4 Reasons Why You Should DJ Weddings

Bridesmaids Dancing

Smart DJs know that weddings are the route to getting paid and getting a decent musical education. Pic:Bridal Guide

We all know the stereotype of the wedding DJ – decked out in a cheap, ill-fitting tux, playing nothing but five-year-old top 40 hits (and poorly mixed, at that), talking in an affected 1970s game show announcer voice while trying unsuccessfully to get everyone to do the Electric Slide.

Unfortunately, as most of you will have experienced, the stereotype is based in reality – many wedding DJs, to put it bluntly, just plain suck.

But chances are, if you let people know you’re a real, honest-to-goodness DJ, the question will inevitably arise: “Do you do weddings?”

And if you’re smart, you’ll immediately say yes – even if you’ve never played a wedding and never considered it. For a non-sucky DJ (that’s you), weddings are an ideal way to improve your technical and artistic skills, build your reputation, increase the number and variety of gigs on your calendar, and get paid good money for it. Not a bad deal at all.

Here’s why you should consider being a wedding DJ.

You’ll get paid

Sure, it’s great to spin trance tracks alone in your basement, impressing your 78 Mixcloud followers with your hottest set. It’s even better to keep your friend’s house party going full-blast long after the sun has come up, or warming up the happy hour crowd at a local bar or college hangout. Playing great music and getting people to dance is, for most of us, its own reward.

But unless you have a residency at a high-volume club, or you’re already working the pro circuit, chances are you’re having a lot of fun playing music, but you’re not making a lot of money. And here’s a little secret – there’s a lot of money to be had playing music. You can make a nice living (or at least make enough extra cash in one gig to buy that fancy new four-deck controller you’ve been fetishising over). You can even do it in times like ours when the global economy is circling the drain.

Because without fail, until the end of time, human beings will fall in love… and a large number of those starry-eyed couples will want to spend an inordinate amount of money to throw the biggest and most expensive party of their lives. Parties that in almost every case require music and dancing.

That’s where you come in. Do you want that money, or would rather someone else – maybe the cheeseball in the cheap tux – take it instead?

You’ll get better, faster

Being a DJ is much more than technical spinning skills (see 10 Commandments For Better Digital DJing, #1). A successful DJ shares the same qualities as all successful entertainers – polished interpersonal skills, proven technical ability, effective marketing – but uniquely and most importantly, he or she possesses an instinctive understanding of how to work a crowd and how to play precisely the right song at precisely the right time.

The best schooling you can get is playing for crowds of 50 to 300, aged 3 to 103, from every social strata, with musical preferences ranging from The Hokey Pokey to Eric Clapton to Skrillex… Pic: dexknows.com

You don’t develop that instinct mixing alone at home. You get it by raw experience. And the good news is, wherever you live, all around you, all year long, there are opportunities to gain that experience, and to get paid very well for that essential on-the-job education.

If you want to be taken seriously as a DJ, you need to play live, for real living, breathing humans. And the best schooling you can get is not found on YouTube, or expensive online mixing courses, or in getting a bunch of Likes on your Facebook page. The best schooling you can get is not found on YouTube, or expensive online mixing courses, or in getting a bunch of Likes on your Facebook page.

It’s playing for crowds of fifty to three-hundred, aged 3 to 103, from every social strata, with musical preferences ranging from The Hokey Pokey to Eric Clapton to Skrillex, many or most of them drunk, but all of them itching to burn off their roast beef and mashed potatoes dancing nonstop until the event manager tells you to pull the plug.

You, their DJ, are responsible for facilitating their good time. Your music and MC skills will make the wedding a party they’ll always remember, or prematurely end it in an embarrassingly painful bore-fest.

It’s a big responsibility, but fortunately, it’s not really that hard. The wedding-goers want to dance – it’s expected. They’re like big, drooling kindergarteners and eager to act like doofuses on the dance floor. And they’re much more forgiving than club crowds (trust me) and primed by booze to dance to almost anything you will play. And once you get good at weddings, you’ll have the confidence to play anywhere – clubs, bars, corporate parties, cruise ships, bar/bat mitzvahs, festivals, radio stations… you name it.

You’ll have gained the skills and the know-how to play a wide variety of music for any and every audience. It’s a school of hard-knocks, but the in-the-trenches, on-the-job education is unbeatable – and it will make you a true professional.

You’ll get a proper musical education

If you listen to progressive house, and only progressive house, and despise every other form of music, you’ll never make a good wedding DJ (you won’t make a good DJ, period, but that’s another discussion for another time). Being a wedding DJ requires that you understand and appreciate all genres of music – from Bach to Johnny Cash to 50s rock classics, jazz standards, Motown, 70s disco, 80s new wave, schmaltzy pop ballads, all the way to the latest top 10 Beatport tracks.

You don’t have to like it all – but you have to understand who likes it. Being a wedding DJ will broaden your musical knowledge by necessity. And unless you’re really closed-minded, you’ll discover some gems among genres you may have never listened to. You’ll actually like some of the music you’ve ignored, and understand why a song was a hit in 1942, ’52, ’62, ’72, ’82, ’92, ’2002, or what’s likely to still be burning up the dance floor in 2012. You’ll know music, not just a tiny slice of music.

You’ll be your own boss

If you’re a good wedding DJ, you’ll soon find yourself in demand. Many of my gigs lead to others (weddings are usually full of engaged and soon-to-be wedded couples), so you should always have a pocket full of business cards. Though you might need to rent your equipment at first, in just a few gigs you can make enough money to buy a high-quality mobile setup. Then the rest is up to you – the more you put into marketing yourself, the bigger your income can get.

Stage lighting

Lighting and PA gear can be rented, but soon enough if you have any success you’ll be able to afford your own.

Alternatively, you have the option of only doing a few weddings a year, when you feel like it or when you need some spare change. For a few hours of your time, that $1,000 or more can sure come in handy.

