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This 1 wedding planning mistake couples keep making

February 23, 2023

There is clearly a disconnect . . .

We’re noticing a disturbing trend that’s going to lead to some very lackluster wedding celebrations. In this blog we’re going to explore some of the current events in our socioeconomic, political climate, and how those trends have exaggerated a dysfunctional habit that has existed as a wedding planning mistake in the planning process for decades.

The Bad Habit . . .

A person smoking a cigarette illustrating a bad habit.
When most couples begin the journey of wedding planning, they look for advice & guidance. However, rarely do they seek advice from people who have planned and worked multiple weddings – the pros. In fact, some couples are skeptical of wedding professionals due to sensationalist media articles and myths like the “wedding tax”, encountering the stereotypical used car salesman on the other end trying to “sell them”, or they feel like they’re wasting a professional’s time to call and ask questions. Another reason it’s sometimes hard to seek guidance from professionals is that there are many wedding pros that are new/inexperienced or undereducated. Because it feels like it’s less pressure, couples turn to other couples that have gone through the planning process, or are also currently in the planning process. The problem with that, these other couples have only done this one time, or less!

The following advice is what’s typically shared by couples when it comes to the order of booking professionals & services.

  1. Book a venue, and set a date.
  2. Book your catering if the venue doesn’t offer it already. Also book bar service/alcohol if needed.
  3. Book your photographer & videographer
  4. Book Your DJ/Band

What's wrong with this?

It didn’t use to be such a concern to book the venue first as most venues didn’t cost very much to rent, but that’s changed. Venues and catering have greatly gone up in price due to said political and socioeconomic factors such as inflation and cost of goods. This has squeezed budgets more than ever, and because of this, couples need to use a different strategy when it comes to booking services for their weddings.

We’re not saying that the above method is patently wrong, however, given that music/entertainment is practically equal in importance to the venue, and that couples want to ensure they have a great time with their guests, it’s important to consider the big picture. The big picture boils down to having “The Best Of What’s Around” tailor-made to your event. Just like the Dave Matthews Band song of the same name, there’s a line in that song that speaks a very real truth: 

Turns out not where, but who you're with That really matters...

By prioritizing the venue as the first thing you book, you put the “where” above the “who”. It puts quantity over quality because you will feel pressure to fill the venue with invited guests even though some of those people won’t have much connection with you. Some venues will have minimum spending requirements where you will pay for a full venue even if you don’t use it (including food & beverage). What this will lead to, as you look into the other wedding pros you need to complete your day, is a feeling of frustration & regret. You’ll be forced to say, “I love your service, but now it doesn’t fit in our budget.”

After catering the next biggest expenses in a wedding budget are usually the DJ & Photographer. By searching for these professionals AFTER booking a venue, you may be forced into booking the less-desirable budget option. The problem with this is most budget options promise the world (i.e. claiming they’re a premiere service), but then grossly underdeliver. 

Here’s an example of what a budget DJ’s setup looks like vs. a premium DJ:


Far more important than the equipment, is the person you hire, but that topic is for a different article!

A better way:

A better way with a bright road ahead!

I’m writing this for all the couples who want to make sure their wedding is an epic celebration – even in a non-ideal economy! It is a FACT that entertainment has the biggest impact on the success, and the memories, of a wedding reception when compared to all of the other pros/vendors one may hire. Some couples go as far as saying, “The DJ/Band IS the wedding reception.” Often times couples don’t realize this until they’re well into the planning process, and some couples, sadly, don’t realize this until it’s too late – in other words, after the amateur band/DJ ruins the reception.

Before reading our suggestion below...

A wedding planner diligently checking the details of the plan.

The very best way to save yourself from a lot of the pitfalls and stress that most couples fall into is by hiring a reputable wedding planner. Our top recommendation is Pink Door Events. While they are based in Door County, they do offer services in the Fox Valley as well. 

Wedding Planners will help you properly prioritize your budget, guide you to the correct vendors/venue/services, gently give you reality checks when you need them, and be there on the day of your wedding to help run things so you don’t have to. A great wedding planner, like a great DJ, is worth their weight in gold.

That being said, if you are dead set against hiring a wedding planner, here is our suggested steps for booking the ULTIMATE wedding reception.

1. Prioritize DJ/Band & Photographer.

Wedding Dance with a bride having the time of her life

These are the ARTISTS where you want to make sure you procure the very best talent. With these 2 professionals keep this in mind: they are one-of-a-kind, and they can only book 1 wedding per day – once they book with you they’re yours for that day, and no one else’s. Research the ones you really want, make allotments in your budget so that money is earmarked. Put quality above price as these two professionals will both give you what truly lasts from your wedding day – memories. It’s all about the experience, and this is the area where you DO NOT want to skimp. Get who you really want, and by allotting this in your budget first, you’ll run into less headaches later.

