A very good way to make your wedding unique and unforgettable is to make sure everybody danced through the night. During my years of playing at weddings, I think I have a good idea of what can contribute to a full dance floor.
The make sure people will dance at your wedding reception you need to hire a good and skilled wedding DJ and make sure that the atmosphere on the dance floor is good. The dance floor needs to have the right size and it needs to be dark enough. It is also important that the newly married couple is on the floor as much as possible so everybody will be eager to dance.
But there is a lot more to cover. Consider the following 22 facts on how to boost your dance floor and make sure your guests are dancing on your wedding party.
At the end of this article, you can find a CHEAT SHEET with a list out and summery of all the topics I’m going to explain.
Be sure to read this complete article and all the details first so you understand where it is all about.
- Introduction / Know your guests
- Hire the Right DJ
- The Right Music for Everyone
- Make sure you DANCE!
- The perfect Dance floor
- Do it Yourself? Bad idea for dancing
- DJ: Take Requests!
- Hire a Live Band
- Warm up the guests during dinner
- The Hour of the Day
- The Day of the Week
- Avoid Dance Floor Interruptions
- Avoid Slow Songs (or use them wisely)
- Reduce The Lights
- Have some Smoke
- Remove The Chairs
- The Right Temperature
- Fill the Hungry Stomach
- Games to get Everyone on the Floor
- Alcohol Stimulates Dancing
- Have a babysit on board
- Party gadget
1. Introduction / Know your guests
I’ve played wedding parties that, from the first minute I opened the dance floor it was completely packed until the end of the party, very early in the morning.
But I also played parties where it was a big struggle to get and keep people on the floor! The empty dance floor was staring at me on multiple occasions.
It really depends on your guests and how much they like to dance.
If you know you and your guests are very eager to dance, I shouldn’t worry too much to get them on the floor. If the DJ knows what he is doing, it should work out just fine.
If you are in the second category… keep reading!
Some people never dance. This means there are people that will never dance. My Uncle Peter would never dance, even when his life would depend on it. If they dragged him on the floor, he would make 2 or 3 silly moves and run off again. Some people don’t dance and you will have to accept this.
If the majority of those people you invited are like that, well, it’s going to be tough for the DJ to fill the floor.
We are aiming at the people who do like to dance, but the environment and setting need to be perfect to win them over. This article is just about that. So relax, I got you covered. Keep reading.
2. Hire the Right DJ
Hire a good DJ. If you hire someone that doesn’t know what he’s doing, chances are that your precious dance floor will be empty for most of the time.
You should trust your DJ you are hiring that he has the skill and experience. You should have a good connection, and the feeling he understands what you want.
This article is not focused on how to find the right DJ for your wedding. Because there is A LOT to consider here. Soon I will release another article that talks about this in dept.
Bottom line: book a DJ that you trust and have faith in. If you don’t (because someone is insisting you let a member of the family do the work), chances it is going to go bad are pretty big.
3. The Right Music for Everyone
Age. What is the average age of the guests you invited? Are they more on the young side of life or have they seen a few winters? Be sure to communicate this to the DJ up front (well, if he is good and not blind, he should see this and act on it as well).
Balance the music right. The thing is, you can’t ask the DJ to only play hip-hop when the majority of your guests are all in their 50ties, wanting to dance on Disco or swing.
Genres. Not only age counts. People that like hard rock and metal won’t be dancing too much on Hip-Hop or techno. Make sure that the DJ is aiming for everyone at the party.
There are always exceptions. Some people like to dance on everything, and for sure they will. But as a general statement, it is wise to play music for all groups.
Aim for the girls. True fact: girls and women dance more and quicker than boys and men. Only when the right amount of alcohol is consumed, men do join the dance floor eventually,
If you don’t want to have an empty dance floor until everyone is half-drunk, it is wise to play the music that women like at the beginning of the party. Rage Against The Machine can come later on if needed.
What kind of music? Where is the list of songs to play?
You probably wonder why there isn’t a list of songs to play on your wedding. I think it is worthless, because it is very much dependent on the music taste, age and style of you and your guests. No wedding is the same, no dance floor is the same.
If it was that easy to just play of music where success is guaranteed, you wouldn’t need a DJ, would you?
