Tag: wedding


Food for thought dear bride

who will do it cheaper

There is always someone who will do it cheaper

Dear Bride,

Wedding Presenter, Master of Ceremonies and Party Host Colin Cook would like to ask you a question or two.

So – if you were to suggest the following to a Bride:

Wedding Dress – Primark

Wedding Cake – Asda Essentials

Wedding Rings – Elizabeth Duke at Argos

Bridesmaids Dresses – Tesco

Basics Catering – Lidl and Aldi Buffet Range.

You’d probably get laughed at and told ‘not a chance’. I totally understand that! It’s an incredibly important day and you want everything to be just perfect. Yet when choosing entertainment for the longest part of the wedding day with the highest number of guests and creating the memories which guests will take away at the end of the night why do so many brides go for the cheap budget DJs?

For many couples it is one of, if not the most expensive days of their lives yet so many finish on an ‘ok’ or ‘average’ note due to skimping on the things which make a real difference. To put it into context, if you have a buffet on the evening in the middle of the entertainment you have chosen, then even if you choose the very cheapest buffet option the chances are that bacon sandwich will have cost more than your DJ. Many times more than your DJ: Sounds crazy, but that’s a fact. Even the very best DJs cost only a tiny portion of your wedding budget. Many couples pay more for a bacon butty than for their evening entertainment.

A few more facts for context:

1 – Most couples will spend more on chair covers for people to plonk their bottoms on than on their entertainment.

2 – Many couples will spend more on the cake, which never gets eaten, than on their entertainment.

3 – Most couples will spend more on ONE DRINK per daytime guest for their drinks reception than on their entire evening’s entertainment.

But, after the day you have only memories and photos (and probably a big bill!) so here is a little experiment for you – just for a bit of fun. Find 20 people who are either not engaged or have not got married in the past 3 years. Ask them the following questions and take note of their answers.

1 – Did the bride look amazing?

2 – What was her dress like?

3 – What did the cake look like?

4 – What did the cake taste like?

5 – What was the music like for the ceremony?

6 – Was the food good?

7 – What food did you have?

8 – What were the bar prices like?

9 – What was the evening entertainment like?

10 – What is your single most lasting memory of the wedding.

Now in true Derren Brown style I can tell you what around 90% of the answers will be.

1 – Yes, don’t they always?

2 – I have no idea (men), I can’t remember (women)

3 – I can’t remember

4 – I don’t think I had any. (or on the rare occasion they did – it was cake).

5 – I don’t remember. (Unless the music was professionally managed or performed in which case 90%+ of family members and 70% of other guests will remember)

6 – 95%+ will remember if the food was good or not

7 – Around 70% will remember exactly what they had.

8 – 80% of men will remember whether the bar prices were high or not, around 50% of women will remember.

9 – I’ll hedge my bets that 99% minimum (lol) will tell you EXACTLY what they thought of the evening entertainment. It will stick in their minds far longer than anything else. Also, for your evening guests it will be their only measure of the day (along with the bar prices).

10 – This one I am going to leave to you to find out. I think the answer might surprise you. If you really want to know what is genuinely important for a great wedding these are great questions to find the answers to. And as a follow on to that, if you do decide to book professional, high quality entertainment for your wedding then it is really worth putting some time aside to have a few chats (phone or email if you like) with your chosen entertainer as any Top Quality DJ will be able to make some suggestions to turn your day into something spectacularly memorable at little or no additional cost. Memories happen regardless. How great they are or how long they last takes some work!

Contact Colin Cook enquiries@colincook.co.uk

entertainment, weddings

The difference between Toastmasters, MCs and wedding DJ specialists.

There has been a great deal of debate regarding mobile DJs who are turning their attention toward expanding their services and presenting an alternative to the current choice of formal toastmaster and hotel duty manager, or family member, acting as a MC. So what is the difference?


Geoffrey Cornwell is a well-respected toastmaster. His website offers this explanation.           “A Professional Toastmaster is trained to find out what you want and to then liaise with everyone involved on your day.  He will work with all parties concerned and with your guests to ensure that timings and arrangements are complied with as you have requested them.  He will work closely with your photographer, caterer and other services to ensure that the day runs smoothly.  Your Toastmaster will guide you through your day and look after your guests to ensure that you enjoy a stress-free special day.”

He goes on to explain, “I will be available to advise you in etiquette and protocol from the day that you decide to use my services.  I can call on a wealth of experience to help you make decisions about your big day.  I will liaise with the other service providers to ensure that we are all working towards the same goal, which is fulfilling your wishes and giving you the best day of your life.”


