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. i like the idea of renting out a hip bowling alley or renting casino tables and slots. those are the things i'm considering since i'm really the only one who would be dancing or hooping. plus we are already married, but just looking to have a ceremony since we courthouse'd it the first go around, so i don't think anyone is going to expect us to be Emily Post.

    • I'm glad you posted this. I have people going "Why are they having a ceremony if they've already gotten married?" Which I think is extremely unfair, especially with our curcumstances.

      BAck to the subject, we are only having 50 guests tops at a resteraunt that cannot have a dance floor (they've tried and it just didn't work), There is a smaller room which I believe we will set up the buffet tables, cake and small bar area. I think the best ideas for us would be the photo booth (grooms sis could be of great help) and Wii (Ryan is an addict and we have two systems. I just hope the room could hold it all.

  2. I have been wrestling with ideas for a non-traditional wedding reception/dance type thing in my head for ages! Luckily, I have a lot of friends in the Society for Creative Anachronism, so here are some of the suggestions that I have made or gotten from others:
    ~ bellydancers
    ~ juggler or storyteller
    ~ someone to lead guests through some medieval/folk dances
    ~ troubadors and musicicans to sing
    ~ of course, the obligatory ambient Celtic/folk/medival music during the feast
    ~ re-creating the wonderful dance scene from the movie "A Knight's Tale" 🙂

  3. A friend of mine held his wedding reception at a maritime museum. After dessert all guests could stroll around the museum at will, and we had the place to ourselves. It was perfect for me too because I hate the whole loud music/dancing thing. I'm a wallflower.

  4. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent looking around on the internet for help on reception planning! I have a friend who's a DJ, and it seemed like I wasn't going to get any deal using him (not even for rental equipment!). Plus we're not big dancers, and I'd feel like if I had a DJ and 1st dances and such, then it'd feel like it's because what's normal or typical, not because it's what we want.

    The Wii idea sounds great. I was also thinking about Poker, but was wondering if that would keep some people anti-social? As in, do you think the same 6 people might hang out at the table all night? I was thinking of having it so that if you lost all your chips, you would have to give up your seat to the next person. Is it lame to put a rule like that up?

    I was also thinking of a wedding pinata as well. I've been looking online for a good one 🙂

    My fiance's sister got married last year, and while she had a DJ at her reception, she also had a ping pong table set up. It was a wonderful idea! I loved how she had people sign the table as well!

    Please keep the ideas coming, I only have 3 weeks to get this planned!!

  5. Im taking notes. These are some really good ideas. I also dont want forced dancing, the dollar dance, garter/boquet toss, or glass tapping. My family are really reallly not dancers so card and board games sound like super duper fun.

  6. I’m planning a wedding in St. Augustine Florida. I too, am not a dancer and have been trying to find a venue where I wouldn’t feel the need to have a DJ or dance floor and I think I have found it. I was considering having my wedding at a winery. After the ceremony my 30 guest would be taken on a tour of the winery and then treated to a wine tasting with or'derves. The nice part is that there is a jazz bar on the top floor of the winery and any one who wanted to dance and listen to music could go up there after the reception. My after party idea was to take who ever was still hanging around in a sailing ship ghost tour.
    I would love some feed back on this.

  7. My fiance and I aren't dancers, but we do like the DJ idea. We think we're going to a traditional church wedding with the reception either at a bowling alley or roller skating rink. Pizza and hot dogs included.

  8. Abby, your reception ideas sound AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL. can I come?
    Lex, love the roller rink reception with pizza and hot dogs!
    Everyone has amazing ideas!
    Our wedding is on the beach in south florida (where we live) and the reception at the hotel everyone will be staying at. it was easy and they gave us a deal. I am definitely a wallflower, but my fiaace is the dancer. He definitely wants a DJ and a dancefloor. When I read over all these ideas, I realize that this really isn't what I wanted for my wedding celebration. I wanted the bonfire and s'mores and acoustic background guitar. So my hubby-to-be and I will have to work out a compromise of some sort. Maybe we have loud hip hop / dance music for an hour but poker tables and a photo station the rest of the night?
    I guess we'll see!

