Most of the weddings we DJ are for couples who have thrown the wedding hall formula out the window in favour of something less traditional and more hip. In the process, we often see couples trying so desperately for a “Non-Wedding Wedding” that some of the lines get blurred on what should be included, and what gets scrapped.
Here are some thoughts from the DJs perspective (and from a guy who just recently got married himself) on some often overlooked considerations for wedding plans.
1. Hire a wedding planner
I know, I know, you are SO organized, and your friends are always telling you that you could be a wedding planner some day! Being your own wedding planner adds a lot of stress on your already limited time. There are so many little details to worry about and coordinate (especially on the wedding day) that having some hired help goes a long way. Your venue cannot be relied on to coordinate your ceremony, set up centerpieces, cue the DJ, or put your cake in a box for you on the way out. Far too often I end up helping the couple pack their gifts into Daddy’s mini van at 2 in the morning. Let someone else do it so you can get to the after-party! If you can’t justify the extra expense, make sure to delegate as many tasks as possible to your friends and wedding party. People like to feel helpful.
2. Ensure the music is inclusive of all backgrounds
Ethnic music can rock or ruin a party, especially when the bride and groom come from different nationalities and heritages. In Toronto it is quite common to have multiple faiths represented by a bridal party, and couples think that its easier to ignore it altogether. Think again! A couple of upbeat, well positioned traditional songs at the beginning of the night can really jump start a dancefloor in a hurry. So ask your parents what would get them and their friends to boogie back in the motherland. Then make sure we get the right version, and let’s make grandma proud.
3. Pick ceremony music and a first dance song that reflect who you are
Couples often ask us what is popular or what other people are using. Who cares? It’s YOUR wedding, let’s make it about YOU. In fact, if it’s a song we’ve used in the past, I often discourage it. When looking for ceremony music, check out Vitamin Strings Quartet on iTunes for covers of anything from AC/DC to Lady Gaga. For the first dance, make it personal. Pick an artist you both love, or a song you have memories from early on in your relationship, or a song that you hear on the radio and you both start singing to. (Chances are if Glee has covered the song, it’s not original.) Just make sure you like it; it will show when you dance and when you look at the pictures later.
4. Don’t ask guests what music they want to hear at your wedding in advance
Big no-no. This has led to some challenging evenings for us in the past. People who email you requests are not always the ones who dance. Part of the reason you hire us is so your uncle does not get to pick the music for your wedding. When it comes time for you to think about what you do want to hear, make us a list suggesting artists, genres and songs that YOU like. We want YOU on the dancefloor as much as possible, because its YOUR wedding. People swarm around the couple like bees to a hive; no surprise that the bride is the white queen bee.
5. Speeches are good, but hungry guests won’t listen
Speeches are a very important component of a wedding. Everyone wants to hear nice things from the Father of The Bride or the Best Man. Because it’s been a long day, and people are hungry, the speeches can come later after people have had something to eat. Give quick intros and then let the courses start flowing! People will eat slower if they aren’t starving. This means when the mains and desserts come, people aren’t stuffing their faces. If they don’t stuff their faces, then they won’t feel heavy when the dancing starts, and people can jump out of their seats much quicker to boogie.
6. Make sure your speech-givers can be seen and heard
Body language is an important part of public speaking. If the podium is tucked in a dark corner, it makes it hard to get and keep people’s attention when they can’t see who is speaking. If your venue has a stage or riser, use it for the podium as well as the head table. If the venue has a spotlight, make sure they turn it on for speeches. If they don’t have one, let us know and we can arrange to have one for you.
7. Kissing games are okay, but tell us about your plans in advance
Personally, I think kissing games are old news. So many people are doing them to avoid being traditional, that now kissing games are becoming the traditional thing. But if you are having one, make sure your MC gets us in on it. Any kissing games involving singing a song or telling a joke should be accounted for in the itinerary by having scheduled time when people can come to the microphone. Open mic sessions are a guaranteed disaster, especially towards the end of the meal when many people have been drinking too much.
8. Weight in the benefits of a slide show
Even the least traditional wedding couples seem to want slide shows. Many non-halls don’t have screens and projectors set up, which means we need to arrange to bring one in, which can be costly. Then there is the added interruption of setting it up mid party, and the stress of coordinating the music. Alternatives to a slideshow that work nicely? Use printed pictures at each table as part of the centerpiece, or have a table at the front of the room where you put the actual pictures down. It lets people actually pick them up and discuss them, instead of watching a 10 minute presentation, sweating it out incase you used that one embarrassing shot of them from Junior High.
9. Make the Personal Connection
My best tip for making a wedding unique is respecting the Personal Connection: the talents of your friends and family. If you have a family member who performs professionally, let them. If you have a friend who sings, let them sing your first song, or play an instrument when you walk down the aisle. Some of the most memorable I’ve seen have included performances by Paul Rodgers from Bad Company, a silks dancer coming down from the ceiling, and the lead singer of James doing “Laid”. Non-professionals can rock it too, and none was more true than a wedding at Archeo where 3 Asian guys in black leotards burst into the room and did the “Single Ladies” dance, and nailed it. I can never hear the song the same way again.
10. If you want a dance-party wedding, dance
The formalities are over and now it’s time to party. Be sure to tell everyone in your speech that you got a wicked DJ and that you want people to dance all night long, and then show ‘em how it’s done. If people are swarming around you and you go outside, guess what happens to the dancefloor? When you go for “fresh air”, so will your guests. Plan to hover close to the music (and the DJ!) all night, and set your bar up as close to the dancefloor as possible. Though traditional, an informal bouquet or garter toss can help rally the troops back to the dancefloor if there is a lull, and provide some memorable photo ops.
Photo courtesy of Tara McMullen Photography