About a year ago, during dinner with some good friends, I was introduced to a husband and wife couple that my friends (past weddings clients, actually) brought with them. After our initial exchange of pleasantries, we moved on to topics around work, family, etc. At one point, the woman mentioned that she’d just joined a Toastmasters club at work. This was a brand new club just getting going and she was excited to help get it started.
After a few questions about her Toastmasters group, I enthusiastically asked if I could come to a meeting as her guest. I’d always wanted to try out Toastmasters, but hadn’t yet done so. Almost immediately, I began to recognize the possible benefits for me professionally, as both a business owner and performer. Little did I know then, one of the greatest discoveries would come at my first Toastmasters Conference a whole year later. Continue reading “An Unexpected Surprise”
12 months ago this week, I accomplished a task I’d been actively working on for the entire year prior and truly, since 2 more years before that. After many, many hours of training and working diligently at my application, I earned the credential known as “Wedding Entertainment Director®” (WED®). Since the WED Guild’s recent acquisition by the American Disc Jockey Association (EDIT: The ADJA no longer manages the WED Guild), there has been a lot of activity around new, motivational leadership and there has been an incredible interest among DJs who are now starting work on their own applications. In the last three months, three DJs have already earned their new WED® credential and there are many, many more whose applications are very close to completion.
The reasons for putting forth the time, energy and effort that a fully completed WED® application requires are many and they often vary with each individual. Some are looking to step away from the term “DJ” as it has been watered down too heavily by “non-professionals” in their markets. Others want to become part of the uniquely talented family that the current WED® membership represents so that they might more easily share ideas and inspiration with those individuals. And still others want to become something “more” then they currently are by fine tuning their current performance and polishing how it is they do business.
For those who are unsure what a WED® is all about or if it is truly for them (and it honestly isn’t for everyone), consider my story: When I first attended the Mobile Beat DJ Show in Las Vegas back in February 2011, I found myself sitting in an “open house” for the WED Guild®. Not having any idea what it was about, I arrived with an open mind and listened to this guy named Peter Merry talk about…I honestly can’t remember what. What I do remember though, was looking at this “application” that was required if you wanted to earn the title Wedding Entertainment Director®. I felt like a complete rookie. I didn’t manage my business or events with anywhere near the detail or talent level they required. I knew this was going to be a challenge. Even though I’d had many years of experience as a mobile DJ, what took place over the next few years was a personal quest to elevate myself to a level of professionalism, personalization, creativity, proficiency and most importantly, performance that I’d never reached for before.
By the time I finally acquired the right to refer to myself as a “Wedding Entertainment Director®”, one of the greatest benefits of becoming a WED® had already landed upon me. As I slowly advanced towards applying to become a WED®, I became a far greater, more polished and better version of…ME. This directly translated into increased demand for my services, increased income levels, and increased respect among my local area of wedding professionals.
As I began the process of requesting the professional reference letters from wedding vendors that the application requires, it soon became evident how much better respected our industry would be if there were a greater number of Wedding Entertainment Directors® to choose from. One such vendor that I spoke with about the concept of a WED® responded by asking, “You mean I could just refer all of our clients to hiring a certified Wedding Entertainment Director® and then we wouldn’t have to worry about what type of DJ is coming in the door?” After I confirmed that for her, she said, “That’s awesome and it makes so much sense!”
Now you might find yourself saying that your clients aren’t asking for a Wedding Entertainment Director®, so why would you pursue it? My response would be that you’re right… they aren’t asking… YET. But if you have the talent level or, better yet, are willing to work towards elevating yourself to a greater, more polished, better version of you, then why not become the leader in your market? Pursue it before someone else in your market does so that YOU get to become the market leader in your area. People in your region may not have known about uplighting or photo booths, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t purchase those services when the idea was presented to them.
Those who put themselves through a WED® application WILL come out better business people, better DJs, better MCs and better overall performers. I’ve had the pleasure of watching this become reality time and time again through the application committees I’ve worked on and of those who I am currently mentoring towards their own fully completed application. I have yet to see an individual who did not come out of this process a better entertainer. Every DJ whose “road to WED” I have been a part of, has had many things (sometimes little, sometimes big) that they were required to work on, which in the end made them a stronger DJ/MC.
