How to be a better wedding DJ
Wedding DJ Tips
If there’s one place you’ll always find DJ work its at weddings. Everyone loves to dance at a wedding!
But it’s an artform in itself that you need to master if you want to be the best wedding DJ you can be.
So we’ve compiled the ultimate list of things you have to do to be a better wedding DJ. You’ll be surprised how many things there are!
So let’s get right to it and find out what wedding DJ tips you need to improve on.
- Meet with the bride and groom before the night
- Don't be late
- Be professional
- Get a set list from the couple
- Understand what is expected from you
- Understand the schedule for the night
- Have a large range of musical knowledge
- Keep the dance floor filled by reading the crowd
- Be prepared to change at any moment
- Nail the First dance
- Take requests but don't honour them all
- Understand the venue
- Programme lighting to suit the venue
- Pick songs for all generations
- Keep the bride happy
- Get some hype men (and women)
- Play to the crowd
- Have a very large music library
- Avoid dirty versions of songs
- Play their songs not your songs
- Keep changing the music genres regularly
- Slow songs reset energy levels
- Build up the pace of songs
- Learn to be good on the mic
- Never drink alcohol
- Have a backup plan for everything
- Adjust your DJ setup to suit the venue space
- Be careful with smoke / fog machine use
- Quick mix transitions work better
- Mix in key (harmonically) when you can
- Be ready to market yourself
- Go above and beyond
- Learn from other wedding DJs
- Share bookings with other DJs when you're unavailable
Let’s start our wedding DJ tips before the big night as I highly recommend you meet with the couple face to face before the event. Not only does this show incredible professionalism it also means you can get to know exactly who you’re dealing with, their personalities and specific requirements.
The easiest thing to do is meet them for a quick chat at their house at a time that works well for them. This might mean an evening meeting but trust me its worth it.
Ask them about their plans for the big day, get to know their rough schedule (you can confirm the more accurate times closer to the gig), and find out what kind of wedding this will be.
That last point might sound odd but couples have all sorts of themes for weddings so it’s important to find this out so you can match their style.
The most important aspect of this meeting is to understand their personalities. Are they laid back and happy to go with the flow? Are they up tight and will need some extra loosening up to enjoy themselves? Are they feisty and liable to complain if you’re not playing every track they love?
The more you can understand the soon-to-be-married couple the better wedding DJ you can be when the big day comes along and you’ll feel more prepared than ever.
When it comes to wedding DJ advice this one is right up there. It might go without saying that you shouldn’t be late for your gig but there’s an extra layer to this for wedding DJs.
Wedding receptions usually run on a tight schedule. There’s lots to get done between the wedding ceremony, dinners, speeches, cake cutting, bouquet throwing and everything in between. So you need to be set up and ready to go before any of this stuff happens.
There’s nothing worse than a guy bringing in boxes and rigs and DJ equipment while people are trying to eat, or make speeches or cut cakes. You’ll want to be in while staff are still laying tables. Not when the wedding party arrives.
So be sure to arrive well before you’re needed. If you’re driving some distance allow for more than enough time to arrive. Always use satnav to avoid accidents and traffic whenever you can.
It’s no problem being an hour earlier and waiting around to set up. It is a big problem if you’re an hour late and rushing around to get your DJ gear set up.
Sounds like a silly one right but oh boy I’ve seen more than my fair share of unprofessional DJs. This is a job after all and you’re being paid handsomely for it. Remember who your client is and how much this day means to them.
By all means show people you’re having a great time but always remember this isn’t just someone’s big day that will forge memories people will carry with them for many years to come, it’s also your number one marketing opportunity.
Be polite, helpful, prepared and capable. Be ready to hand out business cards and make sure everyone knows the name of your wedding DJ service. More ont his later!
Everyone has their favourite songs they love to dance and sing to and on this very special day there’s really two people who want those special songs played at this most memorable of parties.
I recommend you ask the happy couple long before the night has begun, either at your meeting (as mentioned above) or via email or text. Give them some time to think about it and ask them to jot down in an email all of the songs they’d love to hear.
There’s no rush on them returning this to you but I would recommend you give them a little nudge via email if its taking a while.
This list not only makes it easier for you to make sure you play their favourite songs, it also gives you an indication in to the kind of music they like too. From this you can now create a wedding playlist just for them that features songs like those they’ve picked. Whether it be from a particular era or genre, it should be clear what they’re in to and what works best.
Keep in mind that there may be some wholly inappropriate songs in their list that just aren’t playable. While they may love death metal or gangsta rap it’s going to be hard to work those in to a set list that will keep the 80 year old Gran and 4 year olds niece happy to.
I’d recommend having all their favourite tracks downloaded and ready to play, but just consider that there’s some you may wish to avoid playing unless specifically requested on the night.
You play a vitally important role in someone else’s wedding day. The music you play, the party atmosphere you create, can create such strong memories, so you’d better get it right.
