Chicago Wedding DJ - Fourth Estate Audio
we had an amazing tme dancing to the great music of this dj! did an outstanding job and we had a great time for hours!
This company was easy to work with right from the start. We were able to select the exact music we wanted and the DJ played everything we asked for. Our DJ made a great selection music for all ages of dancer to enjoy.
Our DJ was dresses very nice, he looked like he could have been one of the guest at our wedding. ( We been to a lot of weddings and the DJ's always look messy. I wanted everything to be classy and elegent at our wedding) Everytime I saw the DJ he had a smile on his face. I had numerous positive comments from our guest about how great the music was and how nice it was to see a DJ be so personable.
I work in a industry that I have a lot of contact with people getting married, since our wedding I have recommened this company several times. I know if you use them you will be very satified.
Perfect Vendor! Highly recommend! DJ made our night unforgettable and followed through with every request! So affordable, great customer service, easy payment plan, just amazing!
Jay is terrific.
He is a great listener and made the process easy. The online song selection is intuitive and a nice feature. We added the elegant up lighting package which was a nice touch.
Jay has the best speaking voice in the industry. Remember you want an MC not just a DJ. Also do you We had a silly request of having theme music for each member of the Bridal party. Jay was more than willing to accommodate this request. Your DJ and wedding hall coordinator will need to work together, Jay continued to be easy to deal with.
-Eric and Debbie
My wife and I used Fourth Estate Audio for our wedding. Jay made organizing the details very easy. Enter the type of music you like and all your wedding particulars on-line. We then got matched with Jim as our DJ for the event and he did a great job. We have a couple friends play music and sing for our ceremony (outside, windy, chilly) and Jim nailed it. The sound was perfect and was not in the way of the photos or anybody's view. The reception went great as well. Our cake was late coming out and Jim did a great job of adjusting to make sure we got to dancing. And boy did we dance. We had a mix of 20-somethings and 50-somethings but Jim kept us all out on the dance floor all night with a great mix of music everybody could enjoy.
Fourth Estate was a great choice for our wedding. Good price, everything we wanted, no hassle, and made for a fantastic evening.
We had the best experience with Fourth Estate Audio. We were planning our wedding from out of state and Fourth Estate was very easy to work with. They responded extremely quickly to all our questions via telephone and email. Their prices were excellent and the service we received was incredible.
The DJ played most if not all of the songs we requested and did a terrific job choosing music to fit the crowd and get everyone on the dance floor. Our DJ did the music for our ceremony and reception and did terrific with both - I would recommend them to anyone!!
Jay was Fantastic from the day we first met all the way to our wedding day. If you are looking for a stress free and affordable DJ service, Fourth Estate is who you need to hire. Jay was friendly, professional, and polite to all my guests. He came in and did his job and followed our dinner schedule deligently. Everything went smooth because he was very well prepared. He even made sure he had the pronunction of our Asian parents' name correct which he did a great job in doing. He also delivered in promising to have a good amount of people on the dance floor at the end of the evening. Thanks, Jay!
Our DJ was Jay Congdon, the President of the Company, and he was incredibly responsive and professional during the entire planning process. He kept us informed when we were deciding whether to use him or not, and met with us to discuss the evening. All of my emails to him were answered promptly and cohesively. He knows well how to structure an event. During the wedding he was good. He mixed up our first dance and the father/daughter dance, which was a bummer. But he didn't talk much and let the music play. The dinner music was different than I requested, but it was fine. Altogether a good DJ.
Vendor response to review
She's right! I had the first dance and bride-father songs loaded, and accidentally hit the wrong button, so the wrong song played for about 5 seconds before I quickly faded it out and started the correct song. By the way, Paige and Forrest showed remarkable creativity and originality in their wedding planning, from including a photo of each guest on that guest's table card, to creating a Krispy Kreme donut cake instead of a traditional wedding cake. You can see it here: http://www.discjockey.org/womans-club-of-wilmette . Best wishes, Paige and Forrest!
