Choosing The Best Wedding DJ
How To Start Searching:
With so many to choose from, how do I search for the best wedding DJ? Answer – Experience. It’s like getting a tattoo. You don’t want to save a few bucks on this because they are inexperienced. You may not be wearing this like ink, but you don’t want a lasting impression of your wedding reception to be one where people say, “You remember, that one where the DJ played whatever he wanted?” Because it happens. In this wedding climate, people know that they can charge more for a wedding than anything else, so in order to snatch a few hundred bucks, people will offer you amazing discounts that seem too good to be true. Only to find that they could not read the crowd, and they did the bare minimum. The horror stories are everywhere on social media.
As much as it seems like an easy thing to do, choosing a song every 3 and a half minutes for several hours on end that is going to keep people on the dance-floor, is not an easy thing to do. And there is no magic list of songs that will work for every audience. What kills on the dance-floor at one wedding, will be scoffed at, at the next. This takes many years of experience to be able to gauge well. It may seem easy when everything is flowing, but trust me, the skill of a wedding DJ is not beat matching like in the clubs, it is knowing what is going to work with the particular crowd that is in front of them. 10 seconds of the wrong song, or even the right song with a long string intro, is going to clear the dance-floor quicker than losing a toupe in a hurricane. So my advice would be to start searching for evidence of experience. Don’t take the word of the DJ. Of course they are going to plug themselves. But search for them on youtube, seek out referrals, reviews, testimonials, facebook groups, wedding pages. Have a listen to what former clients have to say. Judge for yourself with the media that is available. If there is little or no media available, chances are you are dealing with an inexperienced DJ. So keep in mind that the best wedding DJ’s are the ones with most experience.
Experience is not the only thing that determines the best wedding DJ’s around. Sometimes you may find that experience can also breed an apathy for the job. So I suggest getting on the phone and having a conversation to not only feel the level of professionalism and experience, but also attitude. A DJ who is polite and respectful is usually a good indication that there is not a big ego attached. The last thing you want is a wedding DJ with delusions of grandeur. (Keep this in mind when choosing your MC also. There is nothing worse than an MC who makes it more about themselves than the reason you are there). A wedding DJ who blows their own horn a little too much can be a warning sign that they are going to play what they think is cool, and not be observant to what the guests are reacting best to. Conversely, you don’t want someone who has a shy personality because there will be no vibe. So choose someone who seems to have a balanced ego. If you choose someone who is a musician/DJ, chances are they have experience on stage and can deal with all kinds of crowds.
Question To Ask:
You can glean a lot of information from a wedding DJ if you ask the right questions. Below is a list of must ask questions when speaking to potential DJ’s.
Is this your full-time job and are weddings your primary focus and what other functions have you performed at?
Determine whether they have experience with a different type of audience. Whether they have a wide range of experience behind the decks. Different gigs produce different crowds which produce different experiences for the DJ. Having a wide range of experiences can produce a more well rounded professional. But be careful, you don’t necessarily want a club DJ to play a wedding. Not to say they won’t do a good job, especially if it’s a young crowd, but you do run the risk of having a one-dimensional sound for the entirety of your wedding reception.
Can You Accommodate All of Our Requests?
Every wedding will have their own unique requests. It is the job of a wedding DJ to make sure they have these songs available. Not only available but the ability to be able to play them from a particular point in the song. ie For speeches. You need to make sure they can play a song from the ‘meat’ of the chorus so it makes sense as the speaker is walking towards the mic. Or as the bridal party enter on cue.
How Do You Deal With Guest Requests?
It is inevitable that there will be multiple requests for music from guests. Sometimes those tastes might be in contradiction to what the bride and groom have requested. Simply saying no to the guest can create an air of arrogance. You want someone who has a little diplomatic skill. Believe it or not, you even get guests saying that this is the bride’s favourite song. This is a classic move. If the bride has requested 90’s dance-tunes and someone tells you that her favourite song is from Motorhead, they might be trying to pull the wool, so I might just check with her first. People do try to persuade you to play their favourite songs, which will appease them, but clear the dance-floor. You want a DJ who will not just accept all requests, be able to knock a few back if they know it’s not going to work, but do it with diplomacy to keep everyone on side.