So forget about googling ’50 songs to play on a wedding to get everyone dancing,’ It just doesn’t work because every group of people prefer different music to dance to.
I could show you two playlists from 2 different weddings I played. Both were a huge success with people dancing. And both have a complete different play list with very little songs in common.
That’s why you are hiring a professional DJ. It’s his job to figure this out at the moment, driven by your suggestions and requests. We’ll talk about requests later on this article.
You should talk with the DJ weeks before your wedding party and let him know what kind of music you like and what you think the guests will prefer.
Putting a list together with songs you want to hear on your wedding party and give this to the DJ, is a good idea.
Don’t push this, a list with 500 or 1000 songs is worthless, keep it below 20, so the DJ can actually play them.
4. Make sure you (the newly married couple) dance!
You have probably heard this one before but it is probably THE most important advice if you want to have a full dance floor for the whole night. If you expect from your guests that they will dance almost non-stop at your wedding party, then you HAVE to dance yourself as much as possible.
If you, as a couple, are not there on the dance floor, you can’t expect that people will. Guests will follow the couple. If you hang out more outside in the garden than dancing, chances are big that the majority of your guest will do the same.
So you have to give a good example and dance as much as possible. Of course, you can have a break to have a drink or have a talk. But the majority of the time at least one of you should be on the floor.
5. The Perfect Dance Floor
You need a dance floor. Are you hearing this? Yes, you need a dance floor. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Having a dance party without having a dance floor is… stupid, to say the least.
And yet, I have seen it over and over, where people just assume guests are going to dance where ever.
You need a dedicated spot. And it needs to be a good spot, inviting everyone to dance!
Position: In front of the DJ. I don’t know who is claiming that the dance floor can be everywhere but it is very wrong! The dance floor MUST BE in FRONT of the DJ, so he can see and constantly evaluate what course to take, what song to play next. If the DJ cannot see the dance floor, it’s going to be difficult.
Forget about stories that people will dance between the tables and behind the bar (or on top of it). It’s just not going to happen.
The Right size of the dance floor!
Click here to go to OUR AUTOMATIC DANCE FLOOR SIZE Calculator to determine how big your Dance Floor should be!
Not too small. The dance floor should be big enough to contain 40% to 50% of the guests at all time. Too small will be annoying.
Space overview (I suggest you use the calculator with link above)
|Traditional ballroom||25 square feet|
|Rock||12 square feet|
|Hip-hop/Top 40/modern/Dance||10 square feet|
Not too big. But much more important is a dance floor that is too big. If you can a floor where 200 people can fit, and you have 40 guests, it’s not going to be appealing to dance. I rather would advise having a dance floor that is a little too small than a dance floor that is way too big.
The venue isn’t too big? Make sure the room where the party is happening is not too big either. If you have a room where you can put 500 people in, and you are with 50, it’s going to feel cold and probably people won’t dance easily.
Not too slippery. Make sure no one is going to slide, fall and hurt themselves. If it is too dangerous, people won’t come and dance.
Flat & no obstacles. Speaks for itself, no?
It needs to be loud enough! This is a sensitive subject. The volume should be high enough to get the vibes and dance. If it is too low, nothing will happen too much. People won’t be triggered to dance.
We also don’t want to scare grandma away. People should still be able to talk a little further, away from the dance floor. The sweet spot is somewhere around 94 or 95 decibels. Of course, if you have a small room, you might want to lower it a bit.
We also have the legal implications. So unfortunately we don’t have the luxury to always play as loud as we want. Please check with your local authorities and the venue how loud you can play and make sure the DJ knows this. There might be some clear regulations how loud you can play.
Lights: It needs to be dark enough! We’ll talk about this later in this article.
6. Do it Yourself (DIY)? Bad idea for dancing!
People who think they can have music delivered with a Shopify playlist, and have a full dance floor the whole night… I need to disappoint you. Nothing can replace a skilled DJ to fill your dance floor. (Well, maybe a live band, but we’ll talk about this later…)
There are hundreds of reasons why a DJ is a much better option than your playlist, We won’t go into detail here, because this is a complete article on itself. But to name a few reasons:
- You have no idea what you are doing: Learning to DJ and read the dance floor takes literally years to master.
- A fixed playlist doesn’t work: it can’t respond to the energy on the dance floor. And even if it could, what genre would it pick?
