized this comment is not very APW, as I’m really just expressing how frustrating the situation can be without offering much in the way of perspective. And I’m not even really asking for suggestions — I know this will be tough, I know I have to find a way to deal with it, and I’m working to stay sane and protect my baby family from the hostility coming our way.

    But I guess I’m just thinking about Alyssa’s point that weddings aren’t just for the bride and groom, they’re for the family too. I agree, but I have to admit I do it begrudgingly, because I don’t have a very supportive or functional family. Sometimes admitting that the wedding is for other people, not just you, means accepting that the wedding won’t be the best day of your life (or even in the top 10) and that you’re going to have to spend time and energy with people you frankly don’t even like, because they’re family. All of which is a long way of saying that if I do wind up caving on the father-daughter dance (out of sheer desperation), I might slip the DJ some extra cash to make the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” because man, it is so so true.

  • I learned how to dance standing on my dad’s toes at wedding receptions when I was little. I don’t know what it meant to him, but that’s why I wanted to dance with my dad at my reception. I probably should’ve told him about it before hand though so he would’ve known it was coming. Oh well, he caught on quick.

    While I grabbed my dad, my husband grabbed his mom and we had a father/daughter mother/son dance. During the song his mom kept telling him he needed to go be talking to guests. And my dad said we should’ve picked a shorter song (it was only 3:33 long!). Gotta love parents. :)

    I also had a private moment with my dad that morning. First thing on waking he and I went for a roughly 2 mile run together, something he and I have been doing since before I could walk. That I did tell him about.

    I loved the dance and I’m glad we did it. But it’s that run that I remember as my moment with my dad.

  • I’ve always been a daddy’s girl and, while yet to have a wedding of my own, one of my favourite memories is dancing with my dad at one of my bestie’s weddings. Sometimes a lovely moment can just be a lovely moment.

  • “Hey. Look at her. She’s all grown-up, gorgeous and smart. I was given this precious person to raise and I didn’t kill her. Yay for me and her mother.”

    Ha ha ha. This kills me. I can totally hear my parents saying this.

  • I know this is a strange word of caution– but try, no matter which way you pick, not to get too attached to it. I wasn’t a fan of the idea, but my dad really wanted to, so we planned on it– and then he got sick and passed out mid-ceremony (really! but thankfully he’s fine now) and so we skipped the dancing– and maybe it was worry about him or maybe it was last-minute sentimentality, but when the time came where we planned to play that song and he wasn’t able to dance, I was profoundly sad to be missing that moment. You may change your mind that day- either way. And so long as you communicate, it will be okay. (Also: best reason ever to pick wedding elves you trust– my super-smart DJ realized what happened and didn’t play the song, even though no one remembered to tell him, saving me the 3-minute wallow )

  • G

    I am looking forward to my dad both walking me down the aisle and dancing with me in the father-daughter dance.

    My dad is the unsung hero in our family–the quiet, steadfast type who often gets the difficult work done (lots of history there) but rarely gets the recognition he deserves. Nor does he ask for it.

    My mom, on the other hand, is gregarious and social. I’m not worried about my mom commanding attention at my wedding. But I am looking forward to those two moments with my dad, when it will be his turn to be in the spotlight, too.

    I know it will mean a lot to him because he already keeps a framed photo of himself walking my sister down the aisle in his office.

    On a more practical note — he will make sure I don’t trip on my way to the altar! I would do this.

  • Angel

    My Dad isn’t really much of a dancer – at least not when it comes to traditional-waltzy-shuffling-around-a-dance-floor type dancing. I witnessed him trying to dance with my Mom at my brother’s wedding… it wasn’t a pretty sight and I’m fairly sure he didn’t enjoy it. When I was younger, though, we would go square dancing, at least once a year. So, that’s what I’m sort of thinking at the moment – having a hoot-nanny for a reception. I’ll need to find a band that can play all the old country songs and a good caller, but I’m nowhere near married yet, so I have time to figure that stuff out – and I’m pretty sure my Dad knows people. Also, that way there wouldn’t be any spotlight dances, and everyone could grab a different partner for each dance (and we could ask the caller to announce things like “for this next dance, parents & children as partners” or whatever, if we wanted to try to coordinate that, or we could just let people dance with whomever they choose) – I enjoy dancing, but not when people are watching me.

