Advice For A Bride-Friendly DJ Setup
When it comes to the planning the details of their big day, most brides are exceptionally meticulous. The dinner napkins are the perfect shade of purple, the centerpieces are correctly proportionate with the size of the tables, cleverly worded signs and placed in all the right places, and even the guest seating cards have just the right font to match the feeling of the day. Then, the DJ arrives and erects a massive dusty speaker wall, cranks a 15 ft truss of spin and puke lights into the air, and weaves a spaghetti-like nest of orange cables across the floor. No matter how skilled the DJ is, or how great the other reception details look, the bride (and her guests) are only going to remember how horrible and tacky the DJ looked. The reception pictures will be ruined, the bride will be crying in the corner, and the DJ will have no chance of booking any referrals from bridesmaids or guests.
Although this scenario may seem a little exaggerated, it’s not far from the truth. As DJs, we typically think and see things differently than most people, especially brides! Sometimes our vision of what makes a great wedding reception is miles away from what a bride actually wants at her party. By keeping the following tips in mind when planning for a wedding gig, you’ll be able to better complement the mood of the event, keep the bride happy, and boost your business referrals.
As DJs, we like gear…….ok, we LOVE it! Subs, moving heads, strobes, lasers, black lights, we love it all. And for most of us, if we had the time and money, we would erect a nightclub-worthy masterpiece of a setup at every gig. However, for the most part, a bride in her guests could care less about the number of lights or speakers in your setup. Keep things simple and don’t over-setup for the gig. Many times, for weddings, you only need a couple powered speakers, some LED-wash lighting, and your decks or controller. It’s also important to invest in professional-grade equipment. By spending more on quality speakers and lighting, you’ll be able to maximize your impact while minimizing your setup footprint.
For those gigs where additional enhancements are requested (like moving heads and TV screens), make sure you invest the time and money to ensure they are displayed correctly and cleanly. This usually means dropping a few hundred dollars on vertical trussing columns and scrims. Unless they are specifically paying for additional equipment, brides rarely equate the amount of equipment with the price they pay. So you’re not providing any additional “value” by bringing extra equipment. The true value that you provide as a wedding DJ will come from your performance and how you direct the flow of the evening.
Not only is this the title of a 2011 Tom Hanks movie, but it also perfectly describes the setup of many inexperienced wedding DJs. Weddings are not at all like nightclubs when it comes to music volume. As a wedding DJ, it’s your job to keep the music loud enough for guests on the dance floor while keeping in low enough for guests to visit with each other off of the dance floor. A great way to test this is to occasionally make a quick pass through the room while the music is playing at “dance volume” throughout the evening. If you have time, step out into the hallway for a brief moment, then reenter the room. This short break will allow your ears to reset so that you can judge the true volume of the music. Once you determine the optimum sound level, note the position of the VU meters, gain knobs, and master level on your mixer and do your best to maintain the current settings throughout the rest of the evening. Your ears will adapt to the volume and try to trick you into cranking the music up to 11 pm but resist at all costs. The bride, her parents, and the guests will thank you!
Similar to the way that the music can be too loud at a wedding, your lights can also be too bright. The guests on the dance-floor see your lighting in a much different way than you do from the DJ booth. To you, it looks awesome when you wash everyone in a blanket of bright LED light, but to them, it looks like nothing……because they’ve been blinded. Weddings are social events, and just like guests want to be able to hear each other, they want to see each other too! Instead of aiming your lighting directly at the dancefloor, point it at surfaces that will reflect the light onto the dance floor. Nine times out of ten, the ceiling above the floor is your best bet. Or, if you’ve provided uplighting, the walls will reflect light onto the dancefloor as well. Doing so will help create a party atmosphere while also maintaining an environment conducive to guest socialization.
Until wireless electricity becomes a reality, DJs will continue to singlehandedly support the extension cord industry. Quite often, this results in a rat’s nest of ugly wires on the floor and hanging from the backs of speakers. Allow some time during setup to properly route and tape down all cords in your wedding setup. Gaffer’s tape works well for taping cords to the floor, and standard electrical tape works wonders when collecting and taping wires to the back of speaker stands. Also, don’t settle for the orange extension cords at Home Depot. Instead, invest in black cords, which can easily be found on Amazon.com in a variety of lengths. If you’re into the whole “facade” craze, they are a great way to clean up an otherwise messy setup. If those facades are too “Wizard of Oz, a man behind the curtain” for you, keep your decks, mixer, or controller neatly organized in a coffin or case. After everything is all set up and ready to go at your event, walk out from behind your booth and view your gear from a guest’s perspective to ensure it’s all tidy and clean!
By taking the time to make your DJ setup bride friendly, you’ll be able to make a better impression with the guest and vendors at each wedding that you DJ. Along with your skills, this attention to detail will help ensure a steady flow of wedding referrals to keep your calendar (and bank account) full throughout the year!