Photograph by Aeris Photography
This week's Wedding Pros interview features Stacey Knopp, Primary Wedding & Event DJ/Owner of Edmonton's PopJukebox and Curator of Edmonton's premiere wedding blog yegwed.com. We met Stacey through yegwed.com and she has become one of our biggest local supporters. Here Stacey shares a behind the scenes look at her business and some insight on how to have a successful wedding dance floor.
Share a little about PopJukebox DJ. How did you get started, how long have you been a DJ and what do you love about DJ’ing weddings?
I've been a wedding DJ for 3.5 years, meaning that this is my 4th wedding season. I had NO idea that I would ever become a wedding DJ... I simply responded to an online job posting for a busy wedding DJ company looking for staff. I had just returned from seven years overseas and had no idea what I wanted to do with myself. I had always loved music and weddings, so it seemed like something I should try out. I started out working Name That Tune nights at a pub, where I learned about equipment and brushed up on my music knowledge, as well as shadowing other DJs at weddings.
It sounds cheesy, but from the very first wedding that I performed at alone, I knew DJing weddings had a special place in my heart. Even though I was so nervous, and felt out of my depth, I got great feedback from the couple, the venue staff and numerous guests at that first wedding, and so I knew that I was on the right track. About two and a half years into my career, I started PopJukebox!
I love seeing peoples' faces light up when they hear 'their song', or when a cheer erupts on the dance floor because the next song is just perfect for that crowd. I love working weddings, and it's fulfilling to step in to help make things go smoothly on the day - after being a part of so many weddings, it's easy to foresee potential challenges and step in to create a solution. I love that I am making my living playing music - music has always been so close to my heart, so I am continually grateful that listening to music and sharing it with others has become my career.
Describe your typical work night. What does a night of DJ’ing look like?
The wedding music actually starts with meeting couples and preparing music. Along with putting all of the couple's 'special music' (songs for the first dance, grand entrance etc.) into a folder and collecting must-play requests that i've been given beforehand, I compile a folder of song 'ideas' to pull from - these are based on conversations I've had with the couple, the demographics of their wedding, and some things I just pick based on a gut feeling.
Usually I arrive at the wedding venue between 2:00 and 3:30 (about an hour and a half before cocktails begin) to set up my gear and get ready to play. I plan to be ready about an hour before I need to start to play, so i have time to troubleshoot if necessary, or just have a breather before the party gets underway. During cocktails, I am often playing upbeat romantic music to welcome guests and show them that they've arrived at a celebration. When the MC arrives, I touch base with him or her to compare notes and make sure we're on the same page with the timeline and plans for the evening - until the dance begins, the MC and I are a team, and we make sure the night goes smoothly and guests know what is coming next. To be honest, I usually listen to and enjoy all of the speeches. Every wedding is different, and I have been known to shed a tear during speeches!
When the dance begins, I start with a broad mix of genres and eras to cater to all of the wedding guests, and make sure that everyone gets a chance to dance. It doesn't take long to see who is most excited to dance and what kind of music is getting them on the dance floor. I am always, always, always looking for 'clues'. Whether it's body language, or more obvious things like an abundance of cowboy boots in the crowd, my job is to gather as much info as I can to draw on and make educated guesses about what songs might work. I'm also busy taking requests and trying to create a good 'flow' on the dance floor. I usually need a coffee around midnight, so i have a little burst of energy for the last couple hours! I usually finish at 1am, and am home, exhausted, by 2am.
What are some of your all-time favourite songs to play?
- I Want You Back - Jackson Five - This is always a crowd-pleaser, it gets all ages dancing together. I play it often and love it every time!
- Swing The Mood - Jive Bunny - This old-school mashup of one of my favourite recording artists (The Glenn Miller Orchestra) brings out any swing dancers and jive-ers. Playing this makes me really happy!
- Do You Love Me - The Contours - This is another great one for all ages - older folks know it and love it, and younger people recognize it from Dirty Dancing (and many other movies). It always gets people grooving.
- Temperature - Sean Paul - There's just a certain kind of early-2000s song that makes the 30-somethings freak out, and this is one of them.
- Ghetto Superstar - Pras, ODB & Mya - I don't get to play this that often, because it's a very specific crowd that will get excited about it... but when I spot that crowd, playing this is the best!
What are people requesting to hear on the dance floor right now?
Uptown Funk, Shut Up and Dance by Walk The Moon, and Honey I'm Good by Andy Grammer have been this year's most-requested new pop songs. Oh, and Taylor Swift... always Taylor Swift.
What makes a successful dance floor? Are there similarities between really memorable weddings?
The best wedding dance floor is one where the bride and groom dance! People are there to celebrate with the couple, and if they see the newlyweds dancing, they'll follow suit. Memorable weddings are often inclusive and full of people who just want to have a good time and celebrate together. When I see young friends of the couple dancing with grandma (who they'd never met before), and both sides of the family getting down together, those are some of the best times. A couple can set that tone through the way they talk about their wedding, the wording they use (even as early as the invitation) about what their wedding will be like, and in the music they choose.
Any words of wisdom for Brides selecting music for their wedding?
It's not about you! Many parts of your wedding are about you, and that is awesome. However, the dance floor is about your guests: you want as many of them dancing as possible. That awesome moment when all of your friends and family come together to celebrate on the dance floor won't happen during an obscure song that only you and your fiancé love. Those moments happen during classic songs, when the bride and groom are willing to get out there and cut a rug.
Lastly, choose a DJ that understands you. Ask many questions during the consultation, and if that relationship doesn't 'click' - walk away! Not all DJs are equal, and every couple's idea of a good time is different. You want to feel like you've made a friend, because the DJ is the most vocal person at your reception, with the power to really affect how the night goes. Ask friends for referrals, and ask potential DJs for music suggestions - if they're on the same page as you, the music they suggest will reflect that.