ahoj friends! with still not a whole lot of official photos of the big day this early on, i’m here to tell you how i (successfully) managed to pull off the one thing that wasn’t a guarantee and that i felt most nervous about: dj’ing my own wedding and making sure that the dance floor was hopping all evening long.
as i’ve mentioned before, the very first thing alex did after we got engaged with regards to the wedding was start plotting our dance playlist. we wanted this to be the best dance party of the year, nay! the decade! i’ve spent enough time in karaoke bars to know what songs make people get up and dance or sing along, and alex had been to enough weddings to tell a good party from a not as good party.
basically, we were ready to do this thang from the ground up. but early on, we realized, this probably means not hiring a dj; a very controversial statement in the world of wedding vendors. but self-dj’ing our wedding was the only way to get the independence we wanted with regards to exactly what gets played and what doesn’t. it was the only way to go.
the wedding dj’s we initially looked into were charging around $1600, less for a dj just starting out. some “pros” will tell you that there is no way people will get up and get moving if you have no dj. i can tell you that is TOTALLY false.
our dance playlist was carefully curated years in the making. we made a “play” and a “do not play” list. what also helped big time was asking our guests on the RSVP cards to request their favorite dance song. this was one of the best decisions we made with regard to the party because i can’t tell you how much i loved watching couples run over to the dance floor from somewhere else because they heard their song. it was so fun. (and then there were the dance floor stalwarts, like us, who barely even left it at all!)
about a month before the wedding, i went through the long process of tracking down and downloading all of the songs we wanted. (nobody ever said self-dj’ing is for those short on time!)
after all the requests were in and songs downloaded, i dumped them all into itunes and made a few folders: “drinks/dinner” “dance”, and any other special songs like “cake cutting” or “first dance”.
then the process that took two full days: ordering the songs. it was extremely important that the songs flowed into each other seemlessly. who knew that bryan adams “everything i do” goes so well before beyonce’s “halo”?
cross-fading the songs, when self-dj’ing, is HUGE for making sure there is no cringe-inducing dead air on the dance floor. (from itunes, go into edit, preferences, then playback) i set the cross-fade to 9 seconds. this means that about 9 (sometimes less, sometimes more) seconds from the end of the song, itunes will decide to fade it into the next song.
after the fact
the music was one of the most talked about parts of the entire wedding and the dance floor was always hopping. alex’s friend summed it up the best– about thirty minutes in to the playlist, “this is definitely in the top ten best wedding playlists i’ve ever heard.” after two plus hours in, “this is the best wedding playlist i’ve ever heard.”
drinks & dancing
for this section, my friends mike and stephen played some sweet tunes on guitars to kick off the entertainment directly after the ceremony. at about 1 hour, 45 minutes post-ceremony, we switched entirely to our recorded music playlist to get things rolling in the cocktail and dinner hour. i started the playlist with 60’s doowop and soul for a romantic, happy-go-lucky feeling, and eventually sprinkling in a few more modern songs as the dinner went on. best picks from this section included…
the beatles– all you need is love
wilson pickett– in the midnight hour
emeli sande & the brian ferry orchestra– crazy in love
johnny tillotson– poetry in motion
ben e. king– stand by me
the archies– sugar, sugar
sharon jones & the dap kings– how long do i have to wait for you?
the eels– fresh feeling
mumford & sons– i will wait
out of the 3 hours of prepared music, this section only saw about half of this. always important to have back-up music though!
we cut our kransekage (danish wedding cake) to…
the beatles– when i’m 64 (one of my ultimate favorites)
roxy music– take a chance with me
we chose this song because first of all, it’ssogood but secondly, this all happened because i decided to take a chance on alex. so, bam, there you have it, folks. it was lovely, even though it had a bit faster of a beat than a traditional first dance song.
after the first dance, we wanted to get the dance floor as full as possible because the photographer was only going to stick around another half-hour, so i pulled out these hits…
modern english– i melt with you
elvis presley– can’t help falling in love with you
george harrison– what is life
the cars– you might think
billy idol– dancing with myself
marvin gaye– got to give it up
abba– lay all your love on me
by abba, we had a full dance-off line going and i could barely step off the dance floor all night because all of these songs were such certifiable hits. i should know, hah.
here are some songs that absolutely had the dance floor packed…
run dmc– it’s tricky
hall & oates– maneater (everyone over 40 shot up to dance to this)
wilson phillips– hold on
the cure– just like heaven (everyone under 40 shot up for this one)
prince– little red corvette
the isley brothers– shout! (probably biggest hit of the night)
outkast/andre 3000– hey ya!
foreigner– i want to know what love is
men without hats– safety dance (conga line inducing)
rick springfield– jessie’s girl
and some that people loved that i wouldn’t have expected…
…and closed with the final dance right at midnight… (which i announced into the microphone)
nick cave & the bad seeds– straight to you (just as special as the first dance)
final thoughts of self-dj’ing….
it is so important to appoint a person (not in the wedding party) to act as the MC. this person will announce toasts, cake cutting, dances, etc and should be provided with a list of all important names (and how to phonetically pronounce them) and exactly when to start and stop the music. stephen, our go-to guy, couldn’t have been a more perfect choice.
only two times did someone try to use the computer to check the playlist and BOTH TIMES this happened, there was a half-second skip in the music and everyone groaned! it was not planned, obviously, but it was enough to warn that person away for the rest of the night. score!
and last thing you need: loud speakers. volume matters when it comes to forcing the will to dance!
in the words of stephen our MC, “it’s like i’m hearing the best dance playlist i could’ve imagined come to fruition”.
(drops the mic)
a thanks to john, adam, and various other friends for their candid dance snaps!