Tips On Choosing Your Wedding DJ

First of all, congratulations on your engagement! Second, you are about to make a TON of decisions regarding one of the most important, and memorable days of your life. It can be very hard to know and understand the difference between this DJ and that DJ, because after all, who hires one on a regular basis? Nobody does, but every DJ in the world will tell you that they are a professional, and the best person for the job . But are they the best person for you wedding?

If there is one person who has the largest influence on your guests’ overall experience at your wedding (good, bad, annoying, or fun) it is your DJ. DJs have  the power of sound, and either use it to direct your wedding, or don’t and let whatever happens happen. The bottom line is, you don’t know what you don’t know, and the time to learn is now, not the day after your wedding. This article should hopefully help narrow down a few tips and tricks to make sure that your wedding day experience is on that you look over fondly, and with no regrets.

How Invested Are They In Their Business?

This is fortunately a pretty easy thing to find out once you know how to look for it. How seriously does your DJ take their DJ business? Here are a few things they should do, and should have. If not, I suggest moving on quickly.
1. Do they have a professional website? Not Facebook page, but a real website. Your DJ should have a place to showcase their work with photos, videos, blogs, packages, and give a professional presence. Facebook is free. If they haven’t invested in a website, will they be invested in you?
2. What type of experience do they have? 30 years of experience can be great, but not necessarily better if it is irrelevant, or outdated experience. If your DJ is running the same equipment, lights, and hasn’t evolved in 30 years, is that OK with you? I have been to restaurants where the server had 40 years of serving experience. That 40 years didn’t necessarily mean that they came to the table faster, were more friendly, or a better server. I have also had brand new servers with proper training that knocked it out of the park! Time punched on the clock does not mean better. In fact, in the DJ world it can mean irrelevance without continuing education and investment back into the company.
3. Do they have an office? This is not something that is always necessary for a DJ. But, you can rest assured that if they have committed themselves to paying several years of a lease, they are definitely invested in the business itself.
4. Are they full time in their business? This does not necessarily mean they will be bad. But, hopefully the company you choose to work with does have at least one full time employee who can answer calls, emails, texts, and consults quickly during the middle of the week. If your DJ works 40 hours a week at their other job and does weddings on the weekend as a side gig; which do you think is more important to them?
5. Do they return calls and emails? Believe me, if your DJ doesn’t return calls or emails they are not very invested into their company and don’t take your wedding seriously. If you are willing to pay someone to be there at your wedding, they need to return your calls. I suggest waiting 24 hours, (unless you call on a Saturday) and then move on. This is 2017, communication shouldn’t take a week and multiple attempts. Email might be easier over the weekends to get a quicker response. For example, if you call Saturday morning while they are setting up, the probably won’t call you back after midnight once they are loaded up, but can kick out an email very quickly.
If your DJ does run their own company, they should be very interested in taking their company seriously. If they don’t have solid social presence, a website site, and communicate with you,do they really care about one of the most important days of your lives?

Experience

It all comes down to experience. What do you want YOUR experience to be, and what your DJs wedding experience is. Here is a great question to ask yourself:
“Why am I having a wedding where I am inviting friends, family, having food, dressing up, and having amazing decorations in the first place?”
If you are anything like myself, or the couples I talk to the answer is:
The experience of an amazing day! You want to have a fun celebration, and create great memories with the people who matter most in your life.
Weddings are an experience, and some experiences are better than others.. What type of experience do you want to have? Have you ever been to a wedding where you sat at a table bored for 3 hours, and then went home after you ate a piece of cake because you had no idea what was going on? If you have, I am sure this is NOT what you want your guests to do at your wedding.
Just as you want an amazing wedding experience, it also takes an experienced wedding DJ to make this happen. I’ll go back to where I mentioned how the one person who has the largest influence on your guests is your DJ. We have the power of sound, and the voice to make people do things. Imagine one of these two scenarios unfolding during dinner:
First, your DJ is sitting back behind their table having a beer from your open bar, and eating while your guests pile up at the buffet, and a line wraps around the room. Now, some people might not see this as a big deal, but what an experienced DJ will do is vastly different. Especially the drinking part. Your vendors should NOT be taking advantage of your open bar. I might have a drink on my personal time at home, but if I am being paid to be somewhere and perform for someone I find it disrespectful, and extremely unprofessional for a vendor to drinking.
Ideally during this time, your DJ (sober) should be dismissing tables a few at a time to keep your guests engaged, and involved in the wedding process. This builds trust and rapport among your guests and the DJ. These little touches are extremely important along the way to make sure your guests are engaged, and understand what is going on. Also. this functionally helps keep the line down at the buffet and gets more guests through more quickly than a mob like mentality of a free for all buffet. Believe me, I have seen both. At this time, your DJ should also be preparing the best man, maid of honor, and identifying who else is going to be doing the toast. This builds trust between the wedding party, and functionally helps everyone learn who is speaking first, and how to properly speak into the mic. Not everyone is a natural born speaker so this is crucial so that ALL of your guests can hear the toasts, enjoy it, and the toasters know who is going after who.
Another part of experience is once we finally get to dancing, how does that go? Now, if we dance for the last two hours of your wedding that is great! But, if your guests are bored for the first 3 hours of your wedding they will NOT stay and dance. The only way your DJ will know how to manage these things is through experience. The technical part of DJ mixing skills is something to tackle in another post, but it does take years to master how to beat match, mix in keys, group in genres, styles, and keep 10 year old kids, and 85 year old grandmas happy with the music selections. I admittedly struggled with both of these the first few years of being in business. Over the years, I learned, continue to learn, and keep working on getting better every day.

