There are many red flags to watch out for when booking your DJ or other wedding professional. Anyone selling gear over talent is a big red flag.
Clearly, it is important than your DJ or photographer have quality equipment. You want high quality sound and clarity from your DJ’s equipment. You also don’t want them to be blowing out anybody’s eardrums either. Likewise you want your photographer to have a good quality camera with multiple lenses to ensure that your once-in-a-lifetime photos are clear and well composed. Even more important is that your professionals have backup equipment should something fail during an event. You don’t want your DJ’s computer to crash half way through the father/daughter dance leaving you in awkward silence while they try to fix it, or worse leaving you without music for the rest of the night.
What you want to watch out for are services who solely boast about their high quality gear and huge music libraries rather than the level of service that they provide. This tends to show that the service is not confident in their own abilities. It’s far more important that the DJ know how to deal with any situation, how to behave professionally, and that they have the right music that they’ll need for your event. There is a lot of work and experience required for a DJ to ensure that your wedding or special event goes smoothly. It’s a big risk hiring the cheapest DJ you can find to provide the entertainment for one of the most important days in your life. See my article on “When does the entertainment start?” for more information on just how much your DJ is doing on your wedding night itself, not to mention all the prep and planning that goes into a wedding.
In an average night, you’ll hear about one hundred songs. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if your DJ has one thousand songs or one million songs. What matters is that they have the right songs and that they know the right time to play them.
The barrier for entry into DJing has become much lower over the years. Anybody can buy a decent quality PA speaker system, a cheap laptop, and then pirate their music. This is part of the reason I see DJs flaunting their huge music libraries as a big red flag. Music is expensive and it takes years to put together a solid library of legal music. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a DJ is flaunting a music library of 100,000+ songs and they’ve only been in business for six months, something doesn’t add up. Even buying each song at the minimum $1 per song that you’ll find on iTunes would have a cost of over $100,000. Even more suspicious is when that DJ is willing to provide the entertainment for your event for $300. That would mean that they would have to do over three hundred events just to pay for their music library, and this of course is ignoring all the other costs of running a legal and professional business. But of course, these people probably aren’t interested in running a legal or professional business. When the legality of their music is questionable, chances are the quality of the music is also questionable. There’s a big difference in the sound quality of a song purchased legally, and the quality of a song ripped from a YouTube video. Even more questionable is the quality of their service.
It takes years of experience and dedication to become a professional, especially when it comes to weddings. There’s many different ways to format a wedding, and many different cultures and traditions that people observe. Weddings are a very expensive one time event. You don’t get a do-over. It’s important that you can trust and rely on the people that you’ve hired to provide your wedding services.
When booking your professionals, it is imperative that you ensure that they are in fact a legal and licensed business. This may seem obvious but it’s a step that many people overlook. When a business is a fraction of the price of the other professional businesses in the area, it’s important that you stop and ask yourself why they’re a fraction of the price. Are they experienced? Do they have a business license? Do they have backup equipment? Do they have a legal music library? Is their business their primary source of income? Do they have other priorities?
I’ve seen it time and time again where a wedding professional cancels right before a wedding or worse simply doesn’t show up. I’ve had frantic calls at the last minute to find out if I’m available to DJ their event because they can’t get a hold of the person they hired. I’ve even heard of DJs calling up their client and telling them last minute that someone offered them more money so they took that job instead. What’s worse is that there’s often no legal recourse because the client didn’t sign a contract. A contract is what protects both you and your wedding professional. A contract provides legal recourse if your professional doesn’t show up or doesn’t provide the services agreed upon. See “The importance of contracts” for more information on why it’s absolutely necessary to have a contract.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and always be looking for red flags. If something isn’t clear, ask for clarification. Ask about business licenses, backup equipment, insurance, and music libraries. Ask about how they will attire themselves. Ask for pictures from previous events. It’s important to see that they care about presentation. Ask about their experience with that kind of event. Ask them how they would deal with various situations that could arise. Protect yourself. Make sure you’re getting a qualified professional rather than someone who does it for some extra cash on the side.