I love hanging out on a full dance floor, photographing all of the twirls, laughs, high kicks, break dancing, and classic sprinkler moves! While I'm photographing, it's hard not to dance along (so you may see me moving to the beat as I'm hitting the shutter!). I'll be with you and your guests in the middle of the action, capturing it all. So, if an awesome dance party is what you envision at your wedding reception, how do you keep that dance floor packed? Here are some thoughts, tips, and things to consider on how to keep the dancing going all night!
We all know that the DJ or Band can really effect whether or not guests are dancing. The energy that they give needs to line up well with your crowd and the way they’ll be celebrating that night. Find out if the DJ you're considering will know how to read a crowd. If they are switching from upbeat pop to slow oldies to country, it could just kill the overall vibe. Read reviews and ask friends and other trusted vendors for recommendations. Wedding vendors see a lot of wedding receptions and can most likely give you some good advice. After choosing a DJ or Band that is a great match, what else can you do to help ensure the dance floor is packed all night long? Your DJ/Band will be a great resource (they do have a little bit of experience with this after all and you probably chose them because you trust that they are great at what they do), so make sure you ask them if they have any advice for you.
Start with the invitations! Or add something to your wedding website. Give people some cues that you mean for this to be a party and they should come ready to cut a rug. (This topic really lends itself to some corny phrasing! Be prepared!) If your wedding isn't in a hotel, think about having a shuttle available for guests so that they can have a couple drinks and be a bit silly without worrying.
Getting people up and onto the floor can be half the battle! Once your aunts, friends, parents, etc. are already there they will likely stay for at least a song or two. So get everyone up and dancing with you at the very start of the night! At many Jewish weddings you’ll see this happen with the tradition of the Hora and that energy really compounds. So pick a song or two with some real energy and get your guests out there together, dancing, holding hands, and coming together to celebrate.
Create a floor plan and atmosphere that prioritizes the dance floor. Make sure there is ample room to dance, if the floor is too small then guests will be knocking each other around, but if it’s too large it might feel like it’s empty, though that gives you plenty of space to bust some moves! Add in some lighting that let’s people know that this is a party. Make sure you don’t seat guests next to the speakers who will absolutely hate the volume of it, because they won’t be getting up to party if they have a headache. You don't know how many times I've seen uncles or grandparents looking miserable seated by a pounding speaker. That also puts the DJ in the awkward position of having to lower the music when they ask and then balancing that with everyone else who just wants it louder.
When you plan out your timeline with your coordinator, make sure that you aren’t stopping the festivities right as they get going. Many weddings will pause the dancing to cut the cake, to do the parent dances, or for some other planned event. Getting that floor packed again afterward could be a challenge. Look at other options for your timeline, for example you could start the dance floor back up after dinner with those parent dances instead of having to clear the dance floor for them. If you have to schedule something in the middle of that dancing time, keep your guests up and moving with you if possible, instead of sitting back down. After you’re finished, make sure another catchy song comes on that makes people want to get back into it. Another option for something like the tradition of cutting the cake, some couples won't even announce it. They'll just take a few moments to slice the cake for the camera and send it off to be served without much attention.
Do you have something fun planned for your guests like a Photo Booth or a caricature station? Schedule it with your dance floor in mind. People will line up for those awesome caricatures and, instead of dancing, will just be waiting there. I’ve seen it. So cut it off after cocktail hour. Photo booths are a fun experience all night long! But don’t place yours on the opposite end of the room from all of the dancing. It’ll pull your guests away. Have it close by where their energy can flow from dancing to photos and back again. (If you're looking for a Photo Booth I do have to plug The Sharp Drop here!)
Lots of guests, women especially, have sore feet after a day in formal shoes. So offer them some ‘dancing shoes’ so they can keep going into the evening! I’ve seen flip flops, ballet flats, and colorful socks offered up at receptions for this purpose. This is safer than bare feet and shows how much you want everyone to get their groove on.
This is a celebration! And, without getting cheesy about it (or maybe a little cheesy is what is actually called for!), you can add in some 'props' that will make everyone want to be on the dance floor with you! If there are balloons dropping or there is confetti flying, who could stay seated? So consider adding in some surprises throughout the night to keep your guests engaged and excited. Just make sure the props are going to be safe in the hands of guests who may have had a drink or two at this point!
If the floor is emptying have your MC get interactive. I’ve seen Band members move out into the crowd while singing, even dancing with grandma! DJs can orchestrate some fun ‘competitions’ or reinvent the ‘dollar dance’ for a playful moment. If you really can’t get them out of their seats, have your DJ and photographer orchestrate a group photo on the floor. Once the photo is taken, they are already out on the floor so the DJ can go right into the music. And since they are already there..
Some couples hire professional dancers, from hip hop to belly dancing, to get out on the dance floor and teach everyone some moves. Not only is it fun to watch but it's interactive! The energy of those dancers is absolutely contagious!
Mainly, you want to keep the energy alive. It’s really about having music that is consistently making people want to move their feet. If a song does flop, there are ways to get them back out there with you. And keep in mind, this is your day.. you’re the stars.. who there is going to deny you the dance party that you dream of on your wedding day? So let them all know what it means to you to have them out there shaking it with you!