Jay was the perfect pick to DJ our ceremony and reception. We had several very specific requests and he was easy to communicate with. His execution of our event was flawless. He adhered to our must play list (and must not play list) and blended it with the perfect mix of songs that kept people on the dance floor all night long. I had even forgotten I wanted to play a song and in the middle of the party, approached him with my iPhone, and he was able to seamlessly integrate the song on my iPhone into the mix. His audio equipment is really awesome, the music doesn't blow you or your guests out and you can hear conversations, even on the dance floor.
Jay was great - I recommend his services unequivocally.
We had the best exerience with Fourth Estate Audio. Not only was Jay the owner really organized and easy to work with, our DJ Scott was amazing. He was on time, organized and really new how the keep everyone dancing. I highly reccomend this company and DJ Scott.
We very much enjoyed the service we received! Jay was great and did everything how we asked!
Got to work with Jay personally with our wedding. He was very helpful in the process. Everything was great and got everyone dancing.
Jay was fantastic in every respect, from the first call to discuss plans to the last call for a song at the reception. Jay offered advice for types of music during cocktails and dinner versus for dancing. He provided music that pleased our guests aged from 65 to 25 and the dance floor was busy. Jay's professional attitude, easy style, and quiet confidence were very reassuring to us. His choice of lighting colors was perfect and the light cans were unobtrusive. Lastly, his Bose sound system can not be beat! It is compact and fills the room with music but that does not have to be at ear-blasting volumes, although it can if that is what you really want. It can be very loud but it does not need to be obnoxiously loud to fill the room with just the right volume and clarity of tones and vocals. We were very happy with the sound system, lighting, and Jay for our ceremony, cocktail hours, and dinner/reception. A perfect evening all around! Thanks Jay!
Jay was so easy to work with!! He was very accommodating to our requests and our guest's request. He was very professional and made our day easy! We also enjoyed that he gave us a flash drive to download any extra music we would like. He also offers lighting at a GREAT cost that set our room apart. He was able to keep the night moving without relying on us. He did an amazing job!!!
Jay was a fantastic DJ! Our guests absolutely loved all of the music he played, and he was awesome about playing our guests' requested songs. Seeing as both my husband and I are music teachers, we took this part of the reception very seriously...and we were definitely not disappointed!
Our DJ, Scott, made our wedding reception such a lively party. He played great music that kept the guests happy while still adhering to our guidelines. He was extremely friendly and professional.
I have nothing but POSITIVE things to say about Jay and 4th Estate Audio.
Throughout the entire process Jay was easy to deal with and very responsive to all my questions.
My wife and I did not give Jay a lot of songs to go off of for our list (maybe 10). We knew this would make it a little more difficult on him, but we figured that is why we hired him and he could just "go with the flow" as the night went on. That is exactly what Jay did. The dance floor was not empty at any point the entire night!
I have some friends getting married next year, and you can bet I will be giving them Jay and 4th Estate Audio's information.
Thank you Jay for being such a professional yet still having fun.
Our DJ Joel was fantastic. Absolutely no complaints. Thanks again for making our day so special.
Scott was amazing!! I couldn't have had a better DJ then him! Family & friends had a blast. He was so good he even got the "non-dancers" on the dance floor. It was great to see the families come together. He helped make our reception perfect! I highly recommend Fourth Estate Audio, you will not be disappointed.
They were great to work with and answered our questions whenever we had them. Our dj checked all the name pronunciations and songs we wanted for the whole night. The only problem we had was when I asked him to make an announcement at the last minute and he must not have heard me clearly but our best man fixed it and we moved on. Over all we enjoyed working with him.
Jay did an awesome job and he couldn't have been more helpful. We received numerous compliments on how fantastic the music was. We highly recommend Fourth Estate for your wedding!
Jay was an excellent dj. Timing was perfect for ceremony and kept our dance floor full. Everyone had the time of their life as many people commented " best wedding ever".
