Weddings are full of tradition. Along with the tradition goes both music choices and when the music should be played. Natalie from the Impact Images Newcastle Studio spoke to Simon from XYDJ’s to get the run down on what should be played when and how important it is to stick to traditions.
XYDJ’s are a Newcastle based DJ company that specialise in weddings but are happy to travel further afield than Newcastle. We often see Simon and his crew at Central Coast and Hunter Valley weddings. Below is the transcript from Natalie’s interview but f you’d rather listen to the audio, you can do that here.
Natalie: Hi Simon! Thanks for joining us today, it’s really great to have you here. I’ve worked with you quite a bit over the years, and know you as XYDJ. So tell me a little bit about your business and XYDJ and how long have you been doing this for.
Wedding Day and Reception Music
Simon: Sure. XYDJ started in 2007 and it sort of came out when I moved to Newcastle to study at the university here, so prior to that I had done a lot of deejaying in night clubs and competitions and all sorts of things. When I moved to Newcastle I decided that I was sort of tired of that aspect of deejaying and wanted to try something new and that’s when I moved into doing more of the private scene, which when it started out, included birthday parties and other events, but as time went by, we were getting such a good response from weddings that we just chose to focus purely on weddings, which is what we do now.
Natalie: Okay, fantastic. So do you still kind of book yourself out for parties and things like that on Saturday nights or you just find that you’re so busy with weddings now, that’s all you do?
Simon: Yeah, we are solely a wedding business. Although we do do the occasional corporate event. Usually for larger companies who’ve done events for Optus before, Swarovski, as well, which is quite fun. But weddings are our main business.
Natalie: Okay, fantastic. So there must be a list of questions that you get asked regularly from brides and one of the big ones must be ‘Can we choose our own music?’ or ‘Do you have a specific style of music that XYDJ plays?’ How does the music kind of come out?
Simon: Yeah it’s a good question, it’s an important question, of course. Because wedding music, music at weddings is very important part of the event. So it’s something that people are concerned about, and rightly so, they want to take some sort of control over what’s going to be happening at their wedding in that regard. The interesting thing is, that music is a very subjective art. So it’s not something that there’s just good and bad music. It would be great if it was that simple. But the fact is, everyone has their own appreciation of music, what they think is good and what they think is bad. So in terms of us having our own style, we don’t really focus too much on what music that we like and the things that we do because my personal taste in music really is irrelevant. What’s important is you’ve got a room full of 90 or 100 people, they all have different taste and they all want to feel included in the music. So you have to get a balance between keeping the bride and groom happy, and keeping the guests happy. And at the end of the day, we want the same thing that the bride and groom wants and that’s for everyone to have a really good time. And that’s the main goal for a wedding, just to make sure that everyone has a good time. So that’s got to involve a lot of variation and it also is going to involve choosing songs, a certain amount of songs on the bride and groom’s behalf but not all of the songs.
Natalie: Yeah sure. I mean, that is the thing about a wedding. You get like an 80-year old Grandma, and you even got little kids. And at the end of the day, you want them all on the dance floor. You don’t want just one table because they like the music getting up on the dance floor, so you’ve got to definitely cater it for all tastes. And a lot of couples probably don’t realize that. They probably just think, ‘oh these are the songs that we like’ so what you’re saying is that you mix those with the songs that kind of suit their taste but suit the reception as well.
Simon: That’s right. So, we’ll get a general idea for the music that they like, and we’ll work around that. But at the same time, we’re going to use our discretion to play some into the broader audience. I mean, there are companies out there that will say ‘you can choose every song, pick every song for the whole night’ and it’s something that we actually totally disagree with that tactic because you run the risk of choosing all the music that you like, just the bride and groom, that is, and leaving some people out. It’s quite understandable because there’s a lot of aspects of weddings that are very personalized, so you know, choosing flowers, bride choosing her dress, all these sort of things are very, very personal decisions that are made by a bride. So, it sometimes come as somewhat of a surprise when you say, ‘well, actually, no this is not an aspect that you have to choose everything for.’ You can just actually leave it up to us.
Natalie: So the brides are the control freaks. So you take a big deep breath and trust. I mean, I guess by choosing their favourite songs, they’re giving you a really good indication of the style of music that they like, really. And they’re trusting in your skill and your knowledge of music to be able to kind of balance those out with songs that you know that they’ll like, but not necessarily thought of, that would suit, say, the grandparents on the tables or the kids.
