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shutterstock_232619272In recent times, the wed­ding DJ has become the staple of the good old Kiwi wed­ding exper­i­ence. Yes, live bands are cool, but today’s gen­er­a­tion of bud­ding nup­tial couples have grown up in an era when the DJ was king — the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. Rave cul­ture, club hop­ping and the bar scene has set the tone for music and dan­cing, and is now an essen­tial part of the wed­ding enter­tain­ment mix. The DJ is expec­ted to get ’em up and keep ’em up dan­cing, respond to song requests and make the party.

With the pro­lif­er­a­tion of music styles and genres, and the access­ib­il­ity of music to today’s gen­er­a­tion of bridal couples, the choice of music for a wed­ding event is incred­ibly diverse. Couples, too, are gen­er­ally very savvy about the sort of music they can see work­ing for their event and wish to express this dur­ing the even­ing — espe­cially at dance time. It’s a badge of hon­our and speaks to their crowd about who they are and what they’re about, a chance to say ‘this is us’, wheth­er the music play­ing is by a pop­u­lar artist, a favour­ite rock band or the latest top 40 playlist.

Couples these days are eschew­ing tra­di­tion­al church-style cere­mon­ies in favour of a clas­sic Kiwi-style out­door set­ting — pub­lic parks, beaches and garden areas — gen­er­ally in the sum­mer months. Every cere­mony needs music, and again, the choice for the form­al part of the event has become an expres­sion of per­son­al taste. The church organ play­ing Mendelssohn’s ‘Wed­ding March’ is out and ‘any­thing goes’ is in. Bon Jovi, Queen, Metal­lica — I kid you not.

The role of a DJ at wed­ding events has broadened as well; aside from the requis­ite party part of the show, the DJ can fill the gap in the rest of the day too. This includes the afore­men­tioned cere­mony, as well as set­ting the vibe for the canapés as the guests quaff back the cham­pers dur­ing the recep­tion. The addi­tion­al bene­fit here is that the DJ can provide micro­phones for use by the MC and guests dur­ing speeches — the DJ/stage man­ager then has a role to ensure a smooth and flu­id show, and make sure everything sounds good.

As pro­fes­sion­al wed­ding DJs, we’ve had to adapt to suit the mod­ern format of the Kiwi-style wed­ding and the demands of today’s couples. This means quite an involved level of pre-event plan­ning, detailed song selec­tion for the form­al parts of the event, and con­sulta­tion with the couple to tease out the over­all themes and tone of the music. This new breed of couple won’t settle for the former wed­ding dance staples of ABBA and the ‘Chick­en Dance’, that’s for sure.

Couples have the choice to define vari­ous parts of the day indi­vidu­ally. For instance, the wed­ding cere­mony itself has a cer­tain feel: acous­tic per­formers and unplugged styles work best here. For the canapés, think some­thing a tad more upbeat: taste­ful Motown soul hits on a sunny after­noon. Din­ner has yet anoth­er vibe: more restrained and chilled out, to allow the guests to enjoy their meal. This new format means the DJ is in for the long haul, man­aging the music and the pro­duc­tion for prac­tic­ally the entire day!

When it comes to dance time, mod­ern couples are clear on one thing — they want action, with every­one up and boogy­ing, jazz hands in the air and Uncle Bri­an doing his, well, Uncle Bri­an dance. Wed­dings are multi-gen­er­a­tion­al, so cater­ing to all and sun­dry and ‘reach­ing out’ to every­body is the key here. This isn’t an easy task for a DJ to achieve, pleas­ing up to three gen­er­a­tions of people, often with a multi-cul­tur­al ele­ment. Mul­tiply that out and you have a lot of dif­fer­ent sub-groups all demand­ing enter­tain­ing. For the DJ, ‘read­ing the crowd’ and ‘mix­ing it up’ is per­haps the best way to sat­is­fy the needs of the many.

If there is one rule to rule them all, it’s this: get the girls on the dance floor — and the oldies. If you’ve got them, every­one else will fol­low. That means 1970s and 1980s clas­sics, rock ’n’ roll and girly dance music — gen­er­ally in that order. Don’t for­get about the boys though. Once they tear them­selves away from the bar, for them it’s all about the rock anthems — we want to see fist-pump­ing action, broth­ers-in-arms bawdy singing and mosh-pitting!

With the growth of com­pet­i­tion in the hos­pit­al­ity sec­tor, the expect­a­tions placed on staff asked by couples to plan their wed­ding are much high­er. Giv­en the fact that the DJ is now being asked to provide a man­aged ser­vice through­out the day, for example, this means much high­er levels of engage­ment with the couple, bridal party, MC and guests. As a DJ, hav­ing an affable and approach­able man­ner is essen­tial in main­tain­ing those high levels of ser­vice and ful­filling the desires of the couple. This also means flex­ib­il­ity to sat­is­fy spe­cial arrange­ments and fea­tures of the event, and, of course, music requests. Lots of music requests.

Gone are the days of the DJ being left alone in the corner to ‘do his thing’. For the DJ to say “Nah, sorry, don’t do requests” or “Yeah, nah, I’m in the mix at the moment” doesn’t cut it. It’s not all about the DJ — the true emphas­is is on the guests enjoy­ing them­selves, so a true pro will swal­low his pride and gladly accept most reas­on­able requests.

I say ‘reas­on­able requests’, as the type of songs/styles of music that are reques­ted at a wed­ding can be wildly diverse and ran­dom. Pantera and gang­sta rap requests aside, some songs and styles of music are just not for dan­cing (or appro­pri­ate for the crowd). The DJ will use his or her dis­cre­tion and either play the song later in the even­ing or sug­gest an altern­at­ive, and if the guest becomes, shall we say, insist­ent, then a good fall-back response is “the music has been worked out and agreed by the couple before­hand — it’s their choice”. This nor­mally quells any mur­mur­ings from dis­cord­ant guests.

In fact, music requests can be a great source of new inspir­a­tion for a DJ as a song may be a floor-filler for a par­tic­u­lar seg­ment of the crowd. For instance, an epic rock anthem for the couple’s friends from uni­ver­sity days, or a one-hit won­der with spe­cial mean­ing for the guests. This may take the DJ and the party into a whole new realm that the DJ oth­er­wise would not have considered.

By hav­ing a wide array of music on hand, read­ing the crowd and respond­ing imme­di­ately to what is hap­pen­ing on the dance floor, a great DJ can sat­is­fy today’s expect­a­tion of near-instant grat­i­fic­a­tion. Not only that, but if the DJ can reach into the hearts and minds of the guests and spin up a storm of emo­tion, those moments make for last­ing and endur­ing memor­ies — the ulti­mate out­come for any wed­ding event.

So, we can see that the role of the DJ has changed in rela­tion to the changes of the new gen­er­a­tion of couples get­ting mar­ried and the expect­a­tions imposed on wed­ding events due to the ever-wider avail­ab­il­ity and choice of music out there. We’ve also seen that the format of the mod­ern Kiwi-style wed­ding now includes a DJ-cum-event man­ager through­out every part of the day.

Let’s see a band provide all this.



Dean Ward is head wed­ding crash­er for DJs and wed­ding enter­tain­ment spe­cial­ists The Wed­ding Crash­ers (