The dancefloor is not the only place where the music matters. Award-winning DJ and MC, Serge Olivieri of DJ:Plus! Entertainment, would definitely agree.
Although Serge found himself servicing weddings by accident, he has grown so fond of them that couples make up the bulk of his clientele. He’s been doing this for over 40 years now, and seeing such powerful emotions during weddings never fails to make him feel fulfilled.
In this chat we discuss:
- What to consider before booking entertainment
- Setting up the vibe with music
- Coordination of your wedding music, right down to the songs
- Customizing the first dance song
- How wedding music has changed over the decades
- Getting people to the dance floor
Whether you’re thinking of booking a DJ, comedian, dancer or musical act, check your venue for any restrictions. Some venues have policies regarding the volume or type of music you can play.
As for your entertainment provider, it’s crucial to know if they have a backup plan. In case they are unable to make it, they should be able to arrange for a replacement on short notice.
Wedding music really sets the tone for your celebration. Serge recommends playing upbeat songs during cocktail hour and dinner to keep the mood light and fun. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have romantic songs! Slow tunes work best at the start of the reception, rather than towards the end if you want to keep the party going.
Ultimately, couples should get to play their favourite songs. Guests will flock to the dancefloor if they’re also enjoying the music, so don’t forget to consider them too!
Links & Vendors Mentioned:
Find DJ:Plus! Entertainment:
On Polka Dot Wedding: DJ:Plus! Entertainment
On Instagram: @djplus.entertainment
On Facebook: /DJPlusEntertainment
Find Dorothy & the Polka Dot Wedding team:
On Instagram: @polkadotwedding
On the website: polkadotwedding.com
This podcast was produced by Polka Dot Wedding.
The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders past & present.
Hello and welcome. You’re listening to the Feel Good Wedding Podcast by Polka Dot Wedding. My name is Dorothy, otherwise known as Miss Polka Dot, and I’m the founder and editor. We believe in seeking out content that is inclusive and diverse so that everyone can see themselves in the stories that we tell. We’ve done these for 15 years through the written word and now we want to have those chats in voice through a podcast. Can’t wait to take you along for the ride.
The Polka Dot wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora, and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians of the land, and we pay our respects to elder’s past and present.
Now who can actually believe it, but this is the finale of season one of the Feel Good Wedding Podcast. We’re going to take a little bit of a break after today’s episode to have a little bit of celebration with our families over the festive season. Season two is set to be epic because we have so many great guests and so many incredible conversations in store for you. We’ll be back in January with that. Before we go, we have one last chat to share with you and this one is all about wedding entertainment.
We’ve invited Serge of New South Wales-based DJ company, DJ:Plus! Entertainment, along for the ride. Now if anyone knows what they’re talking about when it comes to music, it is Serge because he has over 40 years of experience when it comes to wedding entertainment. While a packed dance floor is definitely his vibe and he guarantees that I’m sure, he knows that it’s so much more than just playing top 40 hits on your dance floor and the latest and greatest tunes because for him, wedding music is so much more. It’s about creating moments that move your guests. It’s about enhancing those moments for you. It’s about enhancing the emotion and really elevating every aspect of your day with music and with entertainment.
So of course, what better thing to chat to him about than how to make the most of your wedding entertainment and how to really choose the best music options for you. This is a really valuable chat and I’m really excited for you to hear it. Let’s get started.
Hello, Serge. Thank you so much for joining us today.
I’m thrilled to chat to you all about entertainment and weddings today but first of all, let’s get to know you. Tell me all about who you are and your business.
Who I am? My name’s Serge Olivieri. The business is called DJ:Plus! Entertainment. I’ve been a DJ for 45 years, so I’ve got 45 years DJing experience. Whilst I dabbled in MCing for the first 10 years, probably only 35 years I’ve actually been MCing and it’s probably one of my strengths now. I even do MC-only events. The service I provide’s a boutique-type service. I take no more than 25 events per year. I dedicate somewhere between 25-35 hours as a minimum average to every wedding that I’m involved in. If couples use me properly, put in significantly more time, it just comes down to them. I get some couples that want all this stuff and they get all excited and then you can’t get any information out of them.
How did you get started in wedding entertainment?
Oh, yeah. DJing first, purely by accident, because if I hadn’t started DJing, I would not have got into weddings. Purely by accident. I was part of a youth club when I was a teen and we used to put on these band nights because bands were big then. When Saturday Night Fever hit, people wanted to DJ so we’re hiring a DJ between the band sets. That was costing us a bit too much because we weren’t making money. We wanted to break even. We had a little committee and the committee suggested that one of us could do it. I got elected to do it because I had the biggest record collection. That was my only qualification. From that, it was where it started. After a few of those events, people were coming up, “Oh, can you do my 21st?” or “Can you do my 18th?” And things like that. I thought, “Well, might be able to make some extra money out of this.” That’s how I got into it. Again, this is funny story. One of the first two events that I did were weddings and I had no idea how a wedding ran. I essentially stuffed them up and ruined someone’s wedding. I had no idea. I felt so bad for the couple and I just did not take weddings for another 10 years. That’s why I wasn’t MCing very much. That’s why it explains why there’s a difference from when I was DJing and when I started to MC properly.
But 10 years later, you started again?
Well, 10 years later, what happened was I got a residency at an RSL Club where you just take all the functions that they gave you. A lot of those were weddings and I just started to hone it there, get to try different things. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a wedding at an RSL Club. Some of them are quite nice now but when I was doing it, people more interested in the pokies and drinking, watching the footy rather than being at the wedding. I could try things, I could experiment because it was just that sort of environment. That’s where I honed it to the point where management told me, “You’re getting really good at this.”
