A master of ceremonies in the Richmond wedding industry for 22 years, Roy “DJ Big” Richardson he has been at it nearly as long as he’s been married himself. During events, he teams up with his wife of 24 years, Jennifer Richardson, and they join forces to ensure everything goes off without a hitch (aside from the couple getting hitched).
“Most [couples] will tell you I treat them like family,” Richardson says. “In the beginning, I always say, ‘Listen, I’m going to treat you like you’re my kids. I’m going to make sure that this day is the best I can make it.’ I don’t want to be a DJ who just shows up, does a job and leaves.”
We caught up with Richardson for a beat to get some thoughts about his mostly joyful — but always colorful — on-the-job experiences, as well as advice for couples in the market for a wedding DJ.
Richmond Bride: What sets you apart from other wedding DJs?
Roy “DJ Big” Richardson: I am totally different than your normal wedding DJ. I put a song on for each table, I have fun with them. And when they do the wedding shoe game [the classic reception game where the newlyweds swap shoes and sit back-to-back to answer questions, such as who cooks the best, by lifting the other’s shoe out of their eyesight], I bring props. In my opinion, wearing shoes is outdated. I purchase props based on their hobbies or what they do for a living. I’ll bring in sporting equipment, fishing equipment, Fireball bottles—whatever they’re into. We make it interactive, like it’s a game show. The guests cheer for them when they get it right and boo when they get it wrong. So it kind of makes it feel like everyone’s involved, not just the couple. They want their guests to have a good time, and you’ve got to figure out how to do that.
For the anniversary dance, when you get all of the married couples on the dance floor, I give out a bottle of wine to the longest-married couple in the room at the time. Just to say, “Hey, you know what, thank you for getting up here and dancing and being the longest-married couple.” The little things you do make a big difference compared to just showing up and playing music.
RB: Do you have any tips for crafting a wedding set list?
Richardson: I always tell my brides, “Trust your DJ.” I tell them to beware of hiring a DJ that only does nightclubs. You definitely want to hire a [professional who specializes in weddings]. Give me a list of songs that you want to hear, but trust me to read your crowd. Most wedding DJs out here that are really good can read crowds and kind of put the music out there.
RB: How far in advance of the big day should a couple book their DJ?
Richardson: At least a year out, especially during these busy [spring] months and since COVID has [slowed]. Get them on the books so they will be yours, for your day.
RB: On average, how much does it cost to hire a wedding DJ?
Richardson: A good wedding DJ these days costs between $1,500 and $2,500. It depends on the experience [they] have and what [they] bring to the table.
RB: Do you have any cautionary tales of something that didn’t go as planned during a wedding, equipment or otherwise, that you had to tackle or fix?
Richardson: I can honestly say — and not to be lying — I have not ever yet, knock on wood. I’ve never had equipment fail. I’ve never had anything music-wise go down. Because every professional DJ, if [they] don’t get nervous when the ceremony starts or [they] don’t get nervous when the first dances are playing, [they’re] not passionate about it. But knock on wood, I’ve been blessed, and I’ve been doing this a long time.
“I always tell my brides, ‘Trust your DJ.’ … Give me a list of songs that you want to hear, but trust me to read your crowd.”
RB: Have you ever had to intervene to dissolve any family drama during the festivities?
Richardson: What you do is you just act professional. What we do is kind of talk them down. I tell my brides that you can only control what you can control.
If something happens at your wedding that’s out of your control, you can’t really stress about it. We’ve had fights where alcohol is involved and stuff like that. We’ve had parents come in drunk before the ceremony starts, and we have to hold them back and talk to them while the ceremony is going on. And that’s kind of embarrassing for the bride and the groom. But they understand that we — my wife and I do this together — are not just the DJs staying behind the booth. During cocktail hour, we go around and talk to guests and say, “Hey, what kind of music do you like?” and stuff like that, just to get to know your guests before the evening even starts. That kind of gives the people there the sense that look, you know what, the DJ is OK.
RB: How do you keep the party going?
Richardson: On the music side, it’s definitely reading the crowds, and the age groups in particular. After a certain part of the evening, you can crank it up to the real good dance music. I do a lot of interaction with the crowds and with the guests. I make them dance to the buffet for dinner, that’s how I kind of start the night off. I say, “Hey, you know what, you’re going to have a good time here with me by just dancing in the beginning.”