Jay did a fabulous job. We picked a bunch of songs we liked and told him that they were suggestions and to play what he thinks will please the crowd. I don't know if it was our song choices, his song choices, or our fabulous family and friends, but everyone was dancing the whole night long. He reminded us when we should start things, like first dance, parent dance, bouquet toss, and was flexible to changes/mishaps.
Jay at Fourth Estate really did a fantastic job for us. He was easy to contact and to work with before the wedding. His equipment was top notch and his introductions were very professional sounding. Music was great and kept people on the dance floor.
Fourth Estate Audio and our DJ Jay did an amazing job! We needed to incorporate some specific songs into the reception and Jay was so accomodating and flexible! That flash drive was very helpful! Lots of people complemented the selection of music and we had a great time dancing!! I would totally recommend this company!
Jay was absolutely amazing. Our guests were on the dance floor all night. He was so professional and responsive. Everyone said we threw an amazing party. That wouldn't have been the case without Jay. He was exceptional at being the master of ceremonies. We had an amazing time and an unforgettable reception.
LOVED Fourth Estate Audio. People are still commenting about how awesome our DJ was. A great value for the price. We couldn't be happier!!!
Fourth Estate Audio was amazing! They did a really great job for our music at the reception. They were very very easy to work with. Jay was our DJ, and he did an awesome job. He understood our crowd while still trying to play our requests, and our dance floor was hopping from the very first song to the end of the evening! Jay communicated well, both before and during the wedding, and his experience really showed! Very very professional as well. Why spend thousands on a DJ when Fourth Estate can give you the best DJ services you could be asking for? For the value, we could not have asked for better. Thanks Jay for a great experience, and I hope you at least take the time to check them out!
We had probably the best experience I could have hoped for with a wedding DJ when it came to Fourth Estate Audio. I can't speak for the quality of any of his other DJs, but I think we really lucked out and got Jay himself as our DJ. He was courteous, played a wide array of music, and even tailored the selection to the primary age group that was present at the time. When the night started off, and there were more of the great aunts and grandparents, there were more older songs; as they started trickling out, the primary music advanced a couple decades until it was mostly tailored to us younger folk at the end of the night. Jay did a fantastic job keeping people on the dance floor, and everyone had an absolute blast. He approached my wife and I when he needed to verify something or to corral us in for the introductions/dances, but otherwise was unobtrusive. He was also very approachable by the guests, and worked to accommodate them.
I can say with certainty that I'll never use another DJ and I'll be recommending Fourth Estate Audio to anyone I know that gets married in the future.
My fiancee and I heard a Fourth Estate Audio DJ at a friend's wedding in May 2009. When it came time to find our own DJ we contacted Fourth Estate Audio first and once we knew they could play our date we stopped looking and booked them right away.
Jay Congdon, president of Fourth Estate, was our DJ. Throughout the entire process he was available, professional and extremely easy to work with. His web site is extremely easy to navigate and made the information sharing process (songs, ceremony information, special requests, wedding party info, etc.) a breeze.
Our wedding was held outside at a forest preserve with no access to electricity. Jay arranged for the generator (which I never heard ONCE all day!). He also gave us the option of doing it, but I'm glad he proactively took that off our "to-do" list. Volume for the ceremony and the reception was perfect. Never once did I feel like the music was too loud or too soft. Knowing that our event was a less formal occasion than most weddings, Jay called to ask about my preference for his attire for the day. His pricing is very reasonable and I don't believe I could have gotten a better DJ anywhere.
The dancefloor was busy all afternoon. I had a great time! My friends and family had a great time! The next day my sister told me the DJ was 'great' and wanted to know if I told him in what order to play the songs (I did not). With over 40 years experience Jay instintively knows how to mix the music to keep things going and to provide little breaks when needed.
Next time I need a DJ or anyone I know needs a DJ, I'll be calling Fourth Estate Audio.