“You’re probably too good for us now.”
“I needed to talk to you about that.” I was tied in there. Basically, I couldn’t take any other events because you never know when they are going to throw an event at you. I wanted to go and do other weddings elsewhere, so that’s how I really got into it and then it really took off when I happened to have a wedding at a five, six-star hotel in the city. I didn’t know management was watching me all day. After the first dance and the dancing started, this guy in a black suit comes up and says, “We’ve been watching you since you got here. We’re very impressed. We’d love to have you on board. Can we talk?” “Sure,” and I gave him a card not expecting to get a call back because that’s what used to happen. You never got a call back.
Funnily enough, Tuesday afterwards, he gave me a call and we had a chat and I became the preferred DJ there. My rate was never the cheapest anyway, but they presold me. When clients rang, I tell him that my rate wasn’t the cheapest. They said, “No, no.” They’ve told us that,” but they said, “We need to have you.” From that, as the staff moved on, I picked up another four five-star hotels. So I’m doing all the great events, but I could only do one. Pressuring me into putting people on, which I tried for a very short period of time, but they don’t have the same passion or dedication. It’s not their business. They started off great. Well, this is what I found. This was my experience. Yeah, I don’t want to generalize here that everybody’s like that, but they all got complacent after a while. It’s not good enough. I stopped doing weddings when I ruined someone’s wedding. I don’t want to be involved in that, ruining people’s weddings.
We don’t want to talk about you ruining weddings at all today. Let’s move on into wedding entertainment. Our chat today is all about wedding entertainment. Right at the beginning, how do I start my wedding entertainment search? What do I need to think about when it comes to hiring a DJ or a band or any other entertainment I’m thinking of my wedding?
Well, there’s lots of factors, but really, it’s who are your guests? Who are you? The wedding should be about the couple. If you like fine food and all your friends like fine food and family like fine food, well then, have a food event. Have an all-night degustation dinner event, you know what I mean? Just have a Spotify playlist or something like that because the entertainment’s not going to be that important. You’re really more into the food.
If you want a raging party, then you need to put in a bit more effort. You need to decide what sort of event you want and what sort of entertainment is going to give you that. There’s lots of options for entertainment these days of course as well. There’s comedians, there’s jugglers, there’s belly dancers. What else? Yeah, Elvis impersonators, bands, duos, solo artists. Solo artists aren’t just solo these days because they have little gadgets that they can play backings and all sorts of things so they sound a bit fuller.
Once you’ve decided what you want, you need to consider the venue because a lot of people already booked the venue. You need to think about that, because if they want a five-piece band, maybe there’s not enough room in that venue to fit a five-piece band. That could cause you problems. Maybe you need a duo with some electronic gadgets or a DJ or whatever. That could influence it.
We are in the era too now where so many couples are like, “I want my wedding to feel like a party and not a wedding.” What kind of stuff do we have to consider when we’re really setting that vibe for the day of how we want the day to feel because music plays such an important role with that?
Oh, the vibe? Well, it depends what sort of vibe they want. I break it down to about four categories. If they want a chill dinner party vibe, so the main goal is to chat, eat and drink and alcohol may or may not be involved, I call it formal, a more structured event where the guests are just chatting, eating. There may be some dancing but not everyone’s going to be up partying all night.
The fun and formal where guests are chatting, eating, drinking with lots of people dancing. Alcohol is usually involved, and then the wild party where everybody wants to have fun and there’s lots of continuous dancing with music typically playing louder and lots of alcohol is generally involved.
Now, the other thing is with venues, it’s probably goes back to the last question you asked, what people need to consider, some venues have volume restrictions, quite severe volume restrictions, and it’s difficult if you’re not able to get above that talking level to create any vibe, to be honest, because you get drowned out. If you’re wanting that sort of wedding and your venue has very severe restrictions, you really need to find out about that because that’s going to govern what you can and can’t have.
Unfortunately, and again, I don’t want to say anything bad about venues, a lot of venues don’t let the couples know or they tell them they have noise restrictions without telling them what it is. Even if they did say 80 dB, that means nothing to a lot of people. “Oh, that sounds pretty loud.” No, it’s not. That’s the sound of a dishwasher.
Do you need to go in armed with what are the noise restrictions to what kind of wedding I want?
Yeah, because otherwise you won’t get that wedding. It’s very hard to get people in the mood if you can’t get over that conversation level, the noise, that sort of thing. The other thing is to think about what they want. I always ask my clients to give me a few words to describe how you’re picturing your perfect wedding day. They might say fun, memorable, engaging or whatever other words, and then I flipped that question. I ask them, “How do you want your guests to remember your wedding?” to give me some words. That could be that they had fun, whatever. That gives you a feel for, “How do I create this now? How are we going to create this vibe?” They need to know what they want. Often, when I ask couples, they say, “Oh, that’s a really hard question.” You haven’t thought about what you want? I think that’s important, especially when you’re looking for entertainment.
Yeah. I think that’s a crucial part for every part of your wedding, isn’t it, to really understand at the beginning what you want because it dictates everything,
Correct. Because otherwise, if you can’t convey what you want to the provider, they’re going to give you what they think you want or some people do the same thing at every event. They just switch out names and songs, maybe. That’s about it. People deserve more than that.
Why don’t we kick off with the ceremony because that’s something you’ve actually enlightened us (at Polka Dot Wedding about), in that choosing music for your ceremony and even having a DJ work with you on your ceremony is really something that a lot of people don’t put a hell of a lot of thought into. One of the things that people don’t think about is hiring a pro for the music. Tell us why that’s a good idea.
