The flight from JFK to Dubai lasts 14 hours. Long enough for the flight attendants to feed you, change into their jammies, sleep a full night, wake up, shower and serve breakfast before landing. I’d gotten used to such service after a Middle East circuit including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and a fraught tour of the warzone with the USO that left me feeling extra-patriotic as we headed into Memorial Day Weekend. Exhausted, I left my bags packed and headed to the Hamptons where, instead of lounging, I, Mr. Superstar Globetrotting DJ, set up to spin a wedding.
It was a favor to a friend. An Indian bride was set to marry an Australian groom and his mates had all piled in for a week of fun in Montauk. And the bride was nervous about impressing his friends, so she brought me. I thought it quite sweet.
What I couldn’t have known is how much I like DJ’ing weddings. They’re a blast! Here’s what I’ve learned on the job that can help make any wedding at any budget incredible:
- Have the bride and groom make a shared Spotify list of songs they like. Not jams, not dance-floor fillers. Just music they like. This is not only fun for the couple to find each other’s guilty pleasures, but helpful for the DJ to plan for your night.
- “Songs that were big when we met” is a good jumping off point. If you met in college, your mutual college friends will all be there.
- Only overthink one thing. You’re planning a wedding, which is probably the most you’ve ever fought as a couple. So rather than demanding that all your friends and family take a knee and basque in the eloquence of Bob Dylan before moving on to Rihanna: just find one song that has absolute meaning and make sure the DJ knows which one it is.
- Play “the Eye Contact Game” for the mother/son father/daughter dance. You two. Bride and groom. Make your picks, start the song and then stand there in your kitchen. It will become immediately evident that your dad’s favorite song “LA Woman” is eight minutes long, with an excruciating intro and you’ll have to hold your dad’s hand while he stands at his daughter’s wedding and mouths the words, “Never saw a woman SO ALOOOONE.”
- Forget “the Chicken Dance.” We’re still in a dance-music revolution. The biggest excuse of people who either don’t dance or who get up for exactly one songs is, “I’d dance if they’d play my kind of music.” It’s such a simple thing to point out: DJs play music for people who are dancing. Who cares if the music comes from a relatable decade? Marriage is about compromise.
- Only one thing separates the DJ from all other wedding expenses. A friend can arrange your flowers or even officiate. But the reception is the last thing people will remember from your wedding. You wanna go out with a bang. Ceremonies don’t always start on time and maybe they forgot your cousin’s vegetarian meal, but everyone remembers the feeling of having a great night together. Competition DJs (yes, that’s a thing) always stress that the last thing you do on stage is what people will remember. Your wedding is the same.
- Queen, Prince, Michael Jackson and Motown. Start there on your playlist and work backwards. Filling in the rest is why you hire a real DJ. Who will then slip in some Bowie.
- Keep it 10 percent current. This won’t automatically help that night. But the payoff is big. If you got married in 2013, you and your friends and loved ones probably can’t hear Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” without remembering that night. That’s like a lifelong goodie bag.
- There will be no Chris Brown. The tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold on your first night together is so you set off on the “right foot” together. Don’t F it up with domestic abusers. (James Brown gets a pass.)
- If you have fun, everyone else will have fun. It’s really that easy. Keep that in mind when you’re picking songs. Keep that in mind when you have to decide between an expensive dress and one you can dance in for 3 hours. Keep that in mind when you pledge to spend the rest of your life with someone who wants to share every fun moment with you from now until death do you part.
Keep that in mind when you’ve been married for two years and you never go out, but your sister really wants you to come to her wedding in Mexico. Keep that in mind when your feet are sore and your husband is off fetching drinks and the DJ plays “Get Lucky.”
Then you can smile and say, “Remember when?” And laugh and relive your wedding together.
And then you can thank me that you don’t have that memory for “The Chicken Dance.”
Brendan Jay Sullivan is the author of RIVINGTON WAS OURS: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side and the Prime of Our Lives. Find him on Twitter, FB, Instagram, and Youtube.