Tips for DJing weddings
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  1. #1
    Tech Wizard
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    Default Tips for DJing weddings

    Help me DJtechtools!

    I go to Hendrix College in Conway, AR and am a Senior from Atlanta,GA. A faculty member who is getting married heard wind that I DJ from my roommate. She Just emailed me.
    She wants me to DJ from 7-11pm this Saturday for the party.
    She was going to see what the restaurant has and what I needed to bring.

    I told her I have a computer with a control deck, a makeshift light system (Christmas lights+ a control box my brother built for me). I also have a pair of Mackie Thump tops.
    I told her to give me music she wanted form play lists in the form of mp3 cds soon, and also tell me the kind of music she would want.
    I told her that I would do it for 50-80/hr maximum. Is this asking too much as an amateur DJ who spins at house parties?

    Also what kinds of music do people do for weddings? Where can I find that stuff? I spin Hip-Hop and various EDM genres that I know they don't want. Remember it's going to be mainly college faculty. It also seemed in the email that she seemed pretty laidback about it, because she didn't really know what I needed to DJ stuff and said it would be fine if I brought a friend to help out.

    What do I do?

  2. #2
    Tech Guru lethal_pizzle's Avatar
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    I'm getting major deja-vu
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  3. #3

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    IMHO - don't do it and save yourself the stress and aggravation that comes along with DJing a wedding party.

    I've done one wedding (reception w/ party) (my sisters), and I personally would never do one again.

    It came together fine, but I now have grey hair from that day.

    Just my 2 cents.

  4. #4
    Tech Mentor jimbob5000's Avatar
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    okay, this one will be a lengthy post, and it probably won't make you happy or more secure about the job. In fact, I'm kind of trying to talk you out of it. Sorry 'bout that.

    First things first: Talk to the bride - personally. Find out what sort of music she likes. Find out what sort of music her frienda may like. How much family, people of older generations will be there? You'll have to bring music for them, too. Will you play while they have dinner? Get some, well, "Dinner music". Smooth jazz, chillout, that sort of stuff. Get the major classics, top 40, 70s, 80s, 90s music. Some rock, but nothing too hard, some pop, but nothing to cheesy. In the US, you'll probably might even need some country (volksmusik or "schlager" for us german guys) for the older folks. You'll need something for the opening dance. Don't know about the US, but here in Germany, it's almost always a waltz of some sort (I was requested "Piano Man" by Billy Joel once, but that was the big exception).

    Be very, very careful about programming. You just can't play songs with lyrics about breaking up, death, loss etc. at a wedding, no matter how good they are. Club sounds, electro/EDM and all that stuff will be utterly useless, unless it's sort of top40 and you have a mostly young crowd.

    And most of all (and this is the part where things will get expensive):
    Don't, by no means don't go out there with downloaded music from some torrent joint or whatever. If there's something you DON'T want, then it's broken files or versions with explicit lyrics at a wedding party with older people and maybe kids. If you need to build up a library for such occasions and download hundreds of songs and you can't or don't want to listen to in their entirety before you use them, something WILL go wrong. There actually are specialised services that compile music collections for such occasions. Relatively expensive (at least here in europe), but if you plan to stick with that kind of gigs, very useful and a good investment.

    Try to make up a list with the bride (ideally also with the future husband), what songs she wants to be played in any case, what other songs she might like. Don't rely on her mp3s, her CD might contain bad sounding, broken files or explicit lyrics.

    Does she have a wedding planner? Talk to him/her and try to find out if there's some kind of programming planned. You know, speeches, games, shows, that kind of stuff. You'll have to adjust to that.

    When dinner (if part of your gig) gets more quiet, try to carefully mingle with the crowd, introduce yourself personally, talk to them and find out what they want. Don't bother them when they're busy eating.

    You will probably need a microphone and be confident enough to make a few announcements. (The part I hate the most).

