So obviously music is a HUGE decision when thinking about your wedding day. Not just for the dancing part of the reception, but you also have to think about music for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner. Nothing will ruin the mood of your wedding more than if there is silence, the wrong music is played, etc. You could go with live music (a band or some sort of ensemble) or a DJ. Both have their different pros and cons in my opinion, but I think ultimately the right decision depends on the personalities of the couple and their guests. For us, the decision was easy. We wanted a DJ from day one. Eric and I both LOVE to dance. Our taste of music ranges from 80s to old school rap to today’s pop. With a DJ, we could have any song we wanted played and hear the versions we are used to hearing. Although bands play a wide array of music, there might have been some songs we wanted that they wouldn’t have been able to play. In my opinion, having a band is more like a show. Guests are watching the band and dancing along to the music while focused on the musicians. With a DJ, guests are in their own circles dancing and paying more attention to each other. Neither one is better than the other–it is just a matter of preference. DJs also can provide a more clubby type of atmosphere where as wedding bands typically provide a more classic type of atmosphere. If you are budget conscience, a DJ is definitely the way to go. With a DJ, you are paying for the time and talent of one (maybe two) people and with a band you are typically paying for 6-10 musicians which obviously cost more money. So for multiple reasons, we knew we wanted a DJ hands down.
Since I photograph weddings more than half of the weekends out of the year, I hear a lot of DJs so I knew exactly who I wanted but I wanted to pass along some things for you to be aware of when choosing a DJ . . . because there are a lot of really bad ones out there.
-BEWARE OF THE CHEESE FACTOR. Ugh. This has to be my biggest pet peeves with DJs. They play songs like The Chicken Dance. I even had one DJ end the night with the Looney Tunes, “That’s All Folks”. Now unless the couple specifically requests this song, it should never be played at a wedding or anywhere besides a cartoon for that matter.
-Don’t pick a DJ that wants to talk more than they want to play music. Scratch what I said above as this has to be my biggest pet peeve. In my opinion, DJs should talk when they need to which basically means making announcements like “The cake cutting is about to happen in the corner. Everyone head over and watch Johnny and Jane cut the cake. Take as many pictures as you want but be sure to stay out of the professional photographer’s way.” If they say that last part, they get bonus points from me. Anyway, my point is some DJs drag things like this out and will literally talk for five minutes about the cake cutting or they will talk about absolutely nothing in between songs. It interrupts the flow of the dancing in my opinion. Basically, they are there because they want to be the center of attention instead of letting the guests and couple be the center of attention.
-They must know how to mix music. I don’t think most people realize how important this is. It should be a standard if you call yourself a DJ but unfortunately there are still DJs out there that don’t know how to do this. Basically mixing is the part in between songs where the DJ combines the two songs to create a smooth transition. That is my unofficial definition anyway. If you are dancing and a song is coming to an end and it completely stops before the next song starts, so will the dancing and thus the party. Find someone who can mix songs.
Anyway, once the decision was made to book a DJ, I knew we wanted to book DJ Carl from Classic Collective DJs. I have known Carl for years through an industry organization, NACE, and through working weddings with him over the years. Not only is he the nicest guy ever but he has this quirky sense of humor and he seriously knows his music . . . SERIOUSLY!! You can start to name almost any lyric of any part of any song and he will know the name of the song and the artist in about five seconds. It’s actually pretty amazing. Not only that, but he doesn’t just play the same songs over and over again at every wedding. He does an amazing job of tailoring the songs he plays to the tastes of his clients. VERY IMPORTANT. The most amazing wedding I heard him DJ at was a very fancy wedding at the Four Seasons Baltimore. I was the photographer and the first thing the couple told me when they met with me was they were a very untraditional couple having a very traditional wedding. The couple was really into metal music (in fact they both have worked in that industry) as were all of their friends while their parents and their parent’s friends were very traditional. The tables were literally divided by the dance floor with one side being the couple’s friends and the other side being their parent’s friends. I can think of very few settings where these two groups of people would be partying together as their interests are so different. But they did and it was awesome! You had the traditional guests dancing to metal music and the untraditional guests dancing to very classic music. And I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t have happened without Carl mixing that music up. So, what I’m saying is that no matter what your tastes are, Carl is your guy.
After hiring Carl, he sent me a document to fill out where I had to list some songs we wanted to hear, songs I MUST hear, and songs that I wanted on my do not play list. I had to do this for every part of the wedding–cocktail, dinner, first half of the dance party, and second half of the dance party. I also had to list first dance songs, ceremony entrance songs, etc. After I filled it out and a couple of weeks before the wedding, we had a meeting where we went over the document to make sure we were on the same page about the type of music we wanted to hear. He made suggestions about things that I had never even thought of which was really helpful as well. And at the wedding, knowing our tastes, he added to that list to create one epic dance party.
Basically as with all your wedding vendors, if you are meeting with someone who is as cool as you are and has a similar vibe, you should be fine. But of course if you want to not waste your time researching DJs, just hire Carl. Decision made.