Wedding music horror stories

21:26, Mar 06 2014

Okay, I've gone and done it - tonight I'm the wedding DJ. I've been in this role a few times, but not that many. It's not something I seek out, to tell the truth. But tonight should be alright - I'm at least looking forward to it - because I'm a guest also, that is to say I would have been at the wedding anyway, I just happen to be taking along a couple of crates of records.

I've played at a lot of weddings though - in bands. Dozens of weddings, maybe a hundred or so actually; at one point I considered writing a book about experiences spying in on the weddings of people you don't know. As part of the band you'd bond with the kitchen staff, waiters, waitresses, the photographer and his/her assistant, venue management, anyone integral to the day but not directly connected to Bridezilla and Groomdrinka and the different versions of the Happy Couple.

It's pretty strange being a crucial part of the biggest day in someone's life - someone you don't know and won't ever see again.

Being in the band wasn't often fun - you'd play a set, and it was fine, people happy, dancing. Then the requests would start to flow. People finding you on your ten minute break. The conversation always starting with something like, "hey, great music and all, but do you think you could also play some..." and whatever followed was a) actually their idea of great music, not what we had been playing and b) fundamentally ridiculous given the type of band they had booked. You'd be an Irish band at a Scottish wedding, and that was fine - we could fudge that, plenty of the songs crossed over, and we had separate Scottish material too, and often a Scottish band-member, so that helped. But first request of the night would be to "play some ABBA" or even "Bruce Springsteen..."

Worse than that, the way - after several drinks - anyone was instantly sure of their backing-singer prowess; the way they just walk up and grab at microphones, knock over guitars and mandolins on stands, decide they're entitled to be part of the band...
The wedding DJ has it tough I reckon - they have to please the crowd, or give it a go, and span some decades generally. They have to also please the happy couple, or a member of the bridal party anyway, be it bridesmaid or groomsman or mother or father of the bride or groom. And sometimes there can be very different ideas of what is working. Then there's the requests that start to fire in and the more open the bar the more the closed the mind with regard to what should be playing. And the reasonable amount of time that can pass between a request being slurred in your face and that platter being pushed into place.

A couple of years ago I agreed to play at a wedding and took my trusty copy of The Big Chill soundtrack and the first volume of Tour of Duty and all sorts of other things, disco music, sixties music, eighties music, actually something from every decade. I'd had very little prompting on what to bring. But I had enough to cover bases. I surveyed the room and made what I thought was the obvious observation that the "oldies" (if you'll pardon the term) would probably be up for a dance early on and then would move on. This is something we all know from attending weddings, and in my case from having been at my own - and from playing in bands at loads of weddings.

So it's to the 1950s and 1960s for some rock'n'roll and soul and pop music and it's going well - really well. As well as can be at least. I've got some other, more modern music to move to - but this is working.

But then, no. The bride isn't happy. She comes over and in the best passive-aggressive way suggests a different approach. So I go with that. The floor empties. The bride is on her own, trying to have a whale of a time. But no one else is in on it. Some of the people who had been dancing up something near to a storm come over and ask what has happened. I tell them the bride requested the noise that's now on. But that won't cut it. Then the bride has a rant at me about emptying the dancefloor. So it's back to those trusty old soul and disco comps, the Vietnam War-era music too. And it's back to a nearly-full dance floor. Then the bride gets that slapped-arse face and has another go about the choices being made. So the floor empties again as she tries to relive her final day of high-school or whatever. And it's rinse and repeat.

Thankless task, eh.

In fact, just the other day I wrote about what was surely the single worst - bizarre, baffling, infuriating - experience I had in the wedding DJ role. A different story to the précis above.

And then, as I was writing that, I realised I'd set myself up again tonight - agreeing to play the records and that role once again.

But I'm looking forward to tonight. And I've got my ABBA and my Springsteen. And no Irish music at all.

So what could go wrong? Right? Right?

Anyway, your turn - here's my worst experience with wedding music - so what's yours? Maybe you've been in the band or been the DJ or maybe, boot on other foot, you've had your wedding ruined by the band, DJ or string quartet? Any stories of musicians getting too drunk and ruining it, the string quartet falling into the garden perhaps, or the DJ only playing Springsteen and ABBA...what's your idea/example of a wedding music horror story?

And have any of you actually experienced one of those overly-choreographed wedding dances -served up as a bit of a trick? You know the ones, all over YouTube, at first it looks like bride and groom can't dance, are nervous-as, or maybe it's the bride and father-of. Next thing the DJ flicks the fader and it's to something from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and they're twisting again, like they did last summer...

Do those dance-tricks actually happen, or are they just filmed for YouTube? Anyone seen one play out? Anyone seen - or been in - any first-dance disasters? We once had to play 500 Miles as a first dance. (The aforementioned Irish band at a Scottish wedding). That was depressing...

Blog on the Tracks is on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts