So You Want To Be An All-day Wedding Host?
It’s coming to that time of year when I have a little bit of time to sit back and evaluate the past 12 months and start planning for 2019. For those of you who are also in planning mode, some of you may be thinking about adding ‘all day wedding hosting’ to your menu of services next year. So I thought it may be helpful to share my experiences with you and take you through one of my recent events. This will give you an insight into what all-day hosting involves and along the way I’ll share a few of the tips I’ve picked up over the years. There are pros and cons to taking on this type of work, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it can also be extremely rewarding both financially and emotionally.
Just to make it clear right from the start, when I’m talking ‘all day’ I mean acting as the Host / Master of Ceremonies, guiding and directing the wedding from start to finish as well as being the evening DJ. I have been offering this service for the past eight years and have probably made every mistake possible on the journey. My number one tip is it’s not for everyone! The skills, temperament and demeanor required to be a good all-day host are not the same as for being a good DJ. There’s nothing wrong with just being the evening DJ and, if I’m honest, I do still enjoy being the evening guy from time to time.
It’s also very hard work and involves extremely long hours, often on Saturdays, so may not fit in with everyone’s lifestyle. If you have family or social commitments on Saturday mornings, like taking kids to football, playing golf, or shopping with the wife(!) it may not be for you. An 18 hour day is not uncommon, so you basically have to write-off the whole day, and it can be so demanding that you may find the next day will be a total washout too, as you will be left so tired.
Along with the long hours there’s also the responsibility and stress of being the ‘go to’ person who is in charge of the whole wedding. However, the satisfaction of being an integral part of a couple's once-in-a-lifetime wedding day can be immense.
To give you an idea of how All-day Weddings fit into my business model, I’m now going to share with you my 2018 DJ schedule:
All Day Weddings: 19
Evening Weddings: 16
Evening Birthday Celebrations: 2
Corporate Functions (inc. Xmas Parties): 15
Total Events: 52
So, as you can see, all-day weddings play a big part in my business plan. I do this full-time, and don’t have any other income to rely on, and find that this quantity of bookings gets my work/life balance about right. I’m never going to become filthy rich doing this, but I get to make a decent living along with being my own boss and doing something that I love to do!
All of my weddings are different and I don’t do the same thing at every wedding. This is achieved by really getting to know the couple, their personalities, their preferred style and their vision for the day. Again, I would like to stress that this is not for everyone! For some DJs whose passion is simply rocking the dancefloor, all of this groundwork may sound like no fun at all. However, I’m a ‘people person’ and really enjoy getting to know my clients and then find that I can deliver a far better service on the day having made a personal connection with the couple in advance.
So, now, to give you a real feel of what all-day wedding hosting involves, I thought I would take you ‘behind the scenes’ of one of my bookings from last year. I will break down what was involved from start to finish, which will hopefully prove interesting reading if you already offer all-day hosting, but also help you to decide if it’s for you if this isn’t something you offer yet but would like to.
I first received an e-mail enquiry from Amy and Tariq via one of my DJ friends and colleagues Iain Baker.
Tip: Network and develop relationships with fellow DJs and good people in the wedding industry.
My favourite form of meeting is face-to-face, but over the last year I have streamlined this and now try to pre-qualify clients via e-mail and phone before committing to a face-to-face as I don’t want to waste my time meeting clients who are not a good fit. However, sometimes geography means that in-person meetings aren’t possible even for pre-qualified couples.
Amy and Tariq lived in central London, which for me is a half day out of the office commitment and, as I’m finding with a lot more couples, they were happy to have a video meeting. I now use a video conferencing service called Zoom which I find is a lot better than Skype. I can use it to share photos and videos with them, which allows me to paint a picture of what is possible for their day.
I had a good connection with them via video and a week later they e-mailed me to confirm that they wanted to go with my full day package (which they didn’t even know existed before me met). ‘If you create it they will come’ is a variation on the famous quote from the movie Field Of Dreams and is very relevant to all-day wedding hosting!
