Sweating the Details
When he and his wife tied the knot in 1994, Erik Kent, publisher of NJWedding.com, and his bride had a DJ who compiled a cassette of all the special music he played at their wedding.
“We enjoyed that tape for many years, and even made some copies by request,” Kent says. “It definitely stood out and provided that little ‘extra’ that made our DJ memorable.”
According to Mark Haggerty, director of operations for Denon & Doyle Entertainment in the San Francisco Bay Area, creating a soundtrack for wedding clients is something he’s been doing from the start of his career.
“For the most part, I find couples really appreciate me paying close attention to their details and wishes and incorporating them into the party,” he says. “It’s amazing how many stories I hear about DJs who disregard or somehow miss important songs or cues that make the event feel like a reflection of the bride and groom, thereby ignoring an awesome dance party.”
For this story, we asked mobile DJs from around the USA about what can be done to make a wedding reception especially memorable—other than creating a viral YouTube video.
For those things a DJ can control, what really counts?
Being a true talent is what makes it possible to make a wedding reception memorable, says Rikki Starr, owner of Rikki Starr DJ Entertainment in Wantage, N.J.
“It means being a polished MC, being able to sing a song or two, to lead the audience and to know a dance or two,” says Starr. “Be funny and be live in the moment.”
According to Artem Lomaz of Nine-Three Entertainment in Morris County, N.J., the key to creating a memorable celebration is a simple thing known as personalization.
“We want guests associating the event solely to the guests of honor. Like, ‘Oh man, that certainly was Russell and Alison’s wedding!’ or ‘Wow, that was Noah’s bar mitzvah, and it was all about him!’ In essence, we want to incorporate as many personalized elements into the celebration as possible, to really show the guests that their celebration is unique.
“For example,” he continues, “if the maid of honor at a wedding is the bride’s sister, and you know that they used to watch and love a specific TV show together, as the entertainer you therefore have the power to play that show’s theme song as that maid of honor walks up to give her speech.
“It’s a very small detail, but one that will be immensely appreciated by the guests and your clients. A fine attention to detail helps create personalized moments, as well as assisting with the flow and pace of the event that our clients desire.”
Being a wedding photographer, Carly Vena of Carly Vena Photography and Studio Production in Port Monmouth, N.J., says she relies on the emotions on the faces of guests for creating memorable photographs for her clients.
“I don’t know that ‘keeping them dancing’ is the key,” Vena says. “I think what makes a great DJ is not only the ability to feel the room and keep them dancing, but to know when to bring in the bride/groom requests and the requests of the guests without disturbing the flow.”
Adam Weitz of A Sharp Production in Huntington Valley, Pa., says that making an event memorable involves ensuring that our information data page is very specific.
“Generic questions are for generic clients,” Weitz explains. “However, if we’re entertaining families, it’s important to delve into deeper layers: What makes them tick? What are some of the important milestones that’ve happened in their lives, and what song springs to mind when we hear about those wonderful milestones?”
Weitz says it’s important that, when writing down the name of an important song during a consultation, we also should add notes down as to exactly why that song is being played.
“Sometimes a simple shout-out during that song can change the entire energy of our dancefloor because they can all relate,” he says. “It’s the same way with multimedia, because if we really want to make an impact, we need do the same thing.
“A great example of this for a mitzvah is when we’re doing a candle-lighting program, where the music matches the family, which matches the pictures on the screen.
“If it’s a wedding, it can even be done while people are in the middle of dancing.”
Weitz says another great example is when we have more of a generic party, like a corporate event, where there are all different people from different areas, but they all have one common knowledge of someone that works very hard in their unit.
“Maybe this person should be elbowed a little?” he suggests. “Maybe this person should be pulled up on stage with us and start a little singalong. Usually, that individual is the key to getting people up out of their seats and all gathered around.
“I’m sure all of us are aware of what we can do with a crowd once they’ve gathered around, right? But getting them to that point requires them all to focus on something special something they can all relate to is the key. Finding that one individual who guests can focus on is the starting point to that success.”