-IMPORTANT TIP: Some DJ companies operate by offering cookie-cutter services across a stable of DJs. These “DJ Farms” do not offer unique artistry and talent, but instead offer a generic process that can be reasonably managed by someone who is minimally trained. If having an epic celebration is important to you, it is recommended to avoid these DJ companies.

2. Based on your remaining budget, determine your guest count. 

This will entail getting quotes for catering & beverage service, along with invitations & favors. So, in essence, step two includes researching everything you wish to provide for each guest. This step may also include researching venues that include catering as part of their service. This step is SO important to determine properly as any wedding planner or professional worth their salt will tell you: The biggest cost to any wedding are the guests, and the best way to control cost is to control your guest list.

3. Search for venues that fit your guest count

This is quite liberating to do this third, and once you’ve determined the guest list you can afford!! If you’re going to have 100 people at your wedding, you’ve automatically ruled out venues that hold 300+, and versa vica. This will help narrow down your list, and make picking out a venue that much easier. Try to have a top 3 venues in case your first choice doesn’t work out, you have 2 more to fall back on.

One HUGE word of caution though: Be sure to ask venues for sample layouts of the number of people they claim to be able to hold. Some venues overstate the number of people they can fit comfortably once you take into account space for vendors/pros that will need room for their services. As an example, a venue may state they can hold 150 people max, but that may mean you have tables on the dance floor, or you end up in a situation where you need space for a Photo Booth, the DJ/Band setup, etc. and the venue doesn’t leave a proper amount of room for them and/or your guests. 

Avoid venues who’s solution is to place your entertainment in the corner of a room. Unless there is an architectural reason for placing a dance floor/DJ/Band in a corner, that is usually the sign of a poorly educated or inexperienced venue manager.

4. Set Your Date

But wouldn’t I need to do this first in order to book everything? 


While you were researching everything above, what you also want to do is ask for a list of dates within a certain time-frame that they have open. Find dates that line up for everyone in your dream team, double-check with your selected pros that the dates are still available, then select your date while signing contracts and putting down deposits/retainers. 

Calendar with Today is the perfect day to be happy written on it.

5. The Rest

Most everything else you would book for a wedding are services that have scalability. Rentals, decor, cake, wedding attire (dress & suits), etc. Nearly all of these services have the capability to take on several events in one day, and as long as you book relatively in advance, you should have no problem getting the ones you pick, that also fit into the rest of your budget. 

Some other advantages

By choosing a high-quality DJ & Photography team first, they can help guide and suggest other quality wedding pros and give you the inside scoop on which venues are the best to work with. While your guests may not have a bad experience with a venue that looks well put together, behind the scenes you as the couple, as well as your other wedding pros, may run into venue ownership/management that is difficult to work with. Venues with poor customer service both to their patrons and to the vendor team you’ve hired can also lead to situations/headaches you’re left to deal with before, during, and after the wedding.

Some examples we’ve run into are:


  • Poorly designed property layouts with excessive distances between venue features (i.e. ceremony site, venue, parking) where some of the features are not accessible by car/truck, and the venue doesn’t offer assistance with transporting gear/supplies/guests. 
  • Arbitrary rules/restrictions (i.e. a venue that only allows preferred caterers to use their catering kitchen, but to become a preferred caterer the venue requires you provide them with free services)
  • Venues that make it the couple’s responsibility to clean up messes their guests may leave in the bathroom. What bride, groom, or guest should have to clean up a bathroom mess on their wedding night? 
  • Venues that are setup in residential areas, and as a result of poor location choice, receive noise complaints that can result in police visiting the wedding reception.
  • Venues that make you pay extra to have access to your reception space the morning of your wedding, or even book events in your space the morning of your wedding thereby preventing your vendors from being able to setup at a reasonable time.
  • Venues that nickel & dime their clients even after paying a premium price for renting the space.


It’s all about QUALITY over quantity. It doesn’t matter if you have 50 guests or 500 guests. Great entertainment will be the largest contribution to making your celebration one to remember – for all of the right reasons. 

With the prices of receptions going up, especially in venues and catering, more couples will be faced with this question:

“Do I create a mediocre experience for myself surrounded by 500 people (half of which I barely know), or create an EPIC experience for myself surrounded by 50 of my absolute favorite people?” While the numbers in that question may be exaggerated, the bottom line is this –

It’s not where, but who you’re with that really matters. Give yourself, and those people the best night of their lives. Invest in great entertainment to make that happen, and get a great photographer to preserve those memories.

The other way to help yourself get the best wedding possible, is hire a reputable wedding planner. They will know to follow the steps above to put together the best experience for you!

Alton Olson

Alton Olson

The founder of SoundFire DJ. Alton is an established wedding professional in Northeast Wisconsin, and influencer in DJ trends and entertainment.

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