Come To Your Senses

Over the past 15 years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend countless DJ gatherings, conventions, confabs and trainings.   More often than not, I’m a speaker, but at last year’s Mobile Beat Conference in Las Vegas, I was just an attendee and I had the opportunity to listen to a fellow WEDGuild member, Jim Cerone, from Indianapolis, give a terrific three part seminar called “The Perfect Host.” 

Jim broke down the keys of what he calls a “Perfect Host,” and what the WEDGuild calls a Wedding Entertainment Director™, into ten senses, and talked about how we use these senses to give our clients “The Best Wedding Reception…EVER!”

I’ll list them here, and frankly, I don’t know how much of my take is from my brain and how much is from Jim’s, but what really matters is that all of this goes into the wedding celebrations of our clients.

  1. Sense of adventure.  This is not some rote thing we do, another gig, another Saturday night of playing the same old songs and saying the same old clichés.  This is a once in a lifetime event for our clients, a night that will live forever for them, good or bad, and it’s a great adventure.  I’d add to this a sense of enthusiasm.  I’m lucky.  It’s built into me.  I’m just an enthusiastic guy and I love the adventure of something new.  A brilliant way to kick off the list.
  2. Sense of Purpose.  One of the things I’ve railed about for years in my seminars is that as a DJ or Master of Ceremonies, it’s imperative that one has an objective, a goal, with everything we do.  Every announcement, every song, every gesture, should have an objective, or as Jim calls it, a purpose.  What is our goal here?  Our goals are determined by our clients’ goals.  Sometimes it’s wild energy and sometimes it’s subdued appreciation, but if we don’t have an objective, a sense of purpose, we are unlikely to accidentally reach our goal.
  3. Sense of Empathy.  I’ve often said the best thing I ever did to understand this business was when I planned and participated in my own wedding.  Now, having been in the business since 1988, I have the perspective of not only the groom, but also of a dad.  I’m the age (or close to it) of many of the parents of our couples, and I absolutely have empathy for both generations.  Empathy of trying to create an incredible wedding on a very tight budget, empathy of wanting my friends and family to feel what we were feeling, empathy of wanting a lot of dancing, but not being much of a dancer myself.  Oh, I empathize.
  4. Sense of Atmosphere.  I think too many wedding vendors get so caught up in their own job, that they lose perspective of the big picture.  For years, we’ve tried to explain to our clients how important the first hour of a reception is to the success in the last hour.  The atmosphere created with lighting, music, décor, catering staff, photographers, videographers is so important.  Understanding and helping our clients to understand the importance of atmosphere is one of our most important jobs.
  5. Sense of Self and Selflessness.  I LOVE this one.  I can’t begin to tell you how many clients have said to me over the years, “I don’t want a DJ who is the center of attention.”   The problem is, none of the worst offenders ever think it’s them.  Being aware of what our presence does to the event is critical and understanding that making the moment is far more important than being the moment is the key to our success.  Probably 90% of the awesome moments we create at receptions aren’t even directly attributed to us, because I prefer it that way.  Selflessness.  It’s just not about us, is it?
  6. Sense of Tact.  I don’t understand why this one is so hard, but it is.  On my original DJ Training DVD, The 1% Solution, I show a video clip of a very talented local DJ violating just about all of these senses, saying some incredibly inappropriate things during the garter removal.  Although you can’t ever see the DJ, he has enough of a reputation locally that most people have figured out who he is.  He’s tacky.  He thinks a laugh is a laugh, nevermind the situation.  He approached me at a professional mixer recently to tell me he had seen the video and was laughing about it.  He went on to brag about how he charges so much less than me and all the other top end DJs.  He did all of this in front of other wedding professionals.  No sense of tact.  And that’s why he works so cheap.
  7. Sense of Humor.  Although this might be the most important one as a Master Of Ceremonies, it’s also the most dangerous.  See above.  Ever see someone “trying to be funny?”  It’s like listening to someone “trying to sing.”  It’s painful.   And that doesn’t even take into account that even if it’s funny, it’s still not necessarily appropriate.  I would add to Jim’s list, a Sense Of Appropriate Humor.
  8. Sense of Appropriateness.  Ah, see, he even thought of that.  A wedding is a celebration, not a frat party.  Although some weddings are off the hook wild and crazy, it’s still important to grasp the appropriateness of everything from volume of music to lyrics to lighting to humor.   I play golf every week with three other outstanding wedding professionals, and our behavior and language on the golf course is appropriate there, but very inappropriate at weddings.
  9. Sense of Timing.  I don’t even know how to explain this one, but I sure know it when I see it.  We all know how important timing is in comedy, but it is for drama as well.  The power of the pause is incredible.   Even in mixing music, the difference between a packed dance floor and a handful of dancers can be as simple as the timing of the music choices and the mixes.  Let Me Clear My Throat by DJKool is an awesome party song, but if I ever started a wedding with that, we’d kill the dance floor for the whole night.
  10. Sense of Fairness.  This is a testament to Jim’s upbringing and gentility.  Frankly, I would have never thought of this one, but it’s the big picture mentality, not seeing just how something affects one person, but everyone.
  11. I would have substituted a Sense of The Big Picture.  Knowing everything that’s going on, all the time.  This job requires great peripheral vision, the ability to hear a conversation while having another and the ability to multi-task in the face of overwhelming odds.  Part of the big picture means understanding that not paying attention to any one of these senses renders everything else useless.  Do 10 out of 11 but with no Sense of Tact?  Everything except Purpose?  Or  Appropriateness?  I wouldn’t want to be a guest at that wedding.

