Hang The DJ: the curse of the wedding DJ exposed
There’s always a lot of sneering at the retro bands flogging their old hit around the circuit? There they go wheezing their way through those long lost moments of youthful brilliance. The hipster hatred of guitar music is sometimes glaringly right but also misses a far worse offender in the weekend entertainment culture circuit.


The bands get it right between the eyes for being retro and not taking chances and yet no-one mentions the wedding DJ!


At least the bands wrote their own songs, the wedding DJ with his fixed green and snake eyes ploughs on playing someone else’s yesterday hits, those tried and trusted songs from decades ago that they borrow in a second hand, thrift store take on someone else’s experience. It’s a snapshot of another culture as the seventies and eighties are compressed into mini theme park experiences of pop culture with the kind of songs that even Terry Wogan has got bored of getting dusted down for another gurning evening of forced good times.


The wedding DJ comes in many guises. There is the mobile disco music version with his fixed list of ‘floor fillers’ or there is the hipster version- the wedding DJ in disguise, who plays virtually the same songs as the local DJ but without any of the skill and gets lauded for it. The wedding DJ is so threaded into our culture that we don’t even notice and still book them because we are too scared of the liberation offered by our own iPod’s random button.


‘wooooo’ goes the wedding DJ ‘this one is for Annie! who is 50 today!’ in that peculiar voice that goes up at the end of each sentence. It’s that Smashy and Nicey voice that once seemed merely annoying and now in the post Savile meltdown is starting to sound quite sinister. ‘Wooo! This one is the Abba megamix’ and the trusty old Abba megamix goes on and the drunks start doing a conga round the dance floor.


It’s a strange world. The world of ‘fun’ that isn’t fun. A strange leftover from the seventies when kids at school would want to be DJs and save up and buy a microphone first and the decks second. No one in the world wants to hear a DJ rabbiting over the beginning and ends of records. It’s bad enough on the radio where it is considered a great skill to talk bollocks until the vocals kick in. Those intros and outros are there for a reason and it’s not for you to talk over Chris Moyles! They are the tension and release of a great song and not a platform for the strange voice talking cliches at double time.


The wedding DJ is pre programmed to play the same old shite no matter what. If the person who has booked them has a raft of their own requests they are dutifully ignored as the same old set plods out. Here come the songs that no one asked for, danced to by stiff middle aged men and surprisingly agile middle aged women- Chic, Bee Gees, Abba and fer gawds sake Hi Ho Silver Lining….Jeff Beck’s mobile disco classic, the song that ways gets played and the song that no one in the history of music has ever really liked. Was it even a hit?


A whole set of songs to spill beer to played by a gurning gnome who should never be given a mic introducing each song- it could only happen in England where all culture is pantomime in disguise and Smashy and Nicey were allowed to be superstars before the world caught up with them.


We ask for Panic by the Smiths and the wedding DJ looks baffled…if only…if only


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Two minds about this one – basically they’re mostly just people trying to earn a few quid and doing no real harm – ok so they don’t actually produce anything but neither do your superstar club djs – whats the difference really?

  2. Well I must say , you seem to have a very biased and uneducated attitude toward the DJ industry, most of what you say is just not true ,daryll.dj is a professional wedding Mobile dj , and with years of experience and hundreds of satisfied clients, I think you will find that your comments fall flat .

  3. I have, for my sins, DJ-ed at a few weddings where they’ve decided to “get a mate who’s a DJ” to do it rather than hire a proper professional Wedding DJ.

    I’m there by virtue of the fact that the Bride and Groom want the music they like and don’t want the traditional cheesy wedding fayre, and they know I’ll play the sort of stuff they like. It sounds easy on paper, you can compile an amazing alternative wedding disco which is full of great stomping tunes but not the obvious ones and including all their favourite songs and some cooler floor fillers, and avoid the obvious Abba Megamix and Jive Bunny hell. They’re going to love it and they’re mates are gonna have a ball too.

    That’s all well and good, but once a wedding gets into full swing and *the relatives* of said Bride & Groom want to get their freak on, then you’re suddenly at the mercy of very drunk people of all ages, who insist on the obvious floor fillers and woe betide you if you try and play anything else.

    Worse still, you have to contend with very young children who want to hear very specific current hits by people you’ve never even heard of (Pitbull, Bruno Mars various people called Jessie – feat someone else, Katie so & so feat MC Rap Star etc), and worst of all the dreaded R&B fan who comes up and says “play some R&B” without specifying what that means (which is a real problem if like me you think R&B means The Spencer Davis Group).

    Having done it, I have the greatest of respect for professional wedding DJs who can cater for the very diverse audience you get at a wedding. There are crap ones of course, but the real Pros know the current chart hits that the kiddies will want to hear. They know the specific genre stuff if people want R&B or Nu-Metal or Hip Hop, and they do all that under the pressure of having to entertain some very emotionally charged and highly refreshed guests, on what is supposed to be the best day of the bride and groom’s lives. This isn’t a 45 min superstar DJ slot either, this is 5-7 hours non stop with maybe a break for a buffet. Talk about pressure?!

    I can assure you that if you don’t like the music at a wedding it’s not the DJ’s fault, they’re just giving the guests what they want.

    All I can say John is I see a couple of Pro DJs have posted here, why not join them and watch them run a wedding gig or two and see if it changes your opinion.

