Exclusion to inclusion: inverting ye olde "grandparents dance" tradition

April 11 | Guest post by Chris Wolfgang
Danelle & Jason's Tiki Wedding
Nothing better than being surrounded by your loved ones on the dance floor!

Have you ever heard of a grandparents' dance? Yes, well, neither had I.

Apparently, here's how it works: a wedding DJ asks couples to dance, and then asks them to leave the dance floor based on how long they've been married, with the most recent marriages leaving the floor first. My partner Jeremy's grandmother, I have discovered, is fiercely proud of always being the last couple on the floor at weddings.

When Jeremy told me, I entertained the mental image of her working a luchador mask while the DJ plays Last Man Standing. But being a people-pleaser is my cross to bear, so I put aside the Nacho Libre daydream to consider how I could tactfully wriggle out of this dance — and the father-daughter dance and my own first dance, while I'm at it.

Really, I just want that most elusive of party goals: everyone on the floor together having fun.

I had been skirting around the subject of traditional wedding dances, in general hopes it will go away altogether. I tried to explain my position to Jeremy. I acknowledged that it was awesome his grandparents had been married fifty-six years. What an accomplishment, right? However, to be shallow about it, such a dance would empty the floor instead of fill it. The antithesis of getting this party started, if you will.

Also, celebrating the longest-lasting marriage is cool, but it kind of excludes everyone else, don't you think?

I mean, my grandparents would have been married fifty-five years now, but my grandma died of breast cancer when I was eight, and my grandpa still loves her with all his heart.

And then what about all our single friends? Sucks to be you, you have to sit this one out. Not awesome, particularly when they are the ones with whom I most want to rock out on the dance floor.

Jeremy heard me out as I argued my case. Then offered his simple suggestion: "Let's invert it." There are moments when my fella's quiet brilliance blows me away.

Behold, the inverted dance schedule:

  • The DJ would request that anyone married for fifty-six years or more start the dance.
  • Jeremy's grandmother, blushing proudly, would begin swaying with his grandfather to the strains of something poppy but sensible for a slower dance. I'll Never Find Another You by The Seekers, or I Do by Colbie Caillat, perhaps.
  • Couples would add to the floor gradually as their years of marriage were called out in descending order: ten, five, one…
  • When the DJ calls out, "one hour and thirty-seven minutes," or some such, Jeremy and I would join an already crowded floor.
  • Immediately thereafter, the singles would be invited on to bring the party.

The pros of this turning of the tables include:

  • My dad and I don't have to suffer through a father-daughter dance (though my dad and I adore each other, this sounds like utter torture to both of us).
  • Jeremy and I would still technically have a first dance (something his mother dearly wants).
  • Jeremy's grandma gets her marriage acknowledged.
  • And our single friends are never shooed off the floor but rather invited to join.

Everyone coming together instead of splitting apart. Camaraderie. Inclusivity. A fantastic picture of combining families and friends and lives.

What else could I say but, "That rocks. I love you."

  1. I was dreading having this dance at my wedding in a year, but that's such a great idea!!!!

    7 agree
  2. What a great idea! I, too, had been super worried about how to get our diverse (in age, culture, and region) crowd onto the dance floor. What we realized was that we had a Jewish traditional dance we could pull out of our bag of tricks! While we're not having a religious wedding, I am Jewish and we loved the idea of having everyone join us on the dance floor for the horah: the Jewish circle dance traditionally done to the song "Hava Nagila." All it involves is holding hands and walking/bouncing in a circle–easy enough to pick up, and so much fun! And the dance typically includes concentric circles, with those closest to the happy couple at the center–and even sometimes hoisted onto chairs!–meaning grandparents and other important people are part of the honoring, as well as the honored.

    4 agree
  3. Wow, impressive idea! Personally, I'm going to lobby to skip the family dances other than the cross familial ones seeing as how I lack a dad and am borrowing my uncle for the occasion. Honestly, I'm most looking forward to dancing with my man of honor as we're both long trained classical and modern dancers, should be a blast and a half getting to stretch out our abilities.

    1 agrees
  4. I had no idea what a grandparents dance was either, until just last weekend when we went to my husband's cousins wedding. Right after the first dance, and then the father daughter dance, and then the mother son dance, and then the bridal party dance (right about the time when my husband and I were reaffirming how happy we were that we didn't have any of that at our wedding), they asked all the married couples to come to the floor. I was excited about this because it was a way to get my husband to dance without begging and pleading and pulling, and it was a large wedding (with a small dance floor) so that dance was crowded with a lot of people. And then… disappointment as, oh about thirty seconds into the dance, married two years and under were called off the floor. And so, there went that nice little dance with my husband.

