Regardless of spending limits, décor preferences, and all the little details that work together to make your wedding what it is, many couples have one real goal at the end of the day: a fun atmosphere for their guests. While music and entertainment choices certainly play a large role in a consistently packed dance floor, perhaps less obvious is the importance of format and timeline in achieving this goal for the reception. Here are some ideas to ensure that you and your guests really have the opportunity to leave it all on the floor.
The best way to set the tone for a wild night of dancing is to have guests shift from the cocktail hour right into the reception space to find the band fully playing in mid-stride. Ideally, the newlyweds and their families will start out on the dance floor as guests enter, making it very apparent that dancing starts right away!
After two to three songs, sneak out of the room and get ready to be introduced back into the room for your first dance. Find a point halfway through the song to close your dance with a dip or kiss and have the band invite the rest of your guests to join you for the remainder of the tune. By the time it ends, everyone will be back on the floor and the band can transition into fun, upbeat songs.
After this, revelers will be sent back to their tables for the first course with one thing abundantly clear: everyone is in for a serious dance party! I find that establishing this momentum early on goes a long way into influencing the rest of the night.
Photo by KingenSmith; Entertainment by The Gold Coast All Stars for Gold Coast Events; Floral & Event Design by HMR Designs; From Real Wedding: Luxe Jewish Wedding with Personal Details, Greenery & Chinoiserie
Be careful of attempting to reinvent the wheel with the wedding reception timeline. Some couples really just want people dancing and having a blast throughout the evening. To them, the idea of food stations and a less regimented and formal timeline sounds like a perfect answer, even at the most luxurious events.
While this can work, you run the risk of dividing the party. People like to dance on a packed dance floor; there’s an anonymity and freedom that comes with getting lost dancing amidst a sea of guests – the more people who are on the dance floor, the more others want to join in the fun.
Just remember that the opposite is true as well: having attendees eat whenever they choose might leave half the guests eating and half dancing. This results in the dance floor feeling like it’s missing the excitement, energy, and overall vibe that comes from everyone getting up to dance after sharing a meal together.
Determine what will work best for your group of family and friends and communicate clearly with your event professionals.
Photo by Carasco Photography; Entertainment by The Gold Coast All Stars for Gold Coast Events; Floral & Event Design by HMR Designs; From Real Wedding: Rustic-Chic Wedding with Personalized + Modern Details in Chicago
Don’t eliminate slow songs entirely – just use them strategically in your timeline. A trend I’m seeing is that many couples want the energy to be nonstop fun and elect to eliminate slow songs from the band performances or DJ sets. However, slow songs are valuable tools for a bandleader to get every single person on the dance floor and then keep them there by transitioning into the perfect upbeat song afterwards. It can be as simple as using a slow song for your first dance and inviting guests to join you halfway through.
If you have a middle dance set between the first course and entrée, you can use this concept again with the father-daughter dance and/or the mother-son dance after the main course. If your timeline includes just one long dance set after dinner, I recommend doing a shortened version of one of the songs chosen for the special dances. Invite your guests to join you halfway through whichever song choice lends itself better to people coming up and meeting you on the dance floor.
By doing this, you’ll never have to break the flow of the upbeat songs throughout the night, but it will still give everyone of all ages a chance to kickoff the celebration with an inviting slow dance.
Photo by Averyhouse; Entertainment by The Gold Coast All Stars for Gold Coast Events; Floral & Event Design by HMR Designs; From Real Wedding: Chic Summer Wedding at a Natural History Museum in Chicago
For those couples who are most concerned about the energy and vibe of the dance floor, I’ve found that taking all of these things into consideration helps achieve all of their party goals for this special life event surrounded by friends and family.
Opening photo by The Day by Ira Lippke; Entertainment by The Gold Coast All Stars for Gold Coast Events; Floral & Event Design by HMR Designs. See the full wedding: Contemporary, Backyard White Wedding Under Clear Tent in Chicago