An M.C. (Master of Ceremonies) generally will make announcements only, which will not necessarily be personal to the bride and groom. According to The Free Dictionary an MC is

1. A person who acts as host at a formal event, making the welcoming speech and introducing other speakers.
2. A performer who conducts a program of varied entertainment by introducing other performers to the audience.
So to my way of thinking there is no way a mobile DJ would or should ever consider comparing himself to a Toastmaster. His [ the Toastmaster] duties are heavily steeped in organisation and formality. He is usually authoritative in his demeanor and posseses a vocal ability which will not require a microphone except for the very largest of venues.
So where does the mobile DJ / Wedding Specialist fit in to the picture?
The DJ is well suited to taking on the roll of the MC. However the big difference between a conventional MC and a DJ / MC is MUSIC.
Music enables us to customise and personalise our announcements while also creating energy and emotion at one and the same time. Our use of professional sound systems and our microphone technique enables us to present introductions like no ordinary MC.
Jim Cerone, “The Perfect Host” is a DJ who has mastered the art of using creative music programming, presentaion skills and making announcements to great effect.
If we as DJs are able to communicate our difference and offer our brides a choice between toastmaster and conventional MCs we will be enhancing the occasion and presenting an alternative. We are not trying to replace either of these services, rather we are offering a brand new and unique service which the Toastmaster and ordinary MC are not able to offer. In short we are creating a new market which has not previously existed.
The only problem is that our brides have no idea that such a service is available to them. That is, until you tell them or you develop a reputation which results in your service being recommended by other wedding professionals.
Our knowledge of music and our ability to use it to create emotion brings another dimension to a wedding breakfast and wedding reception. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination. I have provided themed music where inspiration was provided by great theatre musicals, The Movies, Disney and  the swinging sixties to name but a few.
I’ve introduced a Bride and Groom into the room using classical favorites, love songs and even heavy metal numbers, all to great effect.
However taking on this new role also requires a great amount of responsibility. The DJ will need to know the procedures and traditions associated with weddings. He will also need to be aware of agreed time lines and of the obligations undertaken by other service providers. Most importantly he will need to establish trust with the venue management, none of which is easy or can be achieved overnight.
The Specialist Wedding Dj will need to develop his vocal skills and understand the importance of staging, direction and production. He or she will also need to be an excellent communicator.
In summary a DJ / MC needs to research the market, acquire the knowledge and develop a style which is unique. A style which is flexible and one which can best reflect his client’s personality and the kind of informal yet respectful performance best suited to his client.
This is an exciting and attractive opportunity for the new breed of professional wedding DJs. There are an ever-increasing number of professionals currently offering this unique service which is being well received by their clients.
Isn’t it about time you joined them?
Until next time………………………..
entertainment, Uncategorized, weddings

“Resident” Mobile DJs – is it good news for the client?

Many independent mobile disco operators & DJs aspire to landing a residency but is this really a good thing for the client?

[This refers to private parties and not bars or night clubs]

Traditionally the very term “mobile disco” relates to a DJ who transports himself and his equipment to a venue where he recreates the discotheque atmosphere in a room which would otherwise be devoid of professional sound systems, flashing lights and non-stop dance music. He or she delivers everything needed, including an extensive music library, and the ability to read an audience while keeping the dance floor packed all night long. In return he receives a fee which reflects the fact that this is no easy feat, one which few people can achieve and is therefore financially rewarding.

The mobile DJ needs to find his own work. He is independent and therefore  seeks out his clients by marketing his services via word of mouth, flyers, business cards and web sites as well as  referrals from satisfied clients. Very often third parties such as venues are impressed with the standard of performance and they offer to take contact details and pass them on to people interested in hiring their venue for a party. This is good news. Venues are keen to recommend service providers who do a good job. They are also happy to refer DJs who work well with the staff and “fit in” with the logistics involved in hosting a party for their mutual customer.

Some venues go one step further and are happy to offer a single DJ to become their “Resident DJ / Disco”. The venue knows who will be playing the music and the customer gets an entertainer who is recommended and is guaranteed to do a good job [theoretically]. The mobile DJ likes the idea of regular work at the venue which means he or she will not need to spend as much time and money on advertising his DJ service and finding his own clients. It looks like an ideal partnership. A win-win situation – but is it?

