Every day I am grateful to be able to work with the happiness and joy of couples choosing to say “YES” to each other.
Honestly, working in the wedding industry is probably one of the most rewarding jobs ever…and we should not forget, equally demanding.
As a Wedding Celebrant, I have the pleasure of working with a lot of vendors regularly – especially being that the Okanagan valley is a very sought-after wedding destination in British Columbia, you get the opportunity to meet quite a few and you start forming experienced teams over the course of the years with these various wedding vendors, aka “friendors”. 😊
I am blessed to get to work alongside so many top professionals who all have ONE goal:
Making a couple’s celebration of love the best day of their lives!
To do so, there is a lot of work that goes into the preparation of your event to ensure your wedding day runs smoothly.
Many people see vendors being masters at their craft, but – let’s be honest – they really only see what happens on the day of.
You rarely get a glimpse into the work and efforts behind the scenes that result in what you see and experience on your wedding day.
So, I thought I would provide you with some food for thought if you are starting to plan your wedding day.
Because you may have many questions about different roles and vendors that will be working with you for your once-in-a-lifetime moment.
That being said – have you ever wondered what else a wedding DJ does, aside from “turning on the music”?
Well, we’ve got the answers.
DJ John Byrne, is one of the most experienced and top wedding DJs in the Okanagan, working for 12 years in the industry.
So, of course, often working with him, I wanted to know as a first-hand witness of his professionalism, what goes into the work of a DJ who is specialized in weddings and other events.
John and I sat down and had a fun conversation around frequently asked questions that I would love to share with you all:
Q: Booking a DJ for a wedding – why not using a Bluetooth playlist?
I wish you could hear our giggles, and trust me, if you are looking into a wedding with the full program of ceremony, reception, dinner, dance, party… you really want to read on.
John brings light into the dark:
“There are so many different reasons and different moments in a wedding that require different handling.”
Let’s talk about the party for instance, why should you have a DJ instead of a Bluetooth list?
First of all, the DJ can read the crowd:
“The couple can try to predict what the crowd might want but often they have no idea, because when you have a 100 people in a room, there’s no chance that you know what all of them want to hear.”
John has experienced couples that were sure about their music and told him that their crowd loves a special style – and at the end, it was actually the opposite.
It’s the task of a DJ to read the crowd while they are having fun…or not so much.
A phone or tablet can’t do that.
But there is so much more to consider in terms of keeping the party going:
“When DJ-ing, I’m often not playing the full duration of a song, I transition from one song to another with a lot of thought.
Also, if a song is not working, I will cut it really quick and go to a different one, whereas a song on a playlist will literally die and then there is a moment of awkward silence – even a second or two of silence can truly kill a crowd.”
And then there is the point of sound amplification:
“The DJ ensures the microphones sound good for speeches, both at the reception and the ceremony.
And at the ceremony, there is not just the task of queuing the music appropriately but fading in and out in a smooth manner.
So, there is lots to be said about when people book a DJ, they just think about the party but they’re not thinking about the rest of the day.”
Truth to be told, as an officiant, my life is made so much easier when working with a DJ during the wedding ceremony, as I can rely on the professional music handling and my microphones working properly.
You don’t want to have the interference of music and background noise if you turn on the speaker with both channels open just before the ceremony starts, and you neither want to assign a guest to take care of balancing music and speeches as you want them to enjoy your ceremony.
Q: How would you best describe your work at a wedding, aside from “turning on the music”?
John says, “I’m truly passionate about what’s best for the party. It’s my 100% goal at your party to make sure everyone is happy, whether that would be musically or with all the moving parts that I have to be flexible about, and working with other vendors, different timelines, etc.”
John turns out to sometimes function like a “mini wedding coordinator” to take the stress away from couples: “I always try to be the easy-going part, because people are already feeling stressed, I don’t want to be adding to the stress, I want to be taking the stress away from people – I take pride in kind of going above and beyond of just playing music and make sure I’m there for whatever it is.”
We can say for sure, a wedding DJ’s job is not about just turning on the music – it’s about jumping in, helping vendors, and coordinating with them…and beyond:
John is also there for you, always fully equipped even for the small things such as, “sometimes people forget cables for a slide show or other things, so I can jump in and help.”
– You may thank him very much for this consideration and support! 😉
Q: Why should couples have you in place for their wedding ceremony as well, and not only for the party?
In John’s words:
“I think the ceremony is the most important part of the day, and it is the one part that I feel needs to be flawless.
A hiccup at the reception is ok, a hiccup at the ceremony to me is a no-go.”
A good DJ also coordinates with the officiant ahead of time:
John and I, for instance, compare our files and make sure we are on the same page when it comes to which songs have to be when faded in and out, etc.
If there are some discrepancies, we are checking in with the couple to make sure John has the right song at the right time in place.
And there is another key point about why having a DJ or musician in place for the ceremony:
“Sometimes microphones are challenging, a professional knows how to balance the sound in a way that isn’t causing feedback, that the entire audience can hear, how to place the speaker(s), and alternating or mixing the music with the microphones to make it sound proper and good.”
Q: What are the steps you go through when taking on a new client?
John mostly gets contacted via email, sometimes also through his social media and, of course, through referrals.
Once the couple decides to work with John, he sends a contract that will protect both sides, the clients and himself.
