How to Find and Choose a Wedding DJ

How to Find and Choose a Wedding DJ – ULTIMATE GUIDE

Your wedding DJ is responsible for the second half of your wedding and this is why most couples are more nervous about choosing their wedding DJ than any other supplier for their wedding day. This helpful step-by-step guide will explain how to choose a wedding DJ for your wedding.

[by James Hughes, Owner of PianoDJ]

What are the core services that every wedding DJ should provide for my wedding?

The Wedding DJ
The main role of the wedding DJ is to play music for your evening reception. They should also make any formal announcements during the evening. These announcements include: the cake cutting ceremony, your first dance / second dance, bouquet throw, evening buffet, guest book reminders, last orders, last dance, etc.

Sound System
The DJ should provide speakers, amplifiers, speaker stands, mixing desks, microphone, headphones, cables and all other sound equipment required for your wedding disco. The quality of this equipment and the size of the sound system can vary dramatically between different DJ companies. If your evening reception is in a large venue then you will want a larger sound system to fill the space with music at the right volume. The main difference between cheap speakers and expensive speakers is the quality of the sound. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN??? If you turn a cheap speaker (£200-£300) up loud, it will hurt your ears to listen to the music. If you go to a wedding and the DJ has cheap speakers then you will notice children putting their hands over their ears and elderly guests complaining about the volume of the music. If you turn an expensive speaker (£2000-£3000) up loud, it will not hurt your ears. Your guests will really enjoy listening to the music and it will sound thumping.

Lighting Rig
The DJ should provide moving dance floor lighting, lighting stands, lighting controllers, cables and all other lighting equipment required for your wedding disco. When you speak to a DJ, you should ask to see a photo or video that shows exactly what lights they will be providing if you book them to DJ at your wedding. It could also be a really good time to think about how you want your first dance photos to look. For example, if you book a DJ that uses a red and green laser then you will both be covered in red and green dots in all of your first dance photos. Photographers HATE these lights.

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What additional services might a wedding DJ be able to offer for my wedding?

Daytime DJing
Some wedding DJs offer a daytime DJing service that can include music as your guests arrive, for the important parts of your wedding ceremony, during your drinks reception and as an accompaniment to your wedding breakfast. This can be an extremely useful service if you are having a wedding reception in a marquee or a venue that is not usually used for weddings. Imagine how much time and hassle it will save if your wedding DJ can provide a sound system and background music for all the different areas and sections of your wedding day. If you are getting married at a venue that regularly holds weddings then it is more than likely that they already have a sound system set up in each room so that they can play music for you. Most venues have a way that you can plug an ipod, ipad, iphone or any mp3 player into their sound system. TOP MONEY SAVING TIP – if you can’t afford a live musician for your daytime reception then put your own playlist together on an mp3 player and ask the venue to play the music for you.

Extra Lighting Effects
Most wedding DJs have a warehouse filled with lots of exciting and really cool lights and lighting effects that they set aside for big events and special occasions. If you want to blow your guests away with a full on lighting production then you should ask to see what different DJs can offer. Larger DJ production companies can usually provide huge suspended lighting rigs with many programmed moving head lights that look amazing if you have the space at your venue. Most “normal” wedding DJs will have a selection of effect lights for you to pick from if you want to boost the lighting rig that they bring to your wedding. These can include: strobe lighting and blinders, UV cannons, mirror ball effect lighting, gobo projections of your initials or surname, ultra powerful lasers, etc.

Bigger Sound System
If you know that you are going to have a wild party and that your friends and family will love dancing to dance music through a super loud, bass heavy sound system then you will find that some wedding DJs offer this as an optional upgrade. It is usually a real pleasure for a DJ to take out their full sound system to an event and you will usually find that this enthusiasm is contagious with your guests. Before you even think about booking a gigantic sound system, you should have a really honest chat with your wedding venue. A lot of wedding venues have sound limiters and restrictions on the volume of sound so it could be a waste of money if you book a gigantic sound system and are not allowed to have it turned up loud.

Extra musicians
You can add to the excitement of a wedding DJ by combining their set with live musicians. This is a really popular tradition in the club circuit in Ibiza and London. You will regularly see bongo players, percussionists and sax players jamming along over the top of a DJ set in big nightclubs. A professional wedding DJ with a love of music should be really excited about working with extra musicians and they will usually have a list of contacts that they can recommend to you.