Well, there’s lots of reasons. All celebrants have some sort of PA system. It’s usually an all-in-one-type thing because they’re going from location to location. They don’t want to be setting up multitude bits of equipment. Everything runs through that. They’re not usually great quality. They just don’t tend to be. Those all-in-one things aren’t as great as separate components usually. That sort of thing.
If you’ve got a DJ or a band or a duo or something, they’re likely to have better, more professional equipment. They can not only provide the main system, they have greater sound, but also satellite speakers so they get better coverage and everybody can hear if it’s a weird location or if it’s windy or whatever and the sound is being blown everywhere. They’ll provide microphones. They’ll have multiple microphones that we’d like to put to service. I call it a lapel, but it’s actually a pin mic. It actually goes through the jacket and it picks up the couple and it doesn’t move. You don’t get that rustle or the wind blowing onto it. I just found that works really well.
The professional can also usually provide an audio feed for any videography. There’s less space required. Not so much outside, but if it’s raining and we have to exercise the wet weather option, you may be going to an indoor area where there is restricted room. If you’ve got quartet, they’re going to take a lot more room up than, say, a DJ or a solo artist. You might not be able to fit them in. It could be also for outside, if it’s a courtyard area or something like that, where it is walled in. Usually, they’re on a beach or in a park or there’s plenty of room, so that’s not normally an issue outside.
Less stress because your entertainer should coordinate with the celebrant and musicians, if there are, because sometimes there’s musicians and a DJ. Photographer, videographer, and anyone else that needs to be there, so that everything flows smoothly. For instance, I try and get the ceremony off the celebrant and I mark it up. So I know what their last words are and I know I can hit the button for the song, when they do vows, if they do vows, sometimes they repeat it while I mute the celebrant so we don’t get it twice.
It’s things like that. It just sounds more polished. That’s all. You can adjust levels and this applies also to background music or presenter music, as guests arrive, the chatter level will go up. If you’ve got it at one level, it might be okay to start with but as more people come in or arrive, that conversation level will go up. You may need to increase it slightly. Not to overpower them, but just got to get up a little bit higher so everybody can just hear it, basically.
It’s that fine detail by the sound of it of someone else who knows what they’re doing, who can take those little cues and nuances around the ceremony.
Correct. They would more likely to have more audio technical knowledge than a celebrant. They get the original version of the song if they have a DJ, if they like a song that way, whereas with a musician, you get their interpretation. Some of them are really good, don’t get me wrong. I love live music. This is something both a musician and a DJ can do.
Sometimes, you need a longer song. Say, for a processional, I’ve had where they’ve been at the other end of the paddock and they’ve all got a walk down and they’re going, “Well, I can’t have this two and a half-minute song. I can have it, but I need to lengthen it.” Right? Because if someone’s heel get stuck or they trip or something happens, they sink into the ground because it’s been raining all week or that one walks slower and I run out of music, I’ve got dead air and that’s not acceptable. I would rather extend that song out to five minutes or something and fade it out if they don’t need it. The musician could obviously just keep playing. They can improvise and just keep playing.
What do I need to think about when it comes to wedding music? When I’m planning my wedding ceremony and I’m planning the music, what are the things that you say couples forget?
The different elements of a ceremony, there’s the prelude music as the guests arrive, processional song which I just sort of mentioned, and then that could be one song for the whole wedding party, could be one for the wedding party, the attendants, and the spouse that’s walking down the aisle. It could be three because it could be two spouses walking down the aisle. There’s two brides. Sometimes, there’s two dads walking them both down the aisle, so it could be three songs. It could be a whole heap of songs that you need to pick there, depending how you want to do that.
Also, to pick the right song for the couple themselves. It’s a very emotional moment and it should be something special and that actually enhances all the wonderful feelings that they will be feeling, whether they’re going to burst into tears or big smirks on their face. There should be something that means something to them, just enhance that moment. Pick a song that means something to you.
The signing songs when you sign the registry, a lot of celebrants, and I just find the same stuff or one song. I like two because songs these days and no longer than about two and a half minutes is what I find. By the time they sign a couple of bits of paper, they take the photo and the witnesses sign and take photos. Sometimes two and a half minutes is not enough. I can always throw another song in there, but I’d rather play something that means something to them, obviously. Two songs there.
Songs for any other special moments that may be part of the ceremony, like a sand-blending ceremony or a butterfly release or ring warming. There’s lots of things people do. They may or may not require music, but if you want some music for that, then maybe think about what you would like there. Obviously, whoever you hire can help you with that. They can give you suggestions and talk to you about what sort of feel you want and make recommendations in that regard.
The recessional song as they’re walking back down the aisle, it could be romantic, it could be upbeat. I personally prefer upbeat, celebratory, but some people just want something romantic and that’s fine.
Now, the other thing about a ceremony is that if it’s a religious ceremony, so in a church, you may be limited to the types of songs that you can have. Some churches have, depending on the religion, you can only pick certain songs that they give you all this stuff. Others won’t let you have certain types of songs. I’ve done churches, where I’ve worked my way around that as I tend to play instrumental. There’s no lyrics that can offend anyone, but everyone knows the song, if you know what I mean.
We’ve gotten married and it’s time to celebrate and everyone’s got a glass of champagne in their hand. We’re at cocktail hour. You always recommend a couple chooses a DJ or live music for those in between hours, because I think the atmosphere is really crucial. Why is that and what do you recommend for cocktail hour?
