Here are Mark's top tips for things to keep in mind when selecting a Wedding DJ. Keep in mind that my main goal is for your wedding reception to be great, no matter who you hire. Please use these tips to evaluate me, and other DJ's alike.
1. Do you like their personality?
If you are talking with a company with multiple DJ's (multi-op), be sure to talk to the DJ that is going to be at your wedding. Not all DJ's are the same, and they especially are not the same at being the Master of Ceremonies (MC) for your wedding. Chances are, if you don't like their personality, you won't be happy with them being the MC for your night.
I worked for a multi-op DJ service for many years before starting my own business. Most of the time, I did not meet the couple until the night of their wedding reception. The owner, who met with the couples to do the planning, didn't always take the best notes when it came to the details of the night. This would leave me, as the person responsible for making the night a success, at a huge disadvantage. I would routinely have to go ask the couple questions throughout the night to make sure I was doing what they wanted. Nobody wants to be constantly bombarded with questions on their wedding night.
A lot of times while working for this other company, I would only know my schedule for wedding receptions a few weeks out. The specific DJ for each wedding wasn't selected based on who would be the best fit for each couple, but who was available for that weekend. Once they knew who was available, then the owner would give the "better" weddings to his "better" DJ's. This wasn't the best way to guarantee a wedding was a success.
Fast forward to today with my business, I meet with every couple before a contact is sent to you. I want to make sure we are a good fit for each other before we even talk contacts. Spending time getting to know you is important to me, because that is why I am there – to help make your wedding a great memory.
Take away: Be sure you talk to the person is going to be the DJ at your wedding reception before you hire any DJ company. This will help you know that you are hiring the right person, not just right company.
2. How well do their priorities fit with your priorities?
How much do they care about your wedding? Are they willing to listen to what you want to have happen to make your wedding personalized to you? Personally, I want to know about each couple and what brought them to their wedding day, which then leads me to understanding their priorities.
My priority is for your wedding to be well thought out, well planned, and executed to perfection. I know nothing goes exactly as planned, but being able to think on your feet and adjust is key. Being flexible on the exact timing on your schedule of events for the evening, yet continually wanting to keep things moving along is important to the success of your night. The last thing a couple needs is for their photographer or videographer to be out of time for the night and the important things (toasts, first dances, etc.) not being completed.
I am an electrical engineer by day, and I love to-do lists and love discussing the details of the wedding so we can formulate the perfect schedules for your wedding. I bring this plus over 16 years of wedding experience to each wedding to help make sure that I ask the questions needed to make sure understand each couple's priorities and style.
Take away: Talk to the DJ about their wedding style, "typical order of events", and ask them for examples of unique things they have done for couples for their weddings. This should help you gauge whether they will be a good fit for you or not.
3. How much experience do they have?
Not only does their experience matter, but YOUR experience matters. Does the DJ you are looking to hire know the importance of your wedding day? If a DJ has an 'off night,' it's not like a normal job where you show up the next day and do better. What do their days leading up to your wedding look like and how do they make sure they are "on" for your wedding?
As for DJ experience, yes, the more weddings a DJ has done, the more they should theoretically know about weddings. Keep in mind that, practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. The quality of training makes a huge difference on how a DJ will handle themselves at your wedding. Some DJ's with very little experience who have had excellent training are much better prepared than someone who has doing it for 20+ years who was never trained and still aren't trained properly.
Take away: What sort of training has your DJ had outside of actual wedding receptions? Have they gone to Master of Ceremonies training courses? Have they videotaped themselves to know how they look to your guests so they can make corrections if needed? It all makes a difference.
4. Do they focus on Quantity, or Quality when it comes to wedding receptions?
Do you want a DJ that is at your wedding because it's just another job they have, or because they truly care about making your wedding special? That is what is at the heart of this question.
Each wedding takes me about 20 hours of prep work before I even begin to setup any equipment for a wedding. This includes all of the meetings, and all the background work such as creating the schedule of events, writing and practicing what I'm going to say for each part of the wedding, gathering all of the music requests that I don't have in my music library, and answering questions via email/text/Facebook/phone calls. This is not an insignificant investment of time. You need to be a wedding DJ for the right reasons to ensure that this isn't just day on the job.
Take away: Having a DJ focus that is focused on the quality of YOUR wedding, no matter how many other weddings they are doing that week, that month, or that year, should not be ignored. How do they make sure they keep the details for your wedding straight from all the other weddings they are doing?
5. Do they take music requests?
This seems like a silly question, but ask it and listen to their answer. I do take music requests, but I don't play all the requests that people make in an evening. Some songs requested are on the couple's "do not play list" and I do not ever play those songs (unless I hear from the bride that night telling me it is ok). I also filter requests though the, "Is it danceable?" filter. For example, Imagine Dragons – Radioactive is a great song, but it's not really danceable.
I also try to avoid the "typical wedding music" because if I can find something else that is familiar to the guests and is danceable, then people are going to dance without having to hear the same music they heard at every other wedding they went to this year. That doesn't mean I don't play the "typical wedding music" if requested, because we all know that the dance floor can be pretty full for those songs. Rather I want those songs to be something people want to hear, not something they expect to hear because it's a wedding.
Take away: Give your DJ a list of 2-2.5 hours of music requests before your wedding of songs you will dance to. This will help them understand what sort of music you want played through the night. And most importantly, give them a do not play list as well if you don't want specific songs played.
6. How well does their price fit into your budget?
Ultimately, it all does come down to priorities in your budget. You won't always find wedding vendors that match your initial budget. I suggest determining what are the most important pieces to you in your wedding first, then budget around those items. It could be food, photography, videography, chair covers, flowers, centerpieces, etc.. Budget around the important items to help make your wedding uniquely yours.
For wedding DJ's, some cost a few hundred dollars, others cost a few thousand dollars. Why are some DJ's more expensive than others? Higher quality DJ's generally have higher business expenses – equipment costs, cost of insurance, advertising, wedding expo booths, promotional materials, website, the cost of meetings and events, transportation costs, and continuing education. These all add to the "cost per event" that is needed to make sure that the DJ can still provide for their family as well. A DJ in high demand may also charge more for their time.
Take away: People remember "how much fun" the night was after the wedding. I suggest you spend money on a good photographer to properly document your wedding and a good DJ to help give your wedding every opportunity to be the one to remember, in a good way. Plan on spending 20-40% of what you spend on a venue + food for a DJ, as a general rule of thumb.
I hope that helps you start thinking about how to select the right DJ for your wedding. Please reach out to me on my contact page if you have any further questions!