Uplighters and Venue Lighting
Venue lighting has become a firm must have for weddings. Venue uplighters are floor-standing lights that are designed to be positioned against walls, next to pillars and close to room features and pointed up towards the ceiling. This lights up the wall or feature in a wash of colour. The venue lighting is usually turned on in the evening and it transforms a traditional room into a vibrant and exciting space for a night of dancing and partying. You can get battery powered uplighters and wired uplighters. The advantage of battery powered uplighters is that they can be place anywhere. Wired uplighters have to be placed near a plug socket. Uplighters also differ in brightness depending on the type of uplighter. If you are having your reception in a room with a high ceiling then you will need brighter lights. If you are having your reception in a room with a low ceiling then lower powered lights will be better. Every DJ will have a slightly different way of controlling their uplighters. At the most simplest end of the spectrum, a DJ can just set the uplighters to one single colour for the whole night. For really powerful lighting effects, a DJ can use wireless DMX transmitters and control the uplighters from a computer so that they interact with the music in a really dynamic and exciting way.

Dance Floors
Dance floors traditionally come under the remit of specialist venue styling companies who have large warehouses filled with different types of dance floors and a production team who can deliver, collect, clean, maintain and repair the dance floors. Different styles of dance floors include: wooden, white, black, white and black (chessboard style), white with star lights, black with star lights, funky LED disco lights and fully programmable LED video floors. If a DJ is trying to expand their business into other areas to try and make more money from each wedding then it is likely that they will have invested in a dance floor or some sort. Ask to see the dance floor so that you can tell if it is well maintained and stylish or if it is tacky, scruffy and scratched to pieces.

Haze, Smoke and Dry Ice
It is unusual for a wedding DJ to include any smoke effect in their standard package because there are now so many venues that refuse to let DJs use these effects at weddings. You should double check with your wedding venue to see if they allow smoke effects. The last thing that you want on your wedding day is for the fire alarms to go off and for you to be evacuated from the building during your first dance! A smoke machine produces a thick cloud of smoke that is so thick that you can’t see through the smoke. This effect is widely used in theatres and big concert productions to mask the performers on the stage. Imagine a thick fog. A smoke machine will usually set off a fire detector. A haze machine produces a really fine mist that is barely visible to the human eye. This is a really cool effect because it enhances the look of lasers and disco lighting. You see long beams of light shooting around the room and it looks awesome. Nearly every single stage production at a music festival or music gig will have a constant stream of haze to make the lights look incredible. A high quality haze machine will usually not set off a fire detector (although you may still have problems convincing your venue of this!!) A dry ice machine is essentially a smoke machine that passes through a bucket of ice. This cools down the smoke and makes it hover about 1 foot thick over the floor. This effect can look really cool during a first dance but again you are likely to struggle finding a venue that will let you use a dry ice machine.

Confetti Cannons
A confetti cannon is a really effective way of adding a surprise wow factor to your first dance. This effect was popularised by X-Factor style TV shows and it is such a fun and magical effect to add to a wedding first dance. Professional confetti cannons are gas powered, hand held cannons that fire confetti up high into the ceiling of the building and the confetti then gently spins and floats gently down onto the dance floor. To satisfy health and safety regulations, the confetti must be flame retardant and it is safest to use white confetti so that no dye from the confetti can be transferred to the dance floor after a night of dancing on top of the confetti! Double check with your venue to see if they allow confetti cannons – you will usually only get objections from venues with large chandeliers (it can end up costing the venue a fortune to keep picking confetti out from their chandelier).

Back drops
If your evening reception is in a room that doesn’t have any nice features then you might want to hire a backdrop to go behind your wedding DJ or along one of the walls. The back drop can be a really nice feature for your first dance photos and it brings in an attractive element to a venue without any style or charm. If you would like a custom backdrop that exactly fits the space and size of your venue and matches your colour scheme then you should consider using a specialist venue styling company. If your wedding DJ works regularly at your wedding venue then they might have invested in a backdrop of their own that fits the venue perfectly and this could be the most cost effective option for you. IMPORTANT TIP – not all back drops fit all wedding venues and not all wedding venues need a back drop!

Wedding Flip Flops
Wedding flip flops are dancing shoes for your female guests to wear for the evening reception. The idea is that the flip flips will provide some much needed comfort after a whole day in high heels…and more of your guests will dance! They are such a cool idea and most weddings now have a basket or box of flip flops for the evening reception. Wedding flip flops also protect everybody from getting cut feet on the drinks glasses that are bound to be dropped on the dance floor during the course of an evening disco. For a selection of different wedding flip flops options, check out Cheap Wedding Flip Flops.

