Wedding Money Dance: An Anticipated Reception Tradition

The Wedding Money Dance is a Fun Way to Build a Nest Egg

Young bride with money attached to dress.
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The money dance is referred to by a number of names, including the dollar dance and the apron dance, depending on the ethnic customs. In exchange for a few fun-filled seconds whirling around the dance floor with the bride or groom, guests can either pin cash on the newlywed couple's clothing, toss coins into the bride's shoes or tuck bills into a dainty satin satchel that the bride wears around her wrist.

The money dance receives a lot of criticism from brides and grooms who are unfamiliar with the cultural custom. However, in many traditions, guests eagerly anticipate the moment, lining up for song after song until they get their intimate moment. It is not uncommon for guests to wait until this time to present the newlyweds with their wedding gift, slipping them some cash to help build a nest egg for their future dreams. It is equally likely that a guest will pin a $1, $5 or $100 bill on the bride's dress or the groom's tux. 

Many sources mistakenly credit the tradition with originating in the Polish community in the early 1900s. In fact, the money dance has been a celebrated wedding ritual for centuries in dozens of cultures around the world, ranging from the U.S. to South America to Europe. 

United States

In the U.S., the money dance is a regional tradition that is most prevalent throughout the Southern and Midwestern states.

American brides from Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma to Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin all report that the money dance is an important part of the local reception rituals. Typically, the dance takes place toward the end of the formal festivities, after the cake-cutting and bouquet toss but before the majority of the guests leave.

Other times, it is saved for the last dance, right before the newlyweds leave for their honeymoon.

The best man usually kicks off the festivities by pinning money on the bride's dress while the maid of honor dances with the groom. The best man and maid of honor are also responsible for handing out the pins and sending in new partners every few seconds -- just long enough for the guests to offer their congratulations and the bride and groom to thank them for coming.

Pacific Islander

  • Philippines
    The wedding money dance, or Saya ng Pera, is almost a requirement at Filipino weddings. To kick off the boisterous peso-pinning party game, which can last for up to three hours in some small villages, a woven lei of money is usually placed around the couple's neck. Although most guests prefer to pin the money to the newlywed couple's garments, it is also common for them to place rolled-up bills or an envelope of cash in the bride's mouth to symbolize good fortune. Most couples opt to play traditional Filipino folk music or popular love songs.

    During the bitor, the newlyweds are showered with money and guests toss bills and coins into a plate in exchange for wine that is served by the bride and groom. The change is gathered into a handkerchief then passed to the groom, who ceremoniously hands it over to his bride.
    • Samoa and Tonga
      Samoans and Tongans view the taualuga as an essential ritual for most ceremonial events, so the blessing custom is almost always included at weddings. Guests lafo by throwing money into the air around the couple as they dance while the bride tries to balance an elaborate headpiece.

      "The taualuga symbolizes the conclusion of a monumental task and the beautifying final touches involved," explains Sean Malone in his book, "Samoan Arts and Artists." "The dance is frequently performed as the grand finale."

    South America

    The money dance is celebrated in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico in much the same way as it is in the U.S.

    • Puerto Rico
      In Puerto Rico, the guests remove the capias pins from a doll that is outfitted identical to the bride. After the guests claim their souvenir charms, the doll is placed at the head table as a symbol of good luck for the couple's future children.
      • Mexico
        In some parts of Mexico, it is the job of the groomsmen to ridicule the groom by dressing him in an apron, placing a veil upon his head and tossing him into the air after the money dance. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are also responsible for presenting the newlyweds with 13 silver or gold arrhae coins.

      Continued: More Wedding Money Dance Traditions