  It takes someone as genteel as Jim Cerone to put each of these senses into a manageable, specific list and I want to thank him for it.  It’s a great lesson to us all to keep our senses about us!

It’s Not Background Music

The term background music has always made me crazy.  It implies that it’s unimportant, a thing to be glossed over, like the music playing faintly but softly in an elevator.  In fact, “background music” can be critical to the success of your wedding.

Instead of “background music,” let’s think in terms of “soundtrack music.”  If I were to blindfold you and sit you in front of a movie screen, within the first few seconds of hearing the music, you’d know what kind of movie it is, and what your visceral reaction should be.  Comedy   Romance   Suspense   Action   Horror   Think of your wedding as a movie which needs a soundtrack and choose your music carefully, for each part of your wedding. 

Although some music is played softly,some is played at mid-volume and some at dance volume, all of it serves a purpose, a means to an end.  When you plan your wedding, don’t relegate your music to “background,” unless you’re having it in an elevator.

New Father-Daughter Song

A new father daughter song is here from Edwin McCain.  It’s called Walk With You.  The song, sung from the perspective of a dad to a daughter, is a powerful song written specifically for weddings and can be used as a father daughter dance song or for those who want something less traditional for the ceremony, a great song to walk down the aisle with your dad, especially if you’re at a facility with a long walk, like Sun City Lincoln Hills (Orchard Creek) , Vino Con Brio, Valley Hi Country Club or Forest House Lodge, As always, we’ll keep you updated on the latest and greatest new ideas for your wedding!

We Chose Christopher Kight Photographers

When planning my own wedding, I had a big advantage over most brides and grooms.  I had already been in the wedding business for a few years, so I knew most of the other vendors pretty well.  I didn’t have to worry about getting any bad vendors, because I knew who they were.  I had only to choose from the good ones.  When we had to find a bridal photographer in Lake Tahoe, I quickly narrowed the list to just a few, and then my fiancé and I quickly chose Christopher Kight.

Now Chris won’t like me saying this, but I didn’t choose him because of his artistic skills as a photographer.  Truth be told, all good photography looks pretty much the same to me.

My wife can tell the difference, because she has an eye for such things, but for me, if I look at a photo and their heads aren’t cut off and their eyes aren’t red, that’s a good shot.

I chose Chris because from the very first time I worked with him, I realized that he “gets it.”  He understands that a wedding day isn’t a photo shoot which gets interrupted by a wedding, but rather a wedding day at which photos will be taken.  He is an artist, something of a renaissance man, but he’s not so full of himself that he thinks the day is about him.  His goal has always been to capture the events and the emotions of the day, as they occur.  Studio work should be done in a studio, and he has a great studio for that, but at the wedding and reception, he wants couples to enjoy their day.

He’s fast.  I mean, really, really fast.  It may not seem like much, but saving a few seconds on each photo, multiplied by hundreds of photos means getting to spend those valuable minutes with friends and family.

He’s funny.  He takes his job very seriously, but he doesn’t take himself so seriously.  He makes me laugh and he makes others laugh and feel at ease, important for getting fun, natural images throughout the day.

Oh, and by the way, he’s an excellent photographer.  Some of the area’s best photographers trained under Chris.  He’s taught wedding photography as a college course and has mentored countless photographers in his 20+ years in business.

But he never loses his sense of fun, and that’s what caused me to hire him.  I knew I wanted, more than anything else, for my wedding to be fun and that meant having only fun people there.  I’m sure there are plenty of photographers who are as good as him technically, but I wanted someone fun.

Remember this:  On your wedding day, you will spend more time with your photographer than anyone else.  You must like him.  No, you must LOVE him.  (Or her!)  In those most personal moments, you need someone who “gets it.”  Chris “gets it.”

Chris and I have become great friends over the years.  We play golf together every week, and even though I trounce him mercilessly every week, he never gets mad or surly.  Oh sure, every now and then he runs me over with a golf cart or hits me with a golf ball, but he’s always smiling when he does these things.

He has great packages, great prices, great photos, great staff and customer service and the photographers who work for him are always outstanding as well.  He gets my highest rating!

It’s “The Same Thing.”

It’s very difficult to sell our service to those who haven’t seen it. 

It’s difficult, because all “DJs” do “the same thing,” but only in the same sense that a running faucet is “the same thing” as Niagara Falls.   It would be unlikely that someone would describe a running faucet as breathtaking, or travel very far to see it. 