The best way to do this is to really understand what the wedding couple are expecting from you. Here’s a few questions that its vital you know the answers to BEFORE the wedding.
- Is it just music at set times? Or do they want more?
- When is the best time for you to set up?
- Do they want to use your sound system for the speeches?
- Do they expect you to provide anything else beyond just music and a light show?
Knowing what’s expected of you for this specific wedding event means you can then work out how to go above and beyond their expectations. We’ll have more on this in a later chapter.
This is vitally important and something you must get right. Every wedding has a schedule as there’s so many things the bride and groom will want to cram in to their event. Its key that you know what this schedule is and are prepared for what’s coming
Print the schedule
I highly recommend you print out a copy of the schedule multiple times and have it with you in your pocket as well as printed out and pinned up in your DJ booth. It’ll be tough to memorise everything so a print out is best, especially as others may come to you and ask what time something is happening.
You may be requested to announce the speeches, or cake cutting, first dance, parents dance, dinner, toasts, and all manner of other custom requirements the bride and groom may have. Be sure you know what times these are planned for and can refer back to your print out too.
Each of these events could in some way involve you. It could just be lowering the music volume, changing to a specific song to accompany the action, stopping the music, starting the music or any number of other actions you’ll need to perform as wedding DJ for the night.
So knowing what you need to do will help you be ready and much more capable. It reduces the chance of surprises and you’ll appear much more professional too. A win win all round.
Be flexible with the schedule
As with any event the schedule can sometimes change at short notice or be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. Be ready for this and flexible enough to keep the music going for longer, or even cut things short if the schedule happens earlier than originally planned. Your ability to be flexible when you’re DJing a wedding is what will be remembered.
Weddings are quite unlike any other even you can DJ at. The emphasis on making sure as many people as possible are having a good time is intensely felt at weddings, and as you’re there to play music it means you’ll need to please as many people as possible.
You could have everyone from 2 year old children, to 92 year old great-grandmothers. All of which might want to get up and dance, or at least enjoy the party and the music you’re playing. So how do you cater for that immense age range?
The key is knowing as much about your music library as possible and what appeals to the largest number of people at any one time. This isn’t just about finding the most mainstream songs, its also about reading the crowd, remembering what works well and why. We’ve written an article all about reading the crowd here which is worth checking out. We’ll have more on this later too.
People may come to you for requests, or the bride and groom may suggest eclectic playlists that may or may not work in a wedding reception setting. It’s up to you to understand what works and doesn’t work, knowing when to change things and pleasing as many people as you can.
Nail this and you’ll be remembered forever as the best wedding DJ the happy couple could have ever hired.
This is the number one skill any DJ should have. It’s more important than seamless mixes, more important than personality on the microphone. If you can’t read the crowd and work out what to play, you ain’t no DJ my friend.
The art of reading the crowd is what will make or break your DJ career. Its what can turn a regular party in to a legendarily memorable one.
It’s all about knowing what to play and when. Seeing the effect it has on people and working out what to play next to keep the crowd dancing and having a great time.
This can be easier said than done at times, and this is where your musical prowess and DJ skills can really shine.
We’ve got a very in-depth article on this subject but if you don’t have time for that here’s some quick pointers for you
- Try and remember what happened last time you played a specific track, will it work in this current situation
- Look out for people’s facial expressions and body language
- Keep a rough estimate of how many people are on the dancefloor, if it starts to dip you need to change the music
- Be prepared to switch tunes at quick notice if there’s a sudden evacuation of the dancefloor
- Keep a mental note of how well this track worked, you’ll build up a picture over time of just what weapons you have in your music library arsenal to give the crowd just the right music
- Understand that some songs work at some times and not at others. What failed at 9pm might be just what they want at midnight
One of the biggest differences with wedding DJs to almost any other kind of DJ is that things can change in an instant. Songs can be requested that, because of the source of the request, just have to be played now.
“We need Brightside by the Killers now because Nan is about to leave!” is as uncommon an event as you might think!
The schedule might get moved around, suddenly somebody wants to do a speech, or a special dance by family members needs to be performed. All sorts of unexpected events can happen and, thanks to unpredictability of alcohol, they often do.
It’s your job to be as flexible as possible and have the confidence and capability to roll with these changes.
You’ll need lightening quick access to your music libraries, the ability to search and find just the track you need with ease and get it loaded up and playing in seconds.
You might need to hand over the mic to someone, help them understand how to use it with just a few seconds of training and then cut the music so they can make an announcement. All the while cueing up the next track to continue the party. So there’s barely a moment of “dead air” when the party atmosphere can take a tumble.
The confidence to know your music library, your DJ gear setup, your surroundings and how to deal with people with high priority demands are what defines a truly great wedding DJ. Its these abilities which will be remembered and will get you more gigs through word of mouth.
Its what separates the bad wedding DJs from the good wedding DJs.
Here’s what you need to do
Study your music library, create playlists of mainstream songs by genre so you can easily jump to them.
