A Little Bit On Our Philosophy When It Comes To Weddings
As a full time DJ, I perform at various events, ranging from weddings, corporate celebrations, nightclubs, birthday & college parties and pretty much any other occasion that requires music. I would say that I'm not a traditional or an 'old-school' kind of DJ, someone who is animated on the microphone or an 'interactive' DJ who cracks corny jokes.
I believe that a successful wedding or corporate event consists of the DJ staying in the background and off the microphone as much as possible. This usually provides for a more intimate setting that fosters interaction between guests and once the dancing portion of the evening begins, their interaction with the music. However, I do make some sort of announcements at virtually every event I perform at and am more than comfortable in doing so. These include but are not limited to things like wedding party/ bride-groom introductions, cake cutting, first dances, general FYI, etc, along with any other announcements that are necessary to keep the event moving on time. Other than that, I strive to stay in the background as much as possible.
I feel that the success or failure of an event (especially the dancing portion) rests solely upon appropriately picked music selections and their presentation. It's my firm belief that hiring someone who can actually tastefully mix songs on beat, and not a DJ who simply plays unmixed songs is one of the most important choices you can make if you want to have a great dance party!
In 2016, the age of “DJ culture” has truly taken over and most people under 50 are familiar with a Club DJ's mixing approach. And since most people now expect that from a DJ, why should you settle for anything less for your event? A memorable dance party is usually built around utilizing a technically skilled DJ who can work with a client to feel out their taste in music, and then deliver an appropriate mix for all the various segments of the event (ie ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, dancing, etc). Feel free to take a look through my media page to further acquaint yourself with how I mix different genres of music.
When comparing DJs, I suggest asking your potential DJ for a live mix they’ve recorded at an event, or better yet, a live event video showing them live in the mix. Furthermore, see if there is a diverse range of styles in the mixes, showing how flexible the DJ is with song selection and song to song cohesiveness.
As far as my music taste and acumen, I play (and am familiar with) pretty much every genre of music you can think of – from the ear splitting blares of big band horns of the swinging fifties to current Pop & EDM; all the way out to Bollywood and various other Ethnic music. If I don't know enough about a genre or what my clients request, that's no problem at all, with some basic guidance, I educate myself on what is needed prior to the event to make sure that appropriate music gets played. When it comes to my own listening habits, I would say that I am all over the place, a personality trait that has served me well when it comes to being a versatile, open-format DJ.
While collaboration with the client ensures that I know which music will probably work well for the evening, it is my experience, skill and passion for music as a whole that will provide for a successful event with memories for years to come!
Vadim - Sound In Style Productions
How To Prepare For A Wedding - Music & Schedule Thoughts
Here is a brief overview of what I found to work best over the years. I normally request two things from all of my wedding clients: a music taste list and a day of schedule. These two documents provide a steadfast guideline and ensure that all of my clients requests are met, music that is not wanted is not played and that the event goes according to schedule. The music taste list should contain the following:
- your general music likes and dislikes. This can either be specific songs or artists or general genre guidelines.
- any must play songs and any definite no-no's.
- wedding ceremony songs (processional, recessional, etc)
- critical selections for the first dance and parent dances.
I don't mind being provided very minimal direction either, just a few lines in a body of an email will suffice, whatever is convenient for you. There are times when I am given detailed playlists which outline the exact music to be played for the night, and even though that is not ideal, I am definitely comfortable working within such rigid parameters. You are more than welcome to share Spotify playlists with me for either general guidance or specific songs that you would like to be played.
As far as as the music taste list goes, feel free to be as detailed or relaxed when preparing your day of schedule. I've worked under all types of scenarios and always manage to pull it off. So you can be as detailed as you please. But do bear in mind though, if you would like for me to make any announcements or introduce the bridal party, I do prefer to have the proper pronunciations and order of the bridal party to be submitted in advance, as I want to make sure I have adequate time to prepare.
When it comes to requests, I'm always more than happy to take them from guests and there are times when you might have a website setup for the wedding and guests submit their requests via the website. Anything like that works, please include all of that information on the music taste list and I will be sure to play it sometime during the night!