Imagine an amateur magician  doing “the same thing” as Penn & Teller.   Now imagine an amateur DJ at your wedding reception.  Ouch.

Analogies abound, but like any other kind of performance, “the same thing” doesn’t mean the same as “the same result.”

I play golf, just like Phil Mickelson.  He just scores a little less. 

I’m married, just like Tiger Woods.   He just scores a little more.

So I guess it depends on what we’re comparing.  I think Tiger is a better golfer than I, but I think I’m a better husband.

All DJs do “the same thing,” and while we’re flattered to be copied so frequently, it’s frustrating trying to explain to potential clients why some DJs charge less for “the same thing.” 

Ever see a great comedian?  Ever see someone “trying to be funny?”

Ever hear an extraordinary singer?  Ever hear someone “try to sing?”

There are a lot of DJs out there who try to do “the same thing” as Premier Entertainment, but who get a completely different result.  Groans instead of laughter, silence instead of applause, empty dance floors instead of a raging celebration.

So it’s difficult for us, because we certainly don’t want to be bashing other DJs, but we often find ourselves in the unenviable position of trying to explain the difference between what we do and what others do. 

Sure, McDonald’s does “the same thing” as Biba.  But it’s a different experience, no?  Now I realize that Biba is not a restaurant you go to every day – only on special occasions.  But isn’t your wedding day a special occasion?   Don’t you and your guests deserve a better experience?

Dave & Karin’s Wedding Reception

Dave & Karin (not Karen – Karr-in) Danielson kicked off 2010 with an awesome wedding reception at the fabulous Vizcaya. What a fun couple and what a great day!

Over 200 guests arrived as we played an eclectic mix of Beach Boys, Eagles, Nat King Cole, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Coldplay, Motown and more fun stuff chosen during our planning sessions.   The weather was great and the mood was festive.

Their photographer, Christoper Kight, had Dave and Karin there less than a half hour after their guests, so we were ready to roll.  We began the introductions with Karin’s parents, Eric & Kim who would be celebrating their 29th anniversary the following day and when we acknowledged them, they got a great ovation, and then we followed that up by introducing Dave’s parents, Dean & Julie, who would celebrate their 36th anniversary three days later.  The house was already rockin’ when we started introducing their very fun wedding party.

Each member of the wedding party came in to their own specially chosen song.

They were:

Karin’s sister, Katie, the Maid Of Honor, My Sister, My Friend

Kelsey Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Danielle Wild Thing

KellyDancing Queen

Erica R.O.W.D.I.E.

TriciaOne Hot Mama

Anna had two – Doncha and Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (That’s what happens when you win a bikini contest!)

Then the guys brought it…

Best Man Keith, (always first) #1

TannerDirt Off Your Shoulder

Ivan – a special mix we made of I Know You Want Me and Rico Suave

ReshamPunjabi MC

TimP.I.M.P.

Matt got a special mix of 90210 and Ice Ice Baby.

JeffThe Gambler

When we brought Dave & Karin in to the thumping remix of Don’t Stop Believing, the energy in the room was incredible.  Smiles, laughter, cheering – a genuine celebration.

Dave and Karin welcomed their guests and Karin took a moment to smile up at her Grandmother, Alma, who had passed away very recently.  Karin did such a great job with it that it made everyone smile more, knowing Grandma was such a positive person.

Dinner, as always at Vizcaya, was incredible and as I moved through the guests I could hear table after table raving about the reception and the meal already.

After dinner was an awesome video montage that had their guests once again laughing and cheering and really understanding why we were there.  We followed that up with one of the most hysterical versions of “The Shoelywed Game” that we’ve ever played.  We could have ended the reception right then and I think most of their guests would have already said this was The Best Wedding Reception…EVER!”

But there was so much more.  Great toasts, including the Best Man, Keith, getting “played off,” and some surprise messages for both Dave and Karin.

They cut the cake while “Grow Old With You from Adam Sandler played, which is SO them.

When it was time for the garter, Dave, a football coach, had to do something a little different, so after he removed Karin’s garter, we tossed him a football while the Monday Night Football theme played, and when he pulled a Sharpie out of his sock, a la Terrell Owens, and he and Karin signed and dated the football and wrapped the garter around it, the guys were absolutely ready compete for the garter!

For the first dance, their bridesmaids handed out lyrics the guests, who had gathered around the dance floor, and as they danced to Kenny Chesney’s “The Woman With You,” their guests sang along to the “Can of beans” song.

Karin followed with a very sentimental dance with her Dad, to Heartland’s “I Loved Her First,” and then Dave did pretty much the opposite and he and his mom danced to “I’ll Always Love My Mama.”  They rocked the dance floor, and when they finished, their guests all hit the dance floor.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better…

We spent the next couple of hours rockin’ the Vizcaya with everything from Hip Hop to Motown, and like all great receptions (ok, all Premier Entertainment receptions) before anyone knew it, it was over, but not before all their guests were gathered around at the end of the night as we replayed highlights from the reception.

It’s going to be a very good year.