How To Hire A (Great) Wedding DJ
So you are getting married and looking for a great wedding DJ to help throw the party of your dreams?
Congrats! This is a big decision, and can end up making a huge difference on the look, the feel, and the flow of your wedding day.
The truth is, DJs are often among the last vendors to get booked on a wedding, although their contribution to the reception can be significant.
80% of guests say it was the entertainment they remember most.
90% of couples end up regretting not spending more on entertainment.
When asked, 81% of wedding guests said the thing they remembered most was entertainment
Source: WeddingWire 2020 Newlywed Report
Of course, being the savvy couple you are, you know the importance of hiring great vendors that can not only do their job- but contribute something meaningful to your celebration.
But how do you go about do this?
How do you avoid the overwhelm and anxiety of trying to find the right wedding vendors when faced with the large range in services, style, production, and prices offered?
How are you even supposed to know what a DJ does, let alone what separates the good from the great?
Truth is, over the last 20 years this industry has changed a ton. You now have more options than ever when choosing a wedding DJ (thank goodness) and they all will provide something different.
How are you suppose to find not only a great wedding DJ, but the right wedding DJ?
Lucky for you, that's where we come in!
We've put together this guide to help you understand some of the major factors involved in hiring a great wedding DJ.
As usual, you can bookmark this post and use it as a reference throughout your planning process.
But we strongly suggest that you read this particular article all the way through so you can avoid some common wedding DJ pitfalls.
Our main hope is that you better understand the role of a wedding DJ and what your specific needs, wants and expectations are of them.
1. Start with the why
Intention is everything when it comes to hiring a great wedding DJ. I know this may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many prospective clients we get that have clearly never thought this part through.
Taking the moment to step back and ask yourself a few important questions before you even begin researching will ultimately save you from a world of hurt in the future.
Not only will it help you discover what it is you are looking for but it will illuminate how best to focus your recruiting efforts.
The key here is not to find the best DJ, but the right DJ.
You want to find the DJ that best fits your style. Do you want your DJ to be a high energy club style DJ that can creatively mix songs? Or do you want someone who is on the microphone and out on the floor throughout the night.
Some DJs scratch on vinyl, others lead the electric slide. There is no right or wrong, there is only what's best for you. They all are likely to have great reputations and 5 star reviews, what matters most is what feels best for you and your fiance, and what makes the most sense for your venue and your guests.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get your brain moving and help bring some clarity to your wedding DJ vision:
What is the overall style/vibe I want my DJ to help create?
What are 3-5 things that I have enjoyed the most about other weddings in regard to music and dancing?
On a scale of 1-10, how much will my crowd party? On a scale of 1-10, how much will my crowd dance?
Do I want lots of control over the music, or would I rather the DJ make most of the decisions?
Do I want my DJ to make minimal announcements, or embrace the role of the host?
Is lighting and aesthetic as important as music and dancing?
If money was no factor, what would I want most?
2. Determine the what
Once you have laid out some goals for what your ideal DJ will bring to the table, it is good to get a handle on what you will be asking them for specifically.
First off, how much equipment will you need at your wedding?
Are we talking one main setup for your reception with no extra bells or whistles, or the full service with ceremony audio & microphones, cocktail music on a back patio, and a main system with lights and speakers to get the party moving.
Often DJ companies can provide photo booths, bistro lighting, and other A/V needs so having a good idea of what you are looking for will be a great way to determine the best deal.
Wireless speakers can be crucial for an outdoor ceremony, but not all DJs provide them.
What about incorporating live music? If your budget allows, bringing in musicians for the ceremony, or for cocktail hour can be an exciting way to entertain your guests and mix things up a bit.
Some DJs collaborate with live musicians, so keep an eye out for that. Over the years, we have even done back to back to back sets with musicians, where we alternate every 5 or so songs.
Even if your DJ cannot offer live musicians, at the very least, your DJ should have experience working with musicians. This will result in a more seamless experience for you and your guests.
Pro Tip: Check in with your venue to see what sort of A/V gear is included. While it will be worth checking in to ensure the gear is reliable (often the house sound system is not the best quality), you could end up saving yourself a few bucks.
3. Where to hunt for talent
Okay, so by now, you've establish a better understanding of what you are looking for in a wedding DJ.
So far so good, right?
Unfortunately, there a likely dozens if not hundreds of wedding DJs available in your area.
Where should you go looking for the best talent?
Step one, speak with friends, family, and colleagues.
I know it may sound cliche, but there are plenty of people in your network who have hired a DJ in the past. Whether or not they will be able to wholeheartedly recommend their DJ, they will certainly be able to shed some insight on the process.
Beyond that, reach out to other vendors and venues that you have heard of or seen online or on social media. Learn who they recommend, see if there is any overlap.
