Interviewing Prospective Wedding DJs
Get Wedding DJ References From Friends, Coworkers, Wedding Reception Halls
Your best resource in finding your wedding DJ is people you know. Ask around, try locally famous DJs from radio stations. Some people moonlight as wedding disc jockeys and are good at it. Talk to recent newlyweds, ask your wedding reception hotel or resort, they may have a list of preferred vendors for you to call, wedding DJs whom they trust. This list contains vendors that the resort has worked with and knows to be reliable and professional. The resort's reputation is stake also. But beware of secondary hotels or reception sites that might not be as scrupulous. Some caterers may get a kickback, so know who you are dealing with.The catering manager at the Petrolium Club oversees many weddings every year so she knows who the right DJ is!
Interview 3-5 Wedding Disc Jockeys
Don't rush to pick your wedding DJ, they all have different personalities. Ask to see wedding videos from friends to see if you like their DJ. If you happen to see your potential DJ while you are a guest at another wedding before you make your decision, that helps too. Many people of marrying age attend several weddings in a year, and this is a good time to start scoping your wedding DJ and other wedding vendors. If you have special song requests, ask the DJ if they have it or if they can get it. If your reception is complex, and in a big well known resort or hotel you want a true professional who works in the big places, not someone who travels the condo clubhouse circuit. Many DJ's may get offended by this, but you really want someone with the experience of working with the catering departments of these larger venues. This synergy between DJ and catering manager is what keeps your function running smoothly. A DJ's talent should reach far beyond just motivating the crowd or making the announcements at the right time. They must have their finger on the pulse of your wedding and know everything that is going on. The only way this can happen is when they have a good working relationship with the venue staff.
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 associated with your wedding DJ, 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. 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 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 shirt & tie or a tuxedo. A DJ at a wedding I attended 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 this wedding DJ 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. 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. Ask 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 obtain. 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. Meet with the DJ one last time a few days before the wedding where he phonetically pronounces each person's name he is going to introducing 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, The owner usually is the smartest one and has the most experience.
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. The DJ should NEVER overshadow the bride and groom rather setting up on a stage. Have them setup off the side closer to the crowd.You could 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 you.
Will your wedding disc jockey need to be fed at your wedding?
Be sure to feed your wedding DJ. Ask your DJ 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 wedding DJ and an assistant disc jockey. Some DJ's refused to be served food, don't know why. Some fell that the bride & groom spend enough money and should not have to spend more to feed the DJ, so some eat before the wedding. Most Disc Jockeys say it is unprofessional for the DJ to be eating when they should be working. We really admired this philosophy on this topic, but it's still ok to feed them, they'll be there 4 hours. It's always nice to feed your vendors.
Does your wedding DJ do corporate functions also?
Ask the DJ if they ever do corporate functions. 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. Only a few DJs in Louisiana do corporate functions in addition to being an excellent wedding DJs. 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.
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 Shreveport Bossier area the price for a wedding DJ is $650 to $1200. Some DJs may charge more depending very much on demand. When several different wedding vendors point to the same person as the best, they are usually right. A wedding DJ should be worth his weight in gold, and have a reception that is flawless, not one incidence of feedback,
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 On Display!
Note: We get a lot of angry emails from wedding disc jockeys about this who arrogantly tell us "how very wrong you are!". They forget the basic rule of business that the customer is right. If the customer does not want you to put cards out, then honor their request and don't do it. Keep them in your pocket. If the customer does not mind, then you can put the cards out. I was at a wedding where the DJ had several different vendors' business cards sprawled out on top of a speaker, and it made the place look like a flea market. If anyone wants the DJ's card, they can ask for one. All DJs carry cards in their pocket. Your reception is not a community bulletin board. All DJs take note: In our opinion, this is one of the tackiest things DJs do. Many guests at weddings we attended agree. We've had a few DJ's who chastise us for this view, and they claim this is acceptable, as people don't want to interrupt a DJ for their card. This will always be a controversial issue, but let me just point out that our DJs does not believe in putting business cards out. It all depends on your comfort factor. Everyone I asked about this disagrees with the DJs who send us the letters telling us how wrong we are on this subject, and some of them are down right rude and arrogant about it. OK so we are wrong and all our friends are wrong, and all our co workers are wrong, and we are the customers who don't really know what we want, and we are all just wrong? Give me a break.
No Revolving Police Lights!
