Questions for DJs

How to Choose a Great Wedding DJ

Hiring a disc jockey is one the most important decisions you’ll make to insure the success of your wedding reception. To help you find quality entertainment, TraxWerx suggests you review the questions below and then select several to ask any of the disc jockeys you are considering.

1. How much do you charge?

This is the first question you should ask any DJ if you are looking for the least expensive entertainment you can find. Prices for professional DJs can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for an event. If all you want is someone to show up with a bunch of CD’s or an iPod and some speakers, then shop for price alone.

Without knowing the quality of service they can provide, calling DJs just to ask how much they charge for a wedding is pointless. Even the price for the most talented and requested DJ within our own company may be double that of other DJs that we hire. How much experience does the DJ you select have with weddings? How much time and effort will the DJ devote to planning and preparing for your wedding? What level of quality is their equipment? How is their music library organized? How are their microphone skills? How accessible are they for planning purposes?

Wedding DJing is a service, not a product. More often than not, you’ll get what you pay for. If there were no difference in quality among DJs, then only the least expensive DJs would survive in the business. Obviously, as in many service professions, that is not the case. If you want to be sure that your reception flows smoothly and your guests have fun, you may want to start with some of the questions listed here.

2. How much experience do you have specifically with weddings?

All disc jockeys are not the same by far. DJs who work at clubs or do school dances are usually very good at what they do, but may not be the right choice for your wedding or event. Don’t forget that a DJ must play music that pleases anyone from Grandma to grandchildren. As master of ceremonies (MC), he is also responsible for coordinating the entire reception.

Your DJ should be personable and articulate without being annoying or overbearing. He should know exactly what to say and what to play during every phase of your reception to keep the mood and atmosphere at a desired level. He’s an expert at “reading the crowd.” He knows what songs to mix together to keep people dancing. These skills are developed over years of experience at hundreds of weddings, not from a checklist or repetition provided by an agency or hall.

Any entertainment company you call or hall you book with may have been in business for years, but the DJ they send to your wedding or use for your event could have been hired last week. Some agencies have been known to overbook a popular date and then subcontract your wedding to another company at the last minute.  Know the specific DJ who will perform at your wedding ahead of time. Be sure he/she has the knowledge and skills that come only from years of experience as an entertainment DJ. Ask to see a list of reception locations where that DJ has performed in the past. If available, ask for testimonials given by past clients.

3. How would you describe your style?

Do you want your DJ to chatter like a game show host and lead the chicken dance with a hula hoop competition? Or would you rather a more conservative DJ who reflects the class and elegance of your formal affair? Most DJs can be versatile, though not all have the same style and professional demeanor. You’ll want to select a DJ who is compatible with the tone of your reception. Ask the DJ to describe his style. Often, a get-acquainted meeting with a prospective DJ will reveal his personality and style. We don’t hire DJ’s trying to make a name for themselves or that will have their own agenda at your event.

4. Do you do any mixing?

Beat mixing is a skill typically associated with club DJ’s. Songs with similar beats per minute (BPM) are blended together to keep dancers on the floor and sustain the energy of the party, giving the music that “One Big Song” effect. Although beat mixing is less important to the wedding DJ, it is a skill that will enhance the energy of your reception. If your DJ has no beat mixing skill, there will be dead air or awkward transitions between songs, giving dancers an opportunity to leave the floor. Ask a DJ what some of his favorite mixes are. A good DJ’s answer might be “ACDC’s All Night Long leading into Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, both great dance songs at 120 BPM.”

5. Are you a full-time DJ?

A full-time DJ is often more readily available to respond to your calls and emails and can devote more time and energy to preparing for your wedding. If you are considering a part-time DJ who has another job, be sure he is still easy to reach and has the time to respond to your needs. If your first encounter with a DJ was his voice mail,  chances are it won’t be your last. Stay away from DJ’s who do not respond promptly to your calls and emails. It’s a sure sign of someone putting their needs ahead of yours.

6. Do you have references and can they be  contacted?

Upon request, your DJ should be able and willing to provide names and contact information for recent satisfied clients. Beware of DJs who have glowing comments from former clients without identifying a specific date and location or agencies that use generic testimonials that may not apply to the DJ they send to you.

7. Can we come to a wedding to see you in action?

On the surface, this may seem like a reasonable request. Some DJ companies even claim they “have nothing to hide” and will invite their prospective clients to your wedding reception. However, most professional wedding DJs will not invite prospective clients to your wedding because they respect your privacy. It’s not an issue of trying to hide something. Any DJ who has something to hide would soon be out of business.

A wedding reception is a private event intended exclusively for you, your family and your friends. The last thing you want or need at your wedding is a group of strangers (a future bride and groom with a Mom and a friend in tow) opening the door and walking into a hushed ballroom as your best man begins his toast.

Evaluate your DJ by visiting his website, requesting an information packet, arranging a personal meeting, and checking references from satisfied clients. A professional DJ should not use your wedding to market himself for future business. That includes signage or advertising him/her self. We don’t hang banners, make any announced advertisements or anything of that nature at your private event. In our business, word of mouth is everything!

8. Do you have a reception planning form and can we meet with you in person before our wedding?

Experienced, professional wedding DJs will always have a Wedding Reception Planning guide to determine the timetable of events for your reception and the perfect song to accompany those events. A DJ should be willing to schedule an appointment with you a few weeks before your wedding to finalize reception plans or timetables for the event. Remember, your DJ is also your MC who will be coordinating all the schedule of events during your reception. The more your DJ understands about your preferences and requests, the better job he will do for you.

