Professional DJ Advice; Expert Tips & Tricks for Couples on Their Wedding Day
“As a DJ, you are literally the life of the wedding reception. Sometimes, people are hesitant to let loose. What are some tips and tricks to packing the dance floor?”
The best way to get a dance floor packed and keep it that way is to have a little something for everyone in your music library and have the experience and trained ear necessary to read the crowd, no matter their age, ethnicity, or musical taste! When you pick a DJ with experience doing this, you can’t go wrong! When else will you have the opportunity to have all of your family and friends in one place at one time to celebrate with you?!? Make it count by hiring an experienced professional DJ who is fully trained and always prepared to change and adapt the music to fit the current vibe of your celebration on the fly!
-David Leeds, DJ Leeds
Whenever people are hesitant to let loose at a wedding reception I usually try a number of things. One approach is to play a group line dance song like the “Cupid Shuffle” or something similar. I also make some fun, exciting announcements on the microphone to encourage people and get them excited. Some more discreet techniques include having a “money dance” or “anniversary dance” before the “open dance” portion in order to get everyone on the dance floor without them being aware of what’s happening.
The best trick… is preparing to play the right music! Other than introductions and announcements, I’m not one to hoot and holler on the mic, I’d rather let the music do the talking. Long before the wedding, I ask the couple for their tastes and what they think their crowd will respond to. Some folks take a lot of control, some let me steer the ship, but regardless, I’m always reading the room to see what age groups are most active and what people are responding to most. While I try to include everyone over the course of a family wedding, you better believe at the end of the night the floor will be packed with the people who came there to have a great time!
DJing is an art form, and I equate it to martial arts. Being able to study your crowd like an a challenger in combat, a true master must be able to rely on one’s vast experience, abilities to observe, adapt and attack with the correct approach. A master DJ will observe it’s crowd throughout the cocktail hour and dinner, utilizing tracks that will cause the occasional head bop or toe tap. This allows one to identify those who have the inert desire to dance. A simple hello and acknowledgment that you’ve identified them as the party people and dancers in the crowd will establish a rapport that will easily later transition to dance floor success. Engage the crowd, talk to them, walk around and greet tables while taking requests prior to the dance. Then when it’s time to begin, you are simply inviting your friends to the party!
-Peter Kiesel, GE Productions Inc
It’s all about reading the crowd dynamics. I try to play a mix that caters to the age group of the crowd. I want to find what’s working and stay with it for awhile but change it up enough to keep the energy high. I like to do a mix of great dance songs and sing-a-longs that everyone knows! Line dances are also fun ways to get guests that might not otherwise dance onto the floor. Taking guest requests during dinner is another way to get a heads up on what the crowd is going to be wanting during the dance time. The biggest key is if somethings not working I’ll change it up immediately. If it’s working I’ll keep doing it!
-Will Chitwood, Dancing DJ Productions
Our philosophy is to ‘Make your Wedding look like a Movie ‘. Creating the ultimate Wedding begins with initially meeting with the couple (both). At that point determining how well the three of you click. Understanding family dynamics is crucial.
Weddings that resemble a Movie from Ceremony through Reception tend to be entertaining for family and guests allowing them to become more involved and remain longer.
During pre-planning, if the bride & groom are comfortable and agree to it, one of my favorite tricks is to sequence into open dancing by inviting the bride and groom together out on the floor directly following special dances (father daughter/mother son). As I get the guests fired up and cheering for the newly weds, I simultaneously start the first open dance song (the best songs are upbeat, easy to dance to and something everyone knows), as everyone continues to cheer, I invite all guests to join the bride and groom out on the dance floor to celebrate! I also advise the bride & groom during pre-wedding day planning to tell close family members and wedding party to make sure they jump out onto the floor without hesitation at that time (this is a great way to assure your guests feel welcome on the floor and are not embarrassed to think they might be the first ones jumping out).
