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A big special thanks to: Simon Leyland, Dave Schwartz, Michael Erb, and Rob 

        Weddings are probably one of the most frequent DJ gigs going. 
Thankfully, alt.music.makers.dj has a few seasoned professionals who have 
shared their insight on the matter. 

        Before getting into the internals of DJing a wedding, you need to ask 
yourself a very important question: 

        Are you ready for the responsibility? 

        The DJ has a VERY important role in weddings today. They need to make 
announcements, set the tempo, and manage the structure. There is a great deal 
of focus placed on the DJ (almost equal to that of the bride and groom) which 
means lack of performance on your part will result in a wedding gone flat. 
Depending on your relationship to the bride and groom this could mean anything 
from being sued to losing a friend. Be sure you understand what it means to 
be in this role BEFORE taking it. 

        Some additional things to think about before taking on the event are: 

        o Do you have the appropriate gear? This includes speakers, amps, 
          and microphones. They need to be powerful and sturdy enough for 
          the number of people attending. With the speakers, be sure they 
          are heavy enough so they don't tip over with people jumping up 
          and down on the dance floor. 

        o Do you have appropriate music? This is especially true if you 
          typically work parties and clubs/raves. Remember: You'll 
          need to appeal to a diverse group of people here, most of 
          whom will still think C&C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You 
          Sweat" is the hot thing on the dance floor. See the "Music" 
          section below. 

        o Are you comfortable talking on the microphone? You will need to 
          (at the very least) announce the arrival of wedding party followed 
          by introductions of each couple. 

        o Appropriate attire: If you don't already own a tux or other 
          appropriate formal wear, be ready to rent one. 

        Once you are sure you are ready to take on the task, you need to 
prepare. There are many things you need to be aware of BEFORE getting to the 
wedding to insure things go smoothly. These things can typically be found from 
asking the person(s) responsible for organizing the wedding. Most often this 
is the bride and groom, however, if it is not, you may want to let the bride 
and groom know what the plan is. You don't want ANY surprises on the wedding 
day itself. 

        Questions you need to ask include: 

        o What is the desired order of the event? (see suggestions below) 

        o What will be your role as the MC (Master of Ceremony)? 

        o What songs would they like played for their "Special Dances" 
          ie: First Dance, Parent/Child dance, etc. 

        o Any special song requests? 

        While discussing the reception music with the bride and groom, be sure 
to keep in mind the accessability of a song to all the people there. If they 
have any odd or unusual requests (ie: a track from U2's War album) you may 
want to ask them to rethink it since it isn't very dancable and most people 
will not be able to recognize it. You may also want to ask if an odd or 
unusual request has any sentiment attached to it. If so, you could make an 
announcement that the song is special (be sure to mention why, ie: song 
playing when they first kissed, etc.) before playing it. 

        While asking for input you may find that one relative that thinks they 
know enough to do your job and may feel it necessary to tell you how to handle 
things. This can be especially troublesome during the reception itself. Don't 
ignore them altogether, but take their input with a grain of salt. Be 
interested in what they have to say about the people there more than their 
input on what songs to play. 

On the Day Itself 

        Be ready to work. Being the DJ doesn't mean being a human jukebox, it 
means having to read the crowd, pick the right order, and guide the energy. 
(Mix alcohol into this and you'll need to guide the drunks too. =) 

        Note: Read the section on contracts first. You should have a contract 
between you and the wedding party agreed upon early. Especially take note of 
the time requirements -- How long do they want you to play? 

        To setup, you'll want to arrive at least one hour early. This gives 
you enugh time to setup and do a sound check. If you plan on doing any beat 
mixing, you may want to try a small one to get a feel for the acustics and 
delays from the speakers to you. You will also want to get a feel for what 
"loud" is for the room. Be sure to test the microphone too. There should not 
be any feedback and the volume should be easy to control. Don't forget to 
bring plenty of duct tape and a pair of scissors! You'll need to tape cables 
to the floor. Also be sure to bring power strips and extension cords. 

        Tip: Bring two pairs of shoes. A pair for moving gear around and a 
pair for the reception itself. This will allow you to move your gear without 
as much risk of slipping and/or dropping things. Be sure to change into the 
appropriate shoes before people arrive. 

        If your gear is not in coffins (although they should be), be sure to 
tie the cables in the back of your gear together so they appear clean and 
neat. Appearance is very important. 

        Once the people begin arriving, you'll need to play background dinner 
music. The ambient noise isn't so much to annoy you as it is to make people 
more comfortable talking with one another. Preferred music for this sort of 
thing is insturmental and very light. Jazz and new age is ideal (ie: Kenny G 
and Enya). The occational slow big band tune is fine too. Use good judgement 
-- the music should only be background noise and easy to ignore. You should be 
ready with at least 2 hours of music, preferably 3. (Just in case...) Unless 
asked to, be sure to have enough different stuff for variety. You may be 
surprised at who pays attention to the music. 

