To Dance or Not to Dance….That is the Question!

June 2nd, 2010

Dear Dr. Liz:

If planning our wedding hasn’t been complicated enough! Now, add to that mix, weird family stuff on both sides of the equation. We have been able to navigate all the particulars but one: the first dance at our reception. After we dance as a new married couple, then the bride is supposed to dance with her father and the groom is supposed to dance with his mother. Well, I am closer to my step-dad than my dad but I have always dreamed of that moment being with my bio-dad for some reason, and that has hurt my step-dad’s feelings. Furthermore, my mother-in-law is upset because she wants us to dance to a song that has been a wedding tradition in their family for years. It’s a song that means nothing to me so I don’t want to use it! Please help me…………….


Dear Sara~

I’m impressed you’ve already made it to the first dance! That must mean you’ve already negotiated some other rough waters considering your family dynamics, more common than not among today’s family celebrations.dancing couple

Be willing to pull back and look at the big picture in its entirety. Deciding on the particulars of this important first dance involve your values as a couple, your family constellations, as well as your sensitivity to the feelings and values of the others involved. To help avoid this special event turning into the dreaded dance of doom, here are two tips to keep in mind:

Core Values Determine Decisions

When decisions are based on values, you avoid giving into the demands of the loudest protester. Talk to your step-dad about why you made your decision, i.e., it has always been your dream to dance with your father following dancing with your new husband, and perhaps it might just be your way of beginning anew with your dad. Let step-dad know how important he is to you and tell him how sad you are that he feels hurt by your decision, however,  you appreciate his willingness to try and support you.

Each Partner Deals With Their Parents

When disagreements arise, have blood talk to blood. If a decision has been made and people are upset, do not cross family lines; in-law relationships are too fresh and vulnerable. You do not bring to the table with your in-laws the history, loyalty, or battle scars of surviving thousands of past family conflicts needed for soothing wedding-related tension. Have your husband-to-be talk to his mother about her feelings. If your future mother-in-law approaches you directly about her preferences on the dancing details, refer her back to her son to discuss. (You didn’t mention how your fiancé feels about not using his family’s traditional song….make certain you know how he really feels about this before moving ahead.) Even if you both agree, please keep in mind that the price to pay for offending your new mother-in-law just may not be worth it. You are setting the stage for the rest of your married life on how you deal with disagreements, both as a couple and with your families.

What questions do you have for Dr. Liz, about your upcoming wedding or relationship concerns?