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Topic: DJing a wedding  (Read 2660 times)
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« on: August 02, 2005 10:56:49 AM »

this isn't really a craft, but it's very DIY so i was hoping i could get some help from you guys.

a friend of mine was lamenting how hard it was to find a DJ for her wedding--they were all really expensive and they all seemed kind of lame and dorky.  so i said, "hey, why don't i DJ your wedding!  i am free!  and i have good taste in music and i have a computer with a crapload of music on it!"  she was totally into this idea, probably because it saves her about $1000.

so now i'm DJing this wedding but I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING.  i have ideas for a lot of songs i want to play, and i'm obviously going to sit down with the bride and have her give me songs she really wants me to play, but i'd like to hear input from people who have thrown wedding receptions/been to a lot of wedding receptions.  any songs that are really big hits?  anything in particular to avoid?  anything you really wish you'd told your DJ before your wedding?

also, does anyone have any idea about what kind of equipment we'd need exactly?  in my head right now i'm just cobbling together a big stereo system with my stereo receiver, my computer, and a lot of speaker wire connected to a couple of sets of speakers spread around the room.  i also need to figure out how to wedge a microphone into that setup.  anybody got AV experience that could give me some advice?

and one more thing, just so that it's more crafty, as my wedding gift to the couple i'm going to burn CDs of every song i play at the reception, in order, and i'm going to put it into a home-made CD booklet along with polaroids that i take of people dancing at the reception.  i'll post pictures when it's done!

"you're ms. thinks-she's-pretty"
-one of my 3rd graders
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2005 12:24:29 PM »

Letsread, YOU are a good friend! Very thoughtful of you, and good on you for sticking to your word (even if you might have been kidding just a little bit when you said you'd DJ)!

I have zero AV experience, but I can throw out a couple of song suggestions that I love and which are on my list of songs to play at my own wedding (although my fiance and I are getting closer and closer to deciding to elope instead, so someone's gotta' use these songs!)

Anyway, here goes:

"Message of Love" by the Pretenders
"I Do" by the J. Geils Band
"Don't Be Shy" by Cat Stevens
"In My Life" by the Beatles

And whatever you do, I and all of the guests at this wedding beg of you to stay away from all of those sing/dance-along songs like the Electric Slide, Shout, the Macarena, the Chicken Dance, etc.

Good luck and have fun!
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2005 10:58:03 PM »

Exactly how much time and money do you have to spend?

I am not persay a DJ, but I've helped advertise for a DJ, and have worked with him a few times.

For equipment, I would say you need to purchase this software and hardware.  The software works with the hardware.  I'm not sure what it is called, but it allows the DJ to line up two songs and provides a seamless transistion from one song to the next. Sorta like mixing it with out the vinyl scratches.  You can hook up a wireless mic system if you are willing to purchase a bigger system.  I would go down to a shop, maybe frys or some music instrument stores[which also carries dj equipment] and whatever is around your area and ask around. I have found that they are usually more than willing to help. Well at guitar/music stores, since they are hired because they know & enjoy what they are doing.

Well, a quick lookie at one of my favorite online music store produced this...


Not too expensive... I don't think its necessary, but it would make music much better because of the "seamless" transitions between the two.  I'm no good at explaining, but yah.

I hope I was able to help!

« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2005 06:58:12 PM »


  I've worked as a professional DJ before (not just 2 turntables and a microphone Smiley ) so perhaps I can offer some advice.   

A good DJing software to use is PCDJ (TM), but it may be far too expensive for you as it is for professional DJ's.  Try searching the web for demo or free software that is like a DJ user interface.

  As far as equipment goes, your setup will be ok, it would be better if you can manage to tie in equip so that you can have two audio output sources (like your stereo's cd player and the computer) so that you can start and stop songs without a lot of what we DJ's call "dead air".  A DJ style console would be best, so that you can fade from CD 1 to 2 (or output 1 to 2 if you're using a computer-like one).   If you can't manage that, try to make up playlists ahead of time so that you can transition more smoothly.  And don't forget headphones!  Though they may not be AS critical with a one-output computer system, they will be good if you have to find a song on a cd before you play it.  If you only have one cd player, take a walkman cd player so you can make sure you have the right song while another song is playing.

  You didn't say what kind of reception they're having, and what they do will affect your "job".  Are they having a social hour, a formal dinner, religious traditions, an all night dance party?  Each situation will demand different music.  Do they want you to play background music at the ceremony, ie while the people are being seated or the wedding party enters, or is it strictly reception only?  If they do, you have to keep in mind that you may be hauling your equip from the ceremony site to the reception site if the ceremony site doesn't have in-house equip for you to use.  You might also check with the reception site to see if they have speakers you can tie into.  I've found that the best background music (for ceremony, dinner, social hour, etc.)  is usually soft jazz.  Old (we're talking 50's) tunes can work well, but talk to your B&G, b/c they might want something specific (like death metal or traditional jewish Tongue ).

