I’ve been to dozens of weddings and receptions. Like most people, I enjoy watching the bride dance with her dad and the groom with his mom. It is a sweet moment between two people who share such a special bond. But the father-daughter and mother-son dances are not usually included among the “highlights” when people talk about the reception afterward.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, when my niece Allison and my brother-in-law David DeCelle put their own stamp on the father-daughter tradition when Allison married Eric Connors on Oct. 1. Al and David both love to dance and are not afraid to put on a show, which they did at River Stone Manor in Scotia.
I smiled when the music to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” started playing and they began dancing to it. It is the signature song of the movie “Dirty Dancing,” which was released in 1987 — the year Allison was born. It was her favorite movie — along with “Edward Scissorhands” — when she was growing up. That made the song all the more sentimental.
At one point, Al and David seemed ready to re-enact the move in which Jennifer Grey runs, leaps into Patrick Swayze’s arms and gets lifted above his head — only to stop short. They resumed their dance as the crowd roared its approval. When the music suddenly shifted to the polka ditty “Just Because,” everyone laughed and applauded as they realized this wouldn’t be your normal father-daughter dance. An Italian folk dance, the “Tarantella,” followed the polka.
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Other songs and dances followed. For us watching, it was like opening presents at Christmas, enjoying one surprise after another.
The Dirty Dancing segment was the longest and, David said, “the hardest to do. The polka was easy because we polka a lot. The Italian dance was easy. We picked that right up.”
Next up, a short snippet from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and an even shorter turn with “Big Butts.” “We’re big Michael Jackson fans,” Allison said, plus the dance was an opportunity “to show off.”
Yeah, but what about “I Like Big Butts?” “That was her joke,” David said, adding “She always said she had one growing up.”
A quick “Blues Brothers” routine was next, then that morphed into the finale, the poignant “Butterfly Kisses.”
“I was a huge fan of the ‘Blues Brothers,’ and she used to watch that with me,” David said.
As for “Butterfly Kisses,” the Bob Carlisle song from 1997, Allison said: “When it came out, my mom said, ‘That’s the song you have to dance to at your wedding some day.’ They often sang it to me when I went to bed.”
The seven-part dance ended after more than five minutes. Along the way, it brought applause, hoots and hollers, laughter and tears.
“The funny thing was them getting a standing ovation. I’d never seen that at a wedding,” said the bride’s grandmother Sandy McBride. Grandfather Tom McBride Sr. added: “More people said they hadn’t seen anything like it.”
“Everyone said it was awesome. It was good to hear them [cheering], to know your hard work paid off and that people had fun with it," Allison said. “I could hear everyone screaming [their approval]. I was just trying not to trip over my dress because everyone was going crazy.”
Father and daughter didn’t invent the concept. Other people have done their own special wedding dances. “It was different watching it later.” Allison said. “It was funny to see other people’s dances and ours to see how they’re different.
“It was unique to us,” said Allison, who admitted that father and daughter planned to do something special from the moment she became engaged to Eric. “It was something that had meaning. It was something that we enjoy doing. We like to dance.”
The music was selected from David’s iPod, and the two shared the choreography. They practiced three or four times before the wedding, dodging furniture and the island in the kitchen as they perfected their moves.
“When we talked about it, every song we did had meaning to us. The order mattered. And it was all stuff we’d danced before,” David said.
Groom Eric was one of the few people who knew what his bride and father-in-law had in store. So what did he think?
“My thought was as long as my mom and I could go first, I was OK with it. I wouldn’t want to follow that up! They only practiced about three times. I was a little worried [they couldn’t pull if off], but it came out great.”
“It took away attention from my poor dancing,” he joked.
“I don’t look back and wish we had done a traditional dance, because this fit us,” David said. “And besides, we finished with a traditional song.”
“I wanted to make it [the wedding] as personal as possible,” Allison said. “I wanted people to say ‘That’s Al and Eric.’ I didn’t want it to be like any other wedding they’d been to.”
It was indeed a personal wedding. And people who attended are still talking about the father-daughter dance.