A sign of an unforgettable wedding is when the dance floor is filled with laughter, dancing and all your guests, no matter their age. It can be intimidating to be the first on the floor, let alone the one planning it all, so M.J. Entertainment is sharing a few expert tips to make you and your guests comfortable enough to get up and keep grooving.
One of the highlights of your wedding reception will likely be dancing the night away surrounded by your nearest and dearest. A packed wedding dance floor is the ultimate sign of a fantastic party—and an empty one is a considerable mood-killer. So how do you keep your guests out of their seats and dancing, as opposed to mingling at their tables or, even worse, congregating in the venue lobby or bathroom?
Think back to some of the best times you've had at weddings, and I'll bet many of them were "hold my drink" situations during the reception. You know, the ones—you hear that song start and, suddenly, makeup and blowout be damned, the dance floor becomes your stage.
"Those three-minute connections are some of the most memorable moments from a wedding," says Shanon Cook, a Spotify Trends expert, former entertainment correspondent for CNN, and longtime music journalist. Cook recently got married herself, so we decided to capitalise on her musical expertise and recent personal experience by having her curate the ultimate wedding reception playlist.
While this baby had me making full use of the wheels on my rolly chair, the Spotify team and I also recognise this isn't a one-set-fits-all solution. Every couple's wedding day soundtrack will, and should, be different. There are over 3.5 million wedding-related playlists on Spotify. And that's the benefit of deliberate tunes: They're a thrifty substitute for a D.J. or band, and they're personalised—down to that obscure remix that forever cemented the friendship between you and your maid of honour.
Thus, in addition to the jukebox, I asked Cook to give us guidance on choosing your inclusions and getting people movin'. (Remember—research says your attendees are likely way stoked to dance.)
"You have to think about your guests," she says. "At a wedding, you have a comprehensive list—from your grandparents to guests as young as two. You have to think about music that is appropriate for that varied audience and what they're going to like and get into. That's very difficult to achieve."
Couples often ask me how they can make sure everyone is dancing at their wedding reception. I've got a few small tips I've picked up over the years - if you follow these, you're almost guaranteed to get everyone dancing, partying and having a great time.
Weddings are events that linger in people's minds long after they are over for obvious reasons. They're heavily photographed, video recorded, and talked about for years. They are also the beginning of a new chapter for two people and their families. The wedding is possibly one of the first memories of the families coming together, and the dance gives them a chance to make it a fun experience.
One of the most fun elements in many weddings is the dance. Some brides and grooms involve the entire wedding party in a dance production that involves hours and hours of practice, but there is nothing wrong with a more traditional approach to the wedding dance. Whichever you choose is fine, but make sure you keep in mind that it'll be hard to forget if you do something embarrassing.
Table of Contents
- 1 Surefire Tips To Get Your Wedding Guests On The Dance Floor
- 2 Don't Serve Your Evening Food Halfway Through One Of The Band's Sets.
- 3 General Wedding Dance Tips
Surefire Tips To Get Your Wedding Guests On The Dance Floor
Kick It Off On The Right Foot.
After all the special dances are done, pick an upbeat song that your wedding party (or close friends) can dance to. Have the band leader ask your wedding party to join you on the dance floor and announce that the floor is open. This doesn't have to be choreographed or cheesy, but everyone up and dancing together makes for a fun, less frightening atmosphere for everyone.
Know your guests.
Add in some special slow dances and call up couples to dance. Take some time to grab a few special guests and have them join you on the dance floor.
Choose A Fantastic Live Band With A Diverse Repertoire List
One of the best ways to get people dancing is to book a great band. A wedding band such as our most popular party band, The Get Downs, is fantastic at engaging with an audience. With the music being completely live, there's extra energy you don't get with recorded music (or bands that use click tracks or backing tracks).
If you want to get everyone dancing, try and find a band with a varied repertoire list covering lots of styles. You might love dancing to 90s rock and pop music, but your older relatives (and even some of the younger ones) might not - so your safest bet is a band with a broad repertoire list.
Down for the Count's music covers everything from the 1930s and 40s vintage swing music all the way through to modern-day pop, so there is something for everyone - and we love seeing a mixed audience of old and young people partying together. One of our favourites ever bits of feedback was, "you got all ages on the dancefloor - from age 4 to 90!"
One advantage of having a D.J. over a live band is that they can "mix" songs seamlessly together with no gaps between pieces. Like Down for the Count, some bands have arranged lots of their music into medleys - in our soul and pop sets, and we'll play songs back to back for 10 to 20 minutes with no gaps at all between songs.
It's a great way of keeping people on the dancefloor as it removes the temptation for people to sneak off to the bar in the short pause at the end of a song.
Of course, I'm biased, but I think that booking a live band is one of the smartest investments you can make for your wedding. Chances are people won't remember many of the more minor details of the day, but they will remember if they had an awesome party with incredible live music.
Don't interrupt the flow.
Most music pros recommend serving your entire wedding meal (including toasts and speeches) and then having an uninterrupted dance session afterwards. "Please do not break up the dancing," says Paul of Bozeman DJ Entertainment. "In my own experience, I've witnessed that breaks in the dancing can crush any momentum. Uncle Bob is doing the worm across the dance floor, but wait, we now need to cut the cake or play a slideshow." And if you want to keep your guests dancing, you may want to skip traditions like the bouquet and garter tosses—which tend to clear the floor quickly.
