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27 Jan

So You “THINK” You Need a DJ for your wedding?

So You “THINK” You Need a DJ for your wedding?

I guess that’s the question that most folks end up asking when the planning of a wedding begins: band or DJ?  It’s a hard decision, but there are several things in favor of selecting a DJ.  A DJ can play the original song, performed to perfection, and has an unlimited request list.  But the icing on the cake is that a really good DJ will help you plan it all so you can just show up, get married, and make memories.  Trying to figure out exactly what you need for your event can be a daunting task.  I have talked with many individuals who aren’t sure exactly what they need—mics, photo booth, uplights, coordination. As someone who has been the DJ at weddings and events in North Carolina for more than 38 years, I can help you figure out the essential details and questions to ask.

Coordinating with Local Vendors

First and most importantly, start the conversation with a DJ and ask questions!  Most people don’t know what they need and typically only ask the basic questions.  If you are speaking to a DJ provider on the phone or in person and this provider really knows the craft, they will help you with all the available options.  Great providers have a wealth of information and possibilities at their fingertips to help steer you to a great event.  These DJs also should know many of the local vendors who can provide other services for your event. A first red flag in your conversation would be if the DJ you are speaking with is not connected locally to other vendors.  I can promise you that your event will go off very smoothly if all the vendors you hire know each other.

For example, I work many events in central North Carolina where I am familiar with the caterer and photographer.  This really makes my management of the event much easier.  Because they are familiar with me and my style, they are not surprised by my work flow. They are prepared for the timeline I use for events, as the timeline can be different for each event. This community of vendors, when familiar with each other, will work well together and know what’s going to happen next. For example, how many times has a photographer been surprised because a DJ decided to do a toast or cake cutting without letting the event photographer know?  I hear these stories all the time.  So vendors who are familiar with each other tend to know how a particular DJ manages an event and they aren’t suddenly surprised by a DJ’s next move.

Planning Guide

Every awesome DJ should have a document developed for each event that outlines the flow of events. This document can be shared with other vendors at the event, so all the providers are on the same page as far as the timeline is concerned.  Prior to the event, your DJ should develop this document with the bride and groom to establish exactly what they want and when they want to do it. Couples don’t need the anxiety of getting to their event and having to determine “what’s next”, or “where do I need to be”?  Developing the timeline with the events for the night, e.g., toast, cake cutting, time of dinner, lets me as the DJ lead you through the evening according to the series of activities we have developed over the course of the planning.  I simply expect my couples to show up for the event, get dressed, say “I DO,” and have a memorable evening of fun.

Ceremonies can provide an array of challenges for the couple that a good DJ also can help you with.  The wedding DJ recently has developed as an invaluable asset for ceremonies.  From planning the seating of the VIPs , to the entrance of the bridal party and the cueing of the bride to walk down the aisle, the DJ can do it all.  The DJ can plan all these actions with the couple in advance, so the day of the event they don’t have to worry who walks when, to where.  Of course, if the couple has hired a wedding planner or coordinator, then that is the individual who runs the show for the day and the DJ will follow the direction of that person.  The DJ should be capable of suggesting and supplying the music for guest seating, the processional of the bridal party, and the entrance of the bride.  There also may be a unity candle, knot tying, or other unity ritual that may need music, then the all-important pronouncement of the bride and groom and the lively recessional.  All these movements require music that your DJ should assist you with.

Reception Details

A quality DJ will be able to assist you in planning your reception from the introductions to the last dance.  All the activities that need to take place during the reception should be decided upon in advance and planned out.  No one wants to be standing up in front of their guests, during the toasts with microphone in hand, trying to determine who is next.  Have everything planned and have the DJ reaffirm with those listed as doing toasts, before their name is called for the toast, that they are ready to stand and deliver their toast.  This is a very special moment of the evening, where a previously determined members of the family and friends offers words of encouragement to the newlyweds; its often very moving.  Sometimes individuals who have previously stated that they don’t want to, or are not comfortable with public speaking, are moved and gather their courage and now want to make a toast.  I suggest that if a particular family member has declined doing a toast weeks before the event, to just confirm with them, before the toasting begins, that they are fine with that decision.  Many times, emotion takes over and they are moved to express their love for the new couple.

Selecting Your Dance Music

Many couples are initially concerned with finding a DJ that just plays good music and gets people to the dance floor.  As easy as this seems to be, for many who assume the role as DJ, beyond the basic hits, it isn’t so easy.  Being a quality DJ who can read the crowd, pack the dance floor, and develop a playlist, along with the music that the bride and groom select, typically takes years of experience.  Your DJ needs to have the knowledge of what song to play, other than the obvious choices that appeal to all ages, to meet the challenge of engaging all your guests and making your event a memorable experience.

A great DJ has to rely on more than line dances and Uptown Funk to get the guests to participate.  Here is where online reviews of the DJ really come into play.  Be sure to go to the major wedding sites and read what others have to say.  These previous customers know better than anyone if the individual that you are considering for your special day has the skill to move the guests to “shake their booty.”  Your DJ also should ask for a request list of songs that you would like to have for the dancing portion of the reception.  You also may consider providing a “do not play” list of songs that you don’t want to hear.

Bringing It to a Close

Finally, you have to determine how to end your big day.  The ending of the day or departure from the reception is sometimes as meaningful as the beginning of the day.  Are you going to have a last dance with the guests and then have a coordinated departure?  The departure could include sparklers, glowsticks, birdseed, rose petals, or many other possibilities.  Make sure to plan how your guests are going to assemble for departure and how they need to line up for the best pictures.  This should be discussed with the photographer in advance and this info passed to your coordinator or DJ.  If you are using sparklers, make sure that you have a good method to light the sparklers. You don’t want to have 100 guests lined up with sparklers ready to light and only two lighters.  Also make sure that you have a proper container to dispose of your sparklers when the departure is complete and the guests know to put the extinguished sparkler in that container. 

Organization is really key for a quality DJ to perform their tasks in a proper and timely manner.  This requires having all the information for your special day in the hands of the DJ well in advance of the event.  Then the DJ should use that information, review the provided timeline, secure all the necessary music, and be prepared to exceed the expectations of the bride and groom, without detracting from their special day.  Every DJ needs to remember that they are not the star of this show but simply a means to make the day special, memorable, and fun. 

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