    Weddings are very, very hard jobs. They are business. They have nothing to do with club DJing or - in a way - even music, for that matter. They're more about general entertainment, an overall pleasant experience which you, the DJ - in the eyes of the guests - are not a major part of. So don't try to do a good DJ gig, try to entertain and please as many guests as you can, because in reality, your programming skills will be a major part of the good or bad memories the couple and the guests have about the wedding party. And if they have bad memories, it will be about the bad DJ, no matter if it was your fault or not.

    To be honest, I don't think it is a very good idea to do a wedding gig on your own without any previous wedding experience. Please don't feel offended, but the sheer fact that you take a gig first and then ask in a forum what kind of music you might need for that shows that you are not prepared or ready for this yet.

    So my recommendation is: Under the given circumstances, don't do it. If you really want to stick with it, my recommendation is: Find a buddy who does have considerable experience in that area. Learn from him, take advantage of his music collection, prepare to share your money. Or at least try to find a DJ that has a wedding gig before yours and offer him to help (for free) to get a little insight.

    Don't know what rates are good for wedding DJs in your area, so I can't help you on that. But to be honest (and again: please don't feel offended), for someone with no wedding experience at all, I wouldn't pay that kind of money, so it's probably pretty good.

    I wouldn't agree on not doing weddings at all, because they can be a way of making some good money (after you paid for your investments in music, lights, sound gear etc). But I would agree that starting, especially without experienced help, can give you some grey hair and lots of stress.

  5. #5
    Tech Wizard Amadan's Avatar
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    I agree with the guys saying don't do it. I did a wedding for friends which went well. However someone talked me into doing a wedding for people I didn't know. It was a nightmare.

    The bride would ask for something played and when it was playing the groom would come along and say 'whats this shit you are playing'. So I would change to what the groom wanted and then the bride would come up and be pissed off. This happened all night. Some of the guests were pissed and borderline hostile.

    I had over 500 tracks with me (mostly 7inch vinyl!). I had pretty much every track you could ever want to hear at a wedding (my m8 who did weddings had lent me them). The groom asked me for one record i didn't have and when i told him I didn't have it, he started kicking off saying 'what kind of dj are you' and similar crap

    Halfway through the night if I could have packed up and left without risking my health and equipment I would have made a run for it!

    I wouldn't do a wedding ever again (unless they were offering 1000)

  6. #6
    Tech Wizard
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    From talking to my friend they were already married in Maine. This seems to be more of an affair with friends down here. It seems like less big of deal, which makes more sense why they would ask somebody like me off the cuff a few days before.

    I'm feeling better about it now. But advice for what to play/etc. would still be appreciated.

  7. #7
    Tech Guru lethal_pizzle's Avatar
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    Well if it's just a big party then you won't have to worry so much about wedding songs. Find out what music they like though and gear your set towards that.
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  8. #8
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    I've done a few weddings and the only ones I've liked have been the ones I did for friends who were already familiar with my styles. Stick to accessible fun music. Downtempo and chill lounge stuff for when people are eating, and a nice collection of old disco and funk chestnuts for dancing. Forget about dubstep, dnb, trance, etc unless they specifically ask for it. Old soul and rock n roll can't steer you wrong. Have a chat with her beforehand so you have some idea what she wants. If it's a Jewish couple make sure you have Hava Nagila (I'm fucking serious). Some swing music is good to have around too. And be ready for someone to hand you a mic and make some kind of announcement at the last minute. Annoying but it's part of the gig.

    And no you're not asking for too much money at all. Most professional wedding DJs around here charge upwards of $1500. Anywhere from $300-600 is a damn good deal for a wedding DJ regardless of experience; that's generally the range I ask in though if it looks like it's going to be a pain in the ass I ask for $1000 (and then if they want to pay that much I'll do it).

    It sounds like it's more of just a party atmosphere so I think you just want to keep the music accessible and moving. Have enough pop/top 40 around so that when someone asks to hear Lady Gaga you have it, but you'll probably have more fun sticking to older funk and disco songs (and still not get complaints). Since it's a bunch of college professors you can probably even play a lot of more obscure stuff or funky EDM stuff as they're likely to be more musically openminded than a typical wedding crowd. Stay away from gangsta rap and anything else that features a lot of cursing, drug dealing, and gunplay.

