Being hired to be the DJ and emcee for any wedding is a huge honor — and a huge task. The couple obviously thinks highly enough of you that they trust you to keep an awesome vibe flowing throughout their wedding, and think you are responsible enough to put such an important aspect of the event in your trusting hands. Although this may sound a bit intimidating, it IS to the non-pro.
You have probably been to tons of weddings and have seen tons of DJs while you were there, but the most successful DJs aren't the ones who are incredibly funny, charming, or talented as most people think. The best DJs are the ones who take their role really seriously, plan ahead, and understand the logistical side of running an event.
When you and your wedding planner are coordinating a wedding, your DJ should work very closely with you to ensure all runs according to plan. Though it may look pretty effortless, there is a lot of pre-planning and work behind the scenes to make sure it appears that way.
So here is how we DJ a wedding:
1. We are aware that we are part of a team
When you DJ a wedding, you are one super important piece of a large orchestrated event. This means that everything you do should be a contribution to the wedding team (which is made up of all the wedding vendors and their assistants). Everyone's shared objective is helping to pull off a smooth, enjoyable wedding for the couple, and you want to focus on how you can work with others to help accomplish that. It's never a good idea to make decisions independently, do something as a surprise that only you know about, or do anything else that could throw your team for a loop.
2. We are incredibly prepared
Preparing to DJ for a wedding should start weeks, sometimes months, in advance. We find out our exact responsibilities from the wedding coordinator or couple, check to make sure we have all the equipment needed, and make a plan about how we will set up at the venue that includes things like where the power source is, and what cords we will need to plug into the sound system.
3. We know the timeline (or follow a standard structure)
The most important aspect of being the DJ is knowing that we are responsible in large part for keeping the event running smoothly, and the only way we can do this is by knowing the entire game plan for the event. That way if there is a little speed bump along the way, we know the best way to handle it without interfering with what's next in the timeline. We always make sure to bring a copy of the timeline (or even two just in case a member of our team needs one), and refer to it throughout the evening. If no timeline has been prepared, we always follow a strict standard of how a wedding is normally run and make tweaks along the way – always keeping in mind that we (our team) must control the event and make it run without a hitch.
4. We are extremely flexible
This is really such an important trait to have, because often no matter how much is planned ahead for an event, there are still decisions that need to be made on the fly. We have our timeline, we stick to it, but we are always ready to roll with the punches as needed. Before we play an important song like the first dance or make an announcement to get the crowd's attention, like for that superbly choreographed father/daughter dance, we always check in with the wedding coordinator first to make sure all the other members of the wedding team are ready. It's possible the caterer may need a few more minutes to put the finishing touches on the food, or the photographer needs a couple minutes to set up the shot.
On that note, we never have just enough songs for just the length of the wedding. We make sure to have back-up music in case a part of the wedding runs long, and be able to add it into our set if necessary.
5. We run through the entire event in our heads
When preparing to DJ for a wedding, we want to visualize how the whole event will go, and anticipate where there may be hiccups. What will we do if the song runs out before the bride makes it down the aisle? If we are playing music at the ceremony location and need to relocate our equipment to the reception location, how will we pack it up, and then set it all back up quickly? Will we need someone to help? What if it rains? What will we do to protect your equipment, and make sure there is music for the ceremony and/or reception? Professional DJs always have the answers to these questions, and running through the entire day and anticipating problems in advance prepares us well.
6. We read the crowd – at ALL times
As mentioned before, we check in with the wedding coordinator throughout the event, but we also want to take time to notice how things are going as a whole. We take time to look around to see how things are going. Are there people on the dance floor? If not, we make sure to play as many songs to get (and keep) people on the dance floor. We check in with the coordinator to see if the cake cutting will still be on time. This helps us see your place in the big picture, and helps us think of some tweaks to keep things moving smoothly rather than just rushing to cross off items from the timeline. A great DJ pays attention to see how things are running, and adjusts his or her music accordingly.
7. We know that it's not about us
Finally, we remember that we are ONE member of a team trying to give your family and friends the best wedding day possible. It's our job to help make the event run smoothly, and it is our job to entertain the crowd. Many times, the couple that will entertain the crowd as well with their first dance, cake cutting, and whatever cool surprises they have up their sleeve for the wedding. If you have seen all of the great first dance, mother-son dance, etc., routines on YouTube, you know what “surprises” I'm talking about.
People think being a DJ means being an entertainer, and that's exactly right. Being a successful DJ means that you are a music lover that knows how to execute our knowledge of music of all types to ensure that the energy of the event flows like clockwork. It means that our personalities drive that energy, and we know that all eyes are on us the whole time. It means that even though there will be hiccups, we know how to handle them no matter what the case – this is where experience comes in.
Being a successful DJ is not rocket science, but it does take years of practice to hone our skills to the sharpest point possible. Besides, this is a ONE TIME event for our clients. We must get it right! Like I always say, “It's not hard to do, but it is very easy to screw up.”