Though the responsibilities of planning a wedding are complicated and many, a wedding DJ plays a critical role in most wedding receptions. If an engaged couple is planning on having music, dancing, revelry that lasts until sunup, they’re going to need to hire a good wedding DJ, and that often requires some significant planning. However, you don’t have to leave it all to a wedding planner; there are some steps, even all of the steps that you can take on yourself, in the interest of finding the right DJ for your wedding. Interested? Facing a music or MC dilemma of your own? Just curious? Read on for details on how to source a great DJ for any type of ceremony reception.
I’ve been to quite a few weddings in my life and quite a few receptions that have been styled to different aesthetics. One thing that most people will agree with is that the best receptions all have DJs. It’s not just a matter of having someone to play music or even having selected the right music for the mood that a couple wants to set at their reception.
When you hire a wedding DJ, you’re hiring expertise. It’s an expertise that can command the music and the mood, thereby delivering an exquisite, tailored experience to all of those attending a reception. A great DJ will know what to play, and the best will be able to play to your crowd as if they were playing their own show. However, because there’s a big difference between great and mediocre DJs, it’s important to have some idea of what you’re getting into before you hire anyone.
After all, you need someone who’s going to know your wedding, inside and out. Someone who isn’t just dedicated to playing some music for a few hours, but wants to know what you want, right?
In the following article, we’re going to source and pass on as much as advice as we can for hiring a good DJ for your wedding reception. Regardless of what style of reception you’re aiming to accomplish, a great DJ is a major part of the memories you’re building, and so it pays to do a bit of research. We’ll show you where to look, how to look, and what qualities to look for before you drop any money on a DJ-for-hire. After that, we’ll throw in some approximate price points, so you’ll have some idea of how much you might end up spending.
Lastly, if you’re a DJ yourself, then it’s a good idea to pay attention; wedding gigs are different from anything else you might play, and it pays to know what engaged couples might like to hear at the event following their ceremony.
What Does a Wedding DJ Do?
Outside of a wedding, a DJ is an artist of playback, but they don’t just play music. They turn the practice of spinning records into a real art, mixing songs, fading them together, and overall creating a musical environment that’s designed to engage those listening.
As much as musicians are performance artists, so too are good DJs. Many engaged couples assume that their wedding DJ is just going to accept whatever playlist is handed to them, make sure none of the equipment breaks, and do a little bit of minor MCing throughout the reception. While this might very well be what happens, a great DJ is someone who can change the entire experience of the reception into exactly what you want.
What Makes a Good Wedding DJ?
We can say this up front: not every DJ is going to be a great wedding DJ. Not ever DJ is even going to be a good DJ, which is why I’m going to stress that it’s enormously important to shop around a bit if you plan on hosting a DJ at all.
If all you want is for someone to sync up a playlist on their iPhone and make sure that the music keeps rolling through the night, you might as well ask a family member to do just that. You don’t need a DJ to play preselected music. If you’re going to hire a DJ, then I’m going to suggest that you go the whole nine yards and find one with experience working weddings. More than that, find one that you trust to do most of the music selection, based on the information that you provide.
What makes a good wedding DJ? Someone who knows what to play based on the reactions of the people celebrating at your reception. Someone who knows what’s hot at weddings, right now, and won’t hesitate in deciding what tracks to play. Someone who listens to your requests and that you can trust to carry the vibe of the room with the music that they choose.
How Do I Find a Wedding DJ?
Probably the hardest part of this entire process is finding a handful of possible DJs, at all, and this is going to change depending on where you live. If you’re in an urban area, then you lucked out, and there are probably a lot of DJs out there looking for work. If you’re in a rural area…we wish you all the luck in the world. You’re going to need it.
As with most occasions when you’re hunting a professional in the digital era, the best place to start your search is online. Most DJs maintain some form of online presence, be it a personal website, a Facebook page, or a SoundCloud account.
Start with a search engine. Enter “DJs in Austin, Texas,” for example, if you want to find potential wedding DJs in that particular region. I recommend starting with broad search terms and narrowing your focus down from there. For example, if the above search turns up a huge number of DJ listings, I could instead search for “wedding DJs in Austin Texas.”
You can also try searching locally, though fewer people are using local listings to market themselves, anymore. Your local phone book might have a listing, but as is often the case, only DJs with rather sizeable reputation and experience would bother with this.
Once you’ve located a handful of potential DJs (and I do recommend finding more than one) you can start trying to get in touch with each of them.
How Do I Hire a Wedding DJ?
First, before you start contacting DJs for your wedding reception, make sure you know what you want. By that, I mean make sure you know the types of songs that you’re going to expect the DJ to play, how many people will be in attendance, and where the reception will be held. All of this information is going to be fairly important to a good DJ, and you’re not going to get very far in negotiating a pay rate if you haven’t yet figured it out.
Once you have a good idea of what you’d like your reception to look like, then it’s time to start talking to DJs. Be specific about the type of music that you want to be played. Will people be dancing? (We hope so.) Don’t be afraid to mention specific moods or ambiance that you want the music to convey. A great DJ will hear you and translate that into a better playlist for your event.
As stated above, do get in touch with more than one DJ. It’s highly unlikely that the first one you encounter is going to be the right one, and so you should shop around and see as many of the local options as possible.
How Much Does a Wedding DJ Cost?
Here’s where things are going to break down in an interesting way. Though I’ve suggested throughout this article that you take the time and energy to hunt down a great DJ if you really want a DJ at your wedding, I feel it’s also imperative to list some of the varying, approximate prices that you might expect to pay for varying qualities of DJ service at your wedding.
After all, I did say “shop around,” didn’t I?
The only forward that I’ll grant is that the only DJ that I would hire for my own ceremony reception is one that’s had significant experience under their belt, particularly in playing weddings. If you hire anything less than an expert, the chances of you getting exactly what you want during your reception are going to go down. This is echoed in an article by MS Sound Groups, in which they advise forking over the money for a great DJ rather than compromising and thereby compromising the entire mood of your reception.
The same article quotes some very approximate DJ costs by category:
- A part-time or beginning DJ might cost only $200 to $300.
- A DJ with some experience might be between $400 and $600.
- A professional DJ (the one that you want) is going to cost you $1000 and higher, at least.
Obviously, budgetary constraints for the wedding reception have to factor in somehow, but when it comes to hiring a DJ, you get what you pay for. If you want an experience that will create great memories, then opting for a professional DJs who’s played many weddings before is where you want to go.
How did we do? Hopefully, we’ve settled some of the DJ debates warring in your mind, and have helped you to come to a decision for your own wedding reception. If you have any remaining questions about DJ costs or wedding reception music, hit us up in the comments below!