- The music won’t be mixed, it will sound weird and boring. Please don’t tell me your playlist software is capable of automatically mix music… We can have a talk about it later if you want, but I’m really not impressed.
- There are a LOT more reasons. Just believe me: you want a packed dance floor? Hire a DJ!
If you are not really into dancing that much (but then I’m not sure why you are reading this article in the first place…) and you don’t mind that there will be limited dancing happening, it might be a good idea to just have a playlist running.
In any other occasions, drop the idea of doing it yourself, leave it to the professional and hire a DJ!
7. DJ: Take Requests!
The DJ should play your requests! Be sure to ask this question when you book your DJ.
In fact, requests are very good to learn what kind of music your guests want to hear. So it does make sense to ask upfront what your guests like, compile it in a list and hand this to the DJ.
But there is a pitfall… Some people don’t know anything about music. And for sure, they don’t know what they want to dance on! I got the weirdest requests over the years. If they really insisted on playing it (like when it was asked by the ones that are paying the bills…) nobody danced on it and left the dance floor. Also, not the person who requested it. Why would he? It was completely un-dance-able.
So are requests a good idea? Certainly, but the DJ should be skeptical of what to play, because for sure, the wrong request will whip out the dance floor, and that’s the last thing you want. After all, people should trust the DJ and his ability to play good and dance-able music.
8. The Live Band vs The DJ
So what would be better to stimulate dancing at your wedding reception, a DJ or a live band? Let’s see the pros and cons and discuss it.
The music repertoire. A DJ has virtually an endless resource of music. At least all the common songs in every genre should be in his possession. A band will have to stick on their playlist or at least what the musicians know and rehearsed together. So impromptu requests to a band are not really possible.
The risk of screw up. If a DJ isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box and his skill isn’t too great, it’s not going to be too great. We already talked about it that having a good DJ is key. Yet, he might be good enough to save the dance floor if he plays the right music, maybe based on requests from guests.
If the live band is bad, well, it’s going to be awful. If the singer can’t sing or everything sounds like a pile of poo, there is no recovering from that. So make sure you hear the band first before you book it!
The live vibe. Bands can interact much more with the guests. There is also something happening, a real performance. A DJ only services music. For sure, people will not dance right from the start. With a live band performing, this will be different
But it needs to be a party band! Just to be clear, I’m talking a hard-core party band that only play hits people can dance to. I’m not talking about the jazz band playing light music while people are eating. Nothing wrong with it, but people won’t be triggered to dance by it.
Best case: Book them both!
If your budget is big enough and you can afford it: book them both. First, start with the band in the evening (after dinner!) and let them play for 1 or 2 hours. After that, the DJ can step in and continue the party till late at night.
I have witnessed some great parties where a live band did the first part of the evening and I could continue for another 3 solid hours.
9. Warm up the guests during dinner
Some DJs make the mistake to play light jazzy music during dinner too long… until the point the guests are supposed to start dancing. This also means switching the volume from background music to the volume people can dance to, and that means a lot more volume.
The wall of sound and volume is too steep. Needless to say people will have to adapt a bit.
The solution? I slowly start increasing the volume, speed, and energy of the songs I play during dinner. Of course, I start with easy and jazzy stuff, but I will transition slowly to more up-tempo music, like disco.
Ideally, I play music that is still a little too slow to dance to, but people start shaking on their chairs. It’s called “warming up”.
So if your DJ is still playing Frank Sinatra and the end of dinner, it’s time to have a talk to him.
10. The Hour of the Day
People like to dance more in the evening or night than during day time. Yes, there are exceptions, and there can be a lot of dancing in a garden party.
Especially if you have a lot of older guests, they might prefer a slow dance of twist in the sun on a late afternoon.
Trust me, the real dance floor action will happen late at night. You want guests to dance a lot? Start your dance party late in the evening and push it through the night.
11. The Day of the Week
If you book your wedding party on a Tuesday evening, don’t be surprised that people will start leaving after dinner and will skip the dancing part.
Not everyone will take the next day off for work. They will probably have to bring their children to school…
If you want the party to go on long into the night, be sure to take a Friday, Saturday or a day before a public bank holiday.
