Dan Hawkins has been a full-time professional DJ for 31 years. His company, MusicMasters, provides DJs for all kinds of events. They regularly win awards for their work. They’re not cheap, starting at just under $1,000, nor are they over-the-top expensive. Dan and the DJs who work for him are frequently seen at weddings and events all around Baltimore. I know Dan, like his work, and think the world of the guy. He’s kind, has integrity, and is very, very good at what he does.

Dan posted the following story on Facebook, which he has given me permission to use here in its entirety.

“As I was powering down from a really fun wedding at the Baltimore Museum of Industry last night, I saw a guest walking towards me from across the room. “You did a really good job,” she said, but oddly, without a smile. I said “Thank you,” a little confused as to why her affect didn’t match her compliment. “No, you did a really, really good job,” she said again with a little more emphasis this time. I thanked her again, still a little bewildered as to why she had such a somber look on her face. “I got married two weeks ago,” she said, pausing then slightly lowering her head. “My DJ sucked.” The look on her face can only be described as someone who was wishing that she could go back in time and do it all over again. “But he was cheap,” she added with an obviously forced smile. It was clear that didn’t make her feel any better. I swear, at that moment, I wanted to give her a hug, snap my fingers, and somehow grant her a redo. No bride should have to look back at her wedding celebration with regrets or remorse.”

There are lots of good ways to save money on your wedding. Compromising professional quality isn’t one of them.

The bride in Dan’s story may have thought that all DJs are the same, or that price had no relationship to quality. Maybe she thought that it just didn’t matter how good they were. None of those things is true. I can’t think of any category of wedding professional where the latter would be the case. Everything is important in wedding planning.

DJs play a large part in creating your reception experience. As that bride discovered, they aren’t a commodity. The difference of a few hundred dollars in fee can represent a significant difference in performance. There is a lot of talent and skill required to do the job well, not to mention a pile of high quality (and expensive) equipment. Owning top quality equipment and knowing how to use it are two of the marks of a great DJ. Having heard hundreds of DJs at work in my own and other venues, I can tell you that their sound quality varies widely, from annoying to fantastic.

Good DJs do a lot of work to be sure that you and your guests have a fantastic experience. They’ll honor your play and don’t-play lists, make recommendations, and create a minute-by-minute timeline for your wedding that they’ll synchronize with your caterer and other professionals. They will bring the equipment that sounds best in your venue. They’ll watch your guests closely, playing just the right music for the moment, with careful attention to matching one song to the next.

If you need to save money, talk to the professionals whose work you like but cannot afford. Tell them exactly that, and ask who they recommend, either within their own company or elsewhere. There are always up-and-comers who are doing good work but aren’t yet commanding full professional fees. Will using an up-and-comer sacrifice some things? Sure, but you’ll be starting at the best possible place – performance quality – and have a much better shot at getting what you want instead of the disaster that befell the bride in the story.

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David Egan
David Egan
David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit Chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.