Advice & Tips
When selecting a DJ for your wedding party there are a few things to look out for. The most important question to ask is whether the person you are hiring is an experienced professional DJ – you may have been offered a ‘package deal’ from your hotel or band and it is important to check that the DJ service provided is not simply the roadie or sound engineer doing a nixer. The DJ represents a significant portion of the evening’s entertainment and you don’t want the floor to clear as soon as the band stops playing! While the argument is sometimes made that an inclusive band/DJ package makes for a smoother transition between the different elements of the night’s entertainment, this is not a serious consideration as a professional DJ will always set up at the same time as the band to ensure there is seamless continuity on the night.
If possible always request to see the DJ perform before you book and be sure to check their credentials and experience. If music is important to you it is always preferable to go with a DJ who has extensive experience of playing club-nights, festivals etc. rather than someone whose experience is made up exclusively of weddings and hotel functions. At the same time it is important that your DJ does have experience of performing at weddings and parties as these require a somewhat different skill-set. The best wedding DJs have the depth of musical knowledge and skill associated with the club DJ coupled with the warmth and professionalism required for special events such as weddings. Ask to see a few recent testimonials and spend a bit of time chatting with the DJ before you book to make sure that this is someone who is passionate about music, who takes their work seriously and who will communicate effectively with you to achieve what you want on the night.
The mark of a good wedding DJ is fairly obvious – a full and happy dance floor! Achieving this requires not just talent and experience but a lot of preparation. A good wedding DJ will always offer to meet up in advance to establish musical likes and dislikes and to discuss the type of sound and mood the couple are aiming for. Meeting up is also a good way to get some background information on the demographics and broad musical tastes of the wedding party. A good DJ will ensure that the music is tailored to the couple’s own tastes and will work with couples to tease out their preferences, but the main reason for booking a professional DJ is that they will be able to draw on their own extensive knowledge and experience to ensure that the music on the night is memorable for the right reasons. Before you book it is important to be certain that a wedding DJ has a sufficiently deep music collection to cater to diverse musical tastes and has the necessary skill to gauge and quickly adapt to the mood of the party on the night.
There is a noticeable trend in recent years for couples to forego a band on their wedding night and rely solely on a DJ for the evening’s entertainment. At least part of the reason for this is financial – we have all become more budget conscious in recent years and the average four-piece band could cost up to 2000 euro. There are other advantages to going DJ only apart from the purely financial though; some couples find it difficult to find a wedding band to cater for their particular musical tastes or just prefer the flexibility which DJs provide. The DJ-only option is particularly popular for small wedding parties held in intimate venues but increasingly is being utilised for large wedding parties. There is no reason why going DJ-only should feel like second-best – indeed as long as you select a skilful DJ the dance floor may well be busier – and buzzier – than if a band had performed.
If you decide to go DJ-only the DJ set will typically last between four and six hours so it is extremely important that you select a DJ experienced and skilful enough to hold the audience’s attention for an extended period. The DJ-only wedding provides fantastic scope for the creative, professional DJ who will work closely with you to ensure a varied, dynamic set which takes into account your musical tastes and preferences as well as the make-up and mood of the wedding party. In my own experience going DJ-only can work really well for couples who are passionate about music and who want their wedding celebration to reflect that.
A concern for some couples is that going DJ-only may meet with raised eyebrows from some wedding guests – particularly parents and older relatives and friends who often look forward to some jive or swing numbers early in the night. From my own experience, if going DJ-only it is often a good idea to devote the early part of the evening to genres which appeal to older guests, who are often keen to hit the dance floor at this stage. Younger guests too usually enjoy this opportunity to try out more formal dance styles. (This part of the evening doesn’t have to be formulaic; for instance original ‘r n b’ such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke or big-band swing from the flapper era has broad-based appeal but won’t offend refined musical palates.) A good DJ will then bring your guests on a playful journey through diverse musical genres – a deep and eclectic music collection is a must as is possession of the ear and technical skills to blend diverse styles and artists so that the energy on the dance floor remains high for the evening.
If the thought of going DJ-only doesn’t appeal but you would prefer not to hire a band another option is to go with an audio-visual themed show for the first part of the evening followed by a DJ set. I have been involved in developing audio-visual shows recently and at the moment I can offer an 80/90s themed show (‘Kids in America’) and a Bollywood-themed show (Bollywood Bliss) with more shows currently in development. Shows like these bring something a bit different to your wedding party – because they are interactive forms of entertainment they can be a good way to bring the wedding party together at the start of the evening’s entertainment and to establish an upbeat, playful mood from the outset. Click here for more details of the audio-visual shows which I can provide.
The perfect wedding playlist is one which manages to reflect your tastes and preferences and at the same time keeps your guests happy on the dance-floor. Hiring an experienced DJ takes the pressure off to a certain extent as they should have the knowledge and skill to develop a playlist with broad appeal which incorporates songs and artists which have a special meaning for you both. While it is important to communicate your favourite songs, artists and musical genres it is also essential to alert the DJ to those which you do not like. A “No” list can be really useful and it can also be a good idea to have an “Only if a guest asks” list so that the DJ can respond appropriately to requests from your guests on the night.
