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Seven Things
That Can Go Wrong at
Your Wedding Reception
Because of Your DJ!

By Phil Seyer
Copyright 2005

When planning a wedding reception, it helps to think ahead and anticipate possible problems. Most DJs are really into good music and can throw excellent dance parties. But a Wedding Reception is a special event, and it requires careful planning and special skills. This article is designed to help you avoid some common pitfalls and wedding reception problems.

1. The Videographer and Photographer miss your First Dance. At a recent wedding, the DJ put on the music for the First Dance at the appropriate time, but he failed to make any announcement at all! The dance floor was filled with people sipping drinks and talking loudly; consequently the bride and groom couldn't do the entrance routine they had practiced so hard. The photographers weren't ready and missed the first part of the dance. So did many of the guests!

What you can do. Go over the announcement that your DJ will make for your First Dance and make it clear you'd like the DJ to get everyone seated before the First Dance. Make sure the DJ understands he is to make a formal announcement. When interviewing the DJs ask them to demonstrate how they would introduce the First Dance.

Some couples like to have the DJ start the music first because they are shy about dancing and don't want to have to dance through the entire song. That's OK. But be sure to ask your DJ to prepare the guests for this special event -- your First Dance as a married couple. You'd think you shouldn't have to do this if you are hiring a professional DJ. But it never hurts to be proactive and avoid possible SNAFUs!

2. Guests are Too Shy To Dance. Everyone sits while the dance music plays. This can happen if the DJ just plays music and doesn't have a plan for engaging your guests with a dance game or dance lesson. It can also happen if the playlist is too rigid. Although a set prepared playlist helps to keep music flowing from song to song, a good DJ will be able to switch to different tunes if not many people are dancing. A DJ who knows how to teach free-style dancing or some simple partner dance steps can be a big help in this situation. Although just a few may participate in the "dance lesson;" this breaks the ice and after the lesson the dance floor will be crowded!

What you can do. When interviewing DJs, ask them, "Suppose few people get up to dance -- how do you handle that?" NOTE: when possible ask the DJ opened ended questions. For example, don't just ask, "Are you good at getting people up and dancing?" A question like that won't tell you much,

3. Things Get Out of Control. Music is played that you really don't like! Your reception feels like a nightclub instead of an elegant wedding reception. At dance parties people are used to going up to the DJ and making requests, and DJs are trained to do their best to please. But this can backfire at a wedding reception where you want a certain mood and theme.

What you can do. Give your DJ these lists:

  • Do Not Play
  • Must Play
  • Play If Possible

Besides a specific list of "do not play" songs, also tell the DJ the general category of music you do not want to hear. For example, some brides specify, "no rap music" or "no explicit rap." These guidelines will help your DJ handle requests from your guests. You can start building the above lists right now using a free online music selection tool offered by Doctor Phil. To use it, click on the link below:

Note: you can save your work and come back later and print out the lists you create. You can also listen to specific tunes or even purchase the album that they are on if you like.

A quick way to pick tunes is to explore the top 200 tunes (as determined by actual playlists that have been created by online users.) Another good way is to set a filter to your favorite decade and then browse all tunes in that decade.

4. Music suddenly stops or an annoying hum ruins the music. In this scenario, the DJ may have an electrical power issue and his equipment may keep shutting down. Imagine this! You are having fun dancing and then the music just stops. It happens repeatedly and it is very embarassing. This is usually due to a limitation of the electrical power facilities provided by the location. It could also be due to a cheap surge protector that has a circuit breaker that trips inappropriately. Problems can also occur when the DJ has a small table for his equipment and his dinner plate gets caught under the audio cable coming from his audio source.

What you can do.When booking your receptional hall and wedding ceremony location, ask whether the power outlets are suitable for DJ service. In one case, a bride found out -- after booking her wedding ceremony location -- that DJ service for the ceremony was not allowed because the electrical writing in the beautiful historical church was unsuitable. Find out whether the reception hall will provide table a for the DJ and what size table it will be, if any.