Embrace the Crossover
Pop. Country. Rock. Hip-hop. What do all these genres have in common—besides a hit song featuring Nelly? They can all feel at home on a reception playlist. "I think anything goes at weddings," says Cook. "Most of the time, you've got a mix of genres. It's all about what makes people happy and puts them in the mood to dance. It makes sense that you're going to have the full spectrum." While you and your sorority sisters may have an entire choreographed routine to "Crazy in Love," maybe your mom and her pals have an equivalent with ABBA's "Dancing Queen." (By the way, we recommend springing for Spotify premium to download your songs beforehand and avoid duking it out with spotty Wi-Fi. God forbid a lost connection to throw off your 8-count.)
So go ahead and put Frank Sinatra, Notorious B.I.G., and Dolly Parton in a room together; you'll wonder why you've never done it before.
Choose When To Start The Band Carefully.
If you want your guests to dance, try not to start the band straight after dinner - unless you have to.
Usually, people have been sat down for two to three hours by this point, and I find that the end of dinner and speeches is time people want to stretch their legs and do a bit of drinking and socialising - the dancing seems to come a little later on.
I've thought about this a lot, and I think you need at least an hour between the end of dinner (or speeches) and the beginning of the band's first set to really make the most of the band's performance.
Map Out The Room.
Make sure the band is in direct proximity to the dance floor and that no tables are in between. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of having the band directly in front of the dance floor. It's all about the exchange of energy between the band and the guests.
Make the bar accessible.
If possible, have the bar in the same room as the reception. Guests tend to linger near the bar. Keeping everyone close to the music makes it almost impossible not to jump in.
Set A Good Example.
"The biggest reason why you lose people on the dance floor is that the couple just isn't there," says Eytan of Sugarbabies Inc. "People pay attention to where the couple is and what they're doing." Make sure you take your wedding portraits before the reception and greet and mingle with guests during cocktail hour and dinner, so you aren't taken away from the dance floor for too long (remember, you can absolutely take breaks to rest your feet or use the bathroom!). And enlist your wedding party to join you—it's part of their "job" to have a great time and get their groove on!
Take Requests In Advance.
Allowing your wedding guests to make song requests may make them more interested in staying on the dance floor. The best way to field requests? Include a section on your wedding website that allows guests to share their song requests. That way, you can review them (just in case your troublemaking cousin tries to add that tune he knows you hate) and pass them on to your music pro. Many bandleaders and D.J.s will only take requests from the couple during the reception and may be wary of any guest song suggestions.
Don't Serve Your Evening Food Halfway Through One Of The Band's Sets.
This is such a simple and obvious piece of advice, but it's so commonly overlooked. If you want to keep people dancing, do whatever you can not to serve evening food or a buffet halfway through one of the band's sets.
When this happens, some guests will invariably disappear (worried that they'll miss the best of the buffet or that the hog roast will go cold) and even losing a few guests means you lose some of the energy of the party.
It's much better to have a more extended break between band sets and only start serving the evening food when the band has finished their set. It's also worth getting your venue onboard and asking them to make sure they don't start serving until the end of the set.
Don't Go Overboard On The Slow Songs.
Most music pros recommend keeping the slow songs to a minimum—only playing between one and three slower tunes during the evening. "I will say that I keep everybody on the dance floor more with faster dancing songs than I do with slow songs," says Bobby of Hey D.J. "Anything more than three slower songs is overkill."
Hire Swing Dance Teachers
Hiring professional swing dance teachers is a fantastic way of entertaining your guests, and it's also a brilliant way to get people on the dance floor.
Our Vintage Swing Collective collaborates with live musicians and our amazing swing dancing colleagues - some of the hottest vintage dancers on the London scene today.
The dancers can teach you some fun new moves whilst the band is playing, or if they take a lesson, they will encourage guests to keep changing partners, which is an excellent ice-breaker and helps your guests get to know each other.
Remember, Your Energy Is Contagious.
Finally, and perhaps one of the most important tips of all, if the bride and groom spend a lot of time on the dance floor, so will the guests. If the newlyweds are up there busting a move, the guests will be excited to celebrate with the happy couple.
Make Sure The Bride And Groom Are Dancing!
My final bit of advice is probably the most important. I've learnt over the years that at weddings, people congregate towards the happy couple. If you're both on the dancefloor, partying and having the time of your lives, it's almost guaranteed that most of your guests will be too. However, suppose you've been whisked off to have photos or are propping up the bar or the buffet. In that case, you'll probably find that either (1) that's where the main party is at that time, or (2) the whole celebration gets dispersed with people in smaller groups throughout the different parts of your venue.
It's one of the other reasons to think really carefully about your timings, so you can make sure that you're not busy with other wedding duties when the band is performing - if you're at the front dancing, we guarantee that your guests will be too.
Let The Pros Control The Playlist.
The average wedding reception includes about 50 songs—and you don't have to choose every one of them. Feel free to provide a few important songs to your band or D.J. (and a "do not playlist", but give them the freedom to read your crowd and choose songs accordingly. "There are some fundamental questions to ask yourself," says Eytan Nicholson of Sugarbabies Inc. in Allston, Massachusetts. "Do you care more about a specific playlist that you think represents you? Or do you care more about your guests' experience?"
General Wedding Dance Tips
- For the first dance, choose a song that you love and speak to the relationship between the bride and groom.
- Practice dancing to the song before the wedding. If either of you has little or no experience on the dance floor, take a professional lesson. A few ballroom dance lessons can make a big difference between feeling clumsy and having the confidence to dance in front of others.
- If your wedding dress is long or has a train, bustle it, so you don't trip over it.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable for dancing. If you aren't used to high heels, wear lower heels or flats.