The costs associated with planning and organising a wedding is a cause for major concern for most couples, as well they should be. Many factors go into the equation of organising a wedding, including everything from the reception location, food, bridal attire, wedding cake, photographer, and of course, entertainment. For many couples, the total combined costs can be staggering. Unfortunately however, it is a fact that one of the last things the majority of couples organise is their wedding reception entertainment, only to then realise that the greater part of the wedding budget has already been spent and leaving very little funds for quality entertainment. Deciding on exactly how much to spend on each of these and the other many elements that individually come together to create your wedding reception is a fine balancing act between needs, wants and external influences. This has the potential to cause a significant amount of undue stress and create many unnecessary problems and tensions – all at a time when the couple should be enjoying organising the celebration of one of the happiest days of their lives.

Obviously, all expenses relating to a wedding reception can be reduced. The problem encountered by most couples however is deciding which ones can be and why? That is, which components can be either reduced or eliminated that adds little or no value to the wedding reception in terms of enjoyment and memories.

The cost of the location of your wedding reception can range from free through to many thousands of dollars. Couples will need to carefully think this through and balance this aspect out because saving money by having it outdoors on a friend’s property could also potentially mean that guests will leave early due to bad weather and/or unfavourable temperature. You certainly don’t want your guests leaving early, would you? On the other hand you may select a location that has absolutely fantastic views which will help enhance the atmosphere, for which you will most certainly be charged a hefty premium compared to a comparable venue with no views. However if your reception is scheduled be held in the evening or in the colder months, will you or your guests have the opportunity to enjoy this view?

If you were to serve your guests fast food, you will probably never hear the end of it, but if you provide truffles and lobster, how many will remember? Quite a few, if for no other reason than these menu items are out of the ordinary. However, if like the majority of couples, you choose to serve chicken, beef /lamb or fish, which are the standard wedding reception fare, how many people will remember what they ate 6 months later?

If you buy the fanciest designer wedding dress and the very best suits, you will look FABULOUS in all your wedding photos, but many couples rent not only the suits, but also the wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses! It saves a significant amount of money and, if we are totally honest, it is highly unlikely that you will ever wear that gown again.

When it comes to photographers, you should allow a sufficient portion of your budget on getting one of the best! After all, the photos will last a lifetime. If you do not engage a great photographer, you are not going to get great photographs. So you do not really want to skimp too much there. The wedding album is something you will keep out on your coffee table for a long time and guests from your wedding will want to see those photographs of you and them.

As far as videographers are concerned, most couples watch their wedding video an average of 5-10 times with family and friends, so this can be a very expensive cost for only 5-10 viewings.

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the entertainment. As mentioned earlier, it is most often one of the very last components of a wedding reception thought about and to many it is the service where couples try to find or negotiate a bargain, often because they have overspent on other less important aspects of the wedding reception. There is just one problem with this action: Up to 80% of the success of your event will depend on the entertainment!

Now if you honestly consider and evaluate this last statement, you will find that it is not just some statistic created by entertainers in order to generate more business and is in actual fact very close to the mark. Think about it. Should you not provide any entertainment whatsoever, you will probably find that the majority of your guests will depart soon after the meal has been consumed. Conversely, if you provided no meal, but still had entertainment, the majority of your guests would most likely stay. So you really need both these elements, but in what kind of balance? Can your guests be happy with canapés, savoury snacks and/or finger food? Actually most can! The majority of your guests will be satisfied and happy with just about any meal and will not be very concerned with what is actually served as long as it is both flavoursome and filling.

It is very important to keep in mind that the purpose of having a reception is for you and your invited guests to CELEBRATE your marriage, to participate in the celebration and share in the extreme happiness of your special day. This is where entertainment plays a very significant part in that it provides both you and your guests with the ingredient and catalyst for a happy, joyous and fun time!

As you can now more readily appreciate, or may have even experienced first hand, that with good entertainment – you can turn basic food that could potentially be a bad meal into a real FUN time!

So the question that needs to be asked is: Why do so many couples want to spend such a small portion of their wedding budget on entertainment? After all, it is the factor that will ultimately make or break your reception, agree? Couples often think nothing of spending $50 – $100 plus per person for food, but then wish to “price shop” for bargain entertainment, and spending less than 5% of the total reception cost.

You would think then that it would be prudent to spend 10-20% of the total reception cost on the wedding entertainment, when it is the one component of the reception that occupies up to 80% or more of the time and more importantly, the ultimate SUCCESS of the event. Quite logically, it makes perfect sense to do so, yet so many couples fail to understand and come to grips with this concept, only to be left disappointed. This may result in their wedding reception lingering in their memories for a long time, but for all the wrong reasons.