  9. I've heard of just having games intermittently played throughout the evening. For example, a newlyweds game or or one where the bride and groom are sitting in chairs, back to back. The bride has one of the groom's shoes and he has one of hers. The dj asks a question like "Who snores the most" or "Who will spend the most money", and the bride and groom hold up the shoe that they believe corresponds with the answer.We are trying to narrow down the game because we are having a comedic slide show put together by our parents.

  10. We aren't big dancers either- and the reception site we found actually has a bowling alley in the same building- a great 50's style, small number of lanes, classic alley. And since when we first met I would go watch the Fiance bowl each week. So we're getting a couple lanes rented for after dinner.

  11. My Dearest Love hates being the center of attention and doesn't like dancing, so we're planning a do-your-own-thing garden party. Ideas so far include: homemade hula hoops, a photobooth or polaroid station, mustaches on sticks, ribbon wands http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=2… (I saw these at a festival over the weekend and loved the idea), parasols or umbrellas, and possibly face painting for children. (not tigers and rainbows, but perhaps eye-masks in colors that suit our celebration). No dance floor, but if people feel like dancing on the grass, they're welcome to!

  12. My Dearest Love hates being the center of attention and doesn't like dancing, so we're planning a do-your-own-thing garden party. Ideas so far include: homemade hula hoops, a photobooth or polaroid station, mustaches on sticks, ribbon wands http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=2… (I saw these at a festival over the weekend and loved the idea), parasols or umbrellas, and possibly face painting for children. (not tigers and rainbows, but perhaps eye-masks in colors that suit our celebration). No dance floor, but if people feel like dancing on the grass, they're welcome to!

  13. Our friends were married a little over a year ago. They had a small guest list with very few people who wanted to dance. They had an ipod and a dance area and did a choreographed ballroom number that was quite sweet. After their first dance, they turned on the three tvs their closest friends hauled in (my FH included) and had Super Smash Brothers, Rock Band, and Dance Dance Revolution going all night. Many of the guests were the gamer type, including the bride and groom. Those that weren't up for gaming seemed quite content with mingling, and the ipod stayed on in case anyone still wanted to dance (though no one did).

    My FH loved this idea, and since all of the gamers that were at our friends' wedding will be invited to ours as well, we plan to follow suit. My family and I are a bit more into the usual dancing though, so we plan on having all the usual dances and the fun ones as well. I'll be traveling between both areasto be sure I spend time with everyone.

    I'm also debating a photobooth, but the wedding's still too far away to know what kind of budget we have to work with. (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years or so. We want a winter wedding in the snow, but I'm finishing college first.)

  14. In my experience, if you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town that you haven't seen for a while, they may just want to talk and catch up. Background music would be perfect in this case. If you DO want to dance, though, you should try to have all out-of-towners invited to the rehearsal dinner so they can talk then and celebrate with music and dancing at the wedding itself.

  15. Something that I'm considering for our wedding (which will have dancing) that might also be good for a non-dance wedding is video games. I'm thinking of simple ones that even non-gamers can enjoy, like Wii sports, Wii sports resort, DDR, and maybe even Rayman. I think it would be a good alternative to lawn games for an evening wedding.

  16. I know this sounds so college and silly but we are getting married this saturday and my soon to be brother and law built us a custom beer pong table. I know our friends and some of the older folks will appriciate this, nothing gets groups together like old fashion BEER PONG !

  17. I want you guys to know that you just saved my sanity. No, really. My family has been trying to convince me that I'm insane and that my plans won't possibly work.

    My fiance is very shy, and we both hate going to weddings that have dances as we both hide in the corner and avoid dancing at all costs. We figured we didn't need to hide in the corner at our own wedding. I also live in a place that it is a very real possibility that it will be too cold or rainy in early July to be outside, so I need to have an excellent rain out plan. (We live in Canada. It's cold here.)

    I'm hoping to find a hall that has a park, a volleyball or horse shoe pit, and a fire pit. Can I specify "casual bbq reception" on the invites, have people come in jeans, serve dinner inside and then move outside after supper? I'm planning to have an iPod hooked up both inside and out. Will everyone go home at nine? Someone tell me that I'm not crazy, just a little offbeat?

