It’s the moment you’ve been dreading since you got engaged: the father-daughter dance. Not that you don’t love your father, of course. But if the thought of performing a dance in front of a room full of people (not to mention cameras) is giving you more butterflies in your stomach than the ceremony itself, you don’t have to do it.
If either one of you has limited mobility, you don’t have to skip a sweet tradition entirely. Here are some ways to show the love between you two without stumbling through a series of choreographed dance steps. Talk them over with Dad–chances are, he’ll be thrilled, too.
Reading a Poem Together
If you have a favorite poem that expresses the relationship you have with your father, your wedding reception is the perfect time to share it with everyone. The two of you can alternate reading one line at a time, or divide the poem any way that makes sense for you.
Reading is the perfect activity for fathers and daughters who aren’t comfortable dancing, or aren’t physically able to dance. It allows you to express your feelings without the need of an ultra-sappy song, too.
Can’t find a poem that exactly expresses how you feel? It’s fine to read song lyrics or passages from your favorite book. Bible passages are also a beautiful opportunity for fathers and daughters to read out loud together.
No matter what words you pick, though, keep your selection short (one to three minutes is ideal). That way, you’ll be sure of keeping your guests’ focus through the whole reading.
Presenting a Special Gift
The traditional father-daughter dance is a way to show how much you appreciate your father for his love and support throughout your life. So what better way to show appreciation than by giving him a gift?
Don’t let Dad in on the plan ahead of time; just call him up to the microphone for a special thank-you during the reception.
The gift should be something meaningful, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Since a wedding marks the transition between the early part of your life and the next stage in your life (which is what the father-daughter dance, at its core, is about), think about a present that will tie your current life and your childhood together.
Maybe, as a child, you gave your dad a gift of your handprint in clay. Now you can give a matching gift of your adult handprint with a message like, “Thanks for encouraging me to grow not just in size, but in heart.” Photo albums consisting of photographs of the two of you over the years also make beautiful gifts.
Reading a Heartfelt Letter
If you think choreographed dances are too cheesy, what do you do when you still want a tradition with a little heart behind it? Put your feelings down in words. Writing a letter to your father is much less nerve-wracking than giving an off-the-cuff speech.
You don’t have to memorize anything, and if you get a little emotional you don’t have to worry about stringing together eloquent wording. Best yet, you don’t have to think of the perfect words amidst the frenzied blur of a wedding day. Instead, you get to write the letter ahead of time, when you have a quiet moment to do so.
Think about specific examples of times your father was there for you–especially in small ways that your dad might not remember. As with any wedding reception tradition, keep it short and sweet.
You may decide to only read the first paragraph aloud at the reception and give the rest to your father to read privately. With a letter, you get a chance to share your feelings without having to perform at your own wedding.
Hosting a Dance
When the time for the father-daughter dance comes, don’t just take the stage; take the microphone! Since traditional dances can put fathers and daughters under an uncomfortable spotlight, you may feel more comfortable dancing once everyone else is, too.
Ask your guests to join you by dancing with a person who has helped them to become the person they are today. Encourage grandfathers, uncles, and role models of all kinds to dance with their loved ones. Don’t forget mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, too!
Whenever you’re trying to replace a traditional wedding activity with your own idea, it’s best to consider the reason behind the tradition. In the case of the father-daughter dance, the tradition brings to mind the bride’s childhood and journey to the woman she has become, along with the support her father gave along the way.
It is a way for her to thank her father and to assure him that he’ll still be a part of her life now that she’s a married woman. As long as you keep loving thoughts in mind, whatever new tradition you start will be beautiful.