(See introduction and disclaimer to this series here, and other posts in the series here.)
What is the tradition?
At the reception, to kick off the dancing portion (because of course all wedding receptions have dancing!), the couple has a "first dance", with the guests looking on before joining into dance themselves. Couples often take dancing lessons specifically for this purposes, so as to do a waltz or other formal dance style, and some may choreograph the dance (in a ballroom or more contemporary, fun style).
What is the origin of the tradition?
At formal balls, the guests of honor, or those with highest social standing, led off the first dance. Not the entire first song, but to "open" the dance floor, so to speak.
Why do people still follow it?
I think it's 50% the wedding classic "but it what's we're supposed to dooooo", and 50% a desire to be in the spotlight.
Why is that crap?
Do you routinely host balls in your home? When you host these balls, on such a frequent basis, are you a good host and lead off the waltz while the orchestra plays?
Like the white dress, and announcing people, and other such "formalities", these are not etiquette in the sense of showing respect or providing comfort to anyone. This is merely etiquette that represents convention within the upper class of a long ago time period.
Leading off a first dance was part of the context, for that time, when everyone danced in a formal way. We're don't have such formal dance occasions now, so why retain this one piece of it? In the absence of the broader context, it's rather meaningless.
What am I doing with this tradition?
We didn't have dancing of any kind! We had a computer playing music throughout the reception, but just quietly in the background, not loud enough - and really not the proper type - to promote dancing. While I have nothing against dancing per se (in fact, I grew up on other kinds of dancing, tap and jazz), the couples type of dancing is simply not something Abe or I ever participate in. Thus, why make it part of a day that represents the start of our lives together?
How did/will you handle this tradition?
I would love to have a lively debate and conversation in the comments! Please join in!
Dissenting opinions (from the post itself or other commenters) are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments that personally attack me or any other commenter.