Mr. Jay Congdon did an outstanding job at our wedding. He had no problems being a little early, making sure the music was flowing along with the drinks before all of the guests arrived.
Overall my wife and I would recommend Fourth Estate Audio because of their professional and courteous service. Our wedding day would not have been a success without Fourth Estate!
Our DJ was GREAT!!! He had no problem getting people to the dance floor, He was fun, got involved with our guests, and played all the music we requested without skipping a beat. Our DJ exceeded our expectations and we would absolutely use their service for future celebrations. You can not go wrong with this DJ.
THANK YOU Fourth Estate Audio!
Angelica and Jose
Fourth Estate really lived up to the business ethic they outline in their website. They were professional, straight forward, organized, helpful, and in my opinion, an excellent value. Our DJ put in a lot of extra time talking with me about the music and finding songs. He even found some polish polka songs for my husband! I think 4th estate would be great for someone who has a lot of songs picked, and also those that have no idea and would prefer the DJ to pick all songs. They'll really help you out either way.
Our reception room was rather small, and after getting all the tables in the room, the dance floor was a lot smaller than we had anticipated. But everyone loved the music so much they were literally dancing in the aisles!! It was a fun atmosphere without being cheesy or a dance club. Thanks to 4th estate for a memorable night for all!
Jay Congdon, President of Fourth Estate Audio, was the DJ at our 5/8/10 wedding and he was fantastic! He was incredibly easy to work with, called when he said he would, played the music we requested, the specific songs we requested, do not play anything on our "no play" list, had a good sound system and had a crowded dance floor the entire evening. Everyone loved the music and we couldn't have been happier. If we ever need a DJ or need to recommend a DJ, he will be our only phone call. Thanks Jay!!!!!
We hired Fourth Estate Audio for our 4/17/10 wedding and couldn't have been happier. Jay Condon - the President - was our DJ. He was professional and courteous and kept the entire reception flowing. A great value for the money. He played all of our requested songs, and read the audience to know what to keep pleasing the crowd. We couldn't be happier that we hired Fourth Estate Audio.
Fourth Estate Audio did a very professional job at our wedding. Jay, the owner, was very responsive leading up to the wedding, always responding to emails within the same day. Our DJ was Larue Lindsay who was extremely punctual, responsive, approachable and friendly. His enthusiasm for our choice of music filled me with confidence and we felt that the company made a great choice in their DJ selection. Throughout the wedding he played a great selection of his own picks, our playlist and was very responsive to request. Guests had so much fun dancing and didn't stop until the very last minute!
Fourth State Audio did a 5 star job and they come very highly recommended.
Fourth Estate did a great job at our wedding. They were extremely reasonably priced, and the online song selection/preferences worksheet was simple and fast! The DJ stayed an extra half hour the night of the event because everyone was having a great time! If anything, I would say he was a little too stringent with the song selection - taking the set list a little too literally. I had to tell him several times to play any song our guests requested regardless of what our "preferences" may have been. But, if you're a bride who wants a lot of control over your music, this is definitely the group for you!
When researching Djs for my upcoming wedding I was pretty picky. I have a background in Radio Broadcasting and didn't want just anyone being the DJ at my wedding. I wanted a real professional. Fourth Estate Audio ended up being just that. They are passionate for what they do but at the same time its not "just a hobby"...its their business and its run classy. I worked with Jay Congdon. Mostly everything was done for email during the past year. He always remembered who I was and was always helpful. The response time for emails was wonderful! I was not just another number. I always felt well taken care of. I wanted specific songs played for my ceremony and Jay was great at listening to my request and always consulting me first. If you are looking for a DJ for your wedding reception, ceremony, or any other party event book this company now!!! You wont be sorry! I have been to many weddings/parties where its just "some company" and the bride and groom are always disappointed. This company has so many years experience and it really shows. A great feature is their one line song list. You can point and click to create your playlist in the privacy of your own home on your own time. Will always recommend this DJ!