A DJ’s skill set is reviewed, revised, critiqued and accredited by a respected group of industry peers who have also submitted themselves to the same challenging process. Every successful WED® applicant has been held up to a standard that exists no where else in the DJ industry. Hiring a Wedding Entertainment Director® provides peace of mind to a bride & groom that they are hiring a DJ/MC whose overall skill set has been “approved”.
This peace of mind that a Wedding Entertainment Director® carries with them into conversations with prospective weddings clients nearly always translates to better earning potential for the DJ. In most cases, Wedding Entertainment Directors® are some of the highest paid DJ/MCs in their market, and in some cases, their country. While attaining your own WED® credential doesn’t guarantee better earnings, it will certainly put you on that path and if you apply yourself correctly in all of the areas that are required to earn a better living as a mobile DJ/MC, you will receive it!
Years of experience often hold very little value for this process because what it comes down to is a DJ’s level of professionalism, personalization, creativity, proficiency and performance (which can truly be acquired in only a few years for some individuals). There is no such thing as being “grandfathered” in because of years of experience. Until every detail that the application is designed to measure has been approved, only then is an individual given the designation of Wedding Entertainment Director®. It is that fact alone, that ensures piece of mind in the publics’s eye that this is not a membership organization that someone with 10, 20, or 30 years of experience and $200 for a membership fee can simply purchase. This is something that is earned.
Whether you put yourself through the full process or not, A LOT can be gained by simply reviewing the application and applying the elements listed within it to your business practices and event performances. Think of this as another tool, at no direct financial cost to you, that you as a DJ can apply to what you do. You will benefit, but most importantly, your wedding clients and their guests will receive the gift of enjoying a better experience then you currently offer. Yes, believe it or not, you — all of us — can be better and can offer better.
If you simply want to network with a tight-knit uniquely qualified group of DJ/MCs, or if you are looking for a unique selling proposition (selling yourself as a Wedding Entertainment Director®), or you simply want some advice and suggestions on places where you can do things better, then starting work on your own WED® application might be something worth pursuing. But don’t let those things rise above what is the greatest benefit to the entire process…and that is, the better version of you that comes out in the end for the direct benefit of your clients and their wedding guests.
The experience my clients and their guests now receive as a direct (and indirect) result of my successful road to acquiring the WED® designation is far more then it ever was before.
“It was truly a wonderful experience. We have received nothing but very positive comments about the wedding day. Your attention to detail was unbelievable, you did not miss a thing. Your positive thinking, hard work and endless energy set the tone for a night we will never forget. I could not have wished for a happier day for my daughter. Thank you Dave. You are a magic moments maker.
Being from a small town, a wedding entertainment director is not something that I was used to, and I questioned the need for one. After having worked with you Dave, I do not know how anyone would want to try to do a wedding without one!”
With enough of us, the conversation between a soon-to-be-bride and her best friend might one day go something like this: “Are you just going to hire a DJ or are you going to hire a Wedding Entertainment Director®?”
Is that a dream? Yes.
Is it a long ways off? Maybe.
Is it possible? Absolutely, no question about it.
Interested? Need more info? View the WED® website and application here.
And for another outstanding piece of writing on what becoming a WED® is all about, please see this blog post by Ohio’s first Wedding Entertainment Director®, Anna-Jeannine Kemper Herman of Something New Entertainment.
~ Dave T.
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What is the difference between a DJ/MC who simply announces the cake cutting (and then forgets it) and a DJ/MC who informs, guides, directs and engages the audience into the “why” about a cake cutting? Based on my experience, the difference is generally somewhere between $500 and $3000.
Today’s “cake cutting” at a wedding is often an overlooked and unimportant photo-op moment. Yet still, people continue to spend $300 – $1200 on a cake for this often “overlooked and unimportant” part of a wedding reception. In some cases, that’s more money than many DJs charge for an entire (very important!) evening of disc jockey and master of ceremonies services.