  9. #9
    Tech Guru lethal_pizzle's Avatar
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    Get some 80s stuff
    DJTT Nu Disco Mix Train Vol 1
    beats and balearic bobs in north-west london
    iTunes podcast
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  10. #10
    Tech Wizard Whitey's Avatar
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    Hi sirtofu,

    Maybe I can offer some help here. If I live to see 2011 then I would have been DJing weddings for 30 years..............yes that's not a typo!!

    Weddings have served me well over the years and have given me the income to explore other avenues of DJing, including Clubs, Pubs and all manner of other gigs.

    Weddings are by no means easy gigs to do and I think there are a number of things to bear in mind.

    A couple of stats.

    The evening entertainment (in our case the DJ part) can be in excess of 1/3 of the total time of the entire wedding celebration - it is therefore fundamentally important to the succes of the whole day.

    A recent study highlighted that guests would remember good or bad entertainment more than ANY other element of the wedding celebration.

    I use the above facts when selling to penny-pinching brides who don't want to spend much money on a DJ to highlight the importance of the wedding DJ, but they are just as important to the DJ to realise that DJing at a wedding is a serious business and that there is a fair amount of pressure associated with it.

    As a DJ, and in my opinion, the single most important factor in the success or failure of each wedding is the crowd/audience and this will ultimately affect how busy the dancefloor is - This is something that you have absolutely no control over, but you can influence how a good or mediocre crowd will respond to you.

    In the ideal world you get a crowd who have come out to have a good time pretty much regardless of what you play and they will fill the floor all night.

    Obviously this doesn't happen all of the time and you need to have some control of how you are going to try and get the crowd you have to enjoy themselves.

    You need to establish what your crowd is, and most times this will have to be done on the night. With an ageing population you can easily get an age group spanning 4 generations at a wedding involving extended family. In my experience it is rare for a bride and groom to have no extended family and a crowd of just their own peers. Therfore the music that they grew up with will all be different.

    Women tend to dance earlier and more than us blokes. I don't know why, but man tend to need a few more beers and a bit more time to get up on the floor at weddings. If you can get the nucleus of women dancing early on then don't worry, the men will normally follow like sheep in the end.

    The second most important factor for the DJ is the music he/she plays.
    If you have a varied age crowd then you should work on the general rule that most people like to dance to the music of their youth - the time when they were young themselves and going out to clubs or in the case of grandparents/great grandparents, dances.

    I find it best to vary the styles of music for these mixed crowds and not to play more than 3 or 4 tracks of a music genre at any one time. For example - The bride's grandfather likes rock 'n roll and Elvis, but he forgets that he was 20 when he used to dance to it. He can manage a jive with his wife for 2 or 3 tracks, but now his bones and his heart say otherwise - any more than 3 of these tracks is going to send him running for cover off the floor or worse still to A&E. (I'm exagerating of course, but you get the idea).

    Early in the evening you may need to try lots of different styles of music to try and get a reaction, but never stop trying even if you don't get a reaction for a while. The DJ who gives up will never get a good reaction.

    In the typical wedding I have described above I will generally include the following music styles.

    50's rock n' roll
    60's popular classics & Motown
    70's disco, chart & rock classics
    80's popular dance and chart tracks
    90's ditto
    00's ditto
    top 40
    Party classics
    Dance music classics of all eras
    Slow songs

    I don't tend to find that heavy rock, rap (hip-hop) or a lot of heavy dance or R 'n B works well at most weddings.

    It is therefore evident that you are not going to play music that EVERYBODY likes ALL NIGHT, but you can easily play music that most people like most of the time and the rest is stuff they don't really mind and they are certainly not going to be offended by.

    Beware the requests!!
    Obviously it's good to have some requests, but don't play them all if you feel that some of the requests will be detrimental to your dancefloor. You want to appeal to the majority, not the guy who comes up for some oscure request that you play only to see him rooted to the bar whilst your hard-earned dancefloor crowd disappears leaving you with the job of having to rebuild the damage you have done by agreeing to play the shite.

