The traditional mother/groom dance is one that is steeped in emotion. The groom dances with his mother and the bride's mother at a pre-determined time during the reception. There are times when special circumstances must be considered, including when the mother is not present or in the case of blended families.
According to The First Dance, one of the reasons for the first dance is to present the married couple in their new union. The subsequent dancing with the parents and in-laws are to celebrate the bittersweet moment of a parent acknowledging their child's new status and the two families becoming one.
Order of Events
Diane Warner’s book "Contemporary Guide to Wedding Etiquette" notes the parents' dances should take place after the traditional bride and groom's first dance. After the couple dances to "their song" the bride's father usually cuts in to dance with his daughter and the groom dances with his mother.
Next, the groom's father dances with the bride and the bride's mother dances with the groom. The dancing continues with the best man dancing with the bride and the groom dancing with the maid or matron of honor. The partner swapping continues until everyone in the bridal party has danced and the floor is officially open.
Not all weddings follow the dance protocol through the entire wedding party; Our Marriage suggests the bride and groom may alter the schedule to fit their needs.
First Dance suggests couple with blended families, deceased parents, etc., may substitute whom they dance with during the traditional parent's dance. They can chose to dance with a different relative or complete the dance with two partners, for example, in the case of a step-mother and mother or mother and close grandmother relationship. It is also stressed that the bride and groom work out any possible conflict before the wedding day.
Bridal Guide suggests it is not necessary to have the mother/groom dance or any dancing at all. Wedding receptions eliminate the mother/groom dance for a variety of reasons. Some couples-to-be have complicated family backgrounds. Parents may not approve of the union, which would make the dance awkward. There may be parents who have divorced and remarried and both the step-parent and the biological parent are important to the couple. For the groom, picking which parent to dance with could cause emotional strife.
Other couples simply want to eliminate the special dances to get to the open dancing portion of the reception. Whether the special dances are kept or eliminated is strictly up to the couple-to-be.
When picking out a song for the mother/groom dance, it's important to pick a song the mother knows. The experts at Wedding Aces say because there is often so much going on during the wedding reception, if a surprise song is not one that the mother knows, she will probably not be able to comprehend the lyrics during the dance.
Wedding Aces also advises that while asking the parent involved about a song choice is a nice gesture, the groom may end up with a song that isn't meaningful to him. When in doubt, ask your DJ or band leader for suggestions.