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Planning Your Reception Entertainment With Your DJ

by Mark Pappas, Custom Music Disc Jockey Service, South Hadley, MA

One of the least understood aspects of wedding planning is the reception entertainment. You will spend, by far, the most time during your wedding day at the reception, typically four to five hours. Your vows will take about an hour, picture taking, another hour, dinner, an hour or two. How do you plan for four hours of music and entertainment? I suggest you work with an experienced professional. Each reception is unique and at the same time, familiar. Here's a look at what I do as a DJ and Master of Ceremonies. Any of the activities I mention below are optional at your discretion.

Planning your reception entertainment

Because we all have very busy schedules, and there are so many details to attend to for your wedding, pre-wedding meetings are entirely optional. Many brides and grooms prefer to handle the planning by mail and phone. Most of the time, they're relieved that they don't have to attend yet another meeting or consultation.

The contract and related materials

Once you've decided to book a DJ for your event, you will get an envelope containing the written contract and related materials. I send the contract, a simple two page Wedding Reception Planner and a letter explaining how I use the planner and how to fill it out. You will usually be asked to provide information like which song you want for "your first dance" and which of the given activities you want to take part in (bouquet and garter, dollar dance, cake cutting, etc.). Other information you will need to provide is parents' names, grandparents' names, bridal party members, any special announcements to be made (birthdays, anniversaries...), special requests and dedications, etc. There's no need to plan every song for the entire reception. If there is some special activity you want to add, you will have the opportunity to do that, too. For a recent reception I played at, the bride and groom prepared a tango demonstration and performed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. If you need help or suggestions, the DJ should be able to assist you over the phone.

Your wedding reception will be unique in many ways

This is your day... you are the reason everyone has gathered together. The DJ's most important responsibility is to handle the transitions between activities effectively and professionally, so that you can relax and enjoy yourselves and your guests. It's their job to keep the party moving along. The DJ usually works closely with the photographer, videographer and the banquet house or the caterers so that things go as smoothly as possible.

The cocktail hour

During the cocktail hour, you are having your pictures taken and preparing to make your entrance to the reception. The DJ usually plays background instrumental music at a low volume to allow your guests to socialize comfortably. People of all ages come from far and wide for wedding receptions. Some of them haven't seen each other in years. They'd much rather catch up on news, or meet new friends than be bombarded with loud music from an overzealous DJ.

The wedding party introductions

When the bride and groom are ready, the DJ should help line up the wedding party to make sure he/she has the correct order and pronunciations (grandparents (optional), parents, bridesmaids and ushers, flower girl and ring bearer, maid or matron of honor and best man, and finally, bride and groom). The introductions begin! Once the bride and groom have entered the room the traditional wedding activities continue... the bride and groom's first dance, the parent dances, the blessing and finally the toast, usually given by the best man.

Dinner and other associated activities

As dinner begins, the DJ usually plays soft music in the background, allowing you and your guests to enjoy each others' company.

After dinner, other traditional activities are performed: cake cutting, garter/bouquet toss, etc. (Depending on the part of the country and/or banquet facility procedures, the first dance and parent dances may be done AFTER dinner).

In almost every case, five hours is the most appropriate length of time for a wedding reception. By that time, most people are ready to wrap things up, especially the bride and groom, for whom it has been a monumental day, indeed.


Mark Pappas - Custom Music DJ Service

Disc Jockey and Master of Ceremonies
"Experienced Wedding Professional"
34 Pershing Ave.
South Hadley, MA 01075

"Every customer satisfied!"


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