The perfect wedding playlist should include music from a diversity of genres and eras so that all of your guests can enjoy the night. This could for instance include (or not) swing; jazz; motown/soul/disco; reggae; ska; rock; pop; r’n’b’; indie; house/techno depending on tastes. Older guests will tend to dance earlier in the night so it can be a good idea to keep them happy with music that they like at this point (especially if your wedding party is DJ-only) and save the more contemporary or leftfield music until a little later on in the night.
The first step in putting together a wedding playlist is to spend some time thinking about your musical likes and dislikes, the genres you like or favourite artists or even favourite eras. Are there songs that have a particular resonance for either or both of you? These could be songs you loved listening to with your friends as a teenager or the songs that were big when you first started going out together. You might also like to start thinking about the musical preferences of your guests. I have some short sample audio playlists of different styles of music on my website and couples have found these useful as a starting point. Of course some couples are happy to leave the selection of the playlist almost entirely up to the DJ.
As long as you have booked an experienced professional this will work fine, but it is always useful to suggest even a couple of favourite songs or artists in order to personalise the night. Other couples have very strong preferences and will be keen to put their own stamp on the night’s entertainment – again it is important to work with a professional DJ who will have the musical nous to develop a danceable playlist in which your favourite genres and artists are to the fore. After I meet up with a couple I spend quite a bit of time developing a customised set list – I can draw on many years of experience and extensive musical knowledge to ensure that the tracks selected by the couple are incorporated into a well-paced, exciting set.
One of the most important aspects of the playlist is the track for the first dance and selecting a song that is meaningful to you both. When I meet up with couples in advance of their wedding we usually spend quite a bit of time discussing this and I always encourage people to put the song on at home and see how comfortable you are with it. A significant song to end the night is also good to think of when compiling your playlist and I am always happy to advise on a good track to round off the evening to create a special memory for you and your guests. Of course an important aspect of the job of the DJ is to read the crowd; as the night progresses a good DJ will adapt the set to suit the mood and the audience. Your playlist provides the template but a good wedding DJ will always come prepared with an extensive array of music to ensure that the dance floor is busy at all times.
Maybe you met for the first time at Electric Picnic or your first trip together was to Knockanstockan or Castlepalooza. Music festivals evoke special memories for many of us and many couples would like to create a festival vibe at their wedding. This is associated with a more laid-back mood on the day but requires quite a bit of preparation beforehand! Luckily there are now plenty of venues around the country with a festival-feel or there is always the DIY marquee/tipi option if you or your family have the space.
Whichever venue you choose it is important to work with the right suppliers and professionals, especially those providing the entertainment. For this type of wedding it is best to work with entertainers who have experience of playing to a festival crowd but ideally have experience of performing at weddings also. Playing a festival is one of the toughest and one of the most rewarding experiences for a performer – with so much else on offer audiences can dissolve in an instant if the energy flags but festivals also offer unique opportunities to venture down unexpected or quirky directions. I have had great fun performing on the Salty Dog stage at the Electric Picnic over the last few years where there is great scope to try out something different, I have also had the opportunity to deliver an interactive show at the Body Holidays area at Body and Soul. Based on my experience playing these and other festivals over the years what works best in a DJ set tends to be a well-balanced mixture of the familiar and the strange, a formula that can also work really well at a wedding.
Couples who are seeking a festival vibe tend to be quite discerning in their musical tastes and this is usually true of their friends and family also; at the same time there is a desire for a fun and playful atmosphere which ought to be reflected in the music on the night. Even if you book a band the DJ portion of the evening will usually comprise the longest portion of the entertainment and your DJ should have the requisite knowledge, skills and music collection to put together an eclectic multi-genre set in which tunes from your festival favourites (from headliners to obscure) are to the fore. In order to create that festival feel it is also essential that the DJ has the necessary lights and equipment (you should discuss this prior to booking) and it may be worth paying a bit extra for a visual show if you really want to recreate the festival experience. Contact me to discuss possibilities and pricing.
Vintage-style weddings are very much in vogue right now, a trend I fully support. (Some of my favourite gigs have been gramophone-disco style sets that I have played at festivals and parties.) Once you have sourced the perfect vintage dress and planned your decor you will need to think about the sounds you want to hear on the night. The term vintage could potentially be applied to hundreds of different musical genres and eras – are you going to go for an eclectic mix or do you have a particular fondness for a certain genre or era? There are some genres of music which work particularly well for vintage-style weddings such as those popular in the 1920s like swing; rag-time and jump-blues. Other popular ‘vintage’ genres include calypso; bossa nova; rockabilly; and vintage Bollywood. There are also vintage-themed genres such as electro-swing which bring a contemporary twist to older styles.
If you are a huge fan of a particular genre you may wish the DJ to focus on this for much of the evening so obviously you will want to select a DJ with a good knowledge and feel for the selected style. At some stage in the evening you will probably want to mix things up a little (or maybe a lot) especially if you have booked a band who perform a single genre exclusively. It is important to plan the strategy for the evening with your wedding DJ in advance of the big day – have a think about what proportion of the evening should be devoted exclusively to your selected vintage genre(s). Do you want to move towards more contemporary sounds later in the evening or stick with a vintage sound for the night? An experienced DJ will be able to advise you about what is likely to work best given the demographics and broad musical tastes of the wedding party, but will also be able to adapt to the audience on the night to ensure that your vintage-themed wedding is a roaring success.