Planning the perfect wedding evening reception

Having been a DJ now for just over seven years (where did that time go)? I thought it would be a nice idea to write a blog to help you understand how an evening reception works. I wanted to help you  understand the role of a DJ. I honestly don’t know how many wedding functions I have been a part of but I do know that I have worked enough to share my insights.

The fear that people have is that the room will be empty and nobody will dance. Well book the right DJ with the right knowledge and experience and you’ll soon forget this fear.

I am going to break this down into sections so it’s easier to understand.


No matter how organised you or your venue are, your day will more often than not overrun. Very rarely have I arrived at a venue and everything is running to time. I will always get to the venue for  6.00 ready for a 7.00 start allowing myself an hour to set up. I would say there will always be at least a half hour delay.

As a rule, it generally works like this:-

7.00 Start – Light background music to welcome your guests. The photographer will use this time to get any photos they couldn’t manage during the day.

8.30 – Cake Cutting, First Dance, and Father of the Bride dances.

8.45-9.00 – This is when you try to encourage guests on the dance floor by playing upbeat music so the photographer can get some nice group shots of your guests enjoying themselves.

9.00-9.30 – Evening buffet – I tend to play background music so people can catch up, drink and talk.

9.30-00.00 – This last part of the evening is when we take your song requests, your guest’s requests and the DJs experience to get people on the dance floor laughing, dancing and enjoying themselves.

Song Choices

Some people send me huge lists of songs because they love their music and some have no idea and just want their guests to enjoy themselves. Either way is fine with me but in some cases choosing too many of your own songs can have an impact as I will explain later.

I will always send over my song request sheet which asks for 15 choices, these can be songs, bands, artists or genres just to give me an idea of what you like. It also asks for 5 “Do Not Play” again this can be songs, bands, artists or genres; this also helps me when your guests make requests. For instance, you might ask that no songs with actions are played so out goes Whigfield, Saturday Night. I will also ask for your First Dance, Father of the Bride song and a song to end the night with. I will then work with this information and work out a playlist for you but I’ll be flexible enough to work with how the night is going. Put simply play more of what’s working.


There are many things that make a DJs life difficult, these are all factors we have to cope with and overcome. These restrictions do have an impact on the amount of people on the dance floor.

  • Where is the bar? – If the bar is in a different room to the DJ then most of the guests will be there.
  • Have you booked other entertainment? – If you have booked a Photobooth, Casino, Chocolate Fountain or anything to accompany the DJ then this will have an impact on the amount of people on the dance floor. It’s worse still if these additions are in separate rooms.
  • Weather – Strange thing to say but while you don’t want rain on your special day a DJ would much prefer it. If it’s too hot people tend to sit outside in the sun (quite rightly) and those on the dance floor get too hot too quickly if it’s too hot. The rain keeps everyone in one place so there is an upside to bad weather.
  • Song Choices – It’s a very difficult balance choosing songs to play. I always advise clients to choose a good selection of music and then allow me to play those songs that I feel will work in the evening, as explained earlier. In my opinion, a good DJ will play all types of music and not stick to one genre because you are there to entertain all your guests, not a select few. As an example, people may say all we want is chart and dance music. Which is fine, but what about the parents and grandparents and all those over 30? They won’t be too pleased.
  • Booking a DJ

    Booking a DJ is no different to booking any other supplier, you have to build up a rapport with them as does the DJ with you. You have to trust him and given the little bit of knowledge, I have given you understand he will do his very best and work hard to overcome any of the little obstacles ensuring you and your guests have a great evening. I always like to meet new clients at their Home where they feel most comfortable and go through everything with them. Discuss music choices, lighting requirements, set up times and of course costs.


    The dreaded word money. Every supplier will fight their corner and justify the money they charge and we as DJs are no different.

    So what are you paying for?

    Experience – Your DJ will more than likely been to your venue before and will have a good knowledge of where to set up, know the venue staff and know if there are any restrictions such as sound limiters or an earlier finishing time. As well as his experience with the venue he will have worked many wedding events before and know about all the problems I mentioned earlier. He will have a good understanding of what songs to play and at what times. While these few things sound quite basic they are a vital tool to ensuring your evening runs smoothly.

    Equipment – The list of equipment most DJs have now is endless I could write about this all day. They constantly have to keep up with the latest trends such as Up Lighters, LOVE lettering, Photobooths, Selfie Mirrors and LED dance floors to name only some. This equipment costs tens of thousands of pounds. As does the upkeep and maintenance, plus they have to ensure this equipment is insured and PAT tested. Then there is the upkeep of the vehicle they have to use to move all this equipment around, the last thing you want to hear is they have broken down. Simple sum I have about 35,000 songs if each one cost £1.00 then that cost alone is £35,000. That is just the investment in music before you have even purchased a single piece of equipment.

    Time – A common misconception is that it’s only playing a few songs I can just plug my phone in and use a playlist, which of course you can. Given all that I have said before do you really what your evening reception to come to that? Why not save your time and hire a DJ with experience that will have invested his time and money giving you one less thing to worry about. He will spend time working out a playlist for you, he will spend time responding to your emails and phone calls whilst liaising with the venue to ensure nothing is left to chance. He will use his time visiting a new venue to ensure he knows the layout of everything and the time it takes to get there. Well, I know I do at least.


    I hope in some way this gives you a little insight and understanding about what is involved in being a DJ and what a good DJ with a good understanding will do to ensure you are your guests have a great evening.

    Speaking from personal experience I love doing this, I love seeing people happy, dancing laughing and enjoying themselves. Being a DJ you get to see the best in people (and sometimes the worst), you get to work at some of the most wonderful venues and you get to do the one thing you love the most. Play music.

    So finally if you want to book a DJ find someone who is passionate about what they do, find someone who has the knowledge and experience of working an evening reception, find someone who has invested all their time and money into their business and find someone that wants to make your reception the very best it can be.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this…

    Image Courtesy of Yvette Craig Photography

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