Next time…

So now I’ve hopefully convinced you that whatever your DJing aspirations, playing weddings can be a smart move, next time I’ll explain what it takes to get started as a 21st century digital wedding DJ.

Michael M. Hughes is a DJ, writer, and performer. He’s currently the resident DJ at the Baltimore Get Down and has played more than a hundred weddings and numerous private and corporate events. He’s compiling his hard-won wisdom in an upcoming guide for digital wedding DJs, which will be available from Digital DJ Tips.

Do you earn part or all of your DJ income from wedding DJing? Have you ever DJed a wedding with good or bad results? Or would you never consider doing this type of gig? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. StrangeMatter says:

    An interesting article but missing a key point. Yes, there is money to be made here, but if you’ve amassed a collection of house, trance and techno with a smattering of dubstep, drum & bass and hard dance, like I have, it’s clearly going to cost a small fortune to go out and buy the sort of music library required to make such a radical shift in DJing direction.
    Also, as someone aspiring to enter the club scene, I fail to understand how it can be a step forward when the money is taken out of the equasion. Maybe I’m missing something?

    • A friend of mine has a weekend residence at a dance spot and corporate event/wedding pays him 4x-8x as much as one night in the club. Plus he’s been able to make some surprising business networking connections and build his fan base both online and off with new people showing up to see him at his residency. All type of people show up at weddings.

      As far as building a legal music collection. I know my friend watches the bargain bins for compilations of hits of the 70′s etc and pics them up cheap. Amazon does the same think where you can buy mp3 compilations for cheap. For wedding the bridal couple will often give you a tracklist so you can limit the amount of music you needed.

    • You’d probably be surprised how many club DJs, including superstar DJs, started off DJing weddings.

      The similarities far outweigh the differences between wedding and club gigs, so there is without fail plenty to be learned from any DJing that comes your way. Plus, DJing in public is the most important thing – wherever and to whomever – for DJs who want to learn the universal skills.

      I have an acquaintance who makes a good living offering two types of DJ sets – a “funk set” (for he is a funk & disco club DJ by choice) and a more “traditional” wedding set. Brides and grooms can “book” the one they want, and he gets to play what he loves some of the time, and what is expected of him at other events. In reality, he says, they can all be good gigs.

      Having said all of that, personally I turn down weddings as a rule – but I’ve DJed enough of them in my time to know that I could do one again if I decided to.

      • Phil is right. When I started Djing 4 years ago, I started as a wedding DJ. Some of the most fun I had were at weddings. I bought most of my gears with the money I made from Djing. DJing a wedding does help you A LOT with music knowledge because you will learn how to entertain 7 years old and a 77 years old lady. The bottom line is, it’s FUN!!! I don’t Dj as much wedding as I use to because of my other gigs but anything I need money and I need it quick I would do a wedding.

    • Even if you take money out of the question, you still get live, in-the-moment experience working a diverse crowd. That kind of experience is critical if you want to be successful DJing anywhere, and you can’t get it playing at home for an audience of one.

      As for expanding your music collection, consider it an investment. Greatest hits packages are useful and can sometimes work for a complete mini-set (70s disco, for example). And you will meet with the couple before the gig, so they’ll let you know what they want to hear—that will help you narrow down your purchases. Once you’ve done a few wedding gigs you’ll have a good idea about what works best, and you can narrow down your playlists accordingly. And nowadays, with an iPhone or other mobile device, you can add a song you might not have on the fly. I wish I’d had that option years ago!

      My point is to encourage aspiring DJs to take the inevitable wedding offers. Weddings aren’t for everyone, but for all the reasons I elaborated on in the article, they can help you build your reputation while gaining experience and making money. I only do a few weddings a year these days, but I still enjoy them.

  2. in my area…….it is required to be a wedding dj……everything else is secondary…..

  3. How about one of the best reasons: the single girls at every single wedding ever?

    • Lo.Definition says:

      All about this one. And it’s a riot breaking out cheese covered tracks from the 90′s that make you laugh and playing them back to back with even more laughable stuff from today. People watching, drunken debauchery and good times.

      • You guys make it seem like DJ’ing weddings it the pinnacle of a DJs career… are weddings really better than say DJing at a strip club?

      • DJing at strip clubs is really good depending on your character, theres too much temptation. I did it for around 6 months and got exhausted, too much partying, alcohol, drugs passing in front of your eyes, sex, its all downhill, and it was work 7 days a week, they opened every single day. Was a fun lifestyle for a little while and specially when you are young, you get very good tips also, but definitely not what you would want to do for living imho.

    • To Tehk – that’s a bit snobby if you don’t mind me saying, I been lucky enough to play in massive raves, great residencies, huge festivals, some god-awful dives, and everything in between, and had fun at the best of all of them. What’s wrong with playing weddings (or strip clubs, come to that)? :D

      • Tehk—I know plenty of wedding DJs who make *very* good money playing the upscale markets. It’s their sole job, so it can be their own personal pinnacle. I’d rather regularly play weddings and corporate gigs than not play at all, or only infrequently at a club. Snobbery is something I’ve never understood, and most working DJs don’t knock their peers.

        I take on a few weddings a year these days. Years ago the money I made doing weddings was very welcome. Now I’m selective—I do weddings for the high-end market, and only those I think I’ll enjoy. And it can be a blast. In addition to a paycheck, I usually get a nice meal, drinks all night, a hefty tip, great people-watching, and the satisfaction of packing a dance floor and sending everyone home happy.

      • dj steve says:

        As someone who has DJ’d weddings, huge raves, and nightclubs AND currently holds a residency at a strip club, I can tell you without a doubt that unless you are a headliner at the major festivals and raves, DJing weddings is far and away the most money you will make djing. It is also by far the most work. Hauling a lighting and soundsystem, setting it up and breaking it down. It also requires the longest hours and the most music.

        Also if you want to get into this kind of work, do your best to work for yourself and not one of the “mobile dj companies”. $150 an hour is the standard price for a wedding dj, dont let someone else take a cut of your money.

