An empty dance floorYes, it’s a thing and it DOES unfortunately happen from time to time even for those of us with many years of experience under our belts (and believe me…I talk to DJs who have being doing this job since wax discs were invented!).

I’ll hold my hand up and admit that every year, I face 2-3 parties (normally weddings I might add) where it’s just not possible to fill the dance floor with more than a dozen guests at a time.

It’s a DJs worst nightmare, and there are forums and discussion groups filled with this very topic most weekends because it happens to us all.

The drive home after such a party is always a long one full of thoughts of what (if anything) we could have done differently.

So…what causes it?

I’ll focus mainly on weddings for this post because that’s the majority of the parties I entertain at. It can and does happen at other types of party as well, but most experienced DJs will agree that weddings are the prime suspect for this phenomenon.

Firstly, it’s rarely the DJs fault!

OK – I’m biased on this particular fact but trust me, there have been parties in the past where I’ve tried every single trick in the book (and more besides) to fill the dance floor, and nothing has tempted more than a dozen people to dance at a time.

OK, sometimes it IS the DJs fault. You may have a DJ who hasn’t got the skills or experience to react to how your guests are behaving or one that doesn’t have the knowledge of music which is suitable to your party. Hopefully though, you’ll have met your DJ before your party to discuss those requirements and agreed what’s needed for the night.

The art of a DJ (especially a wedding DJ) is entertaining the vast age range of guests which typically attend. I say especially a wedding DJ because other types of parties such as birthdays are generally based around a group of guests of similar ages….it’s a fact of life.

There are many known reasons for a quiet dance floor.

  • Guest fatigue: It’s often been a very long day for your guests, many of whom may have left home early in the morning and they just don’t want to dance.
  • Venue layout: For instance the bar and seating area being in a seperate location from the disco (this is the no.1 cause in most cases).
  • The weather: If it’s a nice summer’s evening and your venue has an outdoor seating area….where do you think your guests would rather be?
  • The “long time no see” effect: Wedding guests often haven’t seen each other for years and would rather spend time catching up with each other, especially long-distance relations.
  • Uncomfortable clothing: Many wedding guests (especially women) wear clothing to weddings which may not be comfortable after long periods of time (blisters from those sparkly shoes ladies?)
  • Your guests may not actually be the type of people that enjoy dancing, especially in front of people they may not know (I personally fall into that category!).
  • Music selection: It may be that you’ve specified the entire evening’s playlist. Whilst I have no problem with this, sometimes your favourite tracks don’t necessarily appeal to your guests (will great aunt Mabel get up and shake her thing to Dr Dre’s latest offering for example or would she prefer something a little more vintage?)
  • Other events during the evening entertainment: Cake cutting and buffets happening after the disco has started are known floor-killers
  • Smokers: Yes, they still exist and since the smoking ban was introduced in the UK in 2006 , guests that smoke tend to go outside to feed their habit en-masse and at regular intervals.

So, what can be done about a quiet dance floor?

This depends on the type of party unfortunately, but the options are somewhat limited.

With occasions such as birthday parties, guests tend to be there because they want to be. With weddings, some guests (particularly relations) attend because they feel they have a duty to be there. It’s a harsh fact of life and a position I’ve been in myself on many occasions as a wedding guest.

The skill of reacting to the guests that ARE dancing is the most important tool to bring into play. Keeping guests on the floor is easier than getting guests there in the first place, believe me!

Microphone skills can also come into play in these situations and knowing when and more importantly, when not to say something on the microphone makes a big difference.

Equally important is reacting to guest requests on the night. Your guests are more likely to dance to songs they’ve asked for rather than a set playlist.

Ultimately though, there will ALWAYS be parties where dancing isn’t the priority for your guests.

Something I always look for is what the seated guests are doing. You’d be surprised at how many of them are sitting there tapping their feet on the floor, their hands on their table, or nodding their heads in time to the music.

This is always a sign that the choice of music is right and that they’re just not the dancing type for whatever reason.

The “Golden Hour”

It’s a known fact that alcohol frees the inhibitions. Every party varies, but as a general rule of thumb most serious dancing happens after 10pm.


This is the point at which in most cases, the effect of alcohol starts to kick in and guests feel more like throwing shapes on the floor. I’ve entertained at literally thousands of parties over the years, and believe me, 10pm is the magic time for guests to start hitting the dance floor.

In conclusion

Although a sparsely populated dance floor might not be what you imagined for your party, they are unfortunately a fact of life from time to time and there isn’t a great deal which can be done to make people get out of their seats and bust moves for the night sadly. If it was possible, quiet dance floors and indeed this blog post wouldn’t exist.

It doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying the evening though 🙂