Your wedding reception is perhaps the most detailed event that you will ever plan. Having been a part of so many wedding receptions throughout the years, I would like to share some of that knowledge with you to help you plan out your reception every step of the way. Venues and caterers may have suggestions based on what is most convenient for them and photographers like to plan for what makes it easiest for them. We can help with what we have seen that has the best flow, photo opportunities and creates the most excitement which always carries into the dance portion of your evening. Keep in mind that these are simply suggestions...we are certainly not claiming to be the absolute final word on wedding receptions, but we have certainly seen enough to see what works and what doesn't. I realize that this is a LOT to read so if you would like a copy of this section, we would be happy to email a copy for you to read at your leisure.
Don't be afraid to use us at any opportunity...that's what we are here for! I always suggest that you pass along our Email address to your wedding party and planner just in case they have a secret surprise they want to pull off and may need our help. We are always there to help, but sometimes, depending on what is needed, some preparation may be needed. At one wedding, the wedding party came up to us during dinner and told us that they were having a live performance with a guitar, electric piano and 2 singers and needed us to patch them into our system. It's unfortunate that we were not able to do that for them BUT, if they had let us know beforehand, we would have been prepared and had the necessary equipment there and ready to go. It is important to remember that DJs are not set up for live performances and it's not as easy as "running a cable to our system."
IT'S POLITE TO SHARE
Share any other written planners/timelines/scripts with us at least a week ahead of time. Occasionally there are discrepancies between our planner and the planner that you, your wedding party, MC or wedding planner has. We should all be able to compare the planners to ensure that we are all on the same page.
Also, don't be shy to share our planner with others involved in the planning process. Get everyone involved and in touch with each other...it's as easy as sharing an email address and asking that everyone stay on the same page. (I have repeated this exact paragraph below...it's THAT important!) Any reputable DJ company will be more than happy to work with the people involved in your reception.
The grand entrance is going to relay a lot of information to your guests. Are we here to party? Are we here to relax? Is this reception going to be mellow, chill or a party? Before filling out our planner with us, you should decide how you want your reception to look and feel. It's always good to stay within your personality and feel completely comfortable with your event. Some people are party people and others aren't. Don't make this day about what you aren't...make it a reflection of who you are!
THEMED GRAND ENTRANCES
If you are the type of couple that likes to have fun and want your guests to know it, then by all means have fun with your grand entrance! Making sure you have the right DJ is crucial to pulling off a themed grand entrance. We have done everything from a "Mission Impossible" theme where James Bond music is playing and the wedding party has secret agent glasses and even code names, to the "Price Is Right" where we had to do our best imitation of Bob Barker yelling for each member of the wedding party to "Come on down!"
HOW TO BE INTRODUCED?
Something that seems to stump many of our younger couples is how they would like to be introduced. Traditionally, couples would be introduced with the Groom's last name..."Mr. and Mrs. Smith." We are finding more and more wedding receptions moving away from that tradition. We more commonly see our couples wanting to acknowledge both parties, such as "Mr. and Mrs. Smith, John and Jane." Last year we had a very fun-loving couple that had already been living together for quite some time. They asked us to introduce them: "5 years, 2 cars, a house and a beautiful baby girl later, here they FINALLY are as Mr. and Mrs. Smith."
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT SONG TO PICK FOR...
Most couples tend to choose songs that are meaningful to them. But sometimes you may need a little help and can't think of a song to use at different points at your reception. If you need a little help with that, we will provide you with a list of the current top songs as posted by DJs across the country for:
Many people like to use a hype song for the wedding party to be introduced. This really makes a statement and tells your guests that we are here to have a good time tonight. It's also very important to decide if you would like lighting effects to provide the right atmosphere. This can help pull off that "party feel" or have a more laid back feel with no lighting. Always keep in mind that your photographer and videographer will be taking pictures of this - any lighting that you choose to have WILL show up in your pictures which you may or may not want to have.
Sometimes couples think it's a good idea to do a different song for each individual person/couple in the wedding party. In our experience, this doesn't tend to work very well as the actual introduction lasts less than a minute. This is usually not enough time to play a good portion of the song and also makes the intros very broken up and choppy. We recommend that the Bride and Groom come in to one song and a second song for the wedding party
WHAT ABOUT A LOW KEY ENTRANCE?
We've done many grand entrances that consist of a basic introduction of the Bride and Groom. Either way you choose, your entrance should be a mood setter and should always be an uplifting moment for your guests as it is typically their first chance to see the newly married couple. This is both yours and your guests first highlight of the night and it is definitely our DJs job to make sure the moment is heartfelt and joyous. Sometimes music is involved to add to the mood and other times there's no background audio with total focus on the Bride and Groom. It all depends on what mood you want to set.
MAKE IT YOUR DAY...
Ultimately, how you choose to be introduced to your guests should be up to you. Whether it's an arena announcer introducing the wedding party "starting line-up" or just a casual announcement that the Bride and Groom have arrived, use your grand entrance to put a stamp on your reception and make it your day from the get-go!
