Team Player: Working with Other Wedding Vendors by Mike Ryan

December 26, 2007 by Mike Ryan

You can only win the reception game as a member of the team

When I was asked to write about my experiences working with wedding vendors, a couple of words immediately sprung to mind: respect and teamwork.
My perspective goes beyond a simple “us and them” relationship: I’ve walked a while in their shoes. During a short stint with a theme party production house I must have put on hundreds of tablecloths, chair covers, chair cover sashes and an equal number of centerpieces; in case you had any doubt, it is definitely laborious and boring. In the Navy I had my share of galley (kitchen) duty-swabbing decks, cleaning tables, washing pots, pans and dishes-not fun. During college I took a photography class. I hated the developing chemicals and squinting into a camera gave me a reverse sense of claustrophobia. No doubt, you’ve had some similar experiences along the way. Welcome to the wedding vendor’s world.

Reception Team Roster
I firmly believe that good DJ karma starts from the bottom up. Many times after I’ve packed up my equipment and I’m ready to leave I’ve noticed the catering staff still toiling away, cleaning up the mess left behind. I always clean up my area, whether it’s leftover gaffers tape, soda cans or just removing the tablecloth and those little plastic thingies that hold it on. Someone had to set up the table and tablecloth for me-why not return the favor? More often than not, I’ll ask the catering staff if I can help them finish up. They always say “no thanks” but I know they appreciate the offer. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, they’ll tell their boss and more work may come my way. But like in the movie Pay It Forward, I don’t count on it. It’s a team effort and the event isn’t really over until the venue is locked up.
This example equally applied to all wedding vendors in some way. You can team up with the photographer by keeping him/her informed of different activities coming up that need to be photographed. Then, when you ask for a picture of your full dance floor he or she may be more amenable to sending you a copy.
How important is teamwork and respect to caterers? A past article on working with caterers quotes kitchen pros as stating: “The DJ is key to a smooth running event,” and “It’s critical for everyone, including the DJ, to be on the same page” and “The relationship with a mobile DJ is based on trust, consistency and fulfilled expectations.” If the catering staff gets slammed I try to help them out. It blows away guests when they see me, the DJ, helping the catering staff clear away plates. Again, it’s about team work.
Teamwork is paramount in the hotel industry. The hotel’s catering managers and coordinators have the heavy responsibility of putting together teams of experts, including DJs, for most if not all of the non-corporate parties. One catering manager says, “Any DJ I hire must be a team player and they need to remember that all aspects of an event are important!”
A sense of comaradery is also important. With so many Spanish-speaking employees in the hotel industry here in my Southern California stomping grounds, I like to play Latin music for them while I’m setting up before an event.
Talent agents also weighed in on teamwork: “If you want to approach a talent agent, let them know that you are willing to become part of the sales process, thus becoming part of their ‘team!’ And the team is there for one reason only: to give the end client the best event possible so they will come back time after time and recommend us to others.” All the talent agents I interviewed for a previous article agreed: “If you work with a TA you should be ethical, loyal to your agent, and you should remember that you are part of a team whose job it is to make the client’s dreams come true.”
Other wedding team members who need to be mentioned include wedding planners and ceremony officiants (ministers, rabbis, etc.). My experience working with officiants has been an easy and mostly enjoyable one, except for the occasional one who shows up late. Wedding planners, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge to work with. A new trend in the wedding planning world is the “Day Of” wedding planner.” These planners are the “iPod weddings” of the wedding planning profession and are a real thorn is the side of traditional WPs. The first “Day Of” planner I worked with gave me her convoluted reception schedule at the very last minute before the Grand Entrance. She had the couple’s last name wrong; I announced them as it was written and ended up looking like the fool.
Most mobile DJs appreciate how difficult a job a traditional wedding planner has. I hear horror stories from my WP friends about their dealings with brides-to-be. They have a lot more patience than I will ever have. I always defer to them because of the nature of their business; they can spend hundreds of hours with the couples in the planning stages of a wedding. Of course, some WPs think they are the absolute rulers of reception schedules. Personally, I would like to see wedding planners just deal with everything up to the ceremony and leave the reception planning and coordination to the professional entertainers-the DJs. With that said, most WPs appreciate what mobile DJs bring to the wedding team.
When you’ve graduated to the professional level (which you probably have, if you’re reading Mobile Beat) you’ll find that you’re working with many other team members of equal status. They know they are professionals and act accordingly-and you should too.

Join the Club
Surprisingly, the best teams I’ve experienced are my two local DJ associations. I have been truly impressed and am proud to report that all members share extra work, ideas, music and even equipment with each other. When one of our association members had all his equipment stolen everyone pitched in to help him. I gladly gave him two spare speaker stands.
One little concluding postscript: Some people disagree with me when I say that, even though DJs are entertainers, I think we’re more aligned with the hospitality industry. I get far more work through caterers, meeting planners, destination management companies, photographers and wedding planners (ie., the hospitality industry) then I ever do from members of the entertainment industry! And from my experience the hospitality industry is a very tight club. Once you’re in it, respect the team and you’ll have plenty of work. Respect and teamwork is what being a professional wedding reception vendor is all about.

Mike Ryan started writing for news radio. He also DJ’d on KGB and KSDS. He mobiles as Mike on the Mike and is also the inventor/owner of Frankenstand Powered Speaker Stands! Mike also works part time as a DMC tour guide. He has been the President of the San Diego Professional Tour Guide Association, a board member of his local NACE chapter and is currently the secretary of the San Diego Chapter of the ADJA.


DJs need to remember that all aspects of an event are important.

Mike Ryan Mike Ryan (26 Posts)

Mike Ryan spins at the Corvette Diner in San Diego. He also invented the Air-Powered speaker stand the FRANKENSTAND. He is a 20-year veteran of radio, and served on ADJA and NACE boards.

Filed Under: 2007, Mobile DJ Business