Food for thought from my archives,
By Stacie Tamaki of The Flirty Blog.com
Honestly? Probably more than you were planning to pay.
Because this isn’t easy to say, I don’t say it lightly: When it comes to Wedding DJ’s, Brides and Grooms can and should expect more professionalism than the status quo that has been perpetuated as “acceptable” for far too long.
This post isn’t about bashing what I consider to be average or stereotypical Wedding DJ’s. For the most part, I don’t think there’s anything particularly deceptive about how most of them run or market their companies. It’s not a bait and switch scenario. Clients hire them with their eyes wide open, understanding the level of service they will receive. Some are willing to contract an average DJ because they think what they’re seeing is “as good as it gets.”
In some cases their expectations are so low, they don’t even try to find a qualified DJ or MC because they don’t realize good DJ’s exist.
Recently I stumbled upon this blog post on Vegan Bride titled “Phil Birdsell Saved the Day!” written by her real life groom. It’s a perfect example of what this article is all about. He and his bride weren’t going to hire a Professional DJ… Until they met Phil Birdsell who completely transformed their perception of what a wedding DJ can be and exceeded all of their expectations.
I know a common misconception is that all DJ’s are “cheesy” or as MC’s they are “obnoxious” on the microphone. So the logic is: Why pay a lot for someone who is most likely going to annoy or disappoint you? For some companies, those may be accurate descriptions of the types of services they provide. But I want to share with you today that not all DJ companies are like that…
Some are good.
Some are really good.
A select few are great.
If a particular DJ doesn’t fit your budget, keep looking for the most qualified one who does. You want to choose the right DJ to entrust your reception to One who is going to try their hardest and do their best for you, not the first one you talk to or the most convenient one.
What is a DJ Worth?
The funny thing (as in ironic not ha ha) is that I have worked in the wedding industry for 13 years and by far know more vendors who do not charge enough for their services than those who overcharge. So many people who work in the wedding industry do so because they love to make people happy, they’re not in it for the money. Some barely charge enough to break even on the cost of their labor, supplies, and equipment. (When I was a custom bridal accessory designer I spent a lot of energy talking brides out of things they didn’t need because of IMO when it comes to wedding accessories, less is more. Less will always look classic and elegant while too much can look costumed or silly.)
Are DJ’s Who Charge More Worth More?
They can be, but it may take research on your part to verify if a company is charging what they’re worth or if they are merely opportunistic. The sad truth is that any business can “look” legitimate. All they have to do is build a nice looking website, print up some business cards and brochures and start advertising. They may even have some impressive credentials. But those things alone aren’t a guarantee of anyone’s current level of professionalism or your satisfaction as their client.
My pov is: “Value is not about price, but to the quality of the product or service you receive in return for your investment.”
And what about their Master of Ceremonies skills? Especially if you haven’t ever seen them perform before I urge you not to just send out an email or chat on the phone before hiring a DJ because they will almost always be acting as your MC. You need to meet them in person. During your face to face consultation, you can see their personality and even ask them to stand and do an introduction for you. When they do, watch for the following elements to see if they have mastered the MC skills needed to do a great job at your wedding:
- Facial expression and demeanor: Do they smile and look happy to be there?
- Body language: Do they slouch, rock or shift about nervously once they begin speaking? Or do they stand straight and tall with confidence?
- What are their speaking skills like? Do they talk so fast you can barely understand them? Or are they so timid you can’t imagine them getting everyone out on the dance floor?
- Do they sound engaged, interested and excited to be there or is their voice flat as if they are reading a nutrition label on a box of breakfast cereal?
- What does their voice sound like? Do they speak with sincerity in their voice or turn on a differently affected performance voice once they’re speaking into a microphone? (Or spoon or ballpoint pen, whatever is handy during your consultation.)
After taking Mark Ferrell’s MC workshop, it is now much more apparent to me how undervalued and overlooked MC skills have been in both the past and present. It’s all the more shocking because everything the MC does is an integral part of your wedding reception and should be considered when you are choosing your Wedding DJ.
WHO DO YOU HIRE?
The first and most important question would be: Were you referred to a particular DJ by someone you know and trust, who hired them for an event and were thrilled by their service? Or were you impressed when you saw them successfully performing at another event? If your answer to either question is yes, that may be all you need to know when it comes to selecting who to hire.
If you’re starting from scratch, here are some tips that may help you decide if a company is going to delight or disappoint you. If you can answer “yes” to all or most of the questions below you’re definitely on the right track to finding a DJ of quality.
