Most fathers and daughters share a special bond from the moment a daughter is born. So, aside from the first dance between the newlyweds, the father and daughter dance is a must in your wedding program flow to tug on your guests’ heartstrings during the reception.
As a country with strong family-oriented traits, the father-daughter dance has become a staple in traditional wedding receptions. If you want to incorporate this into your own wedding, here’s what you need to know about a traditional father-daughter wedding dance and how to add it to your own wedding.
What Is a Father-Daughter Dance?
A father-daughter dance is a dance between a father and his daughter. In the Philippines, it’s a common tradition to have a father and daughter dance together during a daughter’s debut and her wedding.
If your biological father is not present, you can opt to dance with a step-father, adoptive father, uncle, a close friend of your father, a principal sponsor in your wedding, a secondary sponsor, or even a non-relative who served as a major father figure in your life. You can also choose to forego the father-daughter dance entirely if these options are unavailable.
Program Flow for the Father-Daughter Dance
In a traditional wedding, the couple usually start dancing with the first dance as husband and wife. Next, the father will take the groom’s place and lead the father-daughter dance.
For grooms, their counterpart is the mother-son dance where they dance with their mother or a maternal figure in their life. After the bride and her father have finished dancing, the groom will lead his mother to dance. It’s also possible for the father-daughter and mother-son dance to take place at the same time.
History & Meaning Behind the Father-Daughter Dance
A lot of wedding practices where the father is involved usually stem from patriarchal history. For example, the wedding ceremony tradition of a father walking down his daughter down the aisle and presenting her to the groom. Historically, a father’s presence was originally because of arranged marriages and how a father’s looming presence prevented grooms from backing out. Fortunately, today it has less sexist meanings and is more about how a father is showing support for the next chapter of his daughter’s life, rather than the act of “giving away” his daughter.
The same patriarchal history, unfortunately, also applies to father-daughter dances. Initially, the father-daughter dance was supposed to be the first dance in a wedding reception followed by the first bride and groom dance. This was another way to symbolize a father “giving away” his daughter to another man.
Since then, however, times have evolved and couples opted to have their first dance together and the father-daughter dance to follow. Today, a father-daughter dance symbolizes how a woman will still cherish her old family and the memories she had as she enters a new phase of her life.
Most Popular Father-Daughter Dance Songs
Just like planning your wedding march songs and your wedding songs playlist for your reception, there are a number of popular choices. Of course, your choices aren’t limited to these songs, but they can give you inspiration on the song you ultimately pick.
My Little Girl
For a sweet father-daughter slow dance, this song by Tim McGraw reminisces from the first time your dad laid eyes on you to the point as you’ve grown older and found someone to be with you. It’s not just for fathers, but for father figures who have been a staple in the bride’s life for a long time.
Always Be My Baby
A song about someone accepting another wanting to leave because time and distance won’t erase the love and connection they share. Mariah Carey sang this song first, but I always imagined me and my dad dancing to the David Cook version because he sings about a girl (a.k.a. the daughter) leaving.
Isn’t She Lovely
Another popular choice, Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely is about a man praising his daughter for the person she’s become. Although the original song is an upbeat bop, I recommend having a band and/or singer to sing this live. Stevie Wonder wrote this song for his daughter Aisha and mentions her in the song, so it’d be fun if you have live musicians mention your name instead to make the song more meaningful for you and your father.
Father and Daughter
For a more modern song that would go well with a band or live acoustic accompaniment, Paul Simon’s Father and Daughter is a snappy but sweet song. If this song sounds familiar to you, it’s because the song was originally written for The Wild Thornberrys Movie back in 2002. This song could remind you of watching Saturday morning cartoons while sitting next to your dad on the living room couch, and you’d feel right at home dancing to this song.
A short but upbeat song by The Temptations, this is the perfect song for fathers and daughters who aren’t into slow dancing or ballads and prefer something a bit shorter, faster, and simple. If I wasn’t dead-set on Adam Cook’s Always Be My Baby, this song would be my next choice as it matches the casual and fun relationship I have with my dad.
When Should We Have the Father-Daughter Dance?
It’s most common to hold the father-daughter dance right after the first dance, but this isn’t a hard requirement in wedding receptions. If you don’t want to squeeze all dances into one segment of your reception, you can have it after toasts (maybe let your father say a few words before letting your father-daughter dance song play) or before cutting the cake.
You can even hold it towards the end of the reception to symbolize that even though you’re celebrating the next chapter of your life, you won’t forget your parents and the family you grew up with.
Should We Practice Choreography?
It really depends on what you want your guests to see. A traditional slow dance doesn’t need choreography, but if you’re going for a faster upbeat song or want to do something special or surprise the guests, you and your father could plan a dance number.
Fun story: my older sister had a father-daughter dance during her 18th birthday. This was back in 2012 when Gangnam Style was still popular, so after a traditional slow dance they surprised the guests with a fun rendition of the Korean song. Consider doing something like that if you don’t wanna have a traditional dance with your dad and do something that shows what your relationship is like.
What If I Have a Stepfather?
There’s no rule that says you can only have one father-daughter dance. If both your biological and step-father have played significant roles in your life, there’s no need to exclude one of them and instead take the time to dance with both. The same applies to other father figures in your life even if your father is still around.
What If I Don’t Have a Good Relationship with My Dad?
Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with a good relationship with their fathers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can either choose to dance with another father figure or simply skip the father-daughter dance altogether. It’s your wedding, so you shouldn’t feel obliged to dance if you’re uncomfortable with it.
Father-daughter dances are a popular addition to wedding receptions. But don’t feel pressured to have one if you don’t want to. These dances are to symbolize your old family ties and how your father supports your decision to move on to the next chapter of your life.
Author: Justine Lubag
Justine loves costumes, puns, horror films, and blue dresses. A literature graduate from the south, she writes online content for a living but is super shy about others reading her fan fiction.