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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To Drink or NOT to Drink at an Event…for a Vendor, its a NO BRAINER!

As a rule, I try and spend a decent amount of time with a Bride and Groom getting to know them as people and getting to know their tastes in music. This ensures that their event is a reflection of their individual tastes and personalities.  As a result, I build great rapport with them as well, and at the event, it makes it look like I am more of a “friend” than just the DJ they hired for their wedding.  To be perfectly honest, I prefer this because I ‘fit in’ and it helps put the couple more at ease with the confidence that their event will, in fact, be their “Perfect Wedding”.

As it is standard practice for me, it something I do automatically.  The night of the event, however, it has presented a little bit of a challenge for me because, as after working for some DJ companies in the past and witnessing first-hand the result of a DJ who is not shy about have a few drinks while they are working, I have made it a steadfast rule not to drink during an event.  (Once the event is over, I may accept a beer, and on more than one occasion, I have been invited to the “After Party” at the hotel bar and enjoyed a drink with the Bride and Groom, the wedding party etc.)  Nonetheless, I am regularly offered numerous drinks by everyone from the guests at the party to the Bride and Groom.  My response is always the same: “Thank you but I don’t drink during events.”

Call me judgmental, but when I see another vendor drinking, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that, first and foremost it is unprofessional, and while they were getting that drink…and while they are enjoying/suffering from its effects…what were they missing?  As well, aren’t they working, and if they were in an office or other professional setting, would this be acceptable behavior?   In addition, how are they going to behave after they have had a FEW of them?  One of the most difficult experiences I have had was working with a vendor that, once the alcohol started flowing, began to treat the bride, groom, and members of their families in a ‘less-than-professional manner’.  The worst part was, they did not realize that they were acting any differently!

As a new DJ, I recall a couple of events where the DJ that I was supposed to be learning from was so drunk that they began talking so often on the microphone that bride started to give him dirty looks!  He didn’t realize that he was slurring, it just sort of came out that way.  More recently, I was at a wedding and the photographer could not be found for one of the events.  (As a rule, I always walk around and make sure everyone knows what will happen next before I start so everything is captured in photos and video.)  When I finally found the photographer, he was standing in a really long line at the bar.

Please don’t get me wrong, as most vendors are professional and do not subscribe to this type of behavior.  Even if they have had a couple of drinks, they do not act this way. These are simply examples of extreme experiences I have had.  At the same time, some people people that are “never” adversely effected by alcohol can have a bad night, and in my personal opinion that is one night too many, and it could have been avoided if they had waited until after the event to relax and unwind with a drink.

As a note to vendors, I was working at a particular venue and was offered a drink by the on-site coordinator.  As I do not drink at events, I turned her down on multiple occasions. Later in the night, she approached me and thanked me turning her down, because, as she would explain, she would have given me a free drink, but they have a ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy for vendors drinking during events and had I accepted, I would have, as she put it, “Not been allowed to work at that venue ever again.”

***Geoff Maddox has been a wedding and event DJ and Emcee in Los Angeles and Orange County for the past 10 years.  For more information, please visit http://gmedj.com.

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The Secret to a Great Best Man/Maid of Honor Toast

I was DJing a wedding recently and the Maid of Honor walked up to me in a bit of a panic!  She was to give a toast in the next 15 minutes but had not written anything down and didn’t know what to say, and this got me thinking.  I have worked at hundreds and hundreds of weddings and seen toasts given at nearly each one!  My response to her was, since they were sisters, to tell a funny story about when they were young and talk about what their relationship meant to her, and also to think about time time she first met the groom and say a little something about him.

Sure enough, she got up, took the microphone, talked about how she always looked up to her older sister, talked about meeting the groom, asked everyone to raises their glasses, and toasted.  It was simple enough and she did a good job with it.  On the other hand, if you are planning on putting a little more time and effort into your toast, the remainder of this blog should help!

The first thing to remember when giving a toast is that YOU, above everyone else in the wedding party and the guests in attendance have been personally selected by the Bride or Groom to stand up at their wedding and toast them in front of all of their guests!  This is not an attempt to make you nervous in any way, but you should remember that this is a distinct honor they chose to bestow upon you because you mean that much to them, and once this sinks in, you are ready to begin your toast.

