The right wedding entertainment can truly make or break the most important day of your life. It is as important as the venue, the caterer, the photographer, the cake, the dress… And it is one of the main things that your guests will remember about your wedding day. Did the deejay show up in a t-shirt and jeans? Was he blasting unsensored rap lyrics and dirty dancing with his intoxicated roadie / friends (not on the guest list)? Was the band out of tune and bickering in between mediocre versions of “Celebration” and “Unforgettable”? Before you start ducking behind your fiance in embarrassment, here are some important questions to ensure that your guests will be saying “The music was perfect! It could not have been better.”
What is your budget?
With so much hinging on the quality of the music, it is important to look at your entire wedding budget and weigh the cost of the music in relation to other expenses. In level of importance, the music is right up there with the other crucial elements of your big day. Trying to cut costs here can be a big mistake. Many part-time bands and DJ’s can be very cheap (under $1000), but why would you choose to pay $2500 to rent an outdoor tent and then put an obnoxious DJ, or amateur live band right in the center of it all. The wrong entertainment can be as effective as a rainstorm in making your guests scatter. Consider spending as much on entertainment as you would on anything else that you are paying for on your wedding day. In general, you will pay less for a DJ than you will for a quality live band, and any band that is the same price as the best DJ in your town, is probably not very good.
How do you find the best entertainers?
An internet search for wedding entertainment, disc jockeys, or wedding musicians for hire in your area can be a good start. Any professional wedding band or DJ will have a website that includes a list of services, their song list, audio samples, photos, and testimonials from previous clients. Upon initial contact, they should be able to provide concrete references including brides, venues, and event planners they have worked with in the past. Your wedding planner or venue may also be able to provide names of good quality entertainers AND the bands or DJs that you should be sure to avoid. An entertainment booking agency is another resource that can be helpful in determining the best fit, though you should always get a second opinion (some booking agents are like used car salesmen, and they want to sell you on their acts). Don’t just take their word for it, do some online research and ask a reception venue or event planner in the area if they have heard of the group, or seen them in person.
What about a contract?
Any quality entertainer will present you with a contract to solidify the booking. Often a deposit will be required in advance to reserve the date. The contract will include details regarding the individual (or group) you are dealing with, as well as details of the event (location, arrival/setup time, start and end times). It may also include the band’s technical requirements, meals and lodging may be included, and a request for an alternate location to be provided in the case of inclement weather (for outdoor events). This contract represents a legal bond between you and the group and should protect you in the event that the band does not show or if something goes wrong.
What is included?
When you purchase services from a live band or DJ, this should (but not always) includes:
* Live entertainment or DJ service for a specific time period with the option of extending the time the day of the event if needed.
* All sound equipment (and lighting – if required).
* MC (Master of Ceremonies) service. Some emcees are better than others and you should speak specifically about what announcements you would like to have made: this could help prevent an over-zealous DJ from trying to force the party in a direction you do not want it to go. Most professional wedding bands will include emcee service at your request (introducing the wedding party and working with your event planner to assist with the flow of the evening).
* A microphone for announcements and toasts
* Travel expenses
Who do you recommend?
Excellent wedding entertainment is out there and not too hard to find. A little research (from more than one source) can go along long way towards making your wedding day even more special AND most importantly, towards preventing any disasters! Remember that prices vary, and the best price is not always the best deal. The safest bet is a regionally known wedding band or DJ who specializes in performing for weddings and can provide concrete evidence of a track record. The cost of the group will often be in direct correlation to two factors: First, the number of people in the group (a ten piece band tends to be more expensive than a trio) and more importantly, their level of demand (the group everybody wants tends to charge more because their calendar gets booked up fast).