Tales of Woe

I am having a friend “DJ” my event.

Friends always mean well. But to preserve that friendship, please make sure that your friend is a professional. There is nothing more humiliating to a party host than an unprofessional DJ. It could ruin your “event of a lifetime”.

I was being interviewed by a maid of honor-to-be (the bride lives out of town) and she was sharing her experience from her wedding. Her DJ was a friend of a friend. He showed up in jeans, played the wrong music (his selection was limited because he doesn’t carry over 10,000 titles onsite) and they needed to constantly tell him when things needed to be done during the wedding.

Like with anything else, cheapest isn’t always best. Some folks will pay $20,000 for a wedding and then bargain hunt with the DJ. That is a dangerous approach. A bad DJ can kill a party. The food and the entertainment go hand in hand and if one fails, it can ruin the other. Yes, some entertainers will try to tell you that the food does not matter as much as the entertainment, so just “order chicken”. That is an opinion that I disagree with. Your guests will remember the food and the music, particularly if they have a really good time. The reality is, both go hand in hand and they go together.

Example1: You (as the bride or groom), order filet Mignon for everybody and the chef burns them all. Party is ruined. Even good music may not save it. You will have memories of a terrible dinner that cost you thousands of dollars.

Example 2: The DJ doesn’t show up and you play your music through a boom box (or they “forgot” your First Dance). Dinner is great, but everybody leaves afterwards due to the lack of entertainment (or you feel angry that your wedding song was ruined/forgotten).

We found a friend of the family who is a DJ - AKA My DJ didn't show!

In the past year or so, there must have been 12 or more occasions where I was contacted by clients who needed a DJ because their DJ fell through. More often than not, the DJ turned out to be a “friend of the family”. The common mistake when hiring a friend of the family to perform at a wedding is that no contract is in place because who would want to force a “friend” into such an awkward
situation when they are doing the bride/groom this favor of providing DJ services for free or at a discount? This “friend of the family then figures out that it would be more fun to go away for the weekend or do something else and informs the bride/groom (who obviously is not being treated as a client) that they can’t make it. Of course, this information happens 1-2 months prior to the wedding (if the bride is lucky) so the bride is left scrambling for DJs that are still available (this can be a disaster for May, June, September, October or December weddings).

Think about this. If they are truly friends, they should be on the guest list so they can celebrate and enjoy the event with you. If they aren’t good enough friends to be invited, how important do you think the wedding really is to them?

I will try winging it.

A few years ago I was playing a wedding reception at one of the nicer catering establishments in Maryland. One of the things I always try to do is meet other DJs when there are multiple parties happening at one time. And I love to talk shop. So I visit the DJ in the next ballroom and while we chat she asks me if I have an extra copy of Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis for the First Dance.

Astounded at the question, because she was only ten minutes away from having to do the First Dance, I asked her if she had forgotten it. No, she did have it. But it was a 7-inch single, also known as a
45rpm –I told you it was a few years ago! –with a cigarette burn in the middle of it…and she was going to play it!!! Imagine the poor bride and groom looking into each others eyes during that memorable moment while Elvis sings…then literally crashes and burns.

I went next door and got the CD for her and lent it to her. That one I will never forget. She was going to just play it and say “Oops!”


They called in sick.

I arrived to set up for a Bar Mitzvah at one of the nicer venues in Baltimore about two years ago. The banquet manager recognized me and said “it’s so nice to see you”. I replied “It’s nice to see you too”. She said “No. You don’t understand. Last night was a disaster!”

She went on to tell me that the DJ fell ill and could not make it. The DJ company had no one else available so they had to get a boombox (see “I am having a friend…” above).

Okay, forgive me for being critical, but what IF your contracted DJ is not feeling well. What will he/she do? More importantly, what will you do if the worst happens? How do you know you will get your DJ? It is hard to guarantee. Some companies claim that they have “on call” DJs. So your best case scenario would be to spend months planning your event and just have the “on call” DJ show up. I
hope he/she has your music selection.

When you interview your prospective DJ, ask them what would happen if he/she had one of those days. Look for legitimate experiences that they can share. If they just tell you “don’t worry I’ll be there”, work them a little harder for answers. Each one of us, after doing this for a while, has had “one of those days”.

Cal Ripken Jr. played through injuries and illnesses for 15 years. I have had several of those days too. I also injured my back once. I still made it to the events. I had my good friend Dave help load my car, then when I got to the hall I asked a busboy to help me unload. Then I made it through the party with a smile. End result: A happy customer!

Look at it this way…Have you ever worked in a large office or restaurant or store? There is a certain group of employees that call in sick for the slightest issue or miss work because of one snow flake. There is a certain group that does an okay job but needs the boss to be on them. Then there is a certain group that are just always getting recognition and do exemplary work. The entertainment industry (which we are part of) is the same. Which of those three types do you want as your DJ/Emcee?

Kill the Dance Floor, please.

Have you ever been to a party and were just having a great time on the dance floor? The floor is packed, there is energy in the music and then the DJ “switches” tempo to a completely different style and rhythm, and everyone walks off and says “Awwwww!!”. The dance floor is empty. Why do you think that happened? Do you want that practice to take place at your party? I’ll make sure it doesn’t!