Hire a DJ with Lights or Hire a Separate Lighting Company?

Dove Canyon, Sullivan WeddingA few years ago, I worked for a DJ company that absolutely insisted that the clients NOT have any type of lighting at their wedding.  We were told not to sell them, and if a client asked for them, we were told that we should strongly discourage the client from using them at their event.  After all, he didn’t own any lights, but more to the point…he didn’t like having to set them up and tear them down at the end of the event, and paying someone else to do so was out of the question.  As time went by and he started noticing that he was losing clients to other companies that actually DID offer lights, he eventually caved, and the last time I checked he was slowing beginning stock lights, as he was beginning to understand, in certain settings, how much of an effect they have.   (There are definitely venues that don’t need lights to look spectacular, but they are not so plentiful.)

I started my company with one key principle in mind: “The client ALWAYS gets exactly what they want!”  This meant that, if the client wanted lighting for their event, I would provide it because that is what it takes to make the client happy!  What I began to realize as soon as I started renting them out is that, quite honestly, they are great money-maker.  Once I initially purchased the lights, I could rent out the same lights time and time again, eventually making them 100% profit once the labor was subtracted!  To my wedding and event clients, this means that I can add lighting to a package at a great discount without cutting into my profit!  What this also means is that all of the companies that are strictly in the business of renting lighting make a TON of money off of lighting alone, which brings me to the point of today’s blog.

When planning a wedding, a bride and groom, along with their coordinator, will decide how they want the room to look for their reception.  This may include flowers, table cloths, napkins, slip covers for chairs, as well as lighting.  The amount of flowers, tablecloths, chairs, napkins, and the like will be determined by the amount of guests attending.  Most likely, the same company that provided the bouquets for the wedding will also be providing the centerpieces and decorative flowers for the reception hall because using different companies for each simply does not make financial sense given that one company would charge you less overall if you used them for all of the flowers. The same goes with the linen company.  If you were to rent tablecloths from one company and napkins from another, you would pay more in total.

In the same light, hiring a separate lighting company from the DJ will have the same result.  You will find yourself paying much more overall because each company is looking to make a minimum amount of profit from each event which they are contracted to service.  When I am working with a client, I always provide the opportuity to add lighting to their event.  It is never required, nor is there a minimum by which they must abide.  In addition, because I am already profiting from the “DJ/Emcee” aspect of the event, discounting their entire package after all of the lights are added is something I do automatically depending on how many lights they add to their overall package.

There are a number of commercials on television that advertising “bundling” the services they already provide, whether or not it is something for which their client has a need, in hopes that they will make money off of unused services.  As I do not necessarily agree with all of these commercials, there is certainly something to be said for acquiring a number of similar services from one company in an effor to save money.  That being said, STEER CLEAR OF COMPANIES THAT OFFER TOO WIDE OF A VARIETY OF SERVICES!  This could mean that they do not have a specialty and therefore, though they may be less expensive overall, the quality of each individual product is likely inferior!  Instead, talk to vendors and ask, for example, your DJ to recommend a good photographer, or the photographer to recommend a good coordinator.  This way, you’ll save time trying to vet good vendors, while still getting the quality you deserve for your the most important day of your life!

***Geoff Maddox has been a professional wedding and event emcee and DJ for over 15 years.  He has appeared on TV and has been interviewed by various news outlets about his books and how he helps couples avoid vendor scams and advises them on ways to have their dream wedding without breaking the bank. For more information, please visit http://gmedj.com or call (949) 342-5079!

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Destination Weddings: Who Should You Hire?

Something I am asked semi-regularly years is, “Do you travel?”  Because weddings are what I do, and traveling is something I personally like to do as often as I can anyway, I do not have a problem going to another city, state, or even country to DJ an event.  Because there are varying levels of logistics to this depending on how far away the wedding is, I seem to be the exception, not the rule!

In nearly 12 years of being a wedding DJ, I have worked at my fair share of “Destination Weddings”, where the destination is Southern California!  When planning one of these, it is important to find vendors you can trust, despite living, in some cases, 3,000 miles away!   This can be daunting, and sometimes a little scary given that you are trusting them to help you organize and plan specific elements for the most important day of your life from afar!

