Wedding nightmare #43: The dance floor stays totally empty. Don’t worry — just follow these tips and it won’t happen.
Set The Mood Early
The cocktail hour is a good time to get the party going. Consider hiring specialty performers; a mariachi band will energize the crowd following the ceremony and get your guests in the mood to celebrate.
Other ideas: a jazz trio, bluegrass group or even a barbershop quartet. The point is, just make sure your guests aren’t noshing in silence.
Musical Note: Look to your love story when deciding on specialty music. Hire a brass quintet if you met in marching band. Go for an accordion player if you took an unforgettable trip to Paris together. Or get a steel drummer in honor of your planned Caribbean honeymoon.
Make Sure There’s Enough Space On The Dance Floor
Small dance floors are too cramped and big ones make people too self-conscious.
A good rule of thumb: There should be at least three square feet of dance floor space for every two guests. So, if you have 150 guests, you would need a 15′ x 15′ dance floor; 200 guests would be about an 18′ x 18′ area; 400 guests calls for about 25′ x 25′ of space.
Ask your reception site about adding on extra flooring if the standard seems too small (you party animal, you).
Musical Note: Make your dance floor the focal point of the room — don’t tuck it in the corner. By highlighting it, you send guests the message that dancing will be a big part of the evening.
Align Your Seating Chart
Seat friends and family who love to dance closest to the dance floor. They’ll be more likely to get up and start grooving early if there’s easy access. And once they’re out there, others will be sure to follow.
As for your more elderly guests, do them a favor and keep them away from the speakers. They’ll appreciate it!
Musical Note: Mind your decibel levels. Yes, you want your friends and family out there dancing, but you also want your nondancing guests to be able to talk and enjoy themselves.
Skip The iPod Idea
You may have the most genius playlist in mind, but there’s a reason why DJs and bands are so common at weddings — they are there to read, interact and adjust to your crowd’s mood throughout the evening and to make sure everyone is dancing and having a good time (so you don’t have to).
Besides, do you really want a friend or family member getting up to grab the microphone all night to announce your cake cutting and bouquet toss? Didn’t think so.
Musical Note: If you do your homework, you will find a band or DJ in your price range who fits your style. Trust us — it’s worth the money knowing your guests will be entertained all evening.
Don’t Limit The Genre
Even if you both truly love indie rock, there’s a good percentage of your guests who probably haven’t heard of Modest Mouse and won’t appreciate it like you will.
A playlist made up entirely of ’80s dance music, rap or country is the same story. Don’t get us wrong: Including your favorite genre at your wedding is fine (in fact, you should!) but do so in moderation.
Musical Note: Your wedding is a celebration of your relationship — one that probably involves music — but it’s also a time to share with your extended family. Keep them in mind when developing your playlist. Throw grandparents a nod with Frank Sinatra and give your aunts and uncles a chance to dance to a little “We Are Family.” Seeing them enjoy the night will be well worth a little Sister Sledge.
Make Music Interactive
Let guests in on the fun by allowing them to request songs via the RSVP card. Or set up a poll on your wedding website and ask everyone to vote on your first dance song or the last song of the evening. You’ll have everyone looking forward to the voters’ choice song reveal.
Musical Note: We’re not talking about the “Electric Slide” here. (In fact, we advise against it.) There’s no need to create an artificial dance scene when you can let it happen naturally.
Create A (Short) Do-Not-Play List
There’s no bigger dance floor turnoff than hearing your least favorite song. (Did someone say “Chicken Dance?”) Put together a short list of please-don’t-play songs for your DJ or band.
Musical Note: Don’t micromanage: While they should know the genre you like, let them figure out the best way to mix the music.
Keep The First Dance Brief
You may have fallen in love listening to “Free Bird,” but imagine how long nine minutes and eight seconds will feel alone on the dance floor. (And if it’s dragging for you, imagine how your guests will feel!)
Pay careful attention to your favorite song’s length before committing to it for your first dance. Same goes for those mother-son and father-daughter dances.
Musical Note: Time your song and practice dancing to it beforehand. Even four minutes can kill you if you’re just rocking back and forth. If your heart is set on a certain (long) ballad, try to have it cut down to a reasonable length. Work with your DJ or band to come up with the perfect shortened version.
Keep Things Exciting
Give guests a treat they won’t expect by introducing a never-seen-that-before act.
Think hip-hop dancers, break dancers or flamenco dancers. Time it right so that they make their entrance just as the toasts are wrapping up to get all your guests back up and moving on the dance floor and out of their food coma.
Musical Note: To really highlight the dancing portion of your reception, project music videos or old movies over the dance floor. We know one couple who projected silent episodes of I Love Lucy during dinner and transitioned to music videos for the rest of the evening.
Get Out There And Dance!
Set an example for everyone by getting your newly married butts out there as soon as the dance floor opens up for the evening. Your guests will notice and be more likely to join you when they see how much fun you’re having.
Musical Note: Your reception will be a long busy evening, so let your bridal party know beforehand how important it is to you that your guests dance, and ask them to lead the movement to the dance floor. That way, if you do get caught up talking with the grandparents, they’ll have your back.
© 2011 The Knot Inc. All rights reserved.
– The Knot