DJ Turn Up
“A Typical Wedding”
I guess there’s really no such thing as a “typical” Wedding these days, so it’s important to hire a DJ that is experienced with all the different ways you can plan and execute a Wedding. There are also a lot of moving parts to a Wedding and sometimes things get a bit stressful, but with some planning and the right vendors on your team you can definitely avoid a whole lot of headaches. Below I break down each part of the day, and what goes into keeping everything on track.
The First Meeting, Set Up & Arrival, The Ceremony, Cocktail Hour, Introductions & First Dances, Dinner & Toasts, Dancing, Bouquet Garter & Cake Cutting.
The First Meeting
The First Meeting
I think meeting with you is just as important as you meeting with me. DJing a Wedding is basically a performance, and it’s very important for me to understand exactly what you’re looking for. There are a lot of things I like to take into consideration when it comes to putting my performance together. Things like the amount of guests you have coming, the age and backgrounds of your guests, what sort of music you do and don’t want to hear, the theme and colors of your Wedding, if you’re having an intimate and conservative night, or a wild one that would put the best clubs to shame. I don’t plan to just show up, make a few announcements, and play songs off your request list in the order you wrote them down. I want to create an atmosphere for your guests to experience. One that compliments your venue, your decorations, and your personalities. No two people are the same so why should any two performances be?
Because I have a lot of experience in the industry I’ve seen what works, and what does not. So, something I like to do at our initial meeting is to write out a rough idea of what your timeline will look like. And I don’t mean a broad timeline that just highlights ceremony, cocktail, and reception. I mean a more in-depth schedule of how your formalities will play out back to back (things like Introductions, First Dances, Parent Dances, Toasts, Cake Cutting, etc). We will combine your ideas and preferences with my experience and expertise. This will give you a good idea of how everything will play out, and usually comes in handy down the road in your planning process.
Set Up & Arrival
Set Up & Arrival
Proper etiquette for Set Up and Arrival is more important than most people think. One of the first things I do after I book a Wedding is to reach out to your venue to establish a good point of contact. That way if your planner needs something like a copy of our insurance, or wants to update me with a change in plans, we don’t have any issues getting in touch. Additionally, I like to confirm that I have the right address, and that I understand where on property I will be setting up, as well as where on property I’ll be unloading and parking. As a vendor, nothing is worse than showing up to a hotel and wandering around the lobby looking for someone to talk to. Both you and your venue probably don’t have time to help point your DJ in the right direction the day of anyway. Also, routing the directions to your venue ahead of time is something I put a few extra steps into. First, I’ll route the distance and time to your venue, then I’ll go back and re-route that during different days/ and times of the week, in order to give me a good idea of how traffic flows and jams in that area (especially if your venue is located in a city or downtown area). I also like to arrive to the general area of your venue an hour or so before my two-hour early set up time, I’ll then either grab lunch or get some work done at a coffee shop nearby. This strategy allows me to no longer be at the mercy of unpredictable traffic accidents or other delays. In regards to this, I like to tell my newer DJs that “although it might not be your fault, it is still your problem”. Because on the day of your Wedding I doubt you’ll be sympathetic to what caused your DJ to be late.
Like I just mentioned I prefer to show up to your venue two hours early (and earlier if we have more equipment to set up). My actual set up time is roughly 45 minutes for the Reception, and 10 minutes for the Ceremony. The remaining time allows me to replace any potentially non-working equipment, and to coordinate some details with your other vendors. It’s also very important for the DJ to be set up in the right place. In some cases there might not be a preference for where the DJ is placed, in which case I will get with your coordinator and discuss the best place to set up. Considering things like the orientation of the room, distance to the dance floor, view of the room when you first walk in, the position of the head table, etc. The position of the DJ can dramatically change the way your night plays out, and how people respond to the dancing part of the Reception. Also, I like to make sure your coordinator or Wedding planner and I are on the same page with the flow of events (just to double check that nothing has changed, and that I didn’t overlook something). I will also take advantage of the extra time I have before the Wedding starts to make sure myself and your other vendors have the same understanding of the order of events. I find this to be helpful as we will be working together in order to make your big day a success.