In an ideal world it probably is but this is not an ideal world. Firstly we need to consider the end-user by which I mean the person whose party it is. Is it possible for one DJ to be sufficiently talented, skilled and experienced enough to cover every type of party offered to him? Is it conceivable that he can deliver the same standards night in night out to the diverse eclectic clientele offered by the venue. Is it likely that the resident DJ would ever refuse to host a party because he admits he is not proficient with a music genre or a type of client?

Secondly we need to appreciate the venue’s position. They are looking to please as many people as possible. If they perceive the entertainment as “Music and Lights” and are looking for a predetermined level of service from their DJ it may well be the case that a “Jack of all trades and Master of Non” is what they value.

In other words the whole idea of resident DJs in venues works for the venue more so than the DJ or their client for that matter.

As in all walks of life there are exceptions to the rule. There are I’m sure Resident DJs who have the wealth of knowledge, skill, talent and experience to provide excellent performances for varied clients. Unfortunately they are difficult to find and their residencies are under threat. They are under pressure from venues and accountants who are keen to take advantage of the DJ’s vulnerability.

Venues are being constantly approached by DJs who want a slice of the action. You can guarantee that a venue will receive requests for meetings or offers of low-priced fees for regular work from dozens of DJs each and every month. These DJs are eager to get regular work, many have full-time day jobs and are therefore not able to spend time seeking work from individual clients. A residency is seen as easy money and they will be happy to undercut the existing fees attributed to the current resident.

All too often the accountants rule the roost and the pressure to reduce costs is too great to ignore. Quality is subjective and as long as none of the end-user clients complain then where is the harm in opting for a more competitive price? Unfortunately once a venue takes this stance the whole situation becomes desperate. More mobile DJs are keen to offer their services and the price keeps being driven down as is the standard of service offered. So what started out as a good idea quickly becomes a bad idea especially for the DJs and the end-user clients. The venues are left with mediocre talent and parties which at best may only be described as average.

Ironically the mobile DJ has become his own worst enemy. In chasing what seemed a pot of gold he has helped devalue the pricing structure and played into the hands of the accountants. Clients are suffering as standards fall and all DJs are being tarred with the same brush.

Preferred suppliers;

Good news. All is not lost. There is an emerging breed of DJ who is carving a new path through the doom and gloom. The new thinking is based on individual personalised marketing. Some DJs are now opting to offer their services as preferred suppliers to a venue. They are looking for referrals based on a client’s needs. They are prepared to offer their services directly to the end-user client but not to be held to ransom by the venue. Developing this relationship also means that the venue would be encouraged to offer a selection of preferred supplier DJs to their clients. This would create competition based on talent, service and professionalism. It means customers have a choice. They can make an informed decision based on their needs and not the needs of the venue.

Overcoming the accountants may well be a stumbling block. In order to become a preferred supplier the DJ may well have to offer a commission or finders fee to the venue. This is not uncommon in the industry and if all is above-board and transparent then it is an acceptable cost of doing business.

If I were planning a birthday party, corporate event or a wedding I’d be suspicious of a venue offering me a resident DJ. Who are they to tell me who will entertain at my party. They don’t know me or have any idea what my tastes are. Choice is what I want. Let the venue recommend by all means but please leave the final decision to me.

Let me apologise in advance if this blog has offended any of my fellow DJs. It was not my intention to offend anyone. My aim is for all of us to reflect on the state of the market as it is today. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to know our limitations. I write from experience.

Think of me as poacher turned gamekeeper. I have held residencies in venues. I admit to becoming complacent. It’s so easy to think I can play the same music on Saturday for a wedding that I played on Friday for a birthday party, How difficult can it be – play the current chart music and throw in a few requests if I happen to have them, right?

I have been a multi-operator / agent. I’ve been shafted by DJs who worked for me and screwed by venues who wanted to reduce my fees.I’ve booked DJs who have proved inconsistent and unreliable. I’ve worked with some fantastic talented DJs who are much better than I could ever hope to be.

The debate will continue of that I am certain. However the question still remains. Are residencies all they are cracked up to be. Whose interests do they best serve – the DJ, the client or the venue?

Answers on a postcard please – or you can leave your comment below.

entertainment, Uncategorized, weddings

Playlists and Time lines

Don’t you just love it when you receive a playlist from a bride and you just know it’s either too long or too structured.

