Thursday, July 5, 2012

Getting the party started - Music

Time for a wedding planning update! I know some of my dedicated readers already know a bit about what has been going on, but its time to fill everyone else in with sprinkled tidbits for anyone currently or future planning. 

We recently hit the 14 months-to-go mark and decided lets get our music and photography out of the way now at the same time. Well folks, its really hard to knock out two things at once when you also are a full time student and your fiance is doing an internship. The good news: we've booked our music! 

So here's the lowdown: The decision between band versus DJ will come down to mainly two issues: personal preferences versus budget. In the area we are looking to hire from bands - true bands with a minimum of 4 people, start at about $3,000 and can go upwards of $10,000. DJs, on the other hand, can start at about $500-$700 and go up to about $2,000. So if you knock out the high-ballers and low-ballers, you get a comparison of about $5,000-$6,000 to $1,500. Big difference. Given that our venue is a bit of a splurge, the music had to fall into a certain budget to remain acceptable to the paying parties. Hence, we chose to go DJ. 

A word of advice: Prices and quotes are often not online for bands or DJs. Don't be afraid to send emails to whoever seems interesting to you. Then create a folder/label in your inbox for wedding, and maybe even a sub-folder for music if you anticipate having to sort through many emails. 

During our search, we always received prompt email responses, whether it was band or DJ. This was great because we did not have to worry about scheduling time to speak over the phone. It also made it easier to schedule a day to go visit the area and make it a productive trip by seeing several entertainers in one day. (Remember, this advice is coming from someone planning a wedding over 2 hours away from where I live). At one point we questioned whether we would need to meet the DJs in person... after all, its not like they are playing music themselves. With bands, you would want to know if you like the singing voice, the style of their covers, etc. From the little research I did, sometimes bands will have a showcase, a non-wedding event that you can listen in on, or demos to show you in person. That's as far as my knowledge goes with regards to researching/choosing a band. It's true, DJs are different. However, Don't be fooled - meet with DJs before making a decision. We met three in one day, and each one was extremely different. You'll want to see the personality of the individual DJ in addition to hearing what they have to say about how their business works and how they present the information. We learned more by meeting these DJs in person than we ever would had we just picked someone online. By the time we got home, we had one definite rule-out and were very torn between the other two DJs - in a good way. We knew both would be great, we had no worries about that. But each had something a little different to offer that we really had to sit down and weigh out which DJ felt like a better fit for the type of event we want to have. We had to take into account our venue setting, and our guests' styles. Ultimately, I think and hope we made the right choice!

Here are some closing tidbits that may be useful:
  • WeddingWire and theKnot both have ratings that can be very useful as an initial guide. This was the first experience I've really delved into WeddingWire's website and actually found it very helpful. It will get posted to the wedding links page. 
  • We found out "booking time" for DJs is within the 9-12 month window; we happened to be a bit ahead of the game. 
  • Questions to ask: 
    • Do they MC? Do they bring an assistant?
    • How far in advance do they arrive? Is there a fee associated with that?
    • Do they cover cocktail hour?
    • Do they offer lighting?
    • Are they required a hot meal/vendor meal? 
    • Where is their back-up equipment kept on the day of the wedding? 
    • What happens if they die on the day of your wedding?
    • How flexible are they with "must play" and "do not play" lists?
    • How do they handle song requests by guests that are on your "do not play" list?
    • If the crowd needs some encouragement, how do they get the party started?
    • Do they tend to be more hands on, or more hands off?
    • How long have they been in the business?
    • Do they coordinate with the venue/maitre'd with regards to "special moments" during the reception?
    • And of course: cost, payment schedule, overtime fees, etc...

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