How to DJ a Wedding Reception – The Dos and Don’ts

How to DJ a Wedding Reception – The Dos and Don’ts

Weddings are perhaps one of the most brightest and joyful memories we can have in our lifetime.

When two people say “I do” to each other that gives a start to a whole new chapter of their lives, but at this particular day and night, there is a more important task at hand – to entertain all those wedding guests with your DJ set.

Knowing how to DJ a wedding reception successfully will be one of your strongest selling points as a professional or a hobby-level DJ player. It is what will land you gigs and what will put the word for you out there faster.

When you’re in charge of the music and entertainment at a wedding, the most important thing is to keep your eyes on the main goal – be organized, keep the bride happy and help the event go smoothly. Everything else, from the choice of music to the timeline stamps for different events are secondary tasks that you still need to keep in mind. 

In this article, I’ve focused on some of the main tips, tricks, and know-how that are supposed to help DJs make their first wedding ceremony a total hit. If you have randomly been chosen to be the best man and a DJ at the same time, this article is going to be your savior!

By the end of it, you will know what to do and what not to do when put in charge of the music and dance floor at any given wedding. So, let’s dive in!

Initial Organization

The first thing you need to learn and remember forever when it comes to weddings is that the whole organization is a team effort. You have to be a team player in order to create a perfect event for the newlyweds.

Help the vendors and the team responsible for setting up the venue. Usually, if it is a well-made wedding, there will be people assisting you with setting up your music gear, such as controller, laptop, speakers, cable management, etc. If not, you will sadly be on your own there.

Always ask if the venue has its own sound system or you have to bring speakers, because you might have to make more space in your vehicle, or rent a bus to carry them in case you have a full-on sound system.

If you’re looking to upgrade your speakers, I’ve just done a comparison on two highly popular models, the Mackie Thump15A and the Electro-Voice ZLX-15P.

Preparation Starts Earlier Than You Think

Even if it seems hard to imagine the preparation for a wedding (even for the DJ) starts weeks in advance. You have to get in touch with the wedding coordinator to know exactly when you have to arrive, how much time will you have to set things up, where the power source for your system is, how to place the speakers, etc.

Play Out The Whole Wedding In Your Head

Before I get to the actual wedding, there is one last tip you need to remember – always run things through in your head. Think of bad and good scenarios and see if there are any weak points in your plan.

There can always be unexpected things to happen but victory loves the well-prepared so keep your plan and timing as bulletproof as possible. Punctuality is also rewarded by making a good impression on everybody there both guests and staff.

That will raise your reputation more than you can imagine and you will be more likely to end up on a recommendation conversation these people.

The Wedding Timeline

The most important part of a wedding is the pre-set timeline to all events:

  • When do the guests arrive
  • When do the bride and groom arrive
  • When is the first toast
  • When is the first dance
  • When is time for the awesome wedding cake
  • When the best man and the maid of honor hold their speeches

All these things are important as you will have to stop or change the music that is playing and maybe even get on the mic for some announcements. That brings me to another topic – the one of being an MC. This should also be initially negotiated.

If there is nobody to handle the mic at a wedding that task is usually given to the DJ. Be prepared with what you will say at any moment in order to prevent yourself from swallowing your tongue at a crucial moment.

When it comes to the timeline there is one more very important aspect…

You Have To Learn To Be Flexible

To your horror, I will tell you that this doesn’t come right away but is rather something you learn with the years of experience. Sure, some people are great at improvizing but that doesn’t apply to most beginner DJs.

You have to learn to be able to react at unexpected events and just roll with the punches. If the wedding coordinator tells you that you have to postpone the first dance for half an hour, you do your best to do that as smoothly as possible.

The best way to distract people from the fact that things are running late is to grab their attention and make them dance. Nothing makes time to fly faster than having fun.

wedding music and dancing

Music & Dancing

Now we are at the best part – when everybody is just having fun. There are so many ground rules to cover here that I won’t have the space to list them but let’s just mention the most important ones, shall we?

Your Guests And Your Song Choices

As a rule of thumb, more than 80% of your guests must know the songs you are playing.

Avoid playing songs that are typical to just one generation of guests in order to suit them. Try to spread wide across all age groups so that everybody can enjoy the music equally.

You should also keep away from unpopular songs. We all have a favorite song from a B-side of a great album that nobody else knows (at least by title). Make sure you start with great hits that are suitable for everyone at the party.

Pro Tip: Open with a slower song. That way you will prime your dance floor better and will make it more inviting for all generations.

Change The Mood With Every Song

By constantly changing genres and styles of music you are casting a wide net over your audience. That way you are most likely to avoid personal song requests and will attract more people to the dance floor.

Keep The Bride In Mind

Always ask for the Bride’s permission to invite other people near the end of her father/daughter dance. That way you will fill up your dance floor easier and will make the situation less awkward. If someone requests a weird song, your get-out-of-jail card is to just tell him or her to ask the Bride.

One last tip is to keep an eye on your guests. In general, you should learn your crown by the first few songs and try to make the party engaging for everyone.

Want to know how to scratch like a professional DJ? Click here to check out my dedicated article on the topic.

Related Questions

How Long Do You Have A DJ For A Wedding?

Typically, a DJ is paid for 5 hours of playing at the wedding, although some people might lower that time in order to reduce costs. If the party keeps going far later than the agreed end-hour, you should speak with the wedding planners in order to get you paid for the extra work.

What Is A Good App For Mixing Music?

There are some known apps like Ableton and Traktor but those might cost you money. If you are looking for a great free app, try out:

  • Djay,
  • Virtual DJ Home,
  • Edjing

You can also check out some of the beginner mixers reviewed in our buyer’s guides if you are interested in building a DJ set that will “wow” your audience.

How Long Is A First Dance At A Wedding?

The best time for the first dance is typically around 2 and 2 and a half minutes. Most people will order traditional songs that will make it easy for you to fit in this time frame but if it’s a longer song you will have to improvise in order to get people on the dance floor quicker.

Blake Gibbs

I have been a professional DJ for almost 10 years. In that time I've played a lot of gigs and gone through a whole bunch of equipment. My new goal is to spread my knowledge of DJ products with the world through this website!