Essentially, it’s the first part before you get to the reception. No, it’s already part of the reception, but it’s the first part of it so you really need to get the guests in the mood to party and celebrate. If they’re feeling wonderful after the ceremony and they’re looking forward to having a great time as they’re mixing with everyone and reminiscing and catching up and making new friends, because they might meet someone and make new friends, if the energy throughout that whole period is subdued, that’s going to carry over into the next part of the evening. It’s good to have a little bit more upbeat and get people excited about the next part of the celebration. Again, as I mentioned before, as the guests arrive, they can increase the volume versus just playing off a phone or an iPod or in the background. No one’s going to go adjust anything. It’s just going to keep playing.
I presume you can curate the music to do what you sense the crowd is sort of relaxing into.
Correct, correct. Normally, I’ve had that sort of discussion with the couple up front anyway about what sort of feel they want for that part of the day and then we talk about the styles of music and even particular tracks that will give us that that feel basically.
The other thing is that for some pre dinner drinks or cocktail hour, cocktail hour’s an American term for me, but I tend to call it pre dinner drinks, whatever it’s called these days, can be in sort of two locations sometimes because you might have an area where people are just mingling, having drinks, but they might be some lawn games in another area. It’s nice to give them some music as well, so you might need, not necessarily two systems, but maybe two sets of speakers. You’re going to want one to be further away so that they can hear that as well.
The other thing, because I like to get creative with my couples, if they want obviously, I don’t force people into being creative, but that’s what I really love to do. Make the wedding all about them and do something that guests haven’t seen at every other wedding. I’ve had where we’ve cut the cake during that time. The cake’s served after dessert normally is when it’s cut traditionally. Not everyone eats it anyway because they’re full. They just had a full meal. Having it there means you can serve it for afternoon tea potentially and it’ll get eaten, but it also frees up some time for more dancing because it’s not an another thing you don’t have to do during the ceremony.
Also, I’ve even had a first dance I suggested that, at pre dinner drinks. The couple have had their photos and they come back to the pre dinner drink area and will do the first dance, something like that. It gives you opportunity to do some unique stuff, and yes, that’s any part of the wedding, really.
Traditionally then, we’ve gone through the photos and the guests have all had some nibbles and wine, etc. in cocktail hour, and then we go into the speeches at the dinner or cocktail dinner, depending on what we’re having. What should we think about through music at this part of the evening? I feel like this is a part that is often really forgotten because it’s sort of a weird in-between part between your cocktail hour and your dance floor.
Yes, yes. Well, again, it depends what they want. Once again, I suggest more upbeat music because you need to get them wanting to get up at the end of the dinner or even, and I’ve had this, during dinner. Some people will get up and dance. Actually, I did one a few weeks ago, sorry, I’m just going offtrack here, where people start with dancing at the ceremony. There’s two couples that start with a dance at the ceremony. I go, “Wow.” While the couple was signing away, it was a Motown sort of soul-type song and yeah, they just started dancing. I think that’s great. It should be really something that’s vibrant and fun, if that’s what they want. I know some people like romantic music during dinner. I have people sometimes ask for classical. Classical is not really a good type of music (for a wedding).
Really? Why is that? Because it’s sort of dour? It kills the energy of it, I suppose, because it’s a bit sort of reserved?
It does. The other thing is it’s just very hard to get an appropriate volume because you have the really low bits and you have the really high bits. You tend to push it up a bit higher, so you’re going to hear the low bits and then all of a sudden, there’s blaring sound. I always give couples what they want, but I don’t think that works really well.
I suppose we have to think that while there’s the speeches and the dinner, it is also pre dance floor. They still kind of want to keep that energy up.
Correct, correct. If they do really want some slow stuff or romantic stuff, I suggest you do that during the first part of the evening, the first half hour maybe, during the entree, and then go up a notch and bring it up more upbeat. What I look for, are people tapping their feet? Are they swaying in their chairs? Are they singing along? That sort of thing? If you’re doing that and get pockets around the room doing that, you’re getting them into the mood for the dancing that’s going to come.
Obviously, also, we need to think about audio for the speeches as well. Obviously, we probably need a microphone as well, presumably. So DJ is perfect for that because they can help with the audio, which is again, often forgotten.
Yes, yes. During COVID especially, microphones were an issue because you weren’t supposed to share those things. I supply multiple microphones and during COVID, that’s exactly what I did. Everybody got a clean microphone, each speaker, and then you’d collect it, you’d sanitize it, and be ready to go out to the next one, basically. Just take those precautions. You put it on a stand and you wipe it down on a stand. Some people did that, so no one was touching anything, but they’re still breathing into it, which is an issue. Microphones, all DJs have at least one microphone. Some have more, I have multiple because backup different frequencies in case I need to run a lot of them. You have backup as well because things can fail. No matter how much money you spend on quality, it can fail – nothing is faultless.
How can we use entertainment with us as a couple throughout these three stages of day, the ceremony, the cocktail hour, and the reception, to really tell our story and to really personalize it, apart from just the obvious of choosing your favourite song?
Okay, well, there’s lots of things you can do. I do getting-to-know-them questions when I first meet with them and sometimes that reveals something. They tell me something which gives me an idea about something we can do. There’s things like personalised introductions. Nearly all weddings have a wedding party and what I found is that not everyone will know everyone in that wedding party and how they’re connected to the bride or the couple. Most MCs will introduce them as, “Now, please welcome bridesmaid and groomsmen or best man and maid of honour” or whatever role they have, John and Mary, but these people could be best friends. This is what they usually are. They’re best friends or they’re siblings or something like that. If they’re best friends, they may have known each other way back from kindy and they’ve been lifelong friends. They’ve all got different jobs, different hobbies, funny stories, quirky habits, all sorts of things that they can tell me about them.