    As for the “giving away part”, I think I’ll steal what my brother & sister-in-law did: her dad walked her down the aisle and then shook my brother’s hand and went to stand by his wife. All of the parents stood, then, and the priest asked “Who blesses this union?” and they all responded “We do.” and then they all sat down in unison. It was lovely and included both families and really reflected the family dynamics.

    • Now that sounds like a fun idea. I love that you’d be able to naturally involve so many people, and make it so personal. You must send pictures when the time comes.

  • KT

    Both my husband and I had both parents walk us down the aisle. I always thought the tradition of sending mothers out by themselves is somewhat awkward and I didn’t want them to be alone for even a moment. We also wanted to honor them and how much they mean to us.

    I have to agree with the commenters who were not self conscious. I’m a very shy person and I was nervous about being the center of attention. In preparation, I thought of the father/daughter dance as a means to honor my father and not about me. At the actual reception, I didn’t need to think about any of that. I just wanted to celebrate my father and thank him for raising me to reach this point in my life. It’s a wonderful memory.

    My mom picked out the song and it was a real tear jerker for all involved. I actually love the pictures of my aunt hugging my mother during the dance. There is a general feel of “good job parents.” So many of our family and friends remarked how much it meant to them. Some people would call songs like this cheesy, but I think it’s nice to have songs speak the truths that are difficult to say out loud.

    • “but I think it’s nice to have songs speak the truths that are difficult to say out loud.”

      I think that’s the point of poetry as well. Some feelings and emotions are just better said with poetry and/or song.

  • Tonia

    I haven’t read through all the comments, as I usually don’t until after I’ve gotten my own thoughts about the post written out, so I am sorry if someone has already brought this side up.

    I’m coming from the other side, the side of a parent. I’m not the mother-of-the-bride parent, but rather a newly-married parent of a 4-year-old. Still, once a parent, always a parent. I completely agree with Alyssa’s advice. If you don’t want to do the dance, you don’t have to. We left out a lot of “traditions.” What bothers me a bit is the idea that parents are dominating, or creepy, or in some way holding us back from being our true selves. I get that not all parents are perfect and that we can’t choose them like we choose our spouse, but we don’t have to push our parents away to show that we are grown up. That’s not what being grown up, and married, is about. We don’t have to leave our parents out of everything on purpose just to prove that we can do stuff on our own. I don’t understand why that is valued. Personally, my parents mean the world to me. They mean almost as much to me as my daughter does. Almost. The point being, my daughter is my world, as my siblings and I are our parent’s world. It is very clear to see that as a parent, but most brides-to-be are not parents so it isn’t always as clear.

    In my wedding, my mother walked down the aisle right before me, with my daughter and the other grandkids in the family. Then, my dad and my step-father both walked me down the aisle. I didn’t feel like property being given away. I felt like the aisle walk was more of a conversation between my fiance and my dads, with my dads telling my fiance that he was worthy of me, in their eyes just as in my eyes. Yes, that sounds terribly concieted of me, but hey I know my worth, ok? As for the dance, I didn’t plan any of them, not a first dance or a father-daughter or anything. When the proper songs came on (we ipod DJ’ed our wedding), I found the proper folks and danced with them because I wanted that time with them. If a bride doesn’t want that time, then conversation over, she doesn’t have to do it. However, wanting those moments doesn’t make me any less strong, independent, worthy, or smart.

  • I would love to hear from some brides who did a mother-daughter dance. My father passed away in 2007 and my mom will be walking me down the aisle.

