3 ways to have a dance-free wedding reception

Updated Oct 12 2015
My fiance and I are having a bit of trouble (okay, a lot of trouble) figuring out how to entertain our guests during our reception.

The whole dinner and dancing thing really doesn't suit us, but when I've asked for advice from the "professionals" in our area, their eyes glaze over at the thought of not having a father-daughter dance, etc, etc.

What can we do at our reception if we want to avoid dancing?

If you don't like dancing, ug: there's nothing worse than hosting a miserable, requisite dance floor that you spend the whole night avoiding.

Luckily for you, there are lots of non-dancing options for your guests …

1. Brunch wedding


First off, the easiest way to avoid the expectation of dancing is to have your wedding earlier in the day — have a brunch wedding or afternoon reception.

No-one expects to cut a rug at 2pm. Your guests won't even notice the lack of dancing because you're breaking the whole "wedding, dinner, reception with dancing" template.

Brunch weddings are rad.

You get to serve mimosas!

2. Do lawn games instead!

Ring toss at wedding

If you're going for a backyard or garden wedding in the afternoon, you can keep your guests entertained with lawn games like croquet or badminton — imagine the photos! We have so many great ideas in our lawn games archive.

3. Sing instead of dance!

Belt it

For an evening/indoors reception, you definitely have your work cut out for you. Old habits die hard, and people come with their expectations clutched like little sequined handbags from hell. A couple ideas to keep the non-dancing guests busy could be a wedding photobooth (how much did you love the one at Katie's wedding?), fortune tellers (psychics are fun!), or even wedding karaoke.

That said, never underestimate the value of good food and booze and a little background music. If you keep people happy with lots to eat and drink, chances are good that no-one will miss the dancing.

Looking for even more ideas?

Check out our massive archive of non-dancing weddings, full of real weddings and great ideas.

  1. My best friend and her husband are very traditional, and he doesn't like dancing at all. When they got married they chose a lovely venue with a room full of distinguished leather sofa's and 'rich mahogany'. After the meal they had everyone congregate there where fine wine and good conversation were encouraged.

    Now, this was all before I knew them and so I wasn't present at the wedding, but they said it was a lovely and enjoyable evening for all, and actually went down really well. The venue and entertainment choice was also a reflection of the couple which, after all, is what a wedding should be!

    Yes, most people will expect dancing, but as Ariel said, they probably won't miss it. Stick to your guns, even though it's really really hard to sometimes, and choose one of the non-dancing options. Remember how much fun the Pixel wedding looked!

    The only dress code we're specifying is 'dancing shoes'… but then that's a reflection of us!

  2. love love love it!! i was recently married and AM having a dance b/c we all love to dance but i have also djed for about 6 years and have done so many weddings for people who HATE to dance and have dj simply b/c they think it is the "righ" thing to do! What a waste of money (theirs) and time (mine).

  3. I like to dance, he doesn't, so we're splitting the reception. There will be dancing under the tent, and outside the tent with be a croquet court and a box of frisbees, balls and various other outdoor activities. So there will be a little something for everyone.

    I love the wine and conversation idea, that sounds really lovely 🙂

  4. Sometimes unplanned dancing can be much better than planned dancing! At our reception this past September, we did a heavy appetizer buffet and had the Ipod going all night. We spent months picking the playlists and had a natural progression from slower "mood" music before the ceremony to fun music during "dinner" to dancier music during dessert (ice cream social!). There was a small section of the room left open in case anyone felt like dancing but there were no planned father/daughter dances, first dances, etc. A lot of people danced anyway (who can't get in the mood with Journey's "Don't Stop Believing"?), including my mom (think Martha Stewart meets Betty Crocker) which led to some amazing candid photos! I think as long as it isn't forced, it will feel much more natural and fun!

    • That's exactly what we're planning for our wedding – iPod with a great playlist of dance-able songs, but we're not doing any "first dance" or "father-daughter" dances. The one thing I can't yet figure out is how to transition from dinner and our thank-you speech at the end to the rest of the night and make it clear that dancing is allowed… How did you do that transition?

  5. My geeky buddies get bad-prom flashbacks near dance floors, so we figured we'd spare everyone the trouble and skip it. Were going to have card games, puzzles, and the like to amuse our small, nerdy bunch. They can help break the ice between people who dont know each other, and its letting us have a much cozier venue.

  6. Hoops! I like to call them party hoops, as they are the adult version of the Hula Hoop (trademark). That's what my groom and I had at our reception, and they were a smash hit. We didn't serve alcohol, and this really loosened people up. We made ours from scratch — fairly cheap for parts and decoration — and had enough to fill the dance floor with adults who haven't hooped since they were kids. Right after our first dance, we grabbed a hoop and the new married couple started the fun. After that it was a free-for-all. You can find instructions on the web on how to make them. I highly suggest it as it's a hoot!

