Although many elements go into making a great wedding, the DJ and the party at the end of the day is definitely amongst them. This is why it’s important to be prepared and make sure you do the best job possible. Learn how to DJ a wedding and make sure it, and you, are memorable. For all the right reasons…
DJs often forget that a wedding gig is not about them, it is only ever about the bride & groom. The DJ’s personal music choice comes second, always. The most successful wedding DJs are also highly organized and flexible. Confidence in yourself and your skills is also key, plans can change quickly on the day and a DJ needs to be able to adapt.
The job of wedding DJ is fairly unique in the DJing world, so let’s break down some of the key components and make it a great night for all involved too.
The Bride Is Number One (The How to DJ a Wedding Cardinal Rule)
If the bride is having a good time then everyone else is having a good time. So although you will base your music selections on everyone, keep an eye on the bride to make sure she’s happy.
It is also an idea to meet with the bride and groom beforehand. Not only to find out if they have any song requests but it is also vitally important to ask them if there’s any that they hate.
Remember that music is very emotive so you don’t the attachment someone may have to a certain track. So you want to be sure if there are any tracks you shouldn’t be playing. I heard of a wedding recently where the bride specifically asked for no Bruno Mars, and what did the DJ play?? Not good, and people do talk…
It has become common for the bride and groom, to ask their guests if they have any song requests. These tend to be written on the invites and sent back to the bride and groom.
So good questions to ask: Are they going to be doing this? And if so, how will the list of tracks be communicated to you and when?
Be Prepared to Play Songs You Don’t Enjoy
In this sense, being a wedding DJ is arguably one of the most unselfish forms of performing there are. This is because the DJ either:
- Has to fully embrace everything regarding popular and mainstream culture
- Has to be able to put their prejudices and dislikes aside.
Whilst a common trait amongst club DJs, There is no room for pretentiousness in wedding DJing.
So stay on top of recent commercial music while building a large library of classics. Also be sure to never pass judgment on song requests you receive, either before the wedding or at the event itself.
Be Involved Organized and Helpful
A wedding is a massive operation, involving many moving parts & people i.e not just the bride and groom. Also, be in contact with the wedding planner (if there is one) as well as the venue where the event is hosted. Make sure to ask them if there’s anything special you need to take into consideration.
If you have specific ideas or requirements to do your job to the highest possible standard then inform the venue, and planner, to make sure you have everything needed to run smoothly.
How to DJ a wedding when each one is different? One word, Preparation
So be sure to get hold of the running order from the coordinator (which may be the bride and groom themselves) and then plan accordingly.
Know exactly when you can set up and when you are expected to play vs free time.
To give you an idea, some weddings will have drinks before the sit-down meal. It’s things like this you need to clarify. Whether the bride & groom would like background music during this section or don’t require a live DJ.
If they do, then, of course, you can add this as an extra charge on top of the standard evening/party set.
How to DJ a Wedding at a New Venue
If you’ve never played the venue before then it is a good idea to go and visit at least a few days beforehand. Just so you can get an idea of anything extra you may need to bring.
For example, if you need extension cables, extra powerboards or extra stands for microphones, etc.
Know What Equipment You Need & Is Available
Some venues will have some or maybe all of the equipment required to do a DJ set. Again it is worth finding out what is available, what you are allowed to use and also the quality of the equipment on offer. Often it can be out of date or poorly maintained.
If you are a professional DJ and have your own equipment then it can be worth taking it. That way you are fully familiar with everything. The more comfortable and relaxed you are using the equipment, then the better your overall show will be.
Know the Plan & Stick to It
Every wedding has a running order and a timeline for the day.
This dictates everything from what time the ceremony happens to when people sit down to dinner. And, most importantly to you, when the party starts.
Get hold of a copy of this plan well in advance so that you can prepare everything you need to for your part.
For example, if you have to play the music for the first dance, make sure to have a high-quality version of the track and know exactly when to play it.
But Be Flexible
Although there is a timeline, things don’t always go to plan. This is why it pays to be prepared and even set up a little early in case the bride or groom asks you to fill in some time.
Even if it’s just background music then it is a good way to kill some time while waiting for the next part of the day to happen.
For example, a recent wedding I went to the couple spent way longer taking the photographs than was expected. Luckily a DJ was playing and the drinks were flowing so no one felt like they were waiting around.