  4. Victor_M says:

    Most Wedding DJ’s suck is because they are still using pre mixed 60 and 70′s medleys with a 1 2 beat. This worked great in the early 90′s but now a days not so much. The NY bride usually wants top 40 with a splash of hip hop not to be dancing to stuff they remember their parents cleaning the house too.

    “(weddings are usually full of engaged and soon-to-be wedded couples)”
    Make sure you energy is over the top and those soon to be wedded will come rushing for cards.

    Remember when they talk about the wedding they never say “Wow the Centerpieces looked wonderful” its always “wow the DJ had me dancing the whole night…the energy was incredible.)

  5. Weddings are the best, at least in latin america.
    - Easy Cash and like you said a wedding is not a cheap event, its that special event where they will throw their savings away for just one night to remember.
    - Big part of the time is ambient music, dinner, speech, etc, etc, finally like 3 hours of dancing.
    - Free food for us.
    - Free alcohol for us.
    - Free chicks, you will always get the single girl that wants to hit on the DJ. Be careful and follow-up afterwards, you are working after all that night :p
    - Not sure how is it in the US but we get to spin salsa, merengue, reggaeton, electronic, disco, and plenty of more genres so its easy to have the people dancing all night.
    - Easy to build connections for future wedding deals or even sweet 15 (its not 16 in latin america) since the guests might have daughters reaching that age.
    - i know im missing even more benefits :)

  6. I don’t fully agree with the article, and I also don’t like this mentality sometimes that being a hobbyist/bedroom DJ is some “bad thing”. My choice to be bedroom was honestly because of a lot of “been there, done that” thinking, and I wanted to enjoy DJing more. For me personally, I had to get away from the idea of trying to make something lucrative out of it.

    I will tell any DJ who isn’t sure about doing wedding and mobile events to do one and then decide. I did one wedding in my life. Nothing bad happened and even the happy couple was very pleased with my work. The only thing was that I was not pleased with any of it. I came from rave culture, and that’s what I wanted to be in. I didn’t want to play the chicken dance at some formal thing, but to pound some great electronic music for a large audience.

    IMHO, you can’t get to that large crowd by being a mobile/event DJ. I even went into this in Part 1 of the “How to Succeed at DJing” series. In Chicago, the mobile guys do just that…mobile. Outside of that, you’ll see them playing in party bars and suburban spots that call for the same type of DJ. You don’t see them opening for a big name at the big downtown spot.

    I think the valid and true point of this article is that if you as a DJ want to make good money and build all of this into a career, then invest in being a mobile/wedding/event DJ. I will agree it pays way better than the rest. I get maybe gas money to drive four hours to some rave in the middle of nowhere to play for an hour. A wedding DJ gets thousands for one night. Even many club and bar residents do not get as much.

    I also toss out there that if you want to be the more “underground” kind of DJ, then accept the reality that you need to be producing music, working the industry in some way, and building a large marketing/PR base for yourself like you’re a popstar. You have to starve, sacrifice, and work your tail off to be a well-paid headliner.

    That…or be a bedroom DJ and call the shots any way you like. Just don’t complain that “crap DJs” are playing in the clubs and you’re not. Don’t complain the scene is a mess and doesn’t like what you like.

    My choice to be bedroom is because I can only enjoy DJing when I do it on my own terms. To have that, I gave up any idea of being a “success”. I’m honestly happy with my decision, but I would probably agree with the viewpoint that many of you younger guys need to go out, play gigs you end up not liking, get burned a few times…OR…end up getting lucky and finding a niche. That’s how you’ll know where you want to go in DJing.

    CHOOSE to be a bedroom DJ when you’ve tried the rest and know you would rather keep it at a hobby level.

  7. Good points, D-Jam, and I respect your desire to remain true to your taste and own path. I don’t mean to disparage bedroom/hobbyist DJs at all, just to correct the perception that wedding DJs are somehow inferior to those who play clubs. I also want to encourage newbies and bedroom DJs to consider weddings as a way to get legitimate and useful live experience. And to actually get paid for doing it.

    And I have to disagree about going from being a mobile DJ to playing large crowds because it contradicts my own experience. I went from house parties for friends (my first gigs) to my first paid gigs doing weddings. From direct contacts at weddings, and through the agency I was working for, I did corporate gigs, private parties, outdoor events, and 800+ people at the Hard Rock Café Christmas party in DC. Maybe in Chicago it’s a different story, but working as a mobile DJ doesn’t mean you can’t branch out. And I still say the experience playing for *any* crowd is useful (with the occasional awful exception).

    I come from rave culture, too, and I’d much rather play some funky house or techno than “Wonderful Tonight” or “We are Family” for the 300th time. But I still enjoy the occasional wedding gig, and some of those weddings lead to parties where I can play the stuff I really like.

    Ultimately you are correct—weddings aren’t for everyone. For me, I learned a helluva lot, and that experience has helped me tremendously.

    • I hear you. I usually look at wedding DJs as having a harder job and never see them as “inferior”, but different. Many in the club have a smaller/easier range of music to play while wedding DJs could go from country to Jewish folk music and then to pop in one night.

      Again, I think it comes down to what you want out of it all. I think that wedding/mobile DJs will always make way better money than the club DJs do. The big pay headliners are a very small minority of the vast amounts of guys who play whole nights for $100…compared to the thousands a wedding DJ gets.

      The branching out can happen depending on your scene. It’s why I tossed up the idea in the past article about making up a persona for the club DJ and then a separate one for the mobile DJ. I just know promoters who book openers for the big names, and they would never take a DJ seriously who plays weddings. It’s their view that they want some hipster type who eats, sleeps, and breathes underground dance music.

      BUT…I do see plenty of times where the mobile DJ is able to hold residencies in mainstream music venues.

