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Entertaining Advice

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BOOKING A BAND OR DJ FOR YOUR WEDDING

By Jessica Burke

So many factors go into planning an amazing party to celebrate your marriage. From finding the right place to host festivities to designing decor and selecting menus, there are so many decisions to make!

One decision that should never be left to chance is your entertainment. The right band or DJ can make or break your reception.

We’ve consulted with local, musically-inclined experts to find out exactly what you need to know before you book your reception entertainment.

Experience Matters

When guiding friends on vendor selection for weddings, I always point to ‘experience’ as the most important qualification for hiring,” says William “Chuck” Credo IV of WCA Entertainment and Media

Credo advises engaged couples to ask several questions: 

  1. How long has that vendor been around?
  2. What is that vendor’s reputation?
  3. What do you other clients have to say about that vendor?

 “Because every wedding is different and every couple is different, experience allows a vendor to ebb and flow with the needs of the client without any concern,” advises Credo.

Aaron Lane of Aaron Lane Professional DJ Entertainment agrees. “Ask about their reputation for the overall wedding experience,” he says. “This can be accomplished by reading reviews and learning what others say about the DJ, both personally and as a company.”

In addition to general reputation, Lane advises prospective clients to dig even deeper. “Ask about their experience performing for wedding receptions like the one they envision,” he says. “Ideally you want someone that has experience with the type and style of reception you want to present to your guests.”

Team Work Makes the Dream Work

It’s important to find out how well your prospective band or DJ works with, not only with clients, but with other vendors. Are they easy to work with or will they bring chaos into the picture? Will they be available before the wedding to discuss details or will they just show up on the big day and wing it? Having clear communication is essential!

“Ask about their willingness to work with other vendors to create the reception vibe you’re planning,” says Lane. “Make sure your DJ is willing to collab with your other vendors.” 

“I’ve always found that the key to success is being extremely detail oriented, without emoting stress on your client,” says Credo. “We’re in the entertainment and special events business – if we can’t have fun, we’re doing our jobs wrong. It’s important to convey that as a vendor and be easy to work with, while maintaining absolute professionalism and keeping a keen eye on the details.” 

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The Wedding Song List

If choosing your song list has you daunted, don’t worry. Tackling this project isn’t something you have to do at all if you’re looking for the best possible outcome! In fact, if you feel the need to curate every single song played at your reception, hiring a band or DJ probably isn’t for you. 

Of course, you’ll want to pick the special songs for your first dance and parent and wedding party dances, but in general you want to find a band or DJ that vibes with your preferred style and then let them do what they do best. 

“If they’re hiring us, it’s probably because they’ve read our reviews and heard from past clients,” says Lane. “The reason we’re able to create the entertainment experiences we’re known for is due to the artistic skills of each performing DJ in reading the room and knowing what to play to keep the guests engaged and on the dance floor.”

“If you’re hiring an act to entertain, they have to be able to do their job.” advises Credo. “If all you’re looking for [is] songs, just put on a playlist.” 

Keep in mind though that playlists come with downsides and many times these downsides can make or break the party vibe.  

“When couples ask if they can spec out every song for the night, our first question is “Why?” shares Lane. “Did they have a bad experience at another wedding? Do they want to make sure their favs are featured? It’s something some couples want, but it’s a ton more work for them and there’s no guarantee their guests will appreciate and dance to the music they select. And if they’re locked into a preset playlist, there’s no way to pivot to something that the guests will enjoy.”

There is one list you should create though: the “Do Not Play” list. Whether it’s one or several songs you just can’t stand or even an entire genre of music you’d rather not have played (Not into show tunes? No problem!), sharing your “Do Not Play” list with your band or DJ is important.

“We always get a DNP list from our couples,” says Lane. “ It’s your wedding, so you shouldn’t have to suffer through music you hate, no matter how bad one of your guests wants to hear a certain song.”

Credo agrees,”We love ‘Don’t Play’ lists. Before going into any event, we want to know what the bride and groom, and their audience, really like and what they really don’t like.”

More Than Music

Your band or DJ isn’t just a soundtrack for your reception. Your entertainer should come ready with everything needed to do their jobs and many provide even more like specialty lighting and other services you may not have realized were available. 

“At a minimum, the DJ should be able to provide music for all aspects of the onsite wedding (if applicable) and reception, and take care of MC duties to keep your guests aware of the particulars as they occur, and to help guide them through the early part of the reception.” says Lane. “Additionally, a quality DJ company will have all needed equipment, and not ask the couple to rent or hire anything extra for them. For what’s included with pricing, each company offers different items, so it’s important to compare accordingly.”