    P.S. Love the giant Jenga idea!!

  18. We can't afford a DJ/dance floor, and are having our wedding in Santa Barbara wine country (I work in the wine industry, and we're both winos.) So instead we are calling it a "Dinner Party-style Reception" involving an excellent meal and equally excellent wine (and a signature cocktail option.) There's plenty of room on the adjoining patio to mingle, so I'm hoping all will have a good time. I would just rather nix the DJ and have a honeymoon! 🙂

  19. Carly, that sounds great! I bet many of the guests would be totally relieved that they actually got to have fun on their weekend instead of feeling uncomfortable or bored! 🙂 And I think if you want to do that, it would definitely be important to signify it on the invites somehow. You don't want people feeling uncomfortable since they're standing in front of the campfire in their fancy clothes. Maybe you could do some sort of invite "supplement" that looks like an old-fashioned advertisement highlighting the fun activities ("campfire with smores!" "games for the kids!" "true love!")

    A friend of mine had a western-themed wedding at her fiancee's parent's house in the country. Unfortunately I wasn't there, so I don't know whether they had dancing, but they DID have a hayride for the kids! Everyone thought it was great!

  20. I loved all of these ideas so so much! We're the same way, I love music and I will have it in the background, but I don't want cheesy twist and shout, and I don't want to do the first dance stuff. Wedding is planned for October, and I really want to be outside in the leaves and the trees. All of these ideas were so great! I love giant Jenga! I'm super excited that I'm not the only one who doesn't want a DJ shouting out over the crowd. LOL!

  21. I don't care for dancing myself, and as we're having a semi-casual lunch reception for mainly family, I don't think we're going to do much dancing. I'll have tons of great music (iPod) that can be great for dancing, so if anyone wants to dance we'll have plenty of room and music for it, but I doubt I'll do much.

    So….I'm still looking for ideas to keep us busy if our families don't mesh as well as I'm hoping- we're from very different backgrounds. My one decision so far is to make a video station. I'm going to make a background and set up a tripod with a video camera and some prompts- "What are your favorite memories you have of the bride/groom?" "What is one thing you'll remember about our wedding?" ect. Hopefully it'll give us something fun to do when we're all a little tipsy, and it'll break the ice. I might even put the prompts on the tables to get people talking before they go to the station.

    I would still like to have a few more ideas to keep things interesting, but all on a voluntary basis- I don't want someone feeling awkward and forced to play games they are not interested in.

  22. Wow! I'm with kindred spirits! I am trying to stay on a strict budget (more for the honeymoon!). We have narrowed down the ceremony/reception to an afternoon event in either a local gardenesque park or a small winery. We will have about 50 guests, and we don't really dance. (However, I do find the idea of a first dance kind of romantic. Would it be weird to do this in a kind of impromtu fashion, but without an official dancefloor for everyone?) Are thinking about just the Ipod idea, with maybe croquet or horseshoes, and maybe the diy photobooth with romantic props. I'm trying to picture the technical aspects of the booth though. Do we leave a polaroid there, or a camera with a remote, hooked up to a printer, or have guests use their own cameras?

    Also, along the same lines, I don't love the idea of tons of toasts by different people. Would it be okay to have one person do a toast with a glass of champagne, and call it good?

  23. Love the guitar hero & bowling alley ideas! I totally understand where you're coming from. My fiance and I are not really shy, BUT we always find the dinner/dancing thing sort of boring (it depends, though, on who the guests are–if there are fun people there, it's ok). But, it's just not us.

    We are having what I call a "clip" festival" where we are showing wedding-related scenes from movies and some tv shows (had to have the Simpsons and a few others). We are breaking it into categories that people will vote on. (E.g., best bouquet toss, best speech, etc.)

    And we're having a contest, which is a bit complicated so I'll spare you the details.

    But I am excited for this. My fiance and I have been working on the clips for months but everytime we watch them, it sucks us in for an hour because the clips are so funny.

