July 27, 2016
“I don’t do weddings.” Those four words are often muttered by club DJs who are convinced that the wedding DJ life is not for them. The boring traditions, long winded speeches, and horrible music requests often make for a challenging and excruciatingly long gig, but the lucrative pay can more than make up for all of the headaches. If you’re currently a “club only” kind of DJ hesitant about jumping into the wedding sector, don’t be. Even though some wedding traditions will never change, the sun is beginning to set on the cheesy, lame wedding DJs of the past. More and more couples are specifically looking for DJs that do the OPPOSITE of what traditional wedding DJs do. They want someone that can rock their party without all of the cringeworthy cheese and horrible music that has been dominating the wedding scene for the last 20 years. The time is perfect for skillful club DJs to jump in and snatch a piece of the wedding industry pie (or in this case, cake!)
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that DJing weddings is as easy as rolling up to the club 15 minutes early, plugging in, and playing Top 40 and EDM all night. Wedding gigs require a lot more planning, versatility, and awareness. But if you can rock a club, you can definitely rock a wedding! Just keep these key areas in mind as you dip your toe into the wedding world.
That handshake agreement may work for your $150 a night bar gig, but it’s not going to cut it when it comes to $1,000+ wedding gigs. When booking weddings, make sure you have a deposit and contract in hand before you consider the date to be officially reserved. When it comes to wedding deposits, don’t use a lower deposit requirement like $50-$100. Instead, go with a percentage of the total amount, between 20% and 50%. This will help prevent you being used as a secondary, cheap back-up wedding DJ when the bride has another DJ already booked. Also, it’s not a bad idea to have some sort of cancellation clause in you contract (like “payment due in full if cancelled within 30 days of event”) to minimize the damage of last minute cancellations. There are plenty of online resources to help you generate a contract for your weddings gigs, and it’s definitely worth the fee to have your contact template looked over by a legal professional prior to sending it out to wedding clients.
Along with playing the right music, planning is probably the single most important aspect of a successful wedding. As a wedding DJ, you are often required to act as a pseudo-wedding planner. If you choose not to step up and accept the responsibility of controlling the flow of the evening, 9 times out of 10 the party will end up as a disorganized mess with guests ducking out immediately after the cake is served. Pre-planning with wedding couples can either be done online, in person, or a combination of the two. Online services like DJ Intelligence and DJ Event Planner make it easy to offer a suite of online planning forms, timelines, and music requests to your clients. Try to shy away from old school printed forms, they are soooooo 1995. Depending on the complexity of the event, a simple follow up with the client after the online forms are completed may be sufficient enough to successfully plan the evening’s activities. However, if the event is somewhat complicated, or if the couple needs guidance, multiple in-person meetings may be necessary. Just be sure that you are meeting in person for the right reasons. As cool as you are, nobody wants to take the time out of their day to sit down with you and make YOU feel better about the event. Wedding couples have a number of other vendors that all demand huge chunks of their time, so be sure that any in-person meetings serve to improve the event, not to serve your own interests or feed your ego.
Make sure that you require all client planning materials to be finished an finalized a full week or two prior to the event date. This will allow you plenty of time to have everything prepared and ready to go so that you can rock the party. If you use Serato or similar DJ program, take the time to build a DJ crate specific to the event. Name it “John and Joan Humperdink” or whatever the couple’s name may be so that you can quickly glance down and reference it if you find yourself drawing a blank when making announcements regarding the newlyweds. Then, fill the crate with their requested songs, starting with their “spotlight” dance songs (bride/groom dance, father/daughter, etc.) Make sure that you scan and build overviews for all of the music in the crate, and that the files are high quality. Then, it never hurts to make a backup of the crate on a USB drive, or copying the files to a cell phone or iPod. Another great option is springing for a Spotify subscription. Not only can you build custom crossfaded playlists that are perfect for cocktail hour or dinner, but you can also build a backup playlist for with the important songs for the wedding dance, just in case there is a technical issue at an inopportune time. With Spotify, you can also save playlists for offline listening so that you don’t need to rely on the wedding venue having free wifi.
Once you have the main musical requests organized and ready to go, you’ll need to think about the music for the rest of the evening. Try to tailor your musical selection around the preferences of the bride and groom, but also make a conscious effort to please a large percentage of the guests in attendance. If you are an open-format DJ with deep music knowledge and amazing dancefloor-reading skills, great! You should have no problem rocking a wedding. But, if your musical knowledge is limited due to focusing on a single primary genre in the club, you might need a crash course in the classics. Download the “Fun Wedding” app to your phone. It compiles lists of the top 200 most requested and trending wedding songs to help you construct some “go to” wedding crates in your DJ program.
After all of the planning and prep, it’s time for the most challenging part, execution! Just remember that no matter how much you plan and prepare, something always pops up and throws an obstacle in your way. Just remain calm, friendly, and do your best to smoothly navigate through the challenges. Keep an eye on the crowd during the early part of the evening and try to keep the flow of the evening steadily moving. For some reason, it seems that most wedding guests look for the first opening to escape a reception and never look back. It’s up to you to minimize those opportunities. If everyone finishes dinner in record time and and guest begin to gaze longingly at the exit, it may be wise to adjust the event timeline accordingly. Just casually mention your suggested changes to the bride and be sure she is cool with the newly altered schedule. Then, proceed to the next event and adjust the rest of the schedule as need. Again, just keep things flowing, this is key! It’s important to note that all of this event direction and execution will require you to make clear and concise announcements on the microphone. Make sure you are up to the task before even attempting to DJ a wedding!
Then, when it’s dance time, it’s time for you to shine! Keep the music flowing and the party going. Even though you may be required to play some of the same wedding classics as the cheesy DJ down the street, make sure you put your own spin on it. Mix, scratch, use wordplay, and just do what you do. Just make sure the crowd keeps dancing! You will undoubtedly have a few formal traditions or events that will interrupt the dancing part of the evening. Just try to do your best to keep these interruptions to a minimum, and get right back to mixing music as soon as possible. If you can, try to group these interrupts together to prevent stopping the dance floor momentum multiple times. Pay attention to the crowd and use all of those skills that you’ve honed in the club to show everyone a great time.
After the dance is over and you’re getting ready to leave, make sure to take the time to thank the bride and groom for having you as their DJ. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to send a quick thank you note, either through social media or snail mail. For bonus points, send the newlyweds a “happy anniversary” card one year down the road. It will only take a few minutes of your time, and it could help you book additional wedding referrals.//php comments_template(); ?>