Having been a professional wedding entertainer for going on 16 years, I have been a part of nearly every kind of party you can think of. I have done things in each spectrum of a budget, from backyard bar-b-que's for exposure when I first started, to private corporate events, weddings, and all sorts of in between events.
"A lot of people, however, never hire,
or only once or twice hire a DJ, party planner,
videographer or other wedding pro.
What a seemingly daunting task."
There are sites dedicated to helping brides find vendors such as The Knot (which we have won Best of Weddings for the last 3 years in a row) and WeddingWire, (which we have won also for the past 3 years in a row) and local magazines and other online planning systems. Then once you find a source for reputable vendors, how do you pick the right one for you?
If you do want to hire a
DJ , photographer, venue, or other vendor:
Here is a list of 10 questions you should consider asking, and why they are important.
What kind of verifiable experience do you have?
You'll want to ask this question because it covers many questions. This let's you know how long the DJ has been in business, if the DJ has reviews, on a website where you can get information, and may sometimes answer some of the questions below.
The type of experience is also important because each type of function, (or event, or party or wedding) has it's own unique knowledge needed to ensure that it runs smoothly. (Playing trance metal during dinner at a wedding is something to almost surely be out of place, and playing The Piano Guys at a 50's-60's classic car show is guaranteed to yield the same results.)
Also, does the vendor come with recommendations from other vendors? Is the vendors website full of stock photos? or can you see real events they have been a part of? We have won Best of Weddings from The Knot for the last 3 years in a row as well as Couples Choice from Wedding Wire also for the last 3 years in a row.
Do you bring all of your own equipment, and (how old is it)?
Yes, this is technically two questions, but they are both important, because some DJ's do not have their own PA system, or adequate lighting to extend past a small to medium size guest count. Speaking of PA lighting, this is definitely a factor in terms of age. Older PA systems will not only look outdated and not be as aesthetically pleasing, they will also usually draw more power, and take up a larger physical footprint in the room. In addition to looks and power consumption, reliability is also a factor. In some limited power situations this could trip a breaker if there isn't adequate power, or if someone plugs in something unknowingly on the same circuit. Some photographers still shoot film with manual exposure over DSLR and your pictures will reflect this in their stylistic quality. We bring all of our own gear and equipment required for any combination of services we are providing. We even sometimes provide equipment for other musicians, officiants, and any speeches being made.
3. What are the terms of your contract, deposit, cancellation policy, final payment?
The terms of a contract are important. Some require particular details to be adhered to. Always read the contract in full for whichever vendor you decide to work with. Mike Bell Weddings requires a 50% deposit on the services which you choose to invest in for your wedding day, and the final balance is due back 30 days prior to the wedding. Cancellations must be done before 90 days ahead of the wedding, and only the initial deposit is potentially refundable.
Who will actually work my wedding on the day of?
You may be thinking: "The person I talked to on the phone? Right?" Sorry, the answer is not always. DJ companies, photographers, videographers, florists, bakers, and more have highly trusted employees that work for them, and are either training under the expertise of an industry pro, or are already a pro in their own right. Others sadly are fledgling trainees and are simply not to handle a solo event but are sent anyway to keep the numbers rolling at the office. Make sure to ask: Who is the actual person going to be day of? You should also ask to meet them if possible. If geography prohibits this, ask to try a FaceTime(Free Apple to Apple device, and most people have an iPod, iPhone, or iPad, etc.), or Facebook video Chat, for a more personal consultation.
What services do you offer?5.
Some companies only offer a single service, such as DJ, others offer DJ, and lights, and some DJ's even offer MC services. Other companies offer many package choices with differing options. "Mike Bell Weddings" services 3 portions of peoples wedding. The Ceremony, the Cocktail Hour and the Reception. You can choose ceremony officiant, lights, live music or pre-recorded, sound system, microphones, remote location sound system. All of our services and pricing are very transparent, with easy to understand contracts and order forms, and makes reserving your date stress free and easy. You can even pick all of your songs online through our website!
Can I customize those services, or is my wedding just like everyone else's?
