How important is a wedding DJ?
“They’ll forget the food, but not the fun!” Alan McKenzie – Entertainment Editor
When planning a wedding, few couples truly understand the enormous impact that choosing a DJ will have on their wedding night. Underestimating the significance of the DJ at your wedding reception is like underestimating the importance of the pilot on a trip across the Atlantic. The DJ you choose for your wedding reception will, absolutely, make or break your wedding night. The problem, though, is that most couples have no experience whatsoever in hiring a professional DJ. They don’t have the experience to know what questions to ask or even what responsibilities a professional DJ should have. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to know what the differences are between a good wedding DJ and a bad one. This report is designed to help educate you on the particulars of hiring the right DJ for your wedding reception. You will learn what questions to ask, what to look for and what to avoid when searching for a wedding DJ.
The Many Responsibilities of a Professional DJ
It is important to first understand what responsibilities a professional DJ should have on your wedding day. The foremost responsibility, as you might imagine, is to play music at your reception that will keep the party going. However, there is more to this than you might expect. In fact, the most common mistake couples make when choosing a DJ is to overestimate the ease of playing music that keeps a crowd on the dance floor. For this reason, many couples will opt to have a friend or co-worker DJ their wedding reception rather than hire a professional. In reality though, nowhere is the difference between a professional DJ and an amateur more apparent than on the dance floor. As we will see, just because someone has DJ equipment does not mean that they know what they are doing.
Many amateur DJs will tout at least some experience playing music in clubs or at house parties. However, playing music at a club is absolutely nothing like playing music at a wedding reception. At a club, most people are around the same age and have similar tastes in music. That’s why they’re there! This leads the inexperienced DJ to assume that everyone likes the same kind of music as they do. At a wedding, however, there may be people from ages 8 to 80 on the dance floor at any one time and the differences in their musical tastes will be vast.
Only experience will teach a wedding DJ the need for variety. Their job is to appeal to the masses by playing all styles of familiar party music. An experienced wedding DJ will understand that everyone is passionate about ‘”their style” of music and know how to tap into that passion and present it in a manner that everyone on the dance floor can get excited about together. They will know how to correctly weave in and out of many different styles of music and, ultimately, keep the party going all night long.
DJs with little or no wedding experience, on the other hand, may not even consider the diversity on the dance floor. When people don’t respond to their music selections they may get frustrated and simply blame the “lame crowd” rather than digging in and working the music to find something that works for everyone. Remember, a professional has a sense of pride to keep people on the dance floor, whereas amateurs believe people should be on the dance floor out of an obligation to them! This is why the experience of your DJ is paramount to the success of your wedding night.
It is also important to make sure that your DJ has a large selection of song titles, 12,000 is usually a good place to start. Without an adequate selection of music, it is difficult to satisfy a large variety of age groups and musical interests. In addition to just owning the music, a DJ should have extensive knowledge of the music as well; this includes everything from popular foxtrots and waltzes to the latest club hits. Furthermore, be sure that your DJ will play the songs you want to hear, not just the songs they want to hear. Many frustrated newlyweds have spent their wedding night listening to their DJs favorite tunes! And lastly, be wary of the DJ whose presentation is obnoxious or cheesy. You don’t want a DJ who thinks that he or she is the star of the show.
Coordinating the Event
While playing music is the most obvious responsibility of a wedding DJ, it is certainly not the only one. Many couples don’t realize that one of the biggest responsibilities of the wedding DJ is to coordinate the evening’s events. This is the job that will make the single biggest difference between your guests remembering a wedding that was smooth and effortless or one that was awkward and clumsy.
As couples soon discover as they plan their wedding, there are many different people who must contribute to the success of their wedding day. These include the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, the hall manager, the videographer, the photographer, the church personnel and more! In addition to the people, there are also events that need to be coordinated, such as the cake cutting ceremony, toasts, grace, introductions, bouquet toss, the bridal dance and more. A professional DJ will be able to walk the bride and groom through the evening’s events with ease and grace by working with all the parties involved to ensure things run smoothly and as planned. Be wary of amateurs without experience! You will put a lot of work into planning your wedding. A DJ without experience can easily become overwhelmed at this enormous responsibility and may forget important events, causing stress, chaos, confusion, and disappointment.
