The Dollar Dance Wedding Etiquette Demystified — What You Need to Know About Doing One

by Simone Hill
photo by Thinkstock

The dollar or money dance is one of those wedding traditions that's polarizing, especially on our Etiquette board. Here's why dollar dances are controversial: In places where the dollar dance isn't the norm it can seem like a public way of asking for a cash gift. On the other hand, in some circles it's not just acceptable, but encouraged for the couples to do the dollar dance. Like almost every tradition, what might seem rude to one couple may be totally appropriate and meaningful to another.

What's that mean for you? Well, when deciding whether to have a dollar dance at your wedding just think about what's normal among your family and friends. If it's something those around you enjoy and might expect to see at a wedding, then go for it. If you have a mixed group (for example there's a dollar dance at all your family weddings, but your fiance's family has never heard of it) things get a bit trickier. Use your judgement as to whether to skip or modify this tradition for your crowd. One way to approach this situation is to explain the meaning behind the dollar dance (with a tent card on the table or let the DJ or band leader explain) and invite those who are new to the tradition to participate or enjoy a drink at the bar instead if they prefer not to be part of it.

If the dollar dance isn't the norm in your community or culture it's not a good idea to adopt this tradition as a creative way to encourage guests to give you money. If you want cash instead of gifts, just put a few items on your registry for those who prefer to give traditional gifts and others will likely opt to give cash instead.

What is the dollar dance?

If you're new to the term “dollar dance" here's a brief rundown. The dollar dance actually has roots in a few different cultural traditions. In Nigeria it's called the money spray, in Greece tossing money at the couple is part of a dance called kalamatiano (afterwards the money is collected and given to the band), and in Poland it's tradition to pin money to the bride's dress at the reception. The symbolism behind dollar dances varies, but typically the money is a gesture to help the couple get started in their new lives together. Generally, it's an upbeat and interactive part of the reception involving music, dancing and bills of money being tossed at or handed to the couple.

What are the alternatives to the dollar dance?

If you want to do the dollar dance, but you think it might offend some of your guests who aren't familiar with the tradition you have some options. You could invite everyone to the dance floor to shower you with faux money, slips of paper with their well wishes or flower petals instead. If you like the well wishes idea, then you could also consider doing a “wish tree" or “wish jar" near the escort card or favor table and ask guests to share marriage wisdom or love on small cards.

Want more? Of course you do!

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