Spend time getting to know all of your DJ gear well. Mic inputs, line inputs, every fader and dial there is so that you can confidently work it even in high pressure moments. I’d recommend turning the lights off and getting some muscle memory for every control in a dimly lit situation .
Run some scenarios in your head. Get your partner or a friend to simulate some requests and then deal with them in a test environment. See if there’s ways to make performing those tasks easier.
The moment that often kick starts the part. This is the moment that not only will be remembered for many years but also very likely recorded from multiple angles too on every smartphone and video camera in the room.
This is your time to shine. Don’t mess this up!
It’s actually not that difficult but there are some great ways to make this extra special
Make an announcement
The first dance is all about watching the happy couple on their wedding day dancing together, just the two of them. So in order to rally the troops and get everyone in position you’ll need to make an announcement.
You can prepare a script for this if you’re wondering what to say. Don’t leave to chance and stumble through your announcement. Make it clear and concise so everyone can hear you. Testing your mic before the party starts is key to a good announcement. If you can’t make an announcement its going to be much more difficult to get the party started with the first dance!
Have a first dance lighting mode
There’s only one couple on the dance floor, its nearly always a slow love song. Its the most romantic moment of the evening, so make sure your lighting reflects this moment.
People don’t want strobe lights, spinning flashing multi coloured madness. They want smooth transitioning, romantic lighting, Maybe with a spotlight on the happy couple.
For those watching they want enough light to be able to video it properly. So take all of these things in to consideration and make sure your lighting setup can really nail this first dance mood.
Be prepared with the next song
One common occurrence is that the first dance isn’t actually an entire 3 or 5 minute long ballad that everyone watches and waits patiently. In my experience people tend to move on pretty quickly. After maybe a minute or 2 the happy couple are beckoning their friends and family to join them.
This can mean one of two things. The first dance love song is over and it’s time to party! Or that they want everyone else to join in the slow dancing. You’ll need to read the crowd carefully or maybe even ask the bride and groom what they’d like to do after their first dance so they appear in control of the party.
Either way your job is to be ready with the next track as soon as they start dancing their first dance, as you may have mere moments before they’re happy to move on and get the party rocking!
You are highly likely to be asked for requests. After all this is a very special party where people want their favourite music played. Songs that, to this particular crowd, signify the very best of times.
So expect a high volume of song requests from party guests. You’ll find it highly likely that it’ll feature many of the mainstream party songs you planned to play anyway.
But it’s inevitable that some people may ask for songs that just don’t fit the party playlist. Or upon reading the crowd, you know are very likely to kill the mood and lead to a mass exodus from the dance floor.
So it’s important to remember, you don’t have to honour every request you get. If you can work them in to your playlist then thats great but keep in mind they may just not work.
If that’s the case then you’ll need to make sure you have the social skills to potentially deal with a slightly disgruntled potentially drunk wedding reception attendee who wants to know why you still haven’t played their song!
Find a way to politely tell them you may try later but it wouldn’t work right now.
Your job is to keep the party flowing, not to please every drunk request that comes your way. Keep that in mind as you DJ.
You’d be surprised how much of an impact the venue can have on the wedding party you’re DJing at.
So it’s important to know just how the environment you’re working in is going to affect your performance, the quality of your show and the dynamics of the party.
If it’s possible to visit the venue before event than I highly recommend you pop by and get the hotel manager or venue owner to show you around. Understand where they like you to set up your gear, where you plug in to the mains and any special requirements the venue might have for you.
All of these will make you much more professional and quite possibly on the venue’s preferred list when people come to them for bookings.
Its also key to think about these aspects that can change how well the party goes
- What are the room acoustics like? Echo / Reverb can add an unpleasant sound to the party which can put some people off
- What lights would work best in the venue? Can you place some lights around the venue or do they all need to be in one area
- How many people can fit in the dancefloor compared to the rest of the space? This can affect how much people stay dancing if they see a higher number of people seated
- Can you sound system fill the venue with enough high quality sound? If the venue is big then overdriving your speakers may result in lower quality audio which puts people off dancing. Too loud in a small venue can have the same effect
Understanding the venue, its layout and how best to maximise your potential in the room will add so much extra to the wedding party.
This could be considered an extension of the device above but it deserves its own section as I’m a firm believer you can really paint with light.
Never underestimate how much of a mood you can set with lighting. And also how cheap and ugly lighting can be if you do it wrong too!
We’ve all been to weddings where there were all manner of lights on all T bars and lighting rigs. All flashing away like crazy, spinning and strobing every colour of the rainbow, constantly, no matter what the song. Regardless of if it’s appropriate.
All too many wedding DJs do this thinking that throwing everything at the dance floor is the best thing to do.
Its not. lets just make that clear now.
Sometimes less is more, sometimes a more methodical approach produces way better results.
Coordinated lighting that works as a team will always look much more professional than the rainbow coloured slap-dash approach to lighting.
I highly recommend you only have lights in your wedding DJ setup that can be controlled via DMX. This is a standard protocol used by the entire lighting and stage industry to control many lights in a chain.
