You Can Dance If You Want To (But You Shouldn’t Have To)

On this, the final day of bridesmaids week – hey, it was a five-day business week – I wanted to address a tradition that I know for a fact makes at least some people a little uncomfortable. I know this because I am one of those people. Specifically, I am talking about the tradition of having all of the wedding attendants, bridesmaids and groomsmen, bridesmen and groomsmaids, dance with one another at some point during the whole first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance string of scheduled formal dancing. It’s actually considered a tad passé to ask the attendants to have a go on the dance floor, but you still see it occasionally at some wedding receptions.

Since this tradition seems to be dying out anyway, there’s really no need for me to put it down, I suppose. But just in case there are any otherwise happy bridesmaids out there reading this who are dreading the thought of slow dancing with some friend of the groom they have never seen or sniffed, I thought I’d share my three reasons for not particularly liking the attendants’ dance. As I see it, this old tradition is…

1. Awkward: While I actually wish that there were more opportunities for social dancing that included switching partners in a platonic, fun way, I still think that having to cut a rug with someone you may find icky while 75+ people look on is just plain weird. It’s one thing to dance with an unfamiliar partner – one who may never have heard of Arthur Murray or mouthwash – and quite another to do it on demand while a photographer circles the dance floor. And if you’re a young junior bridesmaid, it’s even weirder.

2. Boring: So now the wedding guests have sat through the first dance, the father-daughter dance, and the mother-son dance, and perhaps the bride and groom also invited their grandparents up for a waltz. Even if you edited your chosen songs down, you’re still potentially talking about a good quarter of an hour’s worth of dancing on display that the guests have to sit through while they wait for the refreshments.

3. Ineffective: If the bride or groom’s goal is to get people to shake their booties, there are easier ways to do it, like hiring a good DJ or leading by example and shaking it themselves. Because, really, I think that wedding guests can sense the awkwardness of the attendants’ dance, and I don’t know anyone particularly inspired by embarrassment.

I’d recommend that any bridesmaids like myself who aren’t keen on dancing with a random groomsman and suspect that the bride is considering an attendants’ dance at the reception suggest letting all of the enrelationshipped attendants dance with their SOs and then, halfway through the dance, inviting other couples to join them for a special slow dance. Or better yet, suggest that the marrying couple not force their wedding guests to sit through one more spotlit dance.

Now I have to ask: Bridesmaids and former bridesmaids, have you ever found yourself on the parquet in the arms of someone just awful because you were obliged to participate in an attendants’ dance?

(Image via BeDazzled Photography)

6 Responses to “You Can Dance If You Want To (But You Shouldn’t Have To)”

  1. Blossom September 10, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    We only did the bride and groom dance and halfway through asked everyone else on the dance floor and bridesmaids who are my sisters danced with each other becase the photographer got his stuck down a ditch and some of the men went to help. I think he got his car stuck because we invited them (they where a husband and wife team) to help themselves and he certainly did!

  2. Toni September 10, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    I think this is another one of those “it depends.” Does everyone in the wedding party have a significant other or date they can bring on the dance floor? If so, that can be a nice way of breaking the ice for a minute before opening up the dance floor for all. You could also invite the attendants up and put on a cheesy crowd-pleaser song, like, I don’t know, YMCA or something, and have everyone dance to that. Points for breaking the “I don’t want to be alone on an empty floor” ice, but no one is force to sway uncomfortably.

    But really, being forced to dance with a random groomsman is low on my list of “potentially annoying things about being an attendant.” It’s at least a few notches below having to listen to “Butterfly Kisses” again.

    (Then again, I like to dance, so there’s that.)

    (Oh, and I totally agree about minimizing all of the “required” dances. Have the songs shortened, or when possible, combine them. If you can agree on a song, combining the Groom/MOG and Bride/FOB dances is nice.)

  3. Raven1025 September 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    We combined the mother/son and father/daughter dance into one. We did an attendant dance, but we just played “Time After Time” and had everyone dance free form. No coupling up or anything. The DJ was supposed to invite everyone else out to dance halfway through, but he forgot…but there was no awkward coupling up.
    Of the weddings I’ve been in where I had to do the attendant dance, it wasn’t a huge deal, but there was some awkwardness. One, I was nine and had no idea how to slow dance, so I learned there with the groomsman I was paired with who was over twice my age. One, I was worried because the groomsman I was with was the brother of the groom, and not only did I not know him but he’s an alcoholic and walked with a cane. I was really worried about keeping him upright. However, he was unable to dance due to aforementioned trouble with alcohol, so I got to dance with the hubs instead, which was fun. Having another thing instead of the coupling of the attendants for dancing would have prevented the awkward sitch and people asking me all evening what happened to my groomsman. Ouch.
    All that is to say of all the things one must do as a bridesmaid, I think the bridal party dance one of the lesser burdens.

  4. Cassie September 11, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    I was a 12-year-old junior bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding, way back in the day. And while they didn’t have the “all the attendants, switch!” dance (which I think is part of what makes it sound so icky), they did make all of us go up and dance with our escorts. I was the only female in the bridal party without an escort, so I just sort of walked up there and looked . . . tragic.

    My uncle offered to dance with me, which was terribly sweet of him, but then the only other person involved in the wedding that was about my age (he was maybe 13, and did a reading for the wedding) came up and asked me to dance. It was very sweet. And INCREDIBLY awkward. We’d exchanged maybe two words before this point, and so it was that painful, shifting-your-weight-side-to-side middle school dance thing.

    I don’t think I’ll have that dance at my wedding – whether I have a poor, lonely preteen junior bridesmaid or not – just because I’m pretty sure most of my bridesmaids will have SOs that may or may not be part of the bridal party, and I think having to dance with someone you just met two days ago while your husband/wife/life mate looks on is freaky.

  5. poeta September 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    I was a bridesmaid once and was forced into the dreaded “attendant slow dance.” I have not a rhythmic bone in my body, and as a rule I do not enjoy public dancing. I especially do not enjoy public dancing with dopey hopelessly doting infatuated groomsmen I am paired with. Not only was I required to slow-dance in front of 200 people with this guy I couldn’t stand, I had to later salsa dance with him! When the bride and groom taught us how to salsa in the living room after the rehersal dinner, alcohol was imbibed and it was actually fun dancing around not really knowing what we were doing. At the wedding, however, everyone was dry, and I couldn’t for the life of me get into rhythm with this guy who didn’t really know how to salsa either! It was mortifying, and while I enjoyed the rest of the wedding experience, the required dancing caused me a lot of anxiety that casts a shadow over my memories of the night.

    While I understand the idea behind the required dancing for attendants, I feel some brides seek this “uniformity” for their bridesmaids that forces them out of their comfort zone and turns them into pretty placeholders instead of treasured friends they want to share the experience with. And that’s sad, because I wanted to like dancing for my friend. But it’s impossible for me to like dancing.

  6. Victor September 13, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    My brother did the attendance dance, and I was paired with one of his wife’s sisters. It was incredibly awkward–she was a big girl, with no sense of rythym, and (worst of all) she smoked. I hope they managed to photoshop out my wrinkled nose from any pix there may be of us dancing .