The same can be said if things go on a little bit later or you asked to keep the party going.
Important Note on Going Later
Make sure that this has been included in your contract. Any time spent DJing beyond the agreed finish time can be billed as extra along at a prearranged cost.
How to DJ a Wedding Successfully? Have a Large Music Library
This goes hand in hand with being organized and is another vital element in how to DJ a wedding.
Having a large extensive and organized music library allows you to play requests from guests and they will have plenty. Trust me. Weddings are one of the few places where people expect to make requests and have them played. This is the polar opposite of club DJs, where requests are often ignored.
If you don’t have access to the track requested then, of course, you can get on the internet and buy the track there and then. If you think it’s a crowd-pleaser worth purchasing that is.
That said, be careful not to get too distracted as you want to keep the majority dancing as opposed to trying to constantly please individuals.
This leads us to the next key point…
Read the Room and Play Accordingly
Keep an eye on the crowd as well as the running time and play in context. For example, if you are 10 minutes before the cake-cutting then it is probably not the time to start smashing out bangers…
Likewise, keep an eye on people and see what they are reacting well to. Weddings tend to be a huge mix of people, with many generations so not everyone is going to love every song. However, you might find that things like 80s classics get the biggest reaction for example. So you can always use that to bring people back to the dance floor if they start to filter off for example.
That said, you will want to play a broad range of genres, styles, and artists. That way you cover the spectrum and everyone feels like they have heard something that they like.
It is this attention to detail that will make them remember a great party.
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Be Prepared to Get on the Mic
Not all DJs are comfortable talking on a mic although a wedding is one event where it is expected. Even if it wasn’t agreed beforehand if an announcement needs to be made then guaranteed the DJ will be the first person who is asked to do it.
So, have a microphone and be prepared to use it.
If you are not used to public speaking then it might be worth getting in some practice, at least a few times, before the actual event itself.
The good thing about this is that announcements can be kept short. Don’t worry about having to talk for too long or being funny. No one is expecting that just be cheerful and helpful but let your music do the talking.
After all, if you are legitimately having fun then that mood is going to pass on to the crowd.
How to DJ a Wedding 101: Don’t Get Drunk
This might seem like an obvious right? But you’d be surprised how many DJs take advantage. Either of the fact they might be offered drinks throughout the night, or even of the free bar.
While it is okay to have a drink or two, be sure to always keep things professional. That way if you need to speak to anyone throughout the night, including right at the end, you are still very much sober, coherent and presenting yourself in the best possible light.
After all, if don’t want to end up drunk and slurring at the end of the night. Even if you have performed your set well you run the risk of sabotaging anyone else approaching you to ask for a booking. They may just think that you’re in it for the free drinks.
Bring Some Personality
Don’t worry about being technical.
A lot of club DJs are passionate about the technical side of mixing. On top of collecting music, they will spend hours and hours practicing the art of blending tracks.
While practice is of course still very important for a wedding DJ, don’t worry yourself with being too flashy on the night.
Wedding guests are a lot less likely to notice if you are doing live remixes or being too technical.
Generally, they just want to dance to music they recognize. In this case, it’s okay to just blend or fade in and out of tracks as smoothly as possible. You don’t need to worry about advanced skills like beat matching, particularly when it comes to playing cheesy music.
In fact, people know commercial tracks so well that they may resent you trying to mix & change them too much. Either that or, unless you mix perfectly, people will be able to tell instantly if there’s a mistake.
People Enjoy DJs When They Hear Tracks They Know
This may seem another obvious point however it is particularly key in how to DJ a wedding. Studies show that a bad DJ playing well-known tracks get a far better reaction that a good DJ playing obscurities.
This is why wedding discos often seem formulaic because commercial and cheesy music is guaranteed to work well. Humans love familiarity. They love to hear tracks they know and if they can sing along then all the better.
Be sure to have some guaranteed floor fillers and cheesy classics in your music library. That way you can fill the dance floor anytime you want to.
A Note on Illegally Downloading Tracks
Download a load of illegal tracks may be tempting but you run the risk of the quality being quite bad. They might sound fine at home but when played over a loud sound system it may become quite obvious.
There’s plenty of wedding compilations you can download legally that give you 50 odd songs at a very reasonable price.
So don’t be a cheapskate. Make sure you are doing the best possible and shell out a few coins on high-quality music files. Even though it may not get appreciated on the night then you will know you have done things right.
