20 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Wedding DJ
Guests remember 3 things about your wedding: the ceremony, the food, and the party. And we all know the music at your wedding makes the party! Therefore, make sure you take the time to interview your potential wedding DJ before you hire him or her. While you’re vetting the DJ that will be the soundtrack to your wedding, use these questions to make sure a DJ is the right fit for you:
1. Does the DJ have recent testimonials and reviews online?
You want the best for your wedding day. Don’t risk it by hiring a DJ without a track record of success. The top sites for wedding DJ reviews are: The Knot, WeddingWire, and Yelp. Even better, the top wedding DJs have been recognized by winning awards like Best of Weddings and Couples Choice Awards.
2. What’s the DJ’s style?
Most DJs can play anything, but a jack of all trades is a master of none. You want their style to fit yours. What music do they like to play? What’s their favorite genre of music? Favorite artists, album, or decade? What was their favorite, most recent gig? Do they have live performances or mixes that you can preview? Are they live?
3. Can we hear a sample mix or come see the DJ live?
All professional wedding DJs will have sample mixes on their website or Mixcloud. Also, seeing your DJ perform will give you a good idea of their capabilities. Although you won’t be able to catch them at another wedding, most DJs perform at open-houses, wedding expos, clubs, or other types of public events a few times a year that you may be able to attend.
4. How many weddings does the DJ typically perform at a year?
It’s good to determine how experienced they are—not only how long they've been doing weddings, but also how often. Both are important to understanding how well they can handle your dance floor. Make sure to check out their online reviews and if they’ve won any awards.
5. Does the wedding DJ ask for a must playlist and take requests?
Your wedding is about your taste in music. The DJ should be able to download and mix any tune you'd like. If he or she says "yes," ask if they charge extra for songs they don’t already have. Be careful of hidden or additional fees after the contract is signed.
6. How does the DJ handle requests?
Make sure they know how to handle requests tastefully, whether they plan on playing the song or not. Are they able to read the crowd and then integrate song requests throughout the night or do they plan their set beforehand?
7. Does the DJ also MC and make announcements?
It isn't guaranteed that your wedding DJ will introduce the speech givers, announce your first dance, or tell people when dinner is served. Sometimes, a planner will do that or even the best man or maid of honor. Clarify this before you hire them. Also, ask if they plan any monologues or use the mic to hype the crowd.
8. Does the wedding DJ have liability insurance?
You need to be sure you, your venue and guests are protected in case of an accident. A true pro DJ will be able to provide a COI (certificate of insurance). It’s required by all venues in New York City, Westchester, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
9. Has the DJ ever been to our wedding venue? If not, will the DJ site visit beforehand?
Event spaces are pretty universal, but each venue does have it’s own unique character. Your DJ should be aware of the requirements of the specific space, but if they haven’t been there, they should be willing to do a site visit of the venue. If not, consider crossing them off your list.
10. Does the DJ bring other people, in other words have an entourage, on your wedding day?
When you’re interviewing a DJ, you want to know if they bring an assistant or who else will be there. This will help you plan vendor meals.
11. Who will setup the sound system and gear?
Some DJs are one-man-bands so to speak and others bring a crew to setup. Again, make sure you know who’s showing up.
12. Will you need to rent or provide any equipment (a table, sound system or a stage)?
Ask what equipment is included in pricing. Specifically, make sure your venue has a table and electricity within a reasonable distance from the DJ equipment (ie outdoor ceremony or tent reception).
13. Does the DJ have lighting packages or any other special effects?
Some DJs are also production companies and may bring lighting and/or special effects, like a fog machine, and others will stick to the tunes. If your DJ does rely on special effects to amp up his or her performance, they most likely cost extra and require more staff than you expect, so ask and get all prices written into your contract.
14. How does the DJ control the volume throughout the wedding?
At different points in your night you’ll want the music low (ie pre-ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner) and other points to turn it up (ie processional and reception). Background music for cocktail hour and dinner shouldn’t be played louder than the talking, making it hard for guests to hear each other. Once the dancing starts, you’ll want the music to be louder, but not cause deafness.
15. What does the DJ typically wear?
Don’t take it for granted, but a wedding DJ will usually wear a suit. You could see if they have other options.
16. How many hours are included in the basic package?
Sometimes DJs have a minimum amount of hours they'll play because of the additional time it takes to setup and takedown. For example, my minimum package includes 4 hours of mixing music, sometimes a client may need less but because of setup time it doesn’t change the price. You should also know if the DJ needs breaks. In addition, a pro DJ usually requires a vendor meal during dinner just to keep their energy at peak performance. You don’t want a “hangry” DJ in charge of your dancefloor.
17. Does the DJ perform at multiple gigs a day?
Your wedding should be the focal point of the day for your DJ. Taking more than one wedding a day risks being late, tired, and adds other unknowns that may inhibit their ability to perform their best. If they have another event that day, ask where, when, and what happens if they’re late to yours. You may be tempted by a DJ charging a lower price (ie not enough to only book one event a day), but think of the risks you are taking if you hire that DJ.
18. How does the DJ or MC fill the dancefloor?
Choose someone who uses a technique that you like. Do you want an MC hyping the crowd on the microphone or a DJ who lets the music speak for itself? Some DJs know how to move a party with music, some like to use the mic or a hybrid, decide which you prefer.
19. What's the DJ’s backup plan if there's an equipment malfunction?
Professional DJs will prepare for an unexpected event—for instance, a speaker or mic doesn’t work. But it's best to double-check they have a backup plan. If they don’t have a plan B it could lead to disaster on your special day. Remember, amateurs perform their best when everything goes perfectly, professionals perform their best despite everything going wrong.
20. What's the wedding DJ’s back up plan if they’re sick or unable to make it?
If your DJ is hospitalized, sick, or otherwise can’t make it on your wedding day, they should have a reliable replacement.
Bonus: What's the DJ’s cancellation policy?
If, God forbid, you decide to postpone, change your date, or change your mind on music, what happens to your deposit and the remaining contract?