Choosing Your Entertainment...

Takin' Care of Business

Before you ever hear one song at your ceremony or reception, there are decisions and choices that must be made regarding entertainment.

Should you have a band or DJ?
Guitarist or pianist during the reception and cocktails?
What's your entertainment budget?
How do you pay the entertainer?

Knowing the right questions to ask when interviewing potential entertainment sources will give you the information you need to make the correct entertainment choices and decisions. By having a contract you will have peace of mind when that one key element of your big day has been finalized. You'll rest assured knowing that your reception music is in good hands.

Here are some general topics that should be given consideration before you sign an entertainment contract.

Band or DJ?: Bands are no longer the only choice for dance music at a wedding reception. DJs have become as widely accepted as bands in providing musical entertainment for these special occasions. In some areas DJs are even more popular than bands.

Bands create a certain "feel" that cannot be reproduced identically by DJs. Likewise, DJs create their own unique atmosphere that can't be duplicated by bands. However, there are several advantages in hiring a DJ for a wedding reception. Here's a light-hearted look at some of those advantages.

Top 10 Reasons To Book a DJ
10. Any song, any artist
9. All music styles
8. More efficient stage area
7. DJ can play dinner, cocktail and dance music
6. No musical breaks
5. Better volume control
4. Greater musical value
3. Being Able to say three words, "NO Spice Girls"
2. DJ can please more guests
1. Only one mouth to feed

Whatever your choice, band or DJ, you should feel confident that you will have a professional musical presentation for listening and dancing for your guests.

Indoors or Outdoors: Usually wedding ceremonies and receptions are held indoors. Many are now being held at outdoor gardens and other out-of-doors locations. If you plan to have an outdoor ceremony, cocktail hour or reception, be sure to tell any entertainer who may be performing about that particular outdoor segment. Make arrangements to have suitable cover over the stage or DJ area in case of inclement weather. Make sure an adequate number of electrical outlets are available for the band, DJ, or any other performer. Check with your entertainer to establish how many outlets are needed.

The Contract: The first thing you should do after selecting your entertainment is secure a contract from the individual or company. This will insure that you get what you want from the entertainment. It should be written in plain, easy to understand language and contain the following terms:
• Date
• Times (Start/Finish)
• Location
• Price
• Overtime Policy & Fee
• Deposit Policy & Amount
• Cancellation Policy
• Travel Fee (if any)

Let's look in greater detail at some of these points.

Prices or Fees: Prices will vary from band to band or from DJ to DJ. When making your selection consider experience, reputation, availability, professionalism and style. With bands, also consider the number of members or size of the group. Band prices are as low as a few hundred dollars and can range upward as high as you like. DJ fees start as low as $500 and can cost as high as $1500 or more for a basic four hour package. Remember Extra systems for the ceremony can add onto the cost.

Overtime: Overtime is the extra time you would like your entertainment to perform beyond the contracted time. This may be appropriate should you require additional music due to "late-running" ceremonies, or because a great party is in progress and you'd like it to continue. Know beforehand if the entertainment is available for overtime and how much it will cost. This cost should be included in the contract. If you are considering going beyond the contracted time, discuss it with your entertainer to allow them an opportunity to program the music accordingly. Waiting until the last minute may make it difficult to regain the momentum your party had just 15 minutes earlier. Also be absolutely sure the reception facility can accommodate your overtime request if plans change during the reception as they may also charge you extra to extend your time.

Travel Fee:
It is not unreasonable for entertainers to charge an additional fee for traveling outside a "local" area. This might apply for distances over 50 to 100 miles. Fees may be charged by distance or by actual time traveled. If you choose entertainment that is not based in your "local" area, inquire about the amount and whether or not a travel charge is included in the price.

Deposit: Most entertainers require a deposit when signing a contract for an engagement. Deposits may range in amounts from 20% to 50% of the total entertainment fee. The contract should specify under what circumstances you might forfeit the deposit. The deposit should be fully refundable if the entertainer is unable to perform.

