OK, wedding jocks… looking to see how to DJ a wedding that your guests won’t forget?
It’s all in the bridal-party entrance. Get the picture: One of the bridesmaids at the reception was refusing to walk in with her assigned groomsmen, the bride was not doing anything to help with the dilemma, and suddenly the DJ found himself in a pickle.
DJ Mick Uranko was lining up members of the wedding party for their introduction into the hall.
“We were about five minutes from the start of introductions, and as we all know, rounding up the bridal party can be a task all in itself,” says Uranko, owner of Uranko Productions in Pottsville, Pa.
“Well, as I was lining people up according the bride’s notes, I suddenly hear one of the bridesmaids demand, ‘I’m not walking in with Billy! I want to walk with Fred. Look at him: Do you honestly think I’m going to walk into this room with him?’”
This caused quite a stir at the commencement of this reception, when apparently the bride hadn’t reached out to ask if there were any problems with the matches she’d chosen for the entrance.
“Come to find out, one of the bridesmaids was married, but the guy she was scheduled to walk in with was an old ex that her husband knew about and was not a fan of,” Uranko recalls. “What I learned from this experience is that, even though, yes, it’s the bride’s special day, there are a lot of potential problems that we can control by simply asking the right questions before the wedding.”
When it comes to introducing the wedding party, we’ve all experienced our challenges and we’ve had our successes. For example, we didn’t forget to mention the flower girl and ring bearer. We pronounced the names of every bridesmaid and groomsman properly. We pumped up the volume as the best man and maid/matron of honor strolled out onto the dance floor. And then, we kicked the energy up yet another notch with a party song for the bride and groom that had every guest on their feet, clapping their hands and ready to let go.
We’ve all had bridal party entrances that rocked the house and got the wedding reception kicked off better than we ever could have expected.
So, we asked mobile jocks about the best grand entrance they’ve ever experienced. What made it so grand? How did the audience respond? How thoroughly did the bridal party—and even they themselves—prepare for the entrance?
And what kind of feedback did we get, either from our clients or from the guests? Anything that didn’t work?
Mark Haggerty of Denon & Doyle Entertainment in San Francisco, Calif., says his worst wedding entrance was when a couple instructed him not to play any music in the background. Needless to say, that introduction ended up being very dry and boring.
But Haggerty’s favorite entrance was when every single bridal-party member entered the ballroom with the “Dating Game” theme song, as the DJ told the audience a little about each person—much of which was hilarious.
Then the bride and groom walked in with the theme song for “The Newlywed Game” playing overhead.
“I love getting an audience on their feet and lining the entrance as the wedding party comes in, shouting and giving each other high-fives,” Haggerty explains. “If I have a great coordinating team of my own, I’ll get two people to stay at the doors and close them right before I announce the bride and groom – and then open the doors for their entrance.”
Haggerty says audiences and bridal parties alike always love his grand entrance work due to his attention to detail.
“I meticulously go over the names—writing them down phonetically—so I don’t butcher them and pronounce them incorrectly,” he says. “Of course, this can be a bit challenging here in the Bay Area, since we’re such a melting pot of cultures.
“Besides Latin surnames, there are plenty of Indian, Chinese, Russian and Middle Eastern names that can sometimes be challenging to say correctly. I’ve gotten in the habit of not looking at the names the week before the event. I’ve found it’s better to wait until I’m lining them up in the foyer to go over the first and last names. I make sure to listen to how they say their names, and then I repeat the names back to them to ensure I’m saying it right. Next, I write the names out phonically… misspelling their names, of course, to make sure I say it correctly.
“It’s funny how many people try to correct me as I’m spelling it wrong!”
Up in Ithaca, N.Y., DJ Michael Melice claims his grand entrances are always over-the-top.
“I truly believe that having a high-energy introduction sets the tone for the entire wedding reception,” he explains.
“My favorite entrance of this past year was just a few months ago. I’ve found that autumn-winter weddings always tend to be great from a DJ standpoint, due to the fact it gets dark a lot earlier, which helps enhance our lighting.
“This particular couple had selected one of my most exclusive wedding packages, which includes multimedia with flat-screens, motion monograms that picture falling snow, uplighting, a confetti cannon – and, of course, a customized entrance.”
