How to Get People Dancing at Your Wedding

Make your reception memorable by getting your wedding guests on their feet and moving

By Jennifer Vance

Crowd on the dance floor at a wedding
Photo by Michael Graham PhotographyBookmark and Share

A good wedding leaves an impression. A great wedding gets talked about for years to come. The difference between the two? Great energy. Great energy comes from keeping people involved, and the best way to do that is to get them on the dance floor and keep them there all night.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Schedule the DJ or a band well in advance of the reception. Make sure it's an entertainer with a reputation for keeping guests dancing.
  • Request popular songs in all musical genres to encourage everyone's participation.

Step 1:

Choose your entertainment wisely -- a DJ creates a different feel than a live band, and live bands run the gamut on styles. A swing band will get more people dancing than a blues band, and a DJ with an extensive playlist will have more options in their arsenal to get people interested. Plus, the more experienced the DJ or band is, the more likely they know how to avoid lulls.

Step 2:

Consider your guests. Is the crowd older, younger, or a good cross-section? Choose your music accordingly.

Step 3:

Ask guests to contribute or recommend songs and try to incorporate them into the mix. By including the musical tastes of the guests, the couple demonstrates they took the time to acknowledge their guests' likes, as well as their own.

Step 4:

Sit down with your band or DJ and come up with a list of songs that will keep the flow going, and let him know if there are specific songs you do and do not want played. When food isn't being served, the musical choices should get people out of their seats, whether for a well-known ballad or a dance song. Couples gravitate to the ballads; singles gravitate to the faster songs. Sing-along types are effective as well but should be kept to a handful, as few are really dancing songs.

Step 5:

Keep couples and singles separate, if possible, when creating the seating chart. That way, the singles will feel less like third wheels and will be more likely to bond with their tablemates and get on the dance floor.

Step 6:

Create a musical ambiance and stick with it -- pick songs with personality that will keep people involved, especially songs that most of the guests know.

Step 7:

Recruit the bridal party and family to help keep the dance floor moving. People are more apt to dance if there are already others on the dance floor. People typically gravitate to the bride and groom, so even though you'll need to spend ample time greeting guests, the bride and groom should also hit the dance floor and greet guests while dancing.

Step 8:

Follow up the requisite dances (couple's first dance, mother-son, father-daughter) with an upbeat song to get people on the floor immediately.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • More people enjoy dancing to slow songs so make sure to play enough.
  • If there are certain songs notorious for killing the party, submit them as a "No Play List" to your band or DJ.
  • Choose special songs that reflect the mood of special dances, such as the father-daughter dance, the first dance and the last dance of the night.
  • Provide a safe dance area to encourage participation. Make sure it is well lit and avoid raised dance platforms with steps that older dancers might not appreciate.

About the Author

Jennifer Vance is a freelance writer and has worked in the wedding/event planning and photography fields.

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Planning Reminder:

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Select reception music

Play a little something for everyone. Young and old alike enjoy dancing to the oldies. And throw in some nostalgic tunes for you and your friends, such as a top song from the year you graduated from high school. You may even want to set up a space on your website for song requests and compose a playlist from that.

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Wedding Glossary


A style of music that traditionally involves many musicians and incorporates horn instruments and vocalists. Popular in the '30s and '40s.

View the Full Weddings Glossary
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