      • Yea u right ,I ussualy get booked for 7-8 hours at mobile gigs,while its half of that at the club,u gotta have a wide variety of music to b able to play that long without reapeting the same cuts over and over

  8. i recently did a wedding for a fellow dj of mine it was great fun i did learn from that experience as far as music( the groom was hispanic, the bride was white) so i had a wide variety of music playing and everybody was happy,( from country to oldies to reggaeton to mexican folk just to name a few) i love my mobile gigs, they do pay better and i get to experiment with all kinds of music, i personally like that i can have the freedom to swich up styles like that, needless to say i got some work out of that weddin, im havin another wedding this saturday from a hispanic girl that was at the party and another one from a friends of the bride next month, i just love my job and havin way too much fun with it!!

  9. I was a wedding photographer for 12 years. It was always a relief to get to the reception cuz my hard work was over and the DJ took control. YMCA/We Are Family/Celebration are the Unholy Trinity of Evil in my mind. Brown Eyed Girl literally gives me dry heeves. I hated wedding DJs for years.

    Now I’m an up and coming DJ and would take a wedding gig w a very explicit contract of what won’t be played. That would be my angle to stand out from a crowded field.

    Zero Cheese Factor.

    I’m doing a house party this weekend for friends and word will spread about my skills. I will do whatever I have to in order to land the dream gig. But I ain’t playin those three songs!

    • While I admire your anti-cheese factor idea (and I could go the rest of my life without hearing those three songs) I’m not sure it’s a good idea. You might really limit your opportunities to get decent gigs.

      First, it’s the couple’s wedding. It’s their party and for the pleasure of their guests. You’re their employee if they are signing the check, so if they want Celebration, they should have it.

      I have met with couples who have explicitly stated, “No [insert song here], period.” Or couples who have said, “Nothing cheesy” or “No rap.” But guess what? You’ll get a cute posse of kids coming up to you requesting the effing Electric Slide/Chicken Dance/Booty Call or some other perversion. Because they like it, and it’s the only thing they’ll dance to all night. Or a hot bridesmaid/groomsman asking for a song that is important to her/him. Or a grandparent hobbles up to you with a request.

      So when I meet with the couple, I explain to them that as a DJ, the guests expect me to have all the cheesy and traditional stuff. I can’t say, “I don’t have it,” because, well, what DJ wouldn’t have Celebration? I say to the couple, “I’ll tell them YOU don’t want me to play it, so YOU will have to explain why they can’t have their favorite song or do their favorite line dance that they ONLY dance to at weddings.” I also point out that although it’s their wedding, the guests come with certain expectations, including dancing to a favorite song.

      Most of the time the couples understand and agree to let me honor requests, even for stuff they can’t personally stand. When they see a gaggle of their relatives doing the Electric Slide, they realize it’s not about the quality of the song, but the enjoyment of the communal dance. It’s much better to play something cheesy that makes a lot of people happy than to forbid such a song because you personally can’t stand it.

      IMHO, that is.

    • I wish you luck, but in my opinion you won’t land a lot of gigs.

      There are couples who just love the cheese tunes, and many more who claim to hate them, but honestly don’t.

      My best friend’s wedding the DJ tried to play other stuff, but the floor cleared. Put on the cheese, and the floor was packed. It’s just the mentality and non-music aficionados expect and look forward to the cheesey wedding tunes no matter who claims they are lame.

      “I don’t care…it’s fun music, and I want to have fun!”

      I’ve had friends who didn’t want cheese played at their wedding, but as Michael alluded to, just because the couple doesn’t want it doesn’t mean the crowd will also not want it.

      I’ve had brides and grooms who were friends tell me they can’t believe the DJ played it when they asked for that stuff not to be played. I simply replied they are at the mercy of the crowd, and he would rather irk the bride and groom but keep everyone there, then hold his ground and watch everyone leave. Seen that too…where the reception goes from 200 people to 50 people in the span of an hour right after dinner.

      I think any bride and groom would tolerate the cheese before they watch their night collapse.

      This is why I don’t play weddings. I also despise that music and hope whenever I get married to not even have a traditional reception. However, it’s not my place to take someone’s money and then tell them what they can or can’t hear.

      We all hate the cheese, and many others claim to hate it as well…but there are many more who would rather have a party of ONLY the cheese and nothing more. It’s like the people who go to a concert of an older band and they only want to hear their classic anthems, rather than new stuff they did.

    • Squarecell says:

      Current wedding photog here.

      I see your unholy trinity and raise you an “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll” – hands down the most irritating song ever spun at a wedding.

      Your “explicit contract” idea is like a wedding photographer saying he will only shoot with a 35mm lens. Great for you if you want to preserve your artistic integrity; bad if you want to actually land wedding gigs.

      p.s. What do you have against Van Morrison? That man is god.

  10. @posses u don’t have to play those songs,it just depends who u playing for,personally if they requested them songs,hey its they party and they paying

  11. The weddings are the most well paid gigs that I have.when I started dj’ing it was a very important way to make money, doing it what I like instead 9 to 5 job.
    I learnt a lot about amps, speakers, voltage and the most important the crowd read factor.
    Nowadays I do very few weddings, with non-sense rates and I tell them before hand that come to the club to see me and if you like it , it is what you should expect. It works, the audience and the couple they feel they have a unique wedding because it is different (at least in music) than the other 90% of weddings they have been.
    I charge beet wen 5 and 10 times my usual club rate.
    And for me I never understand the dj who only plays to himself, posting in forums, uploading illegal mixes to sound cloud. As a hobby it is pretty cool but you can not call yourself a dj without playing in front of a crowd, it is like these movie directors who never made a movie

  12. Good article, just want to provide an alternative view.

    You have stereotyped what a DJ is.

    There is also a (fairly large) group of guys who love finding music they love and sharing that with people.

    Years ago (about 15) I decided I only really enjoyed playing music I like. So dropped the mobile gigs and just started playing music for myself.

    As I result, I have ended up really only playing to DJ’s and Producers, but I am ok with that.

    The only path for a DJ is not making money, or playing every weekend in a club. Some of us are just, really, really about the music.