Different Types of DJs

You likely have never thought that there are different types of DJs. DJs are DJs like doctors are doctors correct? No. Not even close. Calvin Harris is a DJ, the guy running karaoke in the bar is a DJ, the personality making prank phone calls on the radio is a DJ, and then there are wedding DJs.
DJs are DJs like doctors are doctors. It’s important to select the right one for the right job. If I am going to have a knee replacement, I am going to go to an orthopedic surgeon. If I am going to learn about Egyptian pyramids, I want to talk to someone who has a doctorate in archaeology. They both have the same title as “doctor” but do vastly different things.
While I am primarily a wedding DJ, I also DJ football games for the Beavers at Reeser stadium. There, I put on my headphones, play tons of different remixes, don’t say a word, and my job is to keep energy high. This is so crazy different from a wedding it’s insane. At a wedding, my headphones are off of my head for most of the night as I keep timelines moving by using the mic, and communicate with many other people, and most of what I do is observe guest behavior, adjust music, and communicate with everyone accordingly. My job is not just music management, but also timeline management, and communications.
Make sure you hire an experience wedding DJ, not a bar DJ. It’s not the same job. You don’t want a cardiac surgeon unearthing dinosaurs, much like you don’t want to paleontologist operating on your knee just because they are given the title of “Dr.” The same rule applies to DJs.

Rates

Rates are a touchy topic, but I am going to tackle it anyhow. According to costofwedding.com which compiles statistical data, and government statistics, the average cost of a professional wedding DJ in Oregon is just under $1200. If your DJ is only charging you half of the going rate, this should raise a red flag. As a guy who used to charge half of the going rate I can tell you why those rates are so low.
Frankly, I wasn’t very good in 2008, and I didn’t know what I was doing. Yes, I had an OK sound system, had some mics, and could make music come out, but I wasn’t good. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know the proper way to manage timelines, the best way to make pre-ceremony announcements, to dismiss tables, work with other vendors, make sure that guests could hear me, or even fine tune a sound system. I wasn’t good enough to book many weddings, and the only thing I had going for me was to compete on cheap price. I tried my best to get better and better, and eventually did, but it takes a long time to learn how to make a complex event like a wedding work.
So, if your DJ looks way too cheap, it should raise suspicion. With some simple logic applied, if they were able to book themselves out at $1500 each Saturday night, why on earth would they charge $600? I can tell you, anyone would take the $1500 pay day over the $600 if they could. Wouldn’t you?
I would also encourage you to find out what reasonable rates are before pulling numbers out of what “seems about right” when planning a wedding. According to Weddingwire.com, couples spend 40% more on their weddings than their anticipated budget, because they didn’t understand what the real costs were actually going to be. That’s an insane amount over budget.
Another side of rates, if you are not in a position to pay $3000 for a DJ, don’t! You don’t have to. Just because someone is charging a lot, does not mean they are good for you. They might be right for some couples, but not necessarily you. Also, just because someone charged $800, doesn’t mean they are bad either. But, you might want to adjust your expectations accordingly. Money is a real thing, a real obstacle, something that is important to consider in your budget. If you cannot afford the most expensive, there are still lots of great options and most companies will offer different packages.

Past Experience and Reviews

A few years back, I had the pleasure of DJing for a couple, and I happened to go to high school with the bride. The wedding went great, but almost a year later, I saw she posted a story from a local news station on Facebook about how her photographer took her money, but never gave her their wedding photos back! To say the least, I was very surprised, and upset. Fortunately, the second shooter was finally able to get a hold of the photographer that they hired and she eventually got her photos, albeit almost a year later.

I immediately Google searched this photographer’s name. Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall. In 30 seconds I saw many review sites for years which had couples writing reviews about this photographer that screwed them over, and never delivered their photos. These reviews were dated years back before this particular wedding. A quick Google search can tell you a lot!
Once again, you unfortunately don’t know what you don’t know. She didn’t know she should Google her vendors, and got burned. Please, please, please take the time to run a search. Sites like Wedding Wire, The Knot, Facebook, and Yelp are all very accessible and every established company will have reviews. If you cannot find any reviews, move on. If you don’t like what you see, move on. If you like what you see, open the conversation and inquire about your date. If you are able to use a DJ that you saw at a friend, or relatives wedding that is also a great way! I recommend first reaching out to the couple to see what they liked or didn’t like, and then reach out to that DJ.

Conclusion

Narrow down your choices to 3 DJs and setup meetings. Once you find who is a good fit, book them! You should always receive a signed contract back from your DJ with exactly what you are paying, and exactly what you are receiving. This ensures that both of you understand, when and where the wedding is, and how everything is suppose to happen. If you ever did run into an issue with the DJ company, you would have this contract to fall back on. It seems whenever there is a rare issue with a company that wrongs their clients there is never a contract. At this point it becomes “he said, she said”. Keep your contracts in your wedding planning binder. You will likely only reference them to know what equipment they will bring, and when the final payment is due.
As I said before, it is very difficult to make the right decision on booking your DJ. Feeling comfortable, and confident in your decision and how your DJ will do for you is what’s most important. Hopefully these tips will provide some insight into how to choose your DJ and how they shape the experience of your wedding!

About Me

I am Zach Thomas, the founder of Apogee Events. I started our company 11 years ago in 2006, and currently perform about 45 weddings each year. I am a full time wedding DJ, and manage our team of 4 DJs. If you have any questions, or concerns you can always email me and ask! I don’t care of you booked another company or not, I will always give you some feedback, and answer questions. I am here to serve!
Thank you Mosca Studio for the amazing photos! Check them out here: MoscaStudio.com