Personally, I had never considered the cake cutting to be much more than a “photo-op” until I attended the MarBeccaSilver Level Master of Ceremonies workshop. It was there that I discovered an opportunity to host the ceremony of a cake cutting in a way that would inform, guide, direct, and more importantly, engage, my audience at a wedding in a way they’d likely never experienced.
In that workshop, Mark pushed each of us to learn about the history and origins of the wedding cake, the significance of the cake cutting ceremony, and he then encouraged us to find unique and creative ways to tie some of that information into how we hosted cake cuttings at our weddings.
Since then, the formerly “overlooked and unimportant” cake cutting often comes up in consultations with prospective clients. And of course, the cake cutting ceremony almost always takes place at my weddings, but it now occurs within an entirely new context then before with added direction and new meaning for everyone in attendance.
In fact, the cake cutting will be taking on an even larger role in what I do with my 2015 weddings. For the final planning meetings with my 2015 weddings couples, I will be purchasing and bringing a cake to that meeting so that we can practice how the cutting will take place at their wedding. This will also make for a fun way to celebrate that we’ve now wrapped up the majority of the planning and further add to their experience working with me. (And of course, this helps better prepare them for wedding day itself.)
The reason I opened this blog post with the $500 – $3000 comment is because as a DJ, and in this instance more importantly an MC, the effort you put into learning about wedding traditions and the effort you put into hosting moments such as a cake cutting will directly reflect on your pay scale as a mobile wedding DJ/MC.
If you’d rather “announce and play the cake cutting song” or announce that they are cutting it and then “back up & shut up,” you can. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.
But do not mock the DJs who might do more then that. More than likely they are being compensated very well for their additional efforts. When done well, those efforts result in making weddings more engaging and more meaningful. In the end, this leads to more positive word of mouth (free marketing!) and more reasons for that DJ to get what they’re worth as a mobile wedding DJ/MC.
And isn’t that sweet?
~ Dave T.
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Shortly after a wedding from a couple of years ago, I received a Facebook message from the groomsman that had presented a toast to the Groom at the reception. In part, it read as follows:
I was thinking back the other day and the nerves really died off a lot quicker because of some early laughter a few times. I realized that you were right there letting out the chuckles loudly. I don’t know if you were being sincere or just helping a brother out but in either case thanks a ton cause it helped out!”
Ever since that day, I’ve made an extra effort to keep myself seriously engaged with all laughter and applause at a wedding (whether from speeches or something else).
Then, I started noticing something else. I didn’t just have to follow the guests’ responses, I could actually lead the applause. I could make it happen when maybe no one else would.
If I was properly understanding where the guests were at in relation to what was being said in a speech, where they were in a particular moment, I could prompt applause more often and thereby bring more enthusiasm and meaning to these moments!
As I took part in Chris & Jillian’s wedding this past weekend, I conciously caught myself at least 5 or 6 times (yes, I was counting!) prompting and leading the applause. It made for some really great moments and helped build the confidence in the speakers and what they were sharing. It raised the energy of the room. It created further respect for the person speaking. It made people smile. It further connected them to what and who was being spoken about in those given moments.
If you’re looking for happier guests, happier parents and needless to say, a happier bride & groom, of course you should laugh and applaud. But don’t just follow it, lead it.
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Treat the bride & groom’s guests as your own. Talk to (your) guests. Step out of the “DJ” box for just a moment to be a host and friend.
Earlier this evening, we’d just finished honouring wedding guests Roy & Olga for their years of marriage. As the following song was playing, I went over to them, off mic, and shook their hands congratulating this Aunt & Uncle of the Bride personally. After some basic chatter, Roy told me about how when he was 16 or 17 (shortly after he’d broken up with an ex-girlfriend) he took Olga out to a dance. The first song they danced to that night was “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” by the Platters.
I shared that story as way of introducing the song and then invited everyone to join Roy & Olga on the dance floor, to share in a dance that for them, started 52 years ago when they first met.
I’d have never been able to create that memory for them and the other guests if I didn’t take the time to treat them as my guests and go out of my way to talk with them. It was a really great moment that I’m sure they’ll remember from the night.
Treat the bride & groom’s guests as your own. Talk to (your) guests. Step out of the “DJ” box for just a moment to be a host and friend.