Do You Have a Recent Client We Can Contact?
It is perfectly ok to ask for a reference. Former clients will be only happy to refer a good wedding DJ if they have had a good experience.
Can We View What Your Set-Up Will Look Like?
This will give you an indication of the work ethic of the DJ.
What Are Your Usual Go-To Songs and Playlists?
As a wedding DJ, I have a large selection of pre-organised playlists. For eg: Dance. 60’s / 80’s / 90’s / Rock / Jazz / Reggae / Crooners / Aussie / Cruisy / Love Songs / Dinner etc… As I continue to do weddings I will add songs that work, into these playlists. It’s not possible to remember every song that works and when, so if you have a quick playlist reference on what mood you want. you can do a quick search in the right place for the right song. If a wedding DJ cannot list you their playlists, then there is a good chance they are not experienced, not organized, or both. Either that or they have an eidetic memory.
In closing, I would reiterate that although it seems on the surface that anyone can choose songs that will make people dance, it is not as easy as that, and does take a lot of experience to be able to pull this off successfully, over the course of an entire evening. Keep this in mind when trying to find the best wedding DJ you can.
Wedding DJ – What to look for
Your reception will be subliminally orchestrated by the music. Just as you don’t really notice the music in a movie, without it, the whole thing would be simply boring. The same is to be said for wedding music. Choosing the right DJ can make your wedding instead of breaking it. Here’s what to look for when making that decision.
Being a DJ is synonymous with cool. But don’t take it for granted. You don’t want someone turning up who thinks they are cool but they are caught in a time vortex and turn up looking like Boy George. Make sure they are dress appropriate for a wedding by checking out their pics. You also want to make sure their equipment looks presentable and they are neat and tidy, with up-to-date equipment. Some are messy and some are clean. You can usually tell which is which by the way they handle their cables. Choose one who has some attention to details and knows how to set up in a presentable way.
Wedding DJ’s are paid quite well so being professional and respecting that pay-cheque is a must for any wedding supplier. It’s quite easy to get a feel for this even on email. If your wedding DJ is prompt with their replies, friendly and eager to please on the phone, then this is a good sign that they will deliver. A ‘nothing is too difficult’ approach to song requests is also a positive sign. Different clients have different requests. Some clients are happy to just choose a couple of songs for first dance or cake cutting, while others request a long list of songs from their guests or from their own taste. It is preferable for a DJ to have creative license but they also need to be aware and accommodating to multiple song requests.
Tip – A good DJ will know that a lot of the requested songs may not work on the dancefloor so they will request from you the discretion to override that and use something they know will keep the vibe up.
THEY ARE APPROACHABLE
Having a snobby DJ with a serious ‘don’t approach me’ face can sometimes get people offside. So a friendly and happy looking person behind the console can make guests feel comfortable to approach if they have requests.
READING THE ROOM
This one is probably the most essential. Some people have large egos and if they are in charge of the music, you may be in for a lucky dip. These people will play whatever is cool in their mind, which may not be cool in yours, or your guests. Reading the room may not seem like it, but it’s a skill. It’s not as easy as it looks and when you are trying to please all ages with music, you are not going to. So your DJ must have the ability to play a little bit of everything during the evening to please these tastes. As a general rule for me as a DJ in Perth, I will generally start with some up tempo 60’s music. Early in the night and particularly after the first dance, almost everyone is on the d-floor. So to start with some heavy hip-hop may not be the best idea because you will lose anyone over 40.
The 60’s was a light hearted, fun and energetic era which seems to strike a chord with all ages. Now this will work for only so long, so it’s important to read the crowd and gauge the age of everyone that is left. Usually moving onto 80’s music which seems to have the same effect on most ages. Playing this early also gives the more mature guests a chance to dance before they sink into a chair and enjoy a chat with a glass of red. From here on in I base it on age and just do the math. What were these people listening to as teenagers? This is a good formula and tends to work pretty well. All weddings are different and a DJ will never please everyone, but as long as we connect with most people, our job is done. Sometimes if I can feel it’s not working well, I will ask someone on the dancefloor what music their friends like. This can also help.
