First Dance Fail! Why Did This Happen?

So the video clip of this First Dance Fail on the right is the latest “special wedding moment gone wrong” video to make the rounds. Take a moment to watch it and then be sure read my detailed breakdown that follows of what exactly happened and how it could have been prevented.

What We Know

“Taky C” is the YouTube User who posted this video. Among his other video clips, we can see a “Blooper Reel” from this same wedding. Thanks to the screen shot shown here on the left, we know that the Bride & Groom in this video are Sally & Michael, they got married on Sunday, October 6th, 2013 and they hosted their Reception in an upscale hotel ballroom.

The Setting

In this ballroom, we can see a dark wood dance floor, modern chandelier lighting fixtures, wood grain wall paneling, a large projection screen on the side wall with a photo montage slideshow projected onto it, gold chiavari chairs for just over 100 guests, white table linens, decorative centerpiece arrangements, and a simple 3-tiered cake.

Based on these details, we can arrive at some educated guesses on how much this ballroom with a dinner service for just over 100 guests probably cost Sally & Michael. (And the Blooper Reel footage also reveals that this ballroom is in a DoubleTree Hotel…thanks for catching that Jason Spencer.)

A trusted resource of mine estimated that if this ballroom was somewhere in the mid-west, they had probably spent close to $10,000 for the room, the chairs, the linens, the decor, the cake and the meals for just over 100 guests…and that doesn’t even include the bar tab (perhaps it was a no-host bar). If this ballroom was on the West Coast (like Southern California), they might be looking at $17,000 to $20,000. And if it was on the East Coast (like New York City), then they could have easily spent $30,000 or more.

The setting alone tells us that this was not a DIY wedding on a DIY budget.

The Lighting & Draping

We can learn a lot about their lighting package as well. We can see 2 “light trees” on either side of the dance floor, both with an LED color wash and a leafy branch gobo pattern that are shining on the dance floor along with 2 pin-spot lights for illuminating the cake table and the head table/family table. We can also count about 20 LED color wash up-lights surrounding the room, all of which are being remote-controlled (perhaps using a wireless DMX controller) so they can shift colors for different moments, as the photos below are showcasing.

There is a 20 foot wide white pipe and drape backdrop behind the cake table and family table along with two more 5 foot wide white pipe and drape borders on either side of the projection screen on the side wall.

A friend of mine who provides this caliber of professional lighting and draping from coast to coast estimated the total cost at just under $3,000 in the mid-west and costing upwards of $5,000 to $7,000 or more in Los Angeles or New York City.

So clearly, they were not skimping on their lighting and draping.

The Photo & Video Crew

In the creative shot below, we can see 2 flood lights mounted over 2 video cameras and, crouching low between them, we can see the photographer as well. There is no sign of a “2nd shooter” assisting the photographer, so we will just assume he is working solo.

The 3rd video camera operator can been seen (holding a steady-cam) in the photo above. He was responsible for capturing a few of the sweeping shots and the one from behind the smart phone. So, based on what we can see, this was a 3-camera video package which certainly isn’t cheap.

That leaves us with one final question. How much did they spend on their photographer and videographer?

In the mid-west, their total amount spent was probably just over $5,000. If they were in Los Angeles or New York City, they may have spent between $8,000 and $15,000 and possibly, much more. And keep in mind, knowing they were going do a fully choreographed (and probably repeatedly practiced with a professional dance instructor) dance routine for their First Dance may have been one of the primary reasons why they might have opted for a 3-camera shoot of their Reception.

So What In The Hell Went Wrong?

What Went Wrong?

This was clearly intended to be a memorable First Dance featuring some very well rehearsed and choreographed ballroom dance moves, but then at 00:09 seconds into the video, the music just stops. Their First Dance song is “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, a song that became popular after being featured on the soundtrack of, Breaking Dawn Pt. 1, from The Twilight Saga. The video clip starts at 1:00 minute into the song itself (so we are joining their First Dance in progress), which means they have been doing quite well for over a minute already.

After their guests groan very loudly (in disappointment for them) when the music stops and, after 7 seconds of silence, the song resumes right where it had left off, leaving them trying to find their place in their dance routine. But they only get to dance to 7 more seconds of their song before it stops again at the 00:23 second mark. At the 00:28 second mark, we see a jump cut showing their MC conversing with their Maid of Honor on the dance floor. This is important to note because this edit doesn’t show us how long they were standing there before the Maid of Honor and MC suddenly appear in the video. It could have been 10 seconds or 30 seconds or even a minute or longer that was trimmed out of the raw footage. We have no way of knowing. But it certainly didn’t happen as quickly as the edited video portrays. As the Maid of Honor walks back towards the DJ’s table, you can see her mobile phone in her hand…and there is our culprit. Because their DJ did not have their First Dance song (for this important and

heavily rehearsed routine that was being shot with 3 video cameras), their Maid of Honor had cued up their song for the DJ on her mobile phone using the YouTube app. But, because they were inside a hotel ballroom or perhaps she just didn’t have strong cell signal, after over a minute of dancing, their song (playing via a YouTube video) was pausing unexpectedly due to buffering. We have all experienced this when watching YouTube videos on our computers, and even more so on our mobile devices. So who is to blame for this epic fail?

