A detailed guide to cultural dancing at weddings across the world; from Europe to Africa and beyond.

People love to dance, and, its typical at weddings across the world to incorporate dancing of some sort – whether it be to a live band, a DJ or a traditional musial accompaniment. In the UK we commence the evening party with a ‘first dance’ performed by the newlywed couple, but in some cultures, dancing traditions can take quite a different approach. Below, we share wedding dancing traditions taken from cultures around the globe.

Jewish Dance Traditions at Weddings

Dancing is a major feature at Jewish weddings. Rather than the newlywed couple taking centre stage, it is customary for wedding guests to entertain the newlyweds by dancing in front of them.

Traditional Jewish wedding dances include:

  • The Krenzl  – The bride’s mother is crowned with a wreath of flowers as her daughters dance around her.
  • The Mizinke – The parents of the bride or groom dance together when their last child is wed.
  • The “Horah” is a Middle Eastern/Israeli style of dance usually played as a second dance set.
  • The gladdening of the bride – guests dance around the bride, using items such as signs, banners, costumes, confetti, and jump ropes made of table napkins.
  • The Mitzvah tantz – Family members and rabbis are invited to dance in front of the bride, and then dance with the groom. At the end, the bride and groom dance together themselves.

Irish Wedding Dance Traditions

At Irish weddings, it is traditional for a ceilidh dance to be performed with a traditional ceilidh band; a ceilidh is a traditional Irish set dance. Some ceilidh dances are named after locations in Ireland such as the ‘Kerry Set’ and the ‘Seige of Ennis’ and some waltz tunes include names such as ‘Galway Shawl’ or ‘Home to Mayo’. A lot of couples choose songs to reflect their family’s heritage or ancestral home.

Scottish Wedding Dancing Traditions

Scottish wedding reception parties kick off with the bride and groom dancing a traditional reel. The bride’s second dance is reserved for the person of the highest rank amongst the guests and by the third dance, the newlywed couple are typically joined by their wedding guests. A Sword Dance is usually performed as the last dance and guests then gather in a circle and sing the well known, traditional song, Auld Lang Syne.

African-American Traditional Wedding Dances

African-American weddings have a tradition called ‘Jumping the Broom’. This custom is believed to have originated in the Deep South during the American Civil War when slave weddings were not permitted. In an effort to develop an alternative ceremony, the slaves incorporated jumping over a broom to possibly symbolise jumping from single life to married life or maybe even sweeping away the old to welcome the new.
Find your own meaning for this practice and make it personal to you, why not consider substituting a different item for the broom? We have heard of some cultures using a sword, a decorated pole (like a maypole) and even a row of flowers.


Dancing Traditions at Russian Weddings

According to tradition, the Russian game ‘Paying the Ransom’, starts when the groom enters and asks to see his Bride. The bride’s family goes to get her but actually bring back another woman, (or preferably a man in drag). However, their face is concealed behind a thick veil. When the Groom discovers the deceit, he must pretend to be distraught and beg to see his true love. Then the fun begins! The groom must persuade the captors of his bride to release her by performing silly songs and dances. The bride’s family demands a ransom – vykup nevesty – for her release.

Harper’s Top Tip:

Whether you are born into cultural customs or marrying into the family, make sure to keep it special to you both and don’t forget to showcase your personalities.