  4. Firstly, I have to say that as a piece of writing John, it’s quite humourous and I’d agree on some points. I am a Mobile DJ and have been for around 18 years now. I actually started DJing in late 1988 when I left my band. I started in clubs and the reason I got into DJing was to play music that nobody else did at that time. I started an Alternative night in what was my towns only nightclub at the time and it was an instant success! At one point I was doing 4 nights a week around the South of England playing in Alternative/Indie/Rock clubs and I loved it.
    I have been a self employed DJ for the past 8 years now and make a living out of it. What I have noticed over the years is that there ARE DJ’s out there like the type you describe and there is a section of the public that still has that preconception that all DJ’s are like the one you describe – They’re NOT!
    I’d say at a guess that 75% of my bookings are Weddings and obviously when I am providing the Disco Entertainment at these events I will come under the banner of ‘Wedding DJ’. Maybe I am lucky or maybe my customers like the fact that what I try to do is different because I am not what you John would call the typical Wedding DJ and I think there are a whole bunch of us out there that are the same. I’m not saying that there aren’t the typical cheesemeisters out there because there most certainly are and there are people around who will pay well over the odds for their services which is a shame.
    As Martin said above, I get a lot of work too from customers that want something different so it’s good that there are people about who provide the service that we do. That’s why I have http://www.indiealternativedj.co.uk as my website.

    Lastly (and sorry to go on) – I know of your stuff John and I used to play it quite a lot. Apparently you’ve agreed to produce an album in the future by a friend of mine too.
    Just thought I’d mention that while I’m here but to a number of people you’re a celebrity. Celebrity DJ’s generally turn up, the equipment is already set up and they play a 1 hour or 2 hour set. They get paid good money for it and probably play the same stuff that a number of us do (especially the likes of myself and Martin). I specialise in the stuff that you and other celebrity DJ’s probably play and I put a lot of thought into what I do. Could you do a Wedding? I don’t mean a specialised Wedding where the customer wants Indie/Rock all night. I mean a Wedding where you need to cater for all tastes and will no doubt play a whole bunch of tracks that you don’t like.
    Just think about this – There are DJ’s out there like myself and Martin. We get Wedding bookings that are for customers who have done their research and found us because we specialise in what we do and cater exactly for them. When a booking like this comes along it’s like a breath of fresh air. There are other bookings where customers want some speciality stuff but also a good mix to entertain everyone and that can sometimes be a task. No matter what anyone says, what we do is a skill. I think you’ll find that the majority of professional DJ’s are not cheesy and will try their hardest to get away from that image. The public (and you John) obviously still have that idea that we are all cheesy if we DJ at Weddings and that’s wrong but more than likely down to all those cheesy DJ’s that have given that impression.

  5. Age old question: Is the DJ there to provide some kind of enriching cultural experience or to regurgitate what his audience, no matter how banal their taste, will dance to? A DJ playing cutting edge, off beat, progressive music but with an empty dance floor will not last long. Even a Wedding DJ gags at the thought of playing the same old crap but that’s part of the job. Hopefully, he is an artful mixer that can put two contrasting, perhaps unexpected, songs together to keep his audience guessing.

  6. I love the shameless self promotion from the other DJs “how dare you say that…I’m nothing like what you describe…and just to prove it I’m available for birthdays, weddings and barmitzvahs and here’s my web address”…

  7. I’ve never read anything so complete and utter rubbish and far placed from the reality of the modern Wedding DJ – people like Mark Van den Berg (luv dup) are now Wedding DJs, it’s where the money’s at – nice work of semi comedy fiction, but the truth it ain’t

  8. well seems to me, that you don’t like DJs much. Well hopefully bands and DJs try their best to entertain the guests. Just play that music and enjoy

  9. Tonight I will be DJ’n in the northern quarter of Manchester a mix of northern soul, funk, reggae, indie, punk, electro, hiphop & freakbeat it is a pleasure to do such a night. Every so often my phone rings and a friend of a friend asks me to play there wedding or birthday, most of these gigs I turn down why because there a lot of hard work 9 hours to drag gear about set up, a load of ear ache. and no matter what I do I won’t please everyone sure the playlist I have been given although the bride and groom want to hear there music they don’t want an empty dance floor that’s why I’m a DJ and there a solicitor and a hairdresser. My job is to make sence of this chaos to play to the masses but push there boundaries but also include part of the playlist and find the middle ground. It’s fine for me to say to some un satisfied soul in mcr that I’m not playing a certain record because after all I don’t do requests. But at a party anything goes I am there to entertain everyone to play for the masses and no matter what that dance floor has to be full after all I may be arrogant enough to think that the 200 people tonight in mcr are all there to see me. But I guarantee at Ste n Janes wedding not one person gives a monkeys who I am or what I want to play.

  10. Well I do weddings with various bands and musicians in order to earn money to put into our own self-penned music projects/equipment for -how else can we find it in today’s music climate, eh?! ;)

  11. An article as cliched and predictable as the DJs which it seeks to criticise. These types of wedding DJs probably do still exist but I expect they are in ever decreasing numbers. Playing good music for 5 hours, blending winning tunes( and the bride & grooms requests) is no mean feat. John is welcome to accompany me to a gig – I’m part of Pin Up Nights, a Glasgow club night which ran from 2003 to 2012 during which we very much paid our sure and learned our craft. We also keep microphone work to a minimum!


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