Depending on your culture and geographical location, the wedding money dance is either A) an accepted part of the wedding reception or B) a serious breach of wedding etiquette. At the root of the argument lies the assumption that guests are willing participants in such a frenetic, and public, display of money gifting—a donation typically made in private, hidden from judgmental, or prying, eyes. But in certain cultures, the wedding money dance is an age-old tradition, and wedding attendees, and the newlyweds, too, aren't exactly shy about it. And it's not just dollar bills being thrown around, either.
What Is a Wedding Money Dance?
The money dance (aka the dollar or apron dance) is a custom where family and friends typically either pin cash onto the dancing bride and groom's clothing, toss coins into the bride's shoes, or tuck bills into a dainty satchel worn around the bride's wrist.
Such a display may be considered gauche by those unfamiliar with its custom, but in many traditions guests eagerly anticipate the moment, lining up for song after song waiting for their time with the man or woman of the hour. In some cases, this is the time guests present the newlyweds with their wedding gift—and cash is king. Yes, dollar bills make it onto the dance floor, but those in higher denominations, and often $100 bills, are just as common.
Is It Right For You?
Obviously, if guests are already familiar with the money dancing tradition, it's much easier to pull off (without seeming tacky, that is). Otherwise, consider an alternative, more discreet way to request cash from your wedding guests. You could create an online, cash-only wedding registry, for instance, that encourages guests to contribute to your honeymoon fund, savings toward a down payment, or other large, worthwhile purchase. Although having a dollar dance is a matter of cultural, and personal, preference, here's how it's celebrated around the world. Perhaps you'll find that aspects of these international wedding customs appeal to you.
Apparently, this is where it all started. Also known as the Polish bridal dance, it's said to have originated here, sometime during the early 20th century. According to tradition, it takes place at the end of the reception and guests pay to take turns dancing the polka with the bride while the maid of honor collects cash in an apron tied around her waist. After there's no one left to dance with, the groom throws in his wallet for good measure.
Here in the U.S., the money dance is a regional tradition that's most prevalent in the Midwest and down South. Brides from Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma to Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin think of the money dance as an important part of their receptions. It typically takes place toward the end of the formal festivities, after the cake-cutting and bouquet toss but before the majority of the guests leave. Other times, it's saved for the last dance, right before the newlyweds leave for their honeymoon.
The best man usually kicks things off by pinning money on the bride's dress while the maid of honor dances with the groom. The best man and maid of honor are also responsible for handing out the pins and sending in new partners every few seconds—just long enough for guests to offer their congratulations.
Here, too, guests pay for a dance with the bride or groom—in this case, usually no longer than 30 seconds. Popular songs of the day are played and gifting often gets creative with crowns, necklaces, and ties made of money.
Weddings in communist Cuba are usually nonreligious, civil ceremonies—and male wedding guests in this country execute a similar pay-to-play dance with the bride that's typical in many Latin American and European countries such as Poland, Bulgaria, and Greece. Money usually goes toward the lucky couple's honeymoon expenses.
Nigerians are known the world over for their raucous celebrations and boisterous partying. Perhaps unsurprisingly, wedding guests make it rain with the customary "money spray," which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. On the dance floor, the younger guests try to outdo one another's dance moves while older ones are less exuberant, but not when it comes to throwing out newly-minted bills in U.S. dollars, British pounds, and denominations of 500 to 1000 Naira (Nigerian currency). Appointed guests go around collecting money from the floor, but it can quickly turn into a free-for-all wherein some guests feel welcome to take their share of the spoils.
The money dance, or sabitan ng pera (which, funnily enough, translates to "money laundering"), is pretty required at a Filipino wedding, and in some small villages, the peso-pinning can last up to three hours. A woven lei of money is usually placed around the couple's neck and guests also pin cash to the newlywed couple's clothing.
The taualuga is a traditional ceremonial dance that's sacred to the Samoan people. (It has also been adopted by much of western Polynesia, including Tonga.) Traditionally performed solo, it usually signals the finale of a big evening out—and it's always a major deal at Samoan wedding receptions as the bride is likely to have practiced it all her life, in preparation for this occasion. During the dance, guests lafo, or throw money into the air or onto the floor while the bride shows off her moves while balancing an elaborate headpiece—and then it's time to eat.