Overall, I thought this DJ company provided great service.
I thought that Jim over at Fourth Estate Audio did a fantastic job on our wedding reception at a great price. Even though their website might not be the most current, Jim was very professional and put us both at ease from the first time we met. There was nothing 'cheesy' about working with him. Our reception went very well and everyone stayed on the dance floor all night. I would definitely recommend them!
This is a small DJ company that is run very well. The owner of the company actually did our wedding himself and he was fantastic! His name is Jay Congdon. They allowed me to create a whole list of songs that I wanted to play, as well as marking certain songs as DO NOT play. He also took requests of guests at the wedding. This company was a fantastic find for me, as I was trying to plan my wedding on a budget. Most great DJs are much more expensive, however because they run this business out of the President's house and not in some fancy building they pay rent for, they can afford to give great service at a great price. I highly recommend them.
Jay Congdon is the president of this company, which is just a small company he runs out of his house essentially. He did our reception himself and he was fantastic. Great DJ voice, great music, played everything we asked for and was wonderful to all the guests all night. He is priced very fairly, we only paid $675 for 5 and a half hours of having him there. Very hard to find that price for the quality he gave us elsewhere.
Fourth Estate is top notch! They were on time and kept the party going! I would highly recommend them to everyone.
They sounded very qualified and knowledgeable with their services. However, they were not. Loud music was played during our vows, they did not have the traditional "Here comes the bride" wedding music, and the songs we requested they did not play. When others took charge things got done. If it was left up to him nothing would be done.
The best part of their services was when he introduced the wedding party with last minute updates.
Vendor response to review
DJ was fired immediately after this review. We do do not accept even a single bad performance.
Scott Andre was tremendous! He played everything we wanted and nothing we didn't! He wasn't obtrusive and he kept the dance floor full. He was great and it was a great value! Highly Highly Recommended!!!!!
DJ was fantastic! Highly recommmended
Chicago Wedding DJ has an outstanding reputation among wedding vendors and provides top notch music services for brides. Would definitely refer him for DJ services.
Fourth Estate Audio they are a joy to work with and I highly recommend them to all my clients. A good DJ is needed to get and keep the party going and Fourth Estate Audio will help you party all night long!
Chicago Wedding DJs plays beautiful music that will surely bring you and the one you love closer on your special day.
"If a 'one-size-fits-all' wedding doesn't fit YOU, call US."
ONE LITTLE SECRET can turn an ordinary party into a truly memorable experience!
It can make all the difference between a nice little reception and a spectacular memory your friends and families will share for years.
How do you put your personal imprint on your wedding in a way that creates or deepens your relationships with the people closest to you?
We know how! And we want to show you. Discriminating brides and grooms have made Fourth Estate Audio their Chicago Wedding DJ choice for three generations.
I invite you to start with our free report, “37 Easy, Cheap or FREE Ways to Make Your Wedding Totally You.” Even if your wedding budget is $100,000, it's a great resource. Get your free copy right now at http://www.discjockey.org/37 .
Planning a wedding is hard. Hiring a professional Chicago wedding DJ shouldn't be. Let our 46 years of experience guide you, and take the stress and legwork out of planning your big day. Call me for a personal visit. You'll like what we have to offer.
- Whatever you like. We have large collections of rock, R & B, swing, pop, hip hop, Latin, country, Big Band and alternative, plus ethnic favorites.
* Do you play dinner and cocktail music, too?
- Of course. We have everything from classical to cocktail piano to light jazz, either vocal or instrumental. Or we'll be happy to play special music of your choosing.
* Can you provide music and a microphone for a wedding ceremony?
- Yes. We do that often. And we include 15 minutes of quiet pre-ceremony music at no additional charge.
* We're going to have a live dance band, in addition to a Chicago DJ. Is that a problem for you?
- We prefer not to work as part of a band-DJ combination. But we're happy to work for couples who want a pianist, harpist, string quartet or jazz band during cocktails or dinner.
