Ah, the daddy daughter dance. Whether in school or at a wedding reception, there is something strangely nostalgic about the idea. Even if you never had one of these yourself—and even if that was due to an absent dad—the idea of a daddy daughter dance easily calls to mind an old-timey dad with his daughter standing on the tops of his laced shoes. A father’s affection for his daughter has a special magic to it; he is the greatest personification of a child’s protector or guardian.
At least, that’s what many school administrators think.
In schools, dads have a chance to accompany their daughters to a daddy daughter event, one of a variety of school activities that encourages families to spend time with their children at school. It’s one of many popular standards to engage students and their families.
Weddings have their own daddy daughter dance, too, though it’s an even older and seemingly obligatory tradition. Used to open the reception dancing, the idea is that the father has one last dance with his girl before she lands in the arms of her hubs.
We’re getting closer to the 2020s, and it’s safe to say this is definitely a 21st-century world. With all the family models out there, do these daddy daughter dances have a place anymore? There are plenty of houses with two dads or two moms, and divorces that make for two of each with step parents.
In terms of community inclusiveness, perhaps it’s more important to talk about the single-mom households where there’s no other partner around to “play Dad.” Are daddy daughter dances offensive to the moms who have to play both roles all the time?
Daddy daughter dances in schools
You’d think that with all the divorce and non-traditional households, the grade school daddy-daughter spree would have fallen out of fashion. And, in fairness, in many communities it has. It still marches boldly forward in other communities, however, and lots of girls and moms are put into awkward places because of it.
Daddy daughter dances at school are a celebration of closeness between dads and their daughters. They’re also a way for the school to engage families, and give the kids something fun to look forward to. However, as they are school-wide events, anyone without the appropriate “Dad” to take along will automatically be left out.
Our verdict is that the joy brought to the girls and dads who are able to participate does not make the pain it inflicts on the left-out kids “OK.” The school should never be the promoter of ideas that make children feel excluded. Until there are dances to celebrate step parents, gay parents, and the single-mom Rockstar parents that play “Mom” AND “Dad,” it will not be the larger community that schools are promoting.
Father daughter dances at weddings
Whether or not this father daughter dance is patriarchal, at least as an adult the bride can decide if she wants to participate in a tradition for tradition’s sake. The father daughter dance at wedding receptions is a custom that refers back to the idea that the father of the bride is giving his daughter away—much like he does when he walks her down the aisle. Some brides find these traditions charming without a second thought, and some find them dated and unnecessary. The father daughter dance at the wedding has two advantages, however, which students in grade schools don’t:
- In recent years, it’s become more popular that the groom also dance with his mother. This helps to soften the “datedness” of the father daughter dance and even the playing field a little.
- Everyone plans their own wedding—so if the bride wants a father daughter dance, she canl have it. School dances don’t give students this luxury, because the dance happens whether or not they have a father figure to accompany them.
Daddy daughter school dances have become terribly dated, while father daughter wedding dances “are what they are.”
If the primarily purpose of a school dance is to engage families and create events for students to look forward to, grade schools need to broaden their horizons. Why should an event for girls be a dance in the first place? Is the only thing that girls have to look forward to a chance to wear dresses and their mom’s make-up? Until daddy daughter events include things like paintball battles (or until these events include girls from all types of families), they will remain dated.
The father daughter wedding dance has retained its charm, particularly with the comedic relief of dads and daughters who go so far as to choreograph great party songs. And with the introduction of the groom dancing with his mother, too, the whole thing has become more about parents and their kids and less about seeing the daughter and bride as property.