Whether you’ve already DJ’ed a handful of weddings, or never DJ’ed any, don’t stress. We’ve got you covered right here with this basic guide to the wedding ceremony DJ tips that will make you into a pro before this is all over.
With these 5 essential wedding ceremony DJ tips, a wedding planner might just forego hiring an Adam Sandler-esque wedding singer or that professional cello trio to supply the music for the evening and give you a call due to your reputation for being the most dependable wedding DJ in town, who knows exactly what is appropriate for any given situation. Or they might just hire all three of you…Ohhhh god!
A skilled DJ must understand the needs of his audience. He or she has to spin the right tunes at the right time, which will encourage guests to join each other on the dance floor to get down. Yes, your task will be to be playful enough to entertain the crowd with some rump shakers, but you’ve also got to know when its time to switch it up and throw down that slow jam. I know at least one situation where a wedding DJ wasn’t paid because when it was time for the father-daughter dance, they played the wrong song. Oofah!
As DJs, we need to remember that not all weddings are going to be the same theme, hence what you’re playing depends on those who you’re playing for. One of the weddings that I DJ’ed was half classical, and then later that night when all the elderly relatives were out the door we switched to some raunchy hip hop, which was hilarious but I knew it was coming. And that’s just one example of how eclectic things can be.
Ok, onward to our Top 5 Wedding Ceremony DJ Tips…
Don’t Be Shy, Ask For A Playlist
Being well informed about the music taste of your audience could easily be rule number one. Hence, coming to a wedding with all your gear in tow, but having no clue about what guests want to hear is completely out of the question. Its not just disrespectful, it could make it so that’s the last wedding you ever DJ, because coming unprepared can destroy your good name in the business. So, in order to prepare for your next big wedding ceremony, it would be the best to ask the bride and groom what would they like to dance to, they can provide you a CD or USB with their favorite music, or share it via e-mail or some virtual drive. It may seem like a small thing, but this is how you build a business, which is by understanding your client. If that means driving around listening to a USB full of music that you didn’t choose, so be it. Its way better than working at the local factory putting stickers on boxes. Besides, don’t you think it would be rather annoying, or even embarrassing to show up at the wedding and all you’ve got is a library full of Ariana Grande and deep house music when they’re expecting Dionne Warwick?
So, you may think that your library meets your audience’s requirements, but it’s the best to have a playlist provided by the bride and groom before attending the wedding, because then at least you know what they expect. Also, to really be a pro, you can even follow up with them and say “I listened to your playlist. Now, that Dionne Warwick song – do you want me to also include this OTHER Dionne Warwick song, or perhaps some Barry White?” Being that kind of person shows you actually care and you will really stand out as well.
(Almost) Always Take Requests
Handling guests’ ultra-specific requests is a mandatory when being a wedding DJ. Although you may have ignored requests in the nightclubs, coming from random people whose taste in music you do not like or respect, you must understand that environment of a wedding is much different than what you encountered in nightclubs before. In the case of weddings, you can’t EVER ignore request.
You’d think that when some random drunk person comes up to you with possibly the lamest request you’ve ever heard, it would be fair enough to ignore them. But don’t be too hasty! All of those guests are one way or another related to the bride and groom that are paying you. Of course, you must believe in your judgement and instincts when it comes to choosing the right music, but if bride or groom have a request, I highly recommend playing it.
Remember – that annoying little drunk person who’s screaming in your ear asking you to play Justin Bieber might actually be the bride’s little sister or brother. And if you want to get paid, and then maybe get referred for like 10 more gigs, you might just have to rock out the Beebs whether you like it or not.
Know Your DJ Gear
If you’ve never DJ’ed before, you should probably go with a simple setup that will help you learn the basics and make you more proficient, because it’s very important to be familiar with equipment when attending a wedding as the DJ. It doesn’t make sense to wake up one day and say “No more pumping gas for me! As of today, I’m a wedding DJ!” and then you go and buy like 10 K in gear that you don’t understand, and book yourself a gig. Showing up at a wedding with all that gear and no clue what you’re doing is not the best idea.
