FAQ 10 What is the best length of time and overall format for a Ceilidh or Barn Dance?
Generally, between 1 and 3 hours of this style of dancing is about right. If the Ceilidh Band and caller are to share the evening with a Disco later on, the band would play for less time and then the break would happen naturally between the Band finishing and the Disco taking over. I never ever recommend having any style of entertainment for longer than 3 hours as people need a change of style and sound. Trying to run a Barn dance or Ceilidh for 4-5 hours is a no-no – everyone would be on their knees, and in need of a change and variety.
Having two roughly equal halves to the evening is what I usually recommend, whatever the occasion or event, as it gives everyone time to work up an appetite with some dancing, then have a bit of grub, and then work off the calories in the second half! Callers and bands usually do two dances in a row, and then have a few minutes break for the dancers to have a slurp and a breather, then on with the dancing. Bands often play instrumentals and / or songs in between the pairs of dances to give the dancers a bit of a rest.
For any event, we recommend a latest finish time of 11.00pm or 11.30pm, and I always advise against a midnight finishing time. We’ve found that at most parties or events, some people start drifting away from about 10.30pm onwards – especially if they have young children, or a long journey home.
Any Band always prefers to round off on a high with everyone still there, rather than going on til later with fewer people there just for the sake of it.
When deciding the start time for a wedding Ceilidh, please bear in mind that you need to allow much more time than you might expect for everything else happening during the day. I always suggest allowing 6 hours from the ceremony time to the evening party getting started, which surprises some people. The photos, greetings and drinks, the meal - and especially the speeches - take up the time! Unless you take this into account, the Ceilidh will start later than you’ve planned, and the band will be sitting around for ages waiting to set up.
For a wedding, in most cases, the band and caller setting up coincides naturally with the preparation of the room or marquee ready for the evening party. I would avoid booking any band which says it needs more than an hour to set up – it will create a massive gap in between your afternoon and evening celebrations. This would not be an issue for a non-wedding occasion though.