Well, before you just jump right into it, there are a lot of considerations to think about before investing the time, energy, and money necessary in becoming a wedding DJ.SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Do you have the ability to handle difficult situations tactfully and gracefully without panicking or stressing out?
Do you have the eloquence and charisma to motivate and influence people in the right way?
Are you able to groom and dress yourself appropriately for such a formal affair?
Can you be clean-shaven and not have bad breath? Can you look good in a tuxedo?
Are you a DJ who is willing to play music you dislike or even hate? Every year some song comes around that people want to hear over and over… Can you be a pleasant person and have a confident smile on your face while playing music you don’t like? Even play it twice in one evening? How about the same song, like… the Macarena… once every hour? God forbid…
Temptation can be strong at a wedding reception. Can you control yourself from overindulging in alcohol and women? (Or men depending on your gender or sexual preference). Can you control yourself from losing your sobriety?
What would you do if you have 300 guests and the electricity goes out?
You must also be able to handle all walks of life, including kids. Some parents will have all their kids there and want to get rid of them so they tell them to go and hang out with the DJ. Yikes! Can you be a baby sitter and do the Macarena at the same time?
What will you do if the banquet manager wants the music turned down and the bride or groom insists on it being louder?
What do you do when the father of the bride, who is the one paying you, is drunk and belligerent and demands… Russian marching songs?!! But the bride wants nothing but disco, how do you handle that?
How will you handle emotional family members, a hypochondriac maid of honor, loud, obnoxious, spoiled, bratty kids, and loud, obnoxious, soiled family drunks?
Are you able to handle all these situations? How about all these situations all at once?
There are many difficult situations that may arise. You have to be witty, think fast, improvise, be quick on your feet, and be able to handle crisis situations.
If you can’t handle the pressure, you better not pursue becoming a wedding DJ.
CAN YOU BE A WEDDING PROFESSIONAL?
Aside from dealing with the guests at a wedding reception, maybe even more paramount is the ability to deal with other wedding professionals such as photographers, videographers, caterers, wait staff, wedding consultants, banquet managers, singers, musicians, and ministers. Other than the bride and groom, these people are the people DJs work with the most – some are spectacular, some are imbeciles. But, you absolutely CANNOT let personality conflicts affect the wedding!!! Compromise, NOT confrontation, is the rule among professionals.
To be a wedding DJ you have to have a certain personality, have to be able to adapt and improvise, be able to handle adversity well, and have to be able to control the atmosphere and mood of the event. You have to be able to read the audience and play to the crowd. You cannot be the type of DJ who will freak out and crack under pressure!
As a wedding DJ you have to be very organized; if you are not organized, it will definitely be evident to the client when it comes to the interview and consultation with the bride and groom. If you are not organized, you will never convince anyone of choosing you for their most important gig: their wedding! Be completely prepared before the initial consultation. You must know the protocol and progression of events that will occur during the wedding reception.
You need to find out from the bride and groom what kind of DJ they are looking for and be that person. Do they want someone who is really interactive with the audience and who uses the microphone often, or someone who just stays in the shadows and strictly plays the music? I ask my clients using a rating system of 1 to 10, 1 being quiet, having no interaction with the guests, and being in the shadows, and 10 being the center of attention, leading the party, getting people involved, and heavy interaction with the crowd.
The bride and groom want to be comfortable on their wedding day. You need to know how the bride and groom want things to be said and done and how things will be coordinated between themselves, you, and the other wedding professionals. You have to show that everything is under control and make them as relaxed as possible. Make them confident in you, and don’t let them worry – they have enough things to worry about.
Do you have your own equipment? Or do you have to rent? Is your equipment reliable?
Are you able to transport your own equipment? Do you have the ability to lift and carry the equipment? If not, do you have the personnel to help you?
Do you need a light show? In California, generally about 80% of our wedding clients do not want a light show at their wedding reception.
Many situations can arise and problems can and will happen. What will you do in a bind? Can you improvise? I don’t normally bring my own table. What will you do when you aren’t provided a table to use? In instances where a DJ table was not provided and unavailable, (even though I was told there would be one available) I have used a waiter stand, and a bail of hay.