First, it wouldn’t hurt to begin by looking online!  Any decent vendor will have a website of some kind with photos giving you examples of their work.  Given that you are so far away, it would probably be a good idea to hire a coordinator in the area, and if you do, he or she can help you take care of some of the initial legwork.  Similar to hiring a vendor in your own town, however, you should definitely “meet” a vendor prior to signing a contract!

If traveling to your “Destination” to meet your potential vendors is not convenient, one of the easist ways to do this is to utilize Skype. (The program can be found at Skype.com)  It is easy, free, and a vendor with experience working “Destination Weddings” will already have an account set up.  All you have to do is exchange Skype names and you’ll be able to “meet” face-to-face via video conference and get a feel for the chemistry you have with your potential vendor.  It is not as good as an in-person meeting, but it still allows you the opportunity to get a feel for the vendor’s personality as well as a better understanding of how easy they will be to work with.

Signing a contract and taking care of payment can all be done via fax or email.  New smart phone technology can allow your vendor to accept and deposit emailed copies of checks, provided both sides are scanned and sent, and in addition to paying for items won on eBay, PayPal can be used to pay nearly anyone for nearly anything, should your vendor prefer. 

It can seem like an insurmountable task, but if you are looking to get married in Southern California, don’t fret, because with a couple additional steps, booking your out-of-town wedding or event will be far easier than it may initially seem, so come on out!  There are plenty of us that are more than happy to help you do it right!

***Geoff Maddox has been a professional wedding and event emcee and DJ for over 15 years.  He has appeared on TV and has been interviewed by various news outlets about his books and how he helps couples avoid vendor scams and advises them on ways to have their dream wedding without breaking the bank. For more information or for booking inquiries, please visit http://gmedj.com!

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Looking for Advice? Just Ask!

You got engaged, you’ve talked to your friends, you’ve read about vendors, venues, and you’ve gotten some great ideas for your event! Now, how do you sort it all out?

Before you book your venue and your vendors, talk to the pros!  Maybe its a coordinator, or perhaps its a DJ or photographer you trust.  Either way, the people that you’ll learn the most from, and from whom you’ll get the best advice are people that have the most experience working at venues and with other vendors.

I will not try to mislead you into thinking that some vendors and venues do not have their “favorites”, after all, that is why venues and Coordinators create ‘Preferred Vendor Lists’.  That being said, however, don’t ever be afraid to ask specific questions about the vendor or venue you are thinking about hiring!  99% of vendors will be completely honest with you when asked specific questions about a venue or vendor!

Be sure to take your time and don’t let yourself be rushed into making a decision about the most important day of your life!

***Geoff Maddox has been a professional wedding and event emcee and DJ for over 15 years.  He has appeared on TV and has been interviewed by various news outlets about his books and how he helps couples avoid vendor scams and advises them on ways to have their dream wedding without breaking the bank.   For questions or booking information, please visit http://GMEdj.com!

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You Said “YES”…What Now!?

Happy New Year!  I hope the holidays were fantastic for everyone!  I want to congratulate all of the newly-engaged couples and wish them nothing but the BEST, and as easy of a time planning their wedding as possible! 
ImageBecoming engaged is probably one of the most exciting days in a man or woman’s life, and it is no secret that more people get engaged during the holiday season than any other time of the year!  There is the waiting, the hoping, the question, the answer, and now you are most likely wearing a new ring for everyone to see so they all know that, yes, you got engaged over the holidays!  The next steps, however, are not as much of a fairy tale. 

First thing’s first, and this one is a bit of a “no-brainer”: Create a budget.  Figure out how much money you can realistically afford to spend for your wedding.  This does not mean you should skimp on anything, just that you should decide on a maximum dollar amount and how flexible you are willing to be.  (Inevitably, one or two expenses will rear its ugly head at the last minute for which you had not budgeted.)