As you may be aware, dear reader, I reside in Cyprus for most of the year and my clients are visiting the island to be married. Usually there are no more than thirty guests at the evening reception with a maximum so far of fifty on one occasion.

usually the wedding takes place between four and six in the afternoon and is followed by a drinks reception and the inevitable photographs including final shots taken as the sun sets which is around eight o’clock in the evening.

Dinner will be served anytime from six o’clock onward and speeches and those sunset photos will be intermixed within the time-line according to the venue and event coordinator’s agreed instructions from the bride.

Cypriot meals have a tendency to take far longer than those in the UK. Traditionally a meal is the time for relaxation, conversation and no one is watching the clock. This can come as a big surprise to visiting families from the UK. Inevitably this time factor eats into the allocated time for dancing. Believe me I’ve been present when the first dance scheduled for 8pm has not taken place much before 10 o’clock.

I guess we could lay the blame for this on the wedding event planners and the venues for not advising the bride or sometimes on the waiting staff for not being organised. However none of this prepares the DJ for the frustrated bride who simply wants to do her first dance and get the party started, especially when she has supplied you with a playlist running to four hours or more of music.

Communication is vital to avoid such situations alas very often the DJ has no or very little contact with the bride before the day of the wedding. All communication is with the tour operator or the venue and the DJ is only given the playlist and expected to fit a quart into a pint pot![ or whatever the metric equivalent may be]

Example 1

Music – DJ Play List edited

My first reaction to this list was that it contained far too much music. It had a running time of seven and a half hours. I was also concerned about the bride’s allocation of times when music selections should be played. Apart from the early music for dinner I was concerned that her choice would be too much to her taste and not that of her guests. I doubted very much I could stick to this list and provide entertainment for all of her fifty guests. The reception was to be outdoors by a pool and music volume would have to be reduced significantly after 11 o’clock with the party finishing at 12 midnight.

Anticipating not being able to play all of the music I asked the bride to highlight in bold her “must plays” and then proceeded to refresh my memory by listening to the selected tracks and graded them by scoring each track as a 1 = great tune, 2 = definite maybe or 3 = doubtful to be well received.

On the day we juggled the photographs and the speeches by starting with the father of the bride’s speech and then taking the first course of the meal while the bride and groom went for their sunset photos. We then carried on with the other two speeches and toasts prior to the main course being served.

The mood was lively and it became apparent that i would not need to add much more to  the older music selections. In fact I opted to introduce her “Other special requests” during the meal and was amazed when people started dancing at their tables and in front of my DJ booth. Before I knew it we had a party on our hands before desert had been served or any of the three spotlight dances had taken place.

We had to put the brake on, call a halt to the open dance and introduce the three spotlight dances. I suggested we start with the father daughter dance so that dad could hand his daughter to her new husband for their first dance. This worked really well. Finally we took the brake off and invite everyone back onto the floor for the third spotlight dance and sure enough our party was back on track.

It turned out that this bride did indeed know her family and friend’s taste in music very well. She was up for a party and so where all of her guests. My challenge was to keep to the time line. I managed this by editing her playlist with brutality. I stuck to her “Must Haves” and then selected according to my own scoring system. I removed over three hours of her music selections while retaining the order of her music choice rearranged into a more acceptable structure which maintained the energy and delivered a packed dance area throughout the night.

Indeed the night was so successful that they asked me to relocate to a room indoors where we continued to party on for another two hours.  So I am delighted to say that my apprehension and doubts were unfounded and on this occasion my bride had proved to be the exception to the rule. She really did know better than me. I however used my experience and knowledge to take her idea and programme a playlist which evolved in real-time on the night. Together we produced a fantastic party which I am sure everyone will remember for many years to come.

Example 2

Wedding Play List edited

The first thing I noticed about this playlist is that it had three and a half hours running time and that most of the tracks were popular choices which would work fine. Then I realised my bride wanted them playing in decade order starting with the sixties and working toward the present day. She later added another six current chart hits to the list.

I have previously encountered such lists with a similar structure and was aware that this may not be an ideal way of presenting this music for maximum effect. I had also noticed that the start time was 5.30pm. Upon arrival i was told that was the time of the wedding ceremony and that dinner would not be served until 7.30pm. Fine.

Once again the issue of speeches and time taken to serve and eat the meal were of concern. My bride was very demanding and was keen to squeeze in as much music as possible however she did not appreciate how long the meal would take. She had arranged for a videographer to come back at 9pm to film her first dance. When he returned some guests where still eating their main course which was the third item on the menu that night. Deserts where still to follow and so too were the speeches.