Just as a good DJ will know what to play on the dancefloor, they should know what to play for speeches and ‘dead air’. Sometimes a client will choose songs for speeches and sometimes not. When they don’t, I think it’s important to have generic and humorous songs, (or snippets), for the walk of the speaker from their seat to the lectern. This eradicates that awkward dead air and can give a little comic relief to the audience. For example I always play Darth Vader’s Imperial March for the father of the bride. It never fails to get a laugh.
KNOWING WHEN TO TONE IT DOWN
A wedding reception goes for quite a long time so it’s important for your DJ to be aware of some light and shade. Music is great but at certain times needs to be ambient and give people a little space from it. Such as when people are eating. A good DJ will instinctively know when to lower the volume and what kind of background music will suit. He will know that it’s not about him, it’s about them, and the atmosphere to create. If people look like they are leaning in to speak to the person next to them, it’s time to turn down.
CUSTOMIZING TO SUIT
Every client will have different musical requirements. One size does not fit all and it is important for your DJ to know what your tastes are. While one couple might love R&B and Rap, another might enjoy Pop and Country. A good DJ will listen carefully to what you require and will make notes. I for one have many weddings in a row and can forget which client wanted what kind of music. So I will make sure I write everything down. I source the music a few days prior to the weddings so they are fresh in my mind and I make playlists to go with my notes. This is a fail-safe recipe for a successful night. I will also print out emails if I have not personally met with the client to ensure I haven’t missed anything. With the resources today on the internet, it is possible to source almost any song, so a patient and organized DJ is a good DJ.
A LOVE FOR THEIR JOB
It shouldn’t matter how many weddings a DJ has done, they should always try to enjoy what they are doing and realize that although this is just another night for them, it is the happiest time of someone else’s life. Someone else that is paying good money for you to play music. A great DJ will be memorable not only because of the great music, but because of the level of enthusiasm they have for what they do.
Take time in considering who you will choose to DJ your wedding reception. Some DJ’s are musicians, like myself, and provide a live portion of the evening, usually early on over meals, and switch into DJing for later on when the mood turns to a party. Either way, my advice would be to choose someone with experience and a normal ego, not a large one. This way you will know that they will be doing the right thing by you and have your best interests at heart. Good luck!
Live or DJ
When contemplating your choice of wedding music, the first thing you need to consider is whether to hire simply a DJ or a live act. Here are some of the pros and cons of this decision.
This may not be something you would consider off the bat but it is very important. There are few things worse at a function than music that is too loud for a conversation. You end up having to shout in the ear of the person sitting next to you and a simple conversation can be a frustrating task. If you choose a DJ then you are pretty much guaranteed that one person has complete control over the volume. You may have to remind this one person to turn down during the course of the evening but that is much easier than trying to convince a full band on stage. Especially one with a drummer, as the rest of the band have to at least be as loud as him, and usually much louder. So if you have in mind a nice intimate wedding, perhaps skip the live band. Having said that, many live jazz bands can play at reasonably low levels and also create an atmosphere of class and style.
A tip I would recommend would be to analyse your floor plan and ensure that your more elderly guests are seated a good distance away from the musical act and speakers. I can’t tell you how many times I have set up at a wedding only to have the oldest guests of the function seated right in front of me. So bear in mind at most, if not all weddings, the front-most guests will be exposed to twice the volume your rear-most guests will be. So suffice to say if grandma and grandpa are at the front, no one will hear anything at the back.
Hiring a musical service is not only an audible experience, it is a visual one as well. You want to make sure that your choice looks great. Not only by the way they present themselves personally, but also by the tools of their trade. Some DJ’s can look very slick with a facade dominating the front of their gear and lights that create a stage like effect. But a band can make your guest instantly identify with a good night once they see a stage and musical instruments on them. There is something visually exciting about the look of a stacked stage with mic stands, guitars and keyboards sitting there waiting to be caressed for your ears. Either way you choose, DJ or live, make sure you check out their websites or facebook pages for a look at some live situations they have filmed so as to see what kind of attention to detail they place in their presentation.