        As things get started, you'll need to keep an eye out for the wedding 
party. Most people will arrive before they do which means they'll be crowd to 
contend with as well. When you see them arrive, greet them and let them know 
that you're ready. Perform the introductions. Remember to speak slowly -- 
they'll be photos being taken as this happens. Have some music mixed into this 
as well, but again, keep it mellow and insturmental. The typical order of 
introductions are: Grandparents, Parents, Bridesmaids & Ushers, Flower Girl & 
Ring Bearer, Maid/Matron of honor & Best Man, Bride & Groom. 

        Inbetween the beginning of dinner music and the dancing is the 
mish mash of eating, pictures, announcements, toasts, etc. Be sure to have 
these worked out in advance as to who will be saying what and what they'll be 
saying. Here is a possible "order of operations," however, be ready to throw 
this out and allow for regional and family differences in how things are done. 
Be flexible, but insist that the order be agreed upon ahead of time. 

        o Announce that dinner is being served. If there is a blessing to be 
given, this is the time for it. If it is a buffet style, you'll need to 
"release the tables." This means explaining to the crowd to come to the buffet 
one table at a time so there isn't a excessive line. Suggest a order (ie: 
tables that go left to right). Remember that the bride and groom go first, 
then the families, followed by everyone else. 

        o As the dinner ends, the best man should announce the toast. 

        o Cake cutting and serving. 

        o Ask the couple if they are ready for their first dance (done eating, 
etc.) If so, announce it. The song for their first dance should already be 

        o Announce the parent/child dance. Be sure there are parents involved 
with this before announcing it. It would be very awkward should someone's 
parents be deceased and there not be a matching parent. This should be figured 
out BEFORE the actual wedding day. 

        o Open up the floor for family and friends for a slow dance. If there 
are enough people dancing, you may want to let it go for two songs. 

        o Announce the dollar dance. Have at least 5-10 songs ready for this 
since you don't know how long this will last. The first song for the dollar 
dance may be something that the bride and groom select. 

        o Announce the garter/bouquet toss. Have appropriate music for this, 
esp. for the garter toss. Typically "The Stripper" is played, however, there 
have been some people using alternate songs such as the Mission Impossible 
theme. You may want to ask the bride and groom about this before playing it. 

        o Open the floor up for everyone to dance. 

        The opening of the floor is a big deal and you're going to need a 
clincher song to get everyone onto the floor. The song needs to appeal to the 
young AND old so stick to classics from disco or rock. Something that everyone 
knows and is comfortable with. Up tempo is important. Suggestions include: 

        o Celebration 
        o Twist and Shout 
        o YMCA 
        o Stayin Alive 
        o Elvis tunes 

        Other suggestions include rock'n'roll megamixes since they tend to 
cover a lot of favorites and will get everyone up and dancing. 

        This is when you NEED to watch the floor like a hawk. See what the 
people respond to and what turns them off. This will help guide you in picking 
songs to play for remainder of the evening. 

        This is where no one can really tell you what to do. Every crowd is a 
little different and will respond differently to the music. Your ability to 
read the crowd and pick the right songs to play is critical to keeping the 
tempo of the party going. 

        Depending on the contract you signed with the bride and groom, you'll 
need to be ready for anywhere from 2-4 hours of dance music. Its rare you'll 
need more than that, however, should the contract call for longer play you'll 
want to be ready for it. 

        Remember: You need to play songs to satisfy everyone -- not a trivial 
task. The guests may have travelled a long distance to get there and spent 
money on a present. If they don't like the music you are playing, they aren't 
going to have a good time. The best thing to do is to play as many requests as 
possible (as long as they are dancable!). Encourage requests early on. 

        Assuming a "normal" wedding crowd, keep the music recognizable, keep 
mixing up the styles and don't neglect to play an adaquate amount of slow 
tunes (more of them earlier for the older guests). Perhaps every 4th or 5th 
song should be slow. Many times, slow songs will pull the older crowd onto the 
floor. Use this opportunity and follow up a slow song with a good oldie to 
keep them dancing. 

        Beatmixing: If you can do it, by all means, use this powerful tool. 
Its a great way to keep the flow on the floor. Its also a good way for people 
who are otherwise uncomfortable dancing to feel the beat and keep the same 
beat for a few songs at a stretch. If you can't beatmix, try to arrange your 
sets so the BPMs are similar to one another in a set. ie: if you're doing a 
dance set that starts with a 120bpm song, keep the next track about the same 
BPM. This will keep people from tripping over themselves. Surprisingly, this 
applies to slow dances too. 

