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

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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!

> How well do you get along with your in-laws?

> Worried your family will embarrass you at your wedding? 

> How can I bring up a prenup? 

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  • Bride T
    01/13/15 at 04:14

    This is incorrect with regard to the Greek culture because the couple doesn’t get the money, the live band does.

  • Simone Hill
    01/13/15 at 05:13

    Thanks for pointing this out Tracey! I tried to make it clear that the meaning and reason behind money dances is different depending on culture. I’ve updated the copy to make it more clearly what’s involved in the Greek custom. Thanks again!

    Simone

  • Danielle
    01/13/15 at 09:00

    We are very lucky! Both sides of our families have traditionally done the dollar dance. My fiance’s aunt is even giving me her “bridal apron” that she wore 20+ years ago to continue the tradition.

    I had a friend who was very hesitant to do one, but ended up being glad she did. In the version I am most familiar with, both the bride and groom dance with whoever “pays” to dance with them. It gave them time to talk briefly with anyone who wanted to spend time with them!

  • Sirena
    01/14/15 at 06:20

    My aunt and uncle did one at there wedding over 20 years ago I was just a little girl, but I remember handing my uncle 5 dollars to dance with him I was just a flower girl lol

  • 01/14/15 at 08:10

    Here in Nigeria, the money spraying is one of the highlights of a wedding reception. The couple dances and they are sprayed naira/dollar notes by guests who also dance with them. Some guests however come to the dance floor to dance with the couple without spraying; it’s not an offense. The money spraying is not really a way the couple asks for cash gifts. It is actually a way a spraying wedding guest shows to the live band, to the couple and/or other guests he is wealthy and has lots of cash to throw around. How much a couple dances determine how much is sprayed. In some cases, the spraying guests, spray the live band members, couples’ parents and even other guests on the dance floor. If you have a good live band who can sing praises of a guest, you get sprayed very well. However, the money spraying is being discouraged by the Central Bank of Nigeria in line with its cashless policy campaigns. Commercial banks now encourage mobile and internet money transfer. Here’s a TVC of one of the banks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW6VtyJNT6M. But Nigerians still do the money dance. It’s just part of us. It’s my favourite part of a wedding reception. I will be doing the money dance at my wedding in April 2015!

  • Alyssa
    01/21/15 at 02:23

    If you are going to do this at your wedding, please explain what it is. I was in a friends wedding few months ago and they did this and I had no idea what was happening! Still don’t know why lol

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Escort cards are extremely easy to personalize and an excellent way to bring in your wedding day colors -- from calligraphed seating cards set atop a textured linen to apples tagged with each guest's name or small personalized bundles of lavender tied off with string. Other ways to display escort cards: Pin them to a clothesline, post them on a board covered in color-coordinated ribbon, or incorporate them into your cocktail hour using personalized stirrers tagged with guests' names.
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