Once the wedding ceremony is over it’s time to let loose and celebrate on the dance floor. At the epicenter of a wedding reception is the DJ. Though countless celebrities now claim to be DJs simply because they jump behind the turntables, a lot more skill goes into the position than many people think.
Despite the amazing advances in technology there’s more to DJing than creating a playlist and hitting play. “That’s a common misconception,” says Kevin Paladino. As President/Owner of Complete Weddings + Events he knows what it takes to entertain guests at a wedding reception. His company is a premier provider of DJ, videography and photography services in Central Texas. They employ a number of highly trained DJs that specialize in wedding receptions. “Our DJs tailor each event to what the bride and groom want. It’s their special event, and our goal is to exceed their expectations.”
When it comes to making beautiful music there’s a lot of considerations that get factored in, some of which you’d never know unless you’ve hired a DJ before. The insider, expert advice we got from Mr. Paladino let’s couples in on what it takes to line up an amazing DJ for your special day.
The Personality and Professionalism of the DJ Matters More than the Playlist
It’s easy to get caught up in creating the perfect playlist, but which songs ultimately get played isn’t going to be as memorable as the atmosphere that the DJ helps to create. They are essentially MCing the event, making introductions and announcements, ensuring things are on schedule and keeping the crowd entertained. Paladino suggests asking the following questions to find a DJ that will be the right fit for your event:
What kind of back up plan does the DJ company have?
What is the DJ’s track record?
Are they seasoned and recommended in the industry?
What is their customer service philosophy?
Do they provide planning tools?
What kind of equipment do they have at their disposal?
Is their music library family-friendly and include radio edit music?
Are they willing to meet with you before you book?
“There is a significant difference between a club DJ and a wedding DJ,” explains Paladino. “The club DJ has the perspective that the party is all about his entertainment ability. The wedding DJ has the perspective that the party is all about the bride and groom.” Entertainment abilities are important, but not more so than keeping the focus on the newlyweds and delivering a service that is compatible with their style. Interviewing DJs beforehand will give you a better idea of their personality and the energy that they can bring to the reception.
Having a back up plan is crucial to safeguarding against unexpected setbacks during the reception. Paladino notes that there are many DJs out there providing coverage without having an actual safety net for handling issues like faulty equipment or a DJ that isn’t able to show up. Complete Weddings + Events circumvents these issues by having an on-call DJ scheduled any night they have an event, just in case an emergency happens. They also have structures in place to provide back up equipment when needed. Without a back up plan you could be left scrambling last minute to find another way to supply music at the reception.
Putting Together the Playlist
Once you’ve found a DJ that has the personality, experience and professionalism you’re looking for then you can turn your attention to putting together a playlist. A common issue that couples run into is coming up with a playlist that is far too long for the event.
“In a typical four hour wedding reception the maximum number of songs that can be played is 60-80 and that doesn’t allow for any breaks for signature dances,” says Paladino. “We will commonly receive 100+ must play songs from the couple.”
That’s also not accounting for guest song requests. You don’t want to relinquish total control to your guests, but allowing for requests is a surefire way to ensure everyone has a great time and the dance floor stays busy.There are a couple of ways to work in guest song request while keeping them in check. You can allow a space for making song requests on the RSVP, or set up a time during the event where the DJ will take requests on the fly.
Complete Weddings + Eventsuses a unique online web planning tool called the ‘Event Manager’, which includes a playlist builder that lists out the company’s large library of music. Within the Event Manager tool there are specific questions related to whether or not guest song requests will be taken. The couple can even indicate if only certain people are able to make requests.
The bride and groom’s first dance is the highlight of the night as far as the music is concerned. The specifics are all up to the couple, but the DJ needs to be made aware of the details as early as possible in the planning process. You’ll want to make sure your DJ is provided with the song and version that should be played as well as where the first dance fits into the schedule of events. A perfect example of the importance of planning these elements out well ahead of time is highlighted by the fact that the most popular first dance song is “At Last”. Billy Holiday recorded the song first, but many artists have covered it since, including Beyonce and Stevie Wonder. The last thing you want is to begin your first dance only to realize it isn’t the version you had in mind.
Having a playlist for the DJ staff is a must so they can prepare for the event, but couples don’t have to go through the trouble of organizing the songs in a particular order. You can also request that the DJ be the one to put together the playlist based on your suggestions. A professional DJ is passionate about music, understands how to create a tempo and how to translate your musical preferences into a great playlist with the right mix of the bride and groom’s favorite songs along with requests.
Why the Venue Matters
The venue is one of the first things that will need to be secured for a wedding, and hopefully a space for the DJ was accounted for while considering your options. First there’s the factor of an actual physical space that’s in close proximity to the dance floor. Power supply is another critical factor as well as making sure the DJ booth can be covered if the reception is outdoors.
There are also a few things that the venue may be able to provide for the DJ to make setup go as smooth as possible. “In most cases we suggest the venue provide a 6’ table for the DJ to set their equipment up on. It’s also helpful for us to understand where the DJ will be positioned at the venue and if there are multiple set-ups required so that we are prepared with equipment needs,” says Paladino. All that takes preparation and timing things just right.
It’s All in the Timing
From booking a DJ to getting things going on the big day, DJ services are all about getting the timing right. Paladino recommends that couples begin the process of finding their DJ company about 6-12 months prior to the event. The most significant factor is date availability, especially if you want to request the services of a specific DJ or plan to get married during the busy seasons of late spring, early summer and fall.
Complete Weddings + Eventstypically locks in a DJ about 8 weeks in advance of an event date, but the sooner that happens the better. Communication is key in getting the DJ prepared which means you’ll need to start putting things together well in advance of the wedding. Having a tool like the Event Manager helps Paladino’s company get everything in order, but it’s not meant to be a substitute for discussing everything directly with the DJ, office staff and the venue.
In addition to the playlist, the DJ will also need to be supplied with a schedule of events that lays out how you would like everything to unfold at the reception. The schedule should include things like the first dance, toasts, cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss, etc. Without this kind of guidance it will be near impossible for the DJ to keep everything on schedule and running smoothly.
Even with the Event Manager tool, which clients say is extremely helpful, some couples still wait until late in the game to get things figured out. “We commonly are asked very late in the planning process for specific music or changes in the wedding plan,” said Paladino. “While we do our best to accommodate those changes it puts a lot of last minute pressure on a flawless execution.” Simply reaching out early on can ease that pressure for the couple as well as the company. Many couples need help in determining the timing of the DJ service, and any professional company will be more than happy to sit down and go over all the details so you don’t have to figure it out on your own.
When things are well planned well in advance your DJ will be ready with the music when your first guest arrives and will keep things going just as smoothly the whole night through.
Image Source: flickr.com/photos/johnhopephotography