Simon: I’ve got a little sort of trick that I like to say to brides and grooms to help them achieve the right results. And that is that rather than sitting down, looking at your iTunes library or rather than ask people to write a list of music for you to choose songs from, you’re much better off to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper, nothing else. And just think of the songs that you really, really love. And you’ll find that the songs that you end up with on that sheet of paper are the songs that you truly love because you can think of them off the top of your head. If you’ve had to go through your iTunes library or go through the list that we provided, you’re going to end with hours and hours and hours worth of music, much more than we can play in an evening. And that actually makes our job more difficult, rather than easier. So my guide is usually to, generally speaking, choose about 10-15 songs that they really, really like, and we’ll work around that. And then there’s actually 5 songs, 5 stages through the night which I recommend people choose specific personal songs for, and I can run you through them.
Natalie: Yeah, so what are they?
Simon: So the first one is the entrance into the reception and that should be really a fun, energetic song, because that’s a moment where you’re bringing the party, you are the party. And you’re bringing it to the reception. So it’s a critical point in the day where you’re saying, ‘okay formalities are over, and we’re here to have some fun.’ Choosing something really upbeat, a lot of people choose something modern and a little bit dancey, even, for that stage. Come in and you know, make a bit of a scene and indicate to people that ‘yes, it’s party time now.’ That’s the first one, is the introduction. What usually follows that is a cake cutting song, which is, that can go either way, some people choose something really slow, very romantic, and again, some people choose something that is a bit more upbeat and fun. That depends on their own personal taste.
Natalie: Do they get to hear the whole song for something like a cake cut, I guess you’d start playing it and then it would kind of fade into the bridal waltz because quite often the cake cut is followed by the bridal waltz.
Simon: That’s exactly right. Usually, that’s one of the good things about having a DJ there is that we’re there to manage that kind of change, so we will be ready and watching what’s happening and when the MC introduces the bridal waltz, we’ll just fade the music out and fade up with the..
Natalie: Yeah, I guess if you just had an iPod and you were doing your own music then you’ve got to wait for that song to finish, the next song to come on which is kind of an awkward kind of wait, isn’t it to move onto the next scene.
Simon: Or hit pause and sometimes the song would just cut dead and then sort of skip forward and just not very smooth.
Natalie: So that’s three songs.
Simon: First dance, yes, the first dance. The final two is something that divides the couples that we work with and that is the bouquet and garter toss. Some couples love it, think it’s great and a lot of fun. Other couples, they think ‘not for us.’ We just go to the dance floor. So for those couples, they just choose the 3 that we referred to before and for couples who want to throw a bouquet and a garter and then we move on and choose them as well. So those five songs are songs that you can really personalize as far as you want to go. So we’ve seen people walk in to Metallica before. And that’s a moment during the night where I say, look, if you have some tastes in music that may be not quite wedding appropriate for the rest of the evening, I mean, you don’t really want to be listening to Nirvana whilst you’re getting into your entrees or something like that and if you happen to love Nirvana, then why not? Choose a Nirvana song for your cake cutting or something like that. Where it’s a purely personal moment.
Natalie: Cool. So do people have much trouble choosing their bridal waltz? I imagine that could be a really tricky decision. Or do you find that most couples already have a dance worked out to a specific song and..
Simon: We get a real range, and this is one of the things I love about working with different couples. Some people they just want to get up there, just embrace each other, just swaying in each other’s arms. That has a romance in it’s own sense and is quite lovely and you know, they’re not interested in dance lessons or anything like that. They just want to spend time with each other, which is a beautiful thing. And then you get people who really want to make a bit of a show of it, this is the other end, and they all go and do dance lessons and they may even have a choreographed song. And they might even get us to pre-mix a couple of songs in a certain order and a certain style so that they can take it to their dance lessons and practice to that mix and they know exactly what they’re going to get on the dance floor. So that usually involves you know maybe 30 seconds of like a slow partner dancing song and then it might snap to something that is a little bit faster and they might do something a little bit special from that. That’s kind of fun as well.