Whether its moving heads, scans, LED flood lights, strobes, and all manner of other lighting options, if you can coordinate all of them to work together then you can paint with light all around the venue.
Imagine having spot lights that lit the ceiling with colours and patterns, while the walls are lit with up-lighters all around the room. Scans and moving heads sweep across the dance floor in unison, changing colour and direction in perfect sync with each other.
Sounds much more impressive than 20 speckled dots of red green and blue flashing like crazy and blinding everyone while they’re dancing.
Of course this takes a little extra money and setup time but it’s worth it as it displays a level of professionalism and attention to detail to detail that many mobile DJs just don’t reach.
More importantly lighting sets the mood for the evening and you can adjust the lighting for different moods at different times of the party. Here’s a number of times that different lighting settings can work wonders
- Background music during dinner – Keep lights stationary and pointing at the ceiling. Warm colours work best
- First dance – A mixture of brighter lighting peripheral lighting to help illuminate the scene for people to take photos and a spotlight type feel with slow movements. Moving heads and scans are great for this. If its a slow song then keep the lights moving and changing slowly.
- Cake cutting – This can often be a fairly quick photoshoot moment. Its always nice to have colour in the background of shots so pick a nice colour (often pink or purple) and flood the room with it.
- Slow romantic songs – No need for flashing lights here. Red and Pink are the colours most associated with love so you could light the walls, the ceilings with those colours and have spotlights slowly sweeping across the dance floor
- Dance music – A mixture of lively lighting movements and colour changes with slower movements and “hands in the air” break downs. You can also go a little more crazy with strobe style effects as the breakdowns build back up
- Indie, rock and singalong tracks – These are your classic wedding party songs. Plenty of light and colour as its the time most people get cameras out and are recorded shout singing the lyrics to well known indie tracks.
As you can see there’s plenty of opportunity to get creative with lighting and really make an impact with light, colour and movement. Far beyond what cheap and rather unprofessional lighting will do.
Pioneer DJ RB-DMX1
If you’re using Pioneer DJ hardware then there is a fantastic solution for you. You can now sync your DMX lighting show to your music directly in Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ software. Purchase the RB-DMX1 and you can plug your DMX chain of lights in to your computer. This allows for some spectacular light shows that match your music well.
It also means you’re centralising where you handle your music and your lighting which can help immensely. You can also route control of your lighting through parts of your DJ equipment like performance pads. This makes for an even more compelling light show when its super easy for you to sync music and lights in meaningful ways.
You can check out the latest prices of the RB-DMX1 on Amazon here.
Here’s a great example of how powerful this can be
Your audience are an eclectic mixture of ages, generations, perspectives, opinions and tastes. Not the kind of demographic you’ll find in a dance night club or a drum and bass music festival.
If you want to win over the crowd you’ll want to appeal to as broad and audience as possible.
This is partly why the music played at weddings tends to be sing-along anthems, widely accepted pop classics as well as hip hop and dance tracks that are on the less offensive side. After all your 80 year old gran wants to dance a little, not be faced with people twerking!
So for this I highly recommend you take the time before wedding gigs to create up to date playlists to suit different moods of the evening. Here’s a few I would recommend you create
- Pop music everyone loves (Think Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars)
- Sing-along indie classics (Think Oasis, The Killers, Pulp, Blur, Coldplay, Queen)
- Dance music mainstream anthems (Think Calvin Harris, Avicii, Eric Prydz)
- Slow songs (Any popular ballads out now or classic 80s and 90s love songs)
- Background songs (Laid back soul, funk, acoustic indie tracks great while people are eating)
- Cheesy Party songs (novelty songs created specifically for parties, think happy birthday, wedding ceremony, silly singalong songs)
- Tracks you know always work (This will be your own curated list of tracks you’ve seen fill the dance floor at every wedding you’ve played)
Having these go-to playlists will half the time it takes to find the next track you should be DJing at a wedding. Less time browsing means more time to create the perfect transition and more importantly relax and feel confident. Being rushed and running out of time before a song runs out will never put you in a good headspace.
Whatever tracks you choose just have a thought for all ages that may be listening, dancing and partying with you.
While we may say its the happy couple’s big day, let’s face we mostly mean it’s the Bride’s big day as a lot of the requirements of a wedding are down to what the Bride really wants. This includes the music you play.
The bride’s playlist is definitely the most important. If the bride is dancing it’s much more likely to attract other women to dance, other men and then older and younger relatives too.
So when we say “read the crowd” pay particular attention to what the bride is doing. If she’s enjoying the song you’re playing. What types of songs did she like best. What would make her happy next?
If the bride, or bridesmaid on her behalf comes to you with a request consider prioritising it. Even if you’re 1 minute in to a tune, don’t make the bride wait another 3 minutes to hear the song she’s desperate to dance to now. Find the song, load it up and do a quick cut transition to get her favourite song playing.
If the bride is having a great time, everyone will be too. You’ll be surprised how effective this is.
