October 21, 2017

Should My DJ Serve as Master of Ceremonies?

There has been a lot of ambiguity when it comes to deciphering between the roles of a wedding DJ and a Master of Ceremonies. In most instances, they are seen as one-in-the-same, especially when viewed within the context of a wedding celebration. For those who are searching for a wedding DJ, it’s natural to assume that the DJ will be in charge of both the music and handle all the announcements.

But it is important to note that the roles between the DJ and the Master of Ceremonies are, in fact, distinct from one another. Knowing the difference between the two roles can place you at a great advantage when choosing various entertainment options for your reception.

Don’t misunderstand the intention of this statement. There are many professional DJ’s who are perfectly competent, even gifted at fulfilling the role of Master of Ceremonies. Indeed, many DJ’s have stepped up to the plate and made weddings their full time profession. However, the talent of a mobile DJ really shines brightly in their ability to read a crowd, choose the right songs at precise moments, and mix a set of music as a means to control and maintain the energy in the room.

Zac Efron Explains....

The physiology of the dancefloor

It’s a unique skillset that when mastered, can have a huge overall impact on the party. And the exact same could be said of a Master of Ceremonies whose core competency is the ability to interact with an audience in such a way as to keep them engaged even before the dancefloor is open to the guests.

The Master of Ceremonies is in charge of all the ceremonial components of a wedding reception. These typically include the Grand Entrance, the Cake Cutting Ceremony, the First Dance and the Bouquet Toss. Each one of these events has a historical context and are culturally significant because each one is a rite of passage integral to the tradition of Marriage.

In this sense, a Master of Ceremonies is quite literally the “master” or “orchestrator” over these ceremonies. They are charged with infusing these special moments with meaning, while making it fun and engaging for your audience to participate.

It’s a pity when the Cake Cutting Ceremony is taking place and the audience doesn’t even know it, or when the bride and groom dance their First Dance together as newlyweds, but they lose the attention of the audience within the first 30 seconds. These moments deserve to be the very center of attention and should never occur in the background.

The Master of Ceremonies is there to cast the spotlight on the newlyweds throughout these pinnacle moments, and to keep the spotlight there as they direct, inform, and guide the audience through what is happening.

But the role of the Master of Ceremonies doesn’t stop there. In addition to orchestrating the ceremonial components named above, the Master of Ceremonies is also tasked with: 

making your guests feel welcome
collaborating with your wedding vendors
Informing your wedding party

The 3 groups of people above are all aware of one another, yet each group acts and operates independently from one another. The Master of Ceremonies ensures the synchronicity between these 3 groups so that the wedding reception runs efficiently and smoothly.

This can be a complex undertaking at times, but the newlyweds, wedding party, and audience should never know this. You know a Master of Ceremonies is worth their weight in gold when what they do appears to be simple and everything seems to run fluidly, organically, and without interruption. It’s never easy to make it look easy, but when it does, it’s a mark of a job well done.

This is a great benefit to the newlyweds who can actually enjoy their own wedding day and are freed up to spend their time with their friends and family. This has become more pertinent today given how intricate planning a wedding has evolved in our modern culture.

So this brings us full circle of asking, “should I hire a DJ to serve as my Master of Ceremonies”? My answer to this would be that it depends on the experience, confidence, and expertise of the DJ in question. Serving as a DJ is a substantial responsibility in its own right. So before hiring someone to pull “double duty,” you may want to know whether they can (or should) take on the additional duties as Master of Ceremonies.

Have you considered the following...?

Have your prospective DJ served as Master of Ceremonies in a forum that didn’t require them to do so (as I have alluded to above)? If so, how often and in what capacity? Do they have the confidence and skill set to communicate effectively in front of a live audience? And do they have the expertise and training to ensure that they will earn the confidence and respect of their audience as well as the other vendors? 

These are the questions you will want to keep in mind if you are considering having your DJ serve both roles. Yes, these may be tough questions to ask your prospective DJ, but they shouldn’t shy away from the answers, nor should they be too hesitant to answer if they are in fact competent, knowledgeable, and experienced as a wedding entertainment professional.

But there is an alternative. There are several mobile DJ companies that offer options and packages that delineate the roles of DJ and Master of Ceremonies. In this model, two persons are charged with providing the entertainment throughout your wedding reception. One person serves the role of DJ, while the other is designated as Master of Ceremonies.

The DJ offers a supporting role to the Master of Ceremonies during the ceremonial parts of the reception, and the Master of Ceremonies serves in kind when the DJ has control of the dance floor. This model frees up the Master of Ceremonies to remain up front and center, accessible to those who need him (or her) the most throughout the reception; the audience, the vendors, and the wedding party.

There is also a cool shift in dynamic that happens when a DJ / Master of Ceremonies team work together in front of a live audience. There is a certain “celebrity” feel that happens where the status of the DJ becomes elevated (after being introduced and edified by the Master of Ceremonies), and the dancefloor transforms into a makeshift stage where “the magic happens”.