Natalie: Okay, that’s great. So that’s something they would arrange with you early on in the piece. Okay, fantastic. I guess it’s also that song afterwards, I know a lot of couples are doing their dance with Dad, you know so the couple will do the dance themselves and then he’ll go off and dance with his Mum and she will go off and dance with her Dad so even the second song can be. Do you find a lot of couple would choose the song right after the bride waltz as well?
Simon: We used to, as part of our discussion with the couples. We used to suggest that they chose a song that came after the bridal waltz. And for a lot of people, it was just another decision they probably didn’t really need to make.
Natalie: Cause you make a lot of decisions when you’re organizing a wedding. So sometimes, it can really be overwhelming and you just want to keep things to a minimum.
Simon: Absolutely, so one of the things that we work really hard to do, is to eliminate the unnecessary. Because there’s a lot of things that go into planning a wedding, which is just overwhelmingly complex. So we really work hard to simplify the process as much as possible. So that’s one of the reasons we removed, suggesting to people that they specifically choose a second song, because what we found is that in every case, in every wedding, was that having another slow partner dance style song was the best solution. So there wasn’t really a need to offer that. Like if people want to choose a second song they are more than welcome to, but we don’t push people to do that. Cause what happens is, the bride and groom, they have their first dance, it’s very nice, and then the bridal party will come and join them and then often the parents at that stage. And then like you say, not only in the second dance do they go and have a dance with their respective parents, but all the other guests want to dance with their partners as well. So it gives them an opportunity to come on the dance floor and again, it’s one of the benefits of having a DJ, is that we’re trained to be observing what’s happening and quite often, at the end of the second song, you can see that people are still enjoying dancing with their partners. And we’ll go for a third slow partner song before jazzing it up. Or it’s usually very obvious and clear when people are sort of ready to bust out and dance, and at that stage, you go, alright, here’s something a little bit more fun and upbeat. Let’s get into it.
Natalie: So thank you so much Simon for coming today. It was great chatting to you and just getting some insight into the world of DJ weddings. So just on a final note, a crazy question. You know, all your years deejaying at weddings, have you had some really crazy songs that you played or crazy bridal waltzes or what’s the craziest moment you’ve ever had?
Simon: Yeah, I have. Look, actually just the other week, somebody chose Dr Alban’s ‘Sing Hallelujah’ to enter into the room which I thought was fantastic, such a great selection. I have seen people first dance to Metallica before and I’ve seen people first dance to sort of pumping dance music.
Natalie: What about just a song that gets everyone up at every wedding, like it’s a classic that no matter when you play it, brings young and old onto the dance floor. Is there one of those songs?
Simon: Yeah, there’s a couple. Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ tends to do that. ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder and is quite a popular one. And later in the night, I’m sure DJs are going to hate me for saying this but LMFAO just continues to deliver over and over again. That’s like for now, I’m sure like in 12 months time it will be someone else.
Natalie: Okay, so do you find that you play less and less top 40 stuff at weddings, because of that age gap between guests?
Simon: It’s probably a good thing you’re asking that is because what we try to achieve as a general guideline is moving through the ages as the night goes on so we start with your Van Morrison and your Stevie Wonder and occasionally maybe David Bowie or Beatles, Beach Boys, all that sort of stuff early on in the night and it gives the older guests a chance to be involved and hear some music they really respond well too. And then we’ll bring it forward and forward and forward through the end of the evening where we’ll play some top 40 and dance music because quite often by that stage of the night the older guests are having a cup of tea, sitting down and relaxing, quite happy for the young people to take over, actually I’ve got a great tip as well. Which I should have mentioned before. But a little tip for brides and grooms is that when they’re doing their seating arrangements, if possible, it’s best to seat younger guests closer to the dance floor and older guests further away. And that’s because music does fade quite substantially as it goes out away from the speakers so music will generally be louder closer to the dance floor and quieter further away. So there’s so many people in one space, there’s a lot of noise being generated just in discussion. So the noise level is already up, so for older guests it can be quite difficult to understand what’s the conversation that’s going on across the table. So putting them close to the dance floor can make it that extra little bit harder.
Natalie: That is some really great advice! I would never thought that. It’s so obvious when you point it out.
Simon: And it also means, that later in the night younger people are more likely spend time on the dance floor whilst the older guests can sit back where it’s quieter up the other end of the room.
Natalie: Cool alright, fantastic. Thanks Simon! See you at the dance floor!
Simon: My pleasure