"There are slower seasons and slower days that will give the bride and groom more negotiating leverage," says Deanna Jones of the Deanna Jones Orchestra. "In general, Saturdays in the fall and spring are peak price. Summer is moderately busy, depending on the city and part of the country." Consider slower (and therefore less expensive) days like the Saturday of Memorial Day or Labor Day weekends, or by choosing an off-season month like January or March.
Both bands and DJs usually bring their own audio equipment, but according to Jones, a venue could insist that your entertainment vendor use the in-house audio system instead, hiding another fee that could add up to $4,000 to your venue's asking price. Also, says Anne Roos, author of The Bride's Guide to Musicians, "if you don't remember to tell your band that your reception takes place on the third floor, and there is no elevator, then you can understandably anticipate an extra fee. If you're clear about these kinds of important details, then there won't be hidden costs."
Because your DJ and/or band will be charging you by the hour, timing really is everything. Most entertainment packages include a half hour for arrival at the ceremony, a half hour for the ceremony itself and four hours for the reception. If you accidentally overstep those strict boundaries, the charges will begin to stack up. "Tell your DJ or musicians exactly how long you want them to perform," Jones advises. "They can only give you a firm quote if you give them your date, time, length of performance and location," says Roos. Always ask what your price quote includes (for example, the number of pieces, the number of hours, taxes and gratuities and so on), and make sure that overtime prices are listed on the contract.
Remember: There is money-saving power in the act of kindness and courtesy with everyone you work with. "Being kind has a domino effect," Roos says. "People will be eager to work with you, bend over backward for you, and probably offer much more than you expect."