What Kills a Dance Floor (and How to Save It)

Here are some lessons a veteran Chicago DJ has learned about all-too-common impediments to a great party, and how to get rid of them.

Don’t put any dinner tables between the DJ and the dance floor. Be firm with your venue about this. Nothing kills a guest’s good time like having to shout at his fellow diners because there’s a speaker three feet from his head. If you have to pack your dinner tables so tightly that there’s no room for your dinner music to breathe, you need a bigger room.
Seat young adults at the tables closest to the DJ. I don’t now why, but too many venues always seat the grandparents in the shadow of the DJ’s speakers; and the dinner music has to be practically turned off when they complain that the music is too loud. Younger guests know how to speak and hear with music nearby.   
Keep it moving. Don’t wait until dinner is over to start visiting the dinner tables. It’ll take an hour, and your guests will get tired of waiting for the dance floor to open, and they’ll leave early. If you’re visiting the tables, begin when you’ve finished your last bite of dinner, to allow yourself ample time.
Select dance music that people can actually dance to. You may personally prefer the guy strumming a guitar on a stool at Starbucks; but no one can dance to coffee house music. Concert music usually makes bad dance music, too. Your DJ can guide you. He’s out there every week, and he knows from experience what songs drive people to the dance floor, and what songs drive them away.
Dance! When the wedding party is on the dance floor, the guests want to get in on the fun. Seeing the bride and groom on the floor is still the best signal that the party is on!
Kill the floodlights. A good photographer or videographer with great equipment can take wonderful dance pictures without having to flood the dance floor with blinding light. DJ lighting is a great motivator; but a huge photographer’s light bar makes people self-conscious and more likely to leave the dance floor.
Try a snowball dance. Once the wedding party is midway through its dance, have every bridesmaid and groomsman pull someone from the audience out onto the dance floor to double the number of dancers; then have the DJ invite the rest of the guests to join in. People feel more confident dancing when there are already 16 or 20 people on the dance floor.
Your guests love line dances — even if you hate them. The attraction of line dances is simple: people have seen them performed dozens, if not hundreds of times, and they know the steps by heart.
Let your DJ take requests. Your guests know their favorite dance songs. Let them contribute, and they’ll be thrilled that they got to pick some of the music. Prohibiting requests tells your guests that the dance portion of the evening is just a private concert for the bride and groom, and the guests are mere props. That’s not the message you want to send. By all means, tell your DJ what songs, or artists, or music genres you’d like to avoid; but leave room in the song list for your guests to have a great time.

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© Fourth Estate Audio, 2014 – Jay Congdon is president of Fourth Estate Audio, a professional Chicago DJ and Chicago Wedding DJ company.

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