by Elizabeth Mitchell Kadar
There’s no bigger buzz kill at a wedding than an empty dance floor. Ideally, you want your guests to be up, on their feet, and grooving to the sound of the music all night long. So, how do you get the party started and keep it going? We asked a few wedding insiders to break it down for us.
1. Listen to Your DJ
While asking your guests for song requests and giving your DJ some general guidance is great, please don’t turn him or her into a human iPod by listing out every single jam under the sun you’d like played, says Ashish Patel, owner of Volcanik Entertainment. “An experienced DJ will already have the know-how to read the crowd and play the type of music they’re enjoying.”
2. Create a Floor Plan Conducive to Dancing
“Couples are often worried that their dance floor will be too small, but it’s equally important to make sure that the dance floor isn’t too big,” warns Jaclyn Fisher, owner of Two Little Birds Planning. Otherwise, it’ll look empty no matter how many people you have out there cutting a rug.
3. Start the Night off on a High Note
Wedding Photographer Michelle Girard has definitely seen her fair share of dance parties. According to her, getting people onto the floor is half the battle. “Once your friends and family are already out there though, they’ll likely stay for a few songs. At many Jewish weddings you’ll see this happen with the tradition of the Hora and that energy really compounds,” she notes. Another smart move is to have your DJ invite other couples to join you midway through your first dance, then transition into an upbeat song immediately afterward to keep guests grooving.
4. Mix up the Music
And don’t forget to blast popular picks from a variety of generations! “Some musicians would rather play songs they prefer, but if you stick to the big hits, you’re guaranteed to get (and keep) your guests on the dance floor,” assures Jerry Wise, co-founder and vocalist of Austin-based national wedding band, the Matchmaker Band.
5. Make Sure There’s a Bar Nearby
Because cocktails always encourage guests to let loose, duh! “The bar should be near or in the same room as the dance floor,” advises Wise. “If it’s in another room, you’re going to be quick to lose dancers.”
6. Engage the Audience
To revive a dead dance floor, have your MC get a bit more interactive, suggests Girard. “I’ve seen band members move out into the crowd while singing, even dancing with grandma! DJs can orchestrate some fun competitions or games.”
7. Remember: Timing Is Everything
“For example, you don’t want to clear the dance floor in the middle of a great party to do your cake cutting because it may not fill up again,” cautions Boston-based award-winning photographer Kristin Griffin. “Consider cutting your cake in between dinner courses before the dancing officially kicks off.”
8. Provide Free Flats or Flip-Flops for Female Guests
No need to let a little sore feet kill the vibe! If you have room in your budget to spare, Girard recommends providing comfy “dancing shoes” for female guests. “I’ve seen flip-flops, flats and colorful socks offered up at receptions for this purpose. It’s safer than bare feet and shows how much you want everyone to dance.”
9. Make Sure You and Your Groom Are Busting a Move
Last but certainly not least, make sure you’re out there and at the center of it all, says Griffin. No one can resist a smiling bride and groom on the dance floor.