Next, it would be wise to go out to dinner somewhere casual and have a conversation where you and your fiance can talk about your “ideal wedding”.  This in no way is to suggest that you necessarily should actually begin planning specific elements of your event as there will be plenty of time for that in the future! After all, a typical ceremony can have up to eight or nine, and I have DJed receptions with as many as 35-40.  As much as there is not really such a thing, most “average” receptions have around 25 separate elements, from the “Guestbook Announcement” from the DJ, to the “First Dance”, to the “Goodbye Song”, and so on.  Really, this should only consist of the two of you working together to create a general overview to share with a venue, coordinator, florist, DJ, etc.  Now, you have to find a dress, find a venue, hire a DJ, hire florist, hire a photographer, perhaps a videographer, decide what you will eat, taste cake, decide what the cake will look like…and this does not even BEGIN to discuss the actual coordinating of the event: deciding who will give toasts, creating invitations, deciding who to invite…the list goes on!  With so many things to do, it probably sounds a little overwhelming and you may be having second thoughts, but of course, it is going to be the biggest day of your life, so you WILL go through with it.  Now you just have to figure out how to make it a little easier.

This brings me to my next point.  As I mentioned before, there are more than a few things to think about when planning a wedding, and if you are like most couples, you both work and your time at work is not only putting food on the table, but it is also going to go to help you pay for the wedding.  In my many years working at weddings, I realize that it is easier said than done, but the last thing you want to do is to stress about your wedding.  Again, it is going to be the most important day of your life and the the party that celebrates the foundation for the lives you will share together.  With that in mind, unless you are planning on having a small reception in your backyard with a dozen guests, catering from the local drive-through restaurant, and flowers from your aunt’s rose garden, you should probably consider hiring someone to help you organize and coordinate your event.

Coordinators come in all types.  Some venues come with a coordinator, while there are many other coordinators that have their own specialties that can help you either from the moment you are engaged, to a ‘day-of’ coordinator that will simply show up on your wedding day to help ensure that things go smoothly after the preparations have already been made.  The type you choose is up to you, but the more elements you add to your wedding, the easier it is to let someone else worry about everything coming together exactly right!

Venues are a whole different ballgame.  Finding the perfect venue will be a matter of your budget and your taste in locations.  Whether you are looking to get married at beautiful Clubhouse on a golf course, in a hotel ballroom, or at a venue that is specifically designed for wedding ceremonies and receptions will depend on how much you are willing to spend and your “ideal wedding”.

Choosing the right florist, photographer, videographer, etc. will be a little tougher.  Most likely, though they are extremely important elements of your event, because they will have little to no interaction with your guests, you will probably hire each of these vendors solely based on their previous work, and perhaps partially on the chemistry you have with each individual vendor.  You can see photos of the flowers a florist put together for a previous event, photos of previous weddings a photographer shot, and a sample video from a previous wedding the videographer filmed, all of which can be seen when you sit down with the individual vendor.  Once you have had an opportunity to compare, you will make the right decision, and will then be on to hiring the next vendor for another element of your wedding.  That being said, a coordinator that I have worked with on a number of occasions once told me, competely unsolicited, that, “You never know you hired the wrong photographer or the wrong DJ until it is too late!”, which brings me to a topic I am intimately familiar with because it is what I do: the DJ for your wedding.

ImageI wrote an earlier blog that was extremely specific about hiring the right DJ for your wedding so I will just go over the basics here.  First, the DJ is the entertainment and the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ for your wedding.  Unlike a band that may or may not be as interested in being the center of attention, a good DJ will talk just right amount, and be as funny or as serious as you set forth for your “ideal wedding”, while remaining completely professional. They will play music that you like, help you plan the events discussed earlier, from announcements to dances, etc., ensure that your picking music for your event is as simple as possible, and they do not have distractions that will keep them from giving you as much attention as you desire prior to your event, while getting to know you and your fiance to ensure that the event is a reflection of your personality.  Also, it is important to ensure that the DJ or entertainment company is not trying to oversell you on “add-ons” like lighting or effects.  These are specific to each couple’s tastes and there is no such thing as a perfect “package” of services.

