Your DJ – Wedding formalities explained

Almost all of the weddings we have been fortunate to attend have had some form of traditional formality (such as throwing confetti or cutting the cake). Some weddings follow all the traditions and other weddings have very little (and do not even have a cake or first dance). We always adapt our service to match your requirements as after all it’s your wedding so it is lovely to stamp your mark on the day! 

Below are a list of the main wedding formalities and the reasons why they happen. Please note, this is advice from our point of view, which may not necessarily translate to you and your wedding. We have attended thousands of weddings in Hampshire so hopefully it will be of some help to you.

 

First Dance:

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This goes back to when formal banquets were opened by the two highest standing members of the Ball (such as a Duke and Duchess). Only then can the evening’s entertainment proceed. This was most commonly a waltz and choreographed dance, which is the same for weddings today as it is your wedding and as the bride and groom you dictate the days formalities.
You will be in the spotlight but it is honestly not as nerve racking as it sounds or even on the hours leading up to it. We have seen thousands of first dances and the bride and groom always relax when they hit the dance floor as we professionally set the scene, take you out of the room (so you are not standing there like lemons) and introduce you after gathering guests to watch and take photos. Some couples prefer not to have this formality as they are very shy so we often advise that they sit at the back of the room and we invite everyone on at once for a group first dance so the last people who hit the floor are the bride and groom. This has only happened a few times however and has worked very well.
Firstly you need decide which track you want and we can help you on this matter. You need to consider if you are just going to make it up as you go along or do a formal rehearsed dance. In either case you need to think about choosing a track that you can dance to. Strict tempo tracks (such as a waltz) and slow emotional tracks work very well. If you have a set routine then you will most probably  dance the whole song, but if not, it’s a good idea to invite guests half way through as they may get distracted and its also nice to include them in your first dance. Wedding couples also sometimes choose a track that relates to their personality and may perhaps be an in-joke with your friends. Either way getting everyone smiling, crying or laughing and sharing it with you is a very special moment. 
A good time for the first dance is often about an hour after your evening guests have been invited as they are invariably late and also need time to settle in and have a couple of drinks as they may be less willing to join in with you if shocked on to the dance floor to early. We have seen a big increase in photo booths, casinos that come into their own during the early parts of the evening and give your guests passive entertainment at a very affordable cost. A free bar or drinks allocation is also always a winner and gets people in the party spirit! 

Starting the dancing to early can greatly effect the rest of the evening, so we recommend that you inform your photographer of a specific time when you think you may do the first dance. This is often dependent on the venue, your guests & the length of the wedding day. It’s best to judge this on the night as there is always a notable increase in the ‘buzz’ in the room, which is a good time to give guests a ten min warning that the first dance is about to happen. It may also include the cake cut at this time and precede the buffet. There is usually a lull after the first dance so coordinating it 15 – 20 minutes before the buffet is perfect (assuming you have a buffet).
If you want guests to join you, the best time is when your photographer has got “that shot” or you just feel like you have been there for too long on your own. Just signal to us and we will bring everyone on to the floor. This also often happens at a set point in the track, such as a lull after a verse, where it is really nice for you to do a little move perhaps. A small spin and kiss always works very effectively! Depending on your requirements and your guests we will often read out the key members of your wedding party, to encourage participation. Have a look in the gallery section for some examples of first dances.

 

Speeches:

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Speeches were originally short toasts, which involved clicking glasses together and drinking from them. Often it was the master of the function who would toast the ladies or his wife and also distinguished guests present, so it is not too far from todays traditions as the Father of the bride toasts the bride and the groom toasts the bride, bridesmaids and other key member of the wedding party. This is the biggest formality of your wedding and the main part of your day guests will remember. It is also one that you can do very well or just OK, so prepare & practice and it will be easier on the day. 

