When it comes to wedding receptions, we know that not everyone wants to dance. Or hell, maybe you like dancing, but your reception location just doesn’t have space. Because we’re all so trained to think of wedding receptions as following a very specific format—meal, first dance, boogie, cake cutting, crazy dance party—it can be confusing to envision what a reception can look like without dancing. And almost inevitably, you start to worry if a wedding without dancing will even be fun.
TL;DR: Of course a wedding without dancing will be fun!
But it can feel overwhelming to come up with non-dance ideas for your reception when you have no idea what people might be into. Wedding games are always a fun alternative at a reception, but it’s not all you have to work with. When we asked the APW community what you did at your weddings instead of dancing, you guys came back at us with over a hundred stories, examples, and ideas. Here are a few that we really loved (and we’re always into reading even more if you’ve got them):
Wedding Games That #Slay
Legos, Legos, Legos
If you’ll have guests seated at tables, head over to eBay and stock up on Legos. You can even purchase them in bulk by color, if you want to keep it stylish. Trust, those blocks have no age limit. Invite your guests to create their own Lego centerpieces and be prepared to be blown away (or at least act like it) by their creations. Don’t forget your minifigures—the Lord of the Ring hobbits are my favorite, though Wyldstyle has a certain badass feminist flair.
Puzzles, Board Games, and Card Games
Board games and puzzles are awesome additions to the dance-free wedding reception because few things bring people together like a cardboard challenge. Cooperative games are great for adults and kids: think Pandemic and Forbidden Desert for the older crowd, and Wildcraft or Race to the Treasure for the younger. If you’re the daring type, you can always introduce a game of Cards About Matrimony after a few drinks. (It’s like Cards Against Humanity… but about weddings and marriage.)
Create a Custom Crossword Puzzle
There are so many ways you can do this one. Theme the crossword puzzle for each table (include hints and answers for the guests seated there). Theme the puzzle so that it’s all about you guys. Use pop culture themes (grunge bands from the ’90s, international capitals, US presidents, current events), make it about animals, or just do what you want. The more crossword puzzles you have the better, and invite your guests to partner up with someone they’ve never met to complete it. (There are a million free online resources for this, including crosswordlabs.com.)
Mrs. Peacock, in the Library, with the Rope
I have nursed a desire to play a live action version of Clue for much of my life, and a wedding sounds like an awesome opportunity to do so. If you don’t want to go murder mystery you don’t have to—who stole the Sword of Gryffindor from Snape’s office, anyone?
Get to Know the Area by Way of a Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a good way to get your guests up and moving without dancing. You can stay inside and explore the reception hall, or if your reception is near a park, forest, or otherwise appropriate spot (not, say, on a street jammed with local businesses that might not love having tons of wedding guests coming and going), take it outside.
Invite Childhood In (Bubbles, Chalk, Badminton, Record Player?)
You might not have any kids at your reception, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be kids… at least, in spirit. If it makes sense for your space, why not move the reception outdoors and embrace some of the best parts of childhood? Bust out the bubbles, the rainbow chalk, and a few sets of badminton. If it feels right, set up a record player or two in strategic spots and let your guests choose their own tunes while they spot shapes in the clouds.
Activities So Good You’ll Forget Dancing all together
Keep the Coffee Coming
Brunch weddings that include colorful cocktails and sangria are fabulous (who doesn’t like mimosas?), but you know what is even more fabulous? A coffee bar at your wedding, especially if you’re getting married at mid-morning. Coffee gets people chatting, chatting gets people feeling jovial, and jovial-but-not-drunk guests mean your wedding reception will be a hit.
Snuggle up at a Bonfire
If you’re planning to host a reception well into the night, offer up blankets and a bonfire to your guests. There are few things more magical than cozying up under the stars, watching nature do its thing while a fire crackles. If you’re into music, you probably know someone who can bring along an acoustic guitar or a few drums. If you’d rather sit back and let the world make its own tunes (bullfrogs, am I right?), a few pairs of binoculars or even a telescope available might enhance the experience.
Small Weddings = Dinner Party
One of my favorite types of receptions is the classic dinner party: long tables that can accommodate twenty people at a time, family style servings, and candles for ambiance. I recently shot a wedding for a couple who pulled this off perfectly. They held their reception (for roughly forty guests) in a back room at a local restaurant. No one danced, but everyone enjoyed four incredible courses, lots of wine, and by the end of the night everyone knew everyone quite well.
One of the best ways to quietly opt out of dancing altogether is to never invite it. Instead of feeling that you have to fill in every part of the day for your guests, give them a break. After the ceremony, take two or three hours off and meet everyone back up for dinner at a restaurant or pub that night. This is easiest if you’re having a small wedding (and therefore don’t have to coordinate with too many people).
Have Live Music That Isn’t Exactly Dance-y
Ruling out dancing doesn’t mean you can’t have a band. You could consider hiring a local band that plays classic rock, classical music, or jazz. Sure you can dance to each of those, but if your wedding is outdoors and there’s plenty to drink, people will be just as inclined to sit back and just dig.
…For When You Kind of Want to Dance, But Only if Everyone Does
Okay, this one obviously includes dancing, but it’s different. Hire a few teachers to offer lessons to everyone at your reception. Be it contra, folk, or Old English, there are plenty of types of dance that are fun to learn in groups. Participation can always be optional, and if the only pros are the teachers, it’s more likely the whole gang will jump in and learn.