Wedding venues vary greatly when it comes to size. From grand style ballrooms to back yards. It is obviously not a problem if you have ample space, but when hiring a smallish room, or your guest numbers are at maximum, consider how much room you will have left. Once again, I can’t tell you how many times I have rocked up to a wedding venue that is quite large, only to find that there are so many guests that I can barely fit in the corner and end up playing literally centimeters from the nearest guest, and they complain all night that I am too loud. I will be too loud if you have been put right in front of my speakers and the guests at the rear want to hear too. This surprisingly happens more often than I would like to joke about, so make sure you consider this in your floor plan. As a general rule, if possible, you should place your nearest guests no closer than around 5 metres from the speakers. Any closer and they will not enjoy their night. This is of course not always possible so in that case, seat your younger guests, or at least those guests you would imagine won’t be as bothered by the volume as perhaps others might.
A DJ can slide into a relatively small area but a band can not. Even as a soloist who DJ’s, I need more room than simply a DJ alone. It is a good idea to ask your musical act how much space they require so you can work out your floor plan more accurately. As a guide, my act as a guitarist and DJ requires around 4m wide x 3m deep. DJ’s will be smaller and bands considerably larger. If your room is quite large for the number of guests, you may want to visually fill it out by having a stage and a band. Having a DJ on a big stage in a large room looks a little funny so a live band can fill that area. Combine speakers and a good lighting rig, and it will look like a small concert.
All musical acts will vary in price depending on their level of experience and how heavily they are booked. Like anything, you pay for quality. Wedding DJ’s may also MC for you which can incur another fee but they start from around $900 up to $2000 depending on quality. DJ/Live will range from around $1200 to $2500 and bands, depending on the number of weddings will range from around $3000 up to $8000. You will of course get the occasional bargain but these prices are based on the assumption that acts are gainfully employed in the wedding industry and have good testimonials.
LIVE AND DJ
A lot of clients are opting for this package as it seems to be the best of both worlds. While both DJ’s and Live bands have the ability to play appropriate music for the duration of a 6 hour reception, people’s ears can become a little stale to sound once they have a couple of hours to get familiar with it. The beauty of using a live act who also DJ’s means that they can create totally different atmospheres for your guests without changing places with a separate service provider.
It is nice to have a guitarist singing some gentle James Taylor or Jack Johnson early in the evening. It sets a tone. If your live act is experienced enough, they will be able to read your guests and play mood appropriate music throughout the evening. This often means that it will start very gently, and as the night progresses, and the bar tab reduces, the tempo and style of music changes to reflect the good feeling and celebratory nature of the evening. It is often nice to have a live version of the first dance performed, and then have them swing around to the DJ decks and pump out some dance music to get the party started. They are now in DJ mode and it is a whole new feeling.
These are just a few things to consider when thinking about your wedding music. Everyone is different and have varying tastes so go with your intuition and look to create the wedding of your dreams with your ideal soundtrack.
Wedding music has connotations of being a little cheesy and tends to bring to mind images of long walks on the beach, picnic blankets and happily ever after sunsets. But being in the wedding industry for over ten years, it really isn’t like that at all. Requests from clients have ranged from Del Shannon to Metallica and on more than one occasion, favourite footy team theme songs.
The wedding music of today does not have a genre. More and more wedding couples tend to choose songs for the important moments of their weddings from their wide ranges of tastes, and can be vastly different from the next couple. I guess this means one thing – music has changed drastically over the past few decades and the choice for the listener is almost infinite.
If we go back just a few decades to the 50’s when rock and roll first reared it’s headbanging head, that’s when it all started. With memories of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry jumping and gyrating around on stage to a group of screaming girls on the Ed Sullivan Show, the world could sense that a musical revolution was about to explode. And explode it did. When Beatle-mania hit, it sparked a massive interest in pop stars and celebrity which has continued to grow and grow to this very day.
So at this early juncture in modern pop music, there was only one real genre apart from country music, and that was pop. Originating from the coined phrase ‘popular music’. So on the radio it was either hip swinging rock ‘n roll or beautiful ballads sung by boy bands to begin with, then girl bands as well. Usually featuring 3 or 4 singers that would have rehearsed dance moves in sync. This was an explosion that led to mowtown where many groups had hits throughout the late 50’s and 60’s.
