Dancin' DJ: Tobler's in demand
Mention "wedding DJ" to some and you'll get cracks about grooving to the "Electric Slide" or "YMCA" at your wedding. But mention local disc jockey Derek Tobler and you'll get quite a different response. Tobler has the wedding music market so cornered, in fact, that over half of the brides featured in The Hook's June wedding issue used the DJ in their own nuptials. So we had to find out– what makes DJ Tobler such a hot item these days?
"Every bride and groom have different tastes in music– that's what I love about it," Tobler says. "Even if there are songs I have never even heard of, I'll find them, research them, add them to my collection– you don't have to provide me with anything."
Having a DJ is generally seen as the middle ground when it comes to music– stuck between the novelty (and extra expense) of a live band or the simplicity of hooking up an iPod to a nice speaker system. According to Tobler, the advantages of having a DJ go far beyond just looking for a reasonable price for wedding entertainment.
"Bands have a great advantage– you can't beat live music," Tobler says, recalling a love for going out dancing. "But DJs don't take breaks, you can choose whatever version of a song you want to hear, you have someone to make sure things go smoothly– if the bride wants to walk down the aisle to Van Morrison, she can."
Tobler started his Charlottesville business three years ago, after he and his wife moved to town from San Diego. Charlottesville's small town appeal mixed with the couple's love for the outdoor and winery offerings drew them away from California– and, once here, Tobler's DJ-ing service took off. While he was new to the area, he was no novice to the game– in San Diego, he had been a professional DJ for over five years. His experience, both as a groom and as a DJ, benefited from his first professional love: for dance.
"Halfway through college, I was at a company party– the DJ spotted me and asked me if I wanted to do it," he recalls. "I was dancing to every song, always on the floor, so I said sure."
It was early in his training that he was summoned to do a wedding– Tobler was nervous, but made it out unscathed. "I was hooked from that first one; I remember being so proud at the end– people danced all night long and I was exhausted, but it was rewarding."
Since then, Tobler has combined his love for both the DJ life and dancing (after being trained in the Fred Astaire ballroom dance studio system, he traveled and competed professionally for a few years). One of the services he offers brides, apart from extra microphones, is dance lessons. From the first dance with brides and grooms to father-daughter dances, Tobler will travel to a couple's home to choreograph a routine that looks as if the couple knew it all along.
Aside from teaching couples smooth moves, Tobler offers both ceremony and reception services– in fact, he only books one wedding a day to be available for both at a moment's notice. And when working with couples, the first question he makes sure to pose is about the "do-not-play" list– this is where the cheesy wedding music comes in. "I leave room for guests to make requests, so they can feel included– but the bride and groom run the show, so if it's on the list, I won't play it," he says. Sorry, but no "Electric Slide" if the couple already said no.
For the newly-engaged bride, Tobler recommends putting music as a more urgent priority in the planning process. While the dress and hair might be more appealing to think about, the reality of booking music means if you don't act quickly, your first choice might already be snagged for your date. "Wedding publications say four to five months before the wedding look for a DJ, but by then I'm already booked for the whole year," he warns.
"Think about the weddings you've been to– what you remember is how much fun you have," Tobler continues. "The biggest contributing factor is the music– it's the biggest part of the wedding, but the smallest part of the budget."