Public speaking is the number one phobia (closely followed by arachnophobia), but you will be pleased to know that even we get nervous during public speaking! It’s how you manage the nerves and prepare properly that makes all the difference! Almost all grooms have said that they were really nervous after the speeches, but people will not notice as it always feels worse when you are up there, but as long as you do not stutter etc. then that’s fine.
The speeches can be done after the meal, before the meal or at certain intervals of the meal. After the meal is usually the most common and guests will feel more relaxed after a good meal and a chat with other members of their table. The traditional routine for Speeches is 1: Father of the bride 2: Groom 3: Best man; although you can do it in any manner and have different guests speak if you choose. It’s always nice when the bride says a few words of thanks etc. 

A good idea is to get someone who is experienced in script writing (and is funny) to edit your speech and even to go to your venue and practice in the room where your Speech will happen. That way you can gauge how loud you have to talk (although when a room is full of people its not as loud as the sound is absorbed so you may need microphones).

Speech hosting:

A host is a great way to introduce and move along the speeches. If you book us all day then you will have a professional Host to assist with speeches, rather than the venue banqueting manager (who is often your Master of Ceremonies or “toast master”). Although there is nothing wrong with that, we are professionally trained hosts and will add a bit more to the formal proceedings.
So instead of something like this: 

“Ladies and gentlemen – it is now time for the speeches – welcome the father of the bride” 

We would perhaps say (depending on you and your requirements):  

“Ladies and gentlemen, On behalf of Claire and Adam, we hope you have all thoroughly enjoyed your meals and your day. Now, you have been wined, you have been dined, it is now the time for 3 amazing speeches. It is customary for the Father of the bride to speak first, so will everybody please put your hands together and give a massive welcome to a very proud father…. Mr. Brian Smith”. 

We would then finish off proceedings and inform guests of what is going to happen next (perhaps you have to leave the room for a room turnaround?).
We can also assist in providing wireless microphones and projectors for audiovisual as well as pre wedding speech rehearsal advice at the venue as we have lots of tips on how to prepare and speak properly. 

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Wedding cake cut:

IMG_5989The cake is the symbolism of most weddings worldwide now, but 9 out of 10 brides and grooms do not know why they have spent so much money (often £2-500) on a cake! The wedding cake is a symbolism of future prosperity and wealth. The first accounts were of bread cakes in ancient Rome and it was broken over the bride and grooms head. The earliest known sweet wedding cake is known as a Banbury Cake, which became popular in 1655. In the UK the cake used to be cut and distributed among the guests by only the bride, because consuming the cake would ensure fertility for the bride and groom. It is also the first time as a married couple you will be doing something together as a couple. 

The cake can be cut at any point in the day but the best times are just after the meal (often following speeches) as it get people to their feet and lets them stretch their legs. Often the wedding breakfast area needs to be turned around, so it also aids that as we can let everyone know they need to vacate the room and take their personal possessions following the wedding cake cut. Another popular time is in the evening, which is good if you have evening guests as it involves them in some of the day’s formalities. 


The cake cut is a good photo opportunity for your guests and the photographer as it is one of the main photos of the day. It can be done inside or outside and requires quite a bit of room around the cake, so make sure your venue does not wedge it in a dark corner right next to a table, which often happens as they prefer it out of the way (so it does not get knocked over), which is not very practical during photo time! Also make sure the venue have supplied a cake knife prior to cutting the cake, as it is a common mistake for everyone to gather round the cake to realise there is nothing to cut it with! Also we will position you next to the cake just before inviting the guests up. That way the photographer can prepare your shot, prior to your guests gathering around you. We usually play music during the cake cut and make sure the photographer gets all their shots before inviting your guests to take pictures.
We provide wedding cake lighting service in addition to our LED uplighting, which can really highlight your cake. We shine powerful LED spots on the wedding cake from different angles (that are located high up in the venue), which leaves a double shadow on the wall, which looks really spectacular! This is also accompanied with a colour wash on the wall behind the cake. See our extras section for more information.

