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Wedding Articles: Choosing a Disc Jockey

There is one person you will contract for your wedding reception that by the nature of the task, will be in total control of the day's ebb and flow. No, it's not the caterer, photographer, limo driver, videographer, florist or the function hall manager. Those people are important, but will have far less influence on the day's outcome. The person that I am referring to is your Disc Jockey / Master of Ceremonies. You'll trust this person - the DJ/MC - to set the tempo and provide the atmosphere you desire. Your DJ entertainer is the person you will rely on to ensure the success of your reception from the moment the guests arrive for social hour till you say "goodbye" and dance the last song. 

No one else commands the mood of your day such as your Disc Jockey/Master of Ceremonies. For satisfactory results, the person you select for this important task should be chosen carefully based on their credentials and not hired just because it was a friend of a person you know or because it's someone who offered to do it for little or nothing. 

Your goal in shopping for a DJ should be to determine who offers the most experience, professionalism and talent. First, look for someone who is anxious to do business with you. If your call or email is returned promptly, that's a good sign. You'll probably want to work with someone who is pleasant and personable. The DJ should be able and willing to take the time to offer some constructive ideas to help you plan the events of your day. After all, this may be your first or second time around, while the DJ you hire should have attended hundreds of receptions and should have plenty of knowledge in this area. Flexibility to your wishes, incorporating your ideas into the event is important too. Look for a DJ who will work with you, not one who sets their own agenda. Find a DJ who not only possesses a wide selection of music and pro-grade sound equipment, but also is skilled at how to employ both for the best results. After all, owning a hammer is one thing, building a house with it is quite another. Don't confuse a lower price as an indication of a better value either. One of life's sad truths is that the best things usually cost more and that certainly applies to the Disc Jockey profession. Every DJ out there will ask for what they think they are worth. Like selling a house, the market, not the seller usually determines the value and thus, the sale price. 

The Personality Sets The Tone
One important aspect in the composition of a Great Mobile DJ/MC is the ability to provide your event with an entertaining personality, tempered to your taste and having the "right demeanor" as one guest pointed out to me. Adding personality to an event does not mean telling longwinded jokes, teasing someone in the audience or talking between every song, rather it's knowing when one needs to speak, what to say and how to say it in order to embellish the event. A pleasant voice, polished-smooth delivery, good pronunciation skills and the ability to ad-lib without being too wordy is essential. Hiring a Veteran DJ, one with a minimum of ten years experience on the wedding circuit, is your best guarantee of getting an individual who knows how to run all of the reception formalities properly, perhaps with a little panache and creativity. 

Some couples like a DJ who has the ability to motivate the audience and get them involved with the program. He (or she) may add a dab of humor to make the occasion a bit more eventful and if requested by the sponsors of the event, conduct some special activities or dances. Others, may prefer a very low profile DJ that mixes from one tune to the next and announces "no smoking, please" every half hour. I find that most clients like the personality setting someplace in the middle, meaning that your Master of Ceremonies / Disc Jockey should get the party moving, yet not become the center of attention. Most clients want to maintain a certain level of "Class". A seasoned entertainer should be able to do this.

The Music Selection Sets The Mood
If you hire a Professional DJ, you'll be able to trust his or her expertise at selecting the right music to fit your audience. A well-equipped DJ is able to offer you thousands of musical selections of any era or style. A good music library should have something for every stage of the event. As the guests arrive, perhaps you would like to hear some stylish classic jazz from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday or Stan could slip in a little Sade too. When dinner is served a softer instrumental mix is usually appropriate, (classical, new age, modern jazz, soft piano, guitar, etc.) and then for dancing everything from the big band of the 30's to what's on the chart now is fair game. Musical styles will vary from one DJ to the next. Some DJs stick mainly to the basics that you hear at virtually every wedding you attend (YMCA, Chicken Dance, Macarena, etc.) while others get more creative with the mix and steer clear of those tried and true standards in favor of what I like to call "a fresher mix". A music library on compact disc is most desirable, although some still employ records or cassettes, so if you're picky about sound quality, be sure to ask. 

The Sound System Delivers The Goods
For the person with discriminating taste, a professional grade sound system is essential. The quality of sound systems can vary greatly from one DJ company to the next. Some cut corners here with department store home stereo components or inexpensive, low-end commercial gear. A properly outfitted DJ will invest in excess of $10,000 for a top-notch professional system, including a compact disc music library. Someone equipped as such probably won't be the low bidder. 

"Do you carry back-up equipment?" is a question I hear frequently. Back-up equipment isn't necessary IF the DJ has invested in the good stuff to start with and IF it has been maintained properly. I turn over my equipment about every year to keep the mileage low. In the 20 years I've been a Mobile DJ I have had no problems (knock on wood) so my theory must be right. That being said, I do suggest keeping an extra CD player on hand, just in case, as this is the most fragile component we use and has lots of small moving parts. 

Neatness counts too. The equipment should be rack mounted in a podium style case, not stacked one component on top of the other with wires running every which way. 

Dress For Success
Since your entertainer is a reflection of your taste and is on display oftentimes to hundreds of guests, you should find a person who complements your reception, physically. Tuxedos are usually a must and clean-cut, good looks certainly don't offend anyone either. Ask to see photos of the performer in action. Loud promotional banners and billboard-type signs are a no-no also. 

How To Sort Them All Out
By now, any DJ who is even remotely serious about the business has a website. Visit the web site and read up on their philosophy and approach to the job. You should be able to judge the knowledge and potential success of each. Every website should cover the topics above and should show some photos of the DJ in action. A good DJ website should also include plenty of references too. 

Experience & Credentials
Many practicing DJs are weekend part-timers, some are pulled off the street and "instructed" on how to do the job. Some DJ companies are national franchises. The problem is that is that DJ business isn't like "The Golden Arches". You can't sell talent for a franchise fee. So if you the company name sounds a bit too generic ("Acme DJs of America") or you're steered to what appears to be a national website where you click your mouse on the state where you're holding your function to find the closest DJ, you'll see what I am talking about. Remember, just because you have an ad in the yellow pages doesn't mean that you know what you're doing, and just because you may have the largest ad in the book, doesn't mean you're the best. 

Inquire about professional credentials and background. An individual with professional broadcast experience, (radio personalities like those here at Pete Chambers & Associates) is a big plus, as the skills practiced and perfected on-the-air are essentially the same as those needed on the road. If you're convinced by what you see online, hear over the phone and from references, you may feel comfortable reserving the date. If you're still unsure, schedule a meeting with those who impress you most.

Your wedding reception is probably the most detailed and ambitious event you will ever plan. At what other time will you be the host or hostess to such a large group of people, with you at the center of their attention?

Hiring a competent entertainer will put your mind at ease, on this, the biggest day of your life. A truly professional DJ may cost less than the hors d'oeuvres and will be remembered far longer.

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