    However, if you do want to learn to play to a ‘pop’ crowd, commercial situations and the like, then yeah, mobile work is great. Pays better than most clubs these days as well.

    I think some of the degradation in club culture at the moment is due to DJs taking too many cues off the punter, and not trying to educate, but that’s a different article, I guess…

    Do you think people expected Larry Levan to play what they wanted? Or do you think they wanted to hear what Larry had to play?

  13. And by the way never, ever play a song that the couple asked not to be played, it is their party not your mini moment of stardom

    • Agreed. However, if the couple asked me not to play “We Are Family” and a bunch of the bride’s female relatives swarmed me, begging me to play it so they could all dance together, I’d tell them “Go talk to the bride. She didn’t want me to play it. If she says it’s okay, I’ll play it.” 95% of the time the bride and groom, usually in their cups by that point, will say, “Sure, tell him to play it.”

      Again, the best way to prevent music problems is have a thorough chat with the couple in advance.

      • Agreed that the 6 P’s come in to play here:
        Proper, Prior, Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Having a sit down with your clients & discussing/advising music & how to handle requests ahead of time is essential. I have great success in reminding the ‘do not play’ fixated couples that, although they’re the guests of honor, essentially they’re HOSTS & wouldn’t they want all their guests to be happy ? Usually they’ll understand & leave it up to me. Sure, you’ll have a few that still insist on no WRFamily or whatever.

        BUT have to totally disagree on the “Go ask the Bride” advice. Your job is to navigate those waters & serve your client at that precise moment. Not worry about the potential for more work, not your own musical taste or anything else. Telling guests to go bother the bride is not cool. Next time try explaining that it’s on the DO NOT PLAY list & offer to help that gaggle of bridesmaids find something else that would serve the same purpose & fit the style of the couple as well. Just my 2 cents. From a service perspective it’s the same as a waiter telling a vegetarian….’well, the bride only ordered chicken…go ask her’. NO…go the kitchen & figure it out. Be of service, take care of your clients, exceed their expectations. You’re the expert.

  14. The one time I had a young couple request “club music, and only club music” I tried to talk them out of it. They didn’t budge—it was their party and they loved clubbing and didn’t heed my advice. After 15 hellish minutes of an empty dance floor and puzzled stares, the bride came up to me and asked, “Can you play some *good* club music?” (I gritted my teeth but smiled). I played a couple of her requests—she danced with the groom, but only a few of her friends joined them.

    I could feel the animosity rolling off the guests like waves.

    Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and put on a 70s disco hit of some sort or another. Instantly the floor was packed. And I just kept going with my usual mix of dance standards and some of my curveball tracks. I finally segued into some house at the end of the night when the younger people were the only ones dancing. A perfect end to what could have been a disastrous evening.

    • Yeah. That is a common one.

      I still get asked (occasionally) to play something like a wedding, birthday, family event – and am often told ‘oh just play like you do in the club’ – to which I normally politely suggest one of the many DJ’s I know who would do a better job.

      I know my music, and I know the situations where it works.

      However, on saying that, when I first got into DJing, I used to play between bands – heavy/speed/black/death metal bands – and would generally be going with the likes of Orbital/FSOL and the like… THAT used to get some reactions. Some of Laurent Garnier’s early tunes at Punk Parties used to work as well…

      • Lol Kerry, when an extended family function is being planned, wedding, engagement, christening or what have you and the question goes out ” does anyone know a good DJ” and the eyes turn to my direction, I smile sweetly and keep my mouth shut

    • If couples know their guests … and they also want club stuff you can get away with it. But a lot of weddings are networking events from the B&G parents with some friends of the couple …

  15. First off I am working in the wrong country if the prices you quote in the states are to be believed. Lucky in my area of the UK to make $60 per hour – that’s the norm!

    Suggesting weddings as a way of DJays gaining experience is doing a great disservice to those “stereotype DJs”. Many of us “wedding DJs” take a great pride in working through a 4 to 6 hour set list and maintaining interest of the guests and again things may be different in the USA but UK audiences take a lot more skill to engage – I think us limeys are probably a little more reserved about dancing so getting the selection and mixes just right is even more crucial.

    If DJays need to learn their trade and earn their corn please don’t inflict their work experience on the already saturated mobile dj market, especially not for weddings. Wedding DJs need a mature attitude and a wide appreciation of musical genres, even if they can only manage a crusty old Tux!

  16. I agree with D-Jam, i aint in this for the money, its for the love of music..

    And weddings? I’d rather stick hot pins in my eyes.
    Those guys sure have to work hard to earn their money- Fact.

    The thought of all those demanding me me me slappers asking for Lady Gaga all night just brought a bit of sick up ;-)

    • It is definitely hard work sometimes. Sometimes it’s a piece of cake (no pun intended)—it all depends upon the makeup of the crowd.

      I guess I’m lucky in that I have a pretty wide taste in music, and my fondest childhood memories are listening to Abba and the Bee Gees, so that still resonates with me and I don’t mind playing it. Often, the dinner music set is the most enjoyable for me—I get to play some old standards, acid-jazzy tracks, and the like. I find I can be much more creative with that material and really mix it up. Later, sure, I can be on autopilot with the dance music, but I try to challenge myself (and the guests) by working in some of the stuff I *prefer* to play. Sometimes it works.

      Again, different strokes. Hot pins in my eyes would be playing 4-hours of peppy vocal trance. But 4 hours of prog/tribal/deep/funky house is paradise.

  17. I live in Belgium, most of my gigs are wedding gigs. I played smaller clubs, bars, underground dances, festival afterparties some of them were massive and a once in a lifetime experience. By accident I rolled into weddings … wedding of a friend, lead to another wedding and it became a snowball effect.

    I totally agree with a lot of stuff in the article, but if you create your marketing model (website, image, …) with a certain vision, attitude, you get booked for that.
    I can play the cheesy things, I can do schlagers, chicken dances and polonaises, but I don’t have to do it.
    I do not get a lot of bookings where people ask me for that stuff, they don’t want a dj that is singing along or playing games to get the party going.
    They want a dj that is able to mix some classic with new stuff from pop to dance to rnb.