* Do you have a page with all your Chicago DJs' pictures, so we can pick our DJ?
- No. You didn't pick your doctor based on his looks. And a professional DJ is no different. The "cutest" DJ may have musical tastes entirely different than yours. So he/she may not be a good fit for your party. Be assured, you won't get some high school student, or an aging hippie with a pony tail and a Hawaiian shirt. We'll ask you the right questions to determine which of our music professionals is just right for you, your guests, and your event. Then, if you'd like to meet your Chicago DJ, we'll be happy to arrange it.
* Do you subcontract your parties out to other DJ companies? Or do you use your own DJs?
- Qur DJs are all employees of Fourth Estate Audio Inc.
* What is your price?
$750 -- Up to 5 hours of music
$75 -- Each additional half hour
$100 -- Add for events in downtown Chicago
$400 for static uplighting (same color all night), $500 for animated uplighting, $125 just for dance floor lighting (no lighting with basic package)
$100 -- Add for events that require us to carry equipment up stairs
$100 -- Add for events that require setup to be COMPLETED more than 60 minutes prior to performance. This applies only rarely.
New Year's Eve pricing starts at $1100 for 5 hours of music. We also offer special pricing on monogram lighting, photo booth service and professional wedding photography.
* We're just starting to shop for a DJ. Can we meet with you?
- Yes. But first, spend more time on our web site. View our video clip. Call our references. Drop in on a live performance if you like. Play around with our online song list. As our video greeting says, "do your homework." If you're getting married, make sure your fiancee sees our site, too. Then, when you're ready to make your buying decision, call us for a face-to-face visit.
* We're just looking for the cheapest price. Do you give discounts?
- Rarely. If you think the cheapest DJ is a good value, you have to start by assuming (incorrectly) that all DJs are equally good. Unfortunately, most people who "go cheap," and have a nightmare experience with their DJ, end up assuming (also incorrectly) that all DJs are equally bad. There are a few DJ companies in Chicagoland -- two in particular -- who get all their clients by offering dirt-cheap prices. And those clients learn too late just how awful a cheap DJ can be.
Ask a DJ company to provide you with the names and phone numbers of its 30 most recent clients. If it refuses, RUN! Remember, if your DJ is bad, he's the only thing your guests will remember about your party, and all your careful planning will go to waste. We have earned the Better Business Bureau's prestigious A-Plus customer satisfaction rating. There's a link to the BBB report on us on our home page, DiscJockey.org. You can check out the BBB's rating on any of our bargain-basement competitors at Chicago.BBB.org. Be prepared for a shock.
* How do you decide which DJ you assign to our party?
- Each of our clients submits a Wedding Reception Fact Sheet from our web site. Among other things, the form asks for some general guidance about the client's musical tastes. Typically, we assign a DJ with the same tastes, so he'll know a lot of songs that fit well with what the client has already requested, and he can ensure the appropriate pacing for the evening. Plus, he gets to listen to music he likes! And that means a more enthusiastic performance for you.
* We'd like to pick all of our dance music, and not accept requests from our guests. Is that okay?
- If that's what you'd like. But unfortunately, we can't be part of it. Of the relative handful of dissatisfied clients we've had over our more than 40 years in this industry, practically all of them were couples who picked all of their music in advance. If you'd like your reception to be a concert just for the two of you, just burn a few CDs and rent a sound system. It's unfair to subject a DJ to a whole evening of abuse from your guests if they don't like the music you chose, and you won't let the DJ accept any of their requests. After enough of your guests complain about what a bad DJ you have, eventually you'll start to believe it, and blame him for the empty dance floor. If that's the case, we'd rather have them blame one of our competitors. :-)
* We don't have Internet access. Can we still hire you?