Cancellation: Sometimes unforeseen circumstances can force the cancellation of a wedding. You should not lose any part of your deposit due to natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding or other similar occurrences. If you are compelled to cancel your wedding for personal reasons, you may forfeit all or part of your deposit. In some cases you may be responsible for the entire entertainment fee. Give ample notice to your entertainment if you must cancel your reception. In such cases professionals will be willing to work with you. If the entertainment is forced to cancel for a reason beyond their control, they should be responsible for making sure entertainment is "covered" by an equally acceptable replacement if possible. You should be given sufficient notice of any such changes.

Final Payment: Final payment for musical services may be paid any time before the end of the reception, or immediately upon its conclusion. The method of payment (check/cash) should be agreed upon prior to the engagement.


This section is concerned with helping you to understand a few important facets of the music presentation that will make your wedding reception a success. Music comes in all styles. Casual or sophisticated; classical or rock; reggae or jazz; polka or pop. It is played loud or soft and fast or slow. It appeals to young and old. It can make you feel lively or lethargic.

Music subtly augments a cocktail party and enhances dinner guests conversations. Then it energizes the dance floor continuously for hours. Music is a common element of everyday life, but for your wedding celebration, the music should be extraordinary. This section covers several points you should review prior to consulting potential candidates for your entertainment. Some insight will help insure your music will be extraordinary.

Musical Styles: Playing a variety of music styles is a big part of programming that will make the dancing segment of your wedding reception a huge success. Ethnic tunes, oldies, and today's hits should be combined in a cohesive presentation to allow your guests the opportunity to participate in your celebration, and enjoy themselves on the dance floor. DJs have an advantage over bands in this case because they have a broader selection of musical styles at their disposal.

Requests: You may have specific songs which you would like to have played during your reception, and you may prefer to eliminate certain songs or kinds of music. Your special selections and musical wishes should be conveyed to your entertainer well in advance of your wedding day. When guests request music, remember, it is not possible for a DJ to have every song, or for a band to know every song that could be requested; however, DJs do have greater flexibility in handling requests because they don't have to learn the songs.
Guests often request songs that do not "fit-in" with the music programming. Some may request inappropriate songs. Professional entertainers know when it is acceptable to honor requests. If inappropriate requests are played, they will make you look bad. If you, the bride or groom insist on a song being played that is against the better judgment of the DJ or band, they have every right to let your audience know that the song choice is yours and not his. He has a reputation to protect and he should inform the audience why a poor song choice is being played.

Music Taboos: Some music types and songs are unsuitable to play at wedding receptions. Playing heavy metal or gangsta rap, for example, might upset or displease some of your guests. Also, songs containing objectionable language should be played later in the evening, if at all.. Even though you may like a particular song, you will survive if you don't hear it, and you will not cause anyone at your event to be uncomfortable. Your wedding will not be hurt one bit by a song that isn't played, but it could be hurt by a song that is.

Announcements: Whether you book a DJ or a band, you will have someone on hand to MC the festivities. Announcements shouldn't pose a problem for any performer. If you have special announcements simply write them down on a card and give it to the person who is handling the MC duties. Give the names of the wedding party and family members to be introduced to the "announcer" prior to the wedding day. This gives the MC a chance to learn difficult pronunciations. If there is an unusual sounding name on your list, spell it out phonetically or call to clarify its correct pronunciation.

Breaks: Bands may take 3 or 4 breaks during a reception. They could be 15 to 20 minutes in length. Bands might play recorded music during these times. DJs only take a break for dinner, but are capable of ensuring music is playing while they are eating. Continuous music is played during the reception with only brief interruptions to conduct special festivities like a cake cutting ceremony or special introductions.

