December 30th, 2014 - 3 Rules for Finding Top-Quality Wedding Vendors and Services
Engaged couples in search of wedding vendors all want top notch service, a company with a great reputation that can be verified by numerous client reviews and an impressive, informative website that is fast loading, responsive and optimized for all their mobile devices. They seek the very best quality product and flawless results that will totally match their vision of the perfect wedding day… and oh yes, they need all that for the very lowest price. The grim reality is that “the best” and “the cheapest” don’t normally go hand in hand, regardless of the product or service. But why do some charge so much more?
The truth: it costs a top-level vendor more to use the best ingredients, gear, techniques or technology; to have the latest model, designer fabric or the best equipment and also to bring reliable back-up along, just in case. It costs top-level vendors more to keep up on the latest innovations in their field by attending conventions and seminars to constantly improve on their craft. It costs them more to hire reliable, skilled professionals who take pride in their work, show up early, well-dressed and groomed and willing do whatever it takes to meet or exceed the client’s expectations. Cheaper gear and labor allows for a lower price to the consumer… along with a lower level of quality and far less impressive results. Amateurs who do weddings part-time can charge whatever they like, since it’s more a hobby than a profession for them. In their ads running online, they all appear to offer the same product, but the results at the wedding can be like comparing a little league team to the Red Sox. They may both be baseball teams, but they certainly aren’t in the same league!
Rule #1. All Wedding Vendors Are Not Created Equal. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all wedding services or vendors listed under the same category will produce the same results for you. The lowest price is not the best deal, it’s just the cheapest price. Usually a cheaper alternative pales in comparison to the quality choices and far better “values” available.
Rule #2. Price alone is not enough information. You can’t evaluate a wedding vendor by sending an email asking how much? A price only gives you one small piece of information. It must be weighed and considered along with the reputation of the vendor, verifiable reviews, a personal consultation with the vendor to see if there is any chemistry and samples of their work or product to compare with competitors. The lowest price is never the best vendor and rarely the best “value”.
Rule #3. Shop “Value” Not Price. If you have prioritized the vendors and services that are most important to you (see Blog below Feb 25, 2014), next you need to pay closer attention to “Value” rather than just price alone. “Value” is attained by paying a competitive (not an inflated) price for a highly rated service or vendor who is a much safer bet to deliver or exceed the level of quality and optimal results you expect, at a price that will most likely be higher than the unrated amateurs but right in the ballpark with rates quoted by other top-rated competitors.
September 22nd, 2014 - Do You Really Need That Long DJ Playlist?
Imagine you just left your first meeting with the DJ you booked for your wedding. You are so excited! You and your fiance finally found the DJ who is the perfect fit your wedding vision. Now the fun begins! What is going to be your first dance song? What song will you dance with your father to? So many songs and so many choices.
As you start really thinking about your music, you are listening to various artists and genres. You first compile your own list of different songs you want played at your wedding. After talking to your future spouse, family, and friends, they too, suggest their personal favorites. Suddenly your song list is 3 pages long! You look at this list and think – these are great tunes, so it shouldn’t be a problem for my DJ to play them all.
You send in your playlist to your DJ expecting him to find it extremely helpful. One look at this playlist and your DJ thinks, OMG, it’s impossible to play all 80 songs in just three or four hours while fitting in your intros, first dance, toasts, parent dances, cake cutting, garter /bouquet toss, announcements and dedications… not to mention cooperating with the event manager to allow the meal service to flow smoothly and the photographer who needs to take group photos on the dance floor right after the meal. Ever see a review that complains that “the DJ didn’t play all of our songs.”?
Some songs on the list may not be very good dance songs, so they’ll need to be played during dinner. Some may be great dance songs, but with different tempos, from different genres, like Top 40, Hip Hop, Rock, 90s Pop, EDM and Country.. your well intentioned long list has done 3 things: 1) obligates the DJ to play your “must play” list, 2) denied an experienced DJ from selecting other music that he knows will pack the dance floor (but was not on the list), and 3) causes anyone from the wedding who has suggested a song on your list to wonder why it isn’t the next song… even if it doesn’t fit with the current genre keeping everyone dancing. DJs tend to think in “beats per minute” and they keep a crowd dancing with seamless mixing from one song to the next and selecting when it’s time to transition to a different type of music or tempo. They read the crowd and often have 3 or 4 songs in row lined up that will maintain the energy. It’s not as simple as just putting on something else, right when someone wants to hear it. Not when the DJ cares about the success of the event.
