I’ve been hearing a lot from wedding couples lately about their plans to hire a friend to DJ or photograph their wedding. I am not a photographer, and some photographers that do not specialize in weddings may do a good job, but I do not have expertise in that field, so I will leave that alone, save a story I saw on the news the other night about a photographer whose name I am familiar with that apparently was not completely up front with his client. When she went to print her own photos, the “Print” option was locked, as this particular photographer apparently does not release the images to his clients and requires them to purchase the prints directly from him, presumably so he can make a profit off of the prints. This is not the first time I’ve heard of this, and in my opinion, any “Professional” photographer will explain this to their client verbally and in writing before they sign a contract.
With regard to the DJ you will hire, it is important that you know what type of DJ you are hiring and that he or she knows how to properly DJ and emcee a wedding. I regualrly am asked, at nearly every event, if I DJ clubs as well as weddings, corporate events, bar/bat mitvahs, etc., and my standard response is, I have DJed at clubs in the past, but I am not a “Club DJ”. I have a number of good friends that are “Club DJs” and they do a great job in a club, but I am not shy about telling them that a wedding and a club are two COMPLETELY different types of events and require a totally different skill set to be good at one or the other. These skills, by the way, are not related to “beat mixing”, “scratching”, or any other skills having to do with actually playing the music.
When deciding whether or not to try and save a few hundred dollars on the DJ, there are a few important things you should look into. First, how often does this DJ actually work at “weddings”? How long has this person being DJing? Is this person an Emcee as well as a DJ? What happens if there are unexpected changes the day of the wedding? What type of equipment will the DJ bring? How does the DJ sound on a microphone? Does the DJ have any type of actual training talking on a microphone? What type of references does this DJ have? What do past clients say about their experience? How many times has this DJ missed an event due to illness, etc.? What does their setup look like at an event? Will the DJ spend time with you to ease the stress of choosing songs for the specific events at your wedding? (i.e. Father/Daughter Dance, Mother/Son Dance, Bouquet or Garter toss, etc.) How will they get people to the dance floor? Where do they get their music? Do they pay royalties to use music at an event? (This has become especially important lately because groups like ASCAP and BMI have been suing DJs, venues, Karaoke Hosts, and anyone else they can connect to the event for copyright infringement.) What type of back-up plan do they have if there are technical difficulties, etc. The list of questions goes on and on, and EVERY professional DJ should be able to answer each and every question you have without having to think to come up with an answer.
When meeting with ANY vendor, I would suggest asking for a specific date and example of something that happened that the vendor had to adjust to, and how they handled the situation. As an example, I recently was the DJ at an event where I was expecting to only need one system because the ceremony and the reception were to be adjacent to eachother. Upon my arrival, I was told that the ceremony had been moved 300 yards to provide shade for the guests because it was particularly warm and the ceremony and reception were both outside. As is my policy, I had a back-up system that I was able to set up in the other location with an extra speaker that I had brought in case I had trouble with one of my primary speakers. The other issue to address was that now, since we were on a golf course, the ceremony had been moved 300 feet from the nearest outlet. With the assistance of the venue, The Temecula Creek Inn in Temecula, CA, I plugged in the 100 feet of extension cord I had brought with me and borrowed another 200 feet from the venue. (They do not usually have ceremonies with DJs in this location, but the bride made the request and they were more than happy to accommodate their client.)
In the words of a coordinator I have known for many years now, “…I tell all of my brides: Spend money on photographer and DJ. Once you figure out they are bad, it’s too late!”
**Geoff Maddox has been a wedding and event DJ in Orange County and Los Angeles for the past 10 years. For more information, please visit http://gmedj.com.