  • april

    Father-Daughter dances always choke me up and make me cry at weddings. Doesn’t matter if it’s a sappy dance or a happy dance the Bride & her dad share, it just really tugs at my heartstrings. Perhaps it’s because I have no relationship nor contact with my father, and probably never will, so I love seeing other people share that family moment.

    I sorta feel that way about all the “traditional / group dances” at a wedding. Or maybe it’s just because I know all to well that wedding and even receptions tend to to bring out all the crazy, so those special dances, to me anyway, are a way to say, “I love you. And we’re burying the hatchet for the next 3 minutes and choosing to share a dance and then I’m going straight back to my cocktail.”

  • This had me panicked for a moment until I remembered that everyone who knows me well enough to be iunvited to our wedding will not be surprised that there won’t be a father-daughter dance. My father is not at all in the picture and I haven’t spoken to him since I was in middle school. I have no idea where he lives and he has no idea I’m engaged; obviously he’s not going to be invited to the wedding. I do have an amazingly awesome maternal family though, and hope just having dance time with each of my uncles (and mom and grandparents) on their own at some point in the reception will let them know that I’m not trying to slight them by not changing it to a “grandfather-granddaughter” or “uncle-niece” dance instead.

    I hadn’t even thought about my fiance and his mom doing a mother-son dance, though; I’ll chat with him after this and see if he even wants to do it. We’re not huge into dancing, so hopefully he’ll want to pass on spotlit dancing and we’ll avoid the unbalanced feeling of only having one of us dancing with a parent.

    If any other mother-daughter-against-the-world team members want to chime in and tell me how it worked out for you, it’d be appreciated. And I’ll happily share how it goes afterward! :)

  • Karyn

    My parents divorced when I was very, VERY young (like… still an infant young). My mom and I moved pretty much clear across the country, so I never saw my father. He remarried, she did not.

    As a result of distance and his inability to express emotions well and a LOT of other issues, he and I have pretty much no relationship at all. Truth be told, I don’t expect to be inviting him to my wedding, should I ever have one.

    Though it may sound odd to some, my grandparents and mom and aunts and uncle raised me as a group. Kind of a herd of animals type deal – everyone has opinions and gives guidance, but the Parent is the final judge, jury and executioner.

    Since we lived with my grandparents for a large part of my life, I was very close to my grandfather. Instead of having my father walk me down the aisle, my grandfather, I dreamed, would be that person. And he would be the one with whom I’d have a “father”-daughter dance. As he died when I was 13, I’ve since put that dream up onto a shelf.

    My dream now is for my mother to walk me down the aisle – she and I are very close (best friends close, even though some say you can’t be friends with your children/parents). After reading all of this, instead of wanting a parent-child dance, I’m very interested in a family dance; the idea of everybody who loves the Boy and me celebrating our marriage is exactly what I want!

    To everybody who offered the idea of a family dance, THANK YOU. And if Boy or his mother want a dance together, I’m happy for them to have one.

    And hey, maybe if I get the b*lls to do something outrageous, during the reception we could play Martha Wainwright’s tribute to her father – a song titled, endearingly enough, “Bloody Mother F*cking A**hole.” Just to throw a subtle something in there for him.

  • My dad isn’t in my life at all so this isn’t an issue for us. I do want to dance with my mom to “our song”, and that’s important to her and I equally. I also want our first dance as a couple to be a family dance, C is very much not comfortable with being the only people on the dance floor. (I must’ve learned that from earlier in Meg’s posts!)

    SUCH a good discussion, though. Well done, APW!

  • Kelly

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all of the discussion about the father-daughter dance here. A few people mentioned step-families on here and I am curious about how other people have handled step-parents (particularly the step-dad) in their weddings.

