Wedding DJ Chat with Andrew Larris, Thursday, May 1 at 11 AM

A wedding DJ takes all your music and wedding related questions this Thursday. Submit a question in advance now.

Host: Andrew Larris

Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

Andrew Larris got his start in the music biz at age 16, when he snagged a job as a performer for an entertainment company in New York. Since then, he has emceed at more than 2,000 weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and corporate events. He recently met Andy Kushner, who owns a pretty rockin' band called Sound Connection, and together they created A. Michael Productions, Andrew’s current (and also rockin') business.

If you enjoyed reading this chat with me then my name is Andrew Larris of A. Michael Productions, DJ Based Division of Andy Kushner Entertainment. If you didn't find any of this useful then I am someone else... I want to thank you all for your questions and allowing me the opportunity to share some of my advice with you. I may have been a little vague on some things simply to keep open the options to truly customize your big day. If you have any further questions you can always reach out to me personally at Andrew@AMichaelProductions.com or at 301-512-0230. I look forward to speaking with you about your event and will even open myself up to advising even if you had the audacity to book another company over ours! ;-) Talk to you soon!

 Andrew

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Washington, DC
How many breaks does an emcee usually take throughout a wedding reception? Can we time them for maybe when the cake is served or at other points during the evening where people might have something else to do, or do you just break when you decide to?
As an MC I do not actually take breaks. I like to stay on the floor or near the booth during down times to be accessible to anyone who might have questions. There are also times that the schedule adjusts slightly throughout the night and we need to be prepared to go with the flow. There are MCs who do takes breaks and that would be during those down times and usually only for a few minutes. But discuss it with him/her before your event to make sure you're both on the same page.
DC
Can you recommend a DJ who knows/will be able to mix in a variety of Indian music? Thanks!
I do not know of any in the DC market (if there are any reading this please send me a demo so we can work together!. There are a few in the New York market who are great, although it will probably be a bit more money to have them travel (you know those New Yorers...). Forgetting ofcourse that I'm a New Yorker myself....
Washington, DC
How do you decide what songs to play if the bride and groom don't give you an explicit list? Are most DJs good at gauging the crowd? With all of the other planning going on I'd prefer to not make a huge list of songs, but I also want songs that my friends and I will know...
OK, I'm going to beg you not to give your DJ a playlist. I always ask my clients to give me a list of MUST plays, and a list of MUST NOT plays. If you are hiring a DJ you are trusting them to know what your crowd will want to hear and adjust to the crowd's reactions. This is why it is very important to see your DJ of choice live if possible to get a real feel for how they work a crowd and a dance floor. So, other than the songs for the traditional moments (entrance, first dance, cake cutting, etc) trust the person you hired to keep your party jumping!
Washington
This isn't necessarily related to weddings, but I've always wondered: How do DJs feel about people wandering up to them and requesting songs? I do it a lot at parties and I'm worried it's annoying. Be honest!
If you are constantly coming up to request a song I will have you come behind the booth and let you take control of the music... We have no problem with requests if they come once in a while and if they are good... But when people start requesting "Hands Up" the Club Med version we usually will just respond with "If we have time for it" (which is DJ lingo for NO!).
dc
what is YOUR favorite song to dance to?
Well that's not a loaded question.... As someone who has been professionally involved in music for over a decade and someone who has everything from Andrea Bocceli to XZibit on his iPod this is a rediculously crazy question. My favorite line dance (group dance) is the Cupid Shuffle (easy to do for all ages with a hip hop beat). My favorite club song has been Darude's Sandstorm for many years (it doesn't get old). My favorite song to dance to in general though, anything that has everyone at your event on the dance floor singing and dancing. Any song that has the older folks in wheelchairs tapping their toes or bobbing their heads. My favorite thing to say is "the greatest feeling in the world is having 500 people of all ages and races feeling the same emotions at the same time with the perfect song". The trick is... that song varies depending on the crowd!
Vienna
