What Is Proper Wedding Dance Etiquette?

I feel like the luckies woman alive
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Weddings are events that linger in people's minds long after they are over for obvious reasons. They're heavily photographed, video recorded, and talked about for years. They are also the beginning of a new chapter for two people and their families. The wedding is possibly one of the first memories of the families coming together, and the dance gives them a chance to make it a fun experience.

One of the most fun elements in many weddings is the dance. Some brides and grooms involve the entire wedding party in a dance production that involves hours and hours of practice, but there is nothing wrong with a more traditional approach to the wedding dance. Whichever you choose is fine, but make sure you keep in mind that if you do something embarrassing, it'll be hard to forget. 

Commonly Asked Question About the Wedding Dance

Question: What is proper wedding dance etiquette?

Answer: There is more than one answer to this question, depending on what you choose: the traditional dance or what's currently in style. Traditionally, there's a proper order for brides and grooms to dance with each other. Dances at more contemporary weddings are totally up to the couple.

Traditional Wedding Dance Order

Although there's a specific order for the traditional wedding dance, any part of it may be changed according to needs and tastes of the couple. Make sure everyone in the entire wedding party understands their part.

  • After the introduction of the newlyweds and the rest of the wedding party, the couple share the first dance. Many brides and grooms practice this dance before the wedding because they know everyone will be watching.
  • The next set of dances are reserved for the couple and their parents. In a heterosexual partnership, the bride dances with her father, and the groom dances with the bride's mother. After that, the bride's parents dance together, the groom asks his mother to dance, then the groom's parents dance together. In a same-sex wedding, the important thing is for the couple to have an opportunity to dance with their parents, their spouse's parents, and for the parents to have time on the dance floor with each other.
  • Now it's the wedding party's turn. The couple's groomsmen and bridesmaids (or attendants) have the opportunity to dance with both spouses. These can be for entire or partial songs, depending on the length of the reception.
  • Eventually, all the wedding guests should have some time on the dance floor.

Remember that all of these traditions are editable. There may be variables that prevent tradition, such as a disabled or deceased parent. Remember that the main goal of dancing at weddings is for the guests to have fun celebrating the new couple and often to create a tender moment that will have everyone swooning.

Fun and Contemporary Wedding Dance Trends

Couples are getting more creative with their wedding dances, and you're likely to see a variety of moves on the dance floor. Some of them post to social media and YouTube, so you can do a search to see what others are doing.

Any of these trends may be copied or used for inspiration:

  • A choreographed couple's ballroom dance that is clearly well rehearsed. This typically takes hours of dance lessons and preparation.
  • A surprise dance that has been choreographed to shake up the reception. This typically starts out slow and romantic. Then the music stops, the newlyweds look at each other in mock surprise, and then they bust out some moves that have the guests doubled over laughing. The rest of the wedding party may or may not be involved.
  • Wedding party dance that looks like a stage production. What better way to bond with your bridesmaids and groomsmen than spending your evenings leading up to the big day in a dance studio?

General Wedding Dance Tips

  • For the first dance, choose a song that you love and is meaningful to your relationship.
  • Practice dancing to the song before the wedding. If either of you has little or no experience on the dance floor, take a lesson from a professional. A few ballroom dance lessons can make a big difference between feeling clumsy and having confidence to dance in front of others.
  • If your wedding dress(es) are long or have trains, bustle it so you don't trip over it.
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable for dancing. If you aren't used to high heels, wear lower heels or flats. 

Timeline After the Traditional Wedding Party Dances

After the bridal couple dances, and all of the traditional dances are satisfied, many couples choose their song list for dancing based on who will be attending and their sensibilities. Although the wedding and reception should be focused on the couple, it is always good form to show respect for the people who have taken time out of their busy lives to share the experience.

Choose a song list that suits your tastes and the sensibilities of the guests:

  • You may not want to subject some of the attendees to unfamiliar tunes right off the bat, so start out with music that is milder in content. If your great-aunt and grandparents are there, they will appreciate some music from their era.
  • In a subtle way, you can let the guests know that the music will change as the afternoon or evening wears on, so they can enjoy the earlier part of the night and leave when they sense the transition to something that might make them uncomfortable.
  • Include the parents of the bride(s) and groom(s) in song selection. You don't need to let them choose every song, but giving them some choice shows that you respect and care enough to make them happy.

Enjoy the Dance

Regardless of what style or dance order you choose, enjoy it. This is a celebration, and everyone on the dance floor should have a good time.

Watch Now: Tips for Negotiating a Price With a Venue