A Wedding DJ Minute
It’s about an hour after the entrée has been served, and the dance floor is packed. Long before most of the guests had finished their meals, a few bridesmaids were already asking the DJ when he was going to open the dancing. This is a great crowd, and at the center of it all are the bride and groom, having an amazing time. The DJ has a great grasp on the music vibe the newlyweds had wanted, as they’ve spoken about it at length pre-game. Things couldn’t be running more smoothly, when the bride decides to go to the DJ and request ‘that song’… next.
Well, she never mentioned ‘that song’ in the preliminary meetings, and it isn’t anywhere in the notes. Even though – in the experience of the DJ – he knows ’that song’ will most likely clear his dance floor, but he only has two minutes left in the song that’s playing to possibly negotiate with the bride that perhaps he might wait until a later time to play her selection.
At the same time, this is the bride; the center of the universe, and the client that, in the end, is the one the DJ most needs to please. Saying “no” in any way, even in an attempt at reasonable negotiation is borderline sacrilegious.
Does the DJ just play ‘that song’ against his DJ instincts, and risk the highly energized dance floor becoming a ghost town? Or does he have faith – against his better judgment – that ‘that song’ could possibly work, and just cue it up and hope for the best?
It’s a double-edged blade. If the song is played, and it goes awry, would the bride ask, “Why didn’t you tell me ‘that song’ wouldn’t work?” but if you don’t play it, well, that could have even worse aftershocks. She did say “next”.
And as the DJ contemplates this dilemma, another minute has disappeared off the clock, leaving only sixty seconds left to decide…
What do you think the Wedding DJ should do?
DJ Brain Illustration by Sean Gallo
Have that conversation BEFORE the party.
As the post says, assuming that conversation had been had before the party. What then?
In my experience, if you explain your hesitation to the bride when she asks, she will be reasonable. And, if she insists and it bombs, she has no one to blame but herself. I remember once when I pleaded with a bride to have her dancing in the air conditioned ballroom of an estate on the Hudson in July. She chose another room that was smaller and HOT. No one danced. Her choice. You can only give your best advice and after that…IT’S HER DAY!
I would ask the bride, in a friendly but serious way, “you’re gonna dance, right?” If she says yes, I’d play the song.
This way you pretty much ensure that at least she’ll be on the dance floor. And at a wedding, where the crowd takes its cues from the bride and groom (esp. the bride), that’s the most important thing.
Also, the bride probably knows her crowd better than you possibly could, and she might just be right.
Finally, even if the song bombs, you’ve at least made the bride happy, and you can just come back with a heavy hitter (or a slow song) afterwards.
Ahhh, it’s a toughie! Disclosure: I’m not in the industry, but have recently been a bride (with an awesome DJ I must add).
As a bride, I put all my faith in the professionals I worked with. If my awesome DJ turned to me and honestly, but diplomatically said “you might clear the dance floor with that song” I think I would have trusted their judgment and let it go. I don’t know if I am a typical bride (I suspect maybe not), so maybe part of working out what to do in this situation is more about working out what kind of bride/couple you are dealing with.
Finally, I think I’m having a lot of fun trying to work out what “that song” might be. Could that be your next question to the crowd? My guess would be pretty much anything by Celine bloody Dion.
If you have a bride that you will not be able to back down for lack of a better term, I would simply emcee to the crowd that this is the bride’s favorite song and nothing would make her more happy on her wedding day then to be surrounded by her friends and family on the dance floor during this song. This explains the unusual nature of the song and places the selection on the bride if it dies. The emceeing will also “guilt” guests into staying on the dance floor with the bride even if it is a song that would normally empty it.
Even the most “Sure Fire” or “It” song will bomb occasionally at a wedding. You never know the crowd fully. I would agree with asking her (nicely) and making sure she will be out there dancing. She’ll take it as a cue, or sense some of your hesitance and maybe ask your concern or input.
I Agree with Andrew!
Don’t you DJs have some sort of contingency plan built into your Serato software for just this scenario?
Andrew, very well thought out answer. You are right, if the bride is dancing, usually the crowd is too.
Faye, I take it you don’t like Celine Dion? Glad we didn’t play ‘that song’ at your wedding.
You play it. Its not “MY” wedding it’s hers. It’s not “MY” dance floor it is hers. It is not my day it is “HER” day and if she wants “THAT SONG’ then she get’s
If she want’s me to turn up turn down or turn off the music and stand on my head in the corner so be it. It is “HER” day.
You play the song.
HOWEVER, if it were ME, I would….
Lower the music so everyone would know a special announcement is coming. Then I would announce to all the guests that you are going to play a very special song, requested by the Bride…
This is a win-win.
1. Guests wil now know you are not a doofus DJ that doesn’t know how to keep the party going.
2. You stand a higher chance that the guests will continue to dance with the bride out of obligation.
3. If the dance floor does clear and the Bride looks at you …. Simply shrug (I-told-you-so) and smile.
That’s what I’d do. But I’m not a DJ…..
Andrew and Saundra–well stated!
It is the bride’s day and if it is important to her it is important. It is our job to make sure the bride and groom have nothing but wonderful memories, they won’t notice the fullness of the dance floor if it is their song.
I like the idea above of asking her if she is going to dance, then I would play that song and have another cued right up so if that song starts to die I could cut into somehting else and get everything back on track.
Of course you could always play the song and let the caterer know that you thought the dance floor was going to clear and ask if they could ready the next course!
Having been in the industry for well over 20 years, and the owner of a DJ entertainment company, this has happened countless times to all of my DJs and myself.
I typically instruct all of my DJs that this is their (bride and groom) day, and anything that they want, we should oblige.
That being said, it is also our responsibility to sometimes advise and offer our opinions and feedback based on our experience performing at events like this hundreds, and in the case of my company, thousands, of times over the years.
From personal experience, I would suggest working in “the” song within the next couple or few songs, unless of course the bride (and groom) were adamant that it be played next, as you suggest here in your post.
It is sometimes up to us, as experienced professionals, to make “executive” decisions for the better of the party.
Curious to continue to hear others’ thoughts on this.
All the best and very good post Craig!
I’m with Keith & Saundra on this one. Keep that bride happy. Lower the music announce that it’s a special request from the bride and encourage the dancers to stay out there. I find there is nothing gained by not taking risks. This is one that could pay off big. And even if the song isn’t that good, a good emcee could potentially turn it into something good. Either way keeping the bride happy is the most important thing!!
I was a bride, and did not use your services for my wedding (my wedding was in Houston, Texas). I found this article very interesting, because I disagree with some of the people who commented above. I believe it is/was the DJs main responsibility to keep my guests dancing, and it is also their responsibility to let me (the bride) know if a song I request will not keep people dancing. I loved my DJ, and after going over music with him prior to the my wedding, I put my faith and trust in him, and I trusted his expertise not to be my personal jukebox, but to play what would work to keep my guests dancing and having a good time. I think I have great taste in music, but I’m not a DJ.