Hiring a Wedding DJ

We offer more than cheap wedding ideas. Get general advice from wedding experts……

By Cheryl Q

By now, you’ve probably read numerous magazines, seen television shows, and surfed the net for websites that tell you what you need for your perfect wedding. Have you noticed though your entertainment is one of the last items mentioned, if it’s mentioned at all? I can’t begin to tell you how many brides or grooms call three, two, and yes even one week before their wedding date looking for a Disc Jockey who is cheap. Well, toss away anything you’ve read or heard about hiring a wedding DJ because here is what you need to know from a wedding entertainment specialist’s point of view.

I have a question for you first… How many of you has ever seen an appetizer get a group of people up to dance, or seen a centerpiece make that first introduction of a married couple? If your answer is never, then why is it the food and flowers are purchased long before the entertainment is thought of. I’ve had brides call and tell me they’ve spent $150 or more per person for an elegant dinner for their guests, yet with these outrageous prices for a salad and a piece of rosemary chicken, adding a mere $10 or $15 per head for entertainment is too much. I hope by now you get where I’m going with this.

Dr. Drax, President of the American Disc Jockey Association, says it best:
“When you think about planning your wedding, you need to determine what you want the driving force to be. Will it be the flowers – for the decorative value, the food – when dinner is over so is the party, the photographs – to preserve your memories and document your celebration or will it be the music and entertainment that will keep your event flowing and hold your guests attention.”

It IS the entertainment that pulls your reception together, keeps your guests entertained and makes for some fantastic photos.

So, here’s your first lesson: when you decide to get married, besides booking your wedding venue first, book your DJ then start looking around for the cheapest dinner and flowers you can find, not the cheapest DJ at the last minute.

Which brings me to the next item – Pricing and DJ standards. When you start calling around for prices, you’ll probably be easily confused because while there are no standards for pricing, there are also no standards for who calls themselves a DJ. I want to repeat this last part, there are NO standards for who calls themselves a DJ. Some DJ’s even try to dazzle you with terms like “DMX lighting” as a cover. Let’s see if I can’t clarify some of this for you.

A good DJ will spend 20 or more hours putting together and preparing your wedding reception before they show up on that special day. They will take the time getting to know you and take the time getting to know what you want. Your reception should be personalized to fit you, not a canned performance everyone gets. While it’s fun to fill out a planning form on a website, you need to ask yourself if your DJ is really going to know you, and what you want. Halls and Salons frequently use a ‘house DJ’ and receive some type of monetary compensation. The DJ who is there isn’t always the best fit for you. Remember, your DJ (and venue) works for you and is there to make your day what you’ve dreamed of. You should be comfortable with your DJ and comfortable with the trust you place in him/her. If it doesn’t feel right; don’t do it no matter what kind of a deal you think you are getting or how professional it seems or cool it is to fill out forms on a website. (Everyone else is filling out the same form.) Meet with your DJ including house or package-everything-included DJ’s and get to know him/her. Watch for their passion for what they do and their interest in making your day YOU. You DO only have this day once and your entertainment can make it or break it. If your DJ isn’t willing to put in the time to make your day reflect your personality, likes and dislikes; isn’t available to meet with you; doesn’t return your calls; doesn’t call you just to check in; then I would run the other way. When there is a House DJ, make your own DJ selection part of your contract before you sign the contract. You shouldn’t be penalized or charged an extra fee for wanting your day perfect. If you are, either negotiate or look elsewhere.

You might get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the DJ you’ve interviewed but so very many times, especially with bigger companies called multi-ops, you’ll talk with one person and someone entirely different shows up. You don’t know if that person is a rookie DJ with YOUR wedding being his/her first as often happens or an experienced professional. If your DJ says they are sending or might send someone else, meet with that person BEFORE you sign your contract and have it put in your contract that will be the person who will show up. I get calls frequently from other DJ’s I’ve never met looking for someone to cover a wedding. You are the one calling the shots, not your DJ, so ask the questions. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers, keep running.

