Wedding Music Etiquette: The Basics
with Travis Rollins of Downtown Event Services
When planning your big day, don’t forget that music will speak volumes and significantly contributes to the perfect atmosphere you are aiming for. With over a decade of wedding DJ experience and expertise, Travis Rollins from Downtown Event Services, has shared his advice on ensuring great entertainment for your wedding.
How far in advance should you book a DJ or band for your wedding?
Booking entertainment shouldn’t be set to any sort of timetable, particularly when it comes to a band or DJ that works alone. Once a band or an individual DJ is booked, they cannot take any more business for that day, and if they do, I would be wary of that scenario. You do not want to be in a situation where your entertainer can’t continue playing should you decide you want to extend your event, nor would you want to be the second leg on somebody’s two-event day. When you find the entertainment you want, put down a deposit and book your date. Whether it’s a year or a month in advance, the entertainment at your wedding is a major factor that will affect your guests’ enjoyment at your reception. So when you find the right one, book it!
What are some conditions to consider for your wedding ceremony and/or reception?
If you aren’t getting married in a church, or at a venue that provides a sound system, you will need to make the proper arrangements so music can be played during your ceremony. Your DJ should not only be able to provide a sound system to play your ceremony music, but also a lapel microphone for the officiant, a hand held microphone for any other speaking roles, and accommodations for any live musician(s) you may have. Whether your pastor opts for the microphone or not, you will definitely want music playing during your ceremony.
When considering which DJ to hire for your outdoor ceremony, make sure you ask how many sets of equipment they will bring. If they only have one, there will be a significant lag time while the DJ transports the equipment from ceremony to reception. If your ceremony is in a completely separate location from the reception, make sure the DJ company not only has extra gear, but also has adequate staff that can properly break down the ceremony equipment so the DJ can travel straight to the reception. It is also wise to ensure there is a backup microphone in case the officiant’s microphone acts up.
What environments can be more challenging for a band or a DJ?
One thing to consider when planning an outdoor ceremony or reception is a weather contingency. Should the skies open up, adequate cover for your guests and your wedding vendors’ equipment is crucial. The great outdoors is beautiful, but always be prepared in case the weather does not cooperate with your plans.
Some venues may not have the capacity to seat all of your guests in the same room, so it may be necessary to add supplemental equipment to ensure that sound can be heard wherever your guests are seated. You do not want your guests missing out on important announcements just because they are in the overflow room. If you have fragmented seating, plan a little extra money in your entertainment budget to allow for an additional speaker or two. If it is not feasible to run a speaker cable into other rooms which need sound find out if your DJ can provide that capability wirelessly. So when picking your venue, consider how many guests you will have and what additional expenses it may take to ensure that music and announcements can be heard everywhere.
What are some common mistakes that can be avoided when executing music at a wedding?
Legally, a DJ can’t get any song, anywhere, anytime. There are rules that need to be followed, so when picking your most important spotlight songs, like the first dance, or the bridal march, keep in mind that there are many things on the internet that aren’t commercially available for professional DJs. If you are using YouTube for your wedding music inspiration, be aware that not everything you find can be obtained by your DJ, so pick several top choices, just in case.
Considering the different music styles from wedding guests, how can you create a balanced playlist for everyone?
One of the biggest mistakes couples make when it comes to selecting music is not considering that their guests’ musical tastes may differ from their own. Allow your DJ to make the necessary adjustments should the dance floor participation be lower than hoped for. Keep in mind that the reception is a way to thank your guests for coming to your wedding, and it is important to consider their musical tastes in addition to your own. The old saying that “the bride is always right” doesn’t necessarily translate into guests dancing to songs they don’t like. While you want your wedding to be a reflection of your personality and what you enjoy, also recognize that all of your guests may not dance to the exact same songs. Give your DJ some flexibility to play music according to what they the guests are responding to. Having said that, a good DJ will still be able to manage your guests’ musical tastes without resorting to playing anything on your “DO NOT PLAY” list.
How involved should a DJ be in the outline of your reception and how can you make sure everyone is on the same page?
One of the big differences between a professional wedding DJ and an inexpensive part-time DJ is the experience and ability to help you formulate an outline for the reception. This is not a suggestion that your DJ can double as a wedding coordinator, because there are many behind-the-scenes tasks that the DJ won’t have time to handle. If you think you need a wedding coordinator, hire a wedding coordinator, but an experienced wedding DJ will know what works and what doesn’t, and this can be a vital resource when planning out the flow of the reception. You don’t want to have to run your own reception, so hire an experienced DJ who will watch what the guests are doing and cue you when it’s time to move on to the next event.
The DJ will arguably have the most influence on your guests’ overall enjoyment because they are in charge of communicating what is supposed to happen, as well as playing good music to keep your guests up and moving. It is almost impossible to be a guest at a wedding and not be impacted, positively or negatively, by what the DJ (or band) is doing, so be thorough in your selection process. If your band are excellent musicians, but don’t have much wedding experience, consider hiring a DJ to act as your official emcee. If they can plug into the band’s sound system, you can get an experienced DJ to host your event, likely at a lower cost.
Any additional information?
Don’t worry about the songs making sense. Your bouquet toss doesn’t have to have anything to do with being single, nor does the father-daughter dance need to be about fathers or daughters. Pick songs that are important to the people participating in that particular spotlight event, regardless of whether the lyrical content complements the event taking place.
Just an extra tip!
Generally guests begin to arrive about 30 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony, and if your wedding is outdoors in the summer, some of them may potentially be out in the heat for almost an hour. If you really want to get married outside, and your wedding is going to happen in the summer or early fall, we strongly encourage you to consider starting your ceremony in the early evening so your guests can be as comfortable as possible. Another option is to provide a shaded area with refreshments (preferably non-alcoholic) and then invite them to transition to their seats just prior to the start of the ceremony. Remember to keep your guests comfort in mind during your planning process, especially when it comes to the heat (or the cold)!