If the couple like this idea, I actually like to weave elements of those facts into the introduction so that the guests who don’t know them or only know of them, now understand who they are and how they’re connected to that couple. It joins the dots and makes them feel more included rather than, “Oh, who’s that guy? Who is this best man? How does he fit in?” It just joins the dots for them. Now, if we did that, I don’t like the wedding party to know we’re doing that. I want them to expect whatever they’ve seen in the past because if we do say something about their quirky habit or their funny story, it opens up the potential they can play up to it, which is still an organic reaction, right? It’s not staged in any way and I love that sort of thing. I believe there’s more to entertainment than just music and so I like to entertain guests in different ways.
We talked about dancing, but sometimes not everyone’s going to dance or they’re not a dancing crowd. If that’s your only tool in your toolbox, you still want them to have fun and so there’s other ways to do that. As part of the introduction also, if the couple likes this idea, I can also drop in sound bites as I’m saying things about them that relate to what I just said about them. It could be a line out of a movie, an excerpt out of a song or a sound effect or something. It’s geared to get a laugh and make the whole thing fun, but it’s not about making fun of the person, of course.
If they’re a sentimental couple, they could record messages to each other. They would do this separately and no one else has to know that they’ve done that. I master that into their first dance song so when they’re on the dance floor for their first dance, there could be a beautiful message to each other in the song. If it’s sentimental, likely to have a proportion of the guests well up. Emotion is what creates memories. I’m a big believer in that. If you get people to laugh, get people to shed tears of happiness, feel anticipation, feel exhilaration, and all the beautiful emotions you can have at a wedding, they’re going to have a great time and they’re going to remember. That’s the other thing. It gets ingrained in their subconscious.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You’ve had 45 years of experience with doing music, which means you must have played so many first dance songs, so many recessions, processionals, all the different bits of the days. Do you find these days that you’re playing the dance tunes of years gone by? Are you doing much more current songs? How has music in weddings changed over those 45 years? Got to make you think right back now.
Look, the majority of people pick the classics. You play predominantly the old classics and a sprinkling, or maybe 25%, of the newer stuff. That’s what I’m finding with my couples. I’m not saying that’s everybody. Once in a while, I’ll get the reverse where they want more newer and only gets 25% of the older stuff. How’s music changed? Well, music starting to get okay again now because we went through a period here where the music was not danceable. I was going to use another word, but I’ll use that one. It wasn’t danceable and it all sounded the same. There was just a few years there. Songs have gotten shorter. Like I said, most songs are at two and a half minutes now. I don’t know whether that’s because of Spotify, where no one listens to everything all the way through and they flash forward to the next thing because everything’s at our fingertips now.
Short attention spans now.
Well, I didn’t want to say that.
I’ll say it. Thanks to social media, we all have short attention spans. We don’t want to listen to a six-minute song. Although that Taylor Swift song was very long, the 10-minute Taylor Swift song and everyone loved that, so you never know.
I asked a question about, this is, again, my first meeting with a couple, “What have you seen other DJs do that you didn’t like?” and they said, “They didn’t play the whole song.” Many times that I got that. You cannot cut down a song like Bohemian Rhapsody, right? You just can’t. That’s a classic, so you just can’t. You have to play the whole four-odd minutes of it. It just depends. They mix out of it. Those sort of comments I get. Because of that short attention span, a lot of DJs, they think they have to mix that quite quickly. I do that sometimes, but not all the time. Some songs I just play the whole song because I know that’s what they want to hear.
Dance floors, like I said earlier, it’s such a thing now where we wanted a packed dance floor. That’s the ultimate goal of the day for some couples and it’s often also a measure of how fun a wedding was, so how can we really make the most of that dance floor? This is where everyone’s bringing in DJs and music and stuff, so how do we maximise our music for the dance floor?
The first thing is something I mentioned earlier. Make sure you can get to a decent level of volume. If you don’t have that, it’s just too hard. Ultimately, there’s no guarantee you’re going to pack a dance floor. Sometimes you can do everything and it’s just the wrong crowd. It doesn’t mean they’re not having a great time. It’s just they’re not dancers.
Other factors, and this is what I tell my couples, I believe the music that they have should be a blend of the couple’s favourite songs and artists, songs which speak about the relationship, and songs which will appeal to the majority of guests. They need to keep the guests in mind. If there’s 20-400, 500 people in a wedding, why did you invite them if you just want to play your obscure folk music or something?
I think you have to keep the age of your guests in mind too. You’re obviously going to have a lot of guests that are your age, but your parents, friends, etc., when they’re on the dance floor, there’s some great moves so you need to put all kinds of different stuff in, as you said, that elevates those people and brings them onto the dance floor.
Correct. You should do that in segments where you’re just going through a few different styles and you rotate and so there’s always people on the dance floor. At times, you’ll have them all on a dance floor. No one can dance all night, especially if you’ve got a long set. They get tired. They get thirsty.
Other factors to guarantee a great dance floor is the couple themselves. The couples are the stars of the show. They’re the reason that they’re there and the guests look to them for guidance, so if they want people to dance, really, they need to dance as well. Guests look to them for the cues. That’s what I find. I’ve had this where I was meeting with a couple and half an hour into our consultation, they said, “Oh, can we just go out for a smoke?” And they did, both of them. I go, “Yeah. Okay.” Come back in, I go, “Okay, so how many of your friends that you’re inviting are smokers?” “There’s about 50%.” “That means that your wedding, every time you go for a smoke, I’m going to lose 50% of the crowd,” because they’ll go where they go. That’s what happens. “Oh, yeah. I didn’t think of that.” I said, “Well, maybe you should consider more gum, but gum doesn’t look good on a wedding day. Nicotine patches or something on the day, just so you go out less often.” Interestingly, they really thought about it. I think it was about three or four months later because I do, I call it, care calls where I check in on them, see how they’re going, and touch base and things, they said, “Oh, guess what? We’ve both given up smoking,” because they want people on the dance floor and also for their health. I said, “More for your health you should give it up.” They actually gave up smoking, which was a health benefit. That’s where they’re going to go.