The Ceremony is one of the quickest parts of your big day (usually), yet it takes as much attention to detail as any other part of the Wedding (if not more). The Ceremony is also arguably one of the most important parts of the day, you know… it’s the whole reason everyone showed up. So, right off the bat I take where I should be setting up into heavy consideration. I want to make sure I’m positioned in a way that I can see any signals from your coordinator, while also placing my speakers in the best place for music projection purposes. I also need to keep in mind the distance from my set-up to the microphone (in order to avoid any signal interference), and I want to be sure I’m not going to be in the background of any photos or videos. On a side note, your Videographer can directly plug an audio recorder into our equipment, in order to capture anything said at the alter in clear quality (like vows, blessings, poems, etc).
As a courtesy we like to start playing music 30 minutes prior to the start time of your Ceremony (unless otherwise requested), we call this ‘preliminary music’. You can either suggest what vibe or style of music you’d like for this part (usually dictated by your theme, for example: formal, beachy, rural, etc). Or, we have a go-to playlist of “pretty instrumental music” that set’s the tone for people while they’re arriving and waiting.
I also pay a good deal of attention to the cue points of your songs, and the cue points within each song. Basically, what I mean by this is that I’ll take into consideration when I need to play each song as the Ceremony progresses, and when specifically within each song I should start playing that song (if you don’t specify this detail with me, I’ll just listed to it a few times and choose an appropriate time to begin each song - taking ‘walk time’ into consideration). Often times Ceremony songs have a long delay, or segment of “non-important” music leading up to the “good part” of the song. I’ll listen to each of your songs, and choose a point to set the song, usually 5-10 seconds before the song “hits” or gets to that good part. That way there’s a clean 5-10 second layer of the next song, as I fade out the previous song, creating a well timed and seamless transition. I also have the ability to cleanly transition a song into itself or even “loop” (or repeat a short segment of a song) over and over, if a last second delay occurs. For example, maybe the flower girl freezes up and needs to be coaxed into walking down the aisle. Instead of the song going dead, or having a painfully obvious restart of that song, I will find an unnoticeable way to bring that song into itself (for all your guests know it’s still the same song). Strategies like this keep the Ceremony flowing seamlessly, and continues to create that lovely atmosphere you want to get married in.
If you don’t have a coordinator assigned to help with the ceremony then no worries, we can help with that as well. We can determine when to play each song during the Ceremony using the people that walk down the aisle as signals for when to play the next song.
The cocktail hour is generally one of the “least important” parts of the night as far as music is concerned, as most of your guests are mingling and not paying too much attention to the background music. However, we can take advantage of this time to get things in order for the introductions (which usually happen right after the Cocktail hour). In cases where the client doesn’t give us much direction on the music that they want to hear during the Reception, we can use the Cocktail hour to judge your crowd’s taste in music. What I mean by this is as we play different genres and decades of music throughout the Cocktail hour, we will pay attention to the little cues your guest give off (like tapping their feet, swaying to the beat, or pointing out a song to someone nearby). In theory this shows us what sorts of music your crowd will engage with later in the night as we get into the dancing.
The Ceremony might be one the most “important” parts of any Wedding, but the Introductions are one of the most “involved”. What I mean by this is during the introductions you tend to have the most going on back to back, here’s an example of what the average timeline looks like during this point in the night.