Many wedding companies have packages, and every wedding is the same for them. Some packages decide for you which certain songs will be played, with no requests allowed. We customize your experience. At a "Mike Bell Weddings" wedding, everything from details such as the ceremony being scripted and tailored to each individual couple, and their wishes. Non denominational, spiritual, religious and non religious ceremonies can be performed. Readings, prayers and special inclusion ceremonies such as hand binding, sand pouring, wine box sealing, child vows etc. can be incorporated.
7.What will you wear to my event?
Over my 15 years in the industry and having experience with as many types of events as I have, that there is no one right attire to wear to all events, there is a right attire to wear to each event. That means that some events call for jeans and a t-shirt (car show), some black tie(wedding, awards party), and others are on a beach and an aloha shirt and some shorts fit right in. We always make sure to ask what attire your guests are expected to wear, and we dress accordingly. Nothing like an odd out of place t-shirt, tennis shoes and shorts at your black tie event to ruin all of your pictures, and distract your guests.
Is there another company that you feel offers a comparable service that could be recommended to also inquire with?
This one is huge. First: any vendor who will openly refer you to another vendor to potentially lose your business shows that the vendor wants to ensure your wedding goes perfect, even if it's not them you choose. This also shows you their level of confidence in the product/service that they offer. I personally don't know of another company offering the service that I am offering, with the pleasantry, or skill level in which I offer it. I've looked. I want you to look elsewhere, and see where the value in investment lies. I realize not all couples have that much extra time to search endlessly for professional wedding help, but that's my wish.
Is this a full or part time business?
A part or full time designation doesn't always decide quality, nor experience, but a full time vendor who relies upon this job as their sole source of income may go the extra mile for you, vs a large chain company such as a hotel, etc. A part time vendor will find it nearly impossible to gain the experience required to be a true professional. It's my personal advice if you can afford to, to invest in vendors who invest in themselves. Is their business well branded? Can you find them on social media easily? Do they keep up with their social media? How old are the pictures on their website? "Mike Bell Weddings" is a full time operation, which requires our full attention. We believe in ourselves, and know that you will too.
What makes your business different?
Ask many a DJ this, and they will tell you: "I read a crowd" or "I bring ultra-nice speakers" or my favorite: "I play only great music at a reasonable volume" or something to that effect.
Those are basic job duties for a DJ. A photographer may say "I capture the PERFECT moment", or "I know this amazing location" : <- that's what you're paying them to do already! Finding out what makes them different will help you decide whether or not they fit you vision in your budget.
Finding out what truly makes a vendor different ensures your wedding will be SPECIAL and UNIQUE. Mike Bell Weddings offers a wedding dj package which is serviced by me playing ukulele or guitar and singing for your guests as you walk down the aisle to greet me as the ceremony performer. I provide an LSP-500 speaker system and microphones, and sometimes even lights if the ceremony is indoors.
Each couple has a script handwritten just for them, . After the ceremony, I play more music for everyone though my LSP-500 PA system, for cocktail hour, and then DJ, and MC as well as provide lighting for the reception and a USB recording of the night is provided.
I even write wedding music just for you and your love, telling YOUR story. That's right: I can tell your story with a song. Just call me and ask for a sample.
Final Thoughts: Investment
I know that sounds like a lot of jobs doesn't it? That's just part of why and how I know that I am special and unique, that my company "Mike Bell Weddings" is unique, and ultimately, that is how YOU know that I will do my best to make you feel, and your guests feel that your wedding is/was special and unique.
You may see the term "investment", and think: "Hey? What's that about?" I'll tell you. You're investing in your memories. Every vendor you bring into your circle to comprise your team is a link in the chain who will be working at their maximum capacity for the day to ensure it goes as perfectly as possible. The downside to this, is that a circle made of links is only as strong as the weakest one.
While conventional advice is to invest in the strongest chain you can afford, and while even I would agree to a point, but don't buy a chain so large that it could tow a ship, when you need a chain to lock up a bicycle, and vice-a-versa. Pick what is right for you and your spouse to set you on the best journey in life, and invest wisely. Consider your options, and whether the vendor you're interested in is willing to work with you or not.
Stay tuned for our next Blog:
"Investment: How much should I expect to spend?"