Here are some miscellaneous thoughts that might help make your event a resounding success.  This is very much a work in progress.  If there's anything I haven't mentioned here that could have spoiled your evening I'd be very interested to hear about it.


Dancing takes up a lot of room - much more than a disco.  Try to clear as much floor space as you can.  Make sure the manager of your venue knows what to expect, otherwise you'll inevitably finish up with the standard pocket-hankerchief disco dance floor.  If there's room - provide tables and chairs so people can get their breath back, but we are here to dance, so dancing room is the priority.

The bar is an obvious focal point.  If possible, this should be in the same room as the dancing.  People who are not used to dances might be a bit shy of getting onto the floor.  If there is another room to hide in, it's much more difficult to build up a party atmosphere.

Safety First

Dancing is not normally considered a high risk sport, but injuries do occur occasionally, even broken limbs! You the organiser might find yourself liable, so spare a thought for a few simple safety issues.

Make sure there is enough room to dance, and try to remove things that over-exuberant dancers might trip over.

If you are running your own bar, bear in mind that energetic dancers will be thirsty and will drink a lot.  Provide plenty of long drinks and encourage a lower alcohol content - beer rather than wine or spirits is preferable to avoid too much high spirits later.

Take a look at the surface of the dance floor.  Don't sprinkle the whole area with bits of straw - it presents a certain atmosphere but makes the floor extremely slippery. Look out for uneven surfaces, loose carpeting etc.  If there's nothing practical you can do about it, ask the caller to draw attention to it at the beginning of the evening and remind people to take care.

If you are putting up decorations, make sure they won't fall on someone's head or be tripped over.

What Does The Band Need?

The basic needs are simple - a nearby power point for the amplification, a sturdy table to put gear on, some chairs.

A stage is very nice, though not essential.  Make sure it's big enough - too small is often less useful than nothing at all.  A suitable size will depend on the size of the band and what instruments they play - ask them!

For deluxe service, a cup of tea or a drink from the bar helps the band put some enthusiasm into the music. 

Consider handing over the cash at the beginning of the evening or during the interval - that way you can be sure you won't go home early and forget it, and it's one less thing to worry about at the often busy clear-up time at the end of the evening.

What Should I Wear?

Don't confuse a ceilidh with a Country & Western night.  If you are looking for a theme, then wild west is as good as any, but it's certainly not the norm.  If you turn up in cowboy boots and pistols, you may stand out a bit.  Dancing is energetic, so wear cool comfortable clothes and avoid precarious towering heels.

Special Considerations for Special Events

For weddings - allow more time than you think you need for everything.  By the time you've got through the ceremony, the photos, the wedding breakfast and speeches, the ceilidh almost always starts an hour late.  If you are following this usual pattern, a good rule of thumb is about 5 hours from start of ceremony to start of dance.  Having too much time on your hands is less of a problem - people always like to chat with friends and relatives they haven't seen since the last wedding.

Consider clothing carefully for dancing - I have seen a bride dancing the night away with the train of her dress gathered up in her arms, assisted by a bridesmaid on crutches with her leg in plaster, but there are better ways! Wedding dresses can be designed with removable bits, and a change of clothing after the speeches is always an option.

The success of a wedding ceilidh, birthday party, anniversary or other similar celebration depends upon getting as many people dancing as possible.  They will usually follow the lead of the bride and groom / birthday girl/boy, so plan to be on the dance floor much of the time.

Choose your start and finish time to suit your guests - it's better to finish earlier and go out with a bang than to gradually fizzle out as people slip away. Equally, you don't want to spend the first hour with three or four people because nobody else could get there so soon. But don't squeeze from both ends - the event needs to be long enough for everyone to have a chance to do some dancing and enjoy the music.

Conferences, Courses, Summer Schools

A dance is an ideal social event to run as an integral part of a conference, or course. We are often told by summer school staff that their course group really came to life after dancing together. It's the ideal way to break the ice, and get to know each other. The rest of the course will be much more constructive and fun as a result. For best results, timetable the dance early in the procedings - perhaps the second night of a week would be good.

How Much Does it Cost?

Weddings and other celebrations can be expensive, so budget is going to be an issue.  However, I'd recommend you don't compromise too much on the quality of your band.  The difference between mediocre and excellent is probably only about £50 and can make or break your day.  Contact Knotted Chord for a quote.

We are cheaper on weekdays, and give discounts for dance clubs and charity fundraising events.

See also:

What What is a Barn Dance or Ceilidh?
Difference What is the Difference Between a Barn Dance and a Ceilidh?