  7. We did lawn games at our wedding and it was soo fun. Hula Hoops and those bizarre throwing games with velcro (you know)? Amazing.

    Also, I'm shooting a wedding in Sept where there will be no dancing. Instead, the reception is being held at an arts venue, and they're going to do a concert/open mic night. … I am very much looking forward to it!

  8. Thank you so much for this post!

    We both hate to dance, and are too shy to even really try in front of others =P So, we, of course, have been searching for ideas for entertainment.

    I thought about having one of those zoologist who exhibit exotic animals at schools and fairs and such. But then I thought, nah…only I would like that and the guests aren't 4th graders =(

    I love the photobooth idea, though! Where would rent/buy one?

    • I LOVE the zoologist idea!! If it's not too late then don't scrap it!! I recently saw a bird show at the local zoo and there were WAY more adults then kids. And my fiance and I LOVED it. Almost stayed to watch the exact same show twice!

  9. Amy, I love your open mic night idea! People can sing, play instruments, tell jokes…. whatever!

    I also forgot to mention that we're having a quiz. We thought it would be really good fun, and help all the guests to mix during dinner. Our wedding is all day, and we are having dancing, so the quiz will be handed out during dinner. There's nothing to say you can't mix up your seating arrangement (if you're having one) after dinner to mix the teams up a bit, and have it for the evening entertainment! We're even having a podium made up with special prizes for the winning teams :o) (we're both very keen mountain bikers so it seemed fitting).

    Would love to hear what you end up choosing :o)

    PS – has anyone had a photobooth in the UK?

  10. Personally, I'd enjoy having a naturlist come with animals. You could do a Noah's Ark theme where they come two by two – a male and female of each species so you can see the difference. Not that I am into theme weddings but you could even carry it over into the decoration.

  11. We had an afternoon garden reception. There was no space for dancing, but we did have a fabulous bluegrass trio play (with the groom as guest drummer). People enjoyed conversation and great food and didn't miss the dancing at all.

    Other ideas from our friends' weddings:
    Maypole dance (our friends did this and have a maypole party every year on their anniversary)

    Photobooth with hats. Spice the photobooth up with fun hats and props.

  12. A trend in NY is to do a European style wedding. were you sit down have a civilized meal and then dance after. This can even happen in two different rooms. It gets rid of that DJ running your wedding.

    • That's what we're doing. We are getting married in a (fabulous, huge, old wood panelled) registry office then have found a quirky bar/restaurant which has a restaurant upstairs and a function room downstairs separate from the main bar so we can eat then move downstairs and chill. My OH doesn't dance but I do so we're having an Ipod and filling it with tunes that guests nominate along with a mix of stuff we like. People can dance but we're also doing a DIY photo booth and a games corner. Can' wait

  13. Re: open mic night… there is a old Jewish tradition that it is a mitzvah (good deed) to treat the bride and groom like a king and queen for the night, and entertain them. So, you can ask for people to bring stories, jokes, dances, skits, etc to entertain the bride and groom, if you are doing a more 'traditional' Jewish wedding. I think one of the great things about this tradition is it gets everyone involved… tiny kids can get up and tell a joke, or do a dance, and so can your grandma. And the more people drink, the more fun its going to be. Anyway, what else are great traditions for, but for stealing? I often like truly old school wedding ideas because they are far more based on the values of community then our new school spend-a-holic wedding values.

  14. "I often like truly old school wedding ideas because they are far more based on the values of community then our new school spend-a-holic wedding values."

    That is so true!

    We will have dancing at our wedding, but we really want things be more organic, and for the dancing to just happen naturally. The last thing I want is a DJ with a mic making people do the YMCA dance.

  15. we'll have dancing at our wedding but no annoying DJ running things, but I really like the idea of card games etc. since my finace's family is big into cards.

    it's a fall wedding and i want to set up the apple bobbing in air game thing.

    you tie a string around the stem of apples and hang them from the ceiling. then people try to eat them without their hands.

  16. love these ideas! i'm definately going to have some cards & a chess set & stuff at our reception now!( i hadn't thought of that!)
    My fiance and i are in a band; we do mostly fun ('60s-70s) rock covers that most people know, and several of the cool, & less-popular Beetles tunes, with lots of original soulful/gyspy-like jams in the mix, too. After dinner, we're having a "concert"…a set of 10-12 tunes where honey and i will perform in 4-5 songs…then some recorded funk & stuff, and when the band feels like going back up to jam, they can do so. Also inviting everyone to bring tambourines, djembes, shakers, ANYthing…should be groovey… so whether people dance or not, it'll hopefully it'll at least be natural & organic!

