When it comes to your wedding reception, it’s no secret that a good DJ can make or break the party.   Out of all the decisions you’ll make in the course of planning your big day, choosing a DJ that will keep your guests entertained may be one of the biggest.  So, how do go you about finding a DJ that will keep the party running smoothly, play music that will keep you and your guests on the dancefloor all night long, and make your wedding day truly unforgettable?

It’s all a matter of knowing what to look for and what to ask – and lucky for you, we’ve put together this step by step guide filled with helpful tips that will make finding your wedding DJ as easy as (wedding) cake!

First Things First: Set A Wedding Budget & Figure Out What You Need

After all the #SheSaidYes pictures are posted to Facebook and Instagram and the engagement excitement dust settles, it’s time to start planning your wedding.  You may have dreamed about this day since you were a little kid, but weddings don’t just come together overnight; most couples start planning a year in advance. One of your first moves will be to estimate a budget that you and your new fiancée (you’ll never get used to hearing that!) are comfortable spending.

Most advice tells couples to allocate between 5% and 8% of their budget to wedding entertainment. According to the American Disc Jockey Association, DJ rates vary based on talent, experience, equipment, musical knowledge, mixing ability, and location, with ranges between $350 and $5,000. While many couples look to save money here, price shouldn’t be the only consideration when it comes to choosing a DJ (more on that later).  Remember that in the grand scheme of things, a professional DJ is one of the least expensive parts of your budget but one of the most important parts of your big day.

Once you’ve decided how much you’re willing to spend on DJ services, it’s important to figure out exactly what you want:

  • What kind of music do you want to hear at your reception?
  • Are you looking for a DJ that specializes in a particular genre?
  • How involved do you want your DJ to be?
  • Will you need a DJ and an emcee?
  • Will you need music for the ceremony and cocktail hour?
  • Do you want to include lighting or any special effects?

Having a good idea about your wants and needs will steer your DJ search and help you zero in on local DJs that can help make your dream wedding become a reality.

How to Find a DJ

Finding your wedding vendors can seem overwhelming, especially if you live in an area where the choices are seemingly endless.  When it comes to finding a DJ, testimonials are critical to weeding out specific companies that may not be exactly what you’re looking for. In fact, over 80% of couples find reviews to be “very important” to their decision making process.  A good place to start your search are trusted specialty websites like The Knot or Wedding Wire, where you can access tons of local vendor reviews. Your friends and family are also great resources for recommendations (as long as you don’t mind getting some unsolicited advice in the process!).  Or you can look to social media where you’ll find local Facebook groups dedicated to wedding planning or thriving subreddits filled with recommendations and personal experiences.

No matter where you start your search, the key is to use testimonials to help you narrow down your choices to a handful of options that are within your budget and can deliver on your expectations.

How to Choose Your DJ

After you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few companies that fit the bill, it’s important to meet with prospective DJs.  E-mail is fine to get details out of the way, but an in-person consultation (whether at their company office or via FaceTime) is crucial to developing a rapport with the person responsible for the success of your reception.  You don’t necessarily need to be best friends with your DJ, but you do need to trust that they will listen to you and will understand exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to your wedding entertainment.

Your first in-person consultation should be framed as a casual conversation, where both parties are exchanging information and getting to know each other (think of it as a first date, without any of the nerves).  A successful consultation will typically include an overview of the company’s process, a review of the company’s music catalog or playlists, and perhaps most importantly, an opportunity for you to ask questions to help your decision-making process. If you aren’t sure what kinds of questions to ask, here are a few thought starters:

  • Do you have samples of your work?
  • How will you work with us to create our wedding playlist?
  • Are there specific genres of music that you specialize in?
  • How do you get the crowd up and dancing?
  • What is your requests policy?
  • What other services do you provide (many DJ companies also offer emcee, lighting, and décor services)?
  • Have you ever worked at our venue before?
  • Will you help us create a timeline for the day?
  • What are your rates and what is included in your fee?

You shouldn’t leave a DJ consultation feeling like you just left a car dealership – where you aren’t sure if you’re being told the truth and you’re feeling pressured to make a decision right then and there. Instead, a reputable company will encourage you to review their website, testimonials, and social media channels after your consultation and before you sign a contract.

How to Hire Your DJ

After meeting with a few different companies, you’ve finally made your choice – hooray! But before the wedding celebration kicks off, you’ll want to cross your t’s and dot your i’s by signing a contract with your DJ and having a good understanding of their policies regarding equipment malfunctions, cancellations, inclement weather, or sick days.  Obviously, you can’t plan for every possible circumstance, but going over those unlikely what-if scenarios will go a long way in calming down pre-wedding jitters (at least when it comes to your entertainment!).  After the contract is signed, you should feel comfortable to ask as many questions as you need to in the lead up to your big day.

Now that you have a good grasp of the process, it’s time to go out there and find a DJ that will make your wedding day unforgettable!