10 RECEPTION TIPS FROM A DJ WHO HAS SEEN IT ALL
From my viewpoint as a wedding DJ, there is nothing more special than a wedding reception – especially the ones that are going as smoothly.
As someone who has performed hundreds of receptions as a wedding DJ over a 15-plus-year span, I have had the privilege time and time again to be standing behind my DJ booth and watch two people in love celebrating their nuptials with their families and friends.
Believe me when I say it, though ... DJ'ing weddings is not an easy task. There is so much planning and hard work involved in creating the perfect atmosphere and building the perfect reception. And it's important to note that every reception is wildly different, for many reasons. Crowd sizes and age ranges, brides'/grooms' personalities, musical tastes, preferences in when certain events should take place – these are just a few factors that can make one reception very different from another.
This is why it is so important for brides and grooms to realize that when it comes to selecting a DJ, experience and expertise are crucial. Look at it this way: You will gladly and willingly spend countless hours researching the perfect venue, professional photographers, quality video, excellent catering, trendy dresses and other formal wear, flowers and decorations.... Why should selecting a DJ be any different?
The DJ is such a crucial element of any reception; not just because of the music that is being played throughout the evening, but because the best and most experienced DJ's will help serve as “reception navigators” who will help keep things moving efficiently while doing everything possible to ensure that the bride and groom are having the most incredible, memorable night of their lives. And, the best and most experienced DJ's will also work with the couples far in advance of the reception, so that they are all on the same page as to how they want their dream reception to become a reality.
Far too many times, I have had brides tell me that they waited until the last minute to book the DJ for their reception, or “they took care of everything first” before seeking out a DJ. In my opinion, this thinking is wrong. Most of the experienced DJs have built a positive reputation and can be booked years in advance.
I have also been told many times in the past by couples and other industry professionals that booked a certain DJ because they were cheap, or they had a family member or friend with no experience do it because it was very low-cost or even free. Without bashing anyone fin the business feel free to google "bad wedding dj's". You do not want to regret your decision trying to save a few dollars. "You get what you pay for" could not be truer.
Having said all that, I would also like to share with all future brides and grooms 10 basic – yet very important – tips on how you and your DJ can work together to make sure that you have the best reception possible.
- Once a professional and experienced DJ is booked, he or she should have your contact information and be reaching out to you months in advance of your date and establishing communication and trust with you. There should be arranged times to meet – preferably in person – before the big day so that everyone has plenty of time to coordinate ideas. And, your DJ should have some type of form or blueprint to help you organize.
- Your DJ should be open to all ideas and suggestions that you may have when it comes to the reception, as he/she is technically working for you. However, that goes both ways. An experienced DJ may have some suggestions that might work for you. Whether it is song choices, the order of certain events, or even ideas that could make the reception more special, both parties need to be open minded and willing to listen.
- While brides and grooms should always be encouraged to submit songs for the DJ to play, please remember your guests. Your families, friends and other loved ones are coming to celebrate with you, and they want to have just as much of a great time as you do. So, when thinking about song selections for dancing, try to think about what songs your guests would like to hear, too.
- An experienced DJ is always very aware of the crowd reaction during certain songs, so if there are songs being played that are causing people to stay off of the dance floor, then he/she should be able to change things up. Remember, the reception is a celebration.
- An experienced DJ should also ensure that songs being played do not contain inappropriate or offensive language or lyrics. If there are songs that you do wish for the DJ to play that you do know contain offensive lyrics, the DJ should find “clean” versions of those songs.
- After the formalities are over and it is time to dance, it is important for the DJ to keep the overall vibe upbeat. Occasional slow songs are great for receptions, and while it's true that there are always couples who love to slow dance at receptions, it is also true that too many of them can really slow down the flow of a great reception. You should have trust in your DJ to walk the “fine line” and balance the tempo and flow of your reception.
- Please try to communicate with your DJ before the reception whether or not he/she will be served dinner during the reception. An experienced DJ will most likely be arriving very early at your venue and putting in many hours setting up equipment, so the day will be a very long one … and it's beneficial for them to know whether or not they will be receiving a meal or if they need to bring something on their own. This may not sound like a common issue, but you would be surprised how often it happens. Let your DJ and all your vendors know either way so than can plan accordingly.
- An experienced DJ should also be able and willing to meet with the bride and groom one last time during the week of the reception – in person, if possible. I personally like to meet the bride and groom at the actual venue a day or two beforehand, so I can go over the final details and also so that I know where the venue is and how long it takes to get there. This is optional but can also be very helpful if time permits.
- An experienced DJ should be working with the photographer(s) and/or videographer during the reception, to keep them informed of what is happening next. I also like to go over the itinerary with them beforehand and also update them throughout the night. If dinner is served buffet-style, I also like to communicate with the caterer/servers to see if they need any assistance in letting tables know when they are next in line.
- And last, but certainly not least, I'm my personal opinion and the opinion of most wedding professionals, an experienced DJ should never consume a single drop of any type of alcohol during any reception. Period. No questions asked. Horror stories of drunk wedding DJ's are surprisingly common among inexperienced DJ's, and that type of behavior should never be tolerated. The caterers aren't drinking, the photographer(s) and people in charge of the hall or venue aren't drinking, because they have important jobs to do, and they take it seriously. Why should the DJ be any different? They are not playing in a bar or club, they are providing the soundtrack for your special event and have a great deal of responsibility. When talking to DJs about hiring them for their receptions, brides and grooms should not be afraid to ask them if they drink during receptions, and if they say yes, then look elsewhere.
I hope that you find these tips to be helpful as you plan your dream reception, and that you find my advice that I've learned from my many years of experience to be practical.
If you have an interest in booking me as your DJ for your wedding reception, please do not hesitate to contact McMillen Photography.
DJ Steve Barrett is one of our most popular wedding DJ's here at McMillen Photography