Eventually it was decided to hold the speeches once everyone had finished the main course. Desert would be relegated to after the first dance. I arranged with the bride and the videographer to insert a second dance into the scenario as the first dance was to be a special routine created by the B & G.

It was gone 9.30 before we introduced the B & G onto the dance floor and then invited the rest of the guests [only 24 in all] to join in to “My Girl” by the temptations. The instruction was to carry on with the playlist which i did. Once again I had to be brutal with removing tracks I believed would not work and also rearrange the running order to get best results. I removed one and a half hour’s worth of music yet kept the floor steadily occupied throughout the night. We had planned some slower quieter music for the final twenty minutes and finally finished on a high with “500 miles”

A good time was had by all and we finished on time which was essential as by law in Cyprus you can can not go on after midnight. All outside music has to be off or else you risk your equipment being confiscated and a hefty fine.


I don’t always know best despite my thirty odd years playing music at weddings. Brides sometimes do know better than us. Even with the best of planning time-lines slip. My job as the DJ is to make the music fit. I need to use my programming skills to ensure that the right music is selected and organised into the best order with the most chance of delivering a full dance floor to the satisfaction of my client. On both of these occasions I can honestly say Job Done!

Uncategorized, weddings

How to avoid an “Average Wedding” Reception

How to avoid an “Average Wedding” Reception

With more and more hotels offering “All-In-One” wedding packages it’s easy to see that many brides-to-be will consider this an attractive option. Packages start from as little as £995. Often the deal will include a drink on arrival, meal for a minimum number of guests, wine for your toasts, a member of staff as your Master of Ceremonies, an evening buffet and a DJ. It all sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?

A typical wedding these days will usually cost around £10.000 to £15000. So what exactly can one expect from a low-cost, All-In-One, package deal?

If the bride is looking for a “No Frills”, No fuss, lets just provide the bare minimum, and get through the day on a minimum budget, sort of wedding reception: It’s probably a good idea. If she is happy to have what is, to all intents and purposes,  a “McWedding”, where everything is the same as it was yesterday, and will be the same as it was tomorrow – fine.

However, if the bride wishes to have a day which is special, unique and personal to her and her husband and family, then she will need to look further into the deal. It may well be that she can enhance the package by adding options or upgrades. When planning an event it’s often easy to get swept along and distracted by the many additional products and services now on offer to someone getting married. The budget can easily run out of control. I would recommend that a bride should seriously take advice as to what adds value and what does not.

Get help from the experts

“Wedding Day Secrets – Facts the industry would prefer Brides didn’t know” is a new book for brides written my Derek Pengelly. It contains many facts and figures collected from brides AFTER their wedding day. You will be surprised at how perceptions change after the event. Hindsight is perfect vision, as they say. In the book the author compares perception with reality. All too often, it transpires, that what is actually delivered to a bride is very different to what she was promised, or what she imagined would be provided.

These days brides can be preoccupied with the “look” of the event. I always encourage brides to think more about how she and her guests will FEEL on the day. Will they laugh? Will they cry? Will they feel involved and a part of the celebration, or will they mealy be observers, on the outside looking in?

It may surprise you to know that of all of the items which constitute a wedding budget, the item given the lowest priority, and usually the least valued, is entertainment. Yet after the event it is entertainment which the majority of the guests value most highly after the ceremony and the bride’s wedding dress.

Quality, personalised entertainment is the key to producing a wedding reception which is fun, memorable and unique. Adding a different twist to your Introductions, Toasts, Entrances, Cake Cutting, First Dance and Big finish will achieve a wedding reception which the guests will be talking about long after the day is over.

To help anyone planning a wedding reception I have created a web site which will help steer planners in the right direction. There is also a directory of specially trained Wedding Party Hosts who can answer questions and make suggestions. More importantly they can explain what often occurs at a McWedding and show how this can be avoided.

So my advice would be, stop worrying about the table decorations, the chair covers and the favors. Start looking at who is going to Host the event. Who is going to take responsibility for your guests? Who is going to represent you and entertain your guests? How are you going to get everyone involved and a part of the celebration?

Choose the right Party Host and entertainment and you can relax and enjoy the day. Many brides have testified that “Peace of Mind” was one oaf the most important factors in the planning process. No bride wants to feel anxious or uncomfortable on her wedding day, so why do so many put themselves through unnecessary torture. Giving priority to what people value and employing the right host will provide the peace of mind which will enable her to relax and enjoy her special day.

More information and ideas can be found here.