How to get your guests dancing at your wedding reception

How to get your guests dancing at your wedding reception

You’ve spent months winnowing down the perfect playlist, venue, and DJ. But the big day comes, and everyone is too timid to leave their seats. You’d hoped to be able to capture Uncle Martin’s patented twist on camera. What now?

The easy answer? Serve alcohol. An open bar is an open invitation for people to shed their inhibitions. But even if you’re having a dry wedding, there’s no reason you have to sacrifice a packed dance floor.

When choosing your venue, keep in mind the number of guests you’re inviting. A large, empty dance floor can be intimidating, whereas it takes far fewer people to make an intimate venue seem packed and lively.

Always err on the smaller side with your dance floor and more people will spring up to fill it. Shy people will always wait until the dance floor is crowded enough to “hide” them sufficiently, so the sooner people get packed close together, the sooner everyone can enjoy themselves.

The dance floor placement also makes a difference. Guests are much more likely to jump up and have a dance when the dance floor is in the center of the main room. Not only will the dancers feel more connected to the party than if they have to leave the room or face a corner, but the more people are clearly having fun in the center of the room, the more other guests will want to join in.

Whether you’re hiring a band or DJ or you’re making your own playlist, the music you choose makes a difference. There’s no one “right song” to get everyone dancing. It’s up to you to know the people you’ve invited. Take their ages into account, as well as their senses of humor and proprieties.

Avoid music that will offend anyone or songs about breaking up. Anything upbeat is usually a good rule of thumb, whether you’re going for classic oldies or the most current hits.

Make sure your DJ is willing to take requests, be it for the Chicken Dance, Y.M.C.A., or anything some DJs perceive as “cheesy.” If your guests like it, it’s a good song for your wedding. One way to make sure your guests’ favorite songs will be played is to ask everyone to give you a few of their favorite songs ahead of time.

You can use these to compile a playlist that will get everyone on the floor. But don’t be afraid to yield to your DJ’s judgment, either. One of the benefits of hiring a professional is being able to rely on their ability to read a room.

Sometimes it takes a little structure. Think about whether your guests would jump up to join songs with easy – to – follow steps like Y.M.C.A., the Electric Slide, or even the Macarena. After these, people will stay if they’re on the dance floor anyway. Get a conga line going, or even dare a game of Limbo. How low will you go … to get people on the dance floor?

Consider using props to draw people out of their shells. Even something as simple as a pile of hula hoops can lead to people being silly and trying out their skills.

No one likes to be the first person on an empty dance floor. As the guests of honor, you and your new spouse can start things off by calling people up after your first dance. You can also ask the bolder members of your wedding party to be the first ones on the floor.

In fact, you can even hire professional dancers, like bellydancers, who will perform and encourage the audience to try their own moves.

If you’re really concerned no one will take the dancing initiative, invite a few people specifically for their outgoing personalities, and let them know that you’re depending on them to get the party going. Even if you’re not incredibly close friends, the level of excitement they can add may be worth paying for with a few more heads at dinner.

Don’t despair if people aren’t dancing immediately. Your guests will want time to chat with each other and eat dinner, if you’re serving a meal. People don’t usually start dancing until the end of the night, so save your most crowd – pleasing tunes for when people are already up and moving.

Remember, even if all else fails and people don’t dance, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If your guests aren’t naturally inclined to dance, you don’t need to force it. They will have a good time mingling and enjoying quieter activities, and everyone will remember your wedding fondly nonetheless.


Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.