QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL CATERER:
Who is the main contact? Will the same person you work with when planning also oversee meal service on the day of the wedding? (You want this to be the case.)
Does the caterer work with fresh (not frozen) food?
Does the caterer have a license? (This means her business has met health department standards and has liability insurance -- make sure this includes a liquor license if you're having a bar.) Are they insured?
Can they do vegan or gluten free should you have guests with these restrictions?
How do they handle their food & event trash at the end of the night?
When do they need a final headcount?
What is their payment schedule?
Do they have discounted meal prices for vendors?
Do they have a children’s meal option?
QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL DJ:
Do you offer a written contract?
All of the wedding disc jockeys you interview may not have the same standards of professionalism. A written, legal contract is one of the first indicators of whether a DJ is professional and reliable. Furthermore, a contract establishes the DJ’s obligation to the client and outlines what is required for the DJ’s success, by outlining his setup requirements and other factors related to his performance. For this reason, a written contract is absolutely essential and any DJ not using a written contract should not be considered for a wedding reception.
Will you be the DJ at our wedding?
Often, the person you speak with is not the person who will be your DJ on your wedding day. This is a very common practice among large agencies. It is absolutely paramount that you have an opportunity to interview, in person, the specific DJ that you will be working with and determine whether you feel comfortable with them. You should also expect that the individual DJ’s name is specified on your contract – it is the only way you can be guaranteed his or her services at your wedding.
How long have you been a DJ and how many weddings have you done?
A wedding is such an important occasion, and you don't want your DJ's first wedding to be your own. The number of years someone has been a DJ will give you some indication of their experience level, but some DJs only perform for a few events (and fewer weddings) each year.
How many weddings do you do each year?
Just like any other profession, performing for weddings requires one’s skills to be in top form. If a DJ performs for only a few weddings per year, they may not be “at the top of their game” by the time your wedding date arrives. Asking how many weddings they do per year will give you an indication of their level of commitment to your type of event.
Do you perform for more than one event in a day?
Some DJs will do as many events as they possibly can, and often try to pack their weekends with all types of DJ work. If a disc jockey has already done an event in the afternoon before your wedding, they will likely be physically exhausted by the latter half of your wedding, which is exactly when they need to be the most alert and active. This is most common at large agencies, where “weekend warriors” may perform at four to six events over a three-day period. It is hard to believe that any DJ could give that many couples an adequate amount of attention leading up to, and on, their wedding day.
What makes you different from your competitors?
Any professional wedding disc jockey will take pride in their work, and be able to answer this question honestly and communicate the things that make their services unique.
How would you define your "style" when making announcements?
This is an extremely important question to ask because it will tell you whether or not the DJ is the right match for your guests and the atmosphere you’re trying to create. If you are planning an elegant, understated wedding, then utilizing the services of a “party motivator” or “entertainer DJ” may not be what you are looking for. If you know your guests will need a lot of encouragement to dance, then hiring someone who flatly refuses to make announcements probably isn’t the best idea either.
What do you do to motivate the crowd if nobody is dancing?
Different wedding disc jockeys handle this situation in very different ways – some opt to use the microphone to try to “energize” your guests and motivate them to dance. Others would never do something like this and prefer to use careful song selection to ensure dance floor success. You need to know what the DJ would do in this situation, and determine if that is the way you would like the situation handled.
What if something happens to you and you can’t make it to the wedding?
Despite meticulous planning and preparation, accidents do happen. If the DJ is injured or otherwise unable to perform on your wedding day, what is the backup plan? Most responsible professionals have some sort of backup strategy should this situation ever arise, but others do not. Often, DJs will be members of a local DJ association, and network with other DJs who could possibly provide backup services for them in the event of an emergency.
How do you keep your music collection up-to-date?
The majority of professional DJs subscribe to at least one of the major music update services in order to keep their collections up-to-date. These services provide the DJ with new, radio edited music, often before it is even playing on the radio.
How involved can we be in selecting music for our event?
This is an important question to ask, because some DJs prefer to control the majority of the playlist and supplement their choices with a small handful of your specific requests. Other disc jockeys prefer to let the client choose the majority of the music, and then use their expertise to make it all work. The DJ should be accommodating of your music tastes, and you should feel comfortable with the DJ's approach and the amount of involvement you'll be able to have in choosing the music.
When do we need to submit our music requests and event details?
You should be given ample time to make decisions regarding your music choices and event timeline, but the DJ should also require this information far enough in advance so that he can adequately prepare for your event. A DJ who doesn’t ask for your requests at least a couple of weeks before your wedding may not be able to fulfill them. In addition, the DJ should be willing to accommodate any later changes or additions whenever possible, rather than locking you into a first dance song that you later regret or refusing to alter the order of your toasts.
Do you take requests from our guests?
Most DJs are happy to do so, but you should also feel reasonably assured that any request they chose to play would not be something you didn’t like.