I sent them my comprehensive wedding planner which they filled in and sent back. We had several more video meetings and exchanged countless e-mails over the following year to run through all of the finer details ready for the big day. This was very different to most of my weddings as I had never met them in person, and even a venue visit wasn’t possible due to scheduling conflicts.
On the day of the wedding I had a 200 mile round trip to Kent. I left early at 7:00am to avoid the M25 holiday craziness and arrived in plenty of time at The Oak Grove, a lovely woodland-shaded venue with an outside ceremony area and an amazing stretch tent.
I introduced myself to the owners who were very friendly but informed me straight away that I had to plug into the venue’s ceiling sound system, which certainly hadn’t been agreed to in any previous correspondence with the couple and the venue. (Which is one of the many reasons I normally try to do a venue visit in advance when I’m booked to play somewhere new.)
This wasn’t a good start, but after plugging in and test-driving the ceiling system I decided that it wasn’t too bad and, although the bride and groom were expecting me to use my sound system, I would have the conversation with them later on in the day. As it turned out they were fine and trusted my judgement.
The next challenge came when I plugged into the venue’s outside sound system. As soon as I turned the volume up a limiter cut the sound out which was not really ideal for creating a flawless ceremony!
The venue were very helpful and I gave them some advice and contacts for installing a new outside sound system. I then quickly set up my Bose compact system for sound and everything was now set for the guests’ arrival.
Now it was time to change and get ready for the arrival of the 120 invited guests. I like to meet and greet everyone with a smile as they arrive at the venue, direct them to cloakrooms and collect their presents etc. This is one of the best things you can do to connect with guests as you get to know them straight away. This meet and greet really helps when you first turn on your microphone to make the first announcement. They will listen to you, as you’re not just some stranger going “blah blah blah” on a microphone!
It was soon time to seat the guests and for that task I engaged the help of the ushers. It was an amazing sunny day and the bridal party were running late. This gave me another opportunity to interact with everyone to inform them that Amy was on her way, but running about 30 minutes late.
Whenever possible, I always leave the music on auto-play and go to greet the bride, bridesmaids and dad in person. Again, this is another chance to interact and build-up a connection, as well as to put everyone at ease. I did mention that this job is not a ‘sit on your arse’ kind of position didn’t I! I think I did about 18,000 steps at this wedding!!
The ceremony went off flawlessly and we went straight into the drinks reception in the shaded woodland. I had created a soul and Motown soundtrack for the bride and groom that went down really well with all the guests.
The next part of the job is to help the photographer round everyone up for the posed shots. Again, this is a great chance to interact with everyone and to get to know the various groups, which makes life so much easier when it’s time to fill the dancefloor in the evening.
Then it was time to seat everyone for the wedding breakfast and line all of the wedding party up to be introduced. Every wedding is different and sometimes I will just intro the bride and groom, but Amy and Tariq wanted me to introduce their parents, bridesmaids and best man, all with their own musical drops.
I love doing introductions, as it creates such a good atmosphere, but it can be stressful! You have to be 100-percent organised and have your music drops and scripting ready and well-practised in advance to ensure it’s as seamless as possible.
I had created a jive and swing soundtrack for the meal, which again was the style that Amy and Tariq had requested. We also had a wedding day quiz during the meal that always goes down very well for the right couple.
After everyone had enjoyed their food, it was time for the speeches. My role was to make sure everyone was ready, get the guests’ attention and then introduce each speaker ensuring they all received a nice round of applause.
Tip: Use two wireless mics, one for yourself and one for the head table, as it’s a lot smoother and more professional-looking than passing around a single mic.
All day weddings fly by. With the formalities finished and everyone enjoying the evening sunshine, it was time to start warming them up with some toe-tappy tunes ready for the first dance.
I started the dancing by rounding everyone up to surround the dancefloor and introducing Amy and Tariq back into the marquee. This was followed by a special dance with Dad and Amy, before the couple’s amazing first dance mash-up. The rest of the evening was very enjoyable. As always, it was like DJing for a big group of friends, as I’d spent the day getting to know the guests!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 92, Pages 54-58.