By Dean Hewitt, owner and founder of DJ Dean SA – the leading DJ company in Cape Town
It feels like you are making progress with your wedding planning at last. Things are starting to fall in place and the vision of your perfect day is turning into a reality, slowly but surely.
Your date has been secured, you have booked your photographer, and your décor is a clear picture in your mind after many weekends of endless discussions over a bottle of red wine in front of the fireplace. Your wedding dress is sorted and your perfect day is looming around the corner.
What is the next thing on your list to ensure a winning recipe for your big day?
Bridal couples are often guilty of procrastinating when it comes to booking the entertainment for their wedding day. A DJ that is really worth hiring, along with fair pricing and a noticeable reputation, is usually booked at least one year in advance. In peak seasons such as March / April and December, they are often booked up to 18 months in advance.
Therefore it is of critical nature to book this element of your wedding well in advance. It has been said over and over before, but there are three things that make or break a wedding: food, drinks and the music…
Is it really worth spending a fortune on décor and flowers and then neglecting the music, because your budget does not allow for any further expenditure? People will still talk for months after the wedding about the party of the year, while the proteas on the bridal table will be long forgotten even before the butternut soup during starters have dissolved in the stomachs of your wedding guests.
Now that you realize the importance of entertainment at your wedding, your next step will be to gather a few quotes from respectable suppliers in the industry. My advice to couples is always to not accept the cheapest quote. The old English saying goes: “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” There are also suppliers who are milking the industry and exploiting bridal couples. Don’t pay a fortune for the entertainment at your wedding. Trust your intuition and choose a supplier with whom you feel comfortable, at a fair rate.
Do research via friends and family about the entertainment at their weddings. Visit social media and the internet and ask other suppliers in the industry who they would recommend. This is in fact the people who witness the good and bad of wedding entertainment on a weekly basis.
When you ask for a quote, the DJ company will need the following information to provide you with a formal quotation:
(this is to determine whether the DJ will still be available for your big day or not)
(this is important to determine whether extra travelling cost will be applicable and also what will be required in terms of the equipment – it is usually ideal if your DJ has been to the venue before and knows the setup and layout)
Your name and contact number:
(for administrative purposes)
Amount of guests:
(for a small and intimate wedding of 40 guests you will require far less sound than a big wedding of 250 guests)
For how many hours you will require the music / sound:
(many couples make the mistake of thinking the DJ only starts working when the dance floor is opened after main course. However the DJ is often the person that arrives for setup two hours prior to the start of the ceremony to provide the minister with a cordless microphone, along with some background music to create an atmosphere as the first guests arrive at the wedding and the very last person to leave the premises at the end of the night. All the equipment needs to be set up and dismantled on the day of your wedding. A typical shift for a wedding DJ is usually 12 – 15 hours, starting when they load the gear at home until they reach their home safely in the early hours of the morning)
Do you only require sound for the reception or for the ceremony as well? What about background music during canapés?
(There are usually 3 stages of a wedding: the ceremony, the canapés and the reception. Decide beforehand which entertainment you will require for which stage of the wedding and gather quotes in this regard. Also ensure that your supplier is able to accommodate all these stages with his / her equipment)
The quotes have been gathered and now it is time to make the big decision of which supplier will be responsible for the entertainment at your wedding. Our golden rule is always to provide our clients with a formal quotation within 24 – 48 hours after their enquiry have been lodged. It always seizes to amaze me that people accept the services of suppliers where they waited more than a week just to receive a quotation. What type of service can you expect of this supplier on the day of your wedding? Always have good manners and respond to the quotes of all the suppliers which you made contact with, even if you don’t accept their offer.
Factors to consider before choosing the company that will be responsible for the entertainment on your big day:
- Is the company a licensed DJ company? Very little people know that a license is required to play music in a public environment or at any function. Your big day can be ruined when using an unlicensed DJ company and if a representative of the applicable institution decides to pay a visit to your venue. The music will be called to a halt.
- How much experience does the company have? How good is their ability to read the crowd and how easily will they be able to adapt their music style to match your need? Do they have a variety of music in their artillery?
- What is the quality of the equipment that is being used? Are there any backup in place if required? The hi – fi system in your braai room will simply not sound the same as a professional system worth thousands of rands. You will clearly hear the difference during speeches and the rest of the evening.
- How neat is the system of the DJ and the layout / setup of his / her equipment? How neat and presentable is the person acting as the DJ? There is nothing worse than a bunch of cables lying around in a hall that is elegantly decorated.
- How does your DJ handle requests on the evening? Is he / she calm and friendly and open to requests? Or do they treat the guests with disrespect and is he / she a “know it all” type of person. The party often goes on into the early hours of the morning and how will your DJ handle intoxicated guests and people constantly nagging for requests. It takes a lot of patience and skill to remain professional in situations like this.
- Has your DJ played at the venue before? Do they know exactly what to provide in terms of equipment? Do they know the rules / regulations and layout of the venue? It is one less thing for you as a bridal couple to worry about if your DJ knows the venue.
