DJ Josh Whitlock on How to Pick the Perfect Wedding DJ and Three Tips to Guarantee Wedding Reception Success
by. Joe Jones Jr
When it comes to your wedding reception, the DJ you select plays an essential role in the success or failure of the festivities. Well before the wedding party arrives, a good DJ is hard at work setting the tone and tempo of the evening, creating a rhythm he will maintain long after the bride and groom have left. A great wedding reception is serious business, and DJ Josh Whitlock is the consummate professional.
Two hours before the wedding guests start to arrive, he greets me with a smile while setting up equipment in back of an extravagantly decorated dining room. “Well you look good,” he proclaims. “That’s something I can’t teach.” If I didn’t know better, I would think he was already in Wedding DJ mode, putting me at ease while remaining focused on the task at hand. But I do know better. This isn’t a contrived professional personality that Josh Whitlock puts on when he goes to work. It is who he is naturally and the reason he became a DJ in the first place.
DJ Josh Whitlock at The 7th Atlanta NotWedding: Image by Morning Light by Michelle Landreau
Jones: Can you tell me a little bit about how you became a DJ?
DJ Josh Whitlock: I was always known for dancing at school dances and for my love for music. Because of that, a friend of mine asked me to DJ his wedding back in 2001. When I told him I would, he handed me some giant in-home stereo speakers, a bunch of CDs, and a list of a couple of songs he wanted me to play. I DJ’ed his wedding, and I got a couple more clients from people who were at that wedding.
Jones: Could you talk about the actual DJ’s role, in terms of working with brides and grooms in preparation and on the work you do on the date?
DJ Josh Whitlock: I always try to ask the couple if they enjoy dancing, because I want to make sure that I’m a good fit for them. If you really don’t like dancing, then you might as well just plug in an iPod. But if you really DO enjoy dancing, then it’s important that I know what you like, so I can make sure that everyone has a good time.
I have a phone call with the bride and groom the week before the wedding to go over the order of events, songs that they’ve picked, and any inside jokes they may have with their friends so I can personalize the overall evening. I want to make sure that they know their job is to have fun and to enjoy their wedding day.
After that, I will spend a good bit of time with the songs that they’ve requested and come up with a playlist that reflects them.
On the day of the event, I’ll show up with a list of songs, I’ll get my equipment put together, and then I’ll go back over with the bride and groom and the entire wedding party that their role is being there to have fun and truly enjoy that day.
Jones: What are the important things you do that people don’t know you do?
DJ Josh Whitlock: I meet the entire bridal party and make a point to remind them that it’s their job to bring up the energy of the place. I make a point to call the bride by her new last name. It’s just a really fun thing that perks her up and reminds her that she got married.
I’ll also work with the bride or the planner to execute each aspect of the reception schedule. The timing of events is part skill and part improv, because you can have the schedule and have set times for things, but you still have to feel the night. Throughout the rest of the night, in addition to playing music, I’m also responsible for making sure the crowd knows what’s going on – that they are informed and involved as much as they want.
Jones: How important is song selection?
DJ Josh Whitlock: Song selection is a big part of a successful reception. And in particular, the ability to look out at the people who are on the dance floor and pull different groups of people out onto the dance floor at different times. So, if our young people are dancing, then I want to make sure older couples get involved. If it is all girls on the dance floor, then I need to play a different song that will keep the girls out there but will also get guys to join in. Song selection is a big deal.
Jones: So you’re saying song selection is important, but when you play songs is also important, right?
DJ Josh Whitlock: Yeah. The night will always start out with dancing for all ages. Then as it gets later, it usually will turn into lots of younger couples and have an overall younger feel. I try to play songs for everyone to dance at the beginning. It is also important to pay attention to the speed of the songs and to make sure people have a chance to breathe. If I have been playing a lot of fast songs, I’ll slow it down a little bit. That way people can rest, and they don’t get too hot and sweaty. Then we’ll get right back up into the fun, fast songs.
Jones: How important is song selection by the bride and groom?
DJ Josh Whitlock: It’s not that important—unless you really want to spend a lot of time coming up with a very detailed list. You can give me five songs, and from those, I can pull what your taste in music is. So really, you don’t have to spend a lot of time planning ahead – that’s my job as a DJ. But if you’re like me and my wife, you can spend an entire day coming up with 50 songs that you know everyone will dance to.
Jones: What are some of the important things people should look for in a wedding DJ?
DJ Josh Whitlock: Look for someone who can send you a list of songs that they have played at previous weddings. Look for someone who has experience but also should be aware of your budget. If they have a lower budget, you can give a new DJ a shot. I was a new DJ at one point. But if you do that, spend a lot more time meeting with that DJ, and make sure to clarify exactly what you want. Make sure the DJ has good equipment. You need a sound system that can fill the dance space, but you don’t necessarily need to fill the whole room.
Jones: What are three things that a couple can do to guarantee their wedding reception is a success?
DJ Josh Whitlock:
1) Make sure you dance the first several songs and you get everyone out there.
2) Make sure you turn down the lights on the dance floor when it’s time to start dancing.
3) The thing that I always tell brides and grooms at the end of our first phone call is, “Something on that day will probably go wrong, but don’t worry about that. Just remember you’re getting married to the person you love, so have a great time and enjoy yourself because your mood will affect the mood of your guests.”
Information on booking DJ Josh Whitlock can be found on his appropriately titled website.
Joe Jones Jr. is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @iagreewithjoe or on Facebook. (He doesn’t have a MySpace page… because he isn’t in a band).