“From there, I have an actual planning portal, so I give my clients a username and a password, and once they log in, I have a few forms that guide them through all the songs I need – for ceremony, first dances, etc. It kind of walks you through all the songs that you will need.
And then also, outside of that, I always like to get a feel for what kind of music the couple is into:
I’ve got a ‘must’-playlist and a ‘do-not’-playlist which is also important. – If you hate an artist, style, or songs, I would like to know that ahead of time.”
John does most of his communication with a couple through email.
When the wedding date is approaching, he will have at least one or two zoom meetings, as most couples these days like to meet virtually, especially for destination weddings which the Okanagan is so famous for, and couples live somewhere else.
But if a couple would like to meet John in person – that’s great – he is also game for that.
During these meetings, everyone gets on the same page by confirming details and going through all the forms.
John says, “not only does it give me peace of mind going into the wedding, but I get a lot of feedback from my couples, saying they felt at ease because of the meeting and because of the forms and preparation we put in.”
Q: How long are you working on a couple’s wedding on average, and how long in advance are they booking you?
Working with John means, you have to be aware that he gets booked a year in advance from couples planning their wedding day.
He admits: “I feel bad for some people, especially with the key wedding dates, like Saturdays in July and August, because a lot of people don’t realize how quick you have to book a DJ – there are certain dates in summer that all the DJs are fully booked.”
John emphasizes that there simply is more demand than there is supply here in the Okanagan.
So, he suggests to rather book early on in your planning stage.
But one thing you can be sure of if you book John as your wedding DJ:
He takes as much time for you as you personally need in terms of communication.
John puts it simply:
“Some clients like a lot of attention, which I will give you, and some are very easy-going, which works for me too.”
He puts in as much work as needed to make it the perfect day for you on your own terms.
When it comes to the number of working hours for each wedding, he gave me the example of a 12-hour wedding day (including set-up and take-down): the work behind the scenes takes up at least an additional 12 hours ahead of time – with emails, meetings, planning, and all other prep work John does.
Q: What are things that couples often “forget” when working with a DJ?
John has a very good point he wants to let people know when working with a DJ:
As far as music goes, he highly recommends being open-minded to the professionals doing their work:
“It’s not unheard of to be very specific in the music that couples want and that can backfire real quick, because, if you say, as an example, ‘no country’ (that is what I get a lot of people saying), then, what I do tell them is that there is a good chance that at least 50% of the people will want to hear some.
So, I would advise my couples to be open-minded to some changes, because at the end of the day most people want to have a good party, right?!
If you take the DJs tools away from them, they can’t always do their job.”
John also points out, sometimes the genres he gets told NOT to play, turn out to be the missing pieces for a crowd that was disengaged and made the dance floor finally erupt, once revised.
By the way, my personal advice to our couples: on your special day lean back, enjoy it, and leave the work up to the pros. 😉
Q: What are pricing factors that a couple should take into account for their wedding?
John has different packages he offers to any couple that wants to work with him.
It all depends on requirements – with or without the ceremony if they have live music, for instance.
“When people book a DJ they mostly think about just party, so potentially when they get a price, it might at first be a little bit what they weren’t expecting, but I think when clients see what you are actually doing and bringing, they understand. – That includes all your equipment.
Typically, what I’m bringing to a wedding is about $20.000 worth in equipment.
What I do too is that I’ve always mapped every scenario as far as what can happen that might cause issues, such as computer crashes, speakers blowing,…and professional DJs have back-ups for everything, including microphones, computers, speakers.
– Planning for every scenario so to speak. “
Other things people also don’t consider when hiring a DJ but reflected in the pricing are years of practice, experience, and training:
“Any good DJ is going to be practicing, sharpening their saw, and honing their skills behind the scenes.
These are things that people aren’t seeing but they are happening.”
So, we can say, what you get at your wedding is the result of the efforts put into personal development.
Q: Myths and myth busters?
As wedding vendors, couples get to see us perform on their wedding day.
Sometimes asking…kind of…where is the pain if you work in such a happy job and for one day of performance?!
Especially a DJ is often being judged as having a very “cushy” lifestyle, so, the myth is that they show up to the gig and leave.
And if they are not performing, DJs are probably sitting at home and not doing much.
“It’s a great job, and I love it!
But the reality is, there is a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes.
So, for me personally, I am the DJ, but I’m also the admin, I’m also the marketing professional, and I do everything by myself.
Also upgrading – I think the key of being successful and having longevity is staying on top of things, I’m also usually updating my website every two years to be current.
And your website is your storefront.
To get to where I am now, it took hard work, and it took years of me having to have two or three jobs.
It’s only recently that I’ve been to the point where I can be a full-time DJ.
I took a lot of hard work, grinding, networking, marketing, and research.“
Yes, being a professional DJ is operating a business like every other business owner.
And let’s not forget that during summer the working hours also take up to 60+ hours a week.
What a great interview it was with DJ John Byrne, a super professional and wonderful “wedding friendor” I truly enjoy working with – I know you would too!
If you want to know more about the wedding planning process in general, feel free to browse the FAQ with a wedding planner, the work of a wedding photographer, and how to get married in BC.
And now, happy planning of your special day…and don’t forget to enjoy the process! 😊
Proudly presented by your Wedding Celebrant Alex.
Have a chat with John about your wedding day to see how he can make your celebration one to remember for everyone: