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How To Choose Your Wedding Disc Jockey and caveats to avoid
By: Jeff Ostroff
Your wedding DJ determines whether your reception is a boom or bust...
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There are thousands of wedding disc jockeys! But how do you find the wedding disc jockey that's perfect for you? Here on BridalTips.com you'll find all the caveats to avoid, questions to ask, what DJ equipment they should be using, and what you should have included in your contract. Many tips on this page are only our opinion, you must choose what you feel is right for your wedding.
Choosing your wedding DJ is the best part of your wedding preparations. You get to meet a lot of wedding industry people who are generally nice, outgoing, and personable. Of course the big debate is DJ or Band. That's always one of the hard decisions a newlywed couple must make. The biggest advantage a wedding DJ has over a band is cost. There are some lousy bands out there and many awesome bands too, but many bands can cost a lot of money. I saw an excellent band at a function that charged $4000 for the 8 member group.
Band Or DJ? That is the question!
A good wedding DJ is cheaper than bands, and they dynamically work your wedding crowd for 4 hours. In rare cases a band might party hardy
then decide they don't want to show up. This probably happens more than a DJ not showing up. This is why you should use contracts.
If they refuse to use one, then you should refuse to use their services. Bands always arrived late at my friend's recording studio. And before any musicians get all indignant, it happened
at my sister's wedding. She hired a highly recommended harpist who was out getting drunk when she should have been at the wedding. Luckily I had brought a
wedding CD as backup, the catering manager brought out a CD player, and we had music for me to walk her up the aisle with. So it does happen.|
Feedback Alert! What Causes that loud shrieking feedback?
Keep the microphone away from the speakers!
Sounds easy on paper, but man, what a difficult concept for some DJs to grasp! Some bands can't grasp this simple concept and often the result is ear piercing feedback. They look around startled like they never heard feedback before, and the singer is standing with the microphone only one foot away from the speaker wondering what the cause is. We were at a wedding and the band produced feedback half a dozen times. Good wedding DJs and bands never produce feedback. “Starving artist” musicians usually cannot afford decent PA systems which result in the lead singer not being heard properly feedback. Wedding guests hate this.
Interviewing Prospective Wedding DJs
Wedding DJ References From Friends, Coworkers, Wedding Reception Halls
Interview 3-5 Wedding Disc Jockeys
Questions To Ask Your Prospective Wedding DJ
Is the DJ familiar with your wedding venue?
Ask your DJ if they have done weddings at your reception site before. It helps that they know the wedding venue, how to get there, and they have a familiarity with
the staff. Your wedding disc jockey may also be better prepared to deal with known issues or caveats with the wedding reception hall. Every little positive wedding
DJ bullet item you find makes it less likely that you will have problems with your DJ. It does
not mean you should reject the DJ if they have not been there before, but it's a nod in their favor.
Who will be your actual DJ spinning discs at your wedding?
This one is important. You would hate to spend an hour interviewing your wedding DJ and like their personality, only to
be blindsided at your wedding by having another DJ show up, when you expected the DJ that you interviewed. Make absolutely certain your contract spells
out exactly who will be your DJ. If you want the owner and not their employee it should be on the contract. The contract should also mention what
time and place they are supposed to be. Call a month ahead of the wedding to verify. Nay verbal promises made by your wedding DJ should be in writing on the
contract. They won't remember several months from now what they verbally promised you today.
What about wedding DJ overtime, and other unexpected or hidden fees?
Your contract should clearly specify all costs including any assistant disc jockeys they will have with
them, as well as special equipment lighting packages, or other fees that they pass on to you the client. Be wary of vendors who give you low ball
quotes, but only give you 3 hours of time. If your reception runs longer, you find out "it's another $200 per hour or we walk out right now". You must also plan for overtime in case the reception runs
longer than the contract specifies. The contract should clearly spell out how much extra it will cost you to have your wedding DJ for an extra hour or 2. It
can cost $150 or more. Do not believe verbal promises stating they will work extra hours or have assistants for free. Put it in writing in the contract, or they will not do it.
Don't be blindsided like many brides and grooms are when there event runs over. I receive complaints from brides whose wedding ran over, and the DJ threatened
to leave if not paid in cash right now. You don't want surprises, your wedding DJ contract should be a game plan that covers all bases so you know exactly how much your DJ will cost you.
