Here are some observations that I’ve made while providing entertainment for over 1,000 wedding receptions and parties as a band leader and DJ, along with some suggestions and ideas that might help improve your party. There are many variations when it comes to weddings, like time and location of the wedding and the size of the party. Most weddings that I performed at were between 125 and 175 guests, but ranged from 50 to 400. Budgets went from a few thousand dollars to approximately $40,000. (I was not in an area where huge budget “Hollywood” weddings were common.) I’ve worked small parties that were instant wild parties, and parties of 200 that required a lot more technique and skill to get things going. Every party is different. These are my opinions, and hopefully they will give you food for thought in preparing for your perfect wedding.
VOLUME - The volume of the music is one of the most important factors at a wedding. It is a good idea to be considerate of those with sensitive hearing, and seat those who might prefer a lower volume of music at a table furthest away from the speakers. If people sitting close to the speakers complain about the volume (believe me, they will if they feel it is too loud!), the volume must be turned down to accomodate them. What will happen is that your guests on the other side of the room will be unable to hear anything. One of my secrets to success was to start on the softer side. People will become accustomed to the volume and as the party progresses and gains energy, the volume can be raised to “party” level and nobody will even notice.
LIGHTING - The lighting in the reception room is very important. Most people are uncomfortable dancing in bright light, so it would be wise to arrange that the lights be dimmed. Many banquet facilities will automatically do this. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
PARTICIPATION - If the bride and groom, bridal party, and parents of the bride and groom dance early and often, the rest of the guests will quickly follow. The bridal party can also help get other relatives involved by asking them to dance.
KEEP THE PARTY IN THE MAIN RECEPTION ROOM - Try to keep your guests in the main reception room. If the bridal party leaves the main reception room for an extended period of time (to check out the view on a nice day, to have lengthy pictures taken, or to linger at a bar in another room), your guests will follow and your party will fizzle. If you lose the flow and energy of a party, it might not return. Portable bars can usually be set up in the main reception room.
MAKING PLANS – Most entertainers and banquet facilites will meet with the bride and groom in advance to find out what their preferences are. It is fun and exciting to organize your big event. One thing to consider is that besides being the “stars of the day,” you are also the “party hosts” with the responsibility to show all of your guests a good time. You have invited family members and friends to celebrate your wedding with you. They probably have to spend a lot of money to do this (travel, hotels, food, new outfits to wear, and a wedding gift). Don’t exclude any age group from the celebration. I’ll comment more on this under music.
MUSIC - Music makes every event! (“A Wedding By The Lake” creates an elegant mood for a wedding ceremony, cocktail hour and dinner.) Of course, the bride and groom’s input is important. I always suggested that they requested a few “must play” songs, give me a general direction of what their expectations were and let me work my magic. I know what songs are “sure fire” party songs, their tempo, and how to bring the dance floor to a frenzy without letting things get out of control. If you really like classical music or smooth jazz, these styles can be easily incorporated during the cocktail hour and dinner. Once it is time to party, you need to play party music or your guests will leave. If you attend many weddings, you will notice that some of the music is similar. When people go to weddings, they expect to hear certain music - songs they know and enjoy. You might consider some of them corny and overplayed, but they still help build the momentum of your party sooner. During the first dance set, I usually played several familiar wedding party songs (“Celebration,” “Mony Mony,” “The Twist,” for example). This made the dance floor inviting to all age groups. Once people are comfortable with dancing, you can ease your way into the more current and hip music. If at the beginning of the first dance set, I had blasted out the current number one party hit song, half the guests would have left! While group dances like “The Electric Slide,” “Macarena,” “Cha-Cha Slide,” “Cupid Shuffle,” and others might not seem current and hip, under certain circumstances they work very well. People truly enjoy them. Some parties take longer to get things going, so it's best to keep an open mind. I always suggested that couples allowed me to use my professional discretion; some parties are hopping right from the start, and others need the boost of a few standards and group dances to get things moving. My philosophy was to entertain all guests, of all ages, in a way that they all would stay to the end of the party and have a wonderful time celebrating with the bride and groom. IMPORTANT NOTE: Today, many entertainment companies allow the bride and groom to choose all the musical selections that they want played at their reception. "Customize your wedding the way you want it!" Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, maybe not. Many great songs are actually very difficult to dance to - do you know which ones they are? What if your guests don’t enjoy the songs you've chosen? I would have passed on a wedding that limited me to playing only certain songs. If the DJ's or band's hands have been tied by a hard and fast playlist, and the party does not go well, there's not much that can be done to save it. An experienced wedding entertainer knows how to incorporate the styles of music that you prefer, along with the styles that your guests like. The end result will be a wedding reception where everybody has a good time and great memories that will last for years.
PICTURES - Weddings are wonderful times to have precious family pictures taken. Try to have all your family group pictures taken during the cocktail hour or towards the end of the party to avoid slowing down the momentum of the party. During the reception, the bridal party should be free to participate in the formalities and to dance.
SMALL CHILDREN - Small children quickly become bored and restless at wedding receptions, and they can be a hazard on the dance floor. Their parents probably won’t really enjoy themselves, either. If you have invited children to your reception, consider making arrangements for the children to make a brief appearance, and then go home with a baby sitter. Many facilities can recommend a baby sitter or have a room set up with a pizza party and a movie for the little ones to watch.
NEVER OPEN PRESENTS AT THE RECEPTION - Don’t open wedding gifts at the reception. This will stop a party dead in its tracks.
HIRE PROFESSIONALS WHO YOU TRUST - Enjoy your own wedding. If you hire good people, let them worry about the details. The less stress you have, the more fun you'll have!
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I have a lot more great tips which I will post at a later date. You can also see the entire article which you can download at Wedding Reception Information.
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