So, if you’re still new in this profession, keep it simple. You’ll want to perhaps acquire gear slowly, learn how to use it so there’s no chance you’re going to have any major issues, and then slowly get more gear.
If you do have experience as a DJ, but just not a wedding DJ, you should know that there are some big differences between DJing at a club, and DJing at a wedding are not the same. For instance, don’t expect to do much turntable scratching at a wedding, even though at a club or a house party, scratching might be exactly what people want to hear. That said, you can probably leave certain pieces of gear at home, meaning you don’t have to worry about them getting stolen, and you can simply not worry about using them.
Don’t Cry, Mistakes Do Happen
Let’s set the record straight. It’s ok to make mistakes, it happens. This is probably something you heard when you were 3 years old and you barfed all over your aunt’s dog. When it comes to DJing a wedding ceremony, there are lots of crazy things that can go wrong. Little things, big things. You just never know what can happen, so be ready for anything! No, I’m not telling you to completely give up on taking any risks. Being a DJ is like being a performer. Synching tracks, adding effects, working the crowd, talking into a mic, all that good stuff…you don’t want to avoid it all just because you think you might f—- up. There’s nothing worse than a lame-ass DJ standing there stiffly, pressing buttons and staying quiet. Or it could be like this…
Ok, so mistakes do happen, but you should definitely not let mistakes become a habit in your DJ’ing career. One thing that could be your saving grace is alcohol. This may not be the case, but in many cases your audience will be so drunk that they won’t notice your mistakes because they’ll be having too much fun. This isn’t an excuse to make mistakes, but if you’re going to make some small mistakes, doing it in a room full of drunk people is the best place to do them because there you are, stone cold sober, and you make some little hiccup in the music. Do you think Uncle Tony, who is three sheets to the wind, is going to remember that the next day? Probably not. That said, someone might be sober and that person might notice every little thing, but that’s just an incentive to be a good DJ.
Reading The Audience
The final thing we want to talk about is actually reading the audience. This is a mistake many DJs make, which is to go into a wedding situation, with everything pre-planned, and just do their thing. This can be a catastrophe, because you just know that at weddings you’re going to have people leaning over into your ear and requesting things, members of the bridal party frantically making demands of you that you didn’t expect. For your part, you just want everything to go smoothly and with everybody having a good time…
Oh, and don’t think you will necessarily get away with attending a wedding in the DJ role and not having to use that lovely mic of yours. There are two roles, one being the DJ, one being the MC, and they often get confused by the wedding party. Remember this and remember it well. Those people who have hired you may not be aware that you don’t like public speaking. They figure, here’s this DJ, he or she must loving being social, because they’re DJing for hundreds of people. That means, they must also love talking to hundreds of people. That is what they might assume about you, so if you don’t like public speaking make it very clear that your job is just the music, but of course this could make your potential clients say “Oh, really? Well we wanted someone who could make a few announcements, and I guess that isn’t going to be YOU then, is it?”
So if you thought you were just the DJ, suddenly you might find that you’re the MC and that the bride’s mom wants you to make a quick announcement. Who knows, they might actually want you to say something at some point, like “Ladies and gentlemen, do not feed the ducks outside, it is against the law!” or maybe “Hey listen everybody, this hall is only rented until 2am so we need to be out of here by then, and please stop throwing chairs, guys…” You know, crazy stuff like that. Remember, you’re one of the people holding the microphone, and so that tends to mean MC to a lot of people, rather than just the DJ. If you thought you were Jazzy Jeff, uh oh, turns out you’re also the Fresh Prince!
Overall, the point is to read the audience. This basically means if you’re playing some music and you start to notice people leaving the dance floor, be sure to hit them with a real crowd pleaser for the next song. Heck, you can even get someone’s attention and ask if the bride or groom or their friends or family want to hear anything specific. Of course, if you’ve followed our other tips, you would have already figured out exactly what music these people like to hear, and you wouldn’t be scrambling to find music they like.
Anyway, that covers a lot of the basic tips you’ll need to know when DJing a wedding ceremony. If you’ve paid close attention to these tips, you should do well DJ’ing for the next wedding you’ll be working at and you’ll probably get some referrals as well.