The vows are complete – CHECK
We have tons of great photos – CHECK
Dinner was delicious – CHECK
The cake is cut – CHECK
The Dance floor is full – Check??
When it comes to creating a great wedding reception to be enjoyed by you, your family, and friends, there are a few things the happy couple should keep in mind. Believe it or not, there is actually a science behind a successful dance floor at wedding receptions. If you and your fiancé are on a mission to end your wedding reception with a full dance floor, you have a little more work to do than choosing songs. Believe it or not, the Happy Couple has more to do with the success of the dance floor than any other single factor!
It’s true. The fact is that wedding guests are normally only interested in doing that the COUPLE is doing. If the couple has no interest in dancing – guess what? Neither do the guests.
If you want to keep your guests entertained throughout the night, here are 10 Tips that can help create the best wedding reception experience for them:
Plan the open dancing portion of the evening to be 2-hours or less.
Not only will you have a better chance of keeping more people on the dance floor longer, but those who may normally burn out early might surprise you and remain on the floor all night! When the dance floor goes longer than 2-hours, guests will eventually get too tired and leave the party early… and nobody wants a half-empty dance floor at the end of the night. As a rule – Leave them wanting More!
The couple MUST stay “On or Near” the dance floor throughout the entire open dance portion of the evening.
Wedding guests are generally shy to begin with as they are entering a party where they do not likely know may of the attendees. They do, however, know one or both of the newly married couple – so whatever the couple is interested in doing, is more likely what the guests are interested in doing. In fact, the first 30-45-minutes of open dancing is the most crucial point in time where the couple can determine if their guests are going to dance or not – and I cannot count how many times I have opened a dance floor at a wedding reception only to find that the photographer just “stole” the couple for additional photos half-way into the first dance song – and by the time they return to the dance floor, more than HALF of the guests have already left the party! As a rule If you disappear early – so will your guests! (they probably think you started your honeymoon early)
Do not start your outdoor dance party too early
Starting an outdoor dance party too early, especially while the sun is still shining, is often the worst way to get guests dancing. Why? Because people, in general, do not like dancing in bright light. This is just a reality. People are generally apprehensive about dancing in the first place – now turn on all the lights and you’ve just sent most of them running away looking for a dark corner – or worse – leaving your party too early! Consider starting your event later and shorten it up a bit. Rule of thumb – if you have 80-guests or less, your ideal wedding ceremony, reception and dance floor should total 4.5 – 5-hours. If you have more than 150 guests, 5.5 – 6-hours for ceremony, reception, and dancing is ideal. If you and your friends want more dancing – plan a shuttle to an after-party at a local bar or club.
Choose upbeat, mostly-recognizable music for cocktail and dinner hours
Think FIRST about your audience. I see this all the time; a couple just loves a certain style of music that puts most people to sleep! They happily crank out their Spotify playlist, loaded with tracks that the general population won’t recognize, and then…. eventually….. “zzzzzzzzzzz.”
Then – after agonizing through 2+ hours of sleepy Emo, Jazz, or Classical music, they expect their guests to just “JUMP UP” and start dancing! Not gonna happen! Sorry. As a rule, mix in at least 50% recognizable upbeat tunes with your unique tastes of music and share a “little” of your styles with your guests.
If you do not dance, your guests will likely not dance either
If you are not dancers yourselves, why are you planning an event that ends with a dance party? A wedding reception should reflect “your” ideal party and if your “ideal party” does not include dancing, perhaps you should rethink your timeline.
For example, if you are both gamers, maybe consider having a board game challenge for the last couple hours of the evening while your DJ keeps the mood upbeat and exciting. Maybe a tournament-style evening with prizes for winners. Talk to your MC/DJ and create an event that will be fun for everyone – even if it does not include dancing. This is a great way to include everybody and keep them at your event longer! (as long as we are not playing “Cards Against” with your grandparents).
If you Do dance – Encourage your guests to do the same!
OK – so maybe you are both dancers. The rules above still apply regarding where you need to be. If the dance floor is open – stay on the dance floor. Even the most shy wedding guests are 80% more likely to dance if the newly married couple is dancing. Why? Because they want to do what YOU are doing! Let your guests know that there will be dancing. It may go without saying for most, but including a timeline with your invitation that clearly shows “Dancing” is a great way for your guests to plan ahead. I have also seen some super fun signs placed around an event encouraging dancing as well.