The bride and groom are your most important people, and of the two of them, even the groom would admit that the bride takes higher priority. So make sure you play the music she wants, when she wants. The rest of the crowd will no doubt react positively.
There’s always some people at the party that are more energetic and “up for it” than others. Throwing shapes, trying their hand at break-dancing, coaxing people to the dancefloor all evening. These people are on your team and they don’t even realise it. So make use of them.
Read their reactions to songs you’re playing. If your hype people are ecstatic with the track you just started playing they are much more likely to bring more people to the dance floor, either by asking them directly or by just showing everyone what an awesome time they can have.
Make a mental note of what’s working best for your hype people and play to them as well as playing to the larger crowd. If you can keep the hype people on your side they’ll do a lot of the atmosphere building for you.
They’ll also keep the dancefloor busy and help make the party more memorable. Lose your hype man and you’ll eventually lose everyone.
This one might sound odd but hear me out. DJ-ing isn’t just about playing music, its about you playing your best self to the crowd of people right in front of you. They not only love the music you play, or the lighting show you put on for them but also the atmosphere you build through your words and actions.
If you can be a personality as well as just a guy pushing buttons then you’re much more likely to be remembered.
There’s some simple ways to do this too. Its not rocket science.
- Dress the part. You’re at a wedding after all. Make a statement with your clothes
- Learn to talk on the mic with flair and confidence
- Give shout outs to members of your audience, write down their names when they make song requests
- Give plenty of shout outs to the bride and groom, especially when playing songs from their chosen playlist
- Find out the names of the bride and groom’s parents and grandparents. You’ll be surprised how excited they’ll be when you dedicate songs to them
- Keep your announcements short and sweet
These simple steps will make you a better wedding DJ and will show off how professional, confident and memorable your DJ show is. All of which is likely to get your more business in the future.
Here’s some fantastic advice for any mobile DJ wanting to improve their microphone technique.
This isn’t your average dance music club night or swanky cocktail bar event. The range of musical tastes, genres and decades to choose from is vast, and so should be your music library.
Back in the days of CDs we used to carry 10 or more flight cases packed with compilation CDs of every music genre you could think of, spanning at least 4 decades of music, and every wedding event we still had people asking for songs we just didn’t have.
You can never have enough music and your ability to find those extra tracks people request is what will set you apart from run-of-the-mill wedding DJs.
Streaming services have made this task a little easier with the like of Tidal for DJs now giving instant access to a lot of music. But Tidal, Soundcloud, Beatport and other streaming services still don’t include every track you need. They also rely on a stable internet connection which just may not be possible in the venue you’re working in.
So make sure you download your music, purchase plenty of compilations and playlists that contain thousands of options for every musical genre.
Sure you’re likely to play the same 100 songs at a lot of weddings, catering for the wide range of ages and musical tastes means mainstream music is usually what works best. But there will always be those extra tracks people ask for that will add the cherry on top of the cake when you say “sure, no problem, I’ve got it”.
Why 10,000 songs isn’t enough
As a general rule, if you’ve only got 10,000 tracks in your DJ software’s music library, you don’t have enough. I could name you at least 20 genres of music people may request. That’s only 500 tracks of each type. If you have music from the last 4 decades then that’s only 125 tracks per decade. Or an average of 12.5 per year!
Now you can see how you’re going to need a lot more music. There’s a good 200 songs per year that people may want to hear of just mainstream pop, rock and indie. That’s over 8000 tracks in the last 40 years without even dipping in to other genres.
Once you’re reaching 40,000+ songs in your wedding DJ music collection, then you can be more confident you’ll have more of the music people want.
Even then, don’t be surprised when someone asks you for something you just don’t have. It’ll always happen.
Never stop growing your music collection! Not just with new songs but more old songs too.
A quick and simple one here. Great-Granny Jones doesn’t want to hear people dropping the F-bomb all over the place. You’re guaranteed to lose fans when the bride’s sister has to cover the ears of her 3 year old through the full unedited version of a classic hip hop track.
The bride probably won’t appreciate that video recording over her dancing and swearing like a trooper either.
You can easily avoid this by always have clean radio-edit versions of songs in your music library.
Adults won’t mind if swear words are removed, kids and old people won’t mind either! win-win!
So avoid anything with explicit lyrics warnings and please all of your audience, not just those that love to swear when they sing.
Another quick and simple one for you. When you’re curating lists of useful songs in to quick access playlists, always think about how an audience of 3 year old to 92 year olds might react to each song.
How well do you see each song working? Is it a sure fire floor filler, is it a more risky song that could go either way?
Whatever you think of a track you must remove your personal love, kate, dislike or musical preference sway your judgement. The night isn’t about you after all. You’re not there to play the songs you love, you’re there to play the songs they love.
A 30 minute deep house eclectic dance music mix will not go down well, even if you think it’s the best thing ever. You’ll only annoy the crowd and look silly.
So think about your crowd’s possible musical tastes and not your musical tastes.