DJ Prices - How Much Do You Charge?
This is a common question that I am asked frequently, often as soon as the initial inquiry e-mails sent by potential clients. Since that's usually one of the first things to be dealt with, I thought it would be nice to briefly touch on the topic here.
At the end of the day, as with many things, the answer is: it depends. My rates are influenced by a number of things such as: how many different areas you would like sound coverage for, total running hours for the event, whether any uplighting or a projector rental will be included, etc. This is why I don’t have a “rate sheet” available or any type of “standard package” – every event I perform at is slightly different, so I strive to custom tailor the quotes for all of my clients individually.
Here are the various factors that will influence my rates and pricing in general:
Location of the event – If traveling a long distance from the Bay Area or the greater Los Angeles area, there may be a travel fee. Note, if you are anywhere in the San Francisco and larger Bay Area along with all of Los Angeles and Orange County, I do not charge a travel fee. I do however sometimes need to apply an additional load in and setup fee for venues with a particularly difficult load in process. Please also include the city and name/address of the venue that your event will be taking place in as this will help greatly for me to quickly get back to you with a meaningful quote. Events located outside of the above mentioned areas are generally considered overnight events, and lodging charges will apply as well. Airfare charges will apply as well for out of state events.
Length of the event – Rates will vary depending on how long service will be needed for. Please specify the time frame you’ll need DJ service for by noting the start and end times for the DJ coverage. For wedding events that involve ceremony coverage, please note the time you have slotted for guest arrival rather than the start time for the ceremony itself. This is important to note as all setup activity should be complete by the time guests enter the facility, and most clients will want ceremony prelude music playing prior to the ceremony as guests are being seated.
Event logistics – Over the years, I have come across a large variety of things when it comes private event logistics. I must note that a common oversight by a client is at times to want to hire a DJ for only the dance portion of the reception (perhaps there is live music scheduled for the cocktail and dinner hour. But it is imperative to keep in mind the fact that the DJ will need to be set up up prior to the event start time, this way the chances of disturbing the event are slim. If we’ll need to have our setup completed before we actually start playing music, there will be a charge for the “wait” time between setup completion and the time we will be taking over and playing music.
Equipment needs – I may charge additional equipment fees if multiple sound systems will need to be set up to cover different parts of the event (i.e. wedding ceremony, cocktail hour and reception held in different areas of the venue, corporate party with a split level or multi room setup, etc. I always insist on setting up separate speaker arrays if I am requested to cover multiple areas in a venue. Having speakers moved from one area of a venue to another while the event is underway is extremely disruptive to your guests and may result in some awkward time with no music playing, and is generally a poor strategy for a successful event. If you are pricing DJs and have an event where multiple areas need to be covered, I believe it’s a wise thing to do by asking the DJs that you are speaking with if they plan to set up separate sound systems in each area - or if they are planning to move their speakers from one location to the next.
In addition, some events in large spaces (such as the Julia Morgan Ballroom in SF, the Palace Hotel Garden Court in SF, Casa Real + Palm Event Center in Pleasanton, Claremont Ballroom at the Claremont Hotel, Vibiana in Downtown LA, Taglyan Cultural Complex, you get the idea) require fairly large sound arrays to adequately cover the space.
In my quotes, I always spell out which equipment will be provided. I think it's an important thing to keep in mind when talking to any DJ – many DJs who lack the proper equipment to cover larger spaces will try to cover weddings with 200+ guests in a huge space with nothing but a pair of small powered speakers. You get what you pay for definitely rings true here :-)
Read This Before You Hire A DJ
Over the years I've come to notice that many people who are new to the DJ booking market may have a somewhat ambiguous perception around the wide breadth of information on DJ's that is out there. Sometimes this obscurity comes from the expectation that DJ's who perform at weddings are no different than DJ's that play at night clubs or spin on radio mix shows and that all of us can execute amazing DJ mixes. So it may come as a surprise to you that many wedding DJ's do not mix music with a skilled and experienced flair.