And now, the rest is up to you!  Congratulations again, good luck, and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of service!

*Photos are courtesy of Luminaire Images and are from two of my previous events and the effects for the second photo were created by Geoff Maddox.

***Geoff Maddox has been a professional wedding and event DJ and Emcee in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas for the past 12 years. For more information and booking, please visit http://GMEdj.com or call (949) 342-5079.

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Do You Really NEED 40 Uplights?

I’ve been talking to wedding coordinators lately about their likes and dislikes about DJs they have worked with in the past to try to improve the service I am providing to my clients.  I ask questions about their behavior, the services they provide, as well as their clients’ overall opinion of the DJ once the event has completed.  Responses vary across the board, but one thing I have been noticing with the economy the way it is, is that DJs have been over-selling lighting, so in this blog I am going to discuss some basic guidelines when it comes to adding lighting to an event. 

First, some companies have put together lighting “packages” that include a certain number of each type of light with a price for all of them.  As this may seem ideal to a prospective client at first, this is anything but.  Each venue is different in size and configuration, so, for example, if 8 uplights, one strobe, and two dance lights are appropriate for one venue and dance floor, another may need more uplights because it is bigger or or the walls are longer.  Also, no matter how “good” or how much experience a DJ has, it is nearly impossible for them to know how to create a client’s ideal atmosphere without extensive discussion about their wants, needs, etc., so a “cookie cutter” lighting setup could not possibly be exactly what a client needs.  For this reason, I strongly recommend hiring a DJ that sells lighting a-la-carte so that it can be completely customized to each and every client’s individual tastes. (By the way, this does not mean that you will overpay!  A good DJ will discount the package after it has been put together.)

Second, it is important for a client to remember that, for a DJ/Lighting company, renting lights to a prospective client is nearly 100% profit!  These lights were purchased and the only expense to the company is storage space and perhaps the assistant to help set them up.  Otherwise, you are just adding to the profit the DJ is making from the event.  That being said, there are some DJs that will over sell lighting to their clients.  For example, I spoke with someone that did not hire me a couple of months after her wedding about her experience with the DJ she hired.  She told me that, when she sat down with DJ, he recommended over 30 uplights for their venue prior to seeing the map of the actual setup.  Being a trusting couple, she and her fiance agreed, believing that he was a professional and MUST know what he is talking about.  A month or so before their wedding, after they had made their final payment to him, they toured the venue once again and realized that they needed roughly half of the amount of lights he originally recommended.  When they went back to him, as is common practice, he refused to refund any of their money, so they ended up paying a few hundred dollars for lights that were never used because it just wasn’t possible!  To my clients, I always spend a great deal of time talking to them about their “Vision for their wedding”, and I always recommend that we under-estimate the number of lights and effects they will need because they can always add more prior to the event. 

Lastly, some DJs have equipment that others do not, so as a client, it is important to go over exactly what is being provided and exactly how much they cost.  A DJ that goes to the nearest music store to purchase their lights will charge much more than the DJ that purchases them directly from the manufacturer because they did not have to put out so much money to begin with.  As well, lights go by different names for different companies, so be sure that you know EXACTLY what you are paying for.  Any DJ should be able to bring any light or effect to a meeting to demonstrate exactly what it does so that there is no question as to what the client is paying for. 

If you’re sitting down with a DJ and you get a funny feeling that you may be overpaying, DO NOT SIGN THE CONTRACT!  Take some time, make some phone calls, and after you have had the opportunity to think it over, then go ahead and make another appointment with the DJ to sign with them.  The last thing a client needs is to overpay for a less-than-scrupulous DJ. 

***Geoff Maddox has been a wedding and event DJ and Emcee for over 10 years in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit GMEdj.com!

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How Reading Contracts Can $ave You Money!

It has been awhile since I have written a blog but recently an issue arose that inspired me, and it is perhaps something that people do not regularly think about when hiring vendors for special events or any OTHER occasion throughout their lives!

