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Selecting the Right DJ
You've found 'the one,' set a date and chosen a location. You have spent days on a guest list, poured over photographers' portfolios and even spent three hours choosing just the right shade of blue. Time to plan entertainment for the reception! You open the yellow pages to 'Disc Jockeys,' make a call and ask the time honored question: “How much do you charge for a four hour reception?”
You would never intentionally overlook a single detail of your most important day. Yet, frequently, the one professional that has the most impact on the feel of your event and the memories your guests will carry away is chosen by cost alone. Cost is certainly a concern, but cost is only a consideration in the absence of value. So that we can get to the critical elements that will help choose a quality disc jockey, let's ground our decisions on cost on reputable data.
According to the American Disc Jockey Association (ADJA), rates for hiring a disc jockey for a wedding reception vary widely, ranging from $350.00 to over $5,000.00 with an average of $1,200.00 for a 4 hour booking. The ADJA also states that “a [quality] full-service disc jockey company will normally invest 12 to 30 hours in your special event but it may appear that you are only paying for '4 hours.' Consultations, music purchasing and editing, preparation, set-up and tear-down, education and other business related endeavors add up to the overall success of your special occasion.”
When you consider the overall cost of a wedding, the right disc jockey can make even the upper end of the cost range look like a bargain. The ADJA also states that, when surveyed, “nearly 100% of brides would have spent more money on their entertainment and made it their number one priority in hindsight.”
I have been a disc jockey since 1992, and I have had the honor of serving as disc jockey for hundreds of couples. I have trained over thirty disc jockeys in my craft. In my experience, the elements and attributes that make for a quality, professional disc jockey are every bit as quantifiable as the elements and attributes that make for a successful wedding reception. Here are a few things to look for:
Are they available for your date? Instead of first asking for an hourly rate, start a more open conversation by asking 'are you available on [event date]?' Ask the person answering the phone if they, or another entertainer would service your event. If the answer is someone else, ask to speak to that person.
Is the DJ insured? Can they provide proof of liability? A professional disc jockey should carry liability insurance to protect themselves, their equipment, the event location and you. In today's litigious climate, this is critical. Also, nothing spells amateur like lack of insurance. No certificate of liability? Next, please.
Does the disc jockey carry backup equipment and (if applicable) music to every event? While, given professional quality equipment, critical failures of this type are exceedingly rare, they must be planned and prepared for without exception. Make sure that your disc jockey has a plan for an equipment failure of any type. Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Does the disc jockey provide a written contract? This is for the protection of all involved. A good contract leaves no room for omission or misinterpretation of critical details like location, date, time, set up time, disc jockey attire, even which disc jockey will serve your event in the case of a company with multiple employees. The contract also protects your deposit in the event of a cancellation or failure to perform as promised on the part of the disc jockey. No contract? Move on.
Will the disc jockey be appropriately dressed for the event? Don't assume that the DJ will automatically make the right choice if this goes unasked. What if the event was beach casual and you didn't let me in on it? What if a less professional DJ decides to show up to your black tie formal event in jeans and a blazer... or worse? I have seen a DJ show up to a wedding in shorts and a logo tee. Do not think it can't happen to you. Ask the question.
Does the disc jockey belong to a professional organization? What does the disc jockey do for continuing education or professional development? Just as your doctor, attorney, CPA, or financial advisor would be left hopelessly out of date and less effective by failing to stay abreast of new developments and capabilities, your disc jockey should be investing in themselves in some fashion. Organizations such as the American Disc Jockey Association, along with the National Association of Mobile Entertainers, provide mobile disc jockeys with education, support, networking, and a low pressure environment in which to ask competitors and colleagues what's working and what isn't.
How does the disc jockey work with other professionals at the reception (and ceremony, if applicable)? This one is definitely worth some conversation, especially if you do not have a wedding planner or event coordinator. If you haven't hired a 'quarterback' for your event, in most cases the disc jockey becomes the de facto leader of your team. Make sure that you are hiring someone who recognizes and can handle this responsibility. Your DJ should have a plan for coordinating with and updating your other wedding professionals (photographer, caterer, officiant, etc.), even if there is to be an on site planner or coordinator. Hire someone who can play nice with others.
Do you keep an order of events, and how closely do you stick to it? The correct answer is 'yes' and 'as closely as your wishes allow me to.' You will have many, many other things to concern yourself with on your wedding day. You do not need the added responsibility of reminding your disc jockey that it's time to cut the cake. Set an order of events with the DJ and choose someone intelligent and experienced enough to fit the plan to the event without tapping you on the shoulder every fifteen minutes. Also, note that I said 'order of events' and not 'timeline.' A watch should not be required wedding apparel.
You've worked hard to make sure that your special day doesn't feel like work. Take these extra steps to make sure that your disc jockey is a partner in that effort, and not just another cause for concern. Your wedding day is almost here! Enjoy the rest of your shopping, laugh, have fun, and don't forget your dancing shoes!
See Key to Savannah’s Wedding Listings for more information on planning your Savannah Wedding. For more information on Coastal Entertainment, you can visit their website at: http://www.thecoastaldj.com/