I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at many weddings for the families of showmen throughout my career as a DJ. This started years ago when I provided the PA and did the announcements for lots of local fetes and galas. The same people were providing the fairground rides for many of these events and, being the natural networker that I am, I soon got to know them very well. This made me the natural choice of DJ when a family wedding came around. I listened carefully to my first clients to find out what would be different about this event compared to the other weddings Id done and then worked hard to do a great job. This first gig was well received and the referral bookings soon started to flow. Im now booked for at least three or four showmans weddings each year and thought Id share my experiences of these enjoyable, but very different, gigs.
Firstly, Id just like to clear one thing up. Showmen are not Gypsies. Rather than identifying as an ethnic group as the Romani people do the close-knit communities of travelling fairground owners are connected more through family history. Furthermore, they dont travel all year round; when fairground season is over, youll find them returning to their houses and other fixed addresses. So, while showmen may live in caravans for much of the year, and they may be mistaken for Gypsies, they are more like the travelling salesman: they may have to move around the country and live on the road to make a living, but when they arent working they return home and live an ordinary life.
But while I have hopefully made the differences between showmen and Gypsies a little clearer to you, there are, admittedly, a few similarities when it comes to how they like their weddings. A showmans wedding doesnt follow the same procedure as the majority of weddings in the UK; theyre ritualistic and ceremonial although the format will change from county to county and theyre lavish, decadent affairs that often keep going until the early hours. Oh, and they love to dance! This is why the showmans wedding is an absolute dream of a gig for a mobile DJ.
The setup for the day is reminiscent of many American weddings: the couple will be married at the church or other venue, after which there will be a wedding reception. Pretty standard stuff. However, there wont be a separate wedding breakfast and evening do as is usual here in the UK; generally, if a guest is invited, theyre invited for the service, the meal the whole shebang!
It is when the guests arrive at the reception venue that things start to go a little differently from any other wedding youre likely to have come across. Upon arrival, the guests are invited into the reception room, while the wedding party waits outside. At this point youll likely be joined by a separate fairground MC think less Mark Ferrell and more scream-if-you-wanna-go-faster Waltzer-style! This MC will then invite each wedding party member into the room, one by one; starting with the ushers and bridesmaids, then the grooms parents, followed by the brides, and, finally the bride and groom. This is where your musical journey begins, so to speak. Because at this point you will be required to play a song for each of these individuals, as the guests gather around the dance-floor with confetti cannons and watch them do a stupid dance. How long they dance for depends on personality; Mom and Dad, for instance, may strut their stuff for the entire song. During this section, when the bride and groom enter, the first dance will also take place. By the time this is over there will have been 20 minutes of dancing already and they wont have sat down for starters yet! I usually then try and keep the floor for as long as possible.
The full article can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 71, Pages 28-32.