  When we scheduled a wedding, we met with the couple (esp. the bride!) more than once, and we had worksheets with what kind of music and what kind of situations we would be playing for, but unfortunately, I don't have one avail.  As important, or even more important that what music  they want played is what music they DON'T!  We used to ask this, and many a time a bride-to-be would have a song that reminded her of an old boyfriend, a deceased relative, etc that she didn't want played on her happy day.  Make sure you know what "their" song is, or what song they want played during their first dance,the last dance, and any other special dances.  It's not always a good idea for them to leave it up to you.  You may also be in charge of announcing the new couple's arrival, introducing the head table/wedding party, the special dances, the best man's toast, the cake cutting, the boquet toss, the garter toss, etc.  Get with the bride and find out when they want to do them, and know if there is a specific start or end time for the reception.  Again, it's better to have it planned ahead of time than just go "when do you want to do it?" at the reception.
  One thing I would highly recommend is playing music in "sets".  Group similar tempos, or styles, or eras in groups of 3 or 4 so that you aren't just randomly pulling things out, esp. if you're doing a dance.  This gives people the chance to go out and do their thing for more than one song, and is also long enough to take a break if they need one.  You know how when you go out to dance and the DJ finally plays a song with a good beat and you go out to shake it, only to have a boring slow song come on just as you're getting into your groove?  Or out comes that slow song you love, it takes you forever to drag your date out there, and then BAM it's on to some un-danceable rock song, and he's back in his chair before you can blink. Another a good reason to make up playlists beforehand.  You don't have to line up all your music exactly before you get there, but you have a good set, and people are really digging it, so instead of slowing it down, you can pull out another similar set.

  If it's a dance party, there's always karaoke.  You can rent equip for it or DIY, and even walmart has karaoke cd's!

  This is about all I have time to type right now, but I really hope this helps!  Make sure someone takes a picture of YOU in all your DJing glory.  Oh and one more thing:  PRACTICE, especially with the equipment or software you are going to use, so you don't get there and go OMIGOD what do I do.  Practice setting up so you know what wires go where.  Good luck!
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« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2005 07:34:39 PM »

And whatever you do, I and all of the guests at this wedding beg of you to stay away from all of those sing/dance-along songs like the Electric Slide, Shout, the Macarena, the Chicken Dance, etc.

omg I agree.

A friend of mine did this at a mutual friend's wedding (that I didn't attend).  She simply used her laptop.  I assume she just used iTunes or something similar as she has NO experience with actual mixing.

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« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2005 07:43:20 PM »

it's good to hear other people have pulled this off relatively successfully!  i was planning on just using iTunes because it can blend seamlessly between songs and it's easy to set up playlists and shift them around a lot.

bekmonkey, you're suggestions were super helpful, especially about playing songs in sets.  it makes perfect sense but i hadn't really thought about it.  and the practicing.  holy crap will i need to practice.

to answer a couple of questions: it will be mostly just a dance party.  the bride and groom are just 23 and 25, respectively, and there will be a lot of people our age there just drinking and having a good time.  the bride is renting a karaoke machine because she's totally into that.

also, i got a sound engineer friend to LEND us the equiment.  PUNK ROCK!

thanks for all your help guys, and keep the suggestions coming!  i have very little experience with wedding receptions (i'm only just entering that phase of life where all-of-a-sudden you have a zillion weddings to go) so all input is appreciated.

"you're ms. thinks-she's-pretty"
-one of my 3rd graders
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2005 07:40:20 AM »

95% of a time when I work for the family business on weddings, it's on the videography and AV side of things and NOT DJing, but I've gotten pulled into DJing when our normal guy is sick.
Seconding the sets thing, but be careful to gauge how many songs so it doesn't drag on forever in one genre.  Sometimes you have to make them really short.  I had a bride who requested some polkas *shudder* so her grandfather and his brothers could dance, so I had a polka set planned out.  Midway through the second song, I realize that none of the old timers would make it through another song and had to cut it short so they all could take a break.
Make sure you have someone to cover you for a while so you can eat.  No matter what your job is at the wedding, nothing sucks longer than working 8 hours without food.
If you're announcing, check and double check that you know how to pronounce everyone's name (really BAD story about that one, thankfully third person)  Also practice what you're going to say before you say it, so you don't sound totally nervous.  If you don't have a wireless mike, remember to tell the folks who are doing toasts that they will have to come to you, otherwise a lot of confusion can happen while they wait for you to bring the mike.  If you DO have a wireless, test before the party to make sure there's no problems in the building.  We've had problems (especially with hotels in the last year or two) with existing wireless systems for one thing or another interfering with the microphones, especially over very large distances, like from the head table to the DJ stand.  You might have to switch frequencies to find one that doesn't pick up static (or worse, what's happening over the waiters headsets!)
All the "events" that happen, (first dances, parents dances, bouquet and garter, etc, etc) are sort of queued up by you, so you have to either have a time table from the couple, or try to keep the flow yourself.  You don't want to be having the garter toss when the groomsmen are too drunk to stand.
Bring a pick of cloth or two to drape the table, to cover up the wires, cases, etc that always come with DJing.  It'll make it look a lot less messy and more organized.  And for the love of god if you run a wire across where people will be walking, make sure it's taped down with gaffers tape VERY WELL.  That means the whole length of the tape, one strip down the middle, with one on either side to reinforce it.  I've done over 200 weddings since I started working for my dad and I've seen at least 10 people who ended up bleeding and having to leave the wedding, and even more who got banged up because they tripped over a untaped or poorly taped wire.  Granted, some of those were aided by alcohol, but still... it's definitely one of the more important things to remember.