Microphone for your Wedding Speeches
Surprisingly, not all wedding venues have a microphone that you can use for your wedding speeches and you may want to hire a microphone from your wedding DJ. If any of the people making speeches at your wedding have a quiet voice or are particularly nervous then you should make sure that they have a microphone so that they can be heard. If your wedding venue is a small intimate venue then you might not need one, but if you have 100 rowdy guests then you almost certainly will. When you hire a microphone from a DJ you are actually hiring a lot more than just a microphone. You will need: a wireless microphone, a wireless microphone receiver, a mixing desk, a sound system, speaker stands, cables and a person (your wedding DJ) to set up and operate the equipment. If you want the equipment to be set up before your meal starts then you might end up paying for 3 hours of your DJs time so be prepared to put some money aside for this.

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What are the different types of DJ available to book for weddings?

Celebrity DJs
If you have reserved a substantial amount of money for your evening entertainment then you might want to consider booking a celebrity to DJ for your wedding. This could be a DJ that you and your friends admire or a big name DJ from back in the day. For example, DJ Luck and MC Neat can be booked to DJ a garage set at weddings. It could be a radio DJ that you would like to book because of their personality. If you listen to Radio 1 then you will occasionally hear that their DJs are playing at weddings. Or it could be a famous celebrity that has turned their hand to DJing. Just Google Paris Hilton DJ to see what talents are available! If you book a celebrity DJ then you will have to deal with their agent and agree to all of their terms and conditions. This will include a rider for the artist which must be met, very specific playing times along with other terms that you may have to agree to, including restrictions on photos and videos. A celebrity DJ could be such an incredible surprise for your guests, but it is more than likely that you will still need to book an “ordinary” DJ to play before and after your superstar. IMPORTANT – if you book a celebrity DJ then it is usually your responsibility to hire all of the DJ equipment for them to use.

Club DJs
A club DJ makes their living from playing in nightclubs and the styles and standards of club DJs vary a lot. The advantage of booking a club DJ is that you can go and see them in action before you book them for your wedding. You will usually find that a club DJ is an expert in the music that fits the venues that they play at. For example, a Ministry of Sound DJ will play dance music whilst a Chicago’s DJ will play lots of cheese. Their experience is in playing one style of music to a large crowd of incredibly drunk people. For a wedding, it is likely that you will have a much smaller guest list (100 people instead of 1000s) and your guests will probably span a range of ages and like music from a huge range of styles. You should really quiz any club DJs on their music knowledge before deciding to book them for your wedding.

Friend DJs
A friend DJ is a mate who DJs. This could be the best or worst decision that you make. Only you will know if your friend is going to be the right DJ for your wedding. I am a professional wedding DJ and all of my friends are getting to the “marrying age”. I have DJ’d for a lot of their weddings as their wedding present…although in truth I would have rather been a guest as I had to stay stone sober all day long as their DJ!! On the flip side, this year we have provided DJs for three couples who have been let down at the last minute by their DJ who was a mate of a mate and pulled out. If your friend is an awesome DJ and reliable then AMAZING!! If your friend is a bit sketchy and might let you down then don’t risk ruining your wedding.

Hobbyist DJs
Hobbyist DJs are DJs who have a full time job that is not DJing. After work on a Friday and Saturday they make some extra money from DJing at weddings. I know a good DJ who is a full time fireman during the day and a hobbyist DJ at night. He gets to spend a lot of time on call during the day and he uses this time to immerse himself in music. This means that he is really on top of his game when it comes to DJing. He can’t mix to save his life but his music knowledge and ability to read a crowd is spot on. With hobbyist DJs, you can also get the people who DJ for a bit of extra money and don’t care about DJing in the slightest. This is the cliche terrible wedding DJ – somebody with no passion or interest in music who plays predefined playlists and sits down behind the DJ booth looking bored and waiting for the night to end. Hobbyist DJs tend to be cheaper than professional DJs. This price reflects that even the best hobbyist DJ will have less experience than a full time DJ. As their fee is lower, they will have less money to invest in equipment so the speakers and lights will be of a much lower quality and it will be maintained less regularly.

Karaoke DJs
A Karaoke DJ is a DJ who has built up a set of music and equipment that is specifically for Karaoke. If you book a “regular DJ” then they will have a music collection that is made up of mp3s, CDs, Vinyl of other musician’s songs. These songs will have the original music version of the song. For example, if a regular DJ plays Better Together by Jack Johnson then it will be Jack Johnson singing the song. If a karaoke DJ plays Better Together by Jack Johnson then it will be a version of the song without the main vocal line. The idea is that you or one of your guests will be singing along instead. The karaoke DJs music files will also have the lyrics attached to the music so that they can hook their system up to a TV screen and display the lyrics as the music is playing. If you want to sing then you should book a karaoke DJ. If you want to dance then you should pick a one of the types of “regular” DJ.