So fast forward through the amazing 60’s and then rock lost it’s roll and became simply rock. Electric guitars were becoming evermore popular and the advent of distortion bred the first generation of rockers. Some music began to take on a slightly darker side from this point. Louder, faster, more aggressive. If you listen to early rock the message started out as love but some bands took advantage of the intensity of the music and began delivering a message of the outlaw. It became cool to be a bad ass.
Then came the 80’s. Wow, what a transformation. Brightly coloured clothes and high hair. Lot’s of strings and saxophone. What a great era. I grew up in the 80’s and have great memories of extraordinary songs from that era. With bands like Wham, INXS and Dire Straights. Songs such as Footloose, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Bohemian Rhapsody. Who can forget this music and it is probably the most popular genre of music that I play as a wedding DJ.
Rock became glam rock. Tight lycra pants with huge permed hairstyles and electrifying guitar solos. Many a hotel room was trashed by these bad boys on tour. Poison, Bon Jovi and Guns ‘n Roses come to mind. So music had changed considerably in 20 years and the choices of the listener seemed to be growing by the year with different genres of music popping up and spawning offshoots of other styles such as punk rock. From there it evolved into alternative rock once the 90’s came around.
Toward the end of the 80’s a new kind of genre altogether exploded onto the world music stage. This is of course rap. Rap was huge and found an audience and massive fan base with blacks in America. Pretty soon everyone loved this kind of rhythm and it became a culture within itself. Hip Hop evolved from rap, gangsta rap evolved from hip hop and it continues to evolve. It is interesting to look back at where some genres evolved from. I’m not sure where disco has it’s roots but R&B certainly evolved from disco and definitely the bebop of the 60’s. It has given rise to some amazing vocalists over the years. R&B also merges with Hip Hop as rock merged with rap thanks to Aerosmith and Run DMC. Now even country is beginning to merge with other genres.
Pop has always remained steady at the forefront of music. Pop is the most mainstream of all genres and I guess draws the straightest line back to those days of Elvis and The Beatles. The formula of pop has generally remained the same with a verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus chorus chorus. It seems to be the most identifiable genre in all of music, however the differences between musical styles, artists, fashion and culture vary so much in todays world that we are literally spoilt for choice.
This brings me back to my main point. Wedding music. Time goes by so fast it is easy to forget that the music you took for granted as a young person as being so cool, is very dated now and that trend will no doubt continue. So it is not surprising that the choice of wedding music these days is not as cliché as one might think. I have done weddings in a cave to goth music. I have done all sorts of cultures. African, Bosnian, Filipina, Jewish, Irish, Italian, Greek. Every culture has it’s very own tastes.
When it comes down to Aussie weddings, although the tastes are also very varied, there is always one or two constants involved. These are songs that are usually played at the very end of the night, when everyone has had a skin full, the good times have rolled and it’s time to say goodnight. It is my duty as a wedding singer and DJ to play the appropriate Aussie wedding music. This comes down to two songs. You’re The Voice by John Farnham and Horses by Daryl Braithwaite. These two classics seem to get any true blue Aussie up onto the dance floor, singing at the top of their voices. I wonder how long these will stand the test of time before some other classics are born and take over.
Perth Wedding Singer
So it’s time to get organized. It’s been a few months since he proposed and the happiness and butterflies have quietened down a little bit and the reality is sinking in that you have to do some organizing now rather than dreaming. There are 3 or 4 ‘must do’s’ that come to mind straight away. But before you can even think about who you are going to invite, you must have a plan.
The Venue: That’s a given. You want to get in early because Perth is a bulging city and it’s more than just you and him in this moment of matrimonial bliss, so get in quick because all the front seats are going to be taken by the most organized. A quick list I would suggest in no particular order would be as follows:
Just to name of few of my favourites who I know always do a great job. Click on the links for some independent video reviews of these venues.
But this blog is about finding a Perth Wedding Singer. Ok I am biased yes, because guess what? I happen to be a Perth Wedding Singer and I know a thing or two about what makes a wedding go smoothly when it comes to playing the right music. I haven’t won 7 ABIA awards for sitting on my hands. Music is evolving. The older we get, the younger the married couples seem to get and things are not always going to remain the same.