When the Master of Ceremonies walks onto the dancefloor, he (or she) is metaphorically “taking the stage,” which in itself, is as a call to action. Taking the stage conditions the audience to draw their attention, to listen, and to respond on command. The seasoned professional knows this and uses it to their advantage.

Once they have gained the trust and confidence of their audience, it takes little effort to lead them to take the appropriate action, whether through applause, or something as simple as taking their seats. When the audience hears the voice of the Master of Ceremonies, they instinctively draw their attention to the dancefloor.

It is the same dynamic that is in play when you watched Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman, or Conan O’Brien on late night television. And it’s no coincidence that their respective band leaders were an integral part of the show.

Late Night Talk Show Hosts

Johnny Carson

Jay Leno

David Letterman

Conan O'Brien

Late Night Co-Hosts & MUSICIANS

Doc Severinsen

Kevin Eubanks

Paul Shaffer

Max Weingberg

Doc Severinsen, Kevin Eubanks, Paul Shaffer, and Max Weinberg each held their own primary function alongside their talk show host counterparts. Together, these dynamic duos made their shows fun to watch (for both the tv and live studio audience), as well as run smoothly, efficiently, and on time.

Do you see the parallel with the Master of Ceremonies and DJ working together? It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, not just for the DJ and the Master of Ceremonies themselves per se, but for all the guests who attend the reception dinner as well. The entertainment factor skyrockets when you have this dynamic in play.

But there is also the inclination to see a DJ and Master of Ceremonies who are working side-by-side as problematic. This is a legitimate concern for a couple of reasons. First we assume that the DJ and the Master of Ceremonies are co-collaborators who have a working relationship. This is not always the case, and this could pose some interesting dilemmas. I recently found this out for myself, the hard way...

A lesson lived is a lesson learned....

I offer the following story not so much as a cautionary tale, but as a means for you to know what to look out for when hiring a DJ and a Master of Ceremonies to perform at your wedding reception, especially if you hire them independently from one another. It is imperative that you either hire a company that can provide both a DJ and a Master of Ceremonies who have a working relationship, or that you take steps to ensure that the two professionals you are considering are willing to prepare and collaborate adequately before your Big Day. 

Recently I was hired to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for an Eastern Indian wedding. They brought in a DJ who specialized in Bollywood-style remixing. I was hired to work alongside this DJ for day #3, the “American-style” portion of the wedding celebration. I was excited to work this particular event because these types of celebrations have a tendency to be lavish and over the top (two of my favorite types).

This wedding was no exception. It was a three day event where friends and family flew in from all over the world to celebrate. Both sets of parents pulled out all the stops to make this an extra special affair for the young newlyweds. And I was super-excited to work with a DJ who was reported to be a talented performing artist in his own right.

However, I had never worked with or met this DJ before so I scheduled a “meet and greet” several weeks prior. This encounter was a humbling moment for me because I made a couple of assumptions. I had falsely assumed that he “played well with others,” and that he knew my role as a Master of Ceremonies (you see, there is ambiguity even within our own industry).

I quickly found out he was a bit peeved about not being able to have “total control” over the entire reception and refused to allow my assistant to to “patch in” and run sound cues from a laptop. When we discussed some possible options, he agreed to run the sound cues himself but did not want to meet up and rehearse these cues in advance. This was a huge red flag for me, but we persevered.

I ended up having to do a lot of extra leg work creating scripts and custom music playlists so he could execute these sound cues “on the fly”. It was a hugely challenging endeavor and made me extremely nervous as a professional entertainer, but you know what? The guests had absolutely no clue.

There was definitely a tension when collaborating with the DJ, and there were several tactical issues that I had to address ahead of time, but ultimately, nobody was the wiser and the celebration ended up being a huge success (knock on wood)! Behind the scenes it was an awkward experience, but I managed to persevere by focusing on the role I had to play in this celebration.

Granted, this is not a scenario I ever want to repeat. It was simply too risky to improvise while in front of a live audience, but nonetheless, it was an incredibly valuable learning experience for me. It provided me valuable insight into working with other performance artists, solidifying my belief that even under these circumstances, having a DJ and a Master of Ceremonies is in fact beneficial.

Could either one of us have succeeded if we had taken on both roles ourselves? Absolutely. Having a single performer take on two roles does not mean that the wedding reception will by any means be any less fun or engaging. However, I do believe the opposite is true.

When you hire both a DJ and a Master of Ceremonies, who are each masters of their craft, and have an established working relationship with one another, then you can feel confident that your return on investment will be worth every penny! It’s the one factor that can turn a really turn a good party into a once-in-a-lifetime event. Hiring a Master of Ceremonies for your wedding reception can make all the difference in the world.

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