Besides, if you do play a low-quality song that sounds rubbish, then trust me that will get noticed.
Background Music and Filler
You may be asked to leave a playlist running for certain sections of the day. It is a good idea to download these are tracks so they are available on your machine.
You may be in a venue with limited internet signal or their Wi-Fi may be patchy.
Don’t run the risk of a playlist you have curated online not playing or being unreliable. That would be a pain you don’t need, especially if you’re not planning to be next to the playlist babysitting it.
How to DJ a Wedding When Things Go Wrong
As much as we don’t want it to, sometimes equipment fails. Always have a back-up plan just in case everything goes wrong.
Say a drink spilled on your laptop, cutting the music and making it unplayable (worst case I know). While disastrous, the last thing you want to do is further spoil the party for all the guests there.
Your backup could be as simple as a premade mix on your phone for example. Just something you can play through the sound system to keep the music going while you resolve the initial issue.
In this case, invoicing whoever spilled the drink on your laptop…
Prepare for Different Parts of the Day
This applies if you are going to be playing for various sections throughout the day. Create, organize and title your playlists for the various sections ahead of time. You want to make everything as easy as possible on the day so the less searching etc the better.
It seems easy and you probably know the tracks to play, but trust me, they’ll be more pressure on the day.
The last thing you want to be doing is scrolling, trying to find something you could have just prepared beforehand.
How to DJ a Wedding’s First Dance
We’ve all seen it, and even brides and grooms feel it, but normally after a minute or so of everyone watching the first dance, it tends to be a little bit awkward.
So check with the bride & groom beforehand what they would like you to do. They will probably want, halfway through the song for you to invite everyone else onto the dancefloor to join them.
Not only does this break the awkwardness but also gives you a full dancefloor to play your first proper song.
Build up to Warm up the Crowd
When the party gets started (which could be after the first dance), don’t go straight into your biggest bangers. Generally, people will still be relaxing, fairly full (if they have just eaten) and getting more drinks in them to pluck up the courage to dance.
So build up your tracks and make sure they have energy but then save the really big tunes for when you feel the room is really open to the idea of dancing. Basically when they’ve had more than a few glasses of wine and are ready to strut their stuff.
How to DJ a Wedding When It Slows Down
This is a good tip on how to DJ a wedding for everyone whilst keeping things flowing.
If you start to see the dancefloor emptying a little after being packed for a while then don’t panic. Generally, this is because people either just need a break or need to top-up their drinks.
This is an opportunity to give some people a rest while bringing others onto the floor who haven’t danced yet.
Play some slow songs and you’ll find more than a few couples getting up. Including the husbands who don’t normally dance being dragged over for the obligatory shuffle around the dancefloor.
Go That Little Bit Further
This is how to DJ a wedding like a pro, and get people raving about you…
As been discussed above, it would be pretty standard to ask for a bride and groom’s favorite song. However, a great idea to also find out the mother of the bride’s favorite song.
This does a couple of things:
- She will be ecstatic to hear her favorite track and is more likely to rave about how good the party/you were
- Aside from the bride, there is probably no one with more ability to encourage people onto the dance floor than the mother of the bride
Again, It is these tiny touches that make a DJ memorable, and more bookable.
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Too Much Light Kills a Party
This one really surprises me both in terms of venues but also sometimes DJs. Failure to do this, by the venue or you, is pretty “how to DJ a wedding badly”.
People feel the most comfortable to dance when it’s a little bit darker on the dance floor. If it is too bright then they feel self-conscious and may not get on the dance floor at all. Even if they wanted to.
So just be aware of this. Ask to tweak the lighting, even if it is handled by the venue.
For safety regulations, there does need to be enough light to see, but people don’t want to feel “on show”.
Lighting the venue like a club will give you a much better party than lighting like a lighting store, trust me.
How to DJ a Wedding Without Offending Anyone
This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how often this slips up the unprepared DJ. Especially with songs that only have the odd swear word or naughty intonation.
So if you know there are any of these make sure that you get the radio edit.
The last thing you want to do is offend the mother of the bride or any parents, by playing the album version of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You / F**k You”.
How to DJ a Wedding Smoothly
This is another pro tip in how to DJ a wedding… The best DJs pay attention to the key of their tracks.
They then play songs next to each other that are in the same, or complementary, keys. This just adds an extra layer of smoothness to your mixing and blending.