9. Do you use professional equipment and do you bring back-up equipment?

Professional disc jockey equipment is designed for heavy use and constant transport. It is not sold in home-electronics stores. Look for names like Mackie, Denon, Tascam, JBL, Shure, etc. Be sure your DJ uses only a professional sound system and has brings back-up equipment for every component to guarantee a problem-free or minimal recovery performance. With electronics, you never know what will happen or when. It’s always best to be prepared ahead of time. Ask how old their equipment is. Aging or equipment that isn’t kept up is a ticking time bomb ready to ruin your event! Professional DJ’s transport their  equipment in specially designed cases, not cardboard boxes or old milk crates. Most amateur DJ’s will more than likely have vague, general responses to specific questions about equipment.

10. Can you describe your setup?

A professional DJ will not use your reception to market his services with a banner or signage that could create an eyesore or appear in pictures. His rigging will also be professional, meaning, no hanging wires, a pile of empty equipment bins, etc. Ask to see photos of past events and equipment setups. A lot of time has been incested in designing your reception, your DJ should be just as prepared with a tasteful and attractive appearance.

11. When do you arrive to setup up and is there any extra charge involved with it?

You will want your DJ to be set up, dressed and ready to perform prior to your guests arrival. Always expect your DJ to arrive at least one hour prior to your scheduled event time. A responsible DJ will plan ahead by researching or visiting the venue prior to your event to prepare for proper placement, speak to the venue manager, address power needs, etc. at no extra charge. However, hirise building venues, remote locations or even limited parking events may require additional costs to cover additional payments made by your DJ.

12. How do you dress for a formal event?

We always consult the event coordinator as to their request on our appearance. We’ve been contracted to dress in semi-formal, business casual, costumes, uniforms as well as tuxedos.

13. Is floor lighting included and do you charge for it?

All of our packages include a basic LED lighting package. Additional lighting upgrades may be added to the package for a nominal fee.

14. How much music is in your music library?

We regularly maintain a library of thousands of songs including top 40 hits from today, and ranging all the way back to the 40’s. Everything from Classical, Country, R&B, Pop, Alternative, Rap, and more are available. We do make some concessions for local bands if a specific request is made which may include an additional cost for music

15. Do you take requests?

To put it simply, Yes. DJ’s would like to say they would be happy to take requests and, in most cases, they do. However, your DJ’s primary job is to keep the majority of your guests happy and keep the party going. DJ’s know which requests will clear the dance floor and deflate the energy of your reception. You should allow your DJ to use his judgment regarding walk-ups or requests.

16. Do you provide a written contract and require a deposit?

Reputable disc jockeys document their services with a professional contract to insure accurate information and require a deposit to reserve your date. For prime dates, a non-refundable booking fee/deposit for 50% of the payment is not uncommon when the contract is signed and most reputable DJ’s will require final payment a week or two before the wedding.

17. Can you provide music for the ceremony as well?

Of course! We maintain a playlist of traditional reception music and would be happy to assist in it’s selection with you

18. What are my payment options?

A professional DJ will have a variety of payment options to meet your needs. In addition to cash and a personal check, the professional DJ will be able to accept all major credit cards.

19. Are there any hidden charges like taxes or gratuities?

Some large DJ companies encourage you to provide a gratuity to your DJ since what your DJ is paid may be significantly less than what the DJ company charges you. There are even DJ companies that automatically add a gratuity to the fee you are quoted. This is strictly optional and we do not solicit any gratuity from our clients.

20. Why do DJ’s charge so much just to show up for a few hours and play music?

DJ’s will have a variety of answers to this question. In general, a professional wedding DJ will invest many hours prior to your wedding in meeting, planning, preparing and consulting. On the day of your wedding, your DJ, dressed to impress, will devote as many as eight to ten hours with preparation, travel, setup, performance and teardown of equipment. Your professional DJ will be using about $10,000 – $20,000 worth of equipment and relying on years of experience to insure that your reception   is everything you want it to be. There’s a lot more involved than just   showing up and playing music for a few hours.

21. Are your DJ services  covered by business liability insurance?

A professional DJ will carry at least $1 million of business liability insurance to respond to any claims resulting from his service. Many resorts require all outside vendors, including DJs, to provide a certificate of insurance.

22. What if you are unable to perform due to illness or an emergency?

In the unlikely event that serious illness or an emergency would prevent your DJ from performing, the DJ should take responsibility for securing a comparable replacement. Ask if he has a plan to cover such situations. Stay away from the DJ who doesn’t.

Final Thoughts…

Most of the popular wedding DJ’s get booked six to twelve months before  an event with spring and fall dates being the most popular. When you’re ready to hire your DJ, compile a list of potential candidates by searching the web (do a Google search for Metairie DJs, New Orleans DJs, Kenner DJs, etc.), review DJ websites, purchase a local bridal magazine, attend a wedding show, ask if your reception location has a preferred vendor list, and get recommendations from other vendors, catering directors and past brides.

Based on their websites, brochures and ads, identify two or three DJs or DJ companies who  appear to have what you’re looking for. Then contact each of them by email or telephone. Based on the responses you receive, narrow your seach       to the one or two DJs you are most comfortable with. Keep in mind that the response you receive from a company with multiple DJs will most likely not be from the actual DJ who will be assigned to your wedding. If one of the responses seems to be just what you’re looking for, request a contract and lock in the date. If you are still not sure, arrange an in-person meeting with the actual DJ who will perform at your wedding to help you decide.