What attire will your wedding disc jockey wear at your wedding?
Sounds like a no brainer, but you usually want your DJ to wear a tuxedo. The DJ at my brother's wedding was wearing
black jeans and a shirt that was hanging out. He was supposed to be wearing a tuxedo. Even the photographer went up to him and chastised him.
How many years experience does this wedding DJ have? Will they play CD's you provide?
Some wedding disc jockey folks have a list of songs they play
and except for the bride and groom first dance, do not give you much choice. Our
wedding DJ to
allowed us to choose at least 50% which is not the norm. Let your DJ be your guide as to what songs should be played. A good
disc jockey reads the crowd and knows what to play. Be sure they know
what NOT to play, as well as special songs you want to hear. Ask if they will accept requests from wedding
guests. Your wedding disc jockey should be flexible with a wide selection, so requests from your
wedding guests can be fulfilled. This step is VERY crucial,
because your wedding DJ plays about 60 songs during your reception, and
you want nothing but the best tunes to keep your dance floor crowded. If
the DJ needs to intervene and suggest a song, heed them as they generally
know what they are doing and keep up with the current trends. You want
a wedding DJ who can adapt to any crowd. This DJ will be someone who is very
well versed in all areas music. Don't try to give the DJ a tape or a list
of 100% of the songs to play for the night. You hired a DJ not a
juke box operator. If they stick to your play list, I can guarantee
you'll have an empty dance floor. Your musical taste is
not the same as 120 people at your wedding. Let your DJ do their
job and keep your wedding guests happy.
Where will your wedding DJ setup? Is there a dance floor?
This is a rare need, but some wedding reception
sites require your wedding DJ to bring a dance floor if the room does not have one. Some hotel banquet halls
are all carpeted, without a hard floor for dancing.
Also, you MAY not want a DJ who comes in and elevates themselves on the
stage. We liked our wedding DJ's philosophy that the DJ should NEVER overshadow
the bride and groom and he did NOT want to be up on the stage. Rather,
he setup off the right closer to the crowd. Bucking tradition at the Boca Resort, we put
our bridal party head table up on the stage. This allowed more space
in the room for the guests, and ALL of them could see us.
Will your wedding disc jockey need to be fed at your wedding?
sure to feed your DJ, with travel, setup, performance, tear-down and return
travel, they often go 10 or 12 hours without eating Ask if they want to be fed. Some
disc jockeys want
food, some do not want to eat while they work. They deserve it though,
because they might be there 4 hours with nothing to eat or drink. The
caterer needs to know so they can bill you accordingly. They usually make
sandwiches for the DJ's, musicians, photographers, etc., or you can just
let them eat off your buffet. Verify pricing with the caterer,
you would not want them to charge you $150 per head for a DJ and an assistant
disc jockey. The DJ at our wedding refused to be served food, don't know why. He
felt we spent enough money and should not have to spend more to feed the
DJ, so he eats before the wedding. He also felt it was unprofessional
for the DJ to be eating when they should be working. We
his philosophy on this topic, but it's still ok to feed them, they'll be
there 4 hours or more plus setup time. The hotel would have charged $18 for his food. We could
not even get him to take a Coke. It's always nice to feed your vendors.
We even gave him some chocolate and a centerpiece to take home to his wife
after the reception.
Does your wedding DJ have a request form for you to fill out?
for a list of wedding requests and suggestions in all categories. Some
wedding DJs have a request form for you to fill out, so they can have everything
ready for the wedding. Some obscure songs can take a while for them to
Does your wedding DJ do corporate functions also?
Ask the DJ if they ever do corporate functions,
and view sample videos. If you
can find a talented wedding DJ who has experience in corporate
functions, then you really have someone worth their weight in gold. These are true professionals
with mastery of dealing with large scale projects
and all the SNAFUs that go along with them. The DJ we chose does numerous
corporate functions in addition to being an excellent wedding DJ, and companies
have paid to fly him all over the place. If you are a wedding DJ, this is a good
selling point. Not a deal maker, but impressive, and it's ok to use a DJ
that does not do corporate work.
What problems has the DJ encountered at weddings and how did they solve them?
You want a wedding DJ who is resilient, able to respond quickly to unforeseen mishaps that can mar your wedding. You can bet that many weddings look smooth, but had issues that were quickly seamlessly patched behind the scenes by DJs, caterers, and other vendors.
Are you insured or belong to any professional organizations like A.D.J.A?
Your contract only states what your DJ will do, but it does not say if they will do it well. Membership in organizations like A.D.J.A. gives them growth, education, and ethics.
How Much Do Wedding DJs cost?
The best thing about wedding DJs is you can find a DJ to fit your budget, from casual guys who moonlight on parties, all the way up to professional wedding and corporate types. There are moonlighting DJ's that might only charge $300. You'll find DJ's charge $400 up to $1900 depending on the area. Your area may be less or more. In San Diego for example, you might expect to pay in the $1300 for a true professional top notch wedding DJ, and no fancy lighting. In 1996 in Boca Raton, FL, our DJ's employees charged $500. But we chose the owner, who was $750 and the price might be higher by now. Our DJ charged a bit more than most local DJ's, as he is very much in demand and highly recommended by several of our vendors. That's a great way to find vendors also. When several different wedding vendors point to the same person as the best, they are usually right. Our wedding DJ more than proved he was worth his weight in gold, as the evening went flawless, not one incidence of feedback, and the wireless headphone mic never gave out on him. Friends of mine several years ago had a local famous radio station DJ do their wedding too, that was pretty cool.
Let the DJ ask you questions too like what you do or don't want to hear. You want someone who takes an interest in what YOU want. We also met with the DJ one last time a few days before the wedding where he phonetically pronounced each person's name he was going to introduce at the wedding. This is a great added touch because no one likes to have their name mispronounced at a wedding. You may want to hire the owner of the DJ company, like we did, even though they usually charge more than the employees. The owner usually is the smartest one and has the most experience.
Stupid DJ Tricks
You may want to prevent some of these things from happening at your reception, a lot of them are preference.
No Business Cards
No Revolving Police Lights!
Not Enough Good
The problem with the DJ at my friend's wedding was he had about 100 regular CD's, so I would have to fish through 10 of them to find 2 decent hits that I thought the crowd might enjoy. This DJ and his setup were not even facing the dance floor!! Could anyone be more stupid! He spent most of the time with his back to the dance floor (his equipment was facing the back wall) flipping through his small collection of CDs for the next song when he should have been reading the crowd. He even played several songs more than once! Then he complained to me that no one was out there dancing. Gee, I think we're going to have to book time on the Pentagon's Cray III computer to figure this one out. Obviously the DJ did not determine ahead of time what musical preferences would be, nor did he read the crowd properly. So no wonder the dance floor was empty.
A BAD WEDDING DJ CAN RUIN THE BEST OF WEDDINGS!
The same aforementioned DJ asked me to pick a few songs from his collection to get the crowd going, which I did. He lacked 2 songs that several guests asked to hear, which every DJ should have. Also, he did such a poor job wiring his Karaoke monitor, that he had to fiddle with it a many times during the reception, and finally gave up. No more Karaoke. He hardly ever got on the mic to motivate anyone to dance either. It seemed like he was there to just queue up CD's and nothing else. Heck I'd have done that for free and saved my friend the money and aggravation. The bride was upset after the wedding about this. No wonder the DJ complained to me there was no one on the dance floor. We had to choose a couple of tunes for him which DID fill the dance floor. If the DJ is not constantly motivating the crowd, the floor will be empty, and your reception will be a bust. It's like a strange quiet party. You need constant motivation from an experienced crowd pleaser. This same DJ did not even help us during the Macarena (it was THE dance back then, what can I say). At our wedding, the DJ and assistant both showed us the moves so we did not all crash into each other and abandon the floor like my friend's wedding. After the wedding the bride expressed her anguish, shaking her head, saying this guy came highly recommended. Keep in mind this is the exception, not the norm. If you are a worshipper of the Lord, you may ask that none of the songs have any offensive lyrics. You'd hate to be there with your pastor and congregation members when the Divinyls song "I Touch Myself" comes on.
