What Is a Father Daughter Dance?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A father daughter dance can be defined in several ways. It may be an actual dance event that a daughter and her father attend together. There are many such events that are organized by schools to allow girls to spend time with their dads. Such events may be similar to a prom, with dinner served and plenty of dancing throughout the night. Father daughter dances are common, especially in the upper grades of many Catholic schools and emphasize the special relationship between girls and their dads (or another significant male figure like a granddad or an uncle).

A formal wedding reception may not feature dancing of any sort.
A formal wedding reception may not feature dancing of any sort.

Another type of dance that has been gaining in recognition is the purity ball. These are dances similar to other father daughter dances, but emphasis is often on the girl pledging her purity (virginity) until such time as she is old enough to marry. The father is viewed as protective of the chastity and innocence of the daughter and these dances can again be like proms.

Unlike the father dance at schools, purity balls raise eyebrows, especially in the mainstream media. Some find the “romantic” qualities of these balls to be inappropriate for fathers and children to share. Others find these balls a fantastic way for fathers to affirm their commitments to protect their daughters.

When some people discuss the father daughter dance, what they are really describing is the wedding dance that may take place between the daughter and her father on the daughter’s wedding day. In many circles it is traditional for the bride and her father to have the first dance together, and either during that dance or shortly thereafter, the father relinquishes his daughter to her new husband. These dances are often emotional and memorable.

In this dance, the father is losing his protective role of his daughter and purposefully assigning it to his new son-in-law. Whether the daughter is 18 or 50, the idea of giving her care over to another can be lovely and yet somewhat sad. Not all weddings feature a father daughter dance and some feel that, like the purity balls, the idea of the daughter being in some way “owned” by the father is a step back for feminism. Plenty of feminists though, do see this dance as simply an expression of the relationship between dads and their daughters and have no objection to this symbol.

Lots of discussion and thought can go into planning a wedding father daughter dance. Choice of music is important, and if you really want to please dad, choose a song that he likes. You may find a song that provides meaning to both partners of the dance or that may reflect on the transition at hand. Dances are typically slower dances and music should be a slower tempo to reflect this.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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We are Catholic and my 13 year old daughter and dad went to a purity ball at our parish last year. It was a formal event. The husband wore a tux and the daughter wore a cute poofy pink floor length dress with a matching hair wreath, white tights and pink Maryjane shoes. To add to her purity and innocence, I did a cloth diaper and pink rubber pants on her under her tights. She looked gorgeous in the outfit and pledged her purity to dad until her marriage.

She told me afterwards that quite a few of the other girls there also had a diaper and rubber pants under their dresses as well, so she wasn't the only girl wearing them.


@MsClean – Wow, I’m in tears just thinking about that. Unfortunately it won’t work for our daughter’s wedding, none of the parties can sing. Besides we’ve already had a few arguments over the father daughter dance song as it is. I guess dancing at the wedding with dad is becoming a thing of the past as new brides don’t see the significance in it as much anymore.


My niece’s wedding was the most beautiful father daughter dance I had ever seen. They sang a duet of Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” as they danced.

It was so touching especially when dad handed the microphone over to his son-in-law to finish the duet.

I swear the room was filled with puddles of tears by the end of the song. The father daughter first dance is always a heartfelt moment anyway and for the three of them to share the spotlight like that was so moving.

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