The Wedding Entertainment Director® or WED® title is a designation associated with the only peer-reviewed application process in our industry. That process often spans several months or even years, due to the high-standards assessment, detailed adjudication, and interrogative interview stages.
The title has existed since 2001, but in that time, less than 50 Wedding DJs have ever achieved this title, internationally; Something New Entertainment’s Anna-Jeannine Herman is the second female entertainer ever to earn this credential and the first entertainer in the entire state of Ohio. Why so few? Because WED® is a high bar of achievement intended to represent the top-tiered level of wedding certification for DJs within… the Industry at large,” serving as a marker of the world’s very best wedding entertainers.
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In the time since I was named Ohio’s first Wedding Entertainment Director®, I have received many questions from both colleagues and clients, alike, about the credential, ranging from questions about what it means to be a WED®, to what the application process entails, to the criteria for making the award, etc.
Today is National DJ Day. When I rather jokingly announced that no gifts were necessary, on my Facebook page, a few people said things to the effect of “I thought you weren’t a DJ, anymore; now you’re a WED®.” Though Wedding Entertainment Director® is certainly the only term that can come close summing up the whole of what I do for a wedding reception, it’s also true that music mixing (or “being a DJ”) is one of the many strategies I employ to support my work in a variety of other areas (namely planning, public speaking, storytelling, lighting design, and etiquette, just to name a few).
What does it mean to be a WED®?
Literally anyone can say that they’re a DJ or an MC. You don’t need any specialized equipment, nope. Not any training or education, either. You don’t even need to have any specific skills or talents to make this claim!
Look: if someone were to claim to be an attorney, a doctor, a plumber, an electrician, or even a Sandwich Artist™ without the proper authorization or credentials, they’d get sued or maybe even land in jail. Saying you’re a DJ, though? Fair game for everyone! As a completely unregulated professional label… literally everybody is a DJ. No code of ethics; no standards of equipment capability; no qualification of talent. Even you — you’re a DJ; your grandma is a DJ, too (Hi, Nana!).
So — with all this… lack of meaning… in our common terminology, how can brides and grooms seeking to identify the most highly-qualified entertainer for their wedding day expect to differentiate between their many choices?
The WED® moniker serves exactly that purpose: brides and grooms can have confidence in hiring a Wedding Entertainment Director®, because of their extensive professional screening, well-rounded education, and their consistency in the areas of planning and execution procedures, elegant presentation, and talent as a performer, public speaker, and music mixer.
The WED Guild® roster is a curated list of the best of the best wedding entertainment professionals across the globe who’ve put their work on the line to prove their worthiness. The application has many components, but really only one object of question: are you an exceptional wedding entertainer? Yeah? Prove it.
What does it take to become a WED®?
The process is definitely daunting. Certification as a Wedding Entertainment Director® is earned through an extensive, peer-reviewed application and screening process which evaluates seven key services and criteria that all WED®s deliver: Comprehensive Personalization, Creative Involvement, Event Direction, Talented Spokesperson, Music Programming, Appropriate Presentation, and Quality Amplification.
Each prospective applicant is assigned (or chooses) a mentor from the existing WED Guild® roster (thanks, Mitch and Liz!). The mentor’s job is to answer questions for the applicant, provide moral support and encouragement, and first-line critique the application for any improvements that could be made prior to submission.
Once the application materials are all ready, applicants are assigned a panel of 4 peers from the current WED Guild® roster to examine and consider the application. To keep the process as impartial as possible, mentors and local market competitors are not eligible to sit on an applicant’s panel, and applicants do not know the identities of their Membership Committee until they are invited to a final interview — determined by a 3/4 majority vote.
Why a WED®?
It isn’t easy to earn this credential, even for the most qualified prospects. The “why,” for me, has to do with a few different factors.
One: commitment to growth. Opening myself up to performance critique can be hard on the ego. However, I don’t believe that anyone ever got any better at anything without seeking honest feedback from qualified critics. The process of amassing the materials for the application is a learning experience, in itself, but the feedback received from 4 of the most talented wedding entertainers in the world? Priceless.
Accepting my appointment as a WED® means making a commitment to career-long learning. That’s a promise to my clients and my colleagues: I will never decide I’m good enough. I will never settle for knowing enough. I will train like a pro athlete; I will shatter my own records; I will compete against myself and always come up the winner, just so I can best myself, again.
Two: networking. Enjoying the privileges of being able to reach out to some of the best wedding entertainers in the world whenever I have a question — knowing they’ll gladly take my call and be willing to share their thoughts with me, as I would do for them — is not an opportunity I take for granted.
Three: loyalty to my professional community and a desire to see the perceptions of reputability of wedding entertainers, in general, raise deservedly. As an industry, Wedding DJs have taken a beating. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s mostly been because they deserved it — the result of a barrage of rightful accusations of improper business practices and poor skill.
How does an individual work towards turning public perception around? My friendship with and admiration for WED Guild® Founder Peter Merry and WED Guild® Past President Liz Daley (two very important influences and mentors to me as a performer, writer, leader, educator, and businessperson) as well as learning from the teachings of Mark and Rebecca Ferrell, has
deepened my resolve that it is my responsibility as a concerned and capable member of the mobile disc jockey community to elevate the level of discourse and client expectation. As I challenge myself, I also challenge my local community and the national community that follows me. I raise the expectation across the board — as I get better, I pull the average up, along with me.
Four: affirmation of past growth. When I first began entertaining weddings, I was not ready to complete this application. Even after I got to a level that I would consider “better-than-average,” I was experienced but not ready, yet… and then I had a breakthrough in self-discovery (thank you, Peter Merry, Liz Daley, and Mark & Rebecca Ferrell) that inspired me to restructure the way we did business and offer a tremendously greater value to our clients, across the board. Quite suddenly… I was ready to begin my journey towards accreditation. Yes, it was absolutely thrilling to receive the call that I had been unanimously recommended as Ohio’s first and only Wedding Entertainment Director® — I won’t lie — it was a tremendous boost to my self-esteem. Not because I’m an egotist, but because it’s nice to know, when I’m out there doing my best for my clients, that my best is pretty darn good! I know that I’ve shown incredible growth and improvement over my career and that I’m headed in the “right” direction to keep raising the bar.
What exactly is in this application?
Each of these seven categories is judged through detailed analysis of unedited video footage — the applicant in action in both performing as a Master of Ceremonies and as a Music Mixer for dancing in a wedding reception context, plus additional footage in a public speaking setting outside of a wedding reception — as well as review of photos of the applicant and the applicant’s sound system setup; the applicant’s preparation materials, client-facing planning documents, agendas, and scripting for actual events; equipment inventory; essays; legal documentation; documentation of experience (200 wedding receptions/5 years); client and colleague reference letters; education documentation; and more.
Recertification (annually) requires logging of hours of related educational seminars, classes, or workshops. To view the entire WED Guild® Application: visit the application on the WED Guild® site.
For any entertainers interested in beginning their journey towards earning this credential who would like to request me as a mentor: if you’re up to the challenge, I am actively mentoring and am still accepting mentoring candidates, at this time. Contact me. Here’s my card.
For local entertainers interested in earning the credential: if you’re up to the challenge, I’m excited to meet you. I have an open-door policy, I’d be very pleased to meet you for lunch to discuss the beginning of your journey, and I can’t wait to be your very biggest cheerleader as you and I elevate the standards that our market expects for wedding entertainers — together.
Do you have a question for DJ AJ9? Send your ponderings to Anna-Jeannine, and your question could be featured, in a future article!