What happens if your DJ is playing the music on the list and no one is dancing? Would you rather have the DJ stick to the list or read the crowd and adapt the music to whatever will save the party and keep them all dancing? Like you, your DJ wants to see a packed dance floor with everyone having fun. You hired a pro DJ because of his expertise and musical knowledge. Brides read dozens of reviews saying “my guests danced all night”, and then feel obligated to control every song that same DJ can play. Seems silly to downgrade a proven expert to someone who just reads off a playlist.
The best way to avoid a large playlist that inhabits a good DJs musical abilities is to simply select fewer “must-play” songs. Having a smaller list still gives your DJ a good idea of where you and your guests are coming from musically. You can even write: Artists & Genres we like. An example would be “90’s Throwbacks”. By seeing that you like a certain era of music such as 90’s throwbacks, your DJ will think of a bunch of songs that are popular and work well together. Most importantly, a DO NOT playlist is way more helpful than a MUST PLAY. This guides the DJ in the direction that you do not want him to go near. Macarena anyone?
Selecting a DJ who is the perfect match for your wedding is definitely important. Trusting your DJ to choose songs that your crowd will love is also important.
April 8th, 2014 - Sample DJ Videos
Very few of us believe everything we hear or read. Instead, we use our judgement and common sense to weed out the truth. The same thought process should be used when you watch a “sample video” from a DJ.
Although viewing a video showing a DJ behind a table at a wedding or performing introductions can give you some perception of how that DJ might be at your wedding, it’s not the best source of proving their overall skill-set, professionalism and reliability. Depending on the editing magic that was used in creating the video and other circumstances, you may or may not actually end up with the same thing from the very same DJ. Your wedding is not going to be anything like the wedding the DJ did last week or last month. Your crowd is different, the venue’s logistics are different and the intros and music will be geared to your style, not the style on the video. Very few brides ever say, “I want to copy that wedding exactly”.
We are not big fans of DJ videos for several reasons. First, a DJ video tends to categorize or pigeonhole a DJ into the style shown in their video. Seeing is believing, so I guess the video shows what he does at every wedding. Most of our DJs are very versatile and flexible so they can change their style to match their client’s wishes. Pretty tough to show on a brief video clip.
Most of the time, DJ companies that use videos on their websites are legitimate and professional. But watch out for tricks! There are videos out there that have superimposed the DJ onto background footage of a packed dance floor at a wedding that was actually performed by a different DJ!
Fact: Every DJ’s video is going to show you a packed dance floor and people having fun. Fun is what they are selling. They won’t show you a video of wedding guests sitting bored at their tables or leaving early… ever. A DJ video is a bit like a car commercial… you’ll never see the car being towed. Once a smart bride and groom realize that all DJ videos are basically showing you the very same content… such videos lose their value as the determining factor in selecting the best DJ for your unique needs.
We feel that meeting the DJ in person, picking their brain, getting a feel for their personality and level of experience while asking lots of questions will truly benefit you more than watching a highly edited one-minute DJ video clip. Reading verified reviews from past clients is also a great tool when deciding if the DJ is a good choice. Dozens of rave reviews clearly justify why the DJ is worth the cost and not priced like the unproven, unreviewed amateur DJs usually are. They have to be cheaper to entice you to hire them, since they have no real proof of their level of skill or experience. Drawing from the experiences of actual brides and grooms who have already used the services of a certain DJ is far better than strictly basing your decision on viewing their “best wedding I ever did” video clip.
March 13th, 2014 - Price-Hunting for “Value” in DJ Services
No two professional DJs are alike, even when trained and offered by the same DJ company. They each have a different look, voice, personality and style for making announcements at the wedding. Most DJs have different gear, musical backgrounds, levels of experience, personal tastes in music, and finally, in speaking with different DJs, you’ll notice that each has attained a different level of education, manners and professionalism. Lots of factors to consider other than just the DJ’s price alone.
Yet, sadly, most new email inquiries come in asking ONLY, “How much for a DJ?” It’s like calling a caterer and asking, “How much for a meal?” Do you know what you’re getting for that price they’ll quote?
In reality, DJ price quotes can range from a few hundred bucks to a few thousand dollars for the very same wedding. Rather than shopping price, shop for “VALUE”. If you can hire a popular DJ service with dozens of 5-Star Reviews for only $300 more than an unknown, unrated, part-time DJ who replied to you 2 days later… that’s a much better value, even though it costs you more!
It might help to ask yourself the question: “Is this a real DJ I’m dealing with?” Does he do this for a living so he’ll take my wedding seriously, or is this a part-time way to make extra money? Why am I meeting this “DJ” in a coffee shop? Maybe his lower price is a good indication of the lower level of service I can expect to receive and the lower possibility of a successful wedding reception.