5:30pm-5:45pm Introductions + First Dance + Parent Dances
5:45pm-6:00pm BM/MOH Speeches + Open Mic Toasts
With so much going on back to back we need to make sure we’ve double checked every aspect of this part in your timeline. If something were to go wrong, we don’t really have any time to pause and “regroup”, so we need to be sure everyone is on the same page right before we start introducing your wedding party. So, about 15 minutes into your Cocktail hour (after we’ve got a good idea of what your crowd likes to vibe to), we will line up a few similar songs that will auto-play in that order while we step away to find you. During the Cocktail hour you’re usually somewhere on the property taking photos, so this is a great time for us to pull you aside to double check a few details (and if you prefer not to be bothered we can have this conversation with your coordinator). We want to be sure we still have the correct songs for the introductions, first dances, and know who is giving speeches and in what order (assuming you’ve pre-assigned a few people to talk). You’d be surprised how often a couple or even a coordinator forgets to update us on a song change, or forgets to let us know that a bridesmaid has been removed from the introduction list. Imagine starting your First Dance only to find-out it’s to the wrong song, with us we take a few extra steps to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Now it’s time to line everyone up for introductions, and a within a few short moments you’ll be walking into a room full of cheering friends and family. At this point in time you’re probably not paying too much attention to little details as you’re focused on what’s to come, and that’s what we’re here for. We will help line up your bridal party in the order they will be walking in (the order we just reviewed with you during the Cocktail hour). Prior to this we will have a quick conversation with your Photographer and ask them how they’d like your bridal party to enter. Most of the time your Photographer will want to capture each person walking in, and to do so they usually ask everyone to walk in following a certain route, and then to pause at a certain point for a quick photo. We will translate this information to your bridal party as we line them up, along with where they will be standing during your first dance (usually your bridal party stands off to one side of your dance floor, to be the background of your first dance). We will also remind you that you don’t need to dance to the full length of your first dance, or the parent dances (unless you want to). If you like the idea of the song potentially being cut early, we usually agree on a subtle signal (like a wink or head nod), which will tell us when you’d like us to end the song (this is helpful when you’re song is either super long, or if one of your parents is uncomfortable standing for periods of time).
Another trick I like to implement is to read the full introduction list to myself over and over (close to 30 times) during the Cocktail Hour. This allows me to get extremely comfortable with the pronunciation of each name as well as how everything flows back to back. This is useful in-case I need to split my attention while doing the introductions, or if someone needs to tell me something while I’m actively talking. For example, I was in the middle of introductions at a recent Wedding, and while I was talking over the mic the coordinator ran over to tell me that we will be combining all three first dances into one, and that the couple wanted everyone to dance at the same time. Without missing a beat, and without awkwardly stopping my introductions to pay attention I was able to “auto-pilot” what I was saying out loud, in order to retain and acknowledge what I was being told by the coordinator (and yes we double checked this during cocktail hour, the bride changed her mind following that check in, and forgot to let me know). This is why it’s important to hire and experienced DJ that isn’t easily overwhelmed.
Also, I have the ability to create a custom mixed first dance or introduction song if needed (at no extra cost of course). I spent some time a few years back making dance routine mixes for professional cheer teams, and realized I can translate that to Wedding dances. I’m sure you’ve seen those cute Father Daughter dances that have a choreographed routine to a pre-mixed set. We can make that from scratch, all you have to do is provide me with which songs you want, and what parts of each song you’d like to have mixed in. I’ll put that together then send that over to you, so you have plenty of time to practice the routine.
Toasts & Dinner
I often suggest doing your Best Man and Maid of Honor toasts following your first dances, but prior to dinner starting. At the end of the day that decision is totally up to you, but we find most people don’t pay as much attention during dinner as they should (usually because they’re in the middle of individual conversations, eating, using the restroom, outside smoking, etc). But if you do the toasts following the last of your first dances, then you still have everyone’s attention. We also give you the option to have an “open mic” following the people you have pre-determined to speak. There is both a benefit and draw-back to doing an open mic. The benefit would be giving people (who aren’t your BM, MOH, or father) the opportunity to say something they’ve always wanted to say to you. The draw-back of course, would be people that don’t know when to stop talking, or people that took full advantage of cocktail hour… (I think we all have that one uncle that should never be allowed to touch a microphone). The decision to have an open mic is purely opinion based, and won’t change much besides some extra time being taken for the toasts.
Sometimes your catering staff might not be aware of when toasts are happening within the timeline, but still need to pour champagne on every table (this should be done a few minutes prior to toasts beginning so the champagne doesn’t get warm from sitting out). However, sometimes your coordinator is too busy to run back to tell the caterers when to pour the the champagne. If the champagne is not poured ahead of time, then there is nothing to “toast” with, and the staff will then need to take 5-10 minutes to fill everyone’s glass. This is something we like to keep an eye out for, in order to keep everything on track.
