What To Do About Mother/Groom Dance When Bride’s Father Deceased Wedding Dance Etiquette For Absent Parents


I’m having an issue in figuring out how to handle the parent dances for the reception. My fiancee’s father passed away suddenly a couple of years ago. She is still very much affected by it, as she understandably should be, but it has created an issue regarding my dance with my mother.

My fiancee told me that it is ok for me to dance with my mom, but she doesn’t want it announced. Even just discussing it brought her to tears, so I talked it over with my mother to try to figure things out. She said she was fine without the dance being announced, but she is upset that people won’t be able to recognize our dance as being something special if it is just a dance with other people on the dance floor. She says people are going to notice that we didn’t have our dance and bring it up to her. I don’t see how the dance can go unannounced, which is what my fiancee wants, and yet be a special dance with me and my mom by ourselves on the dance floor, which is what my mom wants. I would be happy just to have a solution!

My fiancee doesn’t want to dance with anybody else, so dancing with her mom or another family member seems out of the question. I don’t want to make her sound controlling or anything like that, because this has really been the only thing that has been a problem, but as you can see, it doesn’t have a clear solution.

I think my fiancee doesn’t want to be reminded that her father isn’t there and I want to try to help as much as I can, but I can’t not dance with my mother because that would crush her. Any advice as to what to do? Thanks.

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach,

Etiquette is not my area but relationships are and I do agree with you that this is a difficult situation as you feel caught in the middle and understandably don’t want to hurt either person. I have to ask one question though, which is how have you guys dealt with the bride being walked down the aisle piece which traditionally would be the father or both parents? Has this not been an equally difficult situation to be dealt with from your fiance’s experience of things or have you guys been able to creatively address this one? Knowing that might be helpful for me in giving you some direction around this one.

Having said that, I do believe that the entire day will have the potential of giving your fiance emotional difficulty as this is a monumental step in her life for which all of us want our parents to be present. It is a loss and needs to be acknowledged. However, orchestrating other losses will not equalize things or change the fact that her Dad simply isn’t there. I want as you do to be sensitive to her feelings, and yet there are limits on how much your new life together and the decisions you make now can and should be effected by past losses. If this could be framed as the “parent dance” and you could both dance with your moms I wonder if this could symbolize the support and love that is reciprocal between each of you and your respective parents.

I think this situation bears more thinking about how making the dance between you and your mom possible and symbolic and special. I also think your fiance may later on feel bad about standing in the way of this happening between you and your mom. You also need to ask yourself if this will stir resentment for you towards your fiance because this is not something we want to start a new relationship with. I think there are a million ways for you to be sensitive to her around this loss but you also have to be honest with her about this with her and let her know that it puts you in a very difficult situation and maybe one that just isn’t worth it given you are starting a new life together.

Her grief has nothing to do with your new life together but the feelings are being stirred up at this happy time – it is tainted by her loss. I would also be suggesting for her that it if she already hasn’t done so, some grief counselling would be advisable for her to help her find ways to cope so that she can move on with life and celebrate the good things as well as keeping her memories of her Dad. This may help the two of you move into your new marriage with a better chance for success as what we both bring to the marriage becomes owned by each other. You in fact may need help to help her learn to live with this loss.

I hope this has been helpful. This is a very sensitive issue and one that I thing the long-term strategeis for, have more to do with how you help her to live with and cope with the loss, than any decision about whether or not you announce the dance with your mom. Best of luck.

Yvonne, thank you for your kind advice. It is greatly appreciated.

Reader Response

To answer your question, my fiancee’s mother will be walking her down the aisle, but she is adamantly against dancing with her. It’s not that she doesn’t like her mom, but she just feels that dancing with her or anyone else will make things worse and not be better. She’s not happy about having her mother give her away, but that’s just because her father won’t be doing it. We are planning on honoring him at that ceremony though.

After thinking about it more, I don’t think we can have the dance announced. It would look bad if my mother and I danced alone and no one danced with my fiancee. The absence of that would be noticeable. My mother is just going to have to accept that although she wants to have that moment recognized, it isn’t really her day, traditionally speaking even. When we dance, the photographer will be notified of it and capture the moment that way, and that’s the best that I think I can do. I know my mother will be difficult when I explain this to her, but that’s just how it has to be. I’ll say I’ll dance with her a few times even, and maybe that will help. Any suggestions on handling this, especially if my mom doesn’t understand?

If anyone has any more advice, or especially on etiquette rules regarding this, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Donna, Wedding Queen

I disagree that a wedding is just for the bride and groom. If this were the case, you would elope, right? Weddings are a special event where the family and loved ones of the bride and groom all celebrate the love and growth of the family.

This may sound harsh, but, I think your fiancee will have to do as Yvonne suggests and somehow work out her grief. There will be many reminders of her father’s absence, not only during the wedding, but during the planning, showers, and all the holidays and family functions to follow. She needs to find a way to attend to her grief while not stifling the happiness of those around her who are entitled to have their relationships go on. Otherwise, where will it end? Will you never celebrate Father’s Day with your own dad, or once you become a dad? Will you forget about Thanksgiving because your fiancee’s dad cannot be present? It is in her best interest to deal with her grief rather than avoiding life events in order not miss him.

Both my parents are deceased, and so is my husband, and I try to live by my own words. So, I hope these words of experience come to you as helpful and not hurtful.

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

I completely agree that this is something that should not be ignored. You and your mother should be able to have a special dance and it should be announced. Plus, I love the idea of a parent dance. But, your bride to be isn’t supportive of this, so this appears to be a no-go.

The etiquette involved here is that all of these dances are optional, but they are traditional and these are a way of being able to share in the joy of united two families. So, we can change the name of dances, create new ones, and add elements that are not traditional, because our family structure is quite different that in years past.

Good luck with this!

Reader Response

We’ll be getting married not too long from now, and there hasn’t been an issue really until this, throughout all the planning, showers, etc. We’ve had Christmas celebrations and Thanksgivings, and birthdays, and Father’s Days, but nothing seemed to bring about the same emotions as this dance. So, it came to me as bit of a surprise as to how emotional this all became, but it really has been intense. Even when planning for the ceremony, where we will be honoring him, it wasn’t really an issue. But this really has. Your advice is greatly appreciated, so thank you.

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach,

Ultimately this is your decision to be made with your fiance. It is not our job to tell you what is right for you but to give you our best advice as we see things and also from our collective experience. You alone know how difficult this situation has been for all involved and you will make a decision that best fits the situation. My concern is that you don’t make a compromise here without being fully aware of the ramificaitons for yourself and others not just now but down the road. If you are of strong conviction that this is not as much of an issue for you as it is for your fiance and that you are willing to forego this opportunity and that it won’t become a point of resentment for you, then that is my main concern. I think regardless of what decision you make, it would still be wise to support your partner in getting some support for herself in learning how to cope with this ongoing grief, especially if you see signs of it recurring and really impacting on your lives together. It’s always better to deal with this as early as possible and not let it fester and create new problems for the two of you as you begin your life together. Once again, the very best of luck to both of you.