    I think our guests are going to have fun…even the non-dancers will have fun at a wedding. For once!

    We also are not doing the whole round table of 10 thing. It's finger food all the way (we just have to figure out a way to do a few traditional entrees in bite size servings,….if anyone has any suggestions, send 'em along!)

  24. We are getting married in Las Vegas and we originally thought about doing a reception that was Vegas themed. We thought about doing casino type games where the guests could win chips. The top 3 guests would each win a vegas themed prize. We talked about playing Elvis, Wayne Newton and Frank Sinatra during the reception. We both hate slow dancing, but we wouldn't mind if anyone else wanted to dance. We also thought about doing bingo for the kids. Because our wedding is so small, it was more practical for us to plan a reception dinner in Vegas.

  25. If my boyfriend and I ever get married, we are not likely to have dancing. Getting married at a Renaissance Faire is a fun way to entertain guests while avoiding dancing. Also, consider getting married at an aquarium. Large aquariums (those that have tunnels, etc.), often will offer you to rent their venue after hours for about 4 hours. Many even provide a banquet room.

  26. I've been reading this site for a few weeks now, and wanted to chime in for sure on this. I wanted dancing, but I knew I didn't want an obnoxious bandleader or dj running MY show. What I did was rented a jukebox from a local vending company. They allowed me to hand select each song in it, and turned OFF the $$ feature, so it played for free. I picked some songs that ALL my guests could relate to, as well as ones that were special to me and my fella. Then we encouraged guests to use the jukebox, and promised if they picked a song and wanted to dance with the bride, well she HAD to (I love dancing.) It was super cheap, personalized and a HUGE hit.

  27. Thank you thank you thank you for this post! My Love doesn't enjoy dancing and I go dancing enough myself that I didn't really want it at our wedding, but I didn't know what else to do. This has given me some great ideas.

  28. My fiance and I are having a family-only destination wedding with a big reception in our home town a few weeks later. I have never wanted to have a "dance", but am planning on having a 3 piece band and possibly some space in front to dance if people imbibe enough! But how to entertain the non-dancers has been an issue. I love the Wii/card games, and was thinking of throwing in some other fun group games ie Apples to Apples, Yahtzee, Buzz Word, Catch Phrase. I can't figure out how they would be set up though, I'd love to have several couch and coffee table type areas, but what kind of venue would have that? Do board games sound fun or lame?

  29. This article is exactly what I'm looking for! My fiance and I are not one's to dance. So we were just thinking about having background music. Won't be hard seeing as that we are probably having our wedding/reception in a park.

  30. im having a vintaage 1940's wedding and due to religious reasons we are not having a dance but i really want some cool ideas. but im on a budget and really need help!!!! I thought of maybe some swing dancers, live music but i figure why that wen no one will really dance to it!! HELP ME PLEASE!

  31. All great ideas, but I wonder if anyone has any suggestions for a very small (15 person) reception after a beach wedding that will not have: a dance floor, a bar, a sit down dinner, video/board/athletic games, or karaoke/performances. I'm thinking probably a bonfire on the beach with picnic blankets, s'mores, and kabobs. Or perhaps a boat ride. Any ideas?

  32. My husband doesn't like dancing, so that was not an option for our wedding. Instead, we did an afternoon event and after lunch we had Bingo! We called the first round together (in lieu of a first dance) and then different outgoing guests, the wedding party, kids, etc. took turns calling. We'd play until one or a few people won, then take some time for general mingling and socializng before starting another game. There were small prizes ($2-4 range) for all ages. The guests had a blast, and we did too! We put out other games and outdoor toys but they barely got touched. What made Bingo work well for us is that every age and ability could play and if you didn't want to, you could still chat with people who were playing. It wasn't like a dance floor where nondancers can sometimes get ditched on the sidelines.

    The only thing I didn't like about the wedding was that it was a bit shorter than an evening event would have been, so I didn't get quite as much time as I would have liked to chat with some guests even though we only had about 90. But it was fun, reflective of us, casual, and much less expensive than an evening event.

