How to Plan the Perfect Wedding Reception

Planning the perfect wedding reception can often seem like a daunting task! What music do you pick? What even happens at a wedding reception, anyway? Does it matter what order you do things in? There are so many details that you need to figure out in order to finish off your wedding day with a smooth evening, but it doesn’t have to be impossible!

Cole from House DJ St. Louis is basically a wedding reception expert. After all, wedding receptions are like his thing. Not only is he filled with a ton of advice on how to plan your perfect wedding reception – he knows how to get the crowd dancing, too!

Q: Where should a couple begin when looking for a DJ? 

Cole: Well, the absolute best place to look is at a wedding! If you have a friend who is getting married during your early engagement, pay attention to the DJ. See if they are doing a good job, watch the guests’ enjoyment, and even the ones sitting in the seats. If that DJ rocks, ask for some information, and their name.

If you don’t have the opportunity, I think any other place is a different path to the same place. Of course, there are hundreds of DJ companies out there, and you have to choose one that you love. Social media is a fantastic resource because you can really get a good feel for their personality through their posts. The Knot is an organizationally easy way to handle it, but it can be overwhelming and stressful at times. Google is fine, but the ads are an auction. A horrible company can easily get to the top by paying more, and a great DJ may not be website-savvy and you may miss something. So, a long way to answer the question, but I would rank: 1. Experience, 2. Social Media, 3. The Knot/Wedding Wire, 4. Google.

Q: What can couples look for on a DJ’s social media and website to help them know if the DJ is a good fit for them?

Cole: Ah! Kinda answered this in-part in Q1. I think humor is so important, and humor that fits the platform is huge. If someone can make well-timed and original content, they’ll likely be able to have a blast with your crowd. Also, running a business is a tough thing, and though the surface of what we do is part time (performing on weekends), the weekday of it is busy, busy, busy. Sales, marketing, and handling clients takes a lot, and then add social media to it, you really have to be crazy dedicated to carry out the task of updating your social media, much less think of it. Also, seeing the behind-the-scenes of a wedding can be a super fun thing, and you can kinda get a feel for what we do.

Q: When couples are picking their first dance song, how can they find a good song if they don’t have a song that’s “theirs”?

Cole: Ask your DJ for suggestions! We see a ton of weddings every year, and there would always be a song that stands out or one that we hear and think “Oh yeah, that’s a good one.” If you have trouble coming up with one, don’t stress about it. keep your ears open, and try to listen for one that tells your story. Your songs should really have some sort of significance to you. Something special, a song you both love. It doesn’t even have to be something super slow or popular. Some of my favorite ones have been forgotten songs that they’ve loved since they met, or ones from little-known artists (i.e: “Porch Swing Angel” – Muscadine Bloodline, “Far Away” – Nickelback)

Q: What tips do you have for couples who are working on putting their reception timeline together?

Cole: Don’t! Seriously, don’t. Put the silhouette together and then let if happen from there. Your DJ should be able to coordinate and keep everyone together, as well as keep vendors up-to-date, and manage the crowd. For your wedding, you really shouldn’t be watching the clock, but let everything happen, and choose an experienced DJ that you trust to run the reception. I would personally just set start time, and order of events, and an end time. Here is the order of events we suggest for our weddings, and how we generally run them.

  • Grand Entrance at the Start of Reception
  • Dinner (and blessing before, if you’re doing one)
  • Toasts and Speeches (about 10 minutes after everyone has gotten their plate)
  • Mingle
  • Cake Cutting
  • First Dance
  • Special Dances and Bouquet and Garter
  • Open Dance

If you’re doing games, those all go in different spots depending on the crowd and what specials you are doing. We would generally do a dollar dance a half-hour after the dance floor opens and the shoe game before the first dance or before bouquet and garter.

But yeah, I would just say to let it flow as it goes. Putting a timeline together is different for every wedding, and the most stressed I have ever seen  bride is when she is “behind schedule” for a tentative schedule that she created based on no prior experience, but for what “wedding gurus” have told her online. We are all about cutting stress wherever you can. Let the entertainer run it.

Q: What are the “must haves” for couples when it comes to hiring a DJ and setting up their wedding?

Cole: A reasonable personality is the biggest thing. Everything else falls into place. If they can be reasonable about your requests and personable, you can get anything. I would definitely say that all packages should include setup and tear down for free, a buffer time for troubleshooting (we allow two ours for setup and troubleshooting, though it takes us 15 minutes to setup), and microphones. If you have to pay for microphones and setup, drop them. You should be able to make requests, but should never expect ALL of them to be played. You should be able to meet in person, and pretty much have anything else that is reasonable. Now, I do not think dance lighting is necessary. We personally don’t even include it in our packages. We replaced it with uplighting, because we felt that the dance lighting was obnoxious, separated the room, and looked bad in photos. Uplighting heals all of that and looks fantastic.

Q: What tips do you have for couples whose music taste might be different from that of their guests?

Cole: Definitely allow your DJ to take it where it needs to go! This really shouldn’t be your responsibility. Your DJ should be able to simply read the crowd, and play what they’ll be into, and also play to your interests. Also, if you’re having fun, your guests will have fun too. If you are dancing and having a good time, everyone else will feed off of that energy. Just have fun!

The bottom line to all of it is this: Have fun, don’t worry. and trust the professionals! You shouldn’t need to do their job, and this whole thing should be so fun. Engagement should be an incredible time, not a list of chores and waiting! If you haven’t yet found your DJ, we would love the chance to help you!

House DJ St. Louis is one of the best DJs in the St. Louis area! If you are still looking for your wedding DJ, I highly recommend contacting Cole and seeing if he still has your date available! Dates book up fast – so get in touch with him soon!

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Contact them over on their email at cole@housedjstl.com

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Kayla Carlisle