Melice said he actually began preparing for the grand entrance during the tail-end of this event’s cocktail hour, playing on his flat-screen a video love story he had recorded with the bride and groom a couple months earlier.
“This not only encouraged guests to grab their seats, but also built up excitement for the introductions,” he says. “For this particular custom intro, we had built a light show around every song. We had uplighting all around the room pulsating in bright colors, while the moving heads had stars moving around the room.
“I started by playing the song ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ as I introduced the parents of our groom. Guests were going absolutely crazy, chanting, ‘U.S.A.! U.S.A.!’ The parents of the bride next came down to ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’ and then we transitioned to modern songs for the actual bridal party.”
Finally, it was time to introduce Melice’s bride and groom.
“I had every guest grab their dinner napkins and spin them around as high and as fast as they could,” he continues. “At this point, the bride and groom come through the main entrance doors through a crowd of 200 guests, who were spinning dinner napkins like Pittsburgh fans do when the Steelers score a touchdown. Lights were strobing all around the room, and once they arrive on the dancefloor it’s time for their first dance.
“Now to top it all off, a beautiful monogram with their names is projected right behind the couple. TV monitors are displaying a video montage with pictures of their engagement. I’ve added audio drops that I took from the couple’s video love story, and then I fired a confetti cannon filled with snow.”
The next morning Melice says he had multiple inquiries from people who had attended the reception.
“A lot of them said they didn’t have a wedding planned and were not even engaged,” he recalls, “but they already knew who they wanted to hire for their future wedding.”
Although he says nothing comes to mind when trying to remember the worst bridal entrance he’s ever experienced, Mike Walter of Elite Entertainment in Tinton Falls, N.J., doesn’t hesitate when it comes to recalling his best ever.
The introduction that best stands out for Walter was when he worked with a bride and groom who were both musicians and in a band.
“The reception was in a hall with the entrance on one end of a long room and a stage on the other end,” recalls Walter. “We began with the stage curtains closed and the parents and bridal party entering from the main entrance. But then, when I introduced the bride and groom, nobody came out.
“I was in on the joke, obviously, and said something like, ‘Oh wait, they aren’t coming through the main entrance—they’re onstage, of course!’”
That’s when the stage curtain lifted, revealing the bride and groom with their band.
“The band suddenly launched into a three-song set that was awesome,” Walter adds. “I’ll never forget the bride wearing a black leather jacket over her wedding gown, which was totally cool.”
The best wedding entrance Scott Goldoor says he’s ever experienced was about 10 years ago, when this owner of Signature Sounds in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., had a bridal party kicking off the entrance performing a dance to a medley of popular songs.
“This couple had collaborated with each member of their bridal party to select songs for each couple or trio to walk in to,” he says. “The parents of the bride and groom were also included, and each group that walked in did a choreographed 30-second to one-minute dance or dramatic bit.”
The bride and groom then walked in to their introduction song before dancing to what Goldoor remembers as a sappy love song,
“I think it was a Whitney Houston song, but that’s when I suddenly slammed over to play ‘Jump Around’ from House of Pain. Suddenly, 200 of their guests went absolutely ballistic,” he says. “From there, we mixed a couple songs and then a pre-recorded mix the couple had provided for us.
“It really set the tempo for the evening and loosened the crowd up a bit. Instead of simply saying, ‘Once again, how about a round of applause for the new mister and missus!’… we said something along the lines of ‘Hey gang, whaddaya think?’
“Needless to say, the people were screaming, shouting, whistling and cheering.”
When he consulted with a couple who had met at a WWE SummerSlam in Pittsburgh, Steve Croce of Philadelphia-based Silver Sound Entertainment suggested to them a wrestling-themed entrance.
“Just before we began, several of the guests were handed signs that read things like ‘Ultimate Wedding’ with an Ultimate Warrior logo, or, ‘The Rock Says You’re Married’ with a picture of a ring, and were asked to wave them around when the groomsmen first entered,” Croce recalls.
“The bridesmaids then entered to ‘Pomp & Circumstance,’ doing the Pope wave and a Miss America smile while walking to the head table, and that’s when the groomsmen—dressed in full wrestling gear—entered to various WWE theme songs – with their DJ doing his Howard Finkel impersonation.