12. Avoid Dance Floor Interruptions
Once the people start dancing, you should never interrupt them. It will kill the vibe.
Once I had to stop the dance floor because grandma wanted to read a poem she wrote. Where there is nothing wrong with this idea, it should have happened BEFORE people were dancing.
Afterward, I start playing music again, but the vibe was broken. Yes, people still danced but it wasn’t the same anymore. As a DJ I always recommend strongly against doing this.
Very important: don’t stop the dance floor for:
- Extra desserts,
- or cheese buffet,
- or a second hot meal,
- or stupid dances,
- or badly ranked acts,
- or ANYTHING,
Just don’t do it. Any act, story, play or whatever should happen BEFORE the guests start dancing. Also, don’t do anything that will distract or pull people away from the dance floor.
Moral of the story: once the dancing is started, DO NOT STOP THE MUSIC AND DO NOTHING TO PULL PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE FLOOR!
13. Avoid Slow Songs (or use them wisely)
I hear you yelling. “What about all those nice romantic slow songs on weddings? Can tell me I can’t have them?!” Relax, you can.
But the danger in slow songs is: They destroy the vibe!
Story: Close your eyes and put yourself on the dance floor, with your friends and family, dancing like crazy on your upbeat music you like. Hip hop, Rock, House, whatever you are into, it doesn’t matter. You are on the floor for 2 or 3 songs already, getting completely pumped up!
So next song that starts is “Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You” (R.I.P. Whitney – you were amazing!). A very good song, but an awful timing! Everybody will leave the dance floor angry because they were cut off.
I start a wedding with some slow and romantic love songs. Enough so everybody has the chance to do a few rounds. But when later on we’re pumping the good stuff, as long as people are full-blown dancing, I’m not playing any more romantic love songs!
At some point the energy will drop because people get tired jumping around. They will start to leave the dance floor to sit down and have a drink or go to the toilet. (“CLOSE THE TOILETS!” no, just kidding…) That is the moment when I play again a slow song. In no time the floor will be filled again.
So you want people to dance on your wedding party and have a good time? Don’t ask the DJ to play too many slow songs. It really kills the vibe. Only use it to refill the floor when people are getting tired and starting to leave the floor.
14. Reduce The Lights
One of the biggest enemies of the dance floor is light. Especially too much of it. Imagen you are trying to dance under a fluorescent tube. Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
But even warm and cozy light can disturb the dance floor. Too many up lights, candles, the light behind the bar, it can quickly become too bright. People are shy and don’t want to be watched too much (well, there are always exceptions…). Being in the dark is better for them.
Unless it’s 5 am and all remaining guests are probably drunk, they will continue to dance, even when the full lights are on and the cleaning team is on it.
Remember, the darker it is, the more people will dance. They don’t need to read their newsletters on the dance floor!
Of course, it’s important the DJ has a nice light show that lights up the floor enough. Because you do want to have at least some light there!
15. The Smoke
Turning off the lights is already good, but you can take it one step further with a smoke machine or hazer. It will camouflage the dancing people even more and it will actually show the light show.
Without smoke in the room, the laser lights are invisible in the air. You’ll see them only on the floor and walls. But with some smoke in the air, the effects are amazing and will for sure stimulate to dance!
Ask the DJ not to overdo it, as grandpa might become ill.
BE CAREFUL! Make sure it’s OK for the venue to use a smoke-machine! You don’t want to trigger the fire alarm!
16. Remove The Chairs
People like to sit down. But when the time is there to dance, too many chairs will make sure people will dance less.
Try to keep the younger generation on their feet. Preferably on or near the dance floor, they will dance much quicker.
High party tables placed near the dance floor, are a good solution to remove some chairs when it’s time to dance.
Be careful you don’t push this too far. If people can’t sit down to rest and have a break, they will be annoyed and may leave. Make sure there are enough chairs for the older people to sit down as well.
About 70 to 80% of available seating for all the guests feels about right. If you have a lot of older people, make sure they all can sit.
17. The Right Temperature
I think we all agree that too cold or too warm in general isn’t too great for any situation.
I think we can all agree that either too cold or too warm isn’t too great for anything. If it is too cold in the venue, people will leave early and go home. If it is too warm on the dance floor, they will be standing more outside than actually dancing.