Make More Money with a Money Dance
OK – So this is kind of related to open dancing as I often use a Money Dance to loosen up the dance floor prior to opening it up for the evening. Although we only see roughly 50% of our weddings include a money dance, tacky or not, it is a great way to get guests on the dance floor. Best single piece of advice to get more money: include an event timeline in your wedding invitation that clearly shows “MONEY DANCE.” Many guests may see this as an opportunity to bring along some extra “Benjamins” in lieu of buying a gift. Keep in mind that most folks do not carry much cash with them these days. So unless you have your Venmo or PayPal account open and active, if you don’t inform your guests ahead of time to bring a little coin, they may not have anything extra to donate to the Honeymoon fund.
A couple final notes on a Money Dance
– Keep the Music Upbeat and Fun – There is nothing worse than slow dancing with your relatives – (creepy). Also, let your Photographer and DJ know to encourage guests to join the money dance to get a great “one-on-one” photo with you and your spouse! (sneaky, huh?) – And finally, most important – do the Money Dance BEFORE the cake is cut if at all possible. Some people are just going to sneak out of your party – and the cutting of the cake is the “unofficial invitation” for some people to leave. Don’t let those wallets walk away too early!
Children can make a dance floor fall flat
(You are welcome to disagree with me on this, I am only speaking from personal experience from hundreds of weddings)
Watching kids dance can be entertaining – it can also be why the majority of your guests are not dancing. As mentioned in previous blogs, “kids do not like weddings.” Unfortunately, when kids are part of an adult event, they can often either become a burden to their parents – or become a distraction to your wedding guests. When parents are busy watching their kids dance, they stand or sit along side the dance floor and clap and cheer them on – and even ask the DJ to play silly kids songs. As a result, those adults who would normally want to dance, end up just watching the kids “take over” the dance floor – and often decide to pack up early and leave your wedding!
I’m not saying that dressing up the kiddies in tiny tuxes and delicate dresses for a ceremony is out. However, couples should consider, that unless they are restricting children from their wedding, that they “spring” for a couple baby sitters to handle the kids in a location away from the reception. Letting kids run around a reception is a sure-fire way to prevent your dance floor from ever filling up.
A final note on kids and outdoor wedding venues
I see this at least 20 times a year; a wedding of 100 guests and 15 kids at an outdoor venue with flowing streams, decking, bridges, and a coy fish pond. Unfortunately, this invites so many problems if the kids are not supervised. I’ve personally witnessed kids falling into the pond, slipping off rocks in the river, get injured, throwing rocks at the coy fish, and running at full-speed around the wood decks during speeches. If you are throwing a kid-friendly wedding, plan ahead for their supervision, consider a babysitter, plan kid-friendly food for an off-site dinner, and think hard about whether or not you would like a full dance floor with your adult friends.
Place the Bar and photo booth near the dance floor
Keep your guests near the dance floor. If you place your Photo Booth or Bar too far away or in another room, you will likely lose your dance floor at some point in the evening. Additionally, the second a couple runs to the photo booth or bar – guess what? Guests follow them! (wedding guests are like lost little dogs) Work with your DJ and coordinator to place the bar and photo booth close to the dance floor to encourage guests to remain dancing as long as possible.
Let your Professional DJ do what they do best – DJ
OK – So most of us do not want to hear the Chicken Dance at our wedding. That is understandable. However, while “you” may be tired of popular dance party songs like the Cupid Shuffle or Cha Cha Slide, they may just be what your guests need to get up and dancing. Placing otherwise popular songs on your DO NOT PLAY LIST can prevent your DJ’s ability to read your crowd and play the best track for the moment.
Yes, it IS your party, but remember that you are hiring a professional DJ to entertain your Guests on your behalf – so you might want to “suck it up” and join a group dance early in the evening to help your guests stay on the dance floor longer. You hired several professionals to assist with your dream wedding day and your DJ likely prides themselves on the ability to read a dance floor and keep the energy going for at least 90-min to 2-hours. Giving them a list of songs that you are certain will bring your guests to the dance floor is great, but don’t overwhelm your DJ with too many selections. Allow your dance floor be a little organic and let your DJ take requests and help keep it flowing so it ends on a high note!
Whenever we meet with a couple prior to booking their event, we always ask what their expectations are regarding the D/MC and entertainment for the event. Most of the time, they are expecting that their family and friends will certainly want to dance. If that’s the case, just be certain to ask yourselves the questions above.
Planning ahead is the BEST way to keep your guests entertained and enjoying your wedding to the fullest!