DJ or Dominion?
January 24, 2012 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Wedding DJ recommendations in L.A.? Alternatively, do we really need dancing at an evening wedding?

I'm getting married this July, and most of the major pieces are in place already. Fiance was put in charge of music, but he's been completely slammed with work, so I'm trying to lend a helping hand. Unfortunately, neither of us have a clue where to start. We're currently in New Jersey, too busy to think about our normal lives much less wedding stuff, and the clock is ticking down, so we're trying to get this done ASAP.

Wedding is on a Saturday night, 100-150-ish range, at a country club in the San Gabriel Valley. We both love music, but we're more on the classical/jazz/showtunes spectrum than top 40's. We're basically geeks in our late 20's and don't really dance ourselves, nor do most of our friends, so the "first dance" concept in particular is sitting a little funny with my fiance, but I think our families are expecting dancing at an evening wedding (although I don't actually know how many of them will dance), so I'm not actually sure if the right thing to do is bite the bullet and get a DJ.

I'd been toying with the idea of nixing the dancing altogether and just having everyone play board games after dinner, which has been met with enthusiasm from friends, but mostly awkward "Well, uh, if that's what you want..." from my family, and the guests will be mostly family. I don't think anyone will actually care all that much what we do, but I also want people to have a good time and not just be sitting around awkwardly.

So dancing? Board games? Both? Neither? And if dancing is involved, I'm really hoping someone can point me in the direction of an awesome wedding DJ, as I'm clearly out of my depth.
posted by Diagonalize to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Dance at your wedding. People go to weddings specifically to dance. Even people who say they don't like to dance can generally be roped into dancing with Nana, and usually have a good time.

Even if it's a friend with a very cool iPod playlist, dance at your wedding.
posted by xingcat at 11:24 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't need dancing or a DJ. We just had an iPod filled with songs we liked that would not be alienating to older people. We didn't have an activity planned, either. We just let people talk. Everyone was happy.

A way to satisfy both people enthusiastic and unenthusiastic about board games is to just have them available. Then, tables that want to play will, and those that don't won't.
posted by ignignokt at 11:24 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's your wedding, so do want you want. That said, I'd be kind of bummed to go to a wedding and find no dancing. Weddings are one of the few chances an adult has for dancing these days. That said, the board game thing sounds kind of fun, so... I guess I'd have both if spending the money for a DJ isn't an issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2012

I'm sorry, but playing board games (with no alternate activity, or even any music) after dinner at a wedding sounds isolating (everyone can only play with who they're near) and boring (90% of people get bored of board games within 30 minutes, and people who are inexperienced - like your older family - will be both confused and bored within 5 -- are you going to assign someone who knows every game to every 4ish person group?). Is this a jeans-dress-code type wedding? I guess it might be OK if so, but you say it's at a country club so probably not. There's nothing wrong with a classical/jazz/showtunes dancing, it doesn't have to be top 40s-type dancing. You can have some tables set up for board games on the side, for an alternate activity -- presumably smaller than the dinner tables because it would be hard to play a board game on those really big 10-12 person tables. But at least play music.
posted by brainmouse at 11:26 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

We just had an Ipod full of music (we took suggestions in a form that dumped into a Google Docs spreadsheet). I don't dance (except where required, i.e. two slow songs at every wedding) but would think, "Jesus, they're trying WAYYY too hard to be quirky" if I went to a wedding that had board games.
posted by notsnot at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2012

I speak to you now as someone who worked as a wedding DJ in college for a few years (a long, long time ago). My observation was that generally, if the bride and/or groom were not dancing, and their friends were not dancing, then usually nobody was, and it made my job a lot harder, because I was supposed to get people to dance. So I would say, if you don't want to dance, don't get a DJ. Don't feel pressured - it's your wedding, not anybody else's. Just put together a mix CD or iPod playlist of your favorite, lower-key music for the background, and have it piped through the club's sound system. And then just talk to people, hang out, do whatever you want. Have fun.

