My thoughts on defining a “Successful Night”.
Now, let’s be honest, this is a very subjective statement. One which depends on both who’s point of view you are looking at it from and your own definition of success. There is most likely a university thesis that could be written on this subject. That being said, I would like to simplify it based on experiences I have had.
I recently did a wedding with a 400+ guest list. To date, it was the biggest wedding I have had to DJ. Much work went into preparing for the wedding. It was a religious wedding and, therefore, a lot of work went into making sure that all the possible songs to be played that night were not only free of profanity but also free of any lyrics that could potentially offend any of the guests’ religious beliefs. This event was over a month ago and I am still getting compliments on “how great” or “how successful” the evening was.
As much as I would like to take 100% of the credit for this, the reality is that the crowd participation was exceptional. There are so many important factors that can make or break an evening, especially in the context of a wedding reception. The DJ is often at the center, around which two other elements surround themselves. The Bride and Groom (“B&G”) and the guests. One should never dismiss the role of the guests at a reception.
We can start off by discussing the role of the B&G, keeping in mind that this is a subject big enough for its’ own blog, so I will be brief. The role of the B&G is mostly about knowing what kind of event they want. At the end of the day, it is (for the most part) their choice. I have seen attitudes range from “I will play what I like and do not care what other people think” all the way to “I will only play what will please my guests to ensure that everyone else is happy”. However, most people fall somewhere in the middle of that. Please note, that there are pros and cons to all choices. Once the B&G have decided on the type of event they want, they must agree on a playlist that will suit their choice. Will it be a chill evening of hanging out and chatting? Or will it be a full on dance party? Again, the B&G must understand that all the choices they make will impact the scenario they chose. At this point it is the DJs job to make it happen, all the while managing expectations on fantasy vs. reality - my favorite and simultaneously often the most challenging element of my job.
Having DJ’d in clubs for a few years before doing weddings, there is one thing common about a crowd. It is ever changing and often unpredictable. When I say unpredictable it reminds me of the saying “every battle plan is perfect until the first shots are fired”. What this means is that until the actual event begins, one can never know with certainty how the crowd is going to react. This is the foremost reason for hiring a DJ. You can definitely do an “iPod Wedding” - if you could care less about your crowd, or are psychic and know exactly how everyone will react to each song at any given moment. Ideally, best results can be achieved when one works to engage the crowd through the music, through the microphone or both, especially if that is the goal of the B&G.
The crowd can make a huge difference on the evening. I remember one wedding I did, where there was a lot of “drama” going on in the background between the guests and the B&G, which resulted in not many of the guests showing up for the reception- not a good sign. The B&G also had no idea what they wanted for their evening and went with the “go ahead and just play what you want” choice – also not a good sign. The combination of the apathetic guests and the nonchalant B&G made for something short of a dismal evening. No matter what I threw at them, they were NOT HAVING ANY OF IT! Some of the guests, upon seeing my frustration, came and explained the situation to me. Although the B&G appreciated the evening I would not define it as a successful evening. I am by no means saying that it was the guests’ fault, however they can have a big impact on the flow of an event. In contrast, the afore mentioned wedding where the B&G were very engaged and knew their crowd and the guests came ready to party, made for one of the best events I have DJ’d.
Now a crowd that is in a festive mood and is there to party, is at the other end of the spectrum. They are engaged and you can literally throw almost (emphasis on almost) anything at them and if it has a beat, they will dance! Yes it helps if the DJ is not all over the place with respect to genre, speed and eras. It also helps if the mixing flows nicely and the audience is not constantly stopping and starting again. Just basic crowd reading and mixing skills is required here on the part of the DJ and letting the guests do the rest. It reminds me of a time when I was doing a club event and the whole system died in the middle of a great song that the crowd was into. The guests all sang acapella until my system came back up. I honestly don’t think they even knew what happened! That was a crowd that was there to have a good time. Don’t get me wrong, as a DJ you can still mess this up. I guess what I’m trying to say is, guests have their own role to play in whether you have a “Successful Night”.
Once more I would like to emphasize that there is so much more that goes on to make a successful evening. I simplified it because I really wanted to bring out the difference that a good crowd can contribute to make an evening fun. There are so many other variables that could be discussed, however as mentioned in the outset, that would require a whole thesis in order to touch everything.