People have short attention spans, especially when they’ve had a few drinks. A musical genre they loved one minute could be a total turn off in 10 minutes time.
In fact sticking to any one genre for more than about 10 minutes is likely to keep those not feeling it from joining the dance floor, and those that are feeling it and going crazy, to lose energy and take a seat.
What always peps people up and brings them to the dance floor is a change of pace, a change of genre and a change of energy in the room.
3 songs of any musical genre is usually enough before you’ll see changes in people’s energy levels and love for what they’re dancing to. They’re essentially viewing all 3 songs as pretty much the same one, especially as you’ve so expertly mixed them together. The energy they felt for the first as lasted through all 3 tracks and now, they’re contemplating taking a breather.
You can sway their opinion quite easily by just mixing it up, picking another music genre that maybe gives them a breather without leaving the dance floor. Moving from dance music down to a hip hop tempo works well. Or dropping in a big singalong anthem that surprises them will often re-ignite their party energy.
It’s your job to understand how the energy in the room is flowing, whether the next track you’re going to play will maintain it, even build upon it. You have the power to do this with your musical selections. So use that power wisely.
Avoid 20 minute dance music mixes, or too much rock music played back to back. Keep things flowing and changing, your wedding party crowd will be much more receptive to the little surprises and musical gifts you can drop in. Unpredictability is the key to impressing a wedding crowd.
While its a day to celebrate love and relationships, you need to be very careful when playing romantic love songs during your set.
Whatever tempo they may be they always instantly reset energy levels back down to slow, romantic, cuddle-dancing. While the 80 year old grandparents waltz around like its a ballroom.
if a slow song is requested then pick your timing carefully. Is now the right time to slow things down? Is there something on the schedule coming up that would work well with slowing things down for a few songs?
Don’t let all that hard work of hyping up the crowd go to waste by dropping in a 3 minute ballad. It may take you a good 4 or 5 songs to win the crowd back to the numbers you had before.
I recommend looking at the schedule and working slow song moments around those, either before or after. Naturally working the room and adjusting the mood to compliment a romantic moment like speeches, cake cutting, toasts and other wedding related presentations.
While this isn’t a hard and fast rule it does go hand in hand with the advice above. Its generally best to build up the tempo from slow to fast, rather than launching in with something fast.
This isn’t always the case of course but tempo has a strong correlation with energy levels when it comes to wedding parties. So working the crowd up gradually is much more likely to keep them dancing.
Similarly you can step down the tempos if you want to extend how long people dance for. Too many higher tempo tracks will be sending them to the bar for another drink quicker than you can say “I do”. Keep the energy going by adjusting the tempo and energy levels of the tracks you play.
Case in point, it’s highly unlikely people will go from sitting down and watching, to 180 BPM drum and bass anthem throwing shapes on the dance floor. Work your way up from ballads to pop classic, indie anthems to dance floor fillers. Then hit them with the bride’s favourite jungle track. You’ll have much more luck that way!
Whether you’re a smooth talker or not, there’s one thing every Wedding DJ must do and thats make announcements on the mic. Your shyness is no use to a bride when she runs over and says “Can you just announce we’re cutting the cake please”. You need to be ready to pic up that mic and make a very clear and presentable announcement.
So how do you do this even if you’re a more nervous or shy wedding DJ?
My advice is to always have scripts for the most common announcements. Stick to a clear sentence you know gets the message across easily.
There’s no need to ad-lib, guess at what you should be saying or stumble through an incoherent sentence that may then have to be repeated!
Practice a few choice sentences for announcements like cutting the cake, the best man’s speech, the first dance, the last song of the night, even the need for someone to move their car!
Write down what you think suits how you talk.
“Ladies and Gentlemen its now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, get your cameras ready for the bride and groom’s first dance. Can we have the bride and groom to the dancefloor.”
Practice this over and over until you feel confident you can say it without ever needing to look at it written down. There’s very little need to ever deviate from this script. Maybe just don’t say the last sentence if they’re already on the dance floor.
This is a great video worth watching on how you can easily improve your microphone skills and have high quality audio your wedding guests can easily understand.
Short and sweet is the key. Less talking, better communication through choice words.
By all means print these out and keep them with you in a notebook. Refer to them before you need to make your announcement. Speak clearly and loudly.
My number one tip for talking on the mic. SMILE! Even if you’re faking a smile, just smile while you talk and your voice will naturally sound more positive, energetic and happy!
I often give out this advice and there’s one good reason for it, so many DJs think they’ve been invite to party too. You haven’t, you’re there to work!
Alcohol will lead you to make bad decisions, you’ll react slower in high pressure situations, you’ll look less professional and more likely stumble or slur your words when making announcements.
Not to mention you need to pack everything up and drive home after the gig.
There’s no upside to drinking alcohol while you work. Stick to water and soft drinks. You’ll likely be hot and possibly a little sweaty depending on the size of the venue and its air conditioning, so keep hydrated and make god sober decisions while you work.
