The evening party is the longest single section of your wedding day (often over 6 hours) and the last thing on your mind should be is everyone having a good time. A professional, conscientious DJ or band knows that keeping everyone happy is a huge responsibility. Unfortunately, due to the recession there has been a huge increase in newly formed wedding suppliers operating as a sideline at weekends at very low prices. (This applies to all types of services not just music). A quick visit to Vista print and voila, another ‘expert’. This makes finding established reputable companies much harder as some are far better at marketing their service than actually doing it.
You’ve just one opportunity to get it right so hopefully these pointers will help you find the good ones by asking the right questions.
Ask to see recent testimonials as nothing speaks more highly of a service than previous delighted brides. A professional band or DJ should have countless if they are as good as claimed.
Ask bands for a demo CD, better still, go and see them perform. Many will say no due to all their bookings being private. In which case ask for a video. Everyone has a smart-phone nowadays capable of video so they would have been filmed many times by previous guests and wedding videographers. Otherwise ask to see them rehearse. If they say they don’t need to rehearse (as they’re so busy) then it’s gone full circle and there’s no excuse for them not having any video. Yes, bands are fussy about showing inferior ‘camera’ footage so this should be taken into account but it’s still an extremely good indicator of what they do, presentation and audience reaction.
It’s tempting to use a ‘mates’ band or disco but as this is such an important part of your evening party, do not compromise on quality. Professional bands/DJ’s have the time and experience to take the quality to a much higher level. They will have back-up musicians, spare equipment and contingency plans. They can set-up early and can allow plenty of time for traffic. The show must go on and professionals know this.
When you see video footage, photos, etc remember nothing says amateur more than a singer with lyric sheets. They cannot deliver a performance if they do not know what they are singing about? They will not be able to fully engage with an audience while glued to the spot reading lyrics?
Do not assume fully professional DJ’s/bands will be dearer. An amateurs day jobs may prevent them from getting to you as early as you would like without incurring costs. By the time amateurs take time off work they can actually be dearer than professionals, especially mid-week.
Whatever your own musical tastes, to keep everyone dancing you have to consider you will have aunts, uncles, grandchildren and grandparents in attendance all with different preferences. The key word here is ‘mixture’. The skill of the band/DJ is also in knowing when to play each song so as to attract people to the dancefloor without losing those already on it. A band or disco that plays 2-3 nights a week will be slick, polished, well rehearsed and adept at reading dance-floors.
A wedding is a family reunion so people like to be able to talk as well as dance. High volumes can spoil the enjoyment especially for the older generations. The aim is to play to the dancefloor, not to fill the entire room with sound. Professional DJ’s and bands realise they are a paid service and will listen to volume requests.
Is the band you are booking the band that will actually turn up on the day? Many bands are in ‘name only’ and musicians are assigned to each wedding based purely on who is available. They would attract you to book them with generic publicity and demos from an original line-up (obviously the best one). Be aware, the actual musicians you get at your wedding may never have even met each other. Of course they all know the songs but it takes time for musicians to gel and they certainly will not have any kind of rapport. Plus if they are all reading sheet music they are certainly not going to ‘perform’. The ‘same’ band is therefore capable of playing all over the country simultaneously.
Ensure your band or DJ has Public Liability Insurance and PAT tested equipment. Most venues insist on seeing copies and will not allow uninsured acts to perform. A DJ using .mp3’s converted from CD’s has to have a ‘Pro-dub’ licence (and prove they own the original CDs they are copied from) otherwise they are illegal. Random spot checks are carried out even at weddings. Having these certificates is the responsibility of the band or DJ. This is why some DJ’s are so cheap. If they are cutting corners and taking risks, so are you. They could be turned away or asked to stop by the venue or performing rights society.
Professional bands should accept they are a paid service and should not expect any special treatment such as hot meals laid on (unless they have been there all day – no-one else gets fed at work). Of course they do have certain requirements (and it’s always appreciated if they are allowed something from the buffet) but they should appreciate you have got enough to think about and organise without looking after them.
If a band or disco is recommended by a venue then it’s a good indication that they are not too loud. A venue will not want to lose their licence by continuously upsetting their neighbours!