The photo booths in the foyer, they go to the photo booth, they spend a nice night at the photo booth. Their friends are there with them. I recommend the photo booth’s always in the room because you lose half your crowd if it’s in the foyer or some other room and they’re not part of the reception anymore now.
You need the people in the room to get them on the dance floor too. It’s really a diverse range of music, reading the dance floor. If the couple does have some strange requests that may not work, I try and incorporate those earlier on in the evening, maybe in background music somewhere, because sometimes she’s into the dance stuff and he’s into thrash metal. Can’t really play thrash metal at a wedding. The wedding got to represent him as well. The way I’ve done that is one particular was an Iron Maiden fan. I found some stuff called Nylon Maiden, which was violins doing Iron Maiden songs, so we played some in the background, pre dinner drinks, that sort of stuff. We played some covers of some of those songs by other people that were more acceptable, if you know what I’m saying. We incorporated it and he was happy with that because he still had the songs from his favourite band and they have balance. That’s the other thing. They got balance. Towards the end of the night, you may be able to get away with one of them if it’s been semi popular and people know it.
Yep. Exactly. What should we think about when it comes to the first dance? Anything that we might have forgotten or that you wish couples would do or think about when it comes to that?
What they should do is practice dancing. People don’t dance anymore is what I find. Often, they look awkward. They’re just swaying and they don’t know how the other person moves. That’s a suggestion I give, again, at the consultation that once a week, they just put on their song in their lounge room or wherever and just dance. Just practice to it, get a feel for how the other person moves. You won’t look as awkward on the day. Obviously, they can go for lessons and do a choreographed dance if they wish, but this is a really special moment.
That’s why we have a voiceover and it can be really, really emotional. I’m a hopeless romantic, right? I’ve put something like that together and so I know it. I know it intimately because it’s taken me however long it’s taken me to put together and on the day, in that moment, I tear up because you’re in that moment. You see how they react. It’s just a beautiful moment it can create. It’s not for everyone because some people think is cheesy and corny, but if it appeals to them, that’s good enough. They don’t have to do a romantic song.
They can do an upbeat one and a fun one.
Yeah. I had a couple where we played a game. Not played a game like a game game, but we put on some romantic music as they walked through the dance floor. Everybody thought that was the song and when they hit the dance floor, I went into the chicken dance because that’s what they wanted to do. They’re doing the chicken dance and everybody’s in laughter then. It’s just a bit of fun. It doesn’t have to be what people see all the time. Just get creative.
Wedding entertainment can extend beyond music and DJs and live bands. What other pieces of the puzzle in an entertainment sense that we should think about when it comes to creating that beautiful atmosphere on our wedding day?
Well, some of the things I’ve mentioned, some of those unique things you can try, I think what’s really important is the timeline, how the whole thing flows. Generally, a venue puts it together. They take input from the couple, but the venue puts it together. Again, nothing against venues, but their main agenda is food service, not entertainment. So I tend to put one together and I run it by the venue, of course, but I look at it from an entertainment perspective. It needs to flow, things need to transition nicely so it feels like it belongs there rather than, “Oh, yeah, we need to do this. We got five minutes there. We’ll just plunk it in there” and it doesn’t feel right. You probably don’t realise what’s not going to feel right until the day but I like to think, “Okay, how’s that going to play out? Do we need to change something there or change the scene we’re coming from to make that feel better?” Sometimes, you can move it around and then fix it. Other times, by moving it around, you actually create more hassles with the other parts that were working properly, if you know what I’m saying. In that case, you don’t move it because it’s the best of the options, but then I just look at, “Okay, how can I change what we’re doing before that coming into this so that feels better? How can I change the thing we’re going to make that feel better?” Sometimes, you get very creative doing that.
Again, I might tell this one. Bride comes back to me and says, “Dad’s very nervous. He wants to do the father-daughter dance as soon as you introduce us into the room.” To me, that doesn’t flow. If the couple wanted to go directly on the dance floor, that works and I said, “Okay, let me think about it.” I came back and I said, “Okay, at beginning of the night can be early in the night.” I said, “We’ll do the speeches.” We had the two dads speak after the entree and traditionally, the bride’s dad go first and the groom’s dad would go second, but I flipped them so we put groom’s dad on first – at the end of the bride’s dad’s speech, I got him to ask her to dance. Literally creates an “Aw” moment because dad looks fantastic. They all think it’s his idea. We now have a reason to do the dance because dad’s asked his daughter. It becomes a highlight dance because everybody’s still seated and they’re just doing it on their own. It just creates a really beautiful moment.
That’s when I’m thinking about transitioning. How do we transition? Is it going to flow properly and does it feel right? The way he wanted to do it, that just wouldn’t have felt right at all. I would have to call him down or have him standing there, waiting for his daughter. What’s the groom going to do? He just walked in with his bride. What are they going to do? It’s more to it and people say, “But that’s not entertainment.” Well, it is entertainment. It’s just like a director and a producer. They’re producing films. Films are entertainment, but they’re thinking about how that piece of art flows in advance and how it’s going to be received. That’s what I like to do.
It’s really about hiring someone that’s really experienced because that stuff looks so simple on top-level, but it’s actually really considered.
Correct. That’s the thing. Sorry, the people that do hire me, they like the fact that I do that. Some people can’t see it and that’s fine. I’m not for them. I’m not for everyone.