Hum. Florescent lights, certain dimmers, radio transmitters and similar devices can cause electrical pollution resulting in an annoying hum.

What you can do
. Ask your DJ if she or he has an RFI/EMI interference filter. This device can prevent such problems. Some recommended products are: the Furman Line Conditioner and The Tripp Lite LC1800 automatic voltage regulation system.

5. The DJ can't be heard. He makes announcements that dinner is served. However, tables in the back and the adjoining outdoor area can't hear him. Dinner for them is delayed and your reception schedule is thrown off. Vendors are confused. Many guests miss your First Dance because they couldn't hear the announcements.

What you can do
. Ask your DJ to arrive early and do sound checks to ensure that his system will carry the music and announcements into every corner of the reception hall so there are no dead spots. Give your DJ a map of the reception hall and indicate where guests will be located. Discuss whether the DJs sound system is suitable. Discuss whether extra speakers need to be setup. Specifically ask the DJ to do a sound check at all key locations.

Even a sound check won't help though if the DJ you pick has amateur equipment or equipment not suited to the size of the reception hall and the number of people attending. A system that will work fine for 100 people may not work well for a crowd of 300 guests. Avoid booking a DJ over the Internet without first meeting him or her in person and listening to his or her equipment. Be careful about hiring a "Budget DJ" if you are going to have more than 100 guests.

6. Your DJ doesn't show up. Your fiance scrambles on the phone trying to find someone. All he gets is voice mail.. Finally the best man offers to bring in his home stereo. The music for the reception is delayed by 2 hours, but at last now you will have some music. You are relieved. But the home stereo doesn't cut it in a the reception hall with 100 people. You can barely hear it. Your wedding reception goes well otherwise -- the flower are beautiful and the food is great, but you are so disappointed -- no announcements, no toasts, and no music. What you can do. Ask your DJ specifically what he will do if he is sick or for some reason cannot make it to the reception. Hire a DJ that has a good answer to this question and make a list of backups for all your wedding vendors, just in case.

NOTE: this is based on a true story. one of the best DJs (and wedding musicians) in the San Francisco Bay Area got his start many years ago when the regular DJ didn't show up for a wedding reception!

The guy who saved the day was a guitar player and singer who had been hired to sing at the wedding ceremony. When the DJ didn't show up, the bride was in tears. As a singer and guitar player, he had brought his own amplification equipment. His stereo combined with his fine amplification system saved the day!

7. Equipment Failure. Your DJ uses a computer system to help him play the music at your reception. While he is setting up his equipment, he notices a clicking sound from his laptop computer when he turns it on. Then the message appears, "fatal error cannot boot from hard drive. "I'm so sorry," he tells you, "my computer just crashed. There's nothing I can do."
What you can do: Ask your DJ what back systems he has in case there is a problem with his equipment. Pick a DJ who gives the best answer to this question.

Make a list of your Requirements!
Your Wedding Reception is a big part of your big day. There are many things that could go wrong. It is not fun to be a disappointed and angry bridezilla. However, with a little proactive planning you can ensure that things go smoothly. Here's one final tip: make a list of your requirements for a DJ. What kind of DJ do you want? Is quality most important to you or price? What kind of music do you expect him to be familiar with? Do you want him to entertain the guests? Or do you want thim to stay in the background and just make announcements to help the wedding flow smoothly? Do you want a DJ that will research songs and find them for you? A DJ that you can easily reach and work with you and other vendors to plan your reception? Do you want a DJ with professional DJ equipment, especially suited for weddings? Should the DJ be able to adapt to special circumstances, like an wedding on the beach with no electrical power?

If you have any questions about this article or your wedding reception, don't hesitate to contact me via the form at upper left or call me toll free at 866-401-3535. I'm always here to help you.

Warmest Regards,

Phil Seyer

Thanks for your interest in...

Wedding DJ SNAFUs and how to prevent them.