YOUR FIRST DANCE
It's all about you...
If there is any part of your wedding reception that the Bride and Groom should be selfish, in my opinion, it is with your first dance. For many couples, this dance has significant meaning and says something about you that maybe only you "get" or know. It is a time that you might have hundreds of people staring at you, but in that moment you feel like it's only the two of you in that room. This is your time to shine! How many opportunities do you get to be in the spotlight in front of your closest friends and family? Take the opportunity to seize the moment and make your first dance the one that you and your guests will always remember. That being said, remember that family and friends will be watching you like a hawk. They will be crying with you as you stare into your new husbands eyes. They will laugh as you laugh at the jokes you make during your dance. They will also drop their jaws in disbelief if you start making out like teenagers at a high school dance or if you grab your new wife's backside in front of her parents!
Your first couple of dances as a newly married couple is second only to saying "I do" at the alter, and having your parents join you in the Bride-Father and Groom-Mother dance leaves an impression that will last a lifetime for you. Don't worry about this part being "too long" - all of your friends and family anticipate this moment as a photo opportunity. Think back to what you see others posting on Facebook of weddings: more often than not it is a picture of the happy couple dancing. Lastly, give everyone their OWN moment in the spotlight. The Brides Father wants his solo moment with his daughter as her being his little girl just one last time, and of course, the Grooms Mother wants her time to tell the Groom to make sure he treats his new wife right! Each of those moments is a photo opportunity for your guests as well as for your own photographer. Don't wish later on that you had those individual dance pictures - PLAN to have them!
In our experience, the best "dance line-up" is:
4. Bride-Groom, Brides parents, Groom parents, Wedding party
This line up allows for all of the photo opportunities to take place. Again, don't worry about this part being too long. 5 songs is about 20 minutes, which is certainly not unreasonable. With everyone up on the dance floor for the last song, it's a great opportunity to kick-start the night of dancing by having everyone already up on the floor. When a DJ has everyone up on the floor for the last song, they will always kick it off with a floor-filler which starts off the night of dancing in a big way. We find that some crowds need a kick start into gear - where everyone is waiting for 'someone else' to get on the dance floor first. This takes that out of the equation. Brides...another great way to kick off the dancing portion of the night is to get all of your besties up on the floor to dance with you right off the bat. More than likely, Mr. Groom wants to stop being Mr. Formal and have a drink or two with his buddies anyway!
You may not think so, but a lot of people look forward to the speeches; however, this can be a sink-or-swim moment for your reception. We have seen some receptions where the speeches bring up the atmosphere into a let's-have-fun mood, and others, well, not so much. Don't feel obligated to have each and every member of your wedding party give a speech, and if anyone you ask is hesitant, DON'T FORCE THEM! The speeches (with the exception of the parents) should be light-hearted and upbeat with a good amount of energy. Someone that speaks in a quiet, monotone voice telling a couple of stories that are so personal that
only you and that person will "get" can quickly bring down the atmosphere. 5-10 minutes, while it doesn't sound like a lot of time, is a good amount of time for each speech. Any longer than that and people start to get bored and lose focus. Once you lose a crowd, it's sometimes difficult to re-engage them into the reception.
Make sure to let your speech givers know HOW to use a microphone. It may seem like a silly thing for me to say, but it's an important aspect of giving a speech. When using a venues PA system, they don't have someone manning the system and don't make volume adjustments for the different speakers, they simply turn it on and walk away. This can result in an extremely loud speech followed by one that can barely be heard. Ask your MC to monitor the volume and be able to give subtle signals if they need to speak up, or down.
Pointers for your speakers:
- speak a little louder than their normal talking voice - people naturally tend to talk quieter when they get in front of a mic
- stay within 4-6 inches of the mic - no closer and no further
- speak towards the mic - not looking left or right, up or down when talking
- have small pauses between sentences and thoughts - it calms them down and it doesn't seem rushed
- write their speech in ALL CAPS in a large font - nothing worse than seeing them holding a piece of paper in front of their face
HOW DO WE PICK AN MC?
Your MC, aside from the Bride & Groom, is the most important person at your reception. They need to coordinate, time, direct and control all of the goings-on throughout the formal part of your reception. In the past, it's almost been a given for the Best Man to be the MC - this does not need to be the case. Pick an MC who is not mic shy, but not overly verbose. (They should be someone who won't accidentally drop the F-Bomb!) They need to be responsible and take the job of running the formalities seriously. While they should have a copy of the script for the reception with them at all times, they should almost have it memorized. They need to be able to know what time everything is happening and prepare, or make sure that whoever is assigned for the next event is prepared.
Your MC sets the mood for the night. An upbeat, energetic MC can really pump up the crowd for a night of fun. Conversely, a laid back, mellow MC can do just the opposite. Decide what kind of night you want to have: an energetic party night, a formal sophisticated evening or anywhere in between. Now, when I said "upbeat and energetic", I didn't mean for that energy and enthusiasm to be alcohol fuelled. We've seen the effects that can have on a persons ability to MC an evening. and it's not pretty!
