Happy Monday! To continue my Vendor Review series, I am covering our DJ, One Stop DJ Service, based out of Chicago, IL (but they have a 630 area code, so it must actually be the suburbs somewhere). You might recall my great joy in booking a DJ early in the planning process – a DJ that I had heard at a company party holiday party in 2009 and liked very much. Oh boy. How did things go so wrong?
I booked One Stop DJ Service after getting their information from our HR department at my husband’s and my place of work. We liked them so much at our holiday party and their pricing was the best we could find, so it was an easy choice for us. Booking so far in advance, we made it very clear that we were hoping to get the same DJ from our holiday party. They assured me they would do everything they could to get us our requested DJ. Ok, I guess that should have been a warning sign. I should have been guaranteed (unless there were unforeseen circumstances like a wreck or change of staff – I’m a reasonable lady).
Moving on through the booking process, we were given a sheet called “Bridal Formalities” and one or two other various documents that we were to fill out. In these sheets it asked for the basic reception information – names of the wedding party, which traditions we would do, how to introduce the bride and groom, etc – and offered 4 or 5 pages of song titles. I filled everything out accordingly and when asked, “How involved would you like the DJ?” I answered, “Not at all.” Basically, we didn’t want the DJ to talk except to announce the bride and groom. I circled songs on the lists that I particularly liked, crossed out the ones that I didn’t want played at all and left the ones I was impartial to untouched. Pretty straight forward.
Fast forward to a month before the wedding when they started to actually make time to speak with me. (Every time before that when I called, I got told that it was still too far away and details for my event “weren’t organized yet.” I was at the end of the list.) So a month before, I find out that the DJ we requested (young, hip fellow that would be a good fit for our group) was “unavailable” and the owner himself would be our DJ. Shit. I could tell on the phone that he was older and probably not a good fit for us.
I panicked and immediately made a supplemental document with exactly what songs I wanted played and when to play them. The ONLY part that wasn’t 100% mapped out was the dancing portion of the night. I mean, I’m paying a DJ for a reason. He should be able to feel a crowd and keep us dancing. That’s his job. So I simply gave him 3 songs that I really wanted played and 2 examples of artists that we love to dance to (Lady Gaga and Lupe Fiasco for the curious ones). The rest of the event was basically a minute-by-minute song list. There were 13 songs on my list that they didn’t have in their inventory (including our first dance song). So my husband put all of the mp3 files online and gave them a link to download them for free. This was a foreign concept to them, but they eventually figured it out. They are still using CDs. Remember those? Yeah, me neither.
|CDs. Looks like my car circa 2003.|
Not only was the DJ undoubtedly the worst part of our wedding, it almost ruined the whole event. There was no other “bad” part of the day, and without our DJ, our wedding would have been damn near perfect.
The DJ showed up on time and was ready to go on time. He also played all of the processional songs that we gave him at the proper times with almost no awkward pausing. I walked down the aisle to the guitar version of “Here Comes the Bride” that we provided, and we got married. <— The important part.
Let’s start in chronological order. During the recessional, just after my new husband and I left the room, the speakers made a VERY loud “gun shot” type of noise. The guests were all standing and clapping for us after just hearing our beautiful (if I do say so myself) ceremony. Way to ruin the mood, DJ.
Next up is the cocktail hour. On the document I gave the DJ a month in advance, I clearly outlined 16 songs to play during this time – some mood-setting jams like John Mayer, Feist, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Sara Barielles, Taylor Swift, etc. I also noted to fill in the gaps with those types of songs if there was time left over. You can imagine our surprise when we were eating some of our pizza and mingling with guests to hear Lady Gaga. Two or three times in a row. No, I’m not kidding. I DID have Lady Gaga on the list to play, but it was clearly marked in the “Dance Music” section. So, he ruined the mood AND I didn’t get to dance to Gaga at our reception…because it had already been played.
Our first dance was to “The Only Exception” by Paramore. It was very lovely except for the super bright flood light and flashing green laser-type light that the DJ had set up without our knowledge. Our guests couldn’t really watch us because they were squinting at the brightness of the light. Why would a “professional” DJ think that strobe lights were appropriate during an intimate first dance? Why????!!! Because of these crazy lights, we also were not able to get good quality photos or video of this once-in-a-lifetime event.
|Annoying lights during our first dance.|
|More of the crazy lights. You should see the video, it’s worse than it looks.|
Time to dance! I gave fairly loose directions for this part of the evening. I gave 3 song titles as “must plays” (one of which did not get played), 2 artists that you couldn’t go wrong with (Gaga and Lupe, as noted above), and a list of merengue songs to choose from for the Groom’s family. They can’t help themselves but to dance when they hear merengue and I love them for it! You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the DJ was playing basically whatever he felt like playing. Remember above when I mentioned that we noted on the instructional documents that we did not want the DJ involved in our festivities at all? Well, this was blatantly ignored and he proceeded to yap away at the microphone all night. He even GOT ON THE DANCE FLOOR with our guests at one point. I had our day-of coordinator speak to him multiple times during the night to ask him to please not talk on the microphone. One of the times he replied to her with something like “I’m the professional. I’ve been doing this for X number of years. I know what I’m doing.” Ha! It was all I could do to not turn Bridezilla on this guy and make him pack up right then and there.
Follow this with 2 or 3 additional loud “gun shot” noises that frightened my happy, dancing nieces and nephews to tears. I was this close to feeling like the night was ruined. I ended up cutting the party short by almost an hour because I couldn’t handle him being there any longer.
|Happy nieces and nephew dancing right before one of the loud gun-shot noises made them all cry.|
I know hind sight is 20/20, but I would have 595 more dollars in my pocket and nothing but fond memories of my wedding if I would have had the “dreaded” Zune wedding. I know if I had paid more, I could have possibly gotten a DJ I was pleased with. But I also don’t think that more money is the answer on this one. In retrospect, the Zune/iPod option wouldn’t have been more of a burden than the paid DJ I ended up with.
My suggestion to the couples planning your weddings right now would be to either allow room in your budget for a DJ service that you have researched ad nauseum and/or have a great recommendation for or take the plunge and do it yourself (with the help of a musically-inclined friend). I learned the hard way that music is one of the most important aspects of the wedding and also one of the easiest things to mess up. If you do choose a DJ service, make sure you meet with your actual DJ in person once or twice before the wedding to be 100% clear about your expectations. Don’t EVER assume that because somebody is a “professional” or has years of experience that they are good at what they do. Please learn from my mistakes!