Can we submit a “Do Not Play” list?
Any professional DJ should be willing to honor your requests, including your request for certain songs and genres to not be used. Submitting a “Do Not Play” list will give a DJ a clear idea of your limits and your expectations for their song selection at your wedding.
What will you wear to our wedding?
Some DJs prefer a classic, understated look and others wear flashy, shimmering or patterned vests and matching bowties. It is important that the DJ’s “look” meets your expectations.
How much of a deposit is required to secure our date?
Almost every DJ will require some sort of deposit or retainer in order to secure your date. This is for their protection and yours. The industry standard for deposits is around 50%.
How much would you charge for overtime?
Hopefully your DJ will do such a wonderful job at your wedding that you’d like to keep dancing! Be sure that the DJ’s contract outlines a specific rate for additional time at the end of the night, whether it is a set price or a pro-rated amount based on the original price.
What do you require from us?
Every DJ will require a few things that you’ll need to provide them in order to be successful. The most common are adequate shelter, electricity, and a table for their equipment. Make sure that you understand exactly what the DJ needs from you so you can communicate those needs to your reception site and caterer.
Are you insured?
It is absolutely essential that any DJ you consider carries a full liability insurance policy.
What kind of equipment do you use?
Any DJ you consider should be proud of his sound system, and should be using professional-grade equipment.
Do you bring backup equipment with you to the wedding?
Even the very best and most well-maintained equipment will malfunction at some point. Your DJ needs to be prepared in case this happens at your wedding.
Do you have a wireless microphone?
Every professional wedding DJ should offer a wireless microphone to be used for your guests’ toasts, blessing, and any other speeches that need to be made.
Do you belong to any professional associations or trade groups?
If a DJ is serious about his craft and interested in becoming a better performer, they will often join a local DJ association or trade group. These are opportunities for DJs to interact with one another, share ideas, and network with other DJs who might be able to help them should they ever have an emergency. While membership in one of these organizations is not a guarantee of that DJ’s talent level, it does at least show a willingness to grow and improve and become a better DJ
QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL PHOTOGRAPHER:
Experience Level - Has this person photographed other weddings? Does he/she do this for a living or for fun?
Photographic Style - Are the images that you are shown what you would like to see? There are "buzz" words flying about everywhere about photojournalism, formal, classic candid, and so on.
Truth in Advertising - Is this the photographer that will be photographing your wedding or will they send in whomever is available. Don't be shocked, this happens more often than you can imagine. Be certain that you know which photographer is going to be there and that you see HIS/HER work and meet with that individually face to face.
Personality - Is the photographer that you meet someone that you can get along with? Is the "chemistry" there?
Price Range - Although, the last thing you want to do is shop by price, is this person within your budget? If not, is he or she worth the price difference? Make sure you understand what everything costs, including reprints and albums.
Delivery - How long does it take to get your proofs back, thank you cards, your finished album, your bridal portrait, etc.?
Offering - Whether it's a la carte or a package, do you understand what you are getting? Is there any room for changes and will it cost to do so? Sometimes the packages are fixed, sometimes they can be customized, in any case, ask. How much time will he/she spend? What if you need more time? Make sure that you know what's coming.
Contract - Do you understand the contract. Is it fair? Is everything spelled out? When it comes down going to court, only what is WRITTEN really counts, not what was promised. Make sure that you have no doubts before signing. Read it ALL.
What about deposits and payments? What does it say about cancellations and the photographer not being there? If the photographer protests, ask him why? This is one area NOT to take lightly. You could be disappointed for a long time.
References - A personal reference is always the best and people love to talk. Get a list of references from the photographer and check them out personally. A photographer who doesn't have references or is afraid to give them to you may not be the person that you need to hire.
Other Questions: (some questions may be repeated from the list above)
Have you shot a wedding at my location before?
Do you have an assistant?
Do you have backup equipment and is it the same quality as the primary equipment?
What time will you begin and how long will you stay until?
When will the proofs be ready?
Do we get a CD of all images?
How much extra for unmarked proofs?
Do we get to keep our negatives?
Do you work well with the other vendors? i.e.: coordinators, caterers, videographers.
Can you work from a photo checklist that we create for family/important photos?
What goes on the all important contract?
The name of your photographer
The time that he/she arrives and leaves, or more importantly, the number of hours they will be there
The number of proofs you will view in order to pick your enlargements and/or keep
The description of the package you ordered
A list of guaranteed prices for enlargements/prints. If they have a brochure with prices then get the photographer to write down that the prices on the brochure they gave you are the prices that you will be charged.
The cutoff date for these brochure prices.
All additional charges, services, taxes, travel, etc... Get the exact cost on the contract.
An explanation of what happens if your photographer doesn't show up.
The date and deposit amount and how much is still owing.
Your name, address and phone number. The names and addresses of the ceremony and reception locations.