The DJ at my brother's wedding really screwed things up. He was so highly recommended by everyone and my brother was at a loss for words trying to figure out how everything went south on him. The DJ did not play the songs he was supposed to play. He missed the song for the Bride & Dad dance! What a big mistake. During the Groom & Mom dance, the groom and mom were kept waiting alone on the empty dance floor for 5 minutes because the wedding disc jockey could not get his player to work. Let's see I think you just push the one that says "play"....
You can see I am not just giving you anecdotal evidence, we have been to several weddings where the DJ was the main factor in whether the reception was boom or bust.
Most DJ's are excellent, but you can see the importance of a little due diligence ahead of time. Try to see them at a function first or on video.
DJ's Should Know
The Itinerary at your wedding reception!
Cordless Mics Are a
What about Chicken
Dance, or Hokey Pokey?
Issues to consider.
A DJ with a wireless headset is a plus. With the headset mic, the element is always right in front of the DJ's mouth, and the gain need not be set as high as a handheld microphone. Thus the headset is less likely to cause feedback, and if they place the antenna properly, there won't be any noise or interference. Also the DJ can easily roam around hands free, or even blend in with the crowd during group effort dances. If a DJ tells you wireless mics don't work, or give excuses why they don't work, it's because they either used cheap equipment, did not want to spend the money, or simply did not know how to properly setup tricky setup wireless mics. They can be difficult to setup. I've been to dozens of concerts with wireless mics and never saw a problem. Used properly, these units are great tools of the trade. On the other hand, I've seen DJs walk around swinging the mic, not noticing they are about to step into the Twilight Zone in front of the speaker and violate Jeff's Law of Wedding Acoustics mentioned earlier. Then, a loud shrill of feedback fills the room.
Lighting is another thing to consider. Can your DJ get additional lighting? Some people want it, some could care less if they want to save money. But we wanted to put on a show they would remember. If you want state of the art lighting, some of the bigger DJ companies can master this for you very easily. Again, this is where DJs with corporate event experience really excel. They usually have the top notch lighting, not old cheesy disco balls with 2 glorified lawn lights. We did go a little overboard, spending $800 on an intelligent lighting system consisting of 4 intelligent units and 2 sound activated gobos. Man what a show that was. The ballroom was FILLED with light. Many guests told us it looked like a rock concert, with numerous beams everywhere. And this did not upset the older crowd either, which was a worry of mine. We were pleasantly surprised to see many of them out there dancing the new tunes with us. This may not be for all of you, but if you have the means, go for it. Our wedding video looks like Soul Train. I was surprised that our DJ tried to talk us out of this package, stating corporations are the typical customer. But more and more "consumer" affairs are going this way.
You Must Have A Clear, Concise, Written Contract!
The contract should clearly state WHO will be your wedding DJ. If it is the owner, you want their name on your contract, with no switches allowed. You spent time interviewing the owner and you want that DJ listed. Be wary if they try to leave the name off, there could be a bait and switch. If they are using an assistant, make them itemize that as well. Did you agree to rent any additional lighting through your DJ? Better have that on there too. Your contract should list what type of standard lighting you are getting as well. Also have them list what their overtime charge is in case you decide to run late. You don't want any surprises there. Make sure all correct dates, times, address, phone numbers, and deposits are listed.
So what was our final package? We had the owner for 4 hours at $750, plus $850 for the computerized lighting. This also included an assistant, which is a great thing for a DJ to have. I know we went overboard, but what a show. It was still cheaper than the bands we looked at. One band was $12000! We ended up keeping the DJ for an extra hour and paid another $150, which was already stated in the contract. Sure this seems steep, and yes we could have done just the bare bones package, but it was a typical wedding for professional working people like my wife and I. This is not necessarily the way to go if you are trying to save money. Remember though, you get what you pay for. We got more than what we paid for. How many weddings were you at where several guests commented it was the best DJ they've ever seen? Our wedding was like that.
There are plenty of inexpensive DJs out there who will give you a wonderful evening. Some of you may not want all the glitz and flash we had. Some of you will be happy with an informal DJ who DOES do the condo or bar circuit. We just wanted to shed the light on it and abuse our First Amendment rights by stating many of our opinions on certain subjects. We did find the DJs however, to be the easiest of all the wedding industry people to work with. And you don't have to spend $1600! Just have fun picking your wedding disc jockey.
Good luck, and let us know here at BridalTips.com how you did in your search for the perfect wedding DJ!
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