Professional Wedding DJ
A professional wedding DJ is somebody who makes a full time living from DJing at weddings. At the top end of the spectrum you might be lucky enough to find yourself an incredible DJ. You should search for a talented musician with a huge passion for music, somebody who has a selection of mind blowing tracks and years of experience so that they know how to play them to get even the toughest crowds up dancing. Wedding DJs have to play such a varied selection of music that it is accepted that the best wedding DJs working in the UK are on par with the mixing ability of the biggest club name DJs. At the other end of the spectrum, you will find really reliable weddings DJs who use auto mix to fade one song into another and have 20 minute long pre-recorded mixes for each genre. DJing is purely a source of work to them and they do a really solid job because they have playlists that they have fine tuned over the years. You will also find that their music knowledge of older songs is really good. The main difference between the two types of DJ (other than technical skill) is the level of enthusiasm and passion that you will see on the night. Excitement is contagious. If your DJ is on their feet and dancing and mixing and having the best time in the world playing the songs that you love then you will have the best time in the world too! If your DJ is sitting down playing through the list of requests that you have given them and if they don’t appear to be enjoying themselves then this will have a massive effect on you. I once asked a multi award winning professional wedding DJ what his favourite type of music was outside of weddings and he said “I don’t have one – I just play songs that other people like”. If you ask me the same question then I will unashamedly tell you that my favourite type of music is Drum n Bass. Every good DJ should have a passion.

Wedding Bands that Provide a DJ Service

If you hire a wedding band for your wedding then it is likely that they will tell you that they offer a DJ service as part of the price. A wedding band will usually play two 45-60 minute sets during the course of the evening reception. This will leave 2-3 hours of additional time and you will often find that a wedding band will provide a DJ service during this time. I would strongly advise you to double check exactly what this includes. Are they providing a professional DJ to play music and get your guests dancing in-between when the band plays OR are they just sticking on a bit of music through their sound system. More often than not, you will usually see the drummer putting on a playlist on their laptop before nipping outside to their car for a well deserved break between sets. 9 times out of 10 this will result in a huge lull in the atmosphere. Wedding bands can be very expensive and it might feel as if you are being hard done by if you have to hire a DJ as well. However, it is completely down to you and how much you want to party with your guests during the evening reception.

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How much does a wedding DJ cost?

A basic wedding DJ package with just the core services can range between £200 – £1000. A celebrity DJ will cost much more than this.

There is quite a wide range in the price between different DJs and I want to try and explain some of the factors that influence the price of a wedding DJ. It is your job to decide what you value most and to decide how much money you are prepared to invest in a wedding DJ. If you strip it back to the basics, when you book a DJ, you are essentially paying one person to be responsible for the success of the second half of your wedding. Think about how much you are spending on your ceremony drinks reception and wedding breakfast (the first 5 hours of your wedding day) and compare it to the amount of money that you have put aside for your DJ (the second 5 hours of your wedding day). THE SECRET THAT NOBODY TELLS YOU – If you and your family don’t like dancing and it is not important to you then don’t book a DJ! Spend the money on something else that you enjoy instead.

Good DJs Cost More Money
A good DJ will cost more money because of the general principles of supply and demand. A really good wedding DJ is actually quite a rare thing. If you think about it, I bet you can think of lots of horror stories about DJs. How many good stories do you know about a DJ who has given people the best night ever? If a wedding DJ has a reputation for being good at their job then they will be recommended by all of the local wedding venues and suppliers. They will also get lots of word of mouth bookings from people who have seen them DJ at weddings. This means that their diary will get booked up at least 18 months in advance and they will end up turning lots of couples away. Because they are in such great demand, they can raise their prices until they find the right balance of the number of bookings in the diary and the number of enquiries from couples looking for a wedding DJ. The honest truth is that no wedding DJ is ever going to be a millionaire. It is a job that you do because you love it and have a passion for it and it means that you never have to work in an office or in a factory or in a shop. It is a lifestyle.

Full time Job vs Extra Pocket Money
If you are looking for a cheap wedding DJ then your best bet is to find a part time wedding DJ. You want to look for somebody who has a full time job and does a bit of DJing to supplement their money. This is where the bargains are to be had because these DJs do not depend on the money for their income. It is just a way of getting some extra money for holidays or paying for a nice car. A full time wedding DJ has to make their whole income from DJing and they have to set their prices accordingly. Let’s consider a good, established wedding DJ who charges £800 per wedding and plays at 100 weddings a year. This is £80,000 a year. After VAT and expenses (equipment, advertising, administration, vehicles, etc) it is realistic to expect that a good wedding DJ has a salary of about £30,000 to £35,000 per annum.

