Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Importance of Being Early

As a wedding DJ, I take on a special responsibility for my clients and their guests when I agree to be a part of their day and evening.  I have to not only meet but exceed their expectations throughout the event.  I would not want a wedding professional involved in my wedding who did not have this goal in mind.  Why settle for ordinary when your love, your celebration, and your party are anything but?

I accomplish this with the utmost professionalism and with an attitude that lends itself to the success of the event.  There are countless ways I make this happen: I get to know the bride & groom.  I dress and act professionally at all times.  I use only top-notch equipment and have backups handy, just in case.  I make sure I have all their music on at least three different devices.  And maybe too easily overlooked by some but very important nonetheless- I always arrive early to the venue.  I'm not punctual.  I am early.

It seems simple, right?  Show up well before you are scheduled to play.  Unfortunately many don't strictly follow this rule and their performance suffers.  I do not want the bride & groom, their families, other wedding professionals etc to worry one moment about "Where is the DJ?"  My job is to facilitate the event, to head off problems before they impact the timeline, and to seize opportunities as they come up to make their day even more spectacular.  For me, being early sets me up to accomplish these goals.

Being early, I don't typically have to worry about loading or parking issues, and if I do I have plenty of time to work around them.  Sometimes the layout of a room has completely changed since talking with the clients or venue representative and the extra time allows for innovative problem solving if the new setup is less than ideal.  Power sources and positions for lighting and speakers can be tested and changed so that the set up is optimal.

Arriving early allows me to calm an overtaxed mother of the bride or a nervous groom.  It allows me to meet and get to know the bridal party and officiant and discuss pertinent details of the day.  I can speak with the venue rep, the caterers, the cake people and pick up valuable details while being a calming influence, showing them I will be a productive and cooperative partner in the upcoming festivities. Through this I am making connections that will not only serve me well in this event but in future events as well.

Finally, arriving early allows me to keep my personal stress level down.  I am not watching the clock, hurrying to accomplish something but instead taking my time to make sure that every little detail is correct.  I am a rock for my clients and the other wedding professionals, keeping things level and fun  which only magnifies the vibe of the entire event.

Personally, if I am not at the venue and unloaded an hour before I am supposed to play, I get antsy.  And this is at a venue that is close by and one that I have played before.  If the venue is further away, I always add more and more time depending on the circumstances.  I have to allow for traffic, for weather, for flat tires- basically anything that can happen I need to be prepared for.

In almost 800 weddings now, along with several hundred other events, I have had three close calls.

Once, in Southern California, I was rear-ended on the freeway on the way to a Holiday party. I had to wait for the CHP to come and make a report and even though it took up far more time than I would have liked, I was still at the venue and set up in time for cocktail music.

Another time, up at Lake Tahoe, I arrived early at a beach for a ceremony (the reception was in another spot and I had already set up there).  No sign of the bridal party but the officiant and a dozen family members were looking around, kind of confused.  It turns out they (and I) had been told the wrong beach by the coordinator!  The real beach was several miles away! Being early and inquisitive, I had the time to talk with the family members and officiant and I knew something wasn't quite right.  A quick call to the groom and we were off to the real ceremony site with time to spare.  Instead of "Where's the DJ?" I received gratitude for correcting an issue that would have affected their day.

Finally, the only other time I became worried about my arrival time was a winter wedding up in Incline Village.  It was snowing and I allowed for lots of extra time to get over the pass.  It's a good thing I did!  As I reached the top of the pass under whiteout, 15mph conditions, the road in front of me suddenly cleared up!  I was ecstatic until I drove off the highway into a shallow depression... The clear area was where the snowplow had just turned around. Aargh!  My vehicle wouldn't budge.  I immediately called AAA and awaited rescue. The tow truck showed up 45 minutes later and I had him take me all the way to the venue- I wasn't taking any more chances!  I did not make much that day- the tow charge and the healthy tip cut drastically into any profit but most importantly I was on time and the ceremony went off nicely.  I told my photographer friend what had happened and he laughed because he had passed me as the tow truck was hooking me up but didn't realize it was me.  So even in dire, blizzard conditions I had given myself that extra cushion of time and it had paid off immensely.

So what I am trying to say is a wedding is not a 'gig' or just another job.  It is a sacred trust you are entering into by accepting a contract, and every aspect of your preparation or lack thereof reflects on you and on your reputation.  Being early is one of those things that is well within the control of even a novice event professional, and all the little things you do to prepare add up and make a difference.  Don't be 'on time'!  Be early and your clients and your reputation will thank you.

My expensive hook up :)