Your clients will thank you for it! Leaving the drinking to them.
At some point whatever can go wrong will go wrong. DJing at weddings is a highly technical business involving multiple pieces of hardware, software, USB drives, lighting, cables, fuses, power supplies and technical know how.
All of these items are points of failure that can at some point let you down. If any one of these fails then you’ve got a problem on your hands. How are you going to fix it quickly?
For this you need backups, of literally everything you have. Trust me I’ve been there!
Let’s start with the simple things. Bring plenty of cables. Using 4 way extension cables? Bring at least one spare of the same length and capability. Bring fuses and tools to quickly change them.
Bring USB cables that can easily be replaced as they tend to break around the connectors. Buy reinforced tough USB cables if you can too.
Bring a backup of your entire music library. You can use software like “Carbon Copy Cloner” to make exact copies of your entire library. If a drive fails you just grab your backup, plug it in and off you go.
If your DJ controller fails you could be in big trouble. While it’s entirely possible to DJ with just a laptop its not advisable. Bring a smaller, less capable DJ controller in a bag. Something that you know will work just fine for the time being. I carry the Traktor Z1 as my backup controller while I use the Traktor S4 as my primary controller.
You could even bring a backup laptop to if its integral to your setup. I’ve had a recent gig where the power supply to my laptop failed just minutes before the gig.
I knew I couldn’t DJ on just battery power alone. No problem for me as i had a backup laptop ready to go with its own power supply. I was back in business before the gig even started!
Backups will save almost every gig. Be ready for all eventualities and you could save yourself a major embarrassment.
No two weddings are the same and no two wedding venues are either.
Knowing just what will work in the space you’re given will make for a much more impressive show. You may have a huge array of lights and gantry lighting, T bars on tripods and light boxes galore. But if they don’t fit well in the venue or get in the way of people dancing then they’re causing more issues than they’re solving.
Visit the venue if you can, take photos or get photos from the manager. Understand where you can put lights, what safety issues there may be with tripod legs sticking out, Where you can put your speakers and how you’re going to get power to everything that needs it.
Wedding DJs need to think about a lot more than just DJing a wedding. You’ll need to conduct a risk assessment of your gear to make sure its not going to cause an problems when people start drinking and dancing.
I”ve been to plenty of weddings and seen it all, people falling in to speakers on tripods, tripping over cables, being constantly blinded by lighting setups as they sit, people sat too close to sound systems, all sorts of problems can arise.
So be a thoughtful DJ and put a little effort in to understand exactly how you’re going to set up your gear and what you should take with you.
I bet you weren’t expecting this one! But you’d be surprised how often these cause problems.
The number one issue being that they have a habit of setting of fire alarm systems as they are producing a kind of smoke after all.
Use smoke machines sparingly during your wedding DJ show. Nobody needs a cloud of thick fog filling the room or causing zero visibility while dancing.
And nobody wants the fire alarm going off either causing everyone to have to evacuate the building!
If possible speak to the venue manager about the use of smoke machines to see what they advise. If its not their first wedding party then they’ll probably have a plan for this. Quite often they can isolate a zone in their fire alarm system and disable it for the room you’re DJing in.
You can also make sure you position your smoke machine to send smoke away from the smoke detector in the room. Be sure to locate before the gig and plan where to put your smoke machine accordingly.
Just remember to go easy on the smoke, While it’s fun to add a little smoke to the light show it’s not always necessary.
You can also get fog machines that create the same affect but almost all of the smoke remains low down. Great for avoiding setting of smoke alarms, although its not always guaranteed so I’d still work with the venue to come up with a solution.
Here’s a good test of a smoke alarm with fogger / smoke machines. You can see what happens if there’s too much smoke.
At wedding parties people generally aren’t listening out for your impressive seamless mix between two tracks. DOn’t get me wrong a good beat-matched mix can definitely help keep the energy levels flowing and give you something fun to do while you DJ. But nobody is going to be focussing on your epic 3 minute seamless transition between 2 dance tracks.
Play to your audience and give them what they want, which is usually big sing-along anthems and dance classics. Get the job done quickly and start playing their favourite tracks.
9 times out of 10 this can be accomplished by counting down 16 beats and cut mixing the next track straight in. Hit play and flick the crossfader over to the new track, job done. Its the best way to launch in to a new musical genre or surprise track that you think everyone will love.
A quick beat-matched mix at the same tempo for just 16 or 32 beats is more than enough to get the message across that you’re mixing two tracks together.
Keep things simple, keep the music coming. Don’t wait for tracks to end to bring in the next one. Slam in the next anthem and people will love you for keeping the room energy high and the dance floor filled.
This isn’t really required but definitely adds a nice professional touch whenever possible. Pick two tracks in the same key or complimenting keys and transition over a longer period maybe 32 to 48 beats making it clear the tracks work sonically well together.
This blends the tracks beautifully and shows off your DJ skills a little better. It’ll also create a whole new track where sounds from both now work perfectly together. Definitely something to try at your next wedding gig.