We’ve all heard of websites where you can copy and/or buy a generic toast off of the internet where you might replace the names already in it with the names of the Bride and Groom.  Though some of these DO sound sincere and may in fact fool the guests, my suggestion would be to put some more time into it and make more personal, and as tempting as it may be to just speak “off the cuff and from the heart”, I suggest that you spend some time coming up with what you will say so you don’t have to worry about stumbling through it when the lights and the cameras are all on you.

Best Men or Maids/Matrons of Honor are almost always siblings or long-time friends.  If you are a sibling giving a toast, things that could be included may be memories from childhood, a time that the groom scored the game-winning home run, the bride’s starring role in a play, a time the groom stood up for himself when others doubted him, the time the bride lent her dress to someone for a special occasion, or any of a number of similar significant achievements.  If the person giving the toast is a friend, a great memory to include would be the time and how you met.  If you were in a class together, share a funny memory about the teacher.  If you were on some sort of sports or dance team, talk about practicing together.

So now, you’ve spent a lot of time coming up with your toast and the big day is coming up fast and you’re faced with a decision.  Do you write it down and bring it with you, or do try and memorize it so when you are up in front of everyone, it is only you and the glass of champagne?  As tempting as it may be to try to memorize it, I strongly suggest that you write it down and bring it to the event with you.  This not only ensures that you will not leave anything out, but it gives you the opportunity to practice exactly what you will say in front of a mirror to help calm your nerves when speaking in public.

Now that you’re thoroughly prepared, take a deep breath, take the microphone to the center of the dance floor, face the bride and groom, and give a GREAT toast!

***Geoff Maddox has been a wedding and event DJ and emcee in Los Angeles and Orange County for over 10 years.  For more information, please visit http://gmeDJ.com.

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Lights or No Lights?

 This topic is something that is a bit sensitive to a number of DJs, including myself!  

When you’re looking to hire a DJ, one of the easiest ways to raise the cost of your event is to add lighting to your wedding.  This could be a simple as a few uplights strategically positioned around the room to a large lighting truss filled with many types of intelligent lights, lasers, etc.  Obviously, the more sophisticated the package, the more you will spend.

I used to work for a company that was extremely adamant that we do NOT sell lighting to the clients, so much so that we were coached to tell clients that they weren’t necessary and why.  This certainly saved them money, but the question is, were we saying that because they really DIDN’T need lights or because, as a company, my boss felt that setting up lights was too much of a hassle?  

The truth is, the need for lights depends on the venue and the client! There is no question that adding lights were certainly add to to the cost of hiring a DJ.  If you are at an outdoor venue, the addition of lights really isn’t going to enhance your event to a large degree.  On the other hand, if you are going to be indoors, lights certainly CAN add to the ambiance.  

That being said, how many should you realistically pay for and how much should you pay?  Prices vary from light to light and company to company. Sometimes it comes down to how much they actually paid for the lights in the first place!  As an example, I go out of my way to purchase as many lights as possible directly from the manufacturers prior to a brand name being added, saving my clients almost 50% or more on each light over other companies. They are exactly the same light and quality but it cuts out the “middle man” and their profit.

Also, items that need to be special-ordered like monograms also add additional cost to the event.  The ultimate cost for items like these depends on the profit-margin the DJ or lighting company is looking to achieve.  

If you are considering lights, it is a good idea to have photos of the venue and a floorplan both you and your DJ can look at and perhaps use as a diagram to determine what lights will be placed where. This way, you can get a feel for what is REALLY needed as opposed to what a company and a slick salesperson will talk you into.

***Geoff Maddox has been a wedding and event DJ and emcee in Los Angeles and Orange County for that past 10 years. For more information, please visit http://gmeDJ.com!

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Choreographed or NOT? The not-so-secret reality about choreographing your first dance…

First, I know some people I have grown up with may be offended, specifically some dance teachers.  As a professional singer and dancer from a young age, I know how difficult it is to learn choreography to a song.  If you are in some sort of dance group, you can perhaps “blend in” if your steps are not exactly perfect, but if you are going to on the spot, it can be especially nerve racking!  Case in point: your “First Dance”! 