If the DJ is important to you, you must set your budget accordingly. Setting an unrealistically low budget will narrow the quality choices and yield fewer impressive candidates… although there will probably be no shortage of amateur DJs happy to accept any price you have in mind.
In truth, professional wedding DJs place a pre-determined value on their services and quote it as their price. They have decided that “this is what my service is worth” and they are not interested in lowering that rate to match the price with someone who isn’t as good. When you pay for a superior level of quality that may even exceed what you were hoping for, you’ve gotten a much better DJ “value”.
March 10th, 2014 - “My Secret Wedding”
My Secret Wedding
You can’t really blame future brides who contact a new vendor to inquire about their services, for being secretive about the details of their wedding and not even sharing their names. The internet is a scary place with the ever-present possibility of hackers, identity theft, viruses, malware and more.
From the vendor’s point of view, however, it becomes a frustrating and tedious process of extracting each tidbit of basic information from a secretive bride-to-be, one delicate email at a time.
In a perfect world, each new inquiry would begin with your name, the date of your wedding, where it will be held, the hours of service you need and what specific services you are interested in. If the information and attitude in the vendor’s initial response makes it worth moving forward, follow up with your phone number, fiance’s name and more in-depth information to clearly define what you seek.
In general, if you are emailing a well-known, widely-advertised wedding vendor with a good reputation, numerous 5-star reviews, industry awards and an impressive, informative website… don’t worry about divulging the basic details of your wedding (names, date, time, place, theme etc). They get a ton of these inquiries and don’t make it a practice of sharing personal client information elsewhere. They are also much too busy dealing with other new inquiries and their existing clients to keep pestering you once you let them know you have made a different choice or are no longer interested. The ones to beware of are the less popular “hungry” vendors who really have no other viable prospects. They typically lure you with lowball pricing or “too-good to be true” deals and later on, won’t take “no” for an answer. The trick is to weed them out during your search process and never contact them in the first place.
February 25th, 2014 - Prioritizing Your Wedding Budget
It’s easy to get overwhelmed as soon as you realize just how many expenses there are once you start planning your wedding. It gets even worse when you come to the grim realization that the “best” attire, venues and services are also among the most expensive ones! How can you get the top quality you want and still stay within your budget? The best way is to set a total budget that you can’t exceed and then prioritize the relative importance of each expense. Everything can’t be equally important. Some things are less vital to the success of your day. Spend less on those things. Allocate more of your budget to those things that you feel are most important to you.
Create a stack of 3 x 5 cards, each with the name of one of your major expenses: wedding gown, venue, food & beverage, photographer, musical entertainment, transportation, rings, honeymoon, flowers, tuxedos, video, officiant, invitations etc. Next, pick the one that is the most important expenditure of all… the thing you’re not willing to compromise on the quality of. Mark it as #1. Decide the next most vital component that is really important to you. Number two. Repeat until the cards are all numbered and in order. Each expense will become a percentage of the 100% total budget limit you’ve set. If you have a total budget of $20,000, a $500 officiant is 2.5% of your budget.
The real trick is to set a realistic total budget, and then stick to your list of priorities when dividing up that total budget into percentages.
January 20th, 2014 - Why Do I Need UpLighting at My Wedding?
You don’t need uplighting at your wedding if you like the way your venue looks with the lights on and don’t want to change that look for the entire duration of the event, except for dimming the house lights, which is the sole option after dinner.
However; when properly applied, uplighting can not only change the color motif of any venue, but can also permit stunning color/scene changes to accompany different special moments in your reception.
At a recent wedding that hired a professional lighting designer from AllStar Entertainment & UpLighting, the initial beige/tan color of the venue was changed to a warm golden/amber glow during the cocktail hour, while the wedding party members were taking photos elsewhere. Later, when the bride & groom were being introduced into the room, their lighting designer instantly changed the entire room to their pre-selected color theme of lavender and peach.. to the amazement and delight of 200 guests, wildly applauding as the happy couple took it all in from the center of the dance floor. This formal “color theme in light” complimented their napkins, the bridesmaids’ gowns and the floral centerpieces, tying it all together.
The ambiance was unchanged until the stunning moment when the bride and her father were invited onto the dance floor and the entire room slowly turned to a soft baby pink. Next, baby blue was selected for the groom’s dance with his mother, followed by a subtle return to their formal color theme of lavender and peach.
After the meal, as the dance floor heated up with all the guests, the lights were changed effectively to match the energy and beat of the music and embellish the magic of each moment.
When done correctly by a lighting professional, uplighting can really make a major difference because it magnifies a vital component at every wedding reception: the emotional impact!