It’s a puzzling and often controversial wedding etiquette question!

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Getty Images / Damian Strohmeyer

It’s a fascinating wedding tradition that often causes much debate among family members and friends. What exactly is the controversial “dollar dance” you may ask? If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s simply a time at wedding receptions when female guests dance with the groom, and male guests dance with the bride – for a small price. The practice requires a donation for the honor of dancing with the newlyweds. Usually the donation is $1, hence the term dollar dance but many wedding guests give much more. It’s normally a fun and interactive part of the wedding reception; guests either pin money on the newlyweds, put it in a purse that the maid of honor holds, or toss it in the air around the couple.

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The history of the dollar dance can actually be traced back to several different cultural customs. In Greece, throwing money around the bride and groom is one aspect of a dance called the “kalamatiano” and in Nigeria the tradition is referred to as the “money spray”. However, it’s widely thought that the practice of pinning money on the bride during the wedding reception originated in Poland. Today in the United States, the dollar dance is often considered to be a Cajun custom, but many people across the country have embraced and accepted the tradition. Typically, the donation is a symbol or gesture of well wishes for the newly married couple.

So, why is the “dollar dance” sometimes considered to be tacky? In cultures where the tradition isn’t a normal wedding reception practice, it can be viewed as a public way of requesting a cash gift. After family and friends have already spent money on wedding gifts, shower gifts, and possible travel costs, some find the dollar dance to be in bad taste – even if it is optional. On the contrary, in some communities the tradition is not only accepted, but it’s also encouraged. Like the majority of social customs or cultural practices, what might seem tacky to one group of people may be incredibly significant to another. Ultimately, it’s the bride and groom’s choice, right?