Sound Levels: Music volume should be kept at an appropriate level so it doesn't "interfere" with the event. Throughout all segments of the reception, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing, the music should add to, or help create the proper atmosphere. During dinner the music should be loud enough to fill in any "dead" air that may occur while people are enjoying their meal. The music level shouldn't be so loud that it is distracting when you are engaged in congratulatory conversation. As the event progresses towards the dancing portion of the event, the volume should increase. The increase should be mainly concentrated on the dance floor. This will add to the excitement of the party. The volume increase should not take away from the enjoyment of any guest as it moves to the foreground. Some people may prefer conversation over dancing. They should be able to find quieter areas away from the dance floor.

Sound System: A moderate size sound system can provide plenty of quality sound for your reception. Depending on the number of guests invited and function room size, sound systems can be customized. If you are planning an unusually large wedding, or perhaps a reception at a sizable outdoor facility, additional sound reinforcement for a band or DJ may be required. Obtaining extra equipment should not be a problem, though it may mean a slightly higher entertainment fee.

Lighting Systems: Unlike nightclubs, discotheques or live entertainment venues, it isn't necessary for the entertainment playing your wedding reception to be equipped with an elaborate light show. Excessive lighting can be distracting. Some effects are disturbing and annoying to older guests. For example, strobe lights can trigger epileptic seizures; therefore, all guests would have to be warned that this effect was going to be used prior to the event. Lighting effects can also add significantly to the entertainment cost. Some lighting might be nice, and add to the overall excitement of your event. Check with your entertainer to discuss your options.

Summary: The music you select for your wedding day will have an impact on each and every one of your guests. From the time before the ceremony begins until the last guest leaves your party, the music will be present. Selecting the right performers to represent you will make your special day one of the most memorable events in your guests lives. Select poorly and that image will be forever in their minds. Remember, if a guest gets a bad meal or a watered down drink, they will be the only one who knows. If a DJ or band plays the wrong tunes or if a singer during you ceremony performs badly, every one knows. You're planning to spend a lot on your cake, dress, the venue, and the invitations to enhance your event. Don't skimp when it comes to the talent! The music is one of THE most important elements of your big day.

There are plenty of qualified entertainers from which to choose. Ask questions, and talk to your friends. You'll feel confident that your music is in good hands if you proceed equipped with as much information as you can get. Remember, everyone attending will appreciate your attention to this major detail.

The DJ

One of the most important positions at a party is the DJ, as the success of the dance entertainment depends on him/or her. It's much more than standing there hour after hour playing music, and introducing your wedding party. The DJ sets the mood of the reception by creating the proper ambiance for cocktails and dinner, and Dancing, announcing Festivities, and handling Requests. DJ’s possess varying degrees of experience, music mixing skill, "crowd reading" ability or perception, musical knowledge, and other intangible qualities which define their talent. Take into consideration all these qualifications when making your decision.

The DJ you choose should also have an extensive music library consisting of music for guests of all ages. He should consult with you prior to the reception and discuss your musical needs, and you should feel totally confident with your entertainment selection.

DJ Attire: Proper attire is subjective. It may be appropriate for a DJ to wear a fashionable shirt and pants. Some may prefer to wear a tuxedo. If you are not concerned with his attire, simply ask him to wear what he normally wears when performing a wedding reception. If your event is casual then the DJ should be made aware of your plans. If formal, he should be similarly advised. A DJ shouldn't charge an extra fee if you would like him to wear a tuxedo. Overall, the appearance of any performer should be neat and appropriate for your particular event.

Entertainers Drinking on the Job: Per company policy entertainers are forbidden from consuming alcoholic beverages while working at an event, unless client gives them specific permission.
Radio DJs for Weddings: When you book a radio DJ, you're paying for his "personality", not necessarily for his expertise on music programming. It is not a requirement of a radio station that a DJ have any music background whatsoever. Some radio DJs may do a fine job of mixing records and programming music in clubs, but generally speaking they are not suited for clubdates or party "gigs" where dancing is of primary importance.

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