Now that you know what percentage of your total wedding reception budget should be spent on entertainment, the next step is deciding what form of wedding entertainment to select. Wedding reception entertainment usually comes in two main forms: Live musicians/bands or Disc Jockey. Others forms may involve comedians, cabaret acts, magicians, etc.

Of the two main forms: Which should you choose and which is right for your reception? Well this will largely depend on your personal preferences, whether you prefer the live feel and spontaneous improvisations of musicians/band or the sound of the original artists being reproduced by a professional disc jockey. There are obviously some pros and cons to either of these entertainment options; however it is not the intent of this article to address these issues.

When deciding on either one of these options – please keep in mind that there are both good and bad musicians/bands and disc jockeys, some which abide by strict professional ethics and others that do not. I am sure you are probably aware of somebody who has had a bad experience due to engaging a terrible Band or Disc Jockey. Obviously nobody wants bad entertainment at their wedding, or any event for that matter. As I am a Disc Jockey and most couples these days will choose a DJ for their wedding reception, the remainder of this article will only specifically focus on how a Professional DJ can make or break your wedding reception and how much of your total reception budget you should spend on one, however a lot of the elements mentioned may also apply to live musicians.

The reason most couples select a Disc Jockey is somewhat logical of course – considering that a professional wedding DJ will act as MC, coordinate everything with the photographer, videographer and reception venue staff, guide the couple, family, and friends through the course of the reception ensuring everything flows, and of utmost importance, play the music you want to hear.

You will find that disc jockey services are available in a broad price range. This pricing has the potential to be highly subjective and as such, does not always accurately represent the disc jockey’s ability and service offered. It must be stressed, that it is vitally important that you look beyond any sales pitch and pricing in order to adequately evaluate which particular DJ service is best suited for your wedding reception. Once you have done this, you should be able to make an excellent selection at most price points, and can be just as equally disappointed. Avoid being coerced into paying more than you have too, but by the same token, don’t pay less than you yourself feel would be appropriate to secure the services of a professional that will ensure the success of your reception. Saving money is no compensation if the DJ is inexperienced, not adequately equipped to handle your wedding reception or does not listen to your requirements and offer suggestions on how to make it all happen. Similarly, spending an excessive amount for your DJ will not automatically ensure the success of your reception. Use the percentages outlined above as a guide to determine an appropriate amount to spend on your Wedding DJ entertainment.

When the time finally comes for the couple to find a DJ for their wedding reception, the most common first question is, “How much do you charge?” As stated earlier, most couples having spent most of their wedding budget by this stage, may be inclined to ask or conclude, “aren’t all DJ’s the same, shouldn’t I just choose the cheapest one?” as a means of containing the wedding expenses. Unfortunately all DJ’s are not the same and pricing will generally reflect inclusions, experience, additional services offered and the total time spent on planning and performing at your reception.

Wedding DJ’s will usually have a five-hour minimum performance time period with prices ranging from around $300 through to around $5,000 and more for this performance time period. Pricing can also be impacted by such factors as additional hours, a large number of guests requiring additional sound reinforcement equipment, travel and/or accommodation to locales outside the DJ’s service area, etc.

Any price you are quoted should be carefully considered – you should take into account all the information provided by the DJ and your own personal feelings as to the ability of the DJ to meet your expectations. It is important to point out that, when searching for a DJ; you will mostly be dealing with a group of very small companies and/or individuals that are in the business of providing personal services. After speaking with, discussing your requirements and asking lots of questions, engage the disc jockey you feel can be trusted to have your best interests at heart and deliver the results you want – the success of your wedding reception may very well depend on it.

Taking a little time to ensuring you have hired a good wedding DJ can, as discussed earlier, make or break your wedding reception and many a married couple can attest to this. Becoming a good wedding DJ requires a great many hours of on the job training, many years of wedding reception experience and continued professional development so that they know how to handle any situation that may potentially arise. The DJ must also know correct wedding etiquette, know how to read a crowd, and say or do the right thing at the right time.

As mentioned, a professional wedding DJ is a service provider. One common mistake many couples make is to treat the wedding DJ as a product and not a service. Like any service provider, you often will only get what you pay for. You should be hiring the DJ based on experience, professionalism and skill. Consider the importance of this service to the success of the wedding reception in comparison to other items that may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more. Then it becomes a little clearer that expenditure priorities may have to be re-considered.

So when trying to decide how much you can afford for entertainment, think about how much you can LOSE if your entertainment is poor or mediocre. Look for professionals and pay them what they are worth. After all, if you want the best, it will (and should) cost more, in the long run, they will provide so much more than a mediocre entertainer would.

When organising a wedding reception, keep the points outlined above in mind, have a wonderful time and most important of all, enjoy the entertainment.