Brides and grooms on a tight budget….yes you CAN afford a professional DJ!

In my last blog, I talked about how important it is to make sure you have enough money in your budget to afford a professional DJ. As I mentioned before, your DJ will be the vendor your guests will remember the most about your reception. Sure, they will enjoy the prime rib, they will think the chair covers are nice, and they will love how your cake is decorated….but they will remember dancing and partying the most. I also mentioned in the last blog that a good, professional, DJ, will cost at least $600 in Pensacola and the Gulf Coast. (If you happened to come upon this blog and you live somewhere else, please keep in mind the cost for a professional DJ may be more or less in your area depending on your market.)

Okay, so now you might be thinking “I really want a professional DJ, but I am on a budget. How can I afford a professional DJ?” I have worked with brides and grooms on a budget, and those brides and grooms have been able to enjoy wonderful receptions with a professional DJ, even on a budget. What was their secret? They simply cut corners in other areas.

Now before we start talking about ways you can cut corners, let me say the most important thing to realize is when you choose vendors, the two vendors you do not want to cut corners on is your DJ and your photographer because those are the two vendors who will leave the most lasting memories. We already talked about how your DJ is the one vendor your guests will remember most because he is the one vendor who will make your reception fun. But, your photographer is just as important because he or she are the ones who take the photos and make the visual memories you will look back on.

So here are some tips and suggestions from my own personal experiences when I have worked with brides and grooms on a budget:

1. Book your entertainment early!  As I said before, book your DJ as one of your first vendors and make sure you budget at least $600 for your DJ. (That’s for a basic reception with a performance time of 4 hours. If you want extras like up lighting, a photo booth, a second sound system for your ceremony, or anything like that it will cost more than $600, so make sure you budget for those things as well.) By knowing how much a professional DJ costs and by booking early, it will make budgeting a lot easier. Also, many DJ services will give you a discount if you book and pay your retainer fee at least 6 months before your wedding!

2. Consider having your friends and family bring food. I’ve done plenty of weddings where the bride and groom had their friends and family cook and bring dishes for the food, and people have enjoyed that just as much as they would if a local restaurant had catered it. I’ve been to wedding receptions where the family fixed barbecue, pastas, turkey, seafood, and even had submarine sandwiches. A lot of those brides said their reception meant more because they knew the food came from the heart because it was from their friends and family. I ate at several of those weddings too, and I can tell you the food was delicious. So remember, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on food to have a wonderful reception, ask your friends and family to pull together and bring a dish. It will work out nicely!

3. Consider having your reception in another location besides a banquet hall. Just like your food, you don’t have to rent a big, nice, expensive hall in order to have a nice reception. I’ve done wedding receptions at beach houses before where the house was on stilts. We had the reception underneath the house and it worked out great. I’ve also done weddings where the bride and groom rented a tent, set it up in their back yard, and added tables and lights. I also have done weddings on a pool deck and in a screened in porch. One of my most memorable wedding receptions was in the cafeteria of an elementary school. The bride’s mother was a teacher and was able to get permission to use the school cafeteria. Honestly, her reception was one of the best I had ever attended because her friends and family had that cafeteria decorated so nicely it looked just as nice (if not nicer) than any expensive hall I have been to.

4. Consider having your ceremony and reception in the same location. You can save a lot of money by having your ceremony and reception all at the same place. I know many brides have said they have dreamed about getting married in a church, but with the right decorating and the right planning, you can have your ceremony in another location and it can be just as special as if it was at a church. I’ve done weddings before where the ceremony and reception took place at a golf club. They had a patio area that was set up just like a church (with an aisle and everything). Then, guests came inside the main clubhouse area for the reception. I’ve also done other weddings where the bride and groom rented a beach house and had their ceremony on the beach and their reception under the house in a patio area.

5. Eliminate things you don’t really need.  I can’t tell you what you should eliminate because that is something only you can decide. But, make a list of things you want for your wedding and then go through and eliminate the things you don’t really need. You will find this can save you a considerable amount of money, then take the money you save and put it toward things that will really make your reception a success (such as updating services with your DJ, photographer, or even hiring a videographer if you haven’t already.) You really can have a great reception without some of the “extras” you want but don’t really need.

6. Be sure to choose a venue that has a ramp or elevator for your DJ to load in / load out. If you choose a venue and your reception will be on another floor, make sure the venue has a ramp or an elevator for your DJ. The reason this can save you money is because if you choose to have your reception at a venue where the only option is to load up and down a flight of stairs, chances are your DJ will have to hire extra help to carry the equipment, which means you will end up paying more for the labor (sometimes as much as double the original price). If there are stairs involved, the DJ service may even decline your wedding altogether due to insurance regulations. (A lot of times the liability insurance companies will not cover the DJ or the equipment if stairs are involved, they consider that a big risk and require an elevator or ramp be used at all times which makes it a lot easier.) If you are having your reception at a beach house, be sure to choose a house on stilts so you can turn the area underneath the house into the reception area. That way you won’t have to worry about the extra labor charges if you had the reception inside the house. (Unless, of course, the beach house has an elevator then you can have it inside and not have to worry about it.)

7. Consider having a regular “party” after your ceremony instead of a “reception”. So what does this mean, isn’t a “reception” a “party”?  Yes and no. In DJ termonology, a “wedding reception” is a “party” with a lot of formalities and planning added on, which means it’s going to be more expensive. (After all the more work your DJ does, the more it will cost just like any other vendor). But, regular “parties” just consist of music, dancing, a light show, and no formalities, meaning less work and less planning. Logically, the price would be lower for that type of event. If you really aren’t wanting all the formalities of a wedding reception, ask your DJ if you can have a “party” instead. Most DJ companies will be willing to honor that request for you.

I’ve had many brides and grooms tell me “I am on a budget so my family is going to have to cook the food” or “we are going to have the reception in my uncle’s backyard and can’t afford to have our reception at a nice venue.” My response to them is simply this….don’t worry about about being on a tight budget or what you have for food or where you will have your reception. If I am your DJ, I will make sure you have a nice wedding reception! I’ve done plenty of weddings where brides on a budget have had just as nice (and in some cases, nicer) weddings than those who spent tens of thousands of dollars going all out.

These are just some suggestions to help you out. Remember, you don’t have to rent a huge hall, hire an expensive restaurant, or rent two seperate places for your ceremony and reception in order to have a great wedding. Make sure you hire a professional DJ and a professional photographer.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to email me anytime at

Stacey Noles is a professional mobile DJ in Pensacola, Florida. You may visit his website by visiting