As a professional wedding DJ in Atlanta, Georgia, I have been fortunate enough to be involved in over 300 weddings in the last couple years. With a team of seven pro-DJs on staff at Nice Guys DJ, we take a very scientific approach to DJ-ing weddings. We document what works and what doesn't. We're constantly asking "why?" something did or did not work. In meetings, we come up with ways to make things better. If you're considering becoming a wedding DJ, here are 7 things you must know.
1) Have professional equipment. The higher price tag on pro-DJ gear not only makes it sound better - but makes it more reliable. There's nothing worse than a speaker, laptop, or controller going out on the first dance. So, if you want to play with the big boys, you gotta pay-to-play.
2) Know how to read the crowd. One of our classes at Nice Guys DJ School is called "Be a Jellyfish." In the class, we talk about having tentacles everywhere - meaning when you press play on a new song don't stare at your screen. Watch how the people respond on the dance floor AND most importantly watch the bride and groom. (Did they just mouth to each other "What is this??")
3) You must be comfortable on the mic. This takes the longest to perfect. You don't want to be too shy, because no one will hear what you're saying. You don’t want to be too over-the-top, because people will think you are annoying and taking the spotlight away from the bride and groom. You must be confident, fun, and energetic, without being cheesy.
4) Know how to dress appropriately. The bride and groom spend a lot of money on the way their wedding looks. They have flower arrangements placed on all the tables, chandeliers installed to hang from the ceiling, cool little chalkboard signs with sweet writing set around the room. Yet, whether you like it or not, people are going to stare at you most of the reception. You are the entertainment as well as everyone's "go to" person for what's happening next. So, you best look the part. And - Where do you go to find how to dress? Girls’ Pinterest pages. That's right guys - don't try to figure this one out yourselves or you'll look like a Las Vegas blackjack dealer.
5) Be nice. From the moment you arrive, you are on a job interview. The catering staff, the wedding planner, and the venue owner can all make or break you as far as getting future gigs. Open doors for people and smile. Be a generally pleasant person. This misconception that a DJ can hang back and act like he was better than everyone else doesn’t work.. Just because the DJ is the entertainment, they aren’t rock stars. You can’t expect everyone to wait on you hand and foot. Even if you do an excellent job, the wedding planner is not going to tell her future brides about you.
6) Know a wide variety of music. Everyone has their strong suits and their favorites to play. I tend to like more club and EDM styles, but that very rarely is wanted or needed at a wedding. From 8 to 80, you will need to know what they like. What was popular when they were in high school or in college? You will also need to stay up to date with what's going on now. And, most importantly you will need to know what has been played out. For example, if you're still relying on Gangnam Style to be the dance floor filler, you're obviously behind times.
7) Know how to actually DJ. I know this seems obvious. Beginner DJs think if they have the pro-gear, they are good to go. It takes years of experience and education to know how to DJ professionally. Some lower level DJs can get away with iTunes and a microphone. If you want to be a top level wedding DJ, this won’t work. You best know how to beat match, have super smooth transitions, and have some DJ tricks up your sleeve. This doesn't mean that you will be scratching all night, or your songs will all be beat-matched. With cake cuts and garter tosses, a simple fade works well. But, when the dance floor is packed, keeping the energy and momentum going is vital to a successful event.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t. Getting it all right in one gig is the trick.