    I have an okay relationship with my father – on the surface it looks fine. We are polite and sweet to each other but he decided to be financially (and at times physically and emotionally) absent from my life and we are just not that close because of it. He is also incredibly narcissistic and I feel like he will want to be involved only to show himself off, not me. I am very close to his parents and want to include them in my wedding…Maybe my dad’s dad walking me down the aisle? I do feel as though I have to involve my dad some how but am not sure how. The idea of the father-daughter dance with my dad sounds awkward, walking me down the aisle is out of the question — I think the only thing I could tolerate is a toast (even though he has barely tried to know my fiance who I have been with for 8 years). The catch is that I have a wonderful, loving, close relationship with my step-father of 18 years and want so much to include him in every way I can in my wedding. I would love to dance with him (he is a fabulous dancer!), think of him officiating the ceremony because he is funny and has a great way with words, and would be honored for him to walk me down the aisle. My step-dad is so sweet he might feel uncomfortable doing things instead of my dad so I think of them both doing things? but then that sounds awkward as well. Help!

    I’d love to hear from anyone who struggled with the same issues. I do truly love both and want both to be included in some way, but don’t know how to talk to them about it all.

  • For me, and this is just me, I don’t like I’m right or that its for everyone but, father daughter things have never been about ownership. (I’ve always been far to strong willed for anyone to ever mistakenly like they owned me – Male or Female) The father daughter dance for me was about saying, hey your not the most important man in my life anymore, but your still my dad, I love you and will always need your love and support. We didn’t to a special private dance, its not something we do in Australia, but we danced together with everyone on the dance floor after the 1st dance. However my dad is VERY emotional and could only get though a few lines of his speech so he asked the mc (my brother in-law) to say “when i try to explain what my little girl is me all the words turned to tears, this song said it best” (my MC also cried saying this) than he had friends and a sister sing wind beneath me wings from him to me. I sat beside him and my husband everyone else disappear and I was felt so luck to have these 2 amazing men in my life, that was our special moment. Note he planned all of this, I didn’t know he was going to do this, but he wanted a special moment with me I hadn’t planned one so he made it happen.

    If a father needs a moment for the to of you, and knows your feelings/boundaries on things like that he can always create that moment, it doesn’t need to come from you, you just need to be open to it. This of course will only work if you have a close relationship with your father (or mother, or any role model in your life) .

  • Man this is a tough one! My Dad and I had a dance, along with him walking me down the aisle. I really think it depends on your relationship with your father (or mother if you’re a guy!). I knew my Dad would be walking me down the aisle and we would have our first dance.. I wasn’t really his “little girl” but more like his little athlete. My parents got divorced when I was young and my Dad dedicated his life to his kids. He was the one at every single one of my sports games, he was really both parents (I love my Mom but she was always busy with work and other things).

    That being said, Cat Stevens was all we listened to on our trips to New Hampshire, or to well, anywhere. I knew I would dance with my Dad to a Cat Stevens song at the wedding, and it ended up being “Morning Has Broken”. How the hell we both got through it without bawling (because prior to that, any time I heard the song I would sob), I do not know.

    But I realized the emotion wasn’t the whole “my Dad giving me away/Daddy’s little girl” type thing. It was more a reminder of us as a family listening to Cat Stevens on those trips, and how much fun we had, even though my parents were going through a terrible divorce and fought all the time. Like it just reminded me that we had some really great times, and my Dad was a big part of making sure his kids were happy as much as he possibly could.

    That and having my Dad actually be out here for the wedding (I live in Seattle, he in Boston) when he hadn’t flown on a plane since I was 6 (so 20 years) nor had he ever been out here to visit me.. It was a very special moment for me that I would not trade for the world. Sure, it was a bit awkward having everyone watch us, but it’s still something I really appreciated and I could tell meant the world to him. I kept the song a secret from him so as soon as he heard it he almost lost it, but then told me “I had a feeling it would be a Cat Stevens song…”

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. Sometimes it’s not all about the whole “Daddy’s little girl” thing and it can mean something else for you.