Who Is To Blame?

Was It The MC’s Fault?

There are clear signs that this MC was not a professional, and I am much more inclined to assume that he was a family member or a friend of the family who was merely serving as their MC. His attempt at using some comic relief to cover for what had undeniably gone wrong fell flat, but kudos to him for the effort. At the 00:05 second mark in the video when Michael is dipping Sally, you can hear their MC on the mic reacting with an “Ooooh!” and then when their music stops for the first time, you can also hear him briefly trying to hum the melody to help them keep dancing. This kind of vocal interaction during their First Dance are signals to me that he doesn’t do this for a living and is, instead, simply reacting the way a friend or family member might in those moments. I think we can confidently clear him of having any blame in this travesty.

Was It The DJ’s Fault?

In the screen shot below, we can see the DJ sitting at his table behind the photographer and videographers. I can count at least 12 cables draping at various angles off the front of his table. His face is not very visible, but he appears to be wearing a black ball cap with a white logo on it (like the White Sox ball cap example inserted in the upper left corner). Looking at the guests, and the other hired professionals, his choice of a ball cap seems very out of place. Comparing the beautiful decor, draping, lighting, and the gold chiavari chairs, his choice to have all of those cables on display in such a messy way is a clear contrast to the quality setting seen in the rest of the room.

These two factors are reasons to believe that he is not a truly professional wedding DJ. His failure to have their First Dance song ready to play just confirms it as a sad fact.

A truly professional Wedding DJ will purchase the music they need for their events in advance…especially if the songs are for moments as important as the Bride & Groom’s First Dance. There is no reasonable excuse I can think of for not having such an important song. However, I can think of several excuses that could have been offered. Perhaps he found out about their First Dance song too late. Of course, they were doing a fully choreographed and well rehearsed dance routine, so logic says that there had to have been at least a few week’s notice about the song they would be dancing to for the First Dance. The more likely explanation is the DJ either failed to do any advance planning with them, or he told them in advance that just he didn’t have their song (which would explain why they made arrangements to play it off their Maid of Honor’s phone).

In conclusion, it should be noted that their song is available on iTunes for just $1.29 (as pictured below), but I’m guessing this DJ was probably pretty cheap and cheap DJs might not be able to afford to spend $1.29 for a song they don’t own yet. I guess Forrest Gump’s mom had it right (paraphrased)… “Cheap is as cheap does.”

They Got What They Paid For

Clearly, after looking at all of the evidence, the blame for this fiasco can be squarely laid at the feet of the bride and groom who tried to cut corners by hiring a cheap, less-than-professional DJ. They found a decent MC (probably a family friend) selected a high quality ballroom, paid for a nicely decorated and well-lit setting, sprung for a nice meal for 100+ guests, brought in a professional photographer and high-end video package to document what should have been a breath-taking first dance, and they invested countless hours in rehearsals with a dance instructor (who certainly wasn’t free) for this one important moment. But because they hired a cheap DJ who was, in turn, too cheap to spend $1.29 to purchase their song and download it in advance of their big day…their moment was interrupted and became a huge fail. As my good friend, Michael Walter, likes to say, “They Brought That…On Themselves.”

Final Thoughts

Truly professional Wedding DJs will never rely on a streaming service (like the ones displayed to the right) to provide their music, especially for the songs they need for their client’s most important moments.

Just before starting this article, I heard an account of a Wedding Band who had been given a Spotify playlist from their bride and groom of their important songs, but the band had failed to either download a local copy of the playlist or purchase the songs and download hard copies in advance. That error became glaringly apparent when the couple were introduced into their Reception’s ballroom for their Grand Entrance. As their names were announced on the microphone and the band pressed play on the Spotify playlist for their chosen Grand Entrance song…they and their guests then had to wait for 45 seconds before the song finally started to play. Try this, turn off all sound in your immediate vicinity and then set your smart phone to the stop watch feature. Say your name good and loud and then start the timer and watch it tick for 45 seconds in total silence. Pretty painful, huh?

So, be sure to ask whomever will be in charge of pressing play at your wedding reception whether or not they will be using hard copies of music they own, or will they be streaming music while crossing their fingers in hopes that they run into buffering issues? It’s also a pretty safe bet that the cheaper the DJ you hire, the more likely your chances will be that they won’t want to buy the special songs for your celebration.

Hire a professional who won’t cut corners and wind up putting the success of your big day and your special moments at risk.

Peter Merry, WED®
Merry Weddings
Based in Kansas City, Missouri
Entertains from Coast to Coast
Author of…
“The Best Wedding Reception…Ever!”
Founder of the WED Guild®

Streaming Services

Amazon's Music Unlimited Streaming Service Apple Music Streaming Service
Pandora Music Streaming Service
Spotify Music Streaming Service   YouTube Music Streaming Service

For More Info…

If you are looking for tips on how to screen your DJ/MC’s true skills and abilities, pick up a copy of “The Best Wedding Reception…Ever!” in your local bookstore. (Kindle & iBooks)

And if you are interested in securing a high quality DJ/MC who has already been vetted by a rigorous certification process, look no further than the WED Guild® for a Wedding Entertainment Director®.