  17. Hey Ashley,
    i can't tell if that means you think it's a good idea (like, yay! what a fun time we're having) or bad, bad idea…
    Are you thinking/warning me that someone may freak out a bit on the playing, or what?
    We don't have those kinda players/friends, so i'm not too worried.

  18. Reading this post has been very helpful for us, as we're getting married at 11am and having a lunchtime reception. We've booked an Irish band for entertainment, but there will be no formal dance. We are also considering hiring a balloon artist for the kids and for the kids-at-heart.

    Just remember that this is simply a big party and the first big party that you'll host together. Do it your way 🙂

  19. […] Bride, my favorite site for wedding photos with personality, has a new article about a dancing-free reception. A bride-to-be with no interest in required dancing on her big day asks what she can do as an […]

  20. giant yard Jenga
    cut up a bunch of 2×4's to the same length, stack them and let people go at it.

    An unconventional yard game if you go with yard games. Very fun and makes for great pics.

  21. We had a balloon artist at our brunch wedding – and many people have commented it was one of the more delightful weddings they've ever attended.

  22. I really like these great ideas! My fiance & I aren't big dancers and we really didn't like the idea of a DJ taking over the reception. Our wedding will be next January & where we live it will be too cold to go outdoors to do much at all. Does anyone have any good suggestions for some fun, winter activities that we could do at the reception?

  23. we are having our "reception" at a hip, local bowling alley. we are renting the whole thing out. since bowling is one of our favorites, and dancing is NOT, we thought this would be so fun.
    we are still having a friend be our dj.
    plus it didn't cost as much as we thought.
    rock on

  24. I LOVE the photo booth idea – and it won't happen at our wedding due to the fact that my family's place is in the stix. Any ideas to copy the idea without an actual photo booth?

    • Sparkbooth.com is what we used for a photo booth at our wedding…. 60 bucks for a downloadable program that uses your Web cam. It's user friendly, fast, and you can use a feature on the program to lock the screen in the photo booth so your private documents on your computer aren't available. We loved it!

  25. My fiance and I enjoy SCA events regularly and it gave us the idea to invite some belly-dancing friends and drummers to the reception to entertain everyone.

  26. We're getting married soon, and I'm sure there will be some impromptu dancing (fine with us), but I desperately want to have the first-ever (to my knowledge) "wedding roast". I really want guests to roast us at our reception – how much fun would that be? Most of our guests will be friends that we've known for a VERY long time, since we've been together for twelve years. I think it would be a hoot!

  27. I think the wedding roast thing would be so much fun! Let me ask you, we're doing our wedding reception at a cute little club because we live in Illinois where they have now banned people from smoking inside places and this place has a "porch" sourrounding the whole place and since I smoke, I am being a tad bit selfish by demanding we have it there-has anyone ever seen a wet (april wedding) bride on her wedding day? I would imagine it not be good..is this wrong of me? Future in laws want a nice fancy smancy wedding, I saw hook up the ipod, put some food and favors out, let the booze start running and that'll be fun!

  28. We're having the ceremony & party in the evening at the local Botanic garden. The style is very casual and the reception will be a cocktail mixer with a small jazz combo playing off to the side. I definately agree: lotsa good booze and food will entertain just about everybody. And the kids can run and jump—and not break anything! 😉

  29. One of the most memorable weddings I went to had an Elvis impersonator as the entertainment. It was hilarious and lightened the mood. Some people danced along, but nobody felt required to.

  30. Ever since my fiance and I started going to Pat O's Piano Bar in the French Quarter, I've been wanting to have dueling pianos at my reception. I only dance if I'm wasted and well….Dave just can't dance. We're having a small and intimate reception; I think it would be a cool way for both families to have fun together, drinking a tall one and singing along to the songs that THEY request.

  31. We are having a bon-fire/campfire starting in the evening after our BBQ wedding. Hopefully there will be a old fashioned campfire sing along.

  32. Hi all, we're marrying at the end of May, and neither us wanted the DJ/forced dancing. We're providing ambient music (some dance, some not) via computer/ipod, and we're also supplying Polaroid one-shots and a ton of instant film for entertainment/candid shots, as well as maybe horse-shoes (it's a garden wedding)

  33. My fiance and I aren't into dancing, so we're having a day wedding in a park with a dinner afterward and then games (frisbee, football, etc) afterwards. If anyone has any other ideas for fun outdoor games I'd love to hear them, but I'm just excited to hear that other people are doing similar things.