Does the DJ you are considering hiring:
- Use a Written Contract? Do they guarantee the date, their arrival and departure time and the rate they are charging you?
- Have Quality Equipment?
- Own a Vehicle Large Enough to Transport all of the Needed Equipment? Or will they forego the correct equipment because they don’t have the space to transport it?
- Come Prepared with Back Up Equipment?
- Have an Appropriate Selection of Music to Play at Your Wedding?
- Know How to Properly Mix Music? If mixed music is what you’re looking for be sure the DJ you’re hiring knows how to mix in the style you’re seeking.
- Dress Appropriately?
- Not Use Inappropriate Language?
- Not Drink Alcohol on the Job?
- Bring an Assistant When Necessary? i.e. not enough time allowed for setting up before guests arrive or lots of stairs that their equipment must be carried up and down.
- Are they a member of an organization that has real standards for business practices and ethics? A group where not just anyone can pay to be a member.
- Rely on Expertise, not Ego?
- Deserve your trust?
- Have Solid MC Skills?
- Know how to Use Their Equipment Properly?
- Understand the Pacing and Timing of the Reception?
- Have a personality that reflects your own and the type of event you would like to host for your guests?
- Care About Your Wedding? Are they honored to be a part of your special day or is it just a job to earn money?
Do you remember in the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” when Julia Robert’s self-centered, no frills character makes the analogy that she is “Jell-O” and in the same breath labeled Cameron Diaz’s sincere character as being “Creme Brulee?”
They are honest, have integrity and treat being a DJ as an occupation, not a hobby. Professionals know that their business requires commitment, effort, and integrity to be successful. They treat their clients with appreciation and respect because they care about the fact that weddings are special events.
I’ve noticed over the years that because they get to know their clients so well, many owners operated “Professional” vendors in all categories, often create friendships with their clients that may last for years or decades. That’s a great thing!
A Professional DJ will incur many overhead expenses to maintain their company and the high level of service they provide to their clients. These costs have to be factored into the price they charge for their services to create a profit margin. The expenses may include but are not limited to;
- Computer and needed software
- Collateral/Printshop: Brochures, business cards, letterhead, etc.
- A website which includes: Design, development, monthly hosting fees, annual renewal for their domain name, periodic updates to their webmaster, etc.
- Continuing Education: Attending educational industry events, workshops, seminars and conferences
- Graphic Designer: Logo design & collateral development
- Equipment: Initial purchase, maintenance, and repair
- Company Vehicle: A DJ has to own a vehicle large enough to transport their equipment to and from your event. Some own a dedicated vehicle and others purchase a larger personal vehicle than they need on a day to day basis simply to be able to transport their equipment on the weekends.
- Gas and mileage: Some events and consultations may entail a 4+ hour round trip to reach the wedding venue
- Vehicle maintenance and repair
- Paying assistants when required to do their job properly
- Advertising: Bridal shows, magazines, etc.
- Hiring a bookkeeper or accountant
Stereotypical DJ’s are like Jell-O
So, How Much Should your Wedding DJ Cost?
- Do you want your guests to be able to hear the ceremony and vows by using an additional sound system not provided by your venue?
- How important is the success of your reception to you and your fiance? Do you want classy intros, someone who entertains (as opposed to interrupts) your guests, unobtrusive sound systems that won’t look tacky in photos and great music & dancing for your reception? How things sound and how successful the dancing goes is especially important if you’ve hired a wedding videographer.
- If you haven’t hired a professional wedding coordinator, do you need the DJ to help you create and execute your wedding day timeline to make sure all of the introductions and announcements are made at the appropriate times? Are you going to count on them to ensure that the photographer and videographer are in place for elements like the toasts, cake cutting, and first dance?
- Do you want a DJ you can trust? That knowing they are there will give you peace of mind that everything is going to go smoothly and that their presence will positively impact the success of your wedding and reception?
- Have you ever hired the wrong person to do an important job? You didn’t realize until things went wrong how important it was to you. Or maybe you were just too busy to be overly concerned and thought you could get by. Whatever the reason, regret sucks when you know you could have had a better outcome if you had done things differently.
If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, you will want to hire the best, most Professional DJ you can afford. What do real DJ’s charge? I will say while there is always the possibility you can find a better than average DJ at any price point, if you want a right or great one they will probably charge at least twice as much as the average estimates you’ll receive.