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  • Writer's pictureDJ Joe Beatz

Wedding Planning Tips From a Lifelong DJ (Reception)

Wedding Planning Tips
Enjoy the Planning Process!

Listen, I'm no professional coordinator, but if we're being honest, a good DJ is a secondary coordinator for all the fun parts of your big day! Over the 10+ years of DJing, and recently getting married, I've got a pretty good idea on what you should be looking for. Consider this a Jumping off point if you haven't dipped your toes into planning your big day besides getting the DJ, Venue, and Catering. In this article I'll share my wedding planning tips for your reception!

I'm going to focus on details starting at your Ceremony, which is when most of my Weddings begin. While the timeline for your preparation is important, it's specific to your needs and priorities.

Most wedding timelines that I'm given look like this:

  • 4:00 - 4:30 pm Ceremony

  • 4:30 - 5:30 Hang out, go to a bar, or take a party bus

  • 5:45 Grand Entrance, followed by a welcome speech OR a prayer before everyone eats

    • Cake cutting often happens here but can be throughout the night before the dance starts

  • 6:00 Dinner Begins

    • Depending on how many people you have, it can take 20-45 minutes for everyone to get through the line for food.

  • 6:45 Speeches begin

  • 7:00 First Dances

  • 7:15 Open Dance floor

    • Anniversary Dance

      • Call all married couples to the dance floor and eliminate people who have been together the shortest and we end up with whoever has been married the longest.

    • Dollar Dance

    • Bouquet Toss

    • Garter Toss

    • Lots of fun music and dancing by a great DJ

  • 11:00 Last Dance

  • 12:00 Everyone out

Thats the most common Timeline that I see. There's plenty of variation you can do. Have the first dance right after your Grand entrance, cut the cake right before your first dance since it's usually by the dance floor anyway. There's plenty of games you can play too.

Notice How there's nothing about taking pictures in that timeline? That's because unless It's for quick sunset photos, you should have all of your photos finished before your ceremony starts. The day already goes by so quickly, you don't want to push off all the fun just to have a few more photos.


Here's a list of the typical vendors you'll see at a wedding:

  • DJ / Band

  • Catering staff

  • Venue Staff

  • Day-of coordinator

  • Photographer

  • Videographer

  • Make up & hair Artist

  • Bus Driver

  • Bartender

  • Officiant

  • Decorator

  • Photo Booth Operator

It's imperative that we all work together to make sure nobody delays your timeline. The unfortunate truth is that any delay before the dance will eat into your dancing time. I've seen plenty of weddings with a 7:00pm Dance planned only to actually start at 8:00 because of various delays with eating, photos, and games. It's important to Have a flexible but firm schedule or else you'll end up feeling disappointed about something. The vendors who consistently nail this are the ones in high demand. Anyone can take a photo or play a song, but the best photographers and DJs are those who can manage everyone in an efficient but fun way. Look for these qualities when speaking to your potential vendors.

Vendor Pricing

The average price of a Wedding in Iowa in 2024 is $21,700

Vendor Pricing On average

  • Venue: Varies wildy depending on location, space, and amenities, the average price is around $5,000

  • DJ: $1,200

  • Photography: $2500

  • Videography: $2000

  • Catering: For a wedding with about 100 guests, the total catering cost could range from $4,100 to $7,300, depending on the options selected. This includes the cost of appetizers, main courses, desserts, and drinks​.

    • Plated Meal: $40 to $100 per person.

    • Buffet Style: $27 to $60 per person.

    • Cocktail Hour with Hors d’oeuvres: $10 to $30 per person.

    • Full Bar Service: $15 to $40 per person, with premium options costing more.

  • Bartender + Alcohol:

    • Open Bar: This option typically costs between $15 to $45 per person. For a wedding with 100 guests, you can expect to spend between $1,500 and $4,500, depending on the quality and variety of the alcohol offered.

    • Beer and Wine Only: This is a more budget-friendly option, averaging around $10 to $20 per person. For 100 guests, this would amount to $1,000 to $2,000.

    • Bartending Services: $30 to $50 per hour per bartender. For a wedding with 100 guests, you might need 2 to 3 bartenders.