My wedding was in the middle of the day, and we didn't dance, but even if it had been in the evening we wouldn't have, because wild horses would not persuade my husband to dance while everyone was watching him. I didn't really care either way.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:28 AM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

You don't have to do anything you don't want at your wedding. Even if you have dancing available, you don't have to have a first dance if it seems weird to you. We had a live band playing background music at our wedding and no dancing (except by the under-5 set). It was also outdoors, so we didn't have board games, but we did have lawn games and bubbles and a scavenger hunt for those who wanted to participate. Everyone enjoyed themselves, especially my husband and I, who were in no way interested in dancing while a bunch of people stared at us. You can have board games if you want board games. Really. Here are 3 pages of blog posts about people who had board games at their weddings and lived to tell about it.
posted by juliapangolin at 11:31 AM on January 24, 2012

Sounds like probably its less important to have a DJ than an MC and a party planner. Do you have someone that can take that on for you?
posted by empath at 11:31 AM on January 24, 2012

If you decide to go with a DJ I think that Cliff would do a great job. He's based in Ventura county but may be willing to head out to the SGV.
posted by doctord at 11:40 AM on January 24, 2012

Response by poster: Having music isn't an issue. We'll definitely have music playing regardless of what we're doing. My strongest inclination is to having dancing and also let our friends bring some board games to kick back with at the other end of the room, in which case, I still need DJ recommendations or to think long and hard about iPod playlists. Luckily (or possibly unluckily), I have an excess of chipper MC-capable individuals around, so that won't be an issue.

My family is fairly large, outgoing and tightly knit, so I'm reasonably confident that if all we did was play some nice background music, they'd find plenty of opportunities to socialize and have fun without a lot of outside entertainment, but I also don't want to weird them out and have to hear about it for the rest of my life, so it sounds like only board games is probably a no-go.

So yeah, any L.A.-folks wanna chime in with their fabulous DJ connections?
posted by Diagonalize at 11:40 AM on January 24, 2012

We had no dancing at our wedding and no-one complained; no-one sat in a corner, not having a good time, and people stayed late enjoying one anothers company. We hired a jazz pianist to create a background groove and that was good for us.

I can list all the reasons we did not have a DJ, starting with "the list of songs I absolutely did not want played no matter who requested it was too long" and ending with "the list of songs my husband likes to dance to would sound awful to 95% of the guests". Basically, I don't dance at weddings; my husband doesn't dance at weddings; our mothers don't dance at weddings and there were no guests under the age of 18 who would need a dance floor to run around on.

A party doesn't need a dance floor to be a fun party. A wedding doesn't need a first dance to be a wonderful meaningful experience.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:41 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am part creative/part traditional when it came to my own wedding. Creatively, I wanted the wedding to represent my specific ideas and likes. Traditionally, I wanted to be a provider for my family, friends, and guests to have a good time.

I, personally, would find it strange for there not to be dancing during a Saturday evening wedding. However, perhaps you can have the best of both worlds. You mentioned you're more on the classical/showtunes/jazz side of things. It would be very easy to find a DJ who could cater the playlist more to these genres while still providing dance music (standards, jazz, big band) for your guests. You could also play toe-tapping music more to your preference during food times (cocktail hour, dinner, dessert).

I think board games would take away from a mingling, social atmosphere. However, perhaps you could integrate that element somehow for people who aren't as into dancing (integrating board game themes or even rules with a guest book, side photo shoot, or whatever). This gives your non-dancing inclined guests something to do and you might get a clever piece of art or keepsake to look upon following the event.
posted by seppyk at 11:43 AM on January 24, 2012

My wedding was on a Saturday evening in a fairly upscale locale and we did not have dancing or a DJ. Only one couple complained, but they were semi-competitive ballroom dancers so it was pretty expected. Our guests seemed plenty happy to mill around tables, drink, chat, and laugh. We also provided some board games and decks of cards for late-night games but we had so much fun just talking and drinking that they weren't necessary.

We did not have dancing because I have heard WAY too many horror stories of people hiring well-recommended DJs, giving them a list of "do not play" songs, and still finding those songs get played because some distant relative really, really wanted to do the electric slide and slipped the DJ a 20 to play it. No thank you. We hired a jazz band instead and they did not take requests, so we got exactly what we wanted music-wise.

Do what you want to do, and what you think a majority of your guests will enjoy.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:25 PM on January 24, 2012

I've been to several weddings with board games. The ones that worked better were mostly guests who already play, and mostly games that are more of the social variety (think more Fluxx and Apples to Apples, less Power Grid; also short things like Dominion are better than, again, Power Grid).

All of those weddings did also have some dancing, though; varied as to how much people actually used the dance floor, and several people did the "friend with DJ skills or ipod list". I'm actually slightly anti Ipod-list, I think unless someone knows what they're doing you'll end up with even the dancer sorts not wanting to dance. It's also good to have a think about acoustics; the last LA wedding I went to had a fun DJ but the acoustics were not-so-great and it was pretty clear they hadn't really thought about it. (It was a little hard to hear if you wanted to do something other than dance).