“The audience then exploded as confetti cannons blasted off, with the groom charging full-speed into the ballroom to the Ultimate Warrior’s theme, in the same way Ultimate Warriors maniacally enter the ring.”
Meanwhile, when asked about the worst entrance he’s ever seen, Croce says that was when the bride and groom had instructed him to play Elton John’s “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”
“They hadn’t told me beforehand what they were going to do, which should have sent up a huge red flag because that’s when the bridal party crept on the floor, emerging from different areas of the ballroom wearing costumes I would grade a C-minus.
“The understandably weirded-out crowd leered at the wedding party, as though a jungle cult ritual was beginning.”
Not only was this intro weird, but Croce said it was weird timing as well.
“‘The Lion King’ was no longer interesting to the crowd, as it had faded in popularity years ago,” he says. “Plus, it had nothing at all to do with the bride and groom. They weren’t in an off-Broadway performance, didn’t care for Disney World, and weren’t known for being fans of ‘The Lion King.’
“The bride and groom had simply seen the idea on Pinterest and tried to duplicate it, failing miserably.”
It ended up being a Circle of Death.
Back in Pennsylvania’s Coal Country, Uranko says he’s been using what he refers to as a “Shadow Video Entrance” for several of his wedding receptions, and as a result has been receiving some amazing feedback.
“Everyone has made shadow puppets,” he says, “so even if you don’t have a full-blown setup the bridal party can at least practice by doing some shadow positions at home.”
Uranko says the first step in pulling off a Shadow Video Entrance is finding the right venue. “Ideally you’ll want a venue where the reception area has very little natural light near the grand entrance area,” he explains. “Another logistical element is the location of the entrance. You’ll need adequate room in front of the entrance, so your layout plan might need to be changed.”
In order to pull off the effect, Uranko uses an Optoma 515 Projector hooked up to a MacBook Pro that runs GrandVJ.
“The projected image is mapped to the exact size of the drapes,” explains Uranko. “This prevents the bright light from the projector bleeding around the edges of your drapes, and gives your entrance a more professional look rather than just placing a light behind your subject.
“What takes this entrance to the next level is that we coordinate a different video clip for each couple that is introduced. So not only are they introduced to their own song, but we’ve added another level of entertainment with a video clip.
“All of the videos are royalty-free, by the way, and can be found on videoblocks.com.”
Uranko says a grand entrance is the first opportunity for a bride and groom to let their guests know that their wedding will be different than every other reception they’ve ever attended.
“The reaction we receive when pulling off a Shadow Video Entrance is phenomenal,” he claims. “You’re tying in an emotional moment with both audio and video that together have a personal connection with each couple that’s introduced. When combined, this really gets everyone excited.
“What’s a lot of fun with this entrance style is that your bridal party will want to come up with fun shadows to make. If you’re able to set up the night before, you can even do a dry-run, so the bridal party can practice everything. I can almost guarantee that no one in your bridal party will be familiar with this style of entrance.”
Although he can’t recall one particular wedding introduction that went better than any other, K.C. KoKoruz in Chicago says all the introductions made by The Keith Christopher Entertainment group are customized for each individual client.
“I have a simple belief, which is that people really don’t clap with love and enthusiasm for people they don’t know,” he explains. “When any DJ, MC or band leader introduces a stranger into a room full of people, they’ll not get an overwhelming response because the guests simply don’t realize that they’re important to the bride and groom.
“Rather than the simple introduction, we do the following:
“Our first bridesmaid has been friends with our bride since they were four-years old. They grew up living across the street from one another, they went to kindergarten together, they were Girl Scouts together, cheerleaders together and 25 years later they’re still the closest of friends.
“She’s being escorted in by the cousin of the groom, and while the family tree says that they’re cousins they are truly more like brothers.”
It’s KoKoruz’s personal belief that when we add a personal description and relationship to a wedding couple, that bridal party member will become relatable to each guest.
“Everyone has a childhood friend, and everyone has someone who’s like a brother to them,” he says. “Once they become informed of how a member of the bridal party is connected to the wedding couple, the love and applause will naturally follow.”