There is a never-ending debate amongst DJs - Who has the harder job…mobile DJs or those who play in bars and clubs. There’s arguments for both sides but the most common reply you will get from the mobile guys is the expectancy for them to be ‘all things to all men’ basically they are expected to play every style of music to every age range and keep everybody happy in the process. There is no better example of this than at a wedding. Everyone will be there from the great uncles to kids (who are high on sugar and running about like it was the last days of Rome). But it’s not just the diversity of people you have to cater for but the diversity in music genres and ‘atmospheres’ that you have to play and create.
There are many duties you may be asked, as a mobile, to undertake at a wedding. The happy couple might want subtle background music during dinner, a first slow dance, a cheesy party set or even a hour or so of club classics, they might even want you to provide music for when they walk down the aisle. But music is only one part of your role and, although it’s essential to get this right, as much of the atmosphere can be created or lost with your selection of lighting. In this short guide, we look at the kind of lighting you may be expected to use at a wedding and how you can use simple fixtures to maximum effect.
The cheesy evening disco is the easy bit, if you’ve been a mobile DJ for some time then you will invariably have a collection of colourful and dynamic lights you can use. If not then it’s not hard to get this bit right. Colour and movement is the order of the day here which is why LED moonflowers, scanners and other LED lighting effects have become so popular amongst mobile DJs and they offer a cost-effective way of lighting up a dancefloor or whole room with colour and light. Most of these effects have inbuilt sound-to-light modes and can be run to the beat of your music.
As a wedding DJ, it is very important to get to know your clients before the big day. NOT ALL WEDDING DISCOS ARE THE SAME, you don’t want to turn up to the wedding reception of a couple of bikers with only a mirrorball and a Justin Bieber CD (OK, this is an extreme example but you get the idea). Once you know your clients music tastes you can tailor your lightshow to suit. If it’s a younger crowd then maybe a few more “club-style” effects would set the right mood (scanners, moving heads etc). If you have a rock crowd then they may prefer to see band-style lighting like ParCans along with plenty of smoke and maybe a strobe. An older “disco” crowd may appreciate a mirrorball or even some retro lightscreens and, if you find yourself in a room full of old-school ravers, you can’t go wrong with a laser.
But once the party’s started, the drink’s flowing and you’ve got a packed dancefloor the hardest work is done. Before the dancefloor has a chance to fill-up you have the small matter of the first dance to contend with and THIS is where a lot of DJs get things wrong. The vast majority of first dances are slow ballads and this is the section of the night where nearly every guest will have their eyes on the dancefloor. Its’ amazing how often a first dance will be accompanied by a dancefloor full of chaotic colours and shapes that bare no relation to one of the key romantic moments of the day. Slow and subtle is the order of the day and, depending on budget, there is a number of ways that this can be achieved. Moving heads are the first choice of professional lighting designers for a reason, strong, static or slow-panning beams in white (or a subtle colour) are perfect for a first dance. A similar effect can be achieved with scanners and even moonflowers (under proper control) can create a subtle star-burst look. Get all you lighting effects synchronised with a DMX controller or DMX lighting software and every part of your lightshow can play a part in creating the right ‘mood’. But creating a romantic lightshow needn’t be expensive or complex, a couple of white moonflowers used with a mirrorball and pinspot and you can set the mood without breaking the bank. Finally, don’t forget to make sure your setup is smart and professional looking, wiring should be well hidden and a deckstand should have a proper starcloth or façade to maintain an elegant look.
During the meal you may be asked to provide background music and this can be accompanied by some subtle background lighting. The easiest and most effective way to achieve this is through the use of uplighting. Uplighting creates a subtle backdrop of colour which, as the name would suggest, is created by a light facing upwards onto a wall, curtain, backdrop etc. Popular fixtures for uplighting include LED ParCans and LED Colour Bars which both give a vivid ‘wash’ effect but, thanks to the use of LEDs rather than halogen lamps, don’t get hot and can be run safely for many hours at a time. Moving heads can also be used as effective uplighters and, if they are equipped with a slow gobo rotation function, an extra dimension can be added to your uplighting with a ‘wave’ effect on curtains, backdrops etc. The benefit of using the likes of LED cans and moving heads for uplighting is, if the same room is used for the meal and evening reception then you can get 2 or 3 uses from the same fixture. Providing you DMX control your uplighters they can be providing a serene backdrop to the wedding breakfast one moment, washing the room with subtle beams and colours for the first dance and then, at the push of a button create a colourful, dynamic lightshow when everyone’s ready to get down and boogie.
It’s not unknown now that mobile DJs might be called upon to provide music and ambience for the ceremony itself. Many of the same rules apply here as with dinner lighting except colour changes and any sort of movement is almost certainly a no-no (unless you’re at some crazy themed wedding). A few carefully positioned par cans or lightbars can be used to light the proceedings but, again, colours are a bit of a no-no and remember that this is a marriage ceremony not a rock concert. A few well-placed beams from moving heads CAN add ‘something’ to a service but this would require haze and is best discussed with clients well beforehand. For more information on atmospherics and their uses check out our brief guide HERE.
Everything in this brief guide is based on personal experience but is only intended as a guide, the opinions expressed are my own and you should ALWAYS talk to your clients well in advance of the big day to ensure you meet their requirements. The joy of lighting is that it can be incredibly versatile and many effects can be used for more than one purpose with the correct controller. Experiment before gigs with different setups and work out for yourself what looks best. If you require any information or any advice on lighting for your rig then don’t hesitate to call our friendly and helpful sales team on 01206 855010.
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