  33. I'm so relieved to read about other people's non-dancing shindigs! We're having an outdoor evening wedding/reception, and since neither of us really like dancing too much, we decided to skip it. My friends and parents looked at me like I'm from Venus when I told them, which really surprised me … and made me nervous. But I think we can make it work with lawn games, board games, Rock Band on a giant inflatable screen, and booze. Lots and lots of booze.

  34. Laser Tag! theres a place literally next to where we are considering having our reception. Just not sure how to incorporate the older generation…but they do have a glass viewing room that you can see the whole arena from…
    Also, if I knew everyone could get in on it, either ice skating or my all time favorite but a definite no- PAINTBALL!

    Is this sounding too much like a childrens birthday party???

  35. Traveling planetarium! We're doing a loose celestial theme, and are working to bring a traveling planetarium show to the site. We are setting up a telescope and writing up some coordinates to search for on a chalkboard. To tie things together, my fiance printed up star maps of various moments in our relationship and had them framed to use as table markers. These became pieces of art for us later.

    Honestly, the hardest part has been keeping the wedding from getting schizophrenic — we are serving snowcones during the cocktail hour, mac n' cheese from a food truck during dinner, and having a donut wedding cake. There will be lawn games and a lounge and lions and tigers and bears ohmy. We can't afford a band, but we would love to have a some quality live music — instead, we're overcompensating with lots of fun and games!

  36. I know I am late to this party, but I wanted to comment. I have a group of more traditional family and friends, who have chosen to forgo alcohol and dancing (I have very high standards on them myself). Some do, but they are extremists in drinking and I want to avoid that as well. I still want to have a fun time at my reception where we spend time together- a rare happening with us! So I've chosen board games! We will have different game stations set up around the venue, and even some video games to play. In fact, instead of first dance, we're going to do a first game. Although, I still can't get a hankering for a piñata out of my mind haha! The favors will be phrases like love and cherish, family and friends, fun and games, on magnets handmade with scrabble tiles. I'm going to have a photo setup for pics and even a scavenger hunt for the ride from the ceremony to reception. Really, the main theme is just a geeky, nerdy, books and games but I wanted to share some ideas. I hope they help!

  37. I choose to shoot my husband with paint balls so following dinner when everyone is fat and lazy we will take off in different direction to avoid being shot and shooting each other *sighs* fun times

  38. My husband doesnt do dancing either so we didn't plan on dancing but we ended up having a first dance! and then danced with our parents. it was fun 🙂

  39. Thanks so much for this article! I am definitely going to go through that entire no dancing tag group. Neither my boyfriend or I are "dancers" and we keep ideas like this of how to get beyond the traditional dinner and dancing. Friends of friends are tabletop gamers and instead of a first dance did a "first dice roll" and had different piles of board games on every table of every description and everyone just played board games at their wedding reception all night!

  40. We are planning a brunch wedding. We do really want the option for people to dance, but it's also very important to use to have games and whatnot so no one feels pressured and everyone is entertained according to their own interests/comfort level. This post got me thinking though– would it be too odd to try and get people to dance at a morning wedding? There's still going to be booze so I figured it'd be all good LOL. I LOVE the karaoke idea (for at least a little while) but feel like my mom's head would explode!

  41. I hired a tarot reader (as entertainment) who is experienced with large corporate events and private parties. We'll see how it goes, because we also have a live band that will probably be kinda loud… oh well, she'll just have to shout people's futures at them. 🙂

  42. We had our wedding on a Sunday so it was kind of a given it wasn't going to run late with partying & dancing. I just danced with my hubby and my dad and my brother…which is what I wanted anyways. My parents danced and a few others, but most people left on the earlier side. Everyone seems to forget weddings/receptions are to celebrate the couple, they are not for the couple to entertain everyone else.

  43. I run a DJ company and you can have a wedding without dancing, Ive even DJd at one where they wanted no dancing but they did want someone that could control the vibe on the night as they did different activities. Remember that even without dancing you will want some focal points for the evening and some people that are responsible for looking after things if your plans go awry on the day (which is the traditional role of the DJ generally) as you want to keep the momentum up regardless of what you do! Have a great wedding day.
    Daniel Toop

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