Holiday Parties 101 By: Sean McCabe

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

For those of you that are gearing up for a busy December, read on for some helpful hints on how to make your Christmas/Hanukkah parties truly memorable events. The hints will not be limited to December though, as there are many more holidays that require special attention throughout the year. This month’s column will be written for the beginning DJ, so get ready to take some notes. The bell just rang… here we go with “Holiday Parties 101”.
For any event, and especially for December parties, it’s the little things that count. Let us start with some basics. First, your attire… You are generally expected to wear a tuxedo to corporate holiday parties. Spice up that normal, black cumberbun/vest and bow tie with some color. Red or green makes a statement. Ditch the black vestiges for regular season events. Next, if you can afford it, provide some free holiday party favors for your client’s guests. I always try to up-sell props to my clients, but they do not always choose to purchase these optional items. Christmas is a time for giving, and you can imagine the surprise and gratitude a client will demonstrate upon receiving some complimentary holiday ornaments. These ornaments can be simple ones that you hang on the tree, to ornaments that adorn the attending guests, giving holiday cheer to your party. Here at Entertainment Caterers, we provide our clients with free Santa hats and foam antlers, regardless of whether they have paid for a prop package. Around twenty-five Santa hats and foam antlers costs just over $30.00. The return business you will receive from simple gestures such as these should alleviate the nominal financial burden you will undertake. Finally, gather some Christmas/Hanukkah trivia for your event. I find that trivia goes over very well during the cocktail and/or dinner hour. The ornaments I mentioned above make great giveaways during this time. So many DJ’s just play music during cocktail/dinner hour. Trivia and prizes add some interaction to this typically uneventful segment of your party. Simply ask the guests to raise their hands if they know the answer. Upon correct responses (which are made directly from guest’s tables, thereby not disrupting the dinner courses), ask for the guest’s names, repeat their correct answer for all to hear, ask for applause from all, and present them with their ornaments! Incorporating these few simple elements into your December parties will help make them that much more successful!Okay, we are through with December, and it’s time to recuperate and get ready for the next big holiday… Valentine’s Day on February 14th. Many of you will be performing at wedding receptions, anniversary parties and various couple’s functions. Don’t overlook the obvious… Cupid, hearts, candies and all the traditional decorations and party favors are essential. Beyond these elements, keep in mind that Valentine’s Day is all about sweethearts, love and caring. Plan on playing more love songs than normal. The easiest way to pack the dance floor is to play a good slow song. Brush up on some of the old standards… “Unforgettable”, Unchained Melody”, “Endless Love”, “I’ll Always Love You”, “Always and Forever”, “Wonderful Tonight”, “Here and Now”, “Tonight I Celebrate My Love”, just to name a few. Remember “the little things”… Send a box of candy to wedding coordinators, banquet halls, agents, etc. that provide you with regular bookings. These people deserve recognition too, and recognizing their efforts can only help procure future bookings.

On to March 17th, and St. Patrick’s Day. My name isn’t Sean Patrick McCabe for nothin’ (spoken with an Irish accent). “When Irish Eyes are Smilin'”, “Danny Boy” and a good Irish Jig will get the Irish folk singin’ and dancin’ (The green beer doesn’t hurt either). Of course, wear something GREEN! Hand out a bunch of Shamrocks. Spring for some green hats. One last suggestion… buy an Irish limerick/joke book. Trust me, most Irish people get loaded on St. Patrick’s Day. Not only do we love to drink, sing and dance, but we love to laugh. Periodic limericks and jokes throughout your St. Patty’s Day party will have your audience in stitches. Here’s the basics in review: Irish Music, Irish Color (Green), Irish Favors (Shamrocks, Hats), Irish Whiskey and Irish Coffee (last two optional, but preferred by me!).

“Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail…”, but please don’t play “The Bunny Hop”. No, but seriously, Easter not only brings April showers, but a large number of spring weddings and children’s parties. Weddings are pretty much standard fare, but children’s parties allow you to get very creative. The simplest thing you can do is coordinate an Easter egg hunt. Bring along all the Easter props, including the bunny ears, bunny sunglasses, cotton tails, and of course, plenty of eggs! If you can, try to subcontract a face-painter. It is so cute to see a bunch of kids with their faces painted like Easter bunnies. Add the bunny ears, and you have happy kids and parents! It’s not Halloween yet, but candy is a must. The “marshmallow chicks” (with the yellow, pink or blue coatings) are one of the kid’s favorites. You can’t go wrong with small chocolate bunnies, along with one big one for the winner of the egg hunt. As for music, “The Bunny Hop” of course, “The Chicken Dance”, “The Hokey Pokey”, and any other corny songs you normally cringe at go over well at children’s Easter parties. The more games, contests and follow-me dances, the better. No Easter party is complete without a visit from the Easter Bunny. Find out if your client has made arrangements for the Easter Bunny to make an appearance. If not, you may be able to build this appearance into your package price!

