There’s one thread that carries through the long evolution of the DJ from spinner of vinyl records to today’s laptop jockey: weddings. The wedding DJ is the true Master of Ceremonies. The DJ can, in some ways, do more than a band can do, and always for a smaller slice of your wedding budget. In this modern world there exists 1,000 different types of DJs, but two primary types of wedding DJs.
The first type aims to be all things to all people. Phil Parrino has owned Countdown Sound DJ rental service for over 20 years. He and his DJs started off spinning real vinyl but today use the app Virtual DJ.
“Wedding DJs are a select group; we need to know all styles of music because we are playing for people from 20 years old to 80 years old. Not only selecting good music but you have to be an entertainer and a good time manager — we DJs are hired so that things happen in a certain time, and it’s kept fun. Regular DJs don’t have that pressure.”
Parrino says the right equipment is also key.
“Live bands are still the trend for New Orleans’ high-end brides, but the rest of the country has replaced bands with these complicated DJ set ups,” says Parrino. “So, every year we go to Las Vegas to learn all the latest trends and technology. Millennials for instance are really visual — they grew up playing video games — and they all want lighting. So we keep a massive collection of wireless uplighting.”
Parrino’s team also follow musical trends.
“The younger people have shorter attention spans, so a lot of times we have to switch songs about a minute and a half into the song, when we see the dance floor dying,” says Parrino. “The old people think we’re messing the song up, but we’re just following a trend. Our goal is to make people have a good time, and if we see them start fading away, we have to bring them back.”
Parrino attests that the most popular first dance song these days is, “Thinking Out Loud,” by Ed Sheeran, while the tune that gets the family on the floor remains Mark Ronson’s and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”
The second type of wedding DJ is hired for their specialized niche. DJ Matty has spun vinyl 45s of ‘60s era rock-n-roll at New Orleans’s legendary Mod Dance Party monthly for 15 years.
“When I started DJing I was surprised there were 20-year-olds into ‘60s music,” laughs Matty. “Now it’s 15 years later and they are all 35 and all getting married. So now I’m DJing all their weddings. It’s full circle.”
Though a true vinyl warrior when DJing in public, at weddings DJ Matty makes sure he can fulfill any request even, he says, Katy Perry.
“Out in the world I usually play 45s, so if I don’t want to play something I can always tell people ‘I don’t have it.’” He admits. “But at a wedding I am happy to plug my phone in and play requests, because I just want the family to all dance together and be happy.”
DJ Matty believes these jobs also involve protecting the wedding. Though he himself enjoys rap, he says, “I won’t play rap, no matter how much the young kids like it, because the old people just don’t like it. I ignore requests from the bride’s younger brother who wants to hear the very dirty rap song, claiming ‘Everyone will love this!’ Same with the aunt who just learned to Salsa dance or Cajun dance recently, and so wants you to play that music…but then they don’t dance, the floor just clears.”
At the risk of sounding harsh, Matty says, “I just ask the bride up front now, ‘Is there anyone I shouldn’t take a request from?’ They don’t even laugh,” says Matty, “They just say ‘yes,’ and point them out.”
Matty DJ’d four weddings the week he spoke to us: one at Studio Three on Bayou St. John, another at Cane and Table, a third at NOLA Brewery and a fourth in New York.
“There are a few songs that will never fail anywhere, no matter what demographic the wedding is, white, black, etc. They all love ‘Proud Mary’ by Ike and Tina, and ‘Shout!’ by the Isley Brothers.
“Of course DJing a wedding in New Orleans is so much easier,” Matty adds, “Because everyone from 10 years old to 60 years old loves the classic New Orleans tunes. Of course I always play Dixie Cups’ ‘Going to the Chapel’ and Ernie K-Doe’s ‘Mother in Law.’ No other city has such great wedding music!”