There's a fine line between a "hobby" and a "mental illness"
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2005 08:30:03 AM »

Yes, find out from your friend if they have a wedding coordinator that will be coordinating the reception activities.  If not, find out from your friend what's happening at the reception and in what order, and make sure that you and the couple and the photographer are all on the same page in terms of timing.   The couple's arrival, fist dance(s), cake cutting, boquet and garter toss, toasts, departure, etc. will all need to have breaks in the music (or specific songs played), and the photographer will want to know when all of them are happening, so it's better if you agree on that to start with! 
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2005 09:25:59 AM »

     I've done audio for various theatrical productions and events, so here goes. I'm sorry if any of this is blatantly obvious, I'm in one of those waking-coma moments. *sheepish shrug*
     As far as equipment goes, since you already have it on-hand, set it up, practice, take it down, put it in your car/your friend's car/whatever way you'll transport it, take it out, set it up, practice. Do this until you've named your microphones based upon their "personalities." (Or maybe I'm the only one who does that...)  Since you know the person you borrowed the equipment from, ask this person if the equipment has any quirks. This may seem odd, but I've worked with a mixer where input 2 and a certain mic were absolutely allergic to each other. Nothing else, just each other....Anyway, figure stuff like that out before hand.
     Have plenty of cables and adapters ready to go. Rent some if you need to, most cities have places that rent AV equipment. If you're in a small town, try a college or high school theater department for cheap or maybe even free loans of equipment. Put any adapters you need in one place, like a Ziploc or something. Coil your cables into big circles, then tie them there. (Zip ties from Home Depot or things like that are a good idea. If you use those, be sure you have strong scissors/wire cutters to get them off and more zip ties to pack up.) Stick a belt through the center of your cables and hook the belt, it makes for a neat and easy cable rig. And personally, I think it looks cool, strutting about with the cables slung over your shoulder, but maybe I'm special like that... Roll Eyes
     If you can get to the place where the reception will be held, go for it, just to check out your layout. If you can, set up your stuff there, including your cables, just for practice. If there's a house audio system in the reception location, talk to the technician there and get to know the system well in advance.
     Plan for waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more time than you'll need. One recital I teched was to be recorded, and I was under the impression that all of the tapes would be there. They weren't. Stalling for "technical difficulties" always sucks.  :PIf you're a list-maker, make a list of things to do and the order they have to be done.
     Test your microphone repeatedly beforehand. Mic feedback hurts, so make sure it's not too close to speakers and receivers. If you're going with the lapel-clip wireless microphones, make sure they're positioned securely and in a good place to get sound. Warn the wearers that fiddling with their lapels will make "hfadhfldaksl BOOM" noises from the mics. I've seen many a nervous fidget result in microphone mishaps, some of which are hilarious later. There's a production DVD of me raving at intermission about an actor who managed to fix his mishap on stage, in which I look like a raving techie nutso.
     I know it's been said, but tape your cables until your hands bleed. Not just cables through the dance floor or whatever, but in your "tech area" as well. (I tripped over a cable in the tech booth that I neglected to tape, thinking I would know better. Of course, being me, I tripped, slammed into my metal chair, which CLANGED! ceremoniously, and the entire audience turned to look at me, beet red, trying to disentangle my foot...oops... Embarrassed

Good luck and have fun!

« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2005 11:46:16 AM »

Also another muy importante thing that has not yet been mentioned: if you are using wireless mics TAKE EXTRA BATTERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  OMG it sucks when you're in the middle of a gig and your mic goes dead and there are NO MORE 9Vs because the A-hole who last used your setup didn't restock and you didn't check because you figured surely the bumhole would restock the kit, wouldn't they, because that's part of the JOB!  Make sure you have the right kind (AAA, 9V etc).

And TAPE!  How could I forget tape!  I worked in a college town w/ a lot of bars, and one of the worse accidents I've seen was when a hilariously drunk girl got done karaoke-ing and as she stumbled around on the platform they used for a stage (wearing ridiculously high heels), she tripped on one of the speaker wires and fell...onto one of those mobile carts with two commercial COFFEE POTS!  Not only was she burned pretty bad, the major trippage caused the wire to rip out of the speaker, which was up on a huge tripod stand...and that nearly fell on her too.  Luckily, some guy saw it falling and kind of caught it and boosted it upright. Also thankfully I was not the DJ, I was merely at the bar as a patron, so after that I always took an extra roll of duct tape in my personal bag, right next to the extra batteries.

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