  34. What about a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt kind of activity? I'm very fortunate in that my partner has a large piece of property in a rural area so I'm thinking a treasure hunt with a clue at each location for the next location maybe. Or perhaps sort of an easter egg hunt thing with little treats for your guests at each location. Or maybe a contest and the first to solve all the riddles/clues gets a prize.

  35. We are fortunate in that we have an incredible group of friends who are very talented. There will be drummers aplenty, a great bonfire, fire spinners, mead running like water, and the occasional interjection from a talented guitarrist. I figure we're covered, really – but I've got to say, I really loved the photo booth (or make your own photo booth) idea, especially with the addition of a notebook available so people can write us notes. I can barely wait – now here's hoping it turns out at least a little bit close.

  36. These ideas were AWESOME!!!! esp since I'm having a dance-free wedding reception. Thanks. Keep the ideas flowing.

  37. Hi everyone, this is the greatest website ever! We're having an outdoor wedding and I love the idea of lawn games. We're making our own photo booth with an old silk screen that I found at a thrift store and a digital camera and tripod hooked up to a small photo printer that one of my bridesmaids have. I will have a basket of hats and masks for people to try on to take pictures with.

  38. My fiance and I aren't big dancers either, so instead of swaying around like a couple of 7th graders at their 1st dance, or having a weird uncomfortable "father/daughter" dance with my step-father, I'm skipping the whole dance-floor/dj thing as well. Instead, we're having a kick ass dinner and drinks at a really nice restaurant. When we're done, we're sending the parents & family back to the hotel (destination wedding in Key West), and all the partiers in the group are hitting Duval Street to party! we'll have our "1st dance" to what ever is playing in the first club we end up in!

  39. We're going to set up several Wii game consoles with multi-player games. It'll be an awesome way to get people mingling and have a ton of fun.

  40. i thought about having Wii game consoles at the reception too, but i'm starting to wonder what the older people who don't really play video games will do. any ideas?

    • I work for a study that enrolls elderly participants and I've heard from MANY of them how much they enjoy wii! It's great for older people who still want to bowl but maybe can't get out to the lanes or find the balls too heavy now. Many independent living communities have at least a weekly wii event for them. Have no fear!!

  41. We just had our poker themed wedding reception a week ago where we created a "poker run" to take the place of an awkward dollar dance. People could pay $5 to get a poker hand, which they got from 5 different dealers that were mingling throughout our reception. Halfway through the night, we got everyone's attention to see who had the best hand and got to split the pot with the new couple. It was a huge hit and kept people busy and mingling. We got a lot of compliments, especially from men that DO NOT DANCE. It also got people mingling to see who had a better hand.
    We also did karaoke throughout the night- that was pretty entertaining.

  42. Kala – I'm also a little concerned about the older guests. I'm hoping at least some of them will try out one of the simpler games! But for those who really don't want to participate, we're going to leave the tables set up and have drinks and snacks so they can talk and mingle with the other non-gamers (we've got a big enough reception room to do it all in the one place). We'll also have some music going. I'll probably end up going between the two groups to ensure no one's feeling left out.

  43. These are some great ideas. We are not big dancers either so we are going to hire a casino to set up and our guests will win tickets instead of money and we will have a drawing at the end of the night for prizes.

  44. I have a pretty small budget to work with and can't justify spending a ton of money on one day. My fiance didn't like the idea of a Friday night wedding.

    I'm thinking about a non-dancing wedding reception too, since we are not inviting a large group, and I'm not sure how many of them would want to spend all night on the dance floor anyway. But I would still like to have some form of entertainment or "partying" after dinner. Personal friends of mine own a banquet hall, so obviously I'd love to use their facilities, and a good reason for that is my budget, and I know they'd give me a great deal, plus I know the food is great. However, my mom is in a wheelchair, and the banquet hall is upstairs – which she wouldn't be able to get to. The last thing I want to do is exclude my mother. They have a room in the lower level which serves as party room and a "restaurant" (complete with bar), so I'm sure we could use that instead. But there isn't any room down there for dancing or a dance floor, nor a DJ, etc.

    I read through all these posts and only one person (Shellie) mentioned something similar to what I'm thinking about. I'm wondering how this would work – have the cocktail hour, dinner, and rent a bus for a night-on-the-town kind of party instead? Bar-hopping, with dance places included, so there would actually be dancing? I would spring for the bus of course, but everything else would have to be paid for by the attendees. (Now I'd have to think about places that don't have a cover charge.)

    I think we will be inviting about 60ish people, and I know maybe half of that would probably go out partying so one bus would cover the crowd.

    Does anyone have any opinions on doing this? I'm searching the internet and can't find anything out there like this.

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