Bring On The Tunes: Choosing A DJ/Band
Most likely you’re going to want to get your groove on after dinner at your reception. So who’s providing your music, a DJ or a band? Usually it’s pretty obvious if you’re a band-type of couple, but hey, there’s a good chance you’ve never really given it some thought. Well, here are some thoughts for you!
Having a band is the classic move. Now when I say band, that’s really a general term. You could be thinking a jazz band, a brass band, a string group, garage band, anything! What I mean by “band” is a set of live musicians who know music and use their own rhythmic skills to share it with you. Having a band usually gives the evening a more personal touch, but if you haven’t noticed yet, with weddings a personal touch translates to more money. Hiring a band is more expensive than hiring a DJ, because unless someone is REALLY talented, a band requires more than one person. And DJ’s don’t have to worry about rehearsal time. With a band you’re paying for multiple people, their time both for the reception and for the practice time leading up to it, and their skill. You’re also limited to what they have in their repertoire. Usually a group will let you make special requests and they will take the time to learn the new piece, but you can’t go requesting 15 songs.
A DJ is for the couple who want a larger music variety and/or are concerned with budget. You can usually hire a fantastic DJ for about half of what a decent band will cost. DJ’s generally have an extensive music library, so them having a particular song is typically not an issue (though if you’re wanting something really out there, ask about it just to be sure). Most DJ’s will have a light setup and their own sound system, but can jack into any in-house system your venue may have. They will interact with your guests more than a band probably would, so you need to talk with them at least on the phone if not in person to get a feel for their personality. You want someone who you feel comfortable with and who has the same vibe that you want for your party.
Booking a Band
When you find a group you’re interested in, talk to the group leader/manager. You’ll want to find out what their rates are, and what is included in that rate (# of hours, # of members, # of special request songs, etc), what their outlet/power requirements are, and how they handle breaks (after all, they’re only human! They’re going to need to take a break from performing every once in a while). Ask if they have any public shows you can attend to hear them in person. This will give you an idea of what kind of interaction they have with people they’re performing for. If you can’t see them in person, ask them if they have a sample CD so you can at least hear their music. If you’re lucky, they’ll have some videos up on YouTube you can check (although you can’t judge their sound quality too well via the internet). Though they are less common for this particular service, look for reviews of anyone who’s hired them for a private event (bonus points if you find reviews from other weddings). Look for indications of their song variety, interactions with guests, down time, and anything else you think might be important.
Booking a DJ
What separates most DJs is their personality and their price. Decide what level of interaction you want the DJ to have with you and your guests, how long you want them there, and your budget. When you do your initial search, look for someone who’s information fits the latter two criteria. After you find someone who fits the bill, check for reviews of their service (DON’T look at just the reviews they post on their own website; of course they’re all going to be good). Reviews will usually give you a good idea as to their personality and interaction level (and from anyone who knows the business already, a good indication of their equipment quality), but don’t take them as straight as you would a normal review: a couple bad reviews don’t necessarily mean a bad DJ. Actually read the review, don’t just look at stars/points/whatever. Someone could have rated their DJ badly because they didn’t check on how interactive the DJ would be and weren’t satisfied with the personality mesh (or lack thereof). As long as the bad reviews don’t say anything that literally constitutes bad service, it’s worth talking to them. Ask them how much they interact with the crowd (are they out there dragging people to the dance floor, strictly playing music, or somewhere in between?), about their equipment (do they bring lights, jack into an in-house system or have their own speakers, etc?), and of course their rates.
The “I Can Do It Myself” Route
An option that is gaining popularity is “DIY” music. You set up an iPod or computer (or any other portable music player) with a set and ordered list of music, jack it into the in-house system if there is one or rented speaker set, press play, and leave it to your electronics to take care of the rest (and possibly enlist the help of a friend when it comes time for special dances or activities that need certain songs). The upside to this option is that it can save you a ton of money, especially if your venue already has a sound system you can just plug into. The downside is that you have to trust technology to work correctly, and you have no emcee for the evening, meaning any time you need to get anyone’s attention you have to do it yourself. If you’re having a really low-key evening, this can be perfect for you, but have a back-up music source. There are a number of horror stories (okay horror may be a little strong) about couples who planned on this route and had their device either not work from the get-go (problems connecting to the speaker system, dead batteries, “where’d all the music go from my playlist?” incidents), or have their battery die halfway through the evening. Make sure there is at least one musical back-up, and put someone like the Best Man in charge of it. If you’re planning on having special songs for specific dances or for things like cake-cutting and the bouquet toss, enlist the help of someone who doesn’t have a fear of public speaking to be a temporary emcee to work the microphone. Going the DIY route requires a good bit more planning, but as long as you don’t have to rent speakers (sometimes this can offset any savings you have by not hiring a professional) it can save a pretty penny (even the ugly pennies if you want!).