Harmonic mixing is an artform in itself and can have great positive effects on the mood of the room too. We’ve written the ultimate guide to DJing in key here which is worth checking out. If you don’t know the keys of some songs too you can check out services like SongKey which we reviewed here.
I personally love mixing in key. Its creates something new and interesting and may surprise and delight your wedding crowd too making you sound much more professional and worth every penny you’re charging!
Every wedding event is a chance to get more customers in the future. Never underestimate how much your wedding DJ show is actually one of your best marketing tools.
Whether they realise it or not the crowd will be soaking in just how great your show is to them, the music, the lights, the presentation. It all matters.
Not only that but you need to be ready to share your contact details too. Business cards are vitally important for this. Anyone that comes up and wants a card should be able to grab one easily. Either directly from you or from a business card holder you have ready.
People may want your contact details digitally too. You can now get NFC virtual cards you tap on someone’s smartphone and it instantly gives them all your contact details. I highly recommend having one of these as business cards can easily get lost or discarded.
I recommend you also create a DJ portfolio showcasing your skills with mixes, example set lists, details on previous work and all your contact details. We’ve written a guide to creating a DJ portfolio which you should definitely read.
With the permission of the bride and groom you could also leave business cards on the dinner tables. I recommend not doing this until after your portion of the evening. While guests are sitting, drinking and chatting its a great time to pop around and hand out a few cards.
Make sure that marketing yourself is a strong part of your DJ gig. Its one of your best opportunities to get more customers. Word of mouth is vitally important when it comes to wedding DJs as many people will ask friends for recommendations.
Have a strong memorable brand name, have simple contact details on social platforms and traditional methods like phone number and email address.
Whatever the perceived expectations of your client, you can always find ways to go above and beyond. Adding something to their party they weren’t expecting, that surprised them, made you even more invaluable and memorable, and most importantly cemented you in their minds as perfect for everyone’s wedding!
As mentioned before, word of mouth recommendations are one of the strongest ways to get more wedding DJ gigs. So exceeding expectations will definitely do this.
It could be little things like a seemingly impromptu karaoke session with the bride and groom. You’ll need flat screen displays and multiple radio mics for this.
Other things include simple fancy dress accessories people can put on any time they like. Or a photo frame people can stand behind that features your brand name and the happy couple’s names too.
You could get the best man’s contact details and call them before the big day to discuss if they have any surprises they’d like to collaborate on.
I’ve even seen slide shows of the bride and groom from their childhood, projected on to the ceiling or walls with a TV projector. Something easily achieved by making contact with the bride and groom’s parents. You can always do this under the guise that you’ll contact them to ask for song requests.
All these little touches make you an exceptional wedding DJ. Something unexpected, memorable and adding extra value to your DJ services.
Never assume you’ve seen it all and done it all, there’s always more you can learn as a wedding DJ. Its often a high pressure situation where things can change quickly. From simple schedule changes to drunken brides demanding highly inappropriate songs that would make any granny blush.
Other wedding DJs are not your competition. There’s plenty of business to go around. Partnerships will always lead to more profit and more experience. So find local wedding DJs in your area and make contact. Invite them for a coffee and a chat. Shadow them if they’d appreciate a little extra help one evening.
You’ll no doubt be invited to weddings at some point in your life too. These are great opportunities to see what the DJ is doing right and what they’re doing wrong too. Learn from their mistakes so you don’t make them yourself.
There’s always something you can learn something you can share and ways to improve your wedding DJ gigs. You’re reading this article after all (Congrats for getting this far too!)
My last time is one that is guaranteed to get you more gigs and keep your brand on people’s minds too. There really is no downside to doing this and it always pays you back at some point.
There’s only so many weekends you can work and there’s always a peak time for weddings every summer, so you’ll soon run in to the fact that you have to turn down a wedding and the money it would have given you.
There’s a simple solution to this thats a win win for everyone. Partner with local DJs of a similar quality to your own DJ services, and sharing any gigs you can’t do yourself with them. Earn a simple flat rate commission from the other DJ for providing them with the booking and in return you’ll do the same whenever they can’t take on a booking.
Its vitally important that you know and trust these DJs. You’ve seen them work, know they’re musically and professionally up to the job and can represent you for the booking. It would be detrimental to your business if you passed on a booking and they let the client down. Make sure that’s not going to happen.
You’ll need to be honest and transparent with the potential customer, letting them know that while you can’t attend the gig yourself, you’re more than happy to pass it on to a trusted DJ who can attend for you. In my experience 90% of customers are happy with this arrangement and appreciate that you’ve done all the hard work of finding another DJ for them.
You’ll soon find you have more bookings than you know what to do with. Plenty of opportunities to wow your wedding party audiences, go above and beyond what they were expecting and….
Enjoy the experience! It’s a wonderful wedding day that you’re a part of. It’s a wonderful thing.
More great advice for wedding DJs
Check out these great DJ articles to help you further.