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Vendors We CLINK To!

Josh Wilkinson, Penguin Entertainment

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DJ Josh Wilkinson of Penguin Entertainment is a CLINK fave! He is experienced, personable, flexible and fun! All our clients love Josh and have nothing but praises for him. We wanted to share just how amazing he is, so we asked him a few questions.

Check out what he had to say . . . .

1.  What advice do you have for brides looking for a wedding DJ?

My very first advice is to meet in person with the DJs you’re considering.  Your DJ is one of the most visible vendors at your reception and has the greatest impact on the dancing part of the night, so it’s important to find the one who represents you best.  Interviewing potential DJs in person will give you a much better feel for their presence and style, and will help ensure you find the best personality match.

2.  What are your thoughts on the types of music to play to get people on the dance floor?

In general, a very wide variety of music works best.  The wider the better.  It’s trickier to mix many different genres than just one or two, but it entertains the greatest number of guests and helps everyone feel part of the celebration.  It’s also a terrific way to learn your audience — the reactions to each song tell me something more about the group.

More specifically, it differs from group to group, which is when preplanning and the ability to read a crowd really kick in.  Some groups are ready to dance right away, in which case something lively yet familiar — let’s say “Brown Eyed Girl” or a Michael Jackson song — is ideal.  Other groups may be ready for something very upbeat and contemporary.  And still others may need more warm-up time, which calls for starting with a classic slower song, like Etta James’s “At Last” or a good old Texas two-step.  One of my favorite starters is Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” because it’s livelier than a ballad but slow enough for couples to dance together, and it’s very cross-generational.  It’s a surefire winner and – from that – you can go in almost any direction because you’ve got all ages on the floor.

When preplanning, I like to find out if the bride and groom expect to dance a lot and if previous family weddings involved a lot of dancing or if they were quieter events.  This gives me a good idea of what to expect so I can plan accordingly.

On the night of the reception, I gauge the energy of the room and note when certain songs during cocktails or dinner cause someone to tap their toes.  As the evening proceeds, I take cues from the audience, noting which songs get the best reactions, watching for when a group’s energy starts to flag or when they’re ready to move to the next level up.

3.  Is there any music people should generally stay from for a wedding reception?

Well, the obvious ones are the hard-music categories, like intense rock or hard rap, because they appeal to a smaller group and might alienate too many of your guests.  I believe there’s a place for just about any song, but those are the hardest ones to fit in.

Obscure indie music is also a bit harder to fit in during dancing, again because it appeals to a much smaller group.  However — and this is important — I LOVE when we’re able to incorporate indie music or any less danceable favorites during cocktail hour, dinner, and sprinkled in during dancing.  This personalizes the reception, makes it more specific to the couple.

4.  Tell us about the current trend of the Band/DJ combo and why it works so well.

The Band/DJ combo is actually my favorite!  You get the best of both worlds: the energy of a full band and the variety and flexibility of a DJ.  It also keeps the energy up during band breaks and allows you to hear songs the band doesn’t have in their repertoire.  (Bands appreciate this too, because they don’t have to start from scratch after every break.)

Another huge benefit is that your DJ serves as your MC.  This is often overlooked but it’s crucial to keeping a good party flow.  Singers aren’t typically trained MCs and, since the band has to take breaks, they’re usually only able to make cursory announcements right before they leave the stage.  As an MC, we can make smooth transitions from one event to the next, into and out of band breaks, and make sure your guests know what’s happening so no one misses anything.

5.  Many of our clients love live music for the ceremonies.  What are some advantages to having a DJ play recorded music?

I’m also a fan of live music for ceremonies, but using a DJ certainly has some advantages.  The biggest is that you have more freedom in what you can have played.  The whole world is open here!  For couples seeking non-traditional music, we can build an entire ceremony playlist based on their tastes, as well as offer creative suggestions.  This is more important than some think, since this will be the very first thing guests encounter at the wedding.  And you know what they say about first impressions!

An added advantage is that with a DJ system, we can provide microphones for your officiant and any vocalists or readers.  This is especially recommended for groups of 50 or more.

6.  From your perspective and from your experience, what makes a wedding fun?

Oh, there’s so much!  Where do I begin?

Ultimately, a wedding is about the couple and their new union, but it’s also about their friends and family uniting in support and celebration of their marriage.  This is huge.  This is love on a grand scale.  Related by blood or not, the guests are essentially family.  The great good feeling arising from this alone is enormous fun.