May brings Mother’s Day. This is not a particularly busy holiday for DJ’s (you should be spending time with Mom, or at least sending her flowers). May also brings Memorial Day on the 31st. This is a big weekend for DJ’s. Summer is just around the corner, and Memorial Day is often a 3-day party weekend. The key here is energy. Up North, people are coming out of the cold, and getting ready for the warm days ahead. Down here in sunny Florida, we are already warmed up, and ready to party. Keep your song selections at Memorial Day events uplifting. This is not a time for exchanging cards or gifts. It’s party time!

June marks the first day of summer. Two words… Pool Parties. Entertainment Caterers hosts some of the most exciting pool parties anywhere, from 5-Star resorts to apartment complex pool deck parties. For more information, check out our web site at Click on the “Services” button, and then enter the Resort Pool Deck Parties page. I could write an entire article on all the wonderful activities you can host at pool deck parties. Instead, I will give you a few tips on how to procure these shows. Obviously, performing at a 5-Star resort may not be in reach of the beginning DJ. However, apartment complex, community center, school and backyard pool parties are all well within reach. I recommend having some relatively inexpensive flyers printed up, stating your services along with a special incentive pricing package. List several different games and contests you will perform. Examples include raft races, treasure dives, belly flop contests, chicken fights (for college age and above), swim relay races, water bucket relay races, limbo contests, water balloon toss, water volleyball/basketball/polo, and all the fun follow-me dances. Again, I could go on and on… that’s another article. Finally, emphasize that you are an “interactive” DJ/MC/Entertainer. Pool deck parties are all about being interactive! The music can be customized to fit a chosen theme. Examples include Caribbean, Reggae, Beach Bash, Shag, Latin, Hawaiian, etc. Be creative and try things like “fake canoe races” (have guests sit down in a line, and instruct each to “paddle” on opposite sides of their “fake canoe”. Play “Hawaii 5-O”, along with intermittent excerpts of the “Jaws” theme. Tell them to paddle faster, or Jaws will get them! Play some hula music and put your guests in grass skirts! You get the idea… it’s Summer time, a time for fun in the sun!

Fireworks crackin’ on the 4th of July! Three colors… need I name them… Red, White and Blue! The props are a given: flags and hats. Break out James Brown’s “Living in America” and crank it up! I like to provide red, white and blue streamers… on wrist bands, the back of hats, on shakers, etc. Confetti is also a nice touch. You can actually purchase “wrist snap” confetti launchers. No CO2 cartridges are necessary! Props can be purchased from several different companies that specialize in party novelties. If you are artistic, you can even make your own. Be careful with any actual fireworks at your 4th of July parties. Leave pyrotechnics, along with anything explosive and/or flammable to the professionals! Again, trivia works great at 4th of July celebrations. Your local bookstore should carry trivia books and/or pamphlets relating to Independence Day.

September marks the end of summer, and Labor Day weekend. Follow the same guidelines as described above for Memorial Day.

October 31st is the night you can dress up anyway you want to, and not have to worry about what others will think (being a successful interactive DJ requires you to carry this outlook year-round). Halloween is a great night for DJ’s. On this night, the DJ entertains, along with being entertained by all the creative costumes. There are two essentials on this night: First, wear a costume. Second, hold a costume contest. You can assign impartial judges, or you can pick your winners by audience applause. Some standard musical selections are “Thriller”, “The Monster Mash”, “Purple People Eater” and “The Time Warp”. Offer candy as prizes throughout the evening. A bag of lollipops is a cheap investment to help make your Halloween party a little bit more interactive!

Turkey Day is the next major holiday after Halloween. Depending on your location, Thanksgiving may not be a busy work holiday. Daytona Beach holds the “Turkey Rod Run”, the second largest hot rod car show in the country. Many cities across the U.S. hold parades. Unless you really want to work on Thanksgiving, I recommend having a turkey dinner with family and/or friends.

Full circle back to December. One final tip for New Year’s Eve. Ninety-nine percent of all DJ’s are going to play Prince’s “1999” after the clock strikes midnight, following “Auld Lang Syne”. If you have the technology, try to make a custom “mega-mix” to MiniDisc or CD-R. Include segments from Prince’s “1999”, “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. I would love to hear some creative “megamixes” from anyone interested in taking on this task!

I hope you will put some of these simple ideas to use at your upcoming holiday parties. If you make a promise to try and add one or two new elements to each new show you perform, you will be well on the way to increasing your marketability, and overall show quality. Being interactive will help you accomplish these objectives, and expedite your efforts to become “The Ultimate Interactive DJ/MC”.

Mobile Beat Staff Writer (375 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.

Filed Under: Mobile DJ Performance Tips