Pre-Planning Pays Big Rewards


By Dave Austin, “The Music Professor”

“Their reception was so disorganized.  They wasted a lot of time fumbling around trying to decide what to do next.  I tried to fill with music, but the guests were getting bored and losing interest.  The reception was over in about two and a half hours because almost all the guests had left.”

Have you had a similar experience? When all was said and done, who was blamed for the reception being a flop?  Probably not the bride, not the coordinator, but very often the DJ!  Some may argue that a competent DJ would innovate, create and take action to pick up the pace and maintain the guests’ interest.  Good point.  However, I would submit that with a few ounces of prevention we could avoid finding our posteriors in this sling. What can we do to avert such a scenario?

First, how much planning time are you spending with your bride before the wedding day?  Do you book it, take a deposit and move on to other concerns, leaving your bride to her own devices?  Let’s understand something from the outset, the vast majority of brides have never put a wedding together and have little to no knowledge or skills in this arena.  So, if a well-organized, smooth event is what you want, it’s imperative that you get involved with the planning process and bring your experience and skills to the table.  I don’t mean you should take over the bride’s wedding or be pushy or overbearing, but rather, guide her, offer helpful suggestions, and become her partner in the planning.

During my initial meeting with a bride, I furnish a packet containing several forms which   provide me with information I’ll need.  First, there’s an Event Questionnaire on which the bride lists all the pertinent who, what, when and where as well as her tentative order and timing of the various reception events, if there is a theme, she’s asked to give us some details about it.  There’s a section in which music style preferences are ranked (current hits, current country, oldies/Motown, etc.)  She’s asked to list her preference for the DJ’s attire.  On another form, the bride lists her Special Event Songs (First Dance, bouquet toss, etc.)  On another, we begin creating the B&G and wedding party introductions.  In short, I customize my service to the bride from the outset.

I encourage my brides to visualize their reception much like a stream flowing by.  That stream doesn’t stop, start or jerk along from one place to another – it’s a continuous smooth flow.  I assist them in organizing the elements of their event into a logical progression or flow, then add personal touches to make it uniquely their own.

“Gimme an example,” you say.  Okay, let’s take that cluster of dances which usually follows the bride and groom’s grand entrance.  There’s the B&G First Dance, Bride & Father dance, Groom & Mother dance, and on some occasions, even dances with other important family members.  From a time standpoint, assuming that the selected song for each of these special dances runs four minutes, that’s a block of 12 to 15+ minutes during which guests are expected to just “stand by.”  In reality, after about four minutes, they lose interest, become fidgety and wander away.  However, it’s a fairly simple matter to substantially reduce this event time by editing the dance songs down to one and half to two minutes each and having the dances flow smoothly from one to another without dead air or lengthy introductions.  Example:  B&G finish their First Dance, and as the guests give them another round of applause, the bride immediately turns to her father, who is standing by at the edge of the dance floor. You make a brief announcement over the song intro, and bingo! In 90 seconds or so, you make a similar transition into the groom and mother dance.  Pretty simple, but here’s the catch.  The B&G, and all concerned must be aware of the plan and be ready to play their part, as this is one of those spots where your preplanning pays off.

This is my method for getting all those dances done in a timely fashion while still bowing to tradition and not giving the impression that we’re in a big rush.  Although they may not be aware that we’re moving things along, the guests appreciate not having to stand around the dance floor for an extended time.

Before wedding day, I’ll have planning meetings with my client, and when available, I attend the wedding rehearsal and conduct a couple of practice runs of our planned events.  A lot of trouble, you say.  Perhaps, but if I haven’t learned any other thing, I’ve learned that should there be problems with the music, introductions, or other elements at the reception, the blame could easily fall on me – whether I’ve had anything to do with the problem or not.  So, I go to a lot of trouble to make sure my part of the reception goes as smoothly as possible.

My brides, grooms and families deserve the best I can give them, and with each event, my reputation is on the line.  And, you know, that’s pretty important to me.


  • Dave Austin began his career at age 13 at a small, hometown radio station. He went on to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. Since that time, Dave has been a mobile and radio DJ, radio station Program Director, and a TV news reporter and anchorman. He has also done voiceover work for documentaries and commercials. In 1986 Dave’s longtime passion for music prompted him to start “Southern Celebrations DJs,” a multi-system mobile entertainment company serving clients in Tennessee, Northern Georgia and Northern Alabama. You can email him c/o

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