- Sorry. Our completely interactive web site lets you research your DJ (online video clip, performance schedule, telephone references), check our availabilty, hire us (online service agreement), pay us (online credit card processing), and direct us on exactly how you'd like your event to proceed (online party itinerary, wedding party roster, interactive music library). By using the web to share and receive information, you're able to hire your DJ with confidence without holding 5 or 6 hours of meetings, searching through books of songs, and filling out all your paperwork in longhand. Other DJ companies that don't have our technology must spend their time in those meetings, too. That's why so many of them charge twice as much as we do. It's all wasted time that doesn't contribute anything to the quality of your DJ's performance. If you hired us, and we did it all the hard way, as they do, we'd have to charge you twice as much, too. While we're always available for a face-to-face meeting, holding multiple meetings with each client is just not an efficient or productive way to do business. So we cater only to Internet-connected clients.
* Are you insured?
- Of course. We carry a $4 million liability and personal injury policy, even though we've never had to file a claim (we're exceptionally careful about the placement of our speakers, cords and cables). We'll be happy to show you or fax you our Insurance Certificate upon request. Beware of any DJ who doesn't carry liability coverage. It's the first telltale sign that he's not serious about his business or his clients' safety.
* What is your policy on tipping?
- It's an excellent way to reward a DJ who goes above and beyond, to make your party special (anything from $50 to $200 is appropriate). We don't put out a "tip jar," because it's tasteless. And we don't accept tips from your guests to play specific songs, because those songs may not be appropriate for your party. Tipping your DJ, if you choose, is your responsibility. It's just more professional that way.
* Where did you get the name "Fourth Estate Audio?"
- The "Fourth Estate" is a nickname for the news media (coined by the 15th century British parliamentarian Edmund Burke). And in addition to being a professional DJ since 1965, our founder and president, Jay Congdon, has been a newsman for most of his adult life. He's worked as a radio news anchor and reporter at Chicago stations WBBM, WMAQ, WKQX and WJMK, to name a few. He's also been a television news producer and writer. Now you know.
The Ten Biggest Mistakes Brides Make
* Spending Too Much.
It's easy for an excited bride and groom to get swept up in planning a spectacular wedding without stopping to add up the expenses, especially when parents are covering most of the cost. As much as you'd love to have a fairy-tale wedding with every imaginable luxury, you'll soon discover that economic reality has a way of interfering. Start by shopping for a reception hall and dinner for your invited guests. That's likely to be your biggest expense. Then make a budget, allowing for a gown, tuxedos, a limo, a minister/rabbi, flowers (for the wedding party, parents, church/temple, reception hall), decorations, favors, music (both ceremony and reception), and a generous fund for miscellaneous expenses. Keep records, so you know how you're doing in relation to your budget. And don't bounce any checks!
* Too Many Guests.
Don't invite more people than your reception hall can hold, assuming that a lot of them won't show up. If you invite 300 guests, and you expect 200, but 250 people show up, the room won't magically expand, and 50 additional dinners won't magically cook themselves. You'll have to send some people away. Assume that 80 percent of the people you invite will show up. Make sure your room can handle at least that many people, plus a few more. And plan for a few extra meals in case some people who RSVP'd "no" suddenly show up.
* Overworking Yourself.
Planning a wedding is a lot of work. Don't turn down anyone's offer to help you with some of that work. The Internet is full of advice on wedding planning. If your budget allows you to hire a professional planner, that's wonderful. But in most cases, the families handle the planning. Friends, parents and future in-laws can do things like addressing invitations, gathering information about entertainment options, and helping you shop. Shower them with gratitude when they volunteer to help. It's also a good idea to give them some nice gifts on your wedding day to show your appreciation.
* Ordering Your Gown Too Late.
Allow at least six months for your gown to arrive, especially if it's a designer gown. Leave plenty of time for delivery and fitting, both for the gown and your bridesmaids' dresses. Don't expect the gown to be the perfect size when you open the box. Even if you buy your gown off the rack, you'll want to have it fitted within a month of the wedding. If you tell a gown designer you're getting married five years from today, you'll probably be told that the gown will take four years and two weeks to make. That's because the designer doesn't want to deliver the gown early, then get blamed when you put on an extra ten pounds before the wedding.