- Is the company a registered business, who pay taxes or simply just someone that plays music over weekends as a hobby, for extra pocket money? The price and dedication towards their business will differ greatly between the two parties described above.
- Will you have the opportunity to meet your DJ before the wedding to discuss your unique music preferences? Will they give you advice and guidance if necessary? Is the person willing to adapt to your needs?
- How well organized is the person? Do they reply to messages in a swift manner and are they punctual and reliable? Do they make a backup of your musical discussion and how sure are you as bridal couple that the person will pitch up for your event and not double book him- / herself?
- Make sure about the hourly rate after 24h00. Most wedding DJ’s charge a rate per hour after 24h00, payable in cash on the night of your wedding. Budget for this in advance and be well prepared. You don’t want the music to stop at your wedding celebration, because you did not pay attention to the fine print. Take an envelope with cash along to your wedding. If the party stops earlier, you have some extra spending money for your honeymoon.
- Does your DJ arrive alone on the day of your wedding or do they bring along uninvited guests? Most couples end up paying for a meal for their service providers. You don’t want any unexpected surprizes on your big day, so ensure that you work with suppliers that know the industry and practices well.
- What is the depth of the company that you are utilizing and can they guarantee a replacement in the event that your DJ will not be able to render his / her services? DJ’s are also human beings and anyone can fall ill before a function or anything can happen. Does the company however have protocols in place for emergencies such as this and how effectively can they resolve the situation if necessary?
After considering the above factors critically and making the big decision, there will be a deposit payable to secure your booking, as with any other service provider in the wedding industry.
Usually the balance will be payable a week before the wedding, but check with your supplier as they all follow their own set of rules.
The next step is to organize a meeting with the DJ before your big day. Ideal would be to do this a month or two before the wedding, so that the info will be fresh in the mind of your DJ before your wedding. Music changes constantly and you might develop new ideas and preferences building up to your wedding celebration.
Remember that we live in a modern era, with unbelievable technologic possibilities. Life is fast paced and traffic is a reality. If it makes your life any easier, organize a Skype session with your DJ or discuss everything via e – mail in the comfort of your own home / office.
The DJ will require the following information from you in terms of music, before your big day:
- An entrance song for the ceremony:
(only applicable if your DJ is also responsible for the sound at your ceremony – something soft and instrumental if you don’t like the traditional wedding march. Will you require a separate song for your bridesmaids or will the whole bridal party enter on one single song?)
- A song for the signing of the register / A song to “exit” the ceremony:
(just something chilled and soothing, in order to avoid an awkward silence right after completion of the ceremony)
- A song for the tossing of the confetti:
(Make sure the confetti will be tossed in an area close enough to the ceremony, in order for it to be possible for a song to be played. As an alternative you can toss the confetti straight after leaving the ceremony area)
- An entrance song for the reception:
(This is your big moment, when you will arrive as an honoured guest at the biggest party of your life. Choose something cheerful that sets the tone for the rest of the evening)
- First dance:
(A song with special meaning to you as a couple. If the groom is nervous about this formality, ask the rest of the bridal party to join you on the dance floor after 30 seconds. You can even choose a 2nd dance song, if you are unsure of the first dance and have more than one song that you fancy. Ask the venue to dim the lights so that the guests won’t see the movement of your feet on the dance floor)
- Father and daughter dance:
(Optional and not a must. Instead of using an emotional song that will break the mood of the evening, use a song of your father’s favourite band. If you don’t like the limelight, grab your father during the course of the evening for a dance and make sure your photographer catch it on camera)
- Tossing of the garter and bouquet:
(Choose something fun with a nice rhythm and beat which will invite the boys and girls to the dance floor. Use this formality to take a nice group photo of all the boys and girls and keep it informal. Don’t let this formality break the momentum of your evening)
- Cutting of the wedding cake:
(Play something appropriate in the background, in order to create an atmosphere. A good suggestion is to cut the cake when entering the reception. In that way you have one less formality to worry about at a later stage in the evening)
- Exit song at the end of the evening:
(Usually only applicable if the couple knows that they will end the party at a specific time – for example where the venue has a strict cut–off policy. Choose something appropriate with significant meaning for your family or friendship circle)
- Specify songs or a style of music that you would not like to hear at your wedding:
(Not everyone is crazy about the Macarena and Cha Cha Slide. Kurt Darren is also not everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to artists. Obviously the DJ will not play heavy metal and rap at your wedding, unless specifically instructed, but still make it clear in your communication to your DJ)
- Specify your favorite 10 – 20 songs that you would like to hear during the course of the day:
(Many couples interpret this concession incorrectly. We are confronted with lists of music on a daily basis that our couples request. In some cases the list spread well over a 100 – 200 songs. The idea is to inform your DJ of your music preference and not provide him with an entire playlist. Trust your DJ enough and give him / her the necessary freedom to be creative and choose his / her own songs as well, that matches your style and preference. We do not recommend long lists of music. There is a reason why you booked a professional DJ and not a juke box)
Send the above information along with your time schedule to your DJ at least one week before your wedding and you will be guaranteed of an evening with top class entertainment and a night you will never forget.
Let the party begin!