One of the great things about the Heavy Hits community is that it understands that there are all sorts of DJs around the world, catering for all sorts of parties.
And one of the most important parties anyone can ever DJ at is someone’s wedding – literally the most important day of the couple’s life! They can be incredibly fun to DJ at, and a very lucrative corner of the industry if you get a reputation for doing them well, but too many DJs take on this responsibility without contemplating or understanding the differences from a normal club or bar gig.
In the following blog, Ben Boylan answers several frequently asked questions on this topic, which will leave you in a much better position to plan and execute a wedding gig.
Do You Take Song Requests?
If you have DJ’d a wedding, a couple has asked you if you take song requests from their guests.
Couples ask this question because they want to gauge how much you will let their guests influence the song choices at your wedding. Some couples welcome the input of their guests, and others want to control the playlist. It’s up to you to feel them out and guess which type of couple they are. That will help you give them the answer they are looking for and book the gig.
There are three ways you can do it
I always say that the answer is ultimately up to them but it can go three ways:
1 – The DJ accepts all requests.
This works at weddings with groups who are not big dancers. Sometimes it’s hard to get anyone to dance. Encouraging guests to make requests gets them involved and will probably get (at least) a small group on your dance floor. Alternately, this doesn’t work great when you have a packed dance floor, because guests often request songs that they personally like, rather than crowd-pleasers. But usually, this one is OK.
2 – The DJ accepts no requests.
I get this one often, usually from couples who want to control the playlist or ones who don’t like the music taste of their family and friends. As soon as a couple says this, I ask them why. If it’s because they think their family and friends will make a lot of requests, they are setting themselves up. If five guests are told, “sorry, no requests,” at least one of them is going to go bother the bride and groom. Maybe all five will. I have DJ’d at least three weddings where the couple came up to the DJ booth and said something like “Just play whatever they want. They are driving us crazy!” So this policy doesn’t always work well.
3 – The DJ uses their judgment.
If the request matches the type of music the couple likes, and it is a song the majority of the room will know, play it. This is the best policy and the one most of my couples agree to.
Once again, couples ask this question for different reasons, so if you haven’t booked them yet, I would try and figure out their motivations and answer carefully. Many couples are just scared no one will dance at their wedding. Others have a dream of choosing a long playlist that their family and friends will compliment. Put on your psychologist hat and have fun. Good luck!
What Time Do You Arrive?
Arrive 2 hours early
This is another question I get asked often. The standard for DJs bringing a normal set up is 2 hours before guests arrive.
Note: it’s not 2 hours before the ceremony. It’s 2 hours before guests arrive. Guests usually arrive 30 minutes before the ceremony. And you want to be set up and ready to start before the first guest arrives.
You need the extra time
It usually takes me 30 to 60 minutes to setup once I have loaded in. So why not just arrive one hour early? Because if something goes wrong, you need the extra time. I’ve had to run out to Best Buy or Radio Shack (RIP) to buy a cable or batteries. Trust me on this one.
2 hours might not be enough
If it’s your first time at the venue, get there early, especially if it’s big. In Brooklyn, many wedding venues are in a warehouse. And those are often just one big room and that can be easy. But some banquet halls have multiple floors, rooms, and outdoor areas. And barn weddings can be tricky too. Sometimes the ceremony is a half-mile into the woods!
And if you are providing extra services like photobooth, intelligent lighting, etc, you may have to get there earlier than 2 hours.
Check with the venue
Some venues let you arrive at any time that day. Others have an event ending before you get there. So in the week before the wedding, shoot them an email and ask if you can arrive 2 hours before guests.
Here are the things you should have set up before guests arrive:
1 – PA for ceremony (if providing)
2 – PA for cocktail hour (if providing)
3 – PA for ceremony
4 – All mics tested and ready to use
5 – Any additional services like lights, photobooth, etc.
Time yourself the next time you set up and make a note of it. Good luck!
What Happens If You Get Sick?
This is a question I get in almost every consultation I have with a couple. It’s an uncomfortable one, but since it gets asked so often, you should have an answer prepared. I also would suggest putting it in your contract as a clause.
Here’s what I say
If for some reason I became ill or an act of God (earthquake, tsunami, etc) prevents me from coming I will present you with 2 or 3 great DJs who will do the job at the same price and under the same terms. I will send them everything you have sent me. If you choose to use one of them, I will send them your deposit. If you decide not to use one of them, I will return your deposit.
Here’s what I put in my contract
In case of cancellation by <your name here>, a suitable replacement, as judged by You, will be provided within 72 hours of said cancellation.
Return the deposit
In my contract, I call the deposit a “non-refundable deposit.” In other words, if they cancel, they don’t get their deposit back. This is one of the only cases where I would give it back without question.
But don’t scare them
Reassure the client it’s not going to happen. I don’t know about you, but I’d have to be pretty sick to miss a wedding. If I was puking and it was almost time to leave and go to the wedding, I’d probably bring a few plastic bags and start packing my car. And as for an act of God, God would really have to f#ck $h!t up. In other words, I say “…But it’s not going to happen. Don’t worry.”
And it probably goes without saying, but let them bring this one up. If they don’t mention this, just leave it in the contract and don’t say anything about it.
Cancelling can damage your rep
There are some wedding DJs who cancel more often than I do. In other words, more often than never. Do what you are comfortable with, but if you cancel regularly, the word could get around and that’s not the type of thing a wedding DJ wants to be known for! Nuff said…
I hope these tips help you deal with this difficult question. Good luck with it!
For the wedding DJs out there – check out these great wedding playlists that Ben has curated!