As a DJ, I am almost always in a position to get one of the best views of the bride and groom during their first dance, which is usually the image that appears in photos.  Unfortunately, what I have found much more often than not, is that if either the bride or groom are not trained dancers already, it tends to look uncomfortable for them.  Steps, even if they are not too complicated, are usually taught by counting.  Because the ‘First Dance’ is perhaps the first time some brides or grooms have ever been such the center of attention, it is easy to get nervous!  It is also easy, no matter how much practice they have had, to fall back into the habit of actually verbally counting the steps, which means visually, in person and in photos, the person’s face looks nervous as they count and their lips are actually moving, all of which tends to show up in their photos.

My suggestion, if choreographing their dance is not a priority, is to save the money they would have spent on choreography and put their arms around each other, look into the other’s eyes, and simply sway with the music.  This way, there is no worrying about steps and the couple can spend their time listening to ‘Their Song’ and enjoying the feeling of an embrace from the person they will share the rest of their life with! 

***Geoff Maddox has been a professional wedding and event DJ and Emcee for the past 10 years in Los Angeles and Orange County.  For more information, please visit http://gmeDJ.com.

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Hire a Pro or Save Money and Have a Friend Do It?

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.

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You don’t need the ‘YMCA’ to get people dancing!

When I was trying to come up with a new topic for my next blog, I started thinking about the music that I’ve heard played at “typical” weddings.  No sooner did I start brainstorming did I have a meeting with a potential client that asked me a question I always answer honestly, but never really sat and comtemplated the actual importanct.  His question was, “What are the songs you play at EVERY wedding?”

If you have read the blogs I’ve posted previously, you have gotten at least a sense of the fact that I view each wedding as its own, unique experience specifically designed and created around the subject of the event, be it a bride and groom, company, the child the Bar or Bat  Mizvah is for, etc.  This means, though it is a safe bet that, for a time, a number of the current “popular” songs will be played, there are no typical songs, because the tastes of each person will vary, sometimes dramatically from one event to the next.  As an example, I DJed a wedding this past weekend where the couple really enjoyed country music, so throughout specific parts of the event, country music was played.  In sharp contrast, the couple from a wedding I DJed roughly month ago really liked music considered ‘Down Tempo Electronica’, so that is what was played during their event.  

This brings me to the part of the night where the dance floor opens and we expect people to start dancing.  There are many ways to do this and each DJ has their own idea what works best.  One of the things I always talk to my clients about is the importance of dancing at their event.  I’ve learned over the years that guests at a wedding are very selective in what they remember from the event.  Overwhelmingly, no matter how delicious and expensive it was, guests typically do not remember how good the food was, though they will remember if it was bad, and they do not typically remember how pretty the flowers were, or how great the cake was, even if it was absolutely delicious and the flowers were gorgeous!  What they remember most of all is how much fun they had at the wedding, and this is a direct reflection on the DJ and Emcee they choose.  (On a personal note, this one of, if not THE main reason I enjoy DJing/Emceeing so much!  I really enjoy knowing that ‘I’ was given the opportunity help create such a great event for my clients!) 

As I mentioned earlier, most DJs will have a technique they use at EVERY wedding to get people on the dancefloor, and some of them are more memorable than others, for better or for worse, which brings me to the songs.  There is no question that songs like YMCA and Macho Man by the Village People, Mambo #5 by Lou Bega, Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice, the Chicken Dance, the Macarena, and many more are extremely recognizable songs and, because they are so widely recognizable, people will tend to dance to them.  At the same time, however, when you play a song like that, you run the risk of your guests not remembering how much fun they had, how smoothly the event went, or how much they did not want the party to end, but simply remembering that you had the YMCA or you did the Chicken Dance at your wedding.  Sure, you may get a couple of great photos of uncle Lou doing the Macarena, but there are plenty of other ways to get a crowd up, from certain other popular, dare I say, less “cheesy” songs, to particular, pre-determined events that encourage people to make their way onto the dance floor.  These events are all subject to client approval and certainly will not work for every crowd, which is a great reason to make sure your DJ has more than one technique.  Additionally, as I’ve metioned in previous blogs, the ability to “read the crowd” is another way a DJ will know what will work and what will not.

***Geoff Maddox has been a wedding and event DJ and emcee for the past 10 years in Orange County and Los Angeles.  To learn more, please visit http://gmeDJ.com.

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