You’ve chosen your DJ, talked to him or her about your tastes in music, made your playlists, and you’re ready to rock. Or so you think.
Keeping the right energy during the reception is crucial to keep everyone moving and having fun. You don’t want the music to lag, but you also need to think about the layout of your venue and placement of the dance floor.
DJ Brian Hartman, of Rock and Rhythm DJ Entertainment, said one of the most overlooked things in wedding planning is the ergonomics of the venue and the dance floor.
“Work with the DJ and your banquet manager to find the best arrangement of the DJ’s table and the dance floor,” he said. Keep the DJ near the floor; putting him or her in the corner behind a few dining tables is not a good idea when the party’s in the middle of the room.
When thinking about seating and dance floor placement, it’s usually a good idea to keep the older guests a little farther from the speakers. Even I used to tolerate music at much louder volumes 10 years ago than I do now. Now, add two hearing aids and 45 years to that, and you can understand why Nanna and Pop Pop don’t want to sit right next to a blaring rendition of “Baby Got Back.”
Remember that even younger guests probably don’t want to sit directly in front of the speakers once the party gets going. Everyone needs a break at some point, and it’s irritating if people can’t sit at their tables and talk without screaming to each other. Think about speaker placement in relation to table seating, and try and keep the speakers somewhat close to the dance floor.
For me, weddings are more about catching up now that I’m older, rather than drinking as much as possible and dancing for five hours. Offer an area that’s a little quieter but still in the same room as the dancing. One option would be to rent couches and chairs to furnish a make-shift lounge in a corner. We’re putting some cocktail tables in the courtyard to give people a chance to get outside and talk if they’d like. It’s not in the same room, but the barn doors will be wide open, so if people need to spill in the courtyard, it will still feel inclusive.
When planning the location of the dance floor, consider the size of the floor, how many guests you will have and how well people will be able to move around. Smaller venues, like ours at Lauxmont Farm, will kind of pre-determine the size of dance floor. The more guests we have, the smaller our dance floor will have to be as more tables take up more space.
Hartman suggests maintaining a good balance between people and space.
“I don’t have a formula, but the size of the floor really affects the perception of how the party is going,” he said. “Imagine 50 people on a huge dance floor and those same 50 people on a smaller floor. The atmosphere of those people on the smaller floor is going to create the perception of a much more happening party than spreading those 50 people out all over the place. Of course, you don’t want the floor so small everyone is stepping on each others’ feet.”
He also suggests keeping in mind the location of wedding reception “extras”: the photo booth, buffet, bar. If you decide to put the dance floor in the center of the room, be sure there’s space to maneuver around the floor and in between tables. It’s a pain for guests to have to walk through everyone doing the “Cupid Shuffle” just to get another glass of wine.
However, you should always keep the bar in the same room as the dancing. The minute you start moving things to different rooms, you start dividing your guests. Keep all of the guests in one space to increase energy, involve everyone and have a great party.
On the other hand, don’t put the bar directly next to the DJ and the speakers, “placing, (or in this case shouting) drink orders is going to be tough,” Hartman said. “If you put the bar in another room, the dance floor is going to lose people to the bar. If you put it outside on a beautiful night while the DJ is inside, the DJ is going to wish he was hanging at the bar with everyone else.”
To keep the ambiance of the occasion, turn the lights down after dinner and keep them low. Supplement with candles, up lighting — which some DJs or venues provide — or even stringed Christmas lights. After 4 glasses of wine, you might feel like you can dance like Beyonce, but lets be honest, everyone looks better with a little mood lighting.