If you have your heart set on a particular MC even though they might not be the best at co-ordinating the night, you might consider either having a Co-MC, or simply have a separate designated co-ordinator for the reception. Someone that can run the show and make sure that everything is ready and in place for when it's supposed to happen.
BOUQUET & GARTER TOSS...YOU'RE SEXY AND YOU KNOW IT!
There isn't a single guest at a reception that doesn't look forward to the bouquet and garter toss. Have FUN with it and get some hoots and hollers from your guests! It's a fun part of the night that gets your guests involved and up on the floor. Depending on your MC, they 'may' be able to handle this part adequately, but for the most part, DJs have a lot of experience handling this that is FUN and gets the crowd involved better than your MC can. Sometimes it's best to let the Pros do what they do! On more than a few occasions we have seen the Bride get up on the floor for the bouquet toss and..."Where's the bouquet???" A great place to
keep it is with the DJ.
CUT THE CAKE
In our experience, this is a flow-killer. it stops the music, it slows down the guests and gets them out of their rhythm. During the bouquet and garter toss, they are a part of the process, but not so much for the cake cutting. A good time for the cake cutting, as far as flow and keeping that level of excitement up, is just before dessert. Cake...dessert...the timing makes sense doesn't it? People are seated, so it's easy for them to grab their camera and sneak up to take a picture. It also gives them a chance to stand up and stretch those legs after being seated through dinner and speeches.
• Make sure that you ask your MC for the evening to come to the DJ to introduce themselves during cocktails. We need to know who to watch to take our cues for the various things happening during the formal part of your reception.
• It's good to know who the reception co-ordinator, or person/people who are authorised to make changes or take direction from are. Simply put, we need to know who we can take instruction from. If a friend of the Groom suddenly decides he has an idea to do something he thinks will be funny and asks us to do something to help him, it might be something that you may not exactly be happy with! (Remember the viral You tube videos mentioned above?) Your DJ can fend off those requests if we know who we can take instruction from.
• Make sure you DJ has access to power. Sounds obvious, but I can't count how many times I've walked into a room to find we are up against a soft wall and have to run 100 ft of cord to reach power. Or, there is not enough power for the size setup they wanted. This is something you and your DJ should discuss during the planning process.
• Provide protection from the elements. If you are having an outdoor reception, it's always a good idea to provide your DJ with a tent or cover from the outdoor elements. Plain and simple, our gear does not work well with water!
• Place your DJ as close to the dance floor as possible. I cringe when I walk into the room and see that the dance floor is 20 ft away from the DJ area. There are many issues with this scenario. Trying to throw sound over the top of tables between us and the dance floor is always challenging. The people in between think the music is too loud, when others around the room think it's not loud enough. During open dancing, we like to get a good look at the crowd and base our song selection on the crowd feel and reaction, which is tough to do if you stick us in the corner far away from the action.
• If you are doing assigned table seating, try to have people seated according to where the DJ is set up. Try not to have Grandma and Grandpa seated right in front of the speakers as they will inevitably complain that the music is too loud, while your friends seated at the back end of the room won't feel their dance coming on if they don't hear and feel the music at a good dance volume. That is where a pre-planned room setup can come into play. Head table, dance floor, DJ setup...arrange them in a practical way.
• SHARE any other written planners/timelines/scripts with us at least a week ahead of time. Occasionally there are discrepancies between our planner and the planner that you, your wedding party, MC or planner has. I like to compare the planners to ensure that we are all on the same page. It's not a lot of fun to be standing in the reception hall with 3 planners trying to figure out which one is correct. Also, don't be shy to share our planner with others involved in the planning process. Get everyone involved and in touch with each other...it's as easy as sharing an email address and asking that everyone stay on the same page.
• Check, double-check and triple-check where the DJ will set up - make sure the location makes sense. Right in front of the dance floor is the best possible location. Twice in the last year we have arrived and set up only to have to tear down and move to a different location. While we always arrive with enough time to spare to ensure we are completely set up BEFORE your very first guest arrives at the venue, we can't always guarantee that will be possible if we have to set up, tear down and set up again.
• Make sure you give your DJ a list of "must play" songs well in advance of your reception. While most reputable DJs have an extensive music library, it's impossible to have everything. For the most part, this doesn't apply to the "standards", but more to lesser-known, or non-typical dance music.
• Do not let your DJ go hungry. You might find this funny, but a hungry DJ is not a happy DJ. Remember, they have been there hours before anyone has arrived. Nobody should be expected to go 8 - 12 hours (sometimes longer) without getting some grub. Trust me when I tell you that DJs appreciate a meal during the long day and it will definitely pick up the DJ-Mojo as your night gets rockin'.
Bride & Groom entrance
Wedding party entrance
Bride & Groom first dance
Wedding party dance
Sound and Lights
Mobile DJ in Winnipeg