What is your background?
I come from a very musical family. My dad is a trombonist and leader of his own big band orchestra that he’s had for over 50 years. My mom used to teach piano lessons back when I was a young boy, my two older brothers are also musicians – a guitarist and a drummer. I started playing drums at the age of two. And I have continued drumming to present day and it is something that is also a huge passion of mine.
As a young boy I would serve as dad’s “roadie” and help him set up the bandstand. Then I would hang out at most of the events and sit back with my brother who played drums and watch him play. Once I got to an age where I was able to sight read music, I would sit in on a couple songs. Then around high school I was ready to play the entire event as a full time drummer.
So because of this experience with wedding receptions in the band, it gave me a head start in knowing the ins and outs and basic timeline of wedding receptions. And when I finally got into the DJ business in 1997, I already had a head start, and I truly feel that it really helped me with timing and knowledge of how a reception should flow.
When did you first realize you wanted to work with weddings?
Immediately. That’s where I started so it has always been my passion. I don’t mind doing non-wedding events, but weddings are not only where my heart is, but also where I am able to do some personalized things for the bride and groom to really make them shine that day. In turn, it really allows me to show guests at the wedding that there truly is a difference amongst DJs. There’s a good chance they have never witnessed a fun grand entrance like I do, that shares info about each wedding party member (but rather, just names only being introduced), or a poignant Love Story that I share about the bride and groom. People are used to the “same old same old” when it comes to DJs and what they do at weddings. So my goal is to break the stereotype that “all DJs are the same”.
How long have you been in business?
Why did you start your business?
Great question. I started my business the way that many DJs get into the business…DJing a friend’s wedding as a “gift” or “favor”! Haha! And as much as I discourage couples from hiring a friend to DJ their wedding (because a lot of bad things can happen taking that route), and as much of a hypocrite as I sound by saying that, I fortunately did have the experience with weddings as mentioned in the first question above. I wasn’t “wet behind the ears” as most DJs are, at their first 10 or so weddings. So yes, it had been something that I wanted to get into for a while. And when my friend asked me to be a guest at her wedding, I asked her if I could instead, be her DJ. She allowed me, and the rest is history!
What is your favorite part of a wedding?
When I get to share the couple’s Love Story. This is a vocal delivered presentation (by me) about how the couple met and the journey ever since. I have been formally trained to do this (by Mark & Rebecca Ferrell – “The MarBecca Method”) and I don’t recommend DJs trying this without the training. Seriously, it could be a huge embarrassment to the bride and groom, if not done with the finesse, dynamics and know-how that you would receive from the formal training. This is my favorite part of a reception because at that very moment, it is all eyes and focus on the bride and groom. There isn’t one thing that I could do, that would personalize it more for that couple than sharing their Love Story. It is how they met, and fell in love….and everything that has led up to their wedding day. How awesome is that?
The Grand Entrance would be a very close runner up as far as a “favorite part” of a wedding, because when my couples choose to share some information about their wedding party, it really makes it fun for all involved and lets everyone know that it is going to be a very fun night, starting right away!
What’s the best way to find the ideal band or dj?
There’s truly no better way to find the ideal band or DJ than witnessing them “in action” firsthand. A DJ can talk all kinds of “game” on their website, or even in person, but proof of their abilities and talents can be best found while they are performing.
However I don’t recommend DJs ever inviting someone to “demo” them at someone else’s wedding. You’d never want your DJ to bring in strangers at your wedding to stand in the corner and watch him perform, right? So it’s just bad etiquette for a DJ to ask a couple to come see him “in action” at someone else’s wedding. Besides, it’s not fair to the DJ or the couple watching him perform for just 10-15 mins, which is probably the length of time they would stay. To understand the full scope of what he does as an MC/DJ, they would need to be there from start to finish.
Of course, a strong recommendation from a friend that has either used a particular DJ or was a guest at a wedding and witnessed this highly recommended DJ….could also be a great way to find your ideal DJ or band, or at least narrow down your options.
What wedding music trends are you seeing?
A few years ago the “BPM” (which is the tempo of the song), trend was a very slow 80-90 BPM, especially in the hip hop and rap genres, which made it harder to create “energy” on the dance floor. But here lately, music has gone back to the upper 120-130 BPM, almost bringing back the disco sound with such great songs as “blurred lines” by Robin Thicke, or “get lucky” by Daft Punk. As a drummer, this type of music makes me very happy! Great beats, catchy melodies, and lots of groove!
Is there a musical mistake couples sometimes make?
Not too often, but I would say that one of the biggest mistakes that couples make is not reviewing the lyrics to a song before choosing it for one of their formal dances. Just because it has the word “LOVE” in the title or in the lyrics, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a positive song or fitting for a married couple, or the father/daughter dance, or a mother/son dance. Some “love” songs actually talk about a break up, or an unfaithful person. So just be careful with what you choose, by reviewing lyrics online. Google is your friend! Just type the song title and the word “lyrics” after it, and voila, lyrics!
Do you have any final advice for brides and grooms?
Absolutely! One of the things that I have found over the years that can help everybody enjoy themselves better is the setup of the room that the reception will take place in. For example, I suggest putting your dance floor in the middle of the room, the guests tables in a “U” shape around that, and the head table at the top of that “U” shape. This guarantees that everyone is equally distant from the action that will take place on the dance floor. Also, with this type of set up, everything is now aesthetically pleasing to the eyes because it is symmetrical.
Also, don’t put your DJ in the corner of the room away from the dance floor, and especially don’t put tables between him and the dance floor. Your DJ should be as close to the dance floor as possible so that he has access to it when he is serving as the Master of Ceremonies. Also being close to the dance floor allows him to interact with people dancing, and it makes it easier for them to come up and make music requests. I know I’m biased, but your DJ should not be an afterthought. When all the formalities are over, he will be the reason that the celebration will be a success, taking it all the way to the planned end time, or come to a close sooner than later.
Anything else you want to share with us?
Most definitely. Brides & grooms reading this, if you follow these 4 steps, you will find and hire the best possible MC & DJ to represent you on your wedding day:
1) INTERVIEW. Interview all potential MC/DJs face to face. Never book them over the phone or through their website without meeting them in person first. I can’t stress this enough because of all the things that you can see firsthand when meeting in person. You can learn a lot about their personality, their style, their professionalism, and if you’re going to be able to trust them. No way can you totally experience that through an email or phone call.
2) PLANNING. The person you hire should not only stay in contact with you throughout the whole planning process, but they should also provide you with planning materials. Never book a DJ that says “ok sign the contract and I’ll see you on your wedding day”. They should have some sort of detailed planning materials to help you prepare for your planning meeting with them, and that planning meeting should happen sometime before the wedding. I set mine for 1 month out.
3) PRO-ACTIVE. Your wedding should be fun, not stressful, not worrisome, and your MC/DJ should be very pro-active and hands-on with helping create the perfect day for you! So meet with that person, get a good feel for who they are and what they offer, and then make your decision.
4) PRICING. Do not hire on price alone. There is a reason why some DJs charge more than others. “You get what you pay for”! If you agree that your Entertainer/Master of Ceremonies/DJ is one of the top 3 most important parts to creating a successful reception, then be sure to allocate more money in that area so that you can afford to hire who you REALLY would like to have speaking on your behalf that day!
I invite you to view my website www.BrianHarrisEntertainment.com and see the difference. I would be honored to help you create the perfect day for you and your fiancé!