The first page of google can get particularly crowded in this industry due to the large SEO footprint of services like The Knot & WeddingWire, so we also recommend going on social media and searching for local DJs. You may find more young, innovative, up and coming talent there- if that's what you're looking for.
Pro Tip: When reading reviews, focus on quality over quantity. Sure, Supercuts does a lot of haircuts and receives a lot of reviews on Yelp. They may even have a great rating, but that doesn't mean you will want to get your hair cut there.
4. Selecting your top candidates
You've done all your research, you've collected a handful of promising prospective wedding DJs and you are about ready to book someone.
At this point, there are really only two steps left.
Step one is to reduce the size of the list of maybes, and step two is to actually hire the vendor.
When it comes to reducing the size of your list of potential DJs, there are a few tips and tricks you can utilize that will save you a ton of time.
Tip number one, check for grammar and typos.
The late & great Anthony Bourdain used to say if a restaurant can't keep it's bathroom clean, you don't want to know what's going on in the kitchen.
In the same vein, if a wedding vendor cannot manage to double check their website for obvious errors, you may want to question their ability to help execute the night of your dreams.
As a wedding DJ, what differentiates us is what we say, and what we play. So take a peak at what they say and see if it strikes any chords.
Make sure to also examine website and social media images. Do you like the vibe they put out?
The final, and most obvious step, is to listen to samples of their work. Do not only rely on their marketing, but hear for yourself. Do they have any sample mixes or playlists available? What is their style? Pay close attention to the transitions and mixing, if that is important to you.
Also- understand that every event is different. Be careful how much you judge the specifics of any one mix. Some DJs may not even post samples of their live sets.
For instance, here is a Bali-inspired sunset deep house mix. This is not a wedding mix at all. We even indicate on our website that our mixes are not necessarily representative of what we play live. That being said, a bride and groom hired us specifically because of it!
4. Meeting with your prospective DJs
The time has finally come for you to meet with your DJ. Perhaps you are heading to their local office, hopping on a quick call, or joining them for a Zoom meeting.
While different DJs will have different approaches to sales, one thing is for sure-
Preparation is everything.
In terms of preparation on your end, put together a list of questions to ask your DJ based on everything we have been through so far.
In terms of preparation on their end, you can tell a lot about a vendor based on their communication.
Did they ask you for any information prior to the meeting? Did they give you any expectation as to what the meeting will contain? Were they on time? What were they wearing? Did they talk or listen more? Did they ask great questions? What was your overall vibe?
These are all small signs that will tell a lot to those who pay attention.
One thing we love to ask our vendors, is what the planning process will look like if we choose to work with them.
Can it all be managed online? Do they utilize any other apps or services?
Maybe you are a super busy and relying on a wedding planner to be the liaison for all things planning- can they accommodate?
Many DJs nowadays are using Vibo , a music and event management app that creates a fun, interactive planning experience for vendors, clients and even their guests.
Whether they are using Vibo, or some other service, ask your DJ about what the planning process will look like and what technology they utilize. Ultimately, this may not be as important for your specific needs, but for many it can make or break the experience.
4. Booking your talent
Now that you have gone through all the steps of mapping out your entertainment plan, researching vendors and interviewing your top picks, it is time to make the final decision.
Ultimately, you will have to follow your gut. Of course, you are working within the confines of a budget, but we urge you to not let that be the deciding factor.
According to The Knot, 40% of couples go over budget!
If this is the case, shouldn't you go over budget on something that will have the greatest impact on your wedding?
Sure, extravagant invitations are stunning and having a late night pizza cart seems crucially important (it is).
But if the feel and flow of the evening are as important to you as celebrating your big night on a packed dance floor with your favorite tunes blaring then we strongly urge you to think twice about going with that $500 craigslist DJ.
You will thank us later.
Hiring the right wedding DJ can seem pretty intimidating at first.
What was once a standard service that looked and felt the same regardless of who you hired, has since become a booming industry of talent and technology.
There's worry about professionalism and reliability, cheesy microphone personas and of course whether or not anyone will dance (because we've all been to the weddings where they haven't).
The steps you take early on, before ever researching a single DJ in your area, will ultimately help you pave the way to dance floor success.
Take the time to clearly establish what it is you want, what it is you don't want, and what it is you don't even care about and are willing to let your DJ make the decision on.
Once you have handled that, start scouting for talent and find some potential candidates. Don't be afraid to ask those in your network!
Narrow down the applicant pool, and get your questions ready for your interviews.
Follow your gut and hire someone that can prioritize your goals and communication style.
Then, give them everything they need to succeed and sit back, relax, and allow them to do what it is you hired them to do!
If you're able to pull all this off, you and your loved ones will undoubtedly have the night you dreamed of.
Your DJ will not only be the glitter that your guests remember, but the glue that holds the whole evening together.
Have you hired a wedding DJ before? What's your opinion on planning, researching, interviewing and hiring DJ talent?