The Buyer's Guide to Wedding Entertainment
So, you’ve gotten engaged. Congratulations! You now have many important decisions to make. Making the right entertainment choices for your big event is crucial to its success. As a DJ, I’ve been performing at weddings for over 11 years and the following is a list of my highest recommendations.
1. Don’t underestimate the value of entertainment
There are many decisions to be made: the venue, the cake, the flowers, the decorations. You want to have the most memorable and enjoyable wedding possible. Stop and think for a moment. Years from now, will anyone remember the center pieces? How significant will the flowers be in creating an atmosphere of celebration? While every choice you make for you big day is important in some way, there is little doubt that any single decision you make will have as much effect on the atmosphere of your reception as the entertainment. There’s no getting around this. Choosing untalented entertainment is a sure way to create an atmosphere that people can’t wait to remove themselves from. You’ve asked your friends and family to help you celebrate one of the most important days of your entire life. Don’t go short on the entertainment.
2. Hire the best talent you can
Now that you’ve made the decision to invest in the entertainment, be sure to spend your money wisely. The New Mexico wedding market is saturated with DJ companies with little talent. These companies charge high prices and then send you a low-wage DJ. That’s how they make their money. If the DJ performing at your reception doesn’t own their own company, it’s usually a bad sign. You want someone with a great personality who has a natural knack for music. You want someone who loves what they do and not someone with a summer job.
I can’t believe I even have to say this, but you also want a DJ who is an actual DJ. You wouldn’t hire a band that lip-synchs. Why would you hire a DJ that doesn’t actually mix? Being able to mix together a great set of music is an imperative for your event.
3. Get the upgrades
Now that you’ve found a talented DJ for your event, consider the upgrades they offer. While it’s conceivable that some DJs offer upgrades that are a waste, this is usually not the case. Like most things you buy, the main portion of the cost is carried in the initial package. If your DJ is smart, he or she will have priced their packages to make the upgrades worth it. If you have an exceptionally small venue, perhaps you don’t need the loudest sound system around, but for the most part it is in your best interest to go with the upgraded lighting and sound packages. If you’re looking to save money, see item number 6.
4. The more the merrier
Larger crowds are more conducive to creating celebration. Cutting down on your guest-list can save you money, but in the end the more guests your party has, the livelier the event. There’s a social force that grabs ahold of small groups and makes them more apprehensive to celebration. The attention is more direct. The more guests your wedding has, the more you remove that direct attention and create an atmosphere of celebration.
5. Create song lists and be flexible
Creating request lists for your DJ can be great. This includes songs to play and not-to-play. I do however encourage some flexibility here. Let your DJ know that your requests are flexible. The likelihood is that musical tastes will vary. Allow your DJ to find the room’s musical sweet spot, whatever that might be.
6. Get the first dance done
If you’re like most couples in today’s day and age, you’ll most likely have about an hour’s worth of photos after the ceremony. Typically this leaves your guests waiting in the reception area for about an hour or more. Performing the first dance after the entrance of the wedding party gives relief to your guests by giving them something to drive their attention into and it also sets the stage for the celebratory nature of the reception.
7. Only ask the audience onto the floor once
This is one of the most important items on the list. You’ve got the first dance, bride-father dance, groom-mother dance, garter toss, bouquet toss and possibly other events such as the dollar dance or la marcha. It’s very important that you have these events happen one right after the other. Asking your guests onto the dance floor, and then asking them off again creates a whiplash that starts to erode on the enthusiastic momentum of your reception. It takes most people a few songs to start feeling comfortable on the dance floor. Honor their courage to be vulnerable and let them stick with the momentum once it has started.
8. Kill the music before the party dies
The best things in life leave you wanting more. Seinfeld is a great example. While I don’t recommend leaving your reception at the height of its celebration, I do recommend that the bride and groom leave the party before the party has left them. Have a great time, and if the momentum is there you can even ask your DJ to play longer if he or she is willing. However, once you notice that a portion of your guests have left, it’s time to get your departure in order. Ending the party on a high note is essential to memory making. You want your guests to leave with the feeling that they could have partied all night; don’t let them discover they could not.
Bonus: Pass on the sweetheart table
The existence of the sweetheart table is bizarre to me. Your wedding very well might be the most expensive night of your life. It might even be the last time many of your friends and loved ones are in the same place. Cherish your wedding party for their participation by sitting down with them for your first meal together as a married couple. This goes a long way in how it affects the atmosphere of your wedding. You’ve got the rest of your lives to have private meals together.