If you’ve been looking around at different mobile DJs in the San Francisco Bay & Los Angeles Areas, I always advise all potential clients to seek out recent mixes or videos, live events or as demo mixes at home, this way you can ensure if the DJ is able to play the type of music that you envision to have at your wedding!
Truth is, it's never safe to blindly assume that a person who simply says they are a DJ, actually has any type of “technical” skill as a DJ. In today's age, many DJ's still present their dance music in an unmixed, press-play-and-forget kind of playlist way. Above and beyond DJ’s who don’t mix at all, there are a many who don't mix well, well.
Now, of course there is a time and place where mixing and any other kind of DJ trickery such as beat matching and scratch transitions might be inappropriate. I frequently play at events where, perhaps, folks in their 50s and 60s, are more interested in hearing the original versions of songs in their entirety, in which case, if this is what you would like for your event, I'll be happy to accommodate.
So as you carefully sift through wedding cakes, dresses, flower designs and seating arrangements - remember to do your due diligence on what exactly the DJ that you are looking to hire offers and is capable of as far as his actual DJ abilities go.
My Sentiment On Wedding MC Duties
Below I discuss my approach to emceeing duties and also touch on the subject of wedding music requests. Much of it has to do with wedding events but also applies to the majority of other types of parties that I perform at.
My general sentiment on emceeing at weddings is that I am always more than happy to make basic announcements. I frequently announce the things listed below:
- Inviting the bride/groom to the dance floor
- Introducing individuals who will be giving toasts/speeches
- Helping to direct guests from one area of the venue to another
- Announcing the cake cutting
- FYI announcements such as shuttle service, birthday wishes, after party location and directions, etc.
As far as introducing the bridal party goes, I'm happy to do that! However If you are looking for someone to do a WWF “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” type of introduction, someone with that kind of personality, who spends a lot of time on the microphone, I probably wouldn't be the best fit for your event. Generally speaking though, a vast majority of my clients who do want to be introduced, just want a simple introduction so this is seldom an issue.
Here are examples of MC duties that I typically don't do:
- Wedding Games (musical chairs, the “shoe game” etc). If you would like a wedding DJ that handles these types of items, I don’t think I would not be an appropriate choice for your event.
- Leading group dances or lines dances (Cha Cha Slide, Electric Slide etc). This is definitely not something that I would be able to facilitate. I can certainly play any of those songs if requested (on a side note, those types of songs are normally on my default “do not play” list unless specifically requested by clients), but I’m not going to be out on the floor (or on the microphone) instructing the crowd on the dance moves.
In order to make sure that I address all the important items a client would like announced, but minimize any unnecessary microphone chatter, I always ask my clients to specifically note the items that they would like announced on their day-of schedule, so there is no speculation on what should (or shouldn’t) be announced.
Some Thoughts on The Cake Cutting Ceremony
I frequently receive day of schedules which contain something along the following lines as far as the timing of the cake cutting goes.
8:45-8:50 First Dance
8:50-9:00 Parent Dances
9:30-9:40 Cake Cutting
Now, having seen this order of events play out countless times, I am inclined to advise not to layout the dancing portion of your wedding in such a way. The above time frame is highly confusing to guests and almost always has a negative impact on the dance party as a whole. Because here is what happens. The people in attendance have just spent 2,3,4 or more hours sitting down, talking and relaxing. They are then asked to kick up their party mood to a 100 and then promptly bring it back down to a 10.
What I've noticed over the years is that something happens to the party atmosphere during that time and frequently when the guests are finished eating their cake and slowly begin to saunter back out on the dance floor, almost always, they are not as enthused as they originally were when first presented with the opportunity to show their booties.
A much better option is to perhaps do the following: eat dinner, followed by toasts, first dance and parents dances and immediately after that, cut the cake! This way everyone can enjoy the cake ceremony, it's wonderful taste and have some coffee all before they jump on the dance floor.
In conclusion, I implore you to take this into consideration when planning your big day and avoid having your cake cutting before open dancing.