Your equipment must be of good to excellent quality, and most importantly, be reliable. Remember, a wedding is suppose to be a once-in-a-lifetime event (at least, most people start out hoping that will be the case!). There are no second chances if you choose to enter the wedding arena with equipment that is less than reliable.
I give my DJs simple systems mounted in a standard carpeted rack to protect the equipment, which, in old-school terminology, is called a coffin.
2 CD players – I like dual CD units.
mixing board – at least 3 line inputs with high, mid, and low EQ settings, and 2 microphone inputs
A dependable amplifier – I like at least 300watts/channel at 8 ohms
2 full range speakers – preferably good sounding commercial strength with handles, strong grills, and reinforced corners, and wattage compatibility with amplifier.
2 microphones – one is mounted on my mixing board, and one is cordless to pass around.
*Note – The microphones are an important part of your gig. You will be using them often, and the wireless will go through a lot of different people, will get dropped, and might even get tossed around. The microphones must be high quality – if they are cheap your show will suffer – speech will be distorted, sound bad, have a lot of static, have a lot of feedback, or even not work at all.
speaker wires, RCA connectors, power strips, extension cords, and adapters
ALL DJs should have a backup system – as a minimum you should have a backup amplifier, and a backup CD player. I have used a single CD player in a bind and just talked while I was changing the CDs. I always have two microphones just in case one goes out. Of course I always have two speakers also. It is not probable that both speakers and both microphones will go out at the same time.
Do you have the music required to meet professional standards for performing at weddings? If your “oldies” from the 50/60’s era consists of three or four compilation CDs purchased at your local music shop, you really aren’t qualified to perform at weddings. If you have provided music for school or club gigs, and do not have a good variety of oldies, big band and country, perhaps you should re-evaluate whether or not you should be taking weddings. It isn’t fair to the bride, groom and everyone who attends the wedding if you have mislead the client into thinking that you have an in-depth music library that allows you to play a variety of music, and handle most of the requests that you receive from the guests.
I have listed a lot of the problems and pitfalls that can happen, but I have not yet listed the rewards of being a DJ… Which is after all, why I’m a wedding DJ!
The rewards are ten times better than the problems. You get a lot of immediate gratification, when everyone praises you about how well you have performed. Maybe the father of the bride will thank you for making this the happiest day of his daughter’s life. Perhaps other people attending will ask you to DJ their wedding receptions or other events. You might be introduced to famous, powerful, prestigious people and even gain their business; and you may even get even better introductions and phone numbers – use your imagination here ; )
Some even more immediate rewards are when people are going wild on the dance floor and the people paying you don’t want to stop the party and you get overtime bonus pay and tips.
If you are good, you will get compliments, get business referrals, meet important people, and just have an overall good time. There have been innumerable occasions where I was having such a good time I would think to myself, “Wow, I’m getting paid to do this!”
ARE YOU CUT OUT TO BE A WEDDING DJ?
I have offered a lot of the pros and cons to being a wedding DJ. Its up to you to decide if you have what it takes to succeed in the wedding market. All too often, DJs take weddings who are not qualified or prepared for the job, because the money is good. This has a negative impact to the clients who hire the DJ expecting a good quality performance, and a professional level of service. Lets face it, performing at weddings isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In contrast, if you feel that you have what it takes to be a wedding DJ, I think you will find them to be both fun and profitable.
In the next article I will talk about the protocol of a wedding reception and how to promote your DJ Business. I will talk about specialized music, how we do things in my area compared to other areas, about being an interactive DJ, and specific things you can do to involve and liven up the crowd.
“Paradise Mike” Alexander has been the moderator of the wedding panel of the Int’l DJ Convention in Atlantic City for the last 6 years. He has been DJing weddings for 19 years, and has done over 2000 wedding receptions. He is the owner of Paradise Entertainment & DJ Company in northern Santa Barbara County that performs at about 800 events annually.
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