    The extra I earn with it is to cover my Gear Acquisition Syndrome but the main goal is to get the energy of making people dance, see them having a good time on the things you spin together, trying to get them insane on a tune they didn’t knew or expect to come at that time … and in the end get tons of appreciation.

    • Ugh—you’ve pointed out one of my pet peeves: games and other tomfoolery. That’s where I draw my own personal line. I’ll MC the garter routine or other traditional or ethnic rituals, but I’m quite emphatic that I’m not there to be Mr. Sing-a-long wearing a funny hat. Thankfully, most of the upscale weddings don’t want that sort of nonsense anyway.

  18. Andrew R says:

    I find fault in the assumption everyone can dj weddings. If you can’t accomodate everyone and your music knowledge is limited to certain genres, stay home. This is not the venue to work on your craft. You are being paid great money to provide great product for one of the biggest days in their life.

    Also you will need to buy wireless mics and lavalier mics…

    • It’s not that everyone could or should DJ weddings—it’s that it’s worth considering. And I’ve never used wireless mics—I have a decent wired mic with a long cord and anyone who needs to use it steps up (as I explain to them in advance). It’s never been a problem, even at upscale gigs. People understand the concept of holding and speaking into a traditional mic, but wireless mics can confuse them. Too complicated for me, though I know plenty of DJs who use them. Simplicity is good.

  19. When an ex-manager planned a wedding reception at a local hotel, the hotel provided their resident DJ. The guy was pretty good. From the get go, DJs should be open-minded to all forms of music. Stick to one style, the less gigs you get. My open-mind gained me a slot to DJ 80s hair-metal one night. Good article.

  20. I agree it’s not something to reject out of hand, but at the same time, there are people whose interests and aspirations make them unsuited to wedding gigs.

    Obviously this blog is aimed at a broad cross-section of DJs, and those DJs who fall into my (purist, elitist, obsessive) camp are more vocal than we are numerous, so take my comments with a pinch of context.

    That said, there are people for whom a wedding gig would be a step backwards. I’ve come close in agreeing to DJ a couple of house parties, which devolved into an awkward “I’m not that kind of DJ” after I turned up with a psygressive/breaks set and was asked to play 70s pop. I had (mistakenly) assumed that the hosts in question, having heard me play at festivals several times, had invited me due to liking “my” style. In practice, they had assumptions about DJing that more closely aligned with the traditional wedding DJ, and the mismatch of expectations was painful for both parties.

    For example, I can’t imagine that many of the DJs behind the DJ Kicks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DJ-Kicks) series have regularly played wedding gigs, if at all. I’m not claiming these (legendarily awesome) DJs are representative of the entire community, but they represent a specific path DJs can take and I suspect many DJs aspire to be like them.

    In some ways, depending on your long-term goals, there are things that aren’t worth doing for any amount of money. In addition to DJing/production, I’m software developer. I have a clear set of professional ethics, and I will not breach them regardless of my clients’ wishes. In the short term this can cost me money (and occasionally clients), but in the long term, you do not become the next 37Signals, Twitter or Aphex Twin by compromising on your basic principles, or by allowing others to distract you from your long-term goals.

    We’re often told that we must stick to “reasonable” goals. We’re presented with a false dichotomy: conform and succeed, or stick to our principles and fail. To be frank, I think this is bullshit. Can you think of a single successful artist or businessman who achieved their fame by doing what others told them was reasonable?

    In the DJing world the choice is presented as conforming and getting gigs, or remaining a bedroom purist.

    There are many DJs who are successful, not because they play what people want, but because people want to hear what they play.

    In conclusion, if you want to DJ weddings, go for it! But make sure it’s what you want, not something other people claim you ought to do.

    • Great points. I still think occasionally stepping outside of one’s comfort zone can be worth it, especially if you’ve never had experience playing live. But for those determined to play only a specific genre or just produce, it might not be worth it.

  21. I got so bored of playing weddings. I started doing them when I was 17. By the time I was 20 I had had enough of lugging all my kit (turntables back then with ,PA, lighting kit, smoke machine etc.) And it seriously didnt feel worth the £200 I was paid each time.
    The experience is great, and if you can try and do it, but I prefer to get paid under £50 and have the club provide the sound system and lights. Coupled with the lighter load of digital djing, my back feels alot better :P

    • Yeah, lugging around the equipment is a chore. I’ve sometimes hired assistants for bigger gigs, just for setup and teardown. But that’s not always possible or feasible.

      At least the equipment has gotten lighter—my Mackie speakers weigh a lot less than the back-breaking monstrosities I used to schlep around.

  22. I flat out refused to allow a DJ at our wedding. I didn’t want the night to end in a fist fight when I got annoyed at the shoddy job they were doing. Spotify did the job superbly with three or four careful playlists throughout the day. :)

  23. eric hillis says:

    i played my first and last wedding a couple of weeks ago. when i arrived i sensed a foul atmosphere, the brides family were ridiculously drunk and the grooms side seemed really unhappy with this. from before i played my first tune i was being verbally abused. i complained to the bar manager but he wasnt willing to kick out paying guests. it ended with me having to leave an hour in after the brides mother broke my laptop screen. never again :(

    • Oh, man, I’ve had some pretty awful wedding gigs but that takes the proverbial cake. That would put me off doing weddings forever, too.

      The only time I’ve ever been verbally abused was at a big holiday party many years ago when I started to play “Under Pressure.” It was around the time that Vanilla Ice had a hit song that started with the same riff. Once everyone realized it was the original and not the Ice Man, the booing stopped :-)

  24. I love deejaying weddings!! They’re fun as hell, if your fun! Fixate weddings require the latest top-40 and a skilled MC. If your a little weak on a mic, weddings can spell disaster for you. I went to a cousins wedding in Michigan and the DJ was much older. I thought this could be a long night. He actually was an excellent mc and he played a great mix and threw in current hit songs. if your some club dude wit the sideways baseball hat with the flat bill and punk attitude, weddings might not be your bag. However if you are a pretty fun guy with above average mic skills, your services will be in demand!