Trying to talk my fiance into doing karaoke at the reception. He says tacky; I say fun. What's your take?
If you have more than 75 people at your reception and the party is 4 hours or less I say tacky. If you are having your reception at a bar or a backyard with 22 of your closest friends who love karaoke and do karaoke every week together it might be a lot of fun. What you are doing by having karaoke at your reception is creating an environment where people who want to drink and dance will typically be unable to do so. The only way it MIGHT work is if you predetermine a song list of nothing but upbeat songs and have someone up every 4th song. Problem is, this creates an inconsistent flow to your party and will be a pain in the neck for your DJ. Let's face it, you don't want drunken Uncle Marvin singing "Everlasting Love" during your first dance. Let's keep karaoke for Thursday night at the Flying Fish and make your day as special as possible!
Arlington, VA
We had no problem picking our first dance song, but for when we are introduced and run into the reception ballroom, we have no idea what to play! Anything good come to mind?
I always recommend something upbeat and crazy that highlights your personalities. Even something as classic and basic as Barry White's "My First, My Last, My Everything" has a great beat and works well. You can choose something really off the wall crazy as well. There are also club remixes of most of your favorite songs if you like something a little slower. I would definitely say go upbeat because this is what sets the tone for your night. It's easier to move a truck that's slightly rolling than one that is at a dead stop! So let's start your party on a high note!
Washington, DC
Emcee vs. DJ: what's the difference? Just that an emcee will announce things like the father-daughter dance and bouquet toss?
The DJ is responsible for playing the music, reading and responding to the crowd, mixing and blending songs. The DJ is a Music Director. The MC (or Master of Ceremonies) is your Host for the evening. The MC should be working the crowd, dancing, getting involved, creating an atmosphere that is conducive to having a great time, making announcements, coordinating between your vendors, and basically acting as sort of an on-site, day-of liaison. You can not have a party without the DJ (as he/she is playing the music), but you could technically have an event without the MC as long as the DJ is trained and experienced as a one-man/woman event (able to make announcements and coordinate while mixing music). 
Vienna
I've read that most DJ packages come with "cocktail music" during dinner. How important is it to have that? I've never noticed it at other weddings, but maybe if it HADN'T been playing is when I would have noticed, if that makes sense. Anyway, trying to figure out if it's something I should make sure my DJ offers. Any advice appreciated!
Cocktail hour music should definitely be played during cocktail hour. Not during dinner. This is simply my personal opinion, however. While typically not noticed by some people who aren't listening for it, cocktail hour music should be softer and of a jazz/standards variety. It creates atmosphere for your guests instead of silence while they might not be engaged in conversation. During dinner, I would recommend slightly upbeat songs that you might not be able to dance to but that keep the adrenaline level up and keep the guests rocking subconsciously so that it is an easier transition back to the dance floor after dinner. But enough of giving away my secrets to a successful event, you'll have to buy the book... when I eventually get around to writing it!
MD
Sorry to ask a sticky question, but how do I calculate an emcee's tip? Is there a general flat fee that's considered standard in the industry? Or is it a percentage of total fee?
I am so glad you asked this question, a lot of people are afraid to ask or are unaware that tipping is an option! Here's the formula: If I am your MC then the tip should be (price of the event) x 3.... Just kidding! Tipping is completely optional but always appreciated and depends on the type of event. We know that you spend a nice chunk of change on your event so we appreciate anything over the balance due. For a wedding with a DJ and an MC, the average our entertainers get in tips in about $100/person. I would recommend talking to the head of the DJ company you are dealing with and ask them directly. They'll be happy to give you a typical number for their firm, just remember it's a suggestion and it has to be a number you are comfortable giving them.
Washington, DC
Hi, Andrew! What are your favorite songs to get people on the dance floor? Thanks for taking questions.
Well hello there... Another loaded question from our nation's capital! It really depends on the crowd and the time of the event. Right after a great Viennese table I like a little "Sweet Caroline", after dinner a good classic rock set or Motown set work well. Your DJ will be glad to go over their ideas, but they will change more times than not from your discussion to the event. Every crowd is different and you will never hear my DJs playing the same songs at the same times at two different events.