  • Decorations

    • Floral Decorations:

  • Bridal bouquet: $100 – $300+

  • Bridesmaids’ bouquets: $50 – $150+ each

  • Centerpieces: $75 – $200+ each

  • Ceremony floral arrangements: $100 – $500+

  • Flower arch or backdrop: $200 – $800+

    • Table Decor:

  • Table linens: $15 – $60+ per table

  • Charger plates: $3 – $15+ each

  • Place settings: $7 – $25+ per person

    • Miscellaneous Decor:

  • Chairs: $3 – $12+ each

  • Tables: $15 – $75+ each

  • Dance floor: $250 – $1,200+

  • Photo booth backdrop (unless it comes with): $120 – $350+

    • Professional Decorator Services:

  • Hiring a wedding decorator typically costs between $550 and $1,000

  • Hair and Makeup

    • The average cost for wedding hair and makeup services in Iowa typically ranges from $150 to $600, depending on various factors such as the stylist's experience, the complexity of the hairstyle, and the type of makeup application (traditional vs. airbrush). Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

  1. Bridal Hair and Makeup: The average cost is around $300, but it can range from $150 to $600. This usually includes the bridal hairstyle and makeup for the wedding day​.

  2. Bridesmaids and Additional Guests: For bridesmaids or other members of the bridal party, the cost is typically around $50 to $100 per person for hair and makeup services​.

  3. Trial Sessions: It is recommended to have a trial run for both hair and makeup to ensure satisfaction with the chosen styles. The cost for trial sessions generally ranges from $50 to $150 per session​

  • Photo Booth

    • Usually at 3-4 hour sessions, most go from $150-$300 an hour depending on the scope of what you're looking for. Those 360 videos are super fun!


In the Wedding industry, there are people that try to make as much money as possible and think that they can just charge more because people will pay anything for a wedding. They charge more but don't offer any more value than their competition. It's very important to understand the value of what your vendor is offering. For instance, my Venue for my wedding had a lot of value because they offered decorations for free. We were ok with paying a little bit more for that reason, and honestly they were cheaper than many venues we had visited in the first place! I believe experience has a diminishing return on value. A DJ with 2 years of experience and 30 years of experience are truthfully barely different experiences, and I can almost promise you the newer DJ will be a lot more excited and present since it's still newer to them. Of course, there are guys with 30 years of experience that are fantastic DJs with amazing set ups and music knowledge even in their older age, but It's important to identify those who genuinely love to do it verses those who are just looking to make money. You can always tell the difference. Do not underestimate the value of passion and competence. Communication & reassurance go a long way as well.

Give yourself time

When planning your wedding, you need to give yourself at least a year to prepare. Most venues can only do 52 Saturday weddings a year and 20 of them are snowy since we're in Iowa. If you're wanting a Fall wedding consider setting your date for 2 years if there are specific venues or vendors you really want for your services. Fall is when the rustic venues have some really great picture backdrops and cooler temperatures. It's very competitive. September to November is the busy season for our DJs. May & June are very popular too for the same reasons. Book all of your vendors as far out as possible. Most Vendors require a down payment but are willing to be flexible if you ask.

Make sure you ask about who would be the backup in any emergency where your original vendor can not make it. It's good to meet with them too. Make sure they pass your vibe check as well or it can be a disaster. They make be able to find a more suitable replacement if they have enough time. I've heard too many horror stories where a Vendor becomes unable to make it to the wedding and sends a horrible replacement that totally ruined their part of the day. Make sure to sign a contract where they guarantee your service. Ask about any potential refunds of the down payment as well, as many vendors do not do any refunds on down payments and that backup scenario becomes more of a possibility. Once you get it all figured out, then you can sit back and relax. It's so important to do this early or you will end up having to just go with whoever is available, and you can end up with some extremely disappointing vendors this way. Companies with multiple employees that offer package services show a lot of value in this way since they have deep pools of talented employees that can provide the reassurance needed.


Here is a list of the most Common games I see played during the Reception:

  • The shoe game

  • Musical Chairs

  • Treasure hunt competition

  • Bridal Party Scavenger Wars

    • Both sides of the party have to go into the crowd and find someone or something that the DJ asks for. Example: "find someone with the coolest socks! Find a driver's license from farthest away! Find someone with a tattoo of an animal!"

  • Trivia questions in various formats

Some other things you may want to consider during your reception timeline

  • A grand entrance to kick things off on a high note

  • Chatting with family after you eat

  • Cake cutting, Prayer before food, Speeches, First dances

  • Taking pictures at a photo booth

  • Take some additional family photos now that grandpa ate and isn't cranky anymore. (Careful on your timeline for this!)

That's a good chunk of my wedding planning tips for your reception. Stick around for another article that goes even more in depth about all the DJ and Dance floor planning to consider.

Planning a wedding can seem overwhelming, but with the right approach and attention to detail, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. Remember, your wedding day is a celebration of love and joy, so make sure to prioritize what truly matters to you and your partner. By being proactive and organized, you'll not only create a memorable day for yourselves but also ensure that your guests have a fantastic time. Don't forget to take moments to savor the day, soak in the love surrounding you, and most importantly, have fun! Your wedding is the beginning of a new chapter, so start it off with a day that reflects your unique style and the love you share. Happy planning!

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