In short, a DJ needs to be organized, perceptive and efficient to properly orchestrate the evening’s events. Some things your DJ should be watching for to ensure the night runs smoothly include: Checking with the hall to make sure that dinner is actually ready to be served before asking people to sit down; letting the photographer know what’s coming up next so they aren’t outside smoking a cigarette or in the restroom while the cake is being cut or the bridal dance starts; making sure that the champagne is served before handing the microphone to best man for his toast; or checking for utensils on the cake table so when you go to cut the cake, you have something to cut it with! A good wedding DJ is detailed oriented and will keep an eye out for things that are missing or out of place. These little things certainly won’t ruin your wedding night, but added up; they will surely cause anxiety for you, as well as your guests.
An organized wedding reception starts with a DJ who cares, and who takes pride in being prepared. A good DJ should begin preparation for your wedding reception many days in advance. It is extremely important for a bride and groom to be given the chance to convey to the DJ what they want their wedding reception to be like. Couples will hear many different opinions about what their reception should be like, and a good wedding DJ will go over every aspect of the wedding reception with the bride and groom to fully understand what they expect.
Be sure your DJ will arrive at the wedding hall at least an hour and a half before the wedding. A good DJ will have everything set up – music playing, tuxedo on, excess gear put away, cords neatly taped down, etc. – before guests begin arriving. You don’t want your DJ setting up gear while your guests are arriving for cocktails.
Master of Ceremonies
Finally, a professional wedding Event Host should be a well-trained Master of Ceremonies. This means being confident on the microphone and able to make important announcements and introductions in a classy, charismatic manner. Professionals will spend time preparing their announcements and have pride in their ability to pronounce everyone’s name correctly. Nowhere will lack of experience be more obvious than in a Master of Ceremonies. Unprofessional announcements mispronounced names and titles, and inappropriate remarks are just a few of the ways an MC might show their inexperience. Nothing makes a crowd more uncomfortable than to sit in front of someone who is nervous and stuttering on the microphone. Often times, a DJ may try to hide this nervousness by turning into a cheesy “party motivator”, annoying guests and embarrassing the bride and groom. A professional clearly understands their boundaries and will never try to upstage the bride and groom by putting undue attention on themselves.
The Differences between Professionals and Amateurs
Even if you are able to find a DJ who is competent enough to handle the primary responsibilities – keeping the dance floor filled, effectively coordinating events, and being a well-trained Master of Ceremonies – there are still several other factors to consider before knowing whether or not they are right for the job. For instance, be sure your DJ invests in professional sound equipment. Professional equipment provides superb-quality sound resulting in crystal-clear announcements that everyone can understand, as well as allowing comfortable music volumes and displaying a classy appearance. DJs that use old and ragged gear may instead use novelty items, such as bubbles and smoke, in order to hide the fact that their gear is inappropriate for the occasion. Also, beware of DJs that offer to bring an entire production to your wedding reception. Too many lights, lasers, and other toys are simply a distraction and often “dress down” an otherwise beautifully decorated room. It is also critical that your DJ brings backup equipment to your reception in the event of a malfunction. Nothing stops a party faster than a burned out amplifier or blown speakers!
The Right Attitude
You should make it a point to look for a DJ that is willing to partner with you in the success of your wedding. It is very important that your DJ’s motto be “the customer is always right” and that they stand by this motto. A good DJ will always have your best interests in mind and not make decisions based on what is easiest or most convenient for them. They should understand that they are working for you, and follow your directions to the tee. Many amateurs consider themselves to be “self-employed” and, therefore, don’t like to be told what to do.