Is it really a business….. ? There are so many DJ’s out there who don’t run a “legitimate” business. At the very least, your DJ should have liability insurance, have their business registered in the state they operate out of, have a contract/agreement outlining the performance terms that protects both the DJ and you, and get their music from a legitimate source (and NOOOO, downloading music from the internet even if you pay for it isn’t legal when used for paid performances). Belonging to professional organizations such as the American Disc Jockey Association (ADJA) is a plus because they hold their members to a higher standard. Holding any other certifications is a real added bonus because you know they take their profession seriously enough to work at it. I know DJ’s who’ve been in the business for 15 or 20 years and have never been to a training conference and don’t receive any professional publications. I’ve also seen their performances…dull and stagnant are two words that come to mind. So you might want to ask how your DJ is keeping current with the changes, laws, rules and regulations in the entertainment industry not to mention the equipment.

O.K. I know you’ve probably been asking “What IS DMX lighting?” since I mentioned it. Well, don’t be impressed by terminology or the DJ’s who throw it around without explaining what it is. There are basically three types of lights 1) turn it on and it does it’s own thing 2) turn it on and it beats or flashes to the music or 3) turn it on and you tell it what to do. This is called DMX lighting and requires programming. Every venue and set of lights needs its own programming to be complimentary to the room and the event AND there are very few DJ’s who can program lighting at the event (on the fly). DMX lighting also beats and flashes to the music. So while your DJ says they HAVE DMX lighting, ask them if they are going to program the lighting at your event and if you can watch. My guess is you will have DMX capable lighting that beats and flashes to the music. Your DJ should have professional grade equipment built for and used in the DJ industry so ask what they are using and if they bought it specifically to DJ with or at a local discount or drug store.

All of the above adds up to the professionalism and standards of the DJ you are hiring for your wedding day. It also adds into the price you will pay.

The current national average price for a 4 hour wedding reception is $1400. Pricing ranges anywhere from $600 to well over $3500. Of course, there’s always the friend of the family who has an IPOD who will do it for $300 but you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. The cheapest isn’t always the best choice for this once in a lifetime milestone and conversely the most expensive doesn’t mean you’ve hired the best. An IPOD is just a tool. It’s like using disposable cameras instead of hiring a photographer or serving fast food instead of having your reception catered.

What else? A good DJ should be able to emcee as well as DJ. If your wedding is longer than 5 hours or large you should consider asking your DJ to bring a second person if they haven’t suggested it during your interview. This will keep the party energy level high and will add an additional touch of class and elegance. It might cost a little more but well worth it. Wireless microphones are fairly standard these days and you shouldn’t have to pay extra for them. You might have to pay a small amount extra for a second sound system for your ceremony or cocktail area and for upgraded lighting. Your DJ should be willing to take requests and willing to work with you on what you do and don’t want to hear at your reception.

Finally, ask the questions. Make sure you hire someone who fits you, who will show up, and who is a professional with a legitimate business. Don’t hire your entertainment last and look for the cheapest deal. Put your entertainment among the first things you look for when planning your wedding, then if you have to, cut back on the number of exotic flowers in the centerpieces. Your guests probably won’t remember the flowers or the Rosemary chicken but they WILL remember the entertainment. So will you.

Cheryl QuinlanCheryl Q is an experienced Wedding, Quinceanera, and Corporate Event entertainment specialist serving the South Florida and Florida Keys area. She is a member of the Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce, is on the board of Directors for the American Disc Jockey Association (South Florida Chapter) and a mentor in the national ADJA. Cheryl Q is the only female to hold a Computerized Performance System Disc Jockey (CPSDJ) Certification and is working toward her Master Entertainer Certification. To read more or for booking information visit her at www.cherylqproductions.com or call 786-514-1919.

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Filed under: Entertainment — vicky at 6:31 pm on Wednesday, June 11, 2008