The Parent Dance | Do’s and Don’t from a Boston Wedding Photographer

You guys. Parents love weddings. Did you know this already? Well they do.

And you know what they especially love? The tradition of the Parent Dances.

You know who else does? This photographer right here. I never understood this until I became a mother. And then I finally could appreciate how it must feel to be the joyful-and-sort-of-sad parents seeing their babies all grown up.

As a photographer, I always enjoyed the parent dances during the reception (typically a groom dances with his mom and a bride dances with her dad, but I have seen every possible combination under the sun including step-parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.)  The dances make for lovely photo ops and they are a great way to kick off the dance party.  (After the parent dances are over, it’s pretty easy for the DJ to play a Jackson Five song and fill up the dance floor.)  But now, as a parent, I love the parent dances even more.   I imagine how special it is for a parent to get just 3 minutes of time with their grown up kid on their wedding day and just hold their hands and laugh with them.  3 minutes is all they get – marrying couples are busy people with A LOT of things to do and people to see – and I know these parents soak it all up. *sniff, sniff

Given my obsession with the parent dance, I thought I’d share a few Do’s and Don’ts to help some of you think about this part of the reception and get some ideas for how to handle it on your wedding day.

1.  Do it.  Sure you may not want to because it takes time away from the party and it is embarrassing to dance with your mom, but for goodness sake just dance with her.  If any of my clients are on the fence about whether or not to include a parent dance in their reception I really push for it.  “Think how happy it will make your mom/dad,” I tell them, pleadingly.  And I say the same to you.

2.  Don’t talk the whole time.  Since you’re a little uncomfortable dancing in the first place – and especially with your parent – the normal thing to do is make small talk and chit chat.  But talking the whole time about banal things like “was the steak cooked well enough” is not only really boring but also makes it harder to get nice photos of you two together. Talk a little and smile and laugh, but don’t talk through the entire song.

3.  Do discuss the dance with your parents ahead of time to make sure that they are into it and to include them in choosing a song.  Don’t make the decision for them and don’t spring it on them at the last minute. Nobody likes surprises in front of 150 of their closest friends and family.

4.  Do try to choose a song that is special to you but not predictable and not cheesy.  There are hundreds of lists of great songs online if you just search for “parent dance wedding song” but half of them are predictable and the other half are cheesy.  I suggest you choose something special to you both, not special to half the world.

5.  Do consider doing your parent dances at the same time rather than doing two different songs, especially if you’re short on time and/or super uncomfortable.  It’s a win-win situation: everyone gets the dance they want and everyone gets off the dance floor quickly.

6.  Do remember that the parent dance is FOR YOUR PARENT as much as it’s for you.  These are the people who changed your dirty diapers, taught you to walk, taught you to feed yourself, bought all of your clothes, kissed your boo-boos, and explained why the sky is blue.  They are proud of you and they love you and your wedding may be a little bittersweet for them.  Use your parent dance as a chance to say “I love you” and “thank you” and “I am glad you’re here.”  It will make their night.

7. Don’t look annoyed.  Sure, parents are annoying, I get it, and even the mildly-annoying ones can be super annoying on a wedding day.  They may have been annoying you all day!  But this is a moment and a photo op that your mom or dad is going to treasure.  So smile.

mother and son dancing at a wedding

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