Your wedding will be one of the most spectacular days of your life. Your DJ should feel honored to be a part of such a special event and not see it as “just another gig”. They should feel a deep sense of responsibility toward you and respect the importance of the occasion. Likewise, they should take as much pride in their appearance as anyone in the wedding party – by wearing a nice tuxedo, with a freshly pressed shirt and shined shoes. It is not uncommon for newlyweds to walk into their wedding reception and find their DJ wearing a really bad suit or, even worse, jeans.
The Right Personality
It is extremely important to find a DJ that fits the style of your wedding. You don’t want a DJ that is too overbearing and obnoxious, and believes that that your wedding reception is his “show”. Consequently, you don’t want a DJ who looks bored or disinterested, either. Beware of company’s that ask you to choose the “energy level” of your DJ. Most couples don’t want a high energy DJ as much as they want a high energy feeling in the room. A great DJ will know how to create this feeling without coming on too strong or by acting cheesy or unprofessional. A pro will be charismatic when making important announcements and introductions and will be able to properly gauge when and when not to talk on the mic.
The Right Company
It is also important to find a DJ company that has a full-time staff available so you can talk to someone when you need to. It’s a bad sign when a DJ company doesn’t answer the phone or, worse, doesn’t call you back right away. Imagine what they’ll be like after they get your deposit! In addition, when hiring a DJ from a professional DJ company, be sure that you will be getting the DJ you are promised and that you know how much experience they have. Your wedding night should not be on-the-job training for beginners. As a rule of thumb, look for a DJ with a minimum of 3-5 years experience or 100 weddings under their belt.
Friends Do NOT Hire Friends to DJ their Wedding
Some of the worst wedding disasters are because of bride’s who hire “a friend” to DJ their wedding. Just because a friend might have some equipment and a great CD collection doesn’t mean he can successfully DJ a wedding. That is the equivalent to thinking that just because a friend has a nice camera they can be a wedding photographer, or because they are a great cook they can bake the wedding cake. Unless the “friend” is a professional wedding DJ with years of specialized training, an emergency back up plans and at least 100 references, invite them TO the wedding, NOT to DJ the wedding!
Back Up Plans
Lastly, and most importantly, be certain that your DJ has a back-up plan, including equipment and contingencies for an emergency in case the DJ can’t be there. They should have back-up sound gear
on-site in the event of an equipment malfunction, as well as having a DJ on-call in case of emergencies or unforeseen events. A DJ may not be able to make it to your wedding through no fault of their own, such as an accident or medical emergency. Hobbyists or inexperienced DJs will have no back-up plan, feeling confident that they can “wing it” in case of an emergency. Don’t accept the idea that a DJ has some “friends” he can call in a pinch. A professional company will have a well thought out emergency plan and have paid DJ’s on-call and ready to go. Remember, the worst possible thing that can happen is for your DJ not to show up or have their equipment fail during your reception. DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER A DJ THAT DOESN’T HAVE AN ABSOLUTE FOOL PROOF BACK-UP PLAN.
How much should you spend on a professional wedding DJ?
Well, Lets put it this way….the bad ones are a dime a dozen! It couldn’t be truer that, “you get what you pay for” when it comes to hiring a professional DJ. In reality, the difference in actual price between a bargain DJ and a professional DJ is relatively small compared to the overall cost of planning a wedding. Couples will think nothing of spending $70 to $175 per person for food and drinks, and then turn around and bargain-hunt for the cheapest entertainment that they can find, often spending less than 5% of the total cost of the wedding on entertainment. Your guests are likely to remember only one thing about your wedding when they leave: Did they have a good time?
Investing 8-10% of your wedding budget on your DJ is actually a great value, considering that he accounts for 80% of the responsibility of a successful wedding reception. Bear in mind that the average cost of a vegetable tray for appetizers is $700-$800! Ask any bride and groom and they will tell you that the entertainment value of your wedding reception is worth far more than a vegetable tray. When deciding how much you can afford for entertainment, first think about how much you can afford to lose if your entertainment is poor or mediocre. Look for professionals and expect to pay them what they’re worth. A great DJ that is able to handle all the responsibilities discussed in this report will undoubtedly cost more than one who cannot live up to these strenuous expectations.