    • Wise words. It’s not for everyone, but a full, happy dancefloor is a full, happy dancefloor at the end of the day.

    • MIC SKILLS…YES…I’ve been reading through this thread & you’re the first to mention the importance of being a strong MC.
      Wedding DJs in my market (Miami) are expected to be A LOT more than just a DJ.
      DJ=Play Music, Feel the Crowd, Keep the Dance Floor packed.
      MC= EVERYTHING ELSE…in the context of a wedding, that’s a TON of work & experience.
      The advice of this article never mentions the importance of: Announcements, traditions, guiding the timeline, having a wireless mic for toasts & a host of other requirements you would need to have for making the money they’re talking about.
      Music, imho, is about 50-60% of the Wedding DJ’s job. Make sure you look into that other 40-50% before you jump in.

  25. DJ Majestic says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with DJ’ing weddings. I have played at many of them over a 35 year career. I still play them. When Chelsea Clinton got married last year, they paid her DJ $40,000.00. This was published in the NY Daily News. Since then I realized I was fishing in the wrong pool. I have since began doing more corporate & upscale gigs. I was already doing well with the school system. Those are great because all events occur doing school days and usually doing school hours when the equipment would usually be sitting at home idle. Best of of luck to all DJ’s everywhere no matter what type of gigs you do.

  26. As a working DJ / mobile business owner I actually enjoy playing for wedding receptions. I love meeting new people and making there lives a little more fun for one more night. Here in the southwest part of the US in my city we average about 600 plus weddings per year. There is only 52 weeks in a year and not many wedding day dj’s, you do the math. We all help each other out due to the high volume of weddings but we are also very aware of whos who lol. Within my company, I have contracts with night clubs, casinos, and country clubs. All of my jocks are paid accordingly and have never strayed away. It’s all in what you enjoy the most and what you feel the most comfortable doing. Cross training is key but I wouldn’t make any of my dj’s play a set that they dont feel 100% gig ready. Again, I really like the wedding set but I myself will play some club sets and concert intros…heck I guess I’d play just about any type of gig, I just love Dee Jaying period!!! DJ Malarky out.

  27. The best thing about the article is the amount of conversation it has created.

    I make a living from spinning weddings & corporate events. I have created this niche in a rather “small” city that has a desperate need for a wide variety of good music. There is enough great music that you shouldn’t have to rely on “the holy trinity” and its loyal followers (Chicken dance, Macarena, etc…).

    By the way – there are also several club DJs out there that suck just as bad as the stereotyped “wedding DJ”.

  28. A good article, however my concern is that this seems to be encouraging unskilled, and untrained DJ’s to “learn new skills” at the most important day of a couples life. I have been a DJ for over 30 years and I write for major publications as a wedding expert and teach workshops for wedding vendors and DJ’s, and one of the largest problems in the wedding industry is people who jump in without the proper training to do weddings. Weddings are SUBSTANTIALLY different from a club gig or a birthday party. They require a lot of preparation and meeting time. It is NOT about your mixing skills or how cool you look “spinning” but how amazing you can make this special day for the couple.

    The skills as a master of ceremony and event director are far more important than music mixing and “DJ performance”. Nothing wrong with more great DJ’s in the wedding business, just don’t take the assignment lightly. On average I spend 30 or more hours in preparation for an average wedding.

    You should become a wedding DJ if you are prepared to take the steps necessary to be outstanding at what you do in the planning, coordination and execution of a wedding and reception, otherwise, stay in the club (or basement) and don’t screw up somebodys wedding in an effort to just make more money.

  29. I have been DJ’ing since 1977…started back when we spun 7 inch singles on cheap turntables on a mono sound rig a hand built 4 channel mixer derived from an old Fender mixer amp, pumping thru guitar amps and duo 12 inch speaker cabinets. The company I worked for took work from all over the place….weddings, 21sts, sports club socials, dine and dances at hotels and pubs…and I got a very good background in what people wanted….now here I am 35 years later still working and still doing Weddings, birthday parties…dine and dance social and loving it. I spent some years in residency work in night clubs…but most of my time has been as Mobile DJ…carrying my gear from place to place and having fun. For most of my lifetime I have worked 2 and 3 nights a week…only recently has that slowed down to 1 and 2 nites a week…and I would not change a thing….

    After reading all the dos and don’t of being a wedding DJ…I think it is safe to say that I was taught the right way and continue to do well as a wedding DJ…I would feel out of place now if I went back to only playing in a Club…sort of claustrophobic music wise….out here in the mobile world I get to play any thing and everything….no limits…when I played in clubs there was always a certain genre or style to play to…to keep the punters happy. Our here in party world…they want to dance to anything and everything…all in one night… Yes you get those old standards that keep the floor full…and sometimes you cringe but when the Mararena dacing groomsman comes up to you at the end of the night and hands you a couple of thousand…you know why you play those old tracks…

    Something I noticed here in the comments was how new DJ’s freak out when they turn up at the end of the reception to drunk people wanting to dance…trouble is not the drunk clients…it is the DJ…he should have been there from the start of the wedding reception..not at the end of the dining and only for the dancing…if you start at a wedding at the beginning with the cocktail hour…you get a chance to interact and serve the couple all night long…playing their favorite dance tracks for the march in…cutting of the cakes, speeches, back ground music during the dinner, first dance and the rest…all without guessing what to play cause you would have met with the wedding couple weeks in advance and found out what they want to do for their wedding….