First let me be clear that I am NOT a lawyer and what I am about to say is not a legal opinion and should not be taken as such.  I only write from my personal experiences and the information I provide is solely based on what I have learned and experienced.

Paying attention to every little detail in a contract may seem like a “no-brainer” to anyone in business.  After all, it is how we get paid, how we explain what services we provide, etc., but when the excitement of planning a wedding, birthday party, social gathering, or other big event is in the air, people occasionally forget the “Read the fine print”.

Nearly every day, people enter into contracts.  They may be written on paper, emailed and signed digitally, or they may be verbal agreements. No matter the form they take, they are all “Contracts” and they should all be taken very seriously and every detail should be covered and reviewed prior to both parties reaching an agreement for a number of reasons.

As a vendor, I go out of my way to ensure that the clients get EXACTLY what they want for their event.  From certain behaviors they want me to project to additional time for their event, to special effects, lighting, etc., if a client makes a specific request, if it is even remotely possible, I will make it happen!  On occasion, this may mean that I have to rent or buy additional equipment, hire an assistant to help me, arrive early and begin playing music prior to the originally agreed-upon time, bring and set up additional equipment, or any of a number of other things, some or all of which add to the final cost of the event, depending on the specific requests.

I do not have a problem doing any of these things and I am always thorough and clear about what it will take to make the event happen the way the client imagines.  As I mentioned earlier, in some cases, this means that I have to spend money to make these elements happen, which I do not mind doing and about which I am completely up-front with the client.

Problems arise, however, on rare cases where my clients do not thoroughly read through each and every one of the contracts they are signing for each and every vendor, which occasionally means that they overlook either an included or excluded element, which could adversely effect the price or experience of their wedding or event. Items like, included or excluded microphones, sounds systems, lighting, special regulations prohibiting smoke machines or other particular elements and the like are very important items to know.  Not only does this eliminate what could lead to unnecessary expenses with other vendors, but it could also potentially completely alter the experience of your event for your guests!  As an example, if you are not aware that your venue will NOT be providing any type of microphone for your ceremony, and you are expecting one to be there, it is important that make sure that you schedule your DJ to arrive in time to be there for your Ceremony as well as your Reception to avoid a situation where your DJ may not know to bring an additional microphone and sound system and thus for guests to strain to hear the vows and the Officiant.  Also, some venues DO include certain things with your package.  A venue that provides a sound system for the Ceremony, additional microphone, music, uplights, etc. will save you money on your overall DJ and Lighting package.

Though I have been a wedding and event DJ for roughly 11 years now, in that entire time, I MAY have seen a total of 5 venue, photographer, and/or videographer contracts altogether, so there is no way for me to know exactly what is or is not included in my clients’ specific packages.  I try to ask clients if there is anything specific that I should know about, but if clients do not tell me or does not know themselves what those things are, there is no way for me to know.

If you hire a vendor and agree to, in writing or otherwise, a specific package for your event, it is likely that they will have to do some specific preparation and/or work prior to or at your event, and the more work they have to do, on some occasions, the more they will charge for their services.

If you ask for something specific, a vendor should do exactly what you asked for, and because you agreed to it, it is your responsibility to pay for exactly that and no more!  (On a side note, a vendor should NEVER ask you for additional money on the day of or after the event for work of which you have already agreed on a price.)  In the unlikely event that something was overlooked or about which you change your mind, it is my belief that it is the responsibility of the client to inform the vendor far enough in advance that they do not incur any unnecessary expenses or utilize any unnecessary labor, as it is not fair to the vendor to betold during or after the event that they should not have done something, especially when there is an expectation that they will be paid for the work that was requested.

***Geoff Maddox has been a Professional Wedding and event DJ and Emcee for approximately 11 years in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

If you hire a vendor and agree to, in writing or otherwise, a specific package for your event, it is likely that they will have to do some specific preparation and/or work prior to or at your event, and the more work they have to do, on some occasions, they more it will cost you for their services.