And also your family is right: it is your wedding, do what you like! And if what you like is making your family+friends happy (as well as of course yourself), more the better.
posted by nat at 12:29 PM on January 24, 2012

When bonehead and I got married, we went the ipod route ourselves, which the kids appreciated, and which worked well for the whole first dance thing. We also played the music at sufficiently low volume that the adults appreciated it.

But then, my family, which made up the bulk of the guests, were more interested in talking than in dancing. We set up the reception area in such a way as to be conducive to conversation, but had a dance floor that the kids made use of, and everyone had a great time.

My cousin went the route of no dancing as well; she got round the music-at-a-wedding thing by staging an impromptu "concert" of all the musicians in the family (of which there are a lot).

I say, if you know the guests aren't likely to want to dance, but are likely to want something else, go with that.
posted by LN at 12:49 PM on January 24, 2012

A jazz band would be perfect for you! Mellow and cool in one corner, leaving plenty of freedom for slow dancing, board games, and conversation.

Do not use a D.J. if you can help it.

If an entire band is too expensive, consider having a piano player. Google 'New Orleans Style Piano Players' for your area.

I'm not in L.A. (I'm in La.) and I don't know your budget. My company works with oodles of jazz musicians. Feel free to message me if you want tips on booking one or if you would want my company to book one for you.
posted by myselfasme at 1:02 PM on January 24, 2012

I have been at a handful of events/weddings/etc. that employed a string quartet. Good string quartets can probably handle your specific requests, in or outside of the classical genre, and (probably) especially if you can provide sheet music.
posted by not_on_display at 1:41 PM on January 24, 2012

One of the best wedding receptions I ever went to was at a restaurant with no dance floor. It was just food and carousing all evening.
posted by rhizome at 1:46 PM on January 24, 2012

Fellow mefite speicus plays accordion in a gypsy band and a klezmer band. Both have played weddings without being the usual cheesy wedding band. People definitely dance. I have no idea if your budget would include paying musicians, but there you go.

For something retro, Senor Amor spins classy tunes.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:07 PM on January 24, 2012

(those are all Los Angeles-based peeps)
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:07 PM on January 24, 2012

Do not have a DJ if you do not want to dance. This is your wedding! Have fun. Just have the music you want to play in the background, and if other people want to dance, they can.

We had a great band at our wedding, but even so the first dance for my husband and was awkward. My husband just doesn't dance usually AT ALL, not even at our prom. So here we are slow dancing, and of course everyone was watching us. It never occurred to us to take dance lessons or anything; we were just basically swaying to the tune. The song went on for, like, must have been 5 hours. Seemed like it, anyway.

At one point we thought that if we stopped dancing, maybe the band would stop? Well, they didn't. So we started dancing again.

We didn't care, we were young and having fun anyway, laughing at ourselves and pulling our friends in. But weddings are expensive enough without having a DJ just to please other people, so if that sounds like you something you want to avoid, more power to you!

I do have one suggestion: if you have board games, could you also arrange some opportunity for the friend group and the family group to socialize with each other?

Maybe put disposable cameras on the friends' tables, so they take candid pictures of your family guests and mingle that way.

Or you could get a groomsmen or bridesmaid to put together a Diagonalize and Spouse themed pub trivia game, so that friends and family will be seeking each other out to try to get all the answers at the wedding reception? You could offer up a bottle of champagne as the prize or something.

Just an idea. The thing about weddings is that all the important people you interact with, with all your different personas, are finally together in one place: you've got those childhood friends who knew you when you were just a little blob, the school friends that help you become the cool person you are now, the coworkers who know Professional Diagonalize. And then you've got your immediate family AND extended family there, like those cousins you never get to spend time with and weird Uncle Bob (everyone has an Uncle Bob!).

I think it's cool that getting married gives you an excuse to put them all together, sit back and see what happens. It's like the cartoons, when Yosemite Sam lights the long fuse, sticks his fingers in his ears, and waits for the barrels of firecrackers, dynamite and TNT to explode.

But, you know, in a *good* way.
posted by misha at 8:16 PM on January 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the insights and recommendations, everybody. I feel like I've got a reasonable jumping off point now.

For those of you still silently cringing at the board game idea, don't worry; I'm not going to force anyone at gunpoint to play Monopoly with strangers. Our guest list is mostly comprised of older family members who don't really drink or dance, but they love to talk, and our 20 and 30-something friends also don't really drink, but they do play German-style board games, so I was really just scouting around for alternative activities for folks who didn't want to gab all night.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:05 PM on January 25, 2012

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