Exactly. So you’re also a wedding emcee, which is something that really guides the night and how it unfolds. So how does a good wedding emcee keep a wedding day on track, entertain the guests yet still coordinate everything. So the focus is on the couple. Like it’s so many balls in the air?
There is. Look, the way I manage it is that I do a significant part of the work upfront before the day. I’m contacting the venue, I’m contacting all the other providers I need to interact with, the photographer, the videographer, and everything. If there’s any other entertainment, some people have dancers, all sorts of things come in, and I just find out what’s needed, work out when they’re going to be there, try and work that into a timeline that works like, “Photographer, are you doing sunset shots?” especially daylight savings. The couple disappear mid event and when their speech is scheduled, because the sun’s setting and I need to go get shots, we can’t do the speeches. We’ve got nothing happening. Everything’s lagging and that eats into dancing time and all sorts of things. By knowing that they want to do it, I will Google the sunset for that location, work all that out, agree with the photographer, try and schedule a meal to be served before that because the couple gets served first, so that they can eat their meal, duck off with the photographer while the rest of the guests are eating and have those sunset shots and be back. They might be five minutes more, but we’re not 25, 30 minutes behind now. The night keeps flowing.
It’s just working all those things out so the photographer can do their best work, the venue can do their best work, everybody does their best work because you run it by everyone and say, “Okay.” I think I get it quite right because I consider all when I put it together, but sometimes there’s something I just wasn’t aware of they come back with. They are like, “That’s not going to work for me.” Okay, why not? Tell me and then we make it work for everyone. You do all that.
On the day, you’re guiding and directing that. You’re making sure, “Okay, this is what’s happening next. This is how this thing is going to play out.” If they did have a message in their first dance song, I tell the videographer, I tell the photographer not at the beginning of the night, but 10 minutes before we’re about to do that first dance and say, “Hey, this some messages in the song. You might want to have him her or her her, whatever, framed at this point 20 seconds in because the other person is going to say something really beautiful to them and you might get a lovely reaction” or they’re going to finish the first dance with a dip and a kiss or a twirl and sit on his knee. It’s usually a bride and groom that do this but sit on his knee and give him a kiss. You know what I mean? Great photo. They know what’s happening. They’re not going to miss it.
It’s about keeping everyone informed and keeping it all flowing, about not starting speeches if the meal’s not served properly or all the cutlery and everything else hasn’t been collected, hasn’t been cleared. Just checking with the venue before you go on to the next thing. “I’m going to go into this now. Are you okay?” “Yes,” and then you proceed. You’re just coordinating all these things, but it all comes down to that timeline. If you get that right and you can get everyone to agree to it and then just check in with them before you’re about to go into anything and just explain what’s going to occur in this next segment, you usually avoid most issues.
It’s a tricky job and especially when you’re actually also DJing at the same time. Although it’s probably good if you’re doing both at once because you have a bit more control, I think,
To an extent. I’ve had to automate some of the things I do because obviously, if I’m doing a cake cutting, the DJ console could be set up at the back of the room, it could be on the configuration of the room, and the table’s up front, the main table, and sometimes, I have to walk all the way back. I used to have to walk all the way back and hit play, whereas these days, I try and do it remotely. I have an iPad with remote wireless things and music plays, I don’t have to walk back, so there’s no lag. It just flows more smoothly. There’s ways around it. You just need to work out ways to do things.
Yeah, that’s helping.
So venue space, food schedules, booking terms and conditions, what are the other bits and pieces we really need to think about when it comes to our wedding entertainment?
Well, besides the things we’ve talked about…
I know we did dive deep into them.
I think that the main things that they’d be looking into should be covered in the terms and conditions, but one thing they should find out is what happens if the people they’ve secured are unable to perform, be it because they get COVID or they get sick or whatever. They don’t really know what that person’s backup is or are they left in the lurch. I get calls, not all the time but frequently, the day before. I had one earlier this year. In February, it was, on four o’clock Friday for Saturday. DJ had rung in, say, “I’ve got COVID. I can’t come and do your wedding.” I ended up doing it because I wasn’t booked and to help them out because my heart goes out to them when something like that happens.
You really need to know what their backup is. I try and find them someone. I now discuss that with them. I’ve never missed an event by the way, but if I can’t make it for some reason, I will try and find you someone so you don’t have the issue, basically. They don’t have the issue. The only thing is, of course, because I’m blatantly honest with people, if I got collected by a semi-trailer on the way to the event. Obviously, I can’t do anything and yes, they will not have entertainment.
As with any vendor. Just pray and touch wood that never happens to any vendor.
No, I know that. It’s just about being realistic that we don’t know what can happen and that’s the thing I can’t control and I’m upfront about it. In that case, yes, you might be able to find someone but yes, you will have to look after it and someone will give you your money back, basically,
Is there anything else we should ask our musicians and DJs then, apart from the COVID and the replacement stuff, before we book them?
Backup equipment might be a thing. I’ve seen lots of things online over many, many years. Now the top 50 questions you need to ask a wedding DJ or a band, it’s just crazy, some things. Backup equipment I think is one you should ask because things can fail and what do they have on-site to get them through your wedding, basically. Like I said, things can fail. I run multiple laptops because a laptop could just die. All the music’s on the laptop, so I’ve got two set up at any time. If one goes down, I got the other one. I have a third one I can replace that other one with. I’d have to be very unlucky to have three go down at one event. I carry some not the same but get me out of a jam.
The sound equipment, I carry some additional sound equipment. Obviously, if it’s 500 people. It won’t cut it, but most of the people that use me are 70 to 120-type thing so it’d be more than ample. Battery-powered stuff, in case the power goes, you can put some background music on and you can communicate with them with a battery-powered microphone and still entertain them even though the power’s gone. Things like that. What happens if your equipment goes down?
