How to make a dance floor for an outdoor wedding

In Weddings by Joni

7 perfect ways to create a space for dancing at the reception without breaking the bank.

Whichever outdoor dance floor you create you must also:

  • Mark out an area that is for dancing
  • Offer guests in heels alternative footwear
  • Check the floor is safe, even and on a flat surface
  • Don’t blow too much of your budget on renting a floor unless this is a vitally important aspect of your day.

Whether the reception is in a tent, outside on the lawn or on the beach you must decide whether there will be dancing.  But as everyone knows, if there’s the right music, people will want to dance.  Dancing is, after all, a time-honoured way of celebrating across the world and has been for thousands of years.

So here are some great ways to make a space for dancing without spending too much.

Dancing on the beach or the grass

This is the cheapest option and a popular choice today when weddings are less formal.

There is no point cordoning off a special dancing area for a beach wedding.  People will kick off their shoes and just take to the sand once the mood is right.  People naturally get closer together when dancing so there will soon be an informal dance area marked out by the first few dancers. 

If it’s a rustic wedding or a backyard wedding then many people will be happy to dance on the grass.  But it might be a good idea to mark out a space for dancing. 

How to mark out a space for dancing

Find an area of level grass and if possible have it cut short the day before.  Remember to rake away any grass cuttings.  Then hammer in some wooden, metal or strong plastic poles around three sides of this space.  Look in hardware stores but also in garden centres for these.

Sursun in-ground solar lighting on path
Solar powered lighting for pathway and dance floor by Sursun on Amazon

Hang lights or lanterns between the poles.  Most dancing starts at dusk so it makes sense to use inexpensive colourful lanterns that store the day’s sunlight and automatically come on when it gets dark. 

If putting in secure poles is difficult then just plant sun-activated lamps in the grass around three sides of a square.  You can use these inexpensive lights to mark out a pathway to the dance area too. See some solar powered lights on Amazon.com here. And some fun flickering lights here on Amazon.co.uk.

What will dancers wear on their feet?

You will need to warn guests in advance that dancing will be on sand or grass.  You can’t dance on these surfaces in heels.  You can also mention that flip flops will be available for those who don’t fancy going barefoot.

Buy heaps of these in various sizes and pop them in a big basket by the dance area.  Pinterest has some lovely ideas for this including cute signage.

Once guests know that dancing will be outside on the open ground they will likely decide to wear more casual and fun attire.  Most will decide on sandals or flat shoes too.  This will give the right vibe for the celebration and help avoid anyone twisting an ankle on or off the dance floor. 

But if barefoot or flip flop dancing is more informal than you want, you’ll need to construct a dance floor.

Make a dance area with carpet

Grass can get wet as the evening draws on so you may prefer to throw a carpet over your external dance area. 

Look online for cheap floor coverings made of jute or bamboo.  Some cotton or synthetic woven rugs are very inexpensive too.  Either get a large area rug or get a length cut off a roll.  Be careful not to simply lay several rugs down across the space.  Whilst you can use tent pegs (with lights next to them) to secure the outside edges of the carpet, it’s dangerous to do this for the edges where they meet up inside the dance area.  Even with flat shoes you will have accidents.  And if you don’t secure the covering it will ruck into folds which is even more dangerous.

You should still offer espadrilles or flip flops for dancers wearing heels though people in flat shoes will be fine. 

If there is an area of concrete or a deck for example, this will make an excellent base.  A wooden deck can be used as it is but a carpet will improve the look of bare concrete and make it more comfortable to dance on, even in shoes.

Whilst solar string lights strung around the carpeted area will look fun, the carpet itself will mark out the dance floor so poles are not essential.

Reuse a dance floor

Lots of people buy a wooden dance floor for their wedding then never use it again.  Don’t be content with just scouring the local small ads be proactive and put out a call everywhere for a second hand dance floor.  Do this months in advance because you need to attract the attention of couples before their wedding as most will simply discard their floor with all the other detritus from the reception.  So ‘book in’ to collect and pay for that expensive floor the couple are considering buying.  Your willingness to take it afterwards may push them to buy instead of rent.