From a specifically DJ point of view, the fun part is finding the music that brings all these ages and tastes together.  You’re helping shape an experience, creating a space where child, parent, and grandparent can all celebrate at once.  You’re identifying those moments — enhancing them or simply facilitating them — that will make this wedding uniquely THEIR wedding.

But how to make a wedding more fun?  Don’t be afraid of the emotional or the daring or the silly!  These are the things that make a reception electric.  When you walk back up the aisle, newly married, and kick up your heels to James Brown or Bruno Mars, you’re announcing that this reception is going to be a blast.  When you deliver a practiced first dance or break into something fun or even wacky, it instantly draws everyone into the party.  When you’ve picked that perfect father/daughter song, something no one ever plays but you’re playing it because it means something special to dad, you’re touching every parent’s heart there.  By embracing these moments, by cutting loose or by expressing those tender feelings, you’re giving your guests the freedom to do the same.

7.  What are some things that many brides don’t think of when planning their entertainment needs?

What gets overlooked the most is equipment coverage.  Many venues have separate areas for ceremony, cocktail hour, or dinner, and this requires additional sound equipment.  You may need a second system or you may just need a second set of speakers on extensions.  If you’re using multiple areas of a facility, your DJ can advise you on the best options for coverage.  We keep these extras as nominal as possible because the goal here isn’t to stretch the budget but to create the best overall environment.

You’ll also want to consider the length of the event.  Most entertainers initially charge for a basic package (usually 4-5 hours), then charge hourly for additional performance time.  This is also good to think about in relation to your guests; some families have longer receptions of 6-7 hours, though many others tend to wrap up at 4-5 hours.  Rather than overestimate your guests’ stamina, it’s a great idea to plan conservatively so you can end on a high note.  If possible, leave the option of extending the party open — that way, if your guests are ready to keep celebrating, you’re able to keep it going.

Sometimes too the DJ’s role is underestimated; after all, it’s “just playing music.”  But we only make it look easy!  It’s a bigger challenge than it appears.  Song selection alone requires much skill and experience: the wedding DJ has to be able to mix a much wider variety of music than other DJs and has to be able to read a crowd, anticipating when it’s time to pick things up or when to slow them down, when it’s time to fit in the trickier requests, and how to entertain a group whose tastes and ages vary greatly.  And we have to do this seamlessly, with finesse and wit and charm.

That’s why I stress the importance of meeting potential DJs in person and choosing one you truly click with.  Since the DJ presides over 4/5ths of the reception — the portion guests most remember afterward — it’s vital that you find one who sincerely understands your vision.  It’s a very personal, subjective choice, and one that’s very difficult to make by email alone.  You must see how the DJs present themselves, how they act, move, speak, and make you feel.  The little extra time you take to meet with potential DJs will pay huge benefits over the months of planning as well as at the wedding itself.

8.  Any other thoughts?

Too often, the entertainment is one of the last things on the planning list.  Several online guides place the entertainment quite low on the list for both budget and when to book.  Unfortunately, this means couples risk not getting their first choice or don’t have much left over in the budget for it.

I realize this sounds self-serving, but I highly encourage couples to prioritize their entertainment.  The thing guests most remember after a reception is whether or not they had fun.  So it’s well worth setting aside time and budget for the entertainment.  As with choosing your coordinator and photographer and venue, it’s an investment that will ensure the success of your reception.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions!  It’s hard to know what to ask, but you should absolutely feel free to ask potential DJs what their entertainment experience and training is, why their rates are what they are, and what they can specifically do to make your reception unique and special.  Your DJ should welcome these questions, and their answers will give you the insight needed to make the best choice.

Finally, as I’ve told dozens and dozens of couples, your coordinator is probably the most important vendor you can choose and the best investment you can make.  Once you have a great coordinator, everything else falls into place.

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A Little Bit About Josh

Josh joined Penguin Entertainment in 1993 and, due to his success as an MC, he was soon promoted to Executive Director of the company. During his career he has served as President for the Austin Mobile Disc Jockey Association from 1998-1999 as well as on the boards of the National Association of Catering Executives and the Austin Wedding and Event Coordinators Association.

He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Film and Television Production and worked on numerous feature films, music videos, and TV commercials. He began his DJ work in 1984 and hosted his first reception in 1990.  He still finds it wonderful that he gets to do this for a living and considers himself a lucky man indeed.

 

February 17, 2014 - 4:46 pm Debra Gulbas - Josh -- I loved your answers, and I cannot wait to share this with other brides. What a great feature! - Debra

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