We asked Leigh of Musical Cheers Entertainment for his advice on choosing a DJ for your wedding entertainment.
I never expected my incessant ranting on the weddings.co.nz forum would land me an opportunity to spiel on the website itself (my over-enthusiastic self promotion usually just gets me banned from websites). Never wanting to pass up an opportunity to trumpet the cause for professional DJs everywhere, I thought it might be fun to pass on some of the knowledge gained from more than ten years providing entertainment for weddings, birthdays, pubs and clubs, in fact, just about anywhere you could set up decks (and even a few places they said we couldn’t).
Although I have worked with many bands over the years, both as a DJ doing breaks and also as a pub owner hiring entertainment, I am first and foremost, a DJ and accordingly, you might expect this article to be marginally slanted in favour of using a DJ over a band for wedding entertainment.
What’s that? Chickenpox! I forgot whose blue socks? You down the back with the ‘chicks dig unix’ t-shirt… speak up if you have something to share!!. Oh, jukebox. A jukebox you say? A nameless, faceless machine in the corner with its feeble 10 inch speakers straining out the same song half a dozen times in a night is not a serious entertainment contender. ‘Nuff said!! Now quiet until I’m finished. There’ll be questions at the end.
OK, so the question for now is band or DJ? Let me first say how much I love bands. They work hard and practice for many hours to be able to play their music well. Quiet down all you DJs– I’m not suggesting that DJs don’t. Those that take pride in their mixing skills may practice for many hours longer per week than most bands, simply due to the difficult logistics of having to get a group of people together. But therein also belies the beauty of the band. Witnessing a good band playing a tight set and enjoying every minute of how they sound collectively, with each member doing their individual part but still having to work together, is a type of energy that a DJ as an individual cannot replicate. (Note: I’m just being nice really - our PC-controlled intelligent lighting system and laser show kick band booty badly – he he).
One drawback is that typically bands will be able to play less than 100 songs well, as opposed to your average DJ that has 1,000s of tracks instantly at his fingertips. This ability to read the dance floor and instantly adjust the music flow to suit the guests, not to mention the hugely increased request taking ability, is one area we have them seriously beaten.
Another argument I have heard from the band camp…what’s that? you sniggering something about a flute there unix boy? Look, do keep quiet until the end. As I was saying, an argument I have heard from those that favour bands is the adlib factor. This is the ability for bands to extend pieces of the music or perhaps, change words to suit the occasion. I don’t really understand this one. Given the right occasion and equipment, good DJs can create instant remixes on the fly using loops, samples, and scratching to create an adlib fest I defy any band to compete with (wedding idol anyone – ha ha).
OK, so you’re not yet convinced that a DJ is the best option, and that’s good. Choosing the right entertainment for your wedding reception is one of the biggest decisions you have to make (other than deciding to go through with it in the first place). What is right for one reception may not be suitable for another. Although your entertainer should be able to vary their style and music to suit the occasion and guests, I would encourage you to contact as many entertainers as you can before deciding on the most suitable. No-one will panic too much if there is no chicken on the menu or that your bridesmaid only barely squeezes into the dress you chose six months ago with the help of a few well placed safety pins but you throw your auntie’s friend’s son with his home stereo into your reception and watch the fun. Don’t get me wrong, your friends and family are happy to see you getting married (mostly) and will go out of their way to enjoy themselves but how much better could it have been if you had budgeted for professional entertainment?
This leads us to the big question. How much to budget? Entertainment is one of the few remaining industries where price is not always the best indication of performance. Prices vary wildly from entertainer to entertainer and sometimes, even from show to show using the same performer??!! Realistically, prices for DJs and bands vary anywhere from $500 to $2,000 plus. There are often less experienced DJs that are very good and willing to play for less until they become more established. Unfortunately, there are many more completely crap DJs that are also willing to play for less and it may be difficult to tell the difference until it is too late ( New Zealand has no official DJ association or licensing requirements). As a bare minimum, all professional entertainers should be willing to meet with you in person before the event to discuss what they can do and may be able to provide dates for other shows so you can see them perform.
So back to the price issue – as a rough yardstick indicator, here is what I will charge you. For a four hour Saturday night wedding show, including wireless microphones and spotlights for speeches, PA and automated background music for the ceremony, 5,000 Watt Sound System including Technics turntables, with computer controlled intelligent lighting & laser show at most indoor venues in the Wellington Region, we charge $600 (including GST).
To confirm your booking, most entertainers will require a booking deposit of between 10 and 50%. Ours is generally 25% of the total fee with the balance to be paid on the night (preferably before we begin, so we can concentrate on giving you the best performance possible without worrying about the joys of locating semi-intoxicated relatives at the end of the night).
Regardless of who you choose to entertain at your wedding, ensure they provide you with written details of exactly what their service offers, including timing for setup and performance, equipment (particularly if you have special requirements such as a separate sound system for the ceremony), plus any additional information such as wedding songs, bridal marches, first dance etc. All professional entertainers are happy to provide this.
Well, that’s it - thanks for reading to the end. Best Wishes for your special day and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions at all regarding entertainment. Even if you are using someone else and just want some impartial information, we are always more than happy to provide free no-obligation advice.
Leigh Williams of Musical Cheers Entertainment is a qualified Radio Technician with more than ten years DJing experience.