    Don't be affraid of the slow set.
    Many couples at a wedding may not get the chance to dance together very often so a couple of sets of slow tracks enables them to enjoy dancing with their, or someone elses partner. A slow set also tends to cut right accross all generations.

    The dreaded microphone
    Most DJs don't initially like using a mic - I see a couple of posts here already being negative about the mic and it's use at a wedding.
    It is true that you might need to make announcements and don't be too scared of doing this - it is part of your responsibility and something that someone has asked you to do because they don't want to do it themselves. The chef might want you to announce that the buffet is ready. The best man might want you to announce that the bride and groom are leaving. The bar manager might want you to announce last orders - They will all be grateful that you are taking this resposilbility off them.

    Make sure you can be heard on the mic.
    This may sound like the obvious, but what's the use of a message if nobody heard it or they couldn't understand it? Make sure you have a decent quality mic. Borrow a decent one from someone else if you have to, but don't buy a shite one. Make sure you set the EQ and volume of the mic when you are setting up your gear - don't do it at the time you have to make the announcements otherwise you could get feedback or sound issues and the audience won't catch you message.

    Using the mic is sometimes a good way of bridgeing the gap between transitions of different styles of music where mixing isn't possible. In the idea I detailed above where you are playing 3 or 4 tracks before switching styles etc. mixing is difficult and being able to learn some interesting mic technique is very useful.

    Maybe you have taken the name of the person a request is for
    Maybe the next track is for the bride/groom
    Maybe you can announce the onset of a different style of music
    Thinking on your feet is what happens most of the time and saying something relevant/interesting does take experience and time, I appreciate that.

    I tend to sructure a wedding in a basic form as follows:

    Background music until 1st dance for bride & groom

    Announce a few minutes before the 1st dance that you will shortly be starting the dancing so that people with cameras etc. can get them ready to take a photo of the bride and groom should they want to. - This also gets people congregating around the dancefloor - closest to where YOU want them.

    Announce the 1st dance for the bride and groom (normally requested by them and normally/preferrably a slow track)- ask the audience to give them applause as they take to the floor.

    About half way through the 1st dance invite family and friends to join the bride and groom on their 1st dance - I always say something like 'I hope I don't need to ask you twice' to make them almost feel like they HAVE to join them (This is your instant springboard as a DJ to fill the floor very early on as the crowd will hopefully want to join the bride and groom on their 1st dance)

    After 1st dance maybe 1 more slow one, but not too many at this stage.

    After slow dances maybe some top 40 from a couple of years ago, something chosen in advance by you having eyed up the crowd ages etc. Something instantly recognisable, not too fast and as a transition from the slow ones before.

    If you have a mid-evening buffet at you wedding - NEVER play through the buffet at your working volume. Announce the buffet, put background music on and chill out, thinking of how you are going to start again after the buffet.

    Here's the logic - Many people have said to me in the past that they don't want the dancing to stop for the buffet, they want the dancing to continue right through. The truth is they don't know what they are talking about and this rarely works because the truth actually is that people don't eat and dance at the same time and what people actually do is get something from the buffet, sit down, eat and talk to others on their table.

    It is a waste of your own energy to try and fight against this and you are far better just accepting it and keeping the music low so that people can eat and talk comfortably.

    Keep an eye on the crowd to see when they've finished eating and away you go again.

    The second part of the evening will usually, in my experience, be much better after the buffet break and you should work to a climax (I use this word only coz I can't spell crashendo) of party favourites towards the end of the night when alcohol has made it's full effect maybe with a special send-off for the bride and groom.

    Having some idea of structure for the night will help you plan in advance.
    Find out when the guests are arriving
    When do they want to do the 1st dance?
    Is there a buffet? When is the buffet?
    When does the bar shut?
    When are the bride and groom leaving?
    What time does the music have to finish?

    I can't say I'm the best wedding DJ, but I'm reliable, take it seriously, experienced and professional.

    People who get married seem to want this in their wedding DJ or at least I have found enough of them that do.

    Good luck and let us all know how it goes.
    Last edited by Whitey; 09-23-2010 at 02:00 PM.

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