If you’re having a served dinner instead of a buffet then something as simple as serving the salads can also throw off your timeline (discussing when to serve salads is usually done at our initial meeting, as this needs to be planned in advance). Think about it, if you’re having a Wedding of 120 guests then it might take 5-10 minutes to “drop” salads off to each person, then 10-15 minutes to eat the salad, and an additional 5-10 minutes to pick up the plates (so you’re looking at 15-30 minutes of extra time needed for just salads). To avoid this we like to suggest that if you are serving salads at some point, that this is done prior to your guests entering the reception room, allowing them to eat the salads during the introductions and first dances. So now all your catering staff needs to do is to pick up the plates, and then drop dinner (it also keeps your hungry guests quiet as they have something to munch on while watching the introductions).
Dinner is usually a romantic point in the night, where your guests enjoy food, and conversation over candlelight. Playing music that compliments this atmosphere is important, and setting the mood starts as soon as your last toasts wrap up. Following the last person to speak the DJ will usually make a quick announcement like “Ladies and gentlemen a big round of applause to everyone that spoke this evening! And now the moment you have all been waiting for… dinner is now served. Our host will release you by table, so in the meantime sit back, relax, order a drink, and enjoy the music”. At this moment, the first song to be played will set the mood for dinner. We determine this first song by considering the mood the last person to give a toast left us in (like if the toast was funny and upbeat, we’ll play a slightly more upbeat song, or the last toast was heartfelt and somber then we will start will a calmer more romantic song). We will then play songs back to back that compliment each other, while keeping the mood consistent, yet slowly building your guests involvement. Meaning that while the songs are “dinner appropriate”, we like to progressively play songs that are more and more fun, or songs that can be sang to as people wrap up eating. The songs we will use will depend on your preferences in mood and music, but are similar to any of these: Sweet Caroline, Piano Man (Billy Joel), Gravity (John Mayer), Drift Away (Uncle Cracker), Hotel California, Marry Me, Kiss the Girl, You are the Best Thing, Friends in Low Places, etc. We like to do this because as dinner progresses we get closer and closer to dancing time, and want to try to “warm up” your crowd so that we don’t have an awkward cold start to the fun upbeat music that comes with dancing.
Weddings are by far my favorite type of event to DJ. I love Weddings for a few reasons, but primarily because of the broad spectrum of music we have the ability to work with (depending on your crowd of course). I’ve put a lot of work into creating the ability to DJ an event entirely composed of any of the following genres or decades of music: 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s 90’s, 00’s, Today’s Top 40, EDM, Country, Rap, Hip Hop, Indian, Spanish, Rock, Alternative, and many more. I spent time understanding which songs were hits, which songs were cheesy, which songs were the best to slow dance to, and how all of these songs fit together. Having the opportunity to strategically select from these groups of music in order to create consistent energy, while keeping your guests engaged and dancing is something I take great pride in.
Unless a client has provided a strict request list, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what type of music a DJ will end up playing. Because while the couple might have some preferences, all of their guests have variable tastes in music. So keeping an eclectic group of people dancing requires a lot of experience, a DJ must not only know about music but also what each song “does” to the dance floor. I think a successful Wedding DJ is defined by having an excellent combination of general music knowledge, song influence experience, event experience, confidence, and a great personality. Otherwise your DJ is basically just focusing on “cleanly” transitioning “relevant” songs that you asked to hear, while not navigating their music knowledge to bring you an unforgettable experience that is unique to you and your guests.
There are a lot of small details a Wedding DJ should pay attention to in order to bring you that unforgettable performance. First, they should consider your song list, as well as the demographics and ages of your guests. This allows the DJ to broadly lay out the genres and decades they should be touching on throughout the reception. Next, your DJ should pay attention to how your guests react to the music played during cocktail and dinner, to verify their guess as to what will be “well received” throughout the night. Your DJ can get an even more accurate idea as to what your crowd wants to hear by paying close attention to the song requests coming in (instead of just shrugging them off as someone requesting music “that doesn’t fit” - which a good amount of DJ’s do, they’re too proud to change the direction of music because they think they know best). For this very reason I like to remind my other DJ’s that they’re DJing YOUR Wedding, not their own. A DJ should play for your crowd, not themselves.
