My dance-free wedding reception
Reader “C” left a comment on my wedding photo post that included the following question:
I am planning a similarly sized wedding for next year […] and I was hoping that you could provide a little bit more detail about how your dance-free reception went. My fiance and I are not dancers, and I want to forgo tossing the bouquet and other rituals, so we are planning have pre-dinner cocktails for 90 minutes, then dinner, then re-open the bar for another 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 hours. Did you find that without dancing, people were still inclined to stay after dinner and socialize? I would rather just have a longer cocktail hour, if not. I’ve never been to a reception without dancing so any insight you an offer would be really appreciated!
Great question! I wish I could have showed you photos of the smiles and happiness at the reception too!
The main reason we chose not to have dancing was due to the guest list size and cost, coupled with the fact that I don’t care one way or another about dancing. If it were financially reasonable, I would have just had a dance, because it is what is expected and normal. However, it was just too much cash to find an appropriate venue, since venue rentals cost roughly the same no matter how many people you invite.
Beware of Nay-Sayers
I’ll warn you right now that some (a lot?) people think wedding = “get crazy and dance!” Personally, I like dancing, but I prefer talking/socializing, so… that’s just me. But I read all the time on wedding blogs that people want to “throw a kick ass party” for their wedding. Which is fine, but I didn’t have much of a desire to do that. I’m more of a kick ass large dinner party type of person I guess.
Since I’m a googler, I did see what the general “internet” said about this. While some said, “no problem!”, I’ll admit right now a lot of people said they’d be bored with no dancing. There was one person who said that if you didn’t have a dance, you should hire some other entertainment, like a magician, comedian, or cirque du soleil (!!!!). Uh, no. Our wedding is not a show. It’s not even an “event”. It is our celebration! We get to do it how we want
I knew our some guests would prefer a dance, but that most people would be fine. And if they were bored, so what? They got a nice meal and could go and spend the wee hours of the night where they wanted! This isn’t to say I never sat around and worried that our wedding would be lame/boring. I did. Just ask T. But in the end, I knew it was the only thing that really made sense for us. And I absolutely wasn’t worrying about it on the big day! If you are filled with joy and smiles, your guests will be too!
What exactly did we do?
We had the restaurant start serving wine and appetizers right away while T and I got some extra photos taken. This probably lasted about an hour. Dinner was long, with a first course, a salad course, and a main course. Wine flowed freely. I think everyone lingered after dinner a bit, then we did the toasts, cut the cake. I didn’t do a bouquet toss or any rituals except toasts and cake.
Did people stay and socialize? For the most part, yes! A few left right after the cake, but most everyone stayed, and probably would have kept staying except we eventually decided to stop opening new bottles of wine. So people stayed for as long as the alcohol stayed — which is what I expected! I don’t know if you could expect people to hang around for 2 more hours — but maybe. It is really hard to predict, and I would imagine some people probably would leave. However, I’ve seen people leave after dinner even when there is a dance.
Some local friends chose to go out to the bars and dance afterward to keep the party going and my relatives kept the night going back at their hotel area (some of them stayed up until the sun). If you are a “party all night” type of person, you can continue the party with your guests at a non-venue location.
Set expectations. Try to make sure people aren’t expecting a dance. Worst case scenario, they’ll probably figure it out when there is no dance floor or DJ.
Start a little late. This is a personal preference, but I’d recommend starting a little later. Our ceremony wasn’t until 5, and aps/wine started as soon as people made it to the restaurant. I would say people stayed until 10:30 or even 11, but I can’t remember. I might be lame, but 11 is late enough. My friends may also be lame, but I’ve been to dancing weddings that ended around that time too. Alternatively, have a day time wedding where people won’t even expect dancing!
Serve alcohol. This is a personal preference again. But in general, guests will be more sociable. And if they don’t drink, they’ll skip it. An extended cocktail hour might be a good idea to help stretch the evening out.
Spend as much time as possible with out of town guests throughout the weekend. Since our wedding was small, we had a BBQ the day before in lieu of a rehearsal dinner. This was another way to spend time with them, even though we didn’t dance the night away with them.
Don’t worry about whether or not people will be bored. It’s your wedding. If your guests can’t make conversation, be happy for you, and enjoy the evening, that is their problem. Really! This isn’t to say you can’t try to come up ways to keep people entertained if you want – just don’t fret about it too much.
The worst case scenario a guest is bored, looks down on you and your husband for having a boring wedding, and forever remembers your wedding is lame. Ok, that sounds sort of horrible, but part of being an adult is realizing you can’t please everyone, and sometimes you have to do what will make you and your beloved happiest. (And really, you probably are only inviting people who love you and will still love you no matter what.)
I had been to one other no-dancing wedding (the husband wasn’t a dancer) and I enjoyed myself, wasn’t bored at all, and stayed and chatted until the end. (I think this was an earlier wedding and it might have been alcohol free.) They did a little activity where each table wrote out predictions of where the couple would be on their Xth anniversary. These envelopes are now enjoyed each year by the couple that was married. Fun!
It turns out we are having a dance at the Midwest reception his parents are throwing us. This wasn’t part of the original plan, but hey, if someone is offering to throw us a dance, I’ll gladly take it! But this event is totally separate from the wedding we had here, which was really perfect, and had absolutely no dancing.
Readers, please chime in with any experiences you have attending or throwing dance-free wedding receptions!