The Wedding Money Dance in Central and Southeast Europe
Throughout the central and southern regions of Europe, where marriages are elaborate occasions that can last for several days, the wedding money dance is a highly anticipated part of the festivities. The tradition likely evolved from a European custom that required guests to pay the accordion player to enter the wedding reception.
Known as the Czepek, the money dance is meant to help the young couple finance their honeymoon. Guests dance with the bride and groom by pinning money onto their clothing, and then they circle the couple and toss money into the veil. The custom became especially popular in U.S. immigrant communities in the early 1900s, which is a big reason why the money dance is often erroneously reported as originating in Poland.
Traditionally, the Greek money dance is held right before the couple leaves the reception. The maid of honor is responsible for collecting and safeguarding the cash the couple makes. After the dancing wraps up, the guests encircle the bride, who waits patiently as her dashing groom tries to bust through the throng. Once he finally rescues his fair maiden, he throws her over his shoulder and carries her to the getaway car, amidst the cheering crowd, to start their honeymoon.
As guests arrive at an Italian wedding reception, they slip an envelope filled with cash into a little purse that the bride carries around on her wrist. The typically white buste is made of satin and embellished with pearls or rhinestones. During some point in the night, every male guest is expected to dance with the bride and contribute their share to the nest egg fund.
Spanish brides are presented with gifts of money during the Sequidillas Manchegas. It is rare for grooms to participate in the traditional dance.
At Ukrainian weddings, the father of the bride begins the money dance by pinning a bill to his daughter’s dress. After the best man and then groomsmen have a turn, the other male guests are invited to offer their congratulations. Some brides opt to wear an apron with pockets instead of using straight pins.
Rather than pinning money onto the bride, male guests at a Yugoslavian wedding discreetly hand their cash gift to the best man, who is charged with safeguarding the money for the entire night.
Alongside the traditional money dance, Macedonian newlyweds host the pig dance. Roasted whole and placed upon a silver platter, the couple carries the swine from table to table thanking each guest for attending. In return, the guests throw money onto the platter as their way of wishing the newlyweds good fortune and prosperity in their marriage.