Don’t make it too cold in the room so people will have to move and dance to get warmed up. In a professional ballet dance room this might be the case, but on a wedding, the temperature should be comfortable for everyone or people will start leaving.
The ideal temperature on the dance floor should be around 73 degrees F / 23 degrees C.
18. Fill the Hungry Stomach
Make sure people are not hungry, so they will have the energy to dance. Provide a late-night snack, but do it wisely. The last thing you want to happen is the DJ telling the guests there is a cheese buffet served in the other room. Guess what’s going to happen with the dance floor…
Serve some easy food that can be brought on the floor, so people can have a quick bite without leaving the floor. Chicken wings, sandwiches, some fries, as long as they can put it in their mouth while they keep shaking, we’re good.
19. Games to get Everyone on the Floor
I’m not talking about wedding games for bride and groom here. I’m talking about games to light up the dance floor. Games to get all guests on the dance floor and get them moving.
I always had mixed feelings towards games during dance parties. Sometimes they are unnecessary, annoying and scare people away from the dance floor. That’s quite the opposite of what we are trying to archive here. But sometimes they are a smart tool to get people dancing if the party doesn’t really take off on its own.
So if you are dealing with tough guests who are struggling to start dancing, the DJ could opt for a quick game to get them moving.
The game should be uncomplicated, short and should have one purpose: let people dance! In other words, the outcome of the game (who wins) is not important at all.
Check out this game that always has done the trick for me.
If your dance floor has no issues and roles on its own, PLEASE do not put any games in. It will just have an opposite effect. It’s not a kids disco!
20. Alcohol Stimulates Dancing
Let’s face it. Alcohol lights up the mood and will for sure make people dancing. Some people (mostly men) won’t even step foot on the dance floor before they have enough Juice of Increased Embarrassment (alcohol) in their body.
So yes, it is a good idea to serve alcohol. People for sure will dance more.
But there is a pitfall: Fights. People get drunk and there is a change that they will start a fight!
I think we can all agree that fights are the opposite of what we want. We want people to dance and have fun. We don’t want drunks hitting each other.
I wrote an article on how to prevent fights at a wedding party and if it would happen, how to handle it. You can read it here.
Luckily it is only a small percentage where there is an actual fight during a wedding. But it doesn’t harm to at least think about it.
Another funny story was that the groom was SO drunk during the first hours at the reception, his mother had to bring him home to lay down for a while. He only showed up hours later, missed the fancy and expensive wedding dinner almost completely. Not sure if the couple is still married…
Be sure you don’t serve alcohol to minors or people that shouldn’t be drinking because of legal or health issues.
Alcohol will stimulate the dancing at your wedding reception. Just be careful about what I told you.
21. Have a Babysit On Board
If you know your guests are bringing young children, and the venue has some separate rooms, it is a good idea to hire a babysit.
That way, the children are being entertained. You can ask to bring something to sleep on, so if they are tired they can go to bed.
The benefit is obvious: the parents can stay on the dance floor as much as they want, without the need to have to entertain the children or go home early because the kid is bored.
Be sure you have enough people to do this job in relation to the expected children. One babysit for 25 children is not going to cut it. One adult for 7 or 8 children seems about fine.
Be sure to check the local authorities about this and use good judgment. After all, you are putting some else’s children in the hands of a babysitter, so you want to be sure the babysitter is reliable and skilled for the task ahead.
22. Have some Party Gadgets
Some people like them, I don’t. You know what I mean: silly hats, confetti, glow sticks…
In my opinion, if the music is top-notch and the environment is good, you don’t need this stuff. But some people just need this little more to start dancing. So if you think dancing is not going to come easily, it might be a good idea to have a box with some party gadget stuff as a backup plan.
If you are planning to do to this, make sure to check with the venue if confetti (and any other stuff that will literally stick around) is allowed because I can promise you, they will find confetti left-overs for the next 2 to 3 months.
I’ve compiled a list of all discussed topics with a summary in a cheat sheet. You can print this sheet and use as a tool to make sure you won’t forget anything.
As I said, some people will never dance and there is nothing we can do about it. But if you try to implement all those items I discussed, I can promise you that the chance that the guests are going to dance at your wedding reception is big.
In the end, as long as everybody had a good time, is the most important thing.