You don't want these at your wedding. Or maybe you do, if you want that police raid look at your wedding, it's your decision. This is just OUR opinion, but this is on the Tacky Top Ten, a cheap way for the DJ to give off a lot of light on a budget.
Not Enough Good Music Selection!
We attended a wedding as guest where my moms 430 CDs were more than the DJ's! I know, he may only play 60 songs the whole night, so how many CD's does he need? Apparently he did not have the standard songs that guests were requesting, nor could he read the crowd to play the songs that would keep them dancing. At one wedding the DJ really played some old dried out useless songs, and did not have half the songs people requested. The quality is more important than the quantity. Most DJ's use many compilation CD's and order through a record pool buying service These compilations are great cost effective ways for DJ's to buy all the hits. Why spend $12.00 on a CD with 1 or 2 hits when you can spend $12.00 on a CD with 20 hits?
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. 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. 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.
The DJ at my cousins wedding really screwed things up. He was so highly recommended by everyone and my cousin was at a loss for words trying to figure out how everything went south on them. 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.
DJ's Should Know The Itinerary at your wedding reception!
It is the DJ's responsibility to know when all the events are supposed to occur during reception, like cake cutting, bouquet tosses, birthday surprises, etc. The DJ we mentioned in the preceding paragraph did not know when anything was being done. Around cake cutting time, I asked him when it was going to occur and he had no clue. The DJ's job is to work with catering, and know when meals are being served and when the milestone events are to take place. NOBODY in the whole wedding knew when anything was happening so it was somewhat confusing. The DJ and the caterer should have this under control before your reception begins! The DJ, caterer, and Photographer should all be in contact and playing off the same sheet of music.
Cordless Mics Are a Plus!
I'm sure some DJ's will gripe at me for this, but the microphone chord is a safety hazard, and it is restricting, although some venues you cannot get out of using cords, due to interference issues. A wireless microphone system, if properly setup and sound checked, and stocked with a redundant backup with batteries, should work out just fine. Sure there's headaches associated with wireless systems, such as interference on the same frequency, and some reception halls, cordless just won't work no matter how hard they try. But testing and redundancy is the key. This is not a requirement, just a preference. Many fine DJ's are still using corded microphones. Remember, some areas you just cannot use wireless microphone due to local interference.
What about Chicken Dance, or Hokey Pokey?
Some people love it, some people hate it. I believe these songs are outlawed in fifteen states now, anyway. Just kidding. Most guests feel Uncomfortable doing these cheesy dances. I even felt uncomfortable doing the Macarena. But it's your wedding, and you might want to hear them, that's fine too. But the point is let the wedding disc jockey know your preference. If you hate these songs, you would hate to be surprised by your DJ playing them at the reception. Group effort songs (i.e. the old "Electric Slide" always fills the floor. The Macarena and the Electric Slide became popular in their day because people who can't dance will usually get up and dance to a group activity song. A good conga line will always fill the floor. Each group of people is different. I polled several friends, coworkers, and wedding guests of other weddings we attended, and it was unanimous: No Chicken Dance, it belongs at Octoberfest, not a wedding. But then many DJs email us to say that it's a favorite crowd pleaser at many weddings they do. Your group of people might have the best time in the world with it, but it's your decision.
Technical Issues to consider.
Everyone overlooks this, but it is an important factor when choosing your DJ. You are paying money for a professional and they better know their equipment. Ask them what speakers and amps they use. The better speaker brand names are EAW, Mackie, JBL and Electrovoice (with the "EV" on the speaker). Some DJs use Rane for their mixer. But this is not an exhaustive list, there are other good names as well. This is another reason why you asked the DJ if they do corporate affairs, because they may use the same high end audio equipment at your wedding. You don't want them using home stereo amplifiers and speakers because they will fail under the volume of use. We were at a wedding once and could not hear the DJ announcing the bridal party because the volume was too low and it was muffled, all bass and hardly any treable. This DJ did not test the acoustics of the room with a simple sound check before they started. Can you say.... Equalizer? This is why they must have good equipment, and know how to set it up.
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 DJ SOLO'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.
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.
On averge 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 this is abit overboard, but what a show. It is still cheaper than the bands. One band in Shreveport is $12000! Sure this seems steep, and yes you can use just the bare bones package. This is a typical wedding for professional working people. This is not necessarily the way to go if you are trying to save money. Remember though, you get what you pay for. And you may get 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?
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. 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, on how you search for the perfect wedding DJ! We can help, Give us a call.