So the main thing is to please the bride. She wants to know that whatever you play is going to suit the vibe of her wedding so make sure you have a close look at the repertoire of the wedding singer you are looking at. Because keep in mind, wedding singers are not always playing weddings. They are first and foremost musicians for hire, so they tend to play at all kinds of events. Some play in different line-ups, depending on the work. Some do a lot of pubs which is great, but if they are predominantly doing pubs all the time then their rep is often going to be saturated with Aussie Rock, or all up-tempo stuff which will please the punters and keep them employed at the pub, but their ballads are going to be rusty as opposed to someone who predominately plays weddings for a living. I would suggest speak to a wedding singer and try to catch them at a public event but choose a couple of songs from the rep to throw at them at the pub, to see how well they may sing them.
I play at least one wedding a week, sometimes 3 in a row in summer so my repertoire is very well suited to playing those kinds of songs that work well over the early part of the evening and are not too intrusive on the ear of the guests. Nice ambient, background love songs with a few feel-good tunes in there to lessen the cheese factor a little and keep it kinda cool. You are also going to want your wedding singer to be familiar with the Perth music scene because he has grown up with what you have, (if you are Aussie), and if you are not, at the very least, a lot of your friends attending will be able to relate.
Another thing to look for is someone with the ability to lift the mood from background ambient mode to pre-dancing, feel good, mid-tempo type tunes that will start to get people in the mood. So check the repertoire over a couple of times and make sure that they are capable of playing these types of tunes and haven’t just added them in to impress you from the sheer volume of songs they do. They may have them in their rep, but they may not have played them for years. Take nothing for granted.
The last thing to consider from a live point of view for a Perth Wedding Singer is that he or she has the ability to keep people on the dancefloor with the live rep. Sometimes your guests will get up early and want to get the dancing underway even before dinner. At this stage you don’t want to go into DJ mode yet because you have hired a live singer (hopefully one that also DJ’s), but DJing changes the whole atmosphere and if you bring it in too early, and can feel odd. So make sure your musician has at least an hour of up-tempo dance songs that will keep people on the floor from their live sets.
Now anyone can DJ you say? Especially at a wedding? Well I’ve done over 600 of them and I can tell you this is the most challenging part of the evening. Finding the pulse of what your guests are going to feel good dancing to is a skill that takes years to learn and even then, sometimes you just cannot please a non-dancing crowd.
A wedding has all types of ages, tastes and dance appetites so pleasing everyone at the same time is NOT going to happen unless you can get a vibe going amongst everyone to the point where they are having such a good time, it doesn’t matter if they are Hip-Hop fans, they will jump around to ‘Come on Eileen’ because their friends and family are all having a good time.
There is an art, an order and a process to DJing a wedding. If you play the wrong song at the wrong time you can lose everyone. A wedding DJ has to be diplomatic to guests who really want a particular song but you know from experience this song will kill the dancefloor so there is a lot of negotiating going on behind the scenes and when alcohol is involved, this can be difficult. So you do want your wedding singer to also be an experienced wedding DJ who can handle a little bit of that pressure and not say yes to every request because your job is to keep people on the floor. The only exception to this is if the Bride or Groom requests a song, then you are locked in, even if it’s the Macarena. It’s their day, they get what they want.
Finding a wedding singer in Perth is not difficult anymore, there are many acts that are transitioning from pubs to weddings simply because of the money they can make. But when you think about it, music can make or break the event. This is a skill that goes beyond just playing music. So my advice would be to book an experienced wedding singer and DJ to avoid a possibly embarrassing night for your guests should you choose an inexperienced, uncaring or unprofessional wedding singer in Perth, as this job takes a lot more than just a musical talent.
One more tip, phone them. Sometimes people are nervous to phone a wedding service provider because they may feel a little obligated. But you are not obligated at all. If you phone someone you can glean a lot of information about them and their personality. One very important aspect is if they are going to be socially adept. Some may have the greatest talent in the world but absolutely no connection with the audience and a sour look on their face all night. You want someone who sounds friendly, professional, flexible and reliable so have a quick chat or set up a meeting to get a feel for your wedding singer. You ultimately want someone who is going to bring a fun atmosphere while also being skilled musically.