We've been DJ'ing weddings for a long time, so here's some wisdom we've learned
from our experience. We want to pass it along to you to help you when planning your big day!
1. Keep the "spotlight" songs short: These are the "important" songs for your wedding, like your first dance, parent dances, etc. It's a very nice time to share the dance floor with your new spouse, or someone you love. Try to keep these songs to three minutes or less. If you are not the kind of person who likes to be the center of attention, this makes sense, but also think about the guests who will be looking on (and sometimes standing) and not sure what to do for the duration, which can sometimes seem long. Got a long song? Tell your DJ to find a good point to fade it out.
2. Spread out the spotlight songs: My recommendation is to have the introductions into the reception, then go right into first dance. Follow this with a blessing (if you choose) and serving the first course. Before entrees, do toasts. After everyone has eaten dinner, head into the cake cutting, parent dances and then open up the dance floor. After a first set of dancing, give everyone a quick rest and do bouquet/garter. This diced-up timeline allows people time to schmooze, catch their breath, and take breaks as needed.
3. Put the dance floor right in front of the DJ: Sometimes this is not possible depending upon the venue you picked, but when it is, this will prevent the DJ having to blast the music to get good sound quality to other parts of the room, meanwhile blowing away people seated at tables in front of him. (Also: NEVER seat elderly guests in front of DJ!). Added perk: have a stage for the DJ so he can see over all the action!
4. Serve the DJ dinner first: Often, the venue or caterer will serve the DJ dinner last. This doesn't make sense, because by the time the DJ gets their food, most of the guests will be done eating, and the next portion of the evening should begin. If you serve the DJ first (or after the bride and groom), once everyone else is done eating, the next part of the reception can immediately begin.
5. Outdoor ceremony? Always, always, always have a tent: New England weather is unpredictable. The worst thing that could happen is that it acts up for your beautiful ceremony outside. While you and your guests may be able to put up with intense heat or a little drizzle, electronic equipment is a little more fickle. Go to Walmart and buy a small pop-up tent just in case (sometimes a DJ can bring one if you ask).
6. Outdoor wedding? Make sure there's power nearby: Rustic weddings are all the rage, but don't get too quaint; DJs need power to run their equipment! Some DJs (like us) can supply a small battery to power their gear for short periods of time (such as ceremonies or cocktail hours), but for the longer dinner/dancing portion, your venue needs to have power or else it's going to be a very short night.
7. When to know if you need a second setup: So your wedding has a ceremony in one place and the reception in another. Does the DJ need only one setup or two? Here's some ways to figure it out. Is there a wall or door between the two spots? Is it more than 100 feet between the two places? Is there anything that would visually obstruct the DJ from seeing something important from where he's set up? On an aesthetic level, would extension cords be able to be seen and/or unsightly? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you need more than one set of equipment.
8. The couple MUST dance!: Guests are usually hesitant at first to get on the dance floor, but if they see the newlyweds cutting the carpet, they're less shy. You don't have to be good dancers, either; just sway if you need to. But people will join you when you do, and after awhile you can sneak away. Dance floor getting barren? Come back out, and tell people to come with you! You're the boss on your wedding day...they have to listen to you! Have your bridesmaids and groomsmen help you out too!
9. Your Must Play and Must NOT Play Lists: What's the right amount of songs to put on your playlists? Hopefully, you've hired a DJ because you trust him with feeling out the crowd and knowing what works (and what doesn't!). Similarly, music is very important to you. I have found that the sweet spot for songs to put on your playlist is approximately 20-30 songs. This manageable number allows the DJ to play most, if not all, of the songs you have listed on there, while still giving him the freedom to pull from his experience based on your musical preferences. After all, if you wanted a jukebox, you wouldn't have paid for a DJ, right?
10. Subliminal messaging helps: If you want people to dance, you can also drop hints even before the party begins. Some suggestions: get sandals for people to switch into, and leave them in a basket with a sign on it that lets people know they are for dancing later on; have your Best Man or Maid of Honor say something in their speech about dancing tonight; even before your wedding, include guests in making requests of their own for songs they'd like to hear. If there's even a song or artist you can work into your vows, all the better! By inserting these small cues, people will be primed to celebrate!