Darryl Jacobsen, from Affair 2 Remember Entertainment in Middletown, N.J., says he cannot remember a single client who has ever mentioned anything that makes an event memorable other than providing exceptional customer service.
“I’m an end-result kind of guy,” he says. “When people leave a party feeling exhilarated and euphoric, you know that you were memorable.”
And no, having a reception video that goes viral or having a great cover band during cocktail hour was not mentioned in our queries.
According to Steve Croce of Silver Sound Disc Jockeys in Philadelphia, creating an event that is memorable involves three steps: listening; helping to create a result; and then delivering on our promise.
“I once had a bride who decided, at a very early age, she would someday marry the love of her life at a time when snow was falling,” says Croce. “Her parents—who always exhibited the gross kind of love people make fun of, but secretly want for themselves—were themselves married on a Saturday in a December close to Christmas-time.
“As a little girl, she loved looking at photos of her mother and father’s wedding, and her favorite picture was of her mother being kissed by her father in front of the country club that hosted their reception while snow fell.”
Coincidentally (or not), when Croce’s own client became engaged, her wedding was scheduled in December, and everything was therefore set for her dream to come true.
However, in the October leading up to her wedding, the bride-to-be’s father suddenly passed away in his sleep. The very sudden and totally unexpected passing took several weeks for the bride and her family to recover from, yet the wedding was still on.
Fast-forward to December.
“OK, so it’s two weeks before the wedding day and it’s 65 degrees without any trace of snow,” Croce recalls. “The bride calls me to go over the timeline for the wedding, and halfway through the conversation she brings up the lack of snow and her deceased dad, and then she suddenly erupts into tears and hangs up.
“I called her back, helped her cheer up, and promised to do my very best to give her whole family a magical wedding experience.”
Croce immediately went online to order gobo projectors and snowflake gobos to project onto all the walls of the room, and while he was online he stumbled upon a website for a company called “Snow Masters” (now known has “Global Special Effects”).
“After looking over their site, I decided I was going to rent the biggest evaporative snow machine they had,” he says. “It had to be drop-shipped fairly quick to make the cutoff point.”
When the bride and groom arrived at their reception, Croce merely told them he had arranged for something special that would surprise the couple for their first dance. It did and, as a result, Croce says that there was not a dry eye in the building during that particular first dance.
According to Adam Tiegs of Adam’s DJ Service in Seattle, creating a memorable event involves just going above and beyond what our clients’ desire.
“Especially when faced with a dead-end or just putting their minds at ease, it goes a long way,” Adam says. “This year at a particular wedding, I had a nervous dad who wanted everything to be perfect for his daughter, including the microphone working properly.
“He needed some hand-holding and, as a result of my extra efforts, I received three hugs from him alone at the end of the night, thanking me for all I did to make everything run smooth and for easing his tensions throughout the day.”
Tiegs says another event for him required a one hour-plus drive each way to visit the father of a bride the week of his daughter’s wedding.
“This amazing man—I’m glad I got a chance to meet him, as he’s worked for both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates directly—just wanted re-assurances that his PowerPoint presentation with video and audio would work perfectly during his speech.
“I brought enough gear to convince him that one of three ways would work, so we had Plans A, B and C… and, of course, Plan A worked perfectly as planned.
“Or even going with the flow with some strange relatives who wanted to do a skit for my two brides, providing microphones and background tunes on the fly, as they were in uniform for a one-of-a-kind performance.
“Moments and memories like that don’t happen perfectly if we aren’t prepared, but in general I try to go above and beyond the wishes of our clients.”
Steve Moody, of Steve Moody’s Entertainment Connection in Ridgely, Md., says being super-memorable is the DJ’s chief role.
“All DJ events are different,” chuckles Moody. “However, a memorable wedding DJ is the one who does everything asked for by a bride and groom—from planning to performance—and exceeds the client’s expectations along every step.
“A memorable DJ takes all of those small special moments of an events and uses them to create unique memories for the client and guests. For example: Anyone can make an announcement of a cake-cutting, yet very few can ‘introduce’ a cake-cutting and turn it into something amazing that people will talk about for years!”