“Our WCA groups come equipped with a full line of services for our wedding clients,” says Credo. “We offer everything from 10-piece second line bands, to a wide range of ceremony music (harpists, string sections, jazz bands, classical vocalists, trumpets, etc), to wedding favor manufacturing (2nd line handkerchiefs, umbrellas, wedding favors), to venue up lighting, DJs, Emcees, and even celebrity appearances.”  

Ask the bands and DJs you interview what upgrades and additional services they offer! 

The Wedding Entertainment Budget

There are many factors that can affect pricing for bands and DJs. 

“Price points are so varied, but are definitely a ‘get what you pay for’ type of situation,” advises Lane. “It’s similar to car makers having a luxury line and a budget line. Both will get you down the road, but the level of comfort you have will vary. There are DJs that will show up for $200, and DJs that don’t book anything under $2000.” 

For bands in the New Orleans area, Credo advises couples to expect to spend between $5,000 and $15,000. Some of the factors, aside from popularity of the band in general, that affect pricing include where your event is located, whether your venue has restrictions on load in, the time of year your event is and the other services you require from your band, among others.

Use the NOW Wedding Budget Calculator to help you keep track of expenses!

The Big Picture

Cutting corners on entertainment can seem tempting when allocating a wedding budget, but it’s generally not advised and always comes with a downside.  

“It’s up to the couple to decide how important quality entertainment is to them,” says Lane. “The right music can elevate the experience of the reception to be the best ever. The wrong music will definitely crash the night, sometimes before it even has a chance to get started.”

Take into consideration what you’re trying to achieve and make sure you choose your entertainment accordingly.

“It’s very important to take in the entire experience that you’re looking to convey to your guests,” says Credo. “Are you looking for a dance party that feels like a club at 2 AM? Are you looking for a traditional wedding experience at a downtown hotel ballroom? Are you looking for a countryside wedding to throw down with your friends?  Depending on your specifications for your event, it’s important to pick the right band or DJ that can accentuate your preferences.”

Book Early

This can’t be stated clearly or often enough: Don’t wait until the last minute to book your reception entertainment. You will either be incredibly lucky to find a fabulous band or DJ with last minute availability or you’ll be stuck with whoever is left. Two years of postponed weddings mean that prime dates for the next few years are already booked up. 

“We’re getting inquiries into 2024 already,” says Lane about requests for wedding DJs, “so early booking is essential if you’re planning to get married during the busy months (March, April, May, June, October, November). Even if you’re booked early, and something happens that requires you to move your date, most professional, reputable DJs will work with you to change.”

Credo, who manages multiple bands, concurs, “With our WCA bands, it’s not uncommon for our entire lineup to be booked 1.5 years out from a date during the busy seasons. We have event bookings all the way until 2025 right now. Do not wait to book your favorite vendors.” 

Final Advice

Your entertainment is a crucial part of your reception and should be chosen with care. Look for opportunities to see your top choices in person or ask for videos of past performances so you can get a feel for how they work. 

“It’s really the experience that you’re looking for,” says Credo. “New Orleans is the live music capital of the world. There’s something here that you can get nowhere else in the world. We are blessed in New Orleans to be surrounded by some of the greatest musical talent on the planet.”

“Couples should be looking for someone that checks all the boxes that are important to them,” advises Lane. “You’ve found a good match when the DJ understands your style and music tastes, and is willing to work with you to create the entertainment experience you envision for your friends and family.”

No matter what kind of entertainment you go with, band or DJ, be sure you choose a professional whose work you love and who has great reviews.

About the Contributors:

William “Chuck“ Credo IV is the owner of WCA Entertainment and Media that includes acts such as The Mixed Nuts, After Party, Sugar Shaker, The Total Bettys, and The Legacy Tribute Series. He is  the founder and guitarist of The Mixed Nuts, celebrating 24 years in 2022, and a member of the Louisiana State Music Advisory Board and the Louisiana Cultural Hall Of Fame.  

Aaron Lane Entertainment is an award winning, professional DJ entertainment group that specializes in creating personalized, fun and memorable wedding receptions. Owner Aaron Lane and his team of pro DJs have won multiple service awards in the wedding industry, and were recently inducted into The Knot’s Hall of Fame for excellent service.

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