I recommend Rat Pak to all of my brides and grooms because Don (DJ Sunn), Nick (DJ Powder), and the rest of their team know how to keep guests on the dance floor like no one else. They read the room and keep the party going all night long.
It’s harder than it looks. At a glance, I’m just someone standing there pressing buttons playing songs while people dance. But, there’s a little more to it.
When you look at a wedding reception what do you see? Family, friends, vendors, everyone looking to make your special day as unforgettable as possible. The DJ sees that too, and his tool to make things unforgettable is the dance floor.
Put simply, your DJ’s job isn’t just to play music. It’s to keep your party going, prevent awkward lags, make your dance floor fun, and help your guests have a great time while celebrating you and your new spouse.
In case this helps you better understand, these are things an experienced DJ will be paying close attention to during a wedding reception.
It begins before the wedding party even arrives. Many people might think it’s fine to cue up a “cocktail music” playlist on Spotify while people have drinks and wait for the bride and groom to arrive. I have a playlist too, curated with different demographics in mind so that I can watch body language and other reactions.
Any requests or compliments I get, I store away for future reference; that same artist or style could be useful later.
As the evening continues, a good DJ will watch whose toes are tapping to the dinner music and look around to see how the room is made up.
I start with the bride and groom. Any DJ worth anything knows what sort of music they like already through meeting with them.
People tend to become friends with people who have the same interests, so I can make a few assumptions about what the rest of the wedding party may like.
One of my favorite tricks is to ask specifically what year the bride and groom graduated HS. I find that people really like the music -4 and +4 years from that year. They also really like the music about -10 from that year because they associate it with childhood the most. So, when I spot that table full of the HS friends, I have some insight of what to play for them.
I also pay close attention to the toasts so when the maid of honor tells the story about what happened when you were 10, I see who reacts the most to identify who might be the childhood friends, so I have some insight of what they might like too.
A little bit of guesswork and math and you can make a pretty good estimation about the demographics for the parents and grandparents.
Now, we’re ready!
By the time traditions (special dances, cake cutting, etc.) are complete, a good DJ knows enough about his (or her) audience based on what he’s observed and is ready to get the party really going.
After the special dances, the dance floor is open . . . but empty. It’s your DJ’s job to fill it. (With your help. The newlyweds are essential to dance floor energy—especially early on. So, just dance!)
A skilled DJ will look at the list of favorite songs the couple gave him/her ahead of time and quickly choose something poppy and danceable that everyone in the room will likely enjoy (something in the middle for all demographics present).
From there, without breaking tempo, a good DJ will try to add more demographics to the dance floor by blending in a similar song with the same feel and energy but perhaps a bit older.
With skill and a little luck, there will be a good representation of everyone on the dance floor at this point.
From here . . . it’s time to LINE DANCE! A bit cliché? Sure. Kinda cheesy? Yep. Do people have fun doing them? Absolutely!
Line dances are effective because even people who can’t dance or generally refuse to dance will get up to do “The Cha Cha Slide.” Plus, line dances often lead to people on the dance floor literally grabbing others who are still sitting down and getting them up and moving.
If people don’t know the dance, there’s always an aunt or uncle who will offer to teach the people who say they don’t want to do it. And, if you’ve got a DJ like me, your DJ might even hop from behind the table to help out!
At this point, you should have a FULL dance floor. The ice is broken, and your DJ will help you and your guests ride the wave. The energy can’t stay high forever, though, so an experienced DJ will continue reading the room and work in a ballad when the time is right—preferably an older one, maybe something from the 60’s for your older guests that will keep them on the dance floor or encourage them to stop chatting and start dancing.
With older folks now on the dance floor, a skilled DJ will try to keep them there by transitioning into some oldies dance music that everyone knows.
Maybe I’m giving away too many trade secrets, but for the rest of the night, a good DJ will continue reading the room and will be in complete control of the energy of your reception to help ensure your celebration is everything you want it to be.
I know it can be tempting to try to save money by just playing a Spotify playlist or asking a friend to MC the evening, but being a DJ is harder than it looks.
Understanding how to read a crowd and dance floor takes years of practice and mastery, and without a skilled DJ leading your reception, there’s a good chance your celebration will include awkward pauses, more sitting than dancing, and an earlier end time than you’d hoped for simply because your guests get bored.
I realize that I’m saying this as a professional DJ, but we’ve all been to an awful wedding reception or two. And, you don’t want that to be how you and your guests remember yours.
Whether you’re having a big wedding or a small wedding, a high-end affair or a more simple event, you and your spouse-to-be deserve to have a wedding day and reception that you and your guests enjoy and remember fondly.
If you want a great reception and party, you’ll want to make hiring a good DJ one of your top wedding priorities. Remember, DJing is harder than it looks.
Founded in 2004 and owned and operated by Nick Ribody (DJ Powder) and Don Dennis (DJ Sunn), Rat Pak Mobile DJs offer the right sounds for any type of event. With several experienced DJs on staff, they know how to get bodies on the dance floor and keep a party going.
Rat Pak Mobile DJs is located in Lafayette, Indiana, but this full-service DJ company regularly travel to Chicago, Indianapolis, and wherever you need great sound and music.
Rat Pak also owns and operates The Rat Pak Venue—a gorgeous wedding venue in historic downtown Lafayette, Indiana.