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Receiving Line:

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The wedding receiving line is a line of your guests prior to the drinks reception or wedding breakfast. You and your now husband/wife stand and greet each member of the wedding party. Often it will also include your parents and other key guests, but do not make it too big unless you have lots of time to spare! It is a great way (and probably the only time) to engage with every member of the wedding, however, try not to chat for too long, especially if you have lots of hungry guests! It’s also an opportunity for the photographer to take a photo with you and every guest. This is a good way to seat each guest in the correct place for the wedding breakfast. We find that not everyone is keen on the idea of a receiving line as they have a small number of guests or do not want that level of formality so we often leave it to the day for you to make the decision if you are not sure.

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Bouquet Toss:

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The bouquet was originally a bag of garlic, flower blossoms and grains, which were thought to dissuade evil spirits and was also a symbolism of prosperity and love. At the same time it was also customary for wedding guests tear off a part of the brides dress and take it home. This was unsurprisingly not very popular with the bride, so the modern bouquet was invented as a way to stop this. The bouquet toss involves getting all unmarried women in a group (usually on the dance floor in the evening or during the day in the venue grounds). The bride then tosses the bouquet over her shoulder and whoever catches it is then due to soon be married. This can happen at any point in the day and often occurs during the evening, because lots of weddings have evening guests so it’s nice to involve them in a tradition. It is a good photo opportunity so is worth doing in an area of your venue where you can fit all the guests, so steps or a small hills work very well. If you are indoors, look out for the chandeliers and other ceiling hazards as we have seen lots of bouquets get stuck or lose lots of the foliage.
Lots of brides say that they do not want to toss their bouquet as it will get destroyed (which is understandable), so we recommend that you try to borrow the most understanding bridesmaids bouquet or have a second bouquet made up (perhaps a faux one). Another option is to present your bouquet to a guest of your choice at a certain point in the day (such as after the meal, or, just before the cake cut? This is often a maid of honour or close friend).
A good game we sometimes include at weddings can also involve this. We get all married couples on to the dance floor and play a nice track. We then count down from under 1 year upwards and if the couple has been married for longer then they remain. Obviously you will be first off, so we get you to stand next to us (with the bouquet). Normally it will be parents or grand parents who are last on the floor. We then ask them to give you a few tips on how to maintain a long and happy marriage (this can be very funny or even a tear jerker) and you can then present them with the bouquet.

 

Grand Entrance: 



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This is the entrance into the wedding breakfast (often following the receiving line). Rather than just opening the door and announcing you we will go into the room and welcome all the guests and introduce some of the key staff by name. We then get everyone to stand and then introduce you by your names (rather than the Bride and Groom”) and perhaps some monologue of your choice (such as how you met and what makes you tick perhaps?). Everyone will then make a huge applause for your entrance, which will most commonly be accompanied with a piece of music of your choice. We then seat both of you and then ask the guests to be seated. The breakfast starts at this point or you may perhaps have some thank you’s or the speeches. 

You can also have the whole top table introduced with a monologue of who they are and what they do and a track of their choice.

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Father Daughter Dance: 



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The Father Daughter dance is a very sentimental point in the day as it signifies a father handing over his daughter to another man, which is always a very serious event, especially in history as it would often include a dowry, so the decision will not have been made lightly (there is a great example of this in the first scene of the Godfather film).

This is typically after first dance, but we have found that it can devastate a full dance floor (if you invite people up during the first dance), as they often will sneak back to their table or the bar. It has worked better (from our experience) a bit later on in the evening (after the buffet) or perhaps even just after the after wedding breakfast, when it will be a completely separate event and one that will remain in your guests memories.
The Father of the bride also used to traditionally pays for most of the wedding so it was also a mark of respect to him for the investment and trust in your judgment.
 Another idea is to have the father daughter dance before the first dance and get him to hand over the bride in the middle or at the end, to officially start the first dance. It’s up to you as lots of couples do not want a father daughter dance at all for various reasons. It is also perhaps a good idea to get the groom to invite his mother to dance (especially if it is after first dance). You can choose a track that your father knows and loves (perhaps his first dance) or one that fits, such as “my girl” etc.

 

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