* Forgetting to Book Hotel Rooms.
Your out-of-town guests will need places to stay. And if you wait too long to reserve hotel space, they'll all end up staying at your apartment. Many hotels offer discounts for blocks of reserved rooms. But check in advance to make sure it's not a big weekend like the Super Bowl, the Indy 500, or the Marathon. Start looking at hotels a year before the wedding. Once you know how many guests will need rooms, book them at least eight months before the wedding. Then let your guests know the name and phone number of the hotel, so they can reserve their individual rooms with their credit cards.
* Ignoring Religious Considerations.
The site of your wedding ceremony will almost certainly have requirements and restrictions that you'll need to observe. Consult with your clergyman within a month of your engagement. Discuss available dates, required pre-cana courses, dress code, music selection, and any other considerations that might cause any conflict. Once everything is settled, you may put down your deposits and hire your vendors.
* Letting Your Marriage License Expire.
A typical marriage license is good for a limited time. Don't let it expire before your wedding date. Check with your local County Clerk's office about the requirements for applying for the license, and the time required to get it. If you're getting married for the second time, be sure to provide your divorce papers from your first marriage.
* Crash Diets.
If you have your wedding gown fitted within a month of your wedding, you shouldn't have to go on a crash diet to look good in it. Also, don't get any major beauty treatments like facials or tanning sessions the day before your wedding. The risk of burns, blisters or infections will far outweigh any small benefit such treatments might give you. You'll look fabulous if you just take good care of yourself, eat sensibly, and get enough exercise and sleep. You don't need last-minute enhancements.
* Sweating the Details.
Don't try to over-choreograph your wedding reception. If you and your fiancee want to practice a special dance or speech, that's fine. But never lose sight of the fact that your wedding reception is just a party you're throwing for your friends. Relax and enjoy it. If you spill red wine on your gown, the cake collapses, your uncle Todd gets drunk and makes a pass at the minister's wife, and the banquet room's sprinklers suddenly go off, and at the end of the evening you're still married, you win! Just have a good time. Your work is finished.
* Cutting Corners on Entertainment.
If you're hiring a band, expect to pay a lot of money. A group of musicians cost more than just a single musician. And a band won't know every single song you like. Find out which songs they do well. And expect the songs to sound different than the way they sound in your CD collection. Bands like to add their own personal touches to the music they play.
If you have a more modest entertainment budget, a DJ is an excellent option. A DJ's music is always on key, and it's exactly as you remember it. He/she has a much bigger song selection. He/she doesn't take a 30-minute break every time the dance floor is just getting full. And -- this is important -- he/she can turn the volume down if it's too loud for you.
The most expensive DJ's will probably bring a much bigger sound system than you need, and play it at much higher volume than you need. Too many of them also spend a lot of time on the microphone, talking and singing over the music, because they believe you're paying extra for their personality. The truth is, your DJ shouldn't be the center of attention at your reception. He should be a professional master of ceremonies when it comes to handling your introductions, special dances, cake cutting, garter/bouquet and other special announcements. But he must also have the discipline to turn off the microphone and let the music do the work when it's time to dance.
The cheapest DJs are usually cheap for a reason. And if you hire on price alone, you'll learn that reason the hard way. Most couples obsess over their wardrobes, menus and decorations. But your guests' most enduring memory will be how much fun they had, or didn't have, at your reception. If a bargain-basement DJ ruins your party with bad equipment, poor song selection or poor emcee skills, he's the only thing your guests will remember, and all of your careful planning will be wasted.
One other thing. If you pick all of your dance music in advance, and you don't let your guests make requests, the entire reception will become a concert for the bride and groom, and the guests will feel cheated. And they'll leave early, with a bad memory of your reception. As we said earlier, your reception is a party you throw for your friends. Let them have a good time, too.