Erin Schmidt Photography | Wedding Wednesday Tips from The Block Party DJs Derek Hall - wedding planning tips

So excited and honored to share with you our first Wedding Wednesday industry leader; Derek Hall from The Block Party. The Block Party is seriously the best in the biz! Derek alongside his partner Wes know how to throw a damn amazing party. Even with how tired I am when I’m done working, the jams call me back to the dance floor. In fact, last time I worked with Derek, I was bawling my eyes out, because the energy was so good, I felt A L I V E in a way I hadn’t in so long. Yeah, it was our dope couple too, but it was just he perfect collective energy between all of us that I will never forget.

The Block Party – Derek Hall

Specialty: Vibe setter and party builder

Business Instagram @BlockPartyWeddings


What do you do?

One part shepherd and one part entertainer, I try to keep everyone feeling comfortable and having a great time. Part of this is being present to guests whether on the mic or just being available to help keep the day flowing along smoothly. I am trying to keep a great soundtrack throughout to create the right energy for the moment. The best part of doing this at a wedding is we get to be playful, nostalgic, and cover so many genres and eras. Put simply, my job is to make that night look and feel great so that your photos, video, and the memories of that night are of the amazing time everyone had. You probably won’t remember the playlist on your 50th anniversary, but will hopefully remember it as an epic party!

What do you love most about your job?

I freaking LOVE weddings. The travel, build, hosting, people and of course the dance party. Seriously. That’s not to say every night is easy or everything is always great. Not at all, but that’s part of what I love. Every wedding is a unique puzzle, and this starts with the build. How can I use the tools I have to bring a place to life with music and lighting? How can I adapt to a room I’ve never been in, or a place I’ve been a hundred times set up in a new way? How can I, a stranger, host on behalf of a couple for all of their favorite peoples and do so sincerely? How can I bring together all sorts of different ages and backgrounds on the dancefloor and give the unique joy that comes from singing and dancing and the beauty of humanity? How can I make my next wedding the best I’ve ever done even when it’s the second or third of the weekend? I started DJing in college with walking up to house parties with the most people spilling onto the lawn, finding the owners and asking if I could DJ. I brought in my $300 Best Buy boombox system, plugged in an aux cord and learned to mix with just a mouse and laptop. I just wanted to make people dance. When I decided to do this professionally I took classes in NYC to learn to use turntables and vinyl. I want people young and old to relate to what I’m doing, see the vinyl moving, hear how it changes when I use my hands. I want every night to feel like those college living rooms more than being some poor imitation of a huge club. My mixes are collaborations with the people I’m mixing for, and there’s nothing I love more than surprising people when we throw all genres and eras into the blender and come up with unique combos. Weddings are nuts. So much is built in a day, and no matter how much planning there is, you have to be good at adjusting on the fly and being empathetic to others. They are this love letter, this huge investment made to sharing time and friendship with people, so I pour my heart into these days wanting to make them incredible. At the end, I love when there are high fives and hugs because the vision, the dream of what the day could be was lived up to and people had a great time. Did your vendors have an easier night and feel taken care of? Did the waitstaff enjoy hearing a mix different from what they hear every other night? Did my couple feel like their night was truly their own and stood out in a great way to the many other friends’ weddings they’ve been to? Those are the things I am thinking about every night as I unravel a new puzzle. TLDR: I love people and music!

On to the tips!

Erin Schmidt Photography | Wedding Wednesday Tips from The Block Party DJs Derek Hall - wedding planning tips

Tip #1

Be sincere. I’ve done it all, and budget doesn’t determine a great party or a great day. More than anything else if the people in the room are excited for you and you enjoy those people, it will be a great time. It’s not a great vibe for a guest to feel like they’re at a coronation, but guests who buy into the day and feel loved on will literally move mountains (or chairs or roll with the weather or anything else.) If that’s not 200 people that’s ok (yes I know family is always complicated, best of luck!) Maybe that means a blowout like nobody has ever seen. Great! Maybe that means a local hall, tacos and homemade beer because your priorities are great visuals and great party. Trust me, we’ve made incredible parties and memories with modest. Be yourself, try not to worry too much about trends or keeping score with other weddings, and just have a great time. Bonus! Try to think of other weddings as practice for everyone to be better for yours. Your sister have a wedding before you? 4 other friends in the same year? You don’t have to win, but you can learn lessons and if you’re the last of the group then everyone should know that when your crew gets together it’s going to be a great time. Be a great guest for others and hopefully they’ll do the same for yours.

Tip #2

Prioritize. If you want to be on the dancefloor, be on the dancefloor. If you want to try for amazing sunset pics, let us know. Pick those few things that are most important and collaborate with your vendors to have a plan to make those happen if possible. If you have a ton of guests to see, start with those most important and seen the least. You can continue those conversations or offer your appreciation in your thank you notes if you don’t get a ton of time with every guest. Come up with those few major things, or those 10 absolute must play songs, and just see what happens. Bonus tip! If you feel like you have to defend your wedding from your vendor then it’s the wrong relationship. I will give you feedback on anything from experience, but also try to bring almost anything you have in mind to life if it’s important to you. I also really want to collaborate, but in the way a chef wants to cook for you and get some ideas on what you’d enjoy. Give me some ingredients, but don’t feel like you have to dictate every song for the night. Great vendors can work with a lot or a little, and giving them freedom can lead to some even better surprises you couldn’t have planned. Prioritize, but that list doesn’t have to cover everything.

Tip #3

Be Tyra Banks fierce with a broken heel on a Paris runway. I give my wife huge credit for going out on a dock on a 20 degree day to take gorgeous pictures on a frozen lake. Maybe it rains, maybe some things run behind, maybe real life is a bit too real and we have all felt that recently. Whatever happens, plan to push forward from start to finish with all of the joy, smiles, and love you can muster. You’ve got this and there are plenty of people who will help. At the end of the day you’re married and nothing from your wedding day can take away from you diving into a new great adventure with your best friend. Bonus tip! While you’re being a badass and just trying to have fun and roll with, don’t worry if you’re not the most fond of getting your picture taken, or not sure how you’ll look in your first dance, or anything else. Us vendors love our introverts too and want to take care of all. Those moments are way more important for you than anyone else, so when you’re out there with your parents or each other for first dances, that moment is actually one of the only quiet bubbles you get to share together and you get to just breathe. Nobody holds up scores, and most are finishing dessert or excited to get on the dancefloor.

Now just some silly questions:

Erin Schmidt Photography | Wedding Wednesday Tips from The Block Party DJs Derek Hall - wedding planning tips

Wedding Cake. Love it or Leave it?

I have some great baker friends, but honestly? Leave it. Why are we cutting it again? A first domestic act? Any good dessert is awesome including cake and cheesecake is probably tops for me, but don’t feel obligated to anything.

What’s your favorite song to hear at a wedding?

Ain’t No Mountain. Iconic, timeless, and so fun to sing and dance to. I can play almost any genre before or after it and it always works.

What’s your current favorite wedding trend?

Less guests, same party. There’s nothing like a monster dancefloor at a wedding with 200 people, but I’ve had amazing nights with less than 75. Less handshakes and meeting everyone and more time just spent WITH people and on the dancefloor. Whether a backyard or cozy venue, it can be a blast. I started with 10 people in a living room, flicking the light switch and shoving couches aside after all…

Thanks so much Derek for sharing your expertise with us! I can’t wait for more wedding planning tips next week!

Here are a few more posts with great tips:

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