That older couple over in the corner of the dance floor…they’re the Johnsons. That’s their corner. Their daughter Amanda went to school with the bride. Every time I play a ballad – especially an old school ballad – something from The Righteous Brothers or The Four Seasons, they head straight to their corner and hold each other tight. They’ve been married for 32 years.
Uh-oh. Here comes Skip…again. A frat brother of the groom, Skip is the “Aggressive Requester”. I knew he would be the one when he greeted me at the beginning of the night with an eloquent “You ‘da DJ?” and a high five so hard I had to retrieve my hand from the other side of the ballroom. Sure enough, he’s on his 22nd rum and coke and he hasn’t heard “Shout” yet. I’m praying my mixer is drool proof.
There’s Candy and Crystal, the two hottest girls at the reception, smack dab in the middle of the dance floor. Crystal is definitely the better dancer as Candy suffers from a bit of white girl disease, but both little black dresses make up for any rhythmic challenges either might have. I’ve convinced myself they both find me attractive despite the fact that I’m old enough to be their father, I’m married and they both have large boyfriends that skulk on the outskirts of the dance floor acting like they’d rather walk across hot coals than actually cut a rug with these two beauties. The girls have told me a thousand times they love Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias. If I hear either artist one more time I’m going to jump out the window, but I’m willing to suffer for my art.
Jessica, the bride, is happy, dancing and smiling. So far, so good. The wedding party has ties off, flip-flops on and they all have boozy looks of contentment. Excellent. The dance floor is pretty full but there are still some table sitters. I’ve already talked to some of them to ask if there are requests they’d like to hear. Ned, the off-duty cop and friend of the family likes Thin Lizzy and Molly Hatchet. Can’t help him. But the Wojitskys, Bob & Linda told me they’d love more Frank Sinatra. Definitely gonna’ hook them up and get more bodies on the floor.
It’s been a great party. There’s just one thing.
None of these people actually exist.
Actually, at most events these types of people do exist. It’s specific back stories like this I sometimes find myself creating.
During a typical 5 hour reception or special event, I find myself so focused on the personalities on the dance floor and in the ballroom that I feel like I really get to know most of the guests. Of course, I already know the bride and groom and probably their parents as well. But I’m working to reach a goal of a full dance floor all night so I need to focus on the guest list at large. Often, I really do get a chance to talk a bit with some guests as they make requests or as I introduce myself to guests during the cocktail hour or dinner. As I line up and prep the wedding party for the Grand Entrance I often tell them, “I may not know you well enough to put the names with the faces yet, but by the end of the night, we’ll be like old friends”. And we usually are. Each event is like a 5-hour relationship with friends, most of which I’ll never see again.
It’s about paying attention to the guests, observing the ebb and flow of personalities on the dance floor (and those not on the dance floor) and responding accordingly to keep it full. And sometimes, when I’m so focused on the guests, my imagination kicks in and I can’t help but let their song requests and dancing patterns color in an outline of what I imagine their personalities to be. DJs should never get lost in their own music preferences, thoughts about sore feet, or how much time is left on the gig. I want to create an environment where 200 of my closest friends are having a blast on the dance floor all night long.
Even if they don’t really exist.