The Pricing “Game”
Pricing professional DJs can be a tricky thing. A lot of DJs will take advantage of the fact that couples have little or no experience in shopping for a professional DJ. Therefore, they will create a number of confusing packages for you to choose from, knowing full well that you will have a difficult time distinguishing between them. They do this by charging extra for the tools that should be basic for a successful evening, things like proper equipment, lights, travel expenses, etc. A reputable DJ company will understand and sympathize with your lack of experience in hiring their services. A good DJ company will make it easy for you to understand exactly what you are going to get, for how much, and for how long.
The ideal company will offer one, all-inclusive package!
It is also important to understand how professional DJs set their rates. DJs work on supply and demand, much like a vacation spot or travel activity. They set their prices based on availability. Expect to pay the most during the busy wedding season of May through October, as well as for Saturdays, the busiest wedding day of the week. In contrast, the period of November through April is a slower time of year for weddings and Fridays and Sundays are the slowest days of the week. Having a wedding during the slow months or on the less-used days of the week can save you money in almost every area of your wedding, not just on the entertainment.
So, how much?
If your DJ costs less than your cocktail hour, then you’ve got a problem!
In the TRi-State area, expect to pay anywhere from $1000 to $3500 for a professional DJ who you can have confidence in to make your wedding a complete success. The price may be less during the “off” season. The actual price will depend on several factors, including day and date of the wedding, duration of the event, equipment needs, etc. Again, it is best to find a company that offers one, all-inclusive package.
Is it worth it?
Consider how much it would cost you to:
- Rent $10,000 of sound, lighting & multimedia gear? ($900)
- Hire someone to deliver it, set it up, and then tear it down at the end of the evening? ($250)
- Download and/or buy just the bare minimum of the music you would need including cocktail, dinner & dance music ($200)
- Hire a professional Master of Ceremonies? (Professional speaking is one of the highest paid professions in the world…a minimum of $400)
- Hire a professional disc jockey to just play & mix the music? ($400)
- Hire a professional lighting / Video technician? (350)
- Hire a wedding consultant to coordinate the evening’s events? ($350)
- Hire “on-call” backup services in case of emergencies? ($300)
That totals over $3150.00!
How much is your wedding reception worth to you? The difference between a “bargain DJ” and a professional wedding DJ that stands by his word is relatively small. Too many newlyweds wished they had spent a few extra dollars on their DJ when at 10:00 pm on their wedding night two-thirds of their guests have already left.
Promises, Promises, Promises!
The last thing you need to determine the reputability of your DJ is to call references. Some DJs will have a list of references that they will gladly give you to call. However, these will either be hand-picked couples or, worse, people who’ve never actually hired the DJ. A professional DJ is booked almost every weekend during the busy season, so ask the DJ for the phone number of a couple from a random date to call for a reference. Any company that balks at this is most likely hiding something. A good DJ will feel confident that every wedding they’ve done was of the highest quality.
Stay away from DJs who will allow you to check up on them at someone else’s wedding. First off, it is VERY unprofessional to invite strangers to a private reception. Secondly, if a DJ is willing to be distracted at someone else’s wedding to talk to you; he will also indulge in this unprofessional manner at your wedding reception. Plus, you will never get a complete picture of the DJ’s abilities by spending a few minutes standing in the corner at a stranger’s wedding. It is what you DON’T see that will hurt you, such as, if was he on time, if he was prepared and organized, if he pronounced everyone’s name correctly, etc. More than one of the brides from the stories above watched their DJ at a stranger’s wedding and later regretted it by saying, “I went and saw him and he looked like he was doing fine.” This type of “preview” can only give a false sense of security about your DJ’s abilities.
Getting What You Want
To help you in finding the right DJ for your wedding, here is a list of questions you should ask to ensure you are dealing with a professional who can get the job done right.