Bouquet Toss &
The night is going flawlessly so far, and everyone is on the dance floor having the time of their lives. Now it’s time to do the Bouquet and Garter toss, as well as the Cake Cutting. If you’re not quite sure of when you’d like to do this, we suggest doing this about an hour into dancing (an hour after dinner has ended). This gives people plenty of time to digest their food, and to let loose a bit. We also suggest doing these back to back, so not to break up the momentum of the dance floor anymore than we need to. Stopping after an hour of dancing is also strategical as this is usually when some of the older folks dip out, allowing you to get even more “ratchet” for the last hour or so of dancing (without grandma judging you).
When it comes to doing the Bouquet and Garter toss, we like to do this prior to the Cake Cutting. We find the Cake Cutting is a bit more intimate, so the “fun” energy that comes with the Bouquet Toss matches the momentum of dancing better (making the break in music feel more natural). There are usually four segments to the Bouquet/ Garter Toss: First the Bouquet Toss which is usually done to Single Ladies - Beyonce. Then the Garter Removal done to The Mission Impossible Theme Song (this usually lightens the mood from “inappropriate” to fun). Followed by the Garter Toss usually done to some “manly” song with a good guitar riff, like Sharp Dressed Man - ZZ Top. And finally most people aren’t aware that the gentleman that caught the Garter has to place it onto the leg of the woman that caught the Bouquet, we usually do this to the song Pony - Ginuwine (getting a great crowd reaction every time).
If doing something as “raunchy” as the Bouquet/ Garter Toss doesn’t fit the vibe of your Wedding (or you don’t have many single people coming), then we have a popular suggestion to replace it. It’s known to be called a few things, but we call it “The Longest Married Couples Dance”. Basically we invite everyone in the room onto the dance floor. We will then play a nice slow song, and playfully eliminate people off the dance floor based off the length of time they’ve been married. After a few moments the DJ will say something like “if you’re not yet married, or are single, please make your way off the dance floor at this time”. After a few more moments this is followed by “If you’ve been married for a day or less, please make your way off the dance floor”. This process is repeated while increasing the intervals of married to 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. This leaves the longest married couple on the floor (hence the name “Longest Married Couples Dance”). We then ask how long they’ve actually been married, ask for a round of applause, then wish for the same luck and happiness to you as the newly weds. You can then give this couple the Bouquet, a bottle of wine, or a hug (in place of Tossing your Bouquet).
Following this we will then send the couple over the Cake table, and invite anyone else that would like to join them over there to take photos. We don’t usually get too involved in the Cake Cutting, and generally let your Photographer take this part over (allowing you to get all the photos you need without being rushed). Your catering staff then usually needs to take the cake to cut and serve it to your guests, so in the 10 minutes it usually take to do this, we will get your guests up and dancing. However, it’s not fully logical to get right back into high energy dancing if we’re just going to stop in another 10 minutes to eat some cake. So, matching the intimate vibe of Cake Cutting, we like to play a few slow songs back to back. This allows your older guests the chance to get up and dance (if they haven’t yet felt inclined to do so), and usually also gets everyone else up to romantically dance with the person they came with (it’s also difficult to work slow dances into a high energy set, so this is usually the perfect time).
I decided to type this up to give you a good idea of the work I put into making your big day absolutely flawless. Knock on wood, but in my last 11 years of DJing I have personally never received a less than stellar review, and I think that’s a result of putting every piece of experience to work in every single event I DJ. I often get asked “What makes you different from everyone else”? I find that for other DJs, common answer usually revolve around things like “we mix music the best” or “we have the most experienced DJs” or “we’ve been DJing for 500 years and have more experience than anyone”.
Every DJ has the ability to play good music, because we all work with the same songs. The difference of a true professional in this industry is defined by the effort that they put into making your Wedding unique, and perfect. Taking extra steps to avoid issues, and by putting more effort into song selection based off reasons deeper than just your request list. At the end of the day we want you to understand that it’s about more than just the music or fancy sales pitches. Our genuine drive and effort to make this a once-in-a-lifetime experience is what sets us apart.