DC
This is kind of vague, but any advice to give on music/hiring a DJ that you think most couples don't know about?
First, you want to make sure a DJ is the option that will be best for your event. Sometimes, people overlook bands and think right off the bat that they'll be too expensive. There are great options and you'll want to click Andy Kushner's link above for some great inexpensive options on smaller bands. If you decide that a DJ is the right option for you, go see them in person. If you are dressed appropriately and do not make yourself obvious I have never had a problem with this. But it is the responsibility of the DJ to make sure the client is OK with that. Seeing a demo DVD is great, but remember this is 4-8 minutes of footage that they specifically wanted you to see. Another suggestion I would make is ask them about a time when they had to deal with an extraordinary situation during an event. This will tell you how experienced they are and how well they think on their feet. For example, a videographer once stepped on my DJs headphones accidentally, he could not hear the music to cue up the next song. In order to remedy the situation we plugged in a microphone to the headphone jack and he DJed the rest of the night with a microphone to his ear. He looked rediculous but it worked and the party was a huge success!
DC
I see a lot of videos on youtube nowadays of couples starting off with a traditional first dance, then breaking into some crazy surprise choreographed dance. It seems kinda fun, but kinda dumb. What do you think of this trend? Do you see it a lot?
Thanks to "Everybody Loves Raymond" this trend has definitely become more prevalent. I would recommend doing whatever you enjoy doing. This is your night, the biggest of your life, you should do it the way you and your future spouse want to. If you want the traditional then go for it, if you want to get a little freaky then more power to you. If you do something off the wall I would definitely suggest rehearsing it with your DJ though! He/she has to know exactly what they are doing and what you are doing at all times. And if you decide to break into the "running man" or the "robot" or the "Roger Rabbit" please please please send me the video!!
Washington, DC
Reading along and hadn't even thought about a song to play during the cake cutting! What kind of song is a good backdrop to wielding a knife together?
There's the classic selection "The Bride Cuts the Cake" (to the tune of Farmer in the Dell) which is a fan favorite. But again, I suggest personalizing it with something that you enjoy or that encapsulates you in some way. I am a big believer in customizing every aspect to the bride and groom. Formalities have their place and are very important but we want your night to be completely unique and unparalleled. The goal is to make your wedding a magical time that you will remember, but we also want your guests to go home and say "that was great!". We have done weddings that a year later we get phone calls saying their guests are still talking about their wedding! But then again, for a knife-wielding bride the theme from "Psycho" is always a great way to start your life together!
Arlington, VA
How far in advance should you book a DJ and meet with them to talk about the venue and song list prior to the wedding?

Book your entertainment as soon as possible. While I recommend shopping around for the best but you do need to book as soon as possible. Wedding season and Bar/Bat Mitzvah season pretty much overlap each other so you want to make sure you get the right person ASAP. Mitzvahs are now booking up to 3 years in advance and weddings are booking as soon as the date is set. Sometimes before that... The initial meetings will be for the negotiation and contract signing. There should be a follow up phone call anytime you have any questions but the next important meeting will be about a week or two before the big day. I like to be the last meeting you have to plan the final details so that the meal schedule is set and we have a framework for the timeline. Again, your song list should include: introduction songs, first dance, father/daughter and mother/son dances, garter belt/bouquet songs, money dance (if doing one), cake cutting songs, MUST play and MUST NOT play songs. Handing the DJ a 4 page 12-font list single spaced of songs you HAVE TO HEAR is only going to create an unnecessary sense of urgency to play those songs by the DJ when the focus should be on reading and reacting to your crowd. The venue is very important as well, knowing where to set up in the main room, how to load equipment into the building, if there are other events going on in that location that day, etc. are all very important elements to discuss with your entertainment. We don't want to show up at your event and get into the wrong room only to find out that the Smiths had the time of their life and you flipped the bill!