    1 agrees
  5. Totally fun idea! Sometimes as a photog I end up fielding a lot of questions from couples that are seemingly unrelated to their wedding day pics. We usually breakdown the flow of the day, including key moments during par-tay time. I'll be sure to suggest this idea the next time a couple is fretting about the dances. It's hard to meet everyone's needs, and this definitely is a happy compromise. That's why we're hosting a clambake jamboree for our big day. No muss. No fuss. No pressure. Just good times! Also… Mike is not a dancer. More of a "sway in a circle" kinda guy.

    Now if only the garter-belt-show would disappear… You better believe no one is seeing these thighs at my wedding, save my husband, and not until the partiers are safely sleeping it off somewhere.

  6. That's an EXCELLENT idea! I might just steal it for our big day. It's great if you've got mostly newlywed couples and singles in your reception crowd like I do!

  7. I think it's an awesome idea. It's a shame none of my friends or family is still married…

  8. I've never heard of this dance at all. Is it a regional thing? I live in TN and I've been to a ton of weddings and I've never seen it or heard it mentioned.


    I've never heard of this before either – but I also am seeking to avoid both the Father/Daughter Dance as well as my partner and I having a formal "First Dance". I've also thought that we *might* be able to handle starting the dance, as long as others join us within, say, 20 seconds or so – but I'd much rather do it another way entirely!

  10. heehee.. and after your 'first dance', you can segue into beyonce's single ladies song for the rest of 'em πŸ˜‰ Bad or otherwise, it'll include EVERYONE with a nod and a wink!

    2 agree
  11. that is an awesomely amazing idea and i may just borrow it πŸ˜‰
    my fiance is dreading the first dance. he doesnt really like dancing in front of people ever unless its a crowded floor so this would be perfect!!!
    and such a brilliant way to fill the dancefloor and get the party started!

  12. I love your idea! Can't help thinking how rude the original version is, I'd never allow that at my wedding, but your version I may have to now include! πŸ™‚

    Also .. 'singles' would include my partners mum and step-dad who aren't married after over 20 years of being together, as well as my partner and I with our 4 years, and we'd have to sit out? Nuh-uh! πŸ™‚

    Thank you to Jeremy, and to you for sharing.

    1 agrees
  13. I'd never heard of a grandparents' dance before, but I LOVE the idea of having the longest-married couples kick off a dance, and slowly having everyone else join!

  14. I've also heard of this being called the "Generational Dance" or "Married Couples Dance." I'm from Iowa originally, and it's an institution around there.

    I've always hated it because it not only makes the single people feel like crap, but what about couples who have been together for a long time but not actually married? What about same-sex couples who WOULD get married, but can't? And yeah, for the widows/widowers, it REALLY sucks.

    THIS version sounds MUCH better. I would extend it to include all couples and leave the married part out of it. Even if it is a wedding.

    2 agree
    • If you say "Have been with their partner X years" dating couples can decide on their own whether they're "partners" or still boyfriend/girlfriends.

      4 agree
  15. That's brilliant! For our first dance we picked an awesome song by a local band(my all time favorite band), but it was looooong, so we asked our friends to join in after a minute, resulting in a huge circle around us- including the band's drummer! Awkwardness be vanquished!

    I always feel weird about that grandparent dance. It would've been awkward at my cousin's wedding (a month and 5 days after mine) if they'd asked anyone married less than a year to dance, it just would've been us and the newlyweds!

  16. We kind of plan to do something like this but with a bit of a twist. Instead of doing the bouquet and garter toss we are going to ask people of certain amount of years together (not just married) to stand up and sit down as the years are called off. Whoever has been together the longest will get the bouquet and garter and a dance to themselves if they would like. I was thinking even widowed could stand they could dance with either the bride or the groom.

  17. I love this idea as well, but like another poster I have many people in my family who are divorced and 2 people who lost their spouse in the last year. I thought of a way to do something similar, but not open wounds for people at my wedding – invite up the people who have known the couple the longest to start dancing first and work back to those who are newer friends. It'll have the same effect of people joining the dance floor in waves, but would side-step highlighting recent losses or making single people feel left out. What do y'all think – any downsides you could see to doing it this way?

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