  • Stephanie

    My parents are in the middle of a very messy divorce that has brought out the ugly in both of them. I’ve never gotten along with my mother and now haven’t spoken to my father in months. The circumstances of the divorce are bad enough that at this point I’d really prefer to not even invite my father (and his current mistress/next wife?), so a dance is definitely out of the question. I imagine in the end I will invite him, but I don’t want him walking me down the aisle. I could have my mother walk me down the aisle, but I feel it would draw attention to the rift since my father would be there. Also, since I don’t get along with her I don’t actually want her doing it either. I would want my middle brother to do it, but I have two brothers so I wouldn’t want to hurt my older brother’s feelings, even though we’re not close. I wouldn’t mind having both of them walk me, or possibly my grandmother who is by far the family member I’m closest to.

    To add to the turmoil, I’m worried about my family in law’s reaction to me rejecting both my parents as options even though they’re both able bodied and will (probably) both be present.

    Is the least non-traditional, least likely to cause drama option for me to walk alone, even though I’d like to share it with a family member who makes me smile rather than want to scream?

    • Alexandra

      Stephanie, I think, have your brother walk you, and have your partner inform [his?] family beforehand, quietly, why you have chosen your brother–the fact that your parents are having a messy divorce, and presumably feeling unfriendly toward the institution of marriage, is plenty reason, I think.
      Maybe ask your other brother to do a reading?

  • Emily

    Follow Up Question: I love to dance, love it! I am very close with my father and would love nothing more than to have a Father-Daughter dance. In the past few years, however, my father’s health has faded. Once an active runner, he can now barely walk. He dreads moving in front of people, and I know he would not feel comfortable doing a father-daughter dance. Any thoughts on another way I can honor our relationship??

  • The Future Mrs. Sue Scanlon :D

    I’m so glad that I found this thread, as it’s given me so many things to consider. My step-father came into my life when I was three-years-old and was an abusive, controlling, alcoholic growing up. He is similar to an earlier post, in that (even today) he puts his best face forward to the public, but shows a different side to our immediate family. He tries to take control whenever he possibly can and always tries to be the center of attention. This marriage is the second for my sweet fiance Frank and I. We are also bringing into this relationship 2 children: my son ,Brandon, (13) and his son, Frankie, (17). We both want our boys to be as involved as possible because it’s not just Frank and I getting married, it’s all of us. I felt stuck in a delicate situation because If I don’t “involve” my step-dad, my mother would be insulted, but if I do, he dons the smug “I’m in control” attitude all night. So, I’ve finally found a solution… Dad gave me away the first time. This last time around, I’m having MY SON give me away. 1) It gives my son the recognition he so greatly deserves. 2) Both boys play a major role in our wedding (Frankie is Frank’s best man) and 3) It shows him how honored that Frank and I are that he’s giving his blessing. When I asked Brandon how he felt, he cried and told me that he’d love to. (He adores Frank and refers to Frank as his “dad”.) As for the father/daughter dance, I’ve decided NOT to cut it. Mainly, because Frank never had a “real” wedding his first time and regretted that he never got to dance with his mother. I’ll just pick a neutral song, dance for a minute and then invite other fathers and their daughters to join. In the end, we all win. :)

  • MDBethann

    I remember standing on my dad’s feet to dance when I was a little girl, and I can’t imagine NOT having a dance with just my dad. I definitely don’t want “Daddy’s Little Girl” or “Butterfly Kisses” – yuck – too over played. But my dad has always been there for me and I want to honor that. I’m thinking “You Raise Me Up” because my dad and I enjoy Josh Groban’s music and FH doesn’t (and I want at least 1 Josh song at my wedding darn it!), not to mention the fact that Dad has always supported me.

    One thing I would have really liked would be for my dad to perform the ceremony – my dad is an ordained minister. But years ago he told my sister and me that he wanted to be our dad and not our pastor on our wedding day because he really wanted to walk us down the isle. In our denomination, there is no “obey” in the vows and my parents raised me to be an independent woman, but I am sure going to be glad for my dad’s supporting arm as he escorts me down the isle to my FH (I cry at the drop of a hat). I know it will make his day, too, because he’s been looking forward to this a long time (kind of the “look at the amazing daughter I raised” kind of thing) and I know he’s truly happy about who I’m marrying.