Some people are blessed with employees or family members who consider a rented dance floor a little slice of heaven and a chance to bond with one another. For those of us who aren’t so lucky, it can be hard to get a dance party going during an event.

Hopefully, a few skilled Twinkle Toes will hit the floor and show everyone else how it’s done. But if few join in, when the vanguards are ready for a rest there is often an awkward moment when everyone else pretends they weren’t watching and the dancers pretend they didn’t notice. No one wants to follow that, and so the dance floor sits empty for much of the night. Making this even more awkward is the staff member or bridesmaid who gets dispatched to “round up” some dancers and must go from table to table eliciting uncomfortable excuses from guests.

How do you get guests to dance and avoid wasting money on a hall, rented floor, or live band?

One of the best ways is to consider a DJ. Sure, your Ipod is free, at the ready, and loaded with your favorite awkward navel-gazing college tunes. But until its intuition is extended to reading a room full of people in uncomfortable shoes, a DJ will always be better at cataloging which genres are getting the best reaction from your crowd.

Speaking of shoes, an adorable idea is to put shoe racks at the edge of the dance floor. This not only encourages dancing, it also establishes a sort of humorous comfort between guests. Provide the little folding ballet slippers as a dignity-protector and a take-home reward for being the life of the party.

An added insurance is a touch-up station in each bathroom so guests can break a sweat with confidence that they will be able to clean up after.

For formal events, your guests may dance the night away only if they are trained in ballroom dancing. Since many people skip this once-common ritual of youth, consider hiring a dance instructor and professional dancers as part of the evening. The right instructor can keep the mood while helping guests gain confidence.

Alternatively, accept that getting guests to dance might involve a little silliness that may undermine any intentions you have of keeping things stuffy and elegant. This is especially true of weddings, where the Electric Slide, the Chicken Dance, and other Father-of-the-Bride favorites might look tacky but do the job of getting people to groove.

The most important tip to populating those checkered squares, however, is to get the guest of honor on them. Do that, and people should naturally flock to join.


Sarah Harbin has been planning and promoting non-profit fundraisers, art and cultural events for over ten years, and recently began planning personal events.
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