While some DJs can do this by ear, thankfully there are software programs that can do this for you. They will analyze your tracks and even relabel them accordingly to make this process really easy.
“Mixed in Key” is perhaps the most accurate and you can literally set it to run through your entire music library.
And then, using the guide that they provided you can see which set of songs will complement the one you are already playing.
This can be a great way to help a wedding DJ construct a set, particularly if they’re still learning.
Respect the Curfew & Get out One Time
We’ve all been at weddings where the crowd just doesn’t want the party to end. So they spend time after the last song chanting “one more song, one more song”.
However, due to their licensing restrictions, most venues have a strict cutoff time. It is your job as the DJ to be respectful of that.
One trick to make sure you can stick to the scheduled end time is to announce the last track.
A nice touch would be to make it another bride & groom request. Ask them what they would like to hear either beforehand or a few tracks before you finish.
Announcing the last track also tells everyone who wanted to dance, but hasn’t yet, that this is their last opportunity.
It also completely stops the awkward requests to keep going after the curfew.
Be Approachable: How to DJ a Wedding… While Booking More of Them
As mentioned above people will come up to you and ask for requests. So make sure you are approachable and happy to talk.
If you’re in the middle of a mix just politely ask them to wait 30 seconds and you’ll be right there.
Aside from requests, some guests will be keen for a little chat so make them feel welcome. Engage with them to give that little bit of extra one-on-one attention. You never know, they could be sounding you out for a potential booking.
If you have another mix coming up then be sure to explain and they’ll be more than happy for you to get back to your equipment.
So, be approachable but always communicate what’s going on so you don’t get caught out. You don’t want to find yourself scrabbling around to get the next track playing in time.
Always Be Smiling
If you have fun then everyone else will have fun. This will be easy when everything is going to plan, however…
As a professional, even if things do go a bit wrong or plans start changing, then adapt and keep smiling.
The bride and groom will already be feeling the tension so they don’t need you showing stress as well.
Even if you are not happy with the changes being made, just remember that you are there to do a job and make sure everyone has a good time. So accept any changes or requests as pleasantly and as happily as you can muster.
Always Keep Spare Cables
For something so easy and cheap, cables have been the downfall of many a DJ gig. They break, go missing so be sure to always have backups and backups of backups.
You could even just keep an entire set of spare cables just in your car at all times. Then if you get to a venue and find that something is not right you’re not squabbling around. You can go and grab your spares, remember they are cheap and easy to replace!
How to DJ a Wedding Without Losing Anything…
Simple really, have a checklist of all your equipment. When you’re being rushed out of a closing venue it is too easy to miss bits of equipment.
So, create a detailed checklist of every single thing in your portable setup. Then check it into your vehicle before you leave your house and again when you are packing up at the end of the event.
You’d be surprised how much stuff goes missing just from rushing to get out of a venue and not paying enough attention.
How to DJ a Wedding for Different Cultures
Another thing to bear in mind is where your couple is from, and if they have any strong cultural identity. This is something you can ask the bride and groom or the coordinator about beforehand. How to DJ a wedding can change slightly when different cultures are involved.
If one, or both, are from somewhere with strong traditions then it will be worth looking up if there’s anything extra expected of you. Or even if there is something you can do to surprise them. Which is a great way to get a bride & groom to talk about how good their DJ was.
For example, Latin wedding parties tend to have a lot less protocol. They are more about having a quick toast a bit of food and then filling up the dance floor for plenty of partying with Merengue, Bachata, Salsa and of course some dance music as well.
Whereas European weddings are a lot more about playing cheesy music that anyone can dance and look silly too.
Always Have DJ Business Cards Available
Aside from being there to work, it is also an opportunity to present yourself and get more bookings.
You may find people coming up to you and asking if you have contact details available. So always have cards ready to hand over to anyone that may want you for their wedding.
It’s a simple trick but so many DJs don’t do it and will miss bookings because of it.
Conclusion: How to DJ a Wedding
Being a wedding DJ is one of the most enjoyable self-employed jobs you can do and can pay reasonably well for the hours that you ‘work’. There is quite a lot to think about when planning a set for a wedding, however, a lot can be prepared beforehand. The ideal situation is that once you are set up and are just able to have fun for the rest of the evening.
After all, there aren’t many places where people are in a better mood than at a wedding!