Guests dance outside on a rustic wood floor
For a rustic wedding a DIY wood floor looks perfect

Build a dance floor – full instructions

If you have someone to help you, this option need not be a lengthy task.  Just remember to start it well in advance in case you run into any minor problems.

Your floor needs a solid and flat surface fixed to a supporting structure underneath to keep it off the ground.  This structure will make the area even.  It will look best on concrete or a deck but will also sit happily on short grass.

Decide on the size of your finished floor then buy sheets of ½ inch plywood to fit this size.  The store will cut them to exact size for you so don’t even consider doing that yourself!  Plywood is often sold in 4×8 foot sheets so a floor of 16 x 12 feet can be made just using 6 whole sheets.  This is the solid top surface for each of 6 ‘blocks’ which will be put together to make the floor.

For the support underneath you need to create a box structure under each sheet of plywood.  You can make these from lengths of 2×2 inch timber.  These are often sold in 8 foot lengths.  You will need a piece of timber to go around each side of each plywood ‘block’. Then add two more pieces to each block to reinforce them.  For each block you will need two pieces of 4 foot timber  (2×2 inch) for the short edges plus four pieces of 92 inches each for the long edges ( they are shorter than the side because they need to be screwed or nailed to the timber along each short edge.)  Use the two extra lengths of 92 inches to fix across lengthwise inside the block to spread the load when people are dancing. 

Explain to the store how you are going to use the 2×2 inch reinforcing timber so the person cutting them knows why some are shorter.

Nail or screw the reinforcing structure together so you have a box shape with two extra struts inside.

Once you have the blocks in position on the lawn nail the plywood on top all around the edges and down the line where the reinforcing struts are.

You can get small mending or fixing metal plates with gripping teeth on them which you can hammer across the joins between the blocks to hold them together.  Do this last of all as they will start to come out if you lift or move the floor much.

Ensure the nails on the top surface are very flat against the plywood so nobody catches a heel on one.

Finish the plywood with two coats of floor paint.  Then a third coat can be just for decorative effect such as circles or a name.  If you want to have a chequerboard effect then use painter’s tape (masking tape) to make the crisscross design and paint alternate squares with the top coat.  Use the same tape method to make stripes or other straight-edged designs.  You can also buy fun decals then varnish over them.

DIY a simple dance floor

If building a floor looks like too much work you can simply lie a flat board across a flat area of short grass to make a quickie floor.

You will need ¾ inch thick MDF which all builders merchants and most hardware stores sell.  But be warned, MDF is very heavy so get it delivered. 

Never leave wood and never never leave MDF sitting where it can get wet.  Buy a tarpaulin or strong waterproof cover, not just a decorator’s roll of thin plastic sheet.  Cover the MDF completely if you cannot keep it indoors until the day.

MDF can be painted or stained and finished with a transparent PVC glaze to help it stay looking good all evening.  You can apply gorgeous decals on the super flat surface too.

It won’t last for very long as it will probably get a bit damp from the grass but it is an inexpensive and quick solution.  Make sure to use as flat a surface underneath it as you can.

Make a good-looking wood floor for inside a tent or marquee

Your tent may have a plastic sheet as a floor or hessian or just plain grass.  Non of these are ideal for dancing in heels.  But you can put down a sheet of plywood or MDF and cover it with wood effect laminate.  These thin sheets of wood or wood-effect plastic click together to make a solid surface.  They will need to be glued or nailed down to the plywood.  If the plywood is sitting on a hard surface such as concrete you can put a layer of foam, carpet underlay or carpet under the plywood.

You may find that your tent floor is flat enough for you to lie the laminate straight on top. If you do this you must use heavy duty tape round the edges to stick the dance floor to the tent floor.

Construct a decking area for dancing

This does not need to be well finished at the edges – which is usually the most time-consuming part about creating a garden deck.  Just buy boxes of decking that click together and place them on the flattest place you can find.  They will be finished, stained and smooth so no need to paint or glaze.  You may be able to reuse the blocks for a garden or advertise them for others to use. Here are best rated decking blocks on Amazon.com. And wood decking tiles on Amazon.co.uk.