One of the things you probably shouldn’t ask, which I see this question on a lot of these things that are online, “Can we come and see you at a wedding, performing at a wedding?”
Crash someone else’s wedding to see?
I go, “No, no. The answer is no. You can’t.”
No, because you don’t want to crash someone else’s wedding. It’s a bit awkward.
It is. I’ve had couples tell me, they never end up booking me but it doesn’t matter. They hang around outside and just look in the door. Why are you going to loiter outside? Seriously? I said, “Look, the whole thing is it’s not going to give you a feel because I’m tailoring that wedding to that couple and this style of music, it may not be your style. It won’t give you any idea.” You can’t crash someone else’s wedding. It’s just not on.
No. Let’s keep that to the movies. Do you have any last tips or advice for couples who are planning their wedding entertainment coming into the next couple of years?
Oh, this has always been a thing. Speak with your suppliers. People want to do everything by email these days or text even. You won’t get a good feel for your entertainer that way. I can’t get a good feel for my couples that way. Also, they want pricing. “I’m getting married. Can I have a quote?” That’s just what you get. How can you quote that? Where is it? How many hours is it? What exactly do you want?”
To give all the information upfront.
Even so, you still need to speak with them because I might not be the right person for you. Maybe you have some very specific requirements that you haven’t detailed because that sort of comes out later and I’m not the right person because I don’t do that very well. I’m not going to lie to anyone. I want them to get to have the best wedding they can regardless if it’s me or not. They need to find the right person.
There’s that. For me, it’s about building a connection and trust with the couple. I can’t deliver my best service without it and the only way I can do that is really to have detailed discussions with them, so I like to meet them, get to know them, they get to know me. What if they don’t like me? They’re not going to work with me. If they don’t meet me, I won’t know. Right? No one’s going to win out of that. They’re not going to win, I’m not going to win, so meeting is very, very important.
Probably my other tip is, because this is very prevalent now, people ghost people. They put in an inquiry, you email them back. You ring them, they don’t answer. You leave voice mails. You send them a text, “Hey, I have left you a voice mail.” Some people have voice mail. They don’t check it.
And junk mail. Check junk mail as well.
Yeah. You do all these things and you ring a few times. I’ve put it at three now. After three times, I give up. I might send them an email and that’s the end of it. One final email and that’s it, but they don’t get back to you. Hey, just be courteous. Be kind. Don’t waste people’s time. If you found someone else, just send them a quick text to say, “Hey, thanks but no thanks. We’re all good. Thank you.” Just something.
It always comes back to that courteousness and kindness. We get ghosted a lot as well. Just close the loop. Close the energy, send it on its way, but actually let people know.
Yeah. I know. Everyone I’ve spoken to, I do two more follow-ups. On the third one, it says, ” I haven’t heard back from you. I assume that you found someone else or no longer wish to proceed.” You can meet me, but maybe haven’t even got to that part. They feel compelled to reply and say, “Oh, yeah, we found someone else.” At least I know, but the whole point was they probably found someone else ages ago, maybe even after I quoted them. Just two lines in an email or five or six words in a text, really. It helps providers because some people have a lot of clients and putting a lot of time in chasing them or following up, let’s not call it chasing but following up, and they get nothing. That takes them away from other stuff that they could be doing and adds cost to the business. Time is money in any business.
Let’s end on a happy note. Who’s your favourite song picks? For a positive note, for your favourite song picks and your favourite song choices moving forward to 2023 which will be slightly different, probably the first non-COVID, wedding feel, we hope. What are you loving that people are playing at the moment that you’re just like, “Yeah, that’s a really good song. People need to play more of this one.” Is it Horses?
No, no. Not Horses. Oh, that’s a hard one. The music I personally like is not stuff I play.
What do you personally like?
Well, I’m into rock. You don’t play a lot of rock at a wedding.
That’s good old-fashioned classics though.
Yeah. Look. It’s very simple song, but it gets people up. That Pump It Up song.
Okay. Awesome. Dance floor mover, shaker.
Yep. People generally get up for that, old and young for some reason. Pump It Up.
I love that. I think you’re the best person for song recommendations, so I feel like anyone will take the ones that you give.
Yeah, I’ll take it, but I don’t 100% agree with you.
Well, thank you for sharing so much wisdom when it comes to wedding music and wedding entertainment today with us. I feel like there’s so much yet to share and so much that you have shared that is so valuable for couples.
Thank you. Been a pleasure. Absolute pleasure. Thank you.
Been lovely having you. The biggest thank you to Serge for joining us today on the Feel Good Wedding Podcast. If you’d like to find out more about search and how you can book DJ:Plus! Entertainment for your wedding day, head on over to polka.wedding.com/podcast or head to weddingpodcast.com.au. We have got the full episode transcript over there, including all the links and everything you need to know about Serge. Now, this is the final episode of season one of the Feel Good Wedding Podcast and we can’t actually believe it.
We’re going to be back in 2023 with season two and we have so many amazing conversations and amazing guests lined up so we can’t wait for you to tune in and hear them. We would love your thoughts, your feedback, your reviews on the Feel Good Wedding Podcast. This is a podcast designed for you. It’s designed to share stories for you. It’s designed to educate you. It’s designed to give you help. We want to make sure that we’re doing the things that you want to know about and that you want to hear, so drop us an email, send us a message, leave us a review. We would love to hear your thoughts. Have a wonderful festive season, a wonderful and safe New Year, and we cannot wait to join you in 2023 for an epic year of wedding planning.