Questions to Ask when interviewing a DJ (and the right answers!)
- How long have you been in business? ( At LEAST 7 years! )
- How many DJs do you employ? ( Make sure there is enough to guarantee a DJ is on-call.)
- How many weddings have my DJ performed at? ( Minimum of 100. )
- Does the DJ work with the photographers and banquet managers? ( Yes. )
- Are we allowed to submit our own music list and will you play it? ( Yes, Yes, Yes.)
- What attire will you wear to the wedding? ( A tuxedo. )
- How big is your music collection? (At least 20,000 songs. )
- What type of sound system do you use? How old is it? (Newer, professional-grade gear. )
- Is there someone to replace the DJ in case of emergency? ( Yes. He will be prepared and standing by. )
- Will you bring back-up gear to the reception hall? ( Absolutely. )
- How long in advance does the DJ arrive at the reception hall? ( a minimum of 1 ½ hour. )
- Are you insured? (Do not hire a company that doesn’t have at least $1,000,000 of coverage.)
- Will we receive a personal consultation with our DJ prior to the wedding date? ( Yes. )
- Can I have the number for the wedding you did on xx/xx/xxxx date? I’d like to call them for a reference. ( No problem. )
- Do you require a security deposit? How much? ( Usually about one-third of the contracted price.)
- Do you accept major credit cards? ( Yes. This signals a professional & reputable company. )
- How much do you cost? ( Stay away from “bargain” DJs!) ex. below
- How many hours does that include? (As many as you need.)
- How much for each additional hour? ( As long as it takes.)
- Does that include all the gear, such as lights and equipment? (Everything is included.)
With the exception of who you marry, there are very few decisions that you will make while planning your wedding that can influence the success of your day more than your entertainment decision. Choose carefully and choose a company that you can trust.
A DJ company you can trust and get excited about
Ultimate Party Central is one of NJ & NY most respected DJ company and is referred by dozens of banquet facilities, wedding professionals and most of all, thousands of past clients. “UPC’s Motto has always been “Your Day Done Your Way” as Nikki K states “First and foremost, we take care of the Brides & Grooms. Everything else will fall into place naturally”.
Nikki K personally handpicks every one of his DJs. Experience is the first criteria in which DJs are selected. No beginners here! Nikki K looks for a minimum of 5-7 years of experience, with a strong emphasis on wedding receptions. “The experience that is needed to successfully execute a wedding reception is much different from the experience one might get in a nightclub or even on the radio”, says Mike. “I only want DJs that can gracefully and professionally coordinate the evening’s events, so the bride and groom can relax and have a great time”.
Experience is also paramount to keeping a party going. It takes time to learn how to correctly read a dance floor and play just the right song at just the right time. Their DJs are well versed and extremely knowledgeable in all styles of music, from the classic crooners to the latest pop stars, and everything in between.
The next thing Nikki K looks for in a DJ is the right attitude and demeanor. Their DJs clearly understand who the boss is…YOU! Everything needs to be done to your specifications. Their DJs are professional and pride themselves in presenting a classy, fun night to your guests.
Ultimate Party Central takes the responsibility of earning your trust seriously. That is why they have taken extreme measures to shelter you against unforeseen events that could jeopardize your important day. Their DJs always carry a full back up system in case of equipment malfunctions. Additionally, every weekend they pay DJ’s to be “on-call” in the event of an emergency that would prevent your DJ from being to your party on time. Thankfully, in over 10 years of business they have never called on their back-up DJ, however, Nikki believes it’s in your best interest to have a backup plan in place before it’s needed! No other DJ company has taken these steps to insulate you from worry. You can trust Ultimate Party Central.
There are many other things that distinguish Ultimate Party Central from other DJs. Such as reasonable all-inclusive pricing, full-time wedding consultants available to help you plan your night, Photographers, Videographers, Photo Booth, Lounge Decor and much more.
Contact us at 888-858-0008 or email us to start planning your wedding reception.