        Switching styles: While the floor may seem to be full with the disco 
set, allowing it to last too long will likely make your crowd bored. Be ready 
to switch styles after a handful of songs. When switching styles, open up the 
next set with something energetic (unless of course its a slow set) to try and 
pull some of the people who are sitting down back onto the floor. 

        People breakdown: You'll find that the older crowd will leave earlier 
than the younger crowd. Watch for who is staying on the dance floor and who is 
leaving. As the evening wears on, cater to the people who are on the floor 
which most likely means more contemporary tunes. This is a great time to let 
some of the odder (but dancable) requests through. 

        The Macarena: We all love to hate it. Including the guests. But play 
it and watch the floor fill. Unless explicitly asked not to play it by the 
bride and groom, play it! Same goes for other line dancing songs -- its 
popular to dislike it, but you'll find more people on the floor dancing to it 
than any other time. (including the so-called old people. =) 

        And.... DON'T FORGET TO READ THE CROWD!!! 

        Below are some of the most common songs requested/needed for the 
average wedding reception. 

Note: This is by no means an authoritative list. Be aware of local trends and 
interests as well as requests. This list is simply a guideline for those who 
may not even know where to start. 

If you find any errors in this list (wrong title or singer's name) please 
send them to me for future inclusion: sshah@cs.ucr.edu 

Title                                   Singer/Band 
ABC                                     Jackson-5 
Ain't No Stopping Us Now   McFadden & Whitehead 
At The Hop                           Danny & the Juniors 
Blue Suede Shoes                  Elvis 
Boogie, Oogie, Oogie            Taste of Honey 
Born To Be Alive                   Patrick Hernandez 
Brown Eyed-Girl                    Van Morrison 
Burn Rubber On Me              Gap Band 
Can't Help Falling In Love      Elvis 
Celebration                             Kool & The Gang 
Cecilia                                    Simon & Garfunkel 
Conga                                    Miami Sound Machine 
Cotton Eyed Joe                     Rednex 
December '63                         Frankie Vally & The Four Seasons 
Devil With the Blue Dress        Mitch Ryder 
Disco Inferno                           Tramps 
Dropped a Bomb On Me         Gap Band 
Electric Boogie                         Marcia Griffiths 
Gonna Make You Sweat          C & C Music Factory 
Flashlight                                  Parliament 
Le Freak                                  Chic 
Funkytown                               Lipps, INC. 
Get Down Tonight                    KC & Sunshine Band 
Get Ready for This                    2 Unlimited 
Good Golly                              Mitch Ryder 
Great Balls of Fire                     Jerry Lee Lewis 
Heaven Must Have Sent You    Bonnie Pointer 
Hot Hot Hot                             Buster Poindexter 
I Got You (I Feel Good)           James Brown 
I Only Have Eyes For You        The Flamingos 
I Saw Her Standing There         The Beatles 
Jail House Rock                        Elvis 
La Bamba                                 Ritchie Valens 
Legs                                         ZZ Top 
Let's Twist Again                       Chubby Checker 
Love Shack                               B-52's 
Mack The Knife                         Bobby Darin 
Mickey                                     Tony Basil 
My Sharona                              The Knack 
Old Time Rock & Roll                Bob Seger 
Only You                                  Platters 
Party Train                             Gap Band 
Pretty Woman                            Roy Orbison 
Red, Red Wine                           UB40 
Respect                                 Aretha Franklin 
Ring My Bell                            Anita Ward 
Rock Around The Clock                   Bill Haley & Comets 
Rockin' Robin                           Bobby Day 
Runaround Sue                           Dion & Belmonts 
Safety Dance                            Men Without Hats 
Satisfaction                            Beatles 
Shake Your Groove Thing                 Peaches & Herb 
Shame                                   Evelyn Champagne King 
Shook Me All Night Long                 AC/DC 
Shout                                   The Dynatones 
Stayin Alive                            Bee Gees 
Summer Nights                           Grease Soundtrack 
Tequila                                 Champs 
That's The Way I Like It                KC & Sunshine Band 
The Twist                               Chubby Checker 
To Be Real                              Cheryl Lynn 
Twist & Shout                           Beatles 
Unchained Melody                        Righteous Brothers 
Vogue                                   Madonna 
Wanderer                                Dion & Belmonts 
We Are Family                           Sister Sledge 
What A Wonderful World                  Louie Armstrong 
When A Man Loves a Woman                Percy Sledge 
Woolley Bully                           Sam the Sham and the Pharohs 
YMCA                                    Village People 

Some Closing Notes on Weddings: 

        Remember that a wedding is (in theory) a once in a lifetime event for 
the bride in groom. You can either be the source of fond memories or evil ones 
-- understand that responsibility before you take on the task. Its a lot of 
work, but it's also very rewarding. 
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