    You are gonna get paid well for doing a good job….and you get to use great gear you have bought from money you got for working well in the first place…yes being a wedding DJ is not everybodies thing….but for those of us who can do it well..we are enjoying the benefits of it…both socially and financially…
    for more info on who I am…look me up @
    http://www.weddingdjsforyou.com

  30. The Wedding and Wedding Reception (to me) are the easiest event to DJ at. I have developed a DJ Wedding/Reception planner that I have using for two years now. It makes being a Wedding DJ as easy as saying your ABCs. Planning with and communicating with wedding party is critical and well worth the effort. Also at reception there’s usually two or more couples who are getting married soon. I only DJ on Saturdays and Sundays and I do four to six weddings a month.
    One thing I must admit: I won’t DJ a wedding with proper planning. No one will ever utter the words “that DJ messed up my wedding.”

    • “One thing I must admit: I won’t DJ a wedding with proper planning. No one will ever utter the words ‘that DJ messed up my wedding’.” – fine words.

  31. I had been a radio and club DJ for decades, and a few years ago, Is tarted to DJ weddings occasionally, starting working for free for my good friends, then charging in the communtity. One thing you guys need to be warned about: Wedding Planners. I don’t think I’ve encountered one who was a reasonable human being yet. It’s a job people take beacuse they are control freaks. They will frazzle your nerves to the ends, and they woll also give you advice that will kill the dancefloor. You think you’re supposed to be listening to this person’s advice, but seriously, they often don’t have an ability to read the crowds or the tunes.

    I recvently did an event where the planner had me relocating my equipment several times throughout the night, and, while she didn’t help, she followed me and goaded me to “hurry up” the entire way. If she had been a man, I think she would have been “on the floor,” and not in a dancing way.

    To those of you that have developed good personal relationships with a particular planner, good idea. I’ve generally been hired directly by the coupkles, who seem nice enough, and like they know what they want, and then the day of the wedding, you don’t have access to the reasonable people, and I am introduced to the crazy planner who actually tries to tell me what to do, even if it undermines the bride and groom. I know where my real responsibilities/allegiances lie, but like I said, the planner will be in your face all night, the ncie people you met and wrote up a contract with will be too busy to set her straight. I’d like to say, I pulled out my “DJ badge” and made her “respect my authoritah,” but that’s not really what I think the role of a DJ should be.

  32. DJ AL (aka DJ Spice) says:

    DJs need to stop hating on each other. There are many niches to cover and very few DJs are capable of filling them all. In Florida where I live DJs play this I am better than you game all the time. Commenting on each others gear, and how they played for the queen of England ect. I laugh and do what I do best. Play good music for an appreciative crowd. I appreciate the dive bar DJs as well as the $1000.00 a night DJs. I do a regular night club gig as well as weddings. The weddings are much harder to do, and at times can be a pain in the ass, but I generally have a good time, and feel really good at the end of the night. ( and yes, they do pay 3 to 6 times more than my club gig) DJs need to show more respect towards each other. I have been doing this for 32 years and I have never claimed to be a Kid Capri. I just want to spin some music and get paid. I love all genres and in my opinion a person that truly is into music will not limit themselves to one genre. Music is supposed to be fun. The cheese can get old , but I still get a chuckle watching a 70 year old or 10 year old do the Electric Slide. Enjoy your craft, strive to be the best you can be without comparing yourself to others, and have fun.

  33. I don’t agree with “You’ll get a proper musical education” at weddings. Many DJs are in it for the money and not because they care or love what they do.

    I’ve been DJaying for 5 years or so now at all kinds of places and love what I do.

  34. This is such a true article. I started out just being a kj host with my own equipment. Then I did karaoke for a wedding. All along I had DJ software from the same company as my KJ software but had just played with it a little (which is not the same as hands on experience). I was asked if I DJ’d and of course I said “YES, I DO!”. I found some second hand lights and nervously going into it performed my first DJ job. I found that for Weddings and private parties people just want a DJ that listens to their requests. You get paid $400-$600 and sometimes more just to simply make people happy by listening. I also learned how to use my DJ software quickly and nobody ever caught on that I was practically a Virgin DJ. They loved me and rebooked me, said I was the best DJ they had ever had (which made me feel sorry for the people of my city) and walked away with $400 in my hand for 2 1/2 hours of complete fun and a paid education (literally) I also found out I enjoy the DJ more than the KJ. But I’ll take either for a happy crowd. My advice…listen to your crowd. The benefit…you will never get bored because it will be a new show every time.

  35. There are so many aspects to being a wedding dj. Its not something anybody should just jump into with no hands on training. I operate a multi-op dj business and I find most club djs don’t have clue what to play at a wedding . So get a friend who is in the business and offer to be his or her assistant and at least hang out for 7 or 8 weddings before you do one on your own. And as mentioned above. Planning and communication with the bride and groom is very important!

  36. Good Article. I was also a “bedroom DJ” for 15 years who played all the “hot house spots” in San Francisco, but at the end of the day $100 bucks a night and 2 drink tickets was not paying the rent. I recently was able to purchase my mobile gear from only 2 months of gigs so far. The first wedding I did was really detail oriented with 2 wireless mics for the ceremony and a 3rd wired mic for the violin player. Needless to say weddings are NOT EASY, but if you prepare well in advance and create a customized playlist with the Bride and Groom you should be in good shape. Average rates for a wedding here in the SF Bay Area range from $650-$1,200 depending on location, # or hours, and sound system and mics needed, etc. If you do 4 weddings a month @ $850 that is $3,400 and you should be able to keep most of it instead of giving it to IRS (Uncle Sam) if you claim your business expenses properly. I never had a job that would allow me to live on working 4 days a month. (Food For Thought)

  37. I have thoroughly enjoyed doing events in Atlanta for over 20 years. Part of being successful though is being friendly, upfront and detailed. If brides and grooms understand what goes into having a great quality sound system at their event, then they are able to understand the true costs. IMO new equipment is completely worth it. This the EVENT of a lifetime for most!

  38. Wedding Djs are the master of ceremony. A good DJ can give a fun and exciting environment to the event. Thanks for sharing this these tips and advice.

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