-Pete Goslow, Classical Guitarist, Singer Songwriter & DJ
I am a crowd reader. As soon as I arrive to a gig I look at around at my crowd and see what they are vibing to. Every good DJ has their go-to songs in different genres and we use them as bait, as soon as we hook them with a song we keep reeling them in with similar tracks. But with that said you have to switch it up and keep everyone on their toes. Our job is to keep dance floors packed, I know songs that people are going to love before they do.
As a DJ it is our responsibility to play fun and engaging songs that encourage the guests to want to get up and dance. We do our best to play to the crowd and include songs that suit all guests. However, the best way to get guests out on the dance floor is to make sure the happy couple is also out there. We encourage our couples to lead by example on the dance floor as much as possible. A couple that is dancing and having fun on the dance floor will always be surrounded by their friends and family.
Alcohol is always a great social lubricant! haha. There are tons of tricks to get people dancing. First and foremost is knowing the demographic and playing the music which they’ll respond to. Other things I found work is changing up the tempo (Slow dances), doing participation dances (cupid shuffle, wobble, etc.), or fun dances like anniversary dances.
As a DJ I have a list of go to songs that typically yield peoples interest to get up from their seats. If those don’t work, I usually resort to a popular group line dance that everyone can relate too and typically gets a large number of people to come to the dance floor. After a couple of those types of songs, the guests are relaxed to where, when i put on a popular dance song from any decade creates an “Its ok to dance” atmosphere.
It also helps to be vocally engaging with the crowd throughout the reception to build a relationship, so when the dance hour comes, they feel a little more relaxed and comfortable. They figure, if you are uplifting and comfortable speaking in a group that you may not know, they tend follow your momentum and dance.
-Chris Warren, Temecula DJ Service
A DJ is responsible for creating the perfect party atmosphere for wedding guests, using music as the driving force to get people to loosen up and get down. Couples always ask me how to create a crazy dance party, so here are just five tips I have to make the craziest dance party possible:
1. Set the tone early on by letting your guests know (in advance) you want everyone to really let loose and party! For instance, writing about it on your wedding website, signage at the wedding, on the invites you send out, etc. Especially if you have a DJ/MC you can proudly boast about! Get the buzz going and you will create pre-wedding party hype!
2. Ensure that your DJ is set up on one edge of the dance floor area, no matter what! The DJ’s ability to “read the crowd” and pick up on the intangible “energy” given off by dancers on the dance floor is dependent on being very close by.
3. Seat your rowdiest partiers, craziest dancers, and people who really enjoy music nearest to the DJ booth (i.e. the speakers). That way it’s easy to get them up and on the dance floor to break the ice for others later.
4. Make your dance floor area as small as possible. Nothing is more awkward or intimidating to guests than having too large a space to try and fill with dancing. Specifically, try to keep your dance floor area 12’x12′ for up to 120 guests, 15’x15′ for 130-150 guests, and max 18’x18′ for 160-200 guests. Trust me on these sizes. They sound (and look) small to most people, especially to typical wedding coordinators, but it will make your dance floor a lot more packed and people crowding in (which is ALWAYS a good thing).
5. Once the dance party starts, don’t interrupt it. I’ve noticed if you have to interrupt the dance floor for bouquet / garter toss, cake cutting, or other announcements, people have a hard time jumping back on to the dance floor after. It’s best to let the party build naturally and try not to stop it!
-Drew Peters, The Songstruck DJ
First off, darkness and alcohol go a long way for people to let go of their inhibitions. That doesn’t mean you have to have a hosted bar, but having alcohol available is a plus.
A smaller dance floor is more attractive than a large one. A huge dance floor can look empty even with many people on it. Most people don’t want to feel like everyone is staring at them.
The most successful parties are when you allow an experienced DJ to do what they do best – play what you like, but let them “read the room” and play what’s getting requested and getting good dance response. Group dances can help break the ice if people are slow to get out of their seats.
Your guests will most often follow your lead – if you’re on the dance floor, they’ll be keeping you company.
Very few guests will remember party favors, colors, etc. They will remember if they had fun. (Make sure you relax and do the same!)