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Local DJs share stories, music trends from wedding receptions

DJ Sean Edinger, of Ultimate Entertaining in Butler, is set up to entertain at a wedding at Treesdale Golf & Country Club. Submitted Photo

In Grandma’s day, every wedding reception included a band to play the hits of the day and yesteryear as guests partied on the dance floor at the fire hall, but now disc jockeys have became a more viable option for playing music at the reception.

Fast forward to the second decade in the 21st Century, and those DJs are even more heavily relied upon for music on a couple’s special day.

“Pretty much everyone has a DJ now,” said Madison Roxbury, wedding and event manager for Eisler Farms. “We sometimes see bands come across, but it’s a lot less common.”

Roxbury said the DJ normally handles the music for both the wedding and reception at Eisler Farms’ three Butler County venues — the Atrium, Pinehall at Eisler Farms and The Woods at Eisler Farms.

According to Karen Stein, Butler center director for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, the DJ manages more than just the music at receptions — the cadence of the entire evening follows the DJ’s lead.

When the couple arrives at the reception, the DJ handles the introduction of the bridal party; speeches by the best man, maid of honor or parents; and any direction regarding dinner, Stein said.

“During that time, if there is music playing, it’s romantic songs, both older and newer,” Stein said. “As the evening wears on, you get more and more of what is reflective of the wedding couple.”

She said she is hearing more country and music of various genres at weddings these days.

“I think people really have a broader expanse of music they listen to,” Stein said.

DJ Sean Edinger, of Ultimate Entertaining in Butler, plays music at Sheraton Station Square for a bar mitzvah. Submitted Photo
Preparing for the big day

Plans for the wedding reception begin months in advance for DJ Sean Edinger, of Ultimate Entertaining in Butler.

“People think DJs just show up and play music. It is so much more than that. It is a process where I really go deep into what the couple likes,” Edinger said.

The process begins via a meeting with the couple. He explained that he works with the couple to create a customized playlist, make announcements and work in collaboration with the wedding coordinator to ensure the event runs smoothly.

He has purchased more than 500,000 songs over 25 years and buys new additions to the playlist on a regular basis, and as needed for special requests.

DJ Sean Edinger, of Ultimate Entertaining in Butler, plays music while dressed for a Halloween party. Submitted Photo
Popular music

Karla Geisler, rental coordinator for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, said there are about two dozen songs that are popular at weddings.

“I’m not totally bored with them yet,” Geisler said. “Ed Sheeran is very popular in the first-dance arena and generally for slow dances.”

The most frequent song by the British pop artist is “Perfect,” which couples normally choose for their first dance.

“That song sticks out the most,” Geisler said.

DJ Marc DeHart, who lives in Pine Township, Allegheny County, and is a teacher in the Butler Area School District, has been a DJ for scores of couples in the Butler County area.

At the reception, he can play any song his brides want for their first dance with their groom or the father-daughter dance, as brides normally have songs in mind for those two dances.

“Other times they’re looking for suggestions,” DeHart said.

He often suggests “My Little Girl” by country star Tim McGraw or “I Loved Her First” by Heartland for the father-daughter dance.

For a “pump-up” song when the bride and groom enter the reception, DeHart likes “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” by Hall and Oates or “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” by Stevie Wonder.

“I’m just there to make sure they get all the music they want,” DeHart said.

Sometimes, though, the couple has eclectic or unusual musical taste and requests a list of songs matching those tastes.

“If I get a list and it's a bad combination, I’ll tell them they need more dance music,” DeHart said. “People won’t dance to songs they don’t know. If you want guests to have a good time, they have to be at least familiar with what you’re playing.”

He said while the “Electric Slide” and “Cha-Cha Slide” are still requested by couples, “The Chicken Dance” is often prohibited by the bride and groom.

“It’s on the do-not-play list,” DeHart said.

He said one 38-year-old song is always the one to get everyone at the reception heading for the dance floor.

“’I Wanna Dance With Somebody,’” DeHart said. “Last year, I did 18 weddings and it was written down by the bride 16 times.”

Following the trends

Edinger has found that couples get ideas from their friends’ weddings, but also Pinterest and TikTok.

He recalled a time when receptions began formally. Each bridesmaid would enter the reception location on the arm of a groomsman as their names were announced, first and last name both.

“Now, many have opted to use first names, or we announce, ‘Ladies and gentlemen here is the wedding party,’ and they all run in,” Edinger said. “Then, we announce and the newlyweds to upbeat and lively music.”

Robert Pfeifer, of Pifemaster Productions, located in Butler, said he’s seen couples introduce a “Photo Dash” to their wedding receptions.

“All of the guests are seated at their dining table. The couple preselects a song, which I play, and the couple must make it around to each one of the tables (along with their photographer) and take a picture with each table,” Pfeifer said. “The object is to make it around to every table before the song ends. This is a great way to get photos of every one of your guests.”

Over the past several years, Pfeifer also has seen couples choose to exclude many of the events that were traditionally done at weddings.

“I very rarely see the bridal party dance these days,” he said. “Couples are sticking with just a handful of the old traditions — bride and groom first dance, bride and father dance, and groom and mother dance.”

He and Edinger said the dollar dance, bouquet toss and garter toss also have gone on the chopping block.

“The elements that are removed have been replaced by donations to charity and/or the shoe game,” Edinger said.

The DJs predicted trends like personalized playlists, the shoe game and grand exits from the reception will continue into the new year.

“I, personally, see the changes as positive. Rather than trying to squeeze a bunch of outdated traditions into their wedding day, couples are able to free up their timeline and actually enjoy the day,” Pfeifer said.

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