How Many Traditional Wedding Dances Are There? Plus, What Guests Should Do in the Meantime

Here's who gets to take a spin around the dance floor before all your guests join in

first dance

Photo by Caroline Lima Photography

Before you get to the party portion of your reception, there are a few formalities to take care of: cutting your cake; toasts from your parents, maid of honor, and best man; and of course, the dances. So who gets to take a spin around the dance floor before all the guests join in, and what should your guests do while you’re sharing those special moments? Our experts are here to outline all the details for you.

There are three main dances you’ll see at almost every wedding: the first dance with the happy couple, then a dance with each partner and either their mother or father. Just like you’ve done at those weddings you’ve attended in the past, your guests (especially your parents, siblings, grandparents, and wedding party) will gather around the dance floor to admire the cuteness.

Got something choreographed as a surprise for your guests? Expect a huge crowd once those moves get started.

Worried your guests will get bored watching you dance instead of dancing themselves? The good news is, these three dances can usually be finished in 10 minutes or less. Whether you don’t love the spotlight or want to get the formalities out of the way, talk to your band or DJ about playing a shortened version of the chosen songs to keep things moving. You’ll have your moment, but don’t have to do the high school sway for five minutes as your friends and family look on. You can speed things up even more by starting the father-daughter dance, then inviting your groom and his mom onto the dance floor to finish out the song with you.

Any additional formal dances are totally up to you. Some couples decide to invite all of their in-laws onto the dance floor (think a wedding version of the middle school “snowball” dance), while others might want to take a spin with grandma or grandpa. If you do want to include a few extras, consider interspersing them throughout the evening. Have the first dance and parent dances right after your grand entrance, then sit for dinner and save other formal dances for right before the band really gets going. Or, if your band is taking a break later in the night, use it as a chance to play the recorded version of that song your grandpa loves while you two share a moment in the spotlight.

Ready to get your guests out on the dance floor? Let your wedding party know when it’s time for them to join in, and have them bring their dates with them. This will signal to your guests that open dancing has begun.

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