So if you ask for something specific, a vendor should do exactly what you ask for, and because you agreed to it, it is your responsibility to pay for exactly that and no more!  (On a side note, a vendor should NEVER ask you for additional money on the day of or after the event for work of which you have already agreed on a price.)  In the unlikely event that something was overlooked or about which you change your mind, it is my belief that it is the responsibility of the client to inform the vendor far enough in advance that they do not incur any unnecessary expenses or utilize any unnecessary labor, as it is not fair to the vendor to be told during or after the event that they should not have done something, especially when there is an expectation that they will be paid for the work that was requested.

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Don’t Be Fooled By the Flashy

In an economy like the one we are currently experiencing, it is becoming more and more rare for a bride and groom…or their parents…to be able to afford the big, lavish wedding they may have been envisioning since age 5!  That is not to say that they can’t have a fantastic wedding with the aspects they were originally looking for.  After all, there are great photographers, videographers, coordinators, venues, caterers, DJs, etc. that will do a great job for them within their budget.  They just need to make sure that they are getting the quality they are paying for.  Unfortunately, I have found that some brides and grooms tend to spend more money than is necessary on what very well may be an inferior product because of something irrelevant to their event that one vendor possesses that another does not. 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the allure of superficial characteristics, for example, a videographer having a receptionist answer the phone when you call them.  It makes them sound busier, more successful, and more “in-demand” because they perhaps are not available to speak with their client right away.  For some vendors, these things ARE in place because of their level of success, and if that’s the case you’ll know because their reputation will speak for itself. Unfortunately, though, this is not always the case! 

The truth is, a company that spends a lot of money on unnecessary “impressive” additions needs to make that money up somehow, which usually means that they are going to be a more expensive vendor, perhaps draining additional money out of an already less-than-ideal budget.  This does NOT speak to the quality of their work, however.  The saying, “You get what you pay for,” is certainly relevant within reason.  You do not want to hire a vendor that is promising the same product you are being offered from another for 2/3 the price, because you will most likely get 2/3 or less of the quality which, for weddings in particular, not not something you or your guests should experience.   That being said, a vendor that spends a large amount of money on advertising and/or making him or herself “look” better may be an indication that they are lacking in other areas, i.e. their ability to give the client the wedding or event they were expecting.  After all, ‘Marketing 101’ says, “Put your best foot forward,” and that “People judge you based on how you present yourself and your business,” and if you are buying a car, I completely agree, but if you are trying to plan an extravagant event on a budget, make sure you are hiring someone because they will do the best work, not because they spent more money on their office.  Personally, I would rather meet a client in a nice, clean, mutually convenient area and be able to charge them less for the event than spend large amounts of money on office or display room rental, which I will have to pass on to them.

In fact, there are a number of vendors that I know personally that have won awards, been featured in magazines, etc. that do not even necessarily have an office the client can visit!  By that token, it is important when you are shopping for a vendor to remember that, even though a company may have a flashy office, an impressive studio, an extravagant showroom, or a flashy website, they may not be the vendor that will provide the best service, and each and every company that has as much unnecessary overhead will need to recoup those expenses, normally on the backs of their clients.  A dress bought on ‘Rodeo Drive’ is just as nice as some that you can find in the Fashion District.  The only differences are the location of the store and the price tags.  Hiring one vendor over another because they “look” like they are better is like buying expensive clothes from an unfamiliar brand without previously trying them on just because they are on a nicer hanger.  They might fit, but they also might be a bit uncomfortable and they may fall apart in the wash.  

As redundant as it sounds, when booking a vendor, it is important to “remember what is important”.  As a client, you are looking for the best vendor for the job.  The best way to know who that person is, is not to judge them on the amount of money they spend on their meeting place, but on your chemistry with them, their past performances and the references from their clients generated therein.  If it is a coordinator or DJ, talk to previous clients.  If it is a florist, photographer or videographer, in addition, you should be able look through photos or videos of their work. 

***Geoff Maddox has been a wedding and event DJ and emcee in Los Angeles and Orange Counties for the past 10 years!  For more information, please visit GMEdj.com!

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