I am not sure that I know anybody who enjoys paying VAT. Unfortunately, as a wedding DJ, just as you start to earn enough money to earn a living you enter the VAT threshold and there is no (legitimate) way to avoid this extra expense. I can tell you that no DJ in the world wants to charge VAT, just as no couple in the world particularly want to pay VAT. We just have to accept the economic system that we live in and that a busy, in-demand, excellent DJ will cost slightly more because they have to charge VAT.

Quality of Equipment
If you head down to Maplin (or any other electrical store) then you can probably kit yourself out with a big pile of disco lights, speakers and mixing desks for under £1000. If you book a DJ who has made this decision then you will find that their overall cost is quite low because they have really small ongoing maintenance and repair costs. If you book a DJ who has invested in state of the art lighting and sound equipment then they will have spend upwards of £10,000. Their prices will therefore be higher to reflect this. Cheap equipment breaks, malfunctions regularly, it is unreliable and it is not built to withstand regular gigging. This applies to every single piece of equipment, right down to the lowly cable. A quality cable with protection from interference costs £20 and will work and stay connected in every situation. A cheap cable (approx £5) will wobble around in the socket and if anybody walks past with a mobile phone then expect to hear “beep ba beep beep ba beep ba beep beep” through the sound system. Every single piece of equipment with an electrical component can stop working because a capacitor fails or some internal working becomes unsoldered. A professional wedding DJ will invest in rugged, professional equipment and they should carry a spare for every single piece of equipment in their rig – especially their mixing desk and MacBook Pro!!

Agency Fees
If you are booking your wedding DJ through a music or entertainment agency then the fee that you pay will be made up of the musician’s fee and the agent’s fee. If you book a DJ directly then you won’t have to pay any agency fees, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be any cheaper. It is really important to find out what the agencies role is going to be in the whole booking process. With the price of any DJ booking, some money will go towards marketing/advertising/wedding fairs, some money will go to the administration of planning and co-ordinating the logistics of the day and the rest of the money will go to the DJ. If the DJ has no agent then they will have to pay for the marketing and carry out the day-to-day administration themselves. If the DJ has an agent then the agency will have dedicated marketing and planning teams to help you with every step of the booking and planning process. For example, as a DJ myself, I am a really creative person and I am not very good at planning events. In the summer I also DJ 7 days a week and have to sleep during the day. I employ somebody with a really sensible, meticulous mind to co-ordinate every detail of every wedding that I am booked to DJ for. Every week, I get an “idiots guide” of where and when I should be going and the music that I should be playing. I can relax knowing that she has been in conversation with the couple and venue for weeks, making sure that I am fully prepared to turn up and deliver an exceptional DJ set.

Distance of Venue from DJs Home
This is fairly self explanatory. If you find a DJ that you like who lives in Essex and you are getting married in Scotland then you are going to find a pretty hefty fuel and hotel bill added to the price of booking the DJ. It is fairly normal for a DJ to drive for up to an hour without charging any extra money for travel and accommodation.

The End Time of Your Wedding
If your wedding finishes at midnight or 1am then you DJ should charge you their standard rates. If your wedding finishes any later then you should expect the DJ to charge an additional fee to cover the expense of booking a hotel or paying for a driver. In the summer, a professional wedding DJ will be playing at 4-7 weddings a week. If your wedding finishes at 2am, it could be 3am before your DJ has packed down and ready to set off in the van. They might then have a long drive ahead of them. It is quite common for a DJ to be exhausted at the end of a 7 hour DJ set and an extra £100 for a travelodge room and breakfast is a small price to pay for knowing that your DJ hasn’t fallen asleep at the wheel on the way home.

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Is there anything that we will need to know about our wedding before we can book a wedding DJ?

If you are going to get in touch with a wedding DJ to start finding out more about them, how much they charge and whether they are available for your wedding then you should arm yourselves with the following information:

How long you want the DJ to play music for.
Are you looking to book a DJ just your evening reception or have you got plans to book your DJ for a longer period of time? You should think about what time you would like the DJ to start playing music at the beginning of the night. It is quite normal for the DJ to start playing background music at the same time as when your evening guests start arriving at the venue. Depending on how early your ceremony is on your wedding day, the start time for your wedding DJ can be between 6pm-8pm. The majority of weddings book a DJ to start playing at 7pm. The finish time for the music at the end of the night is often set by the venue. For example, at some venues the music has to finish at 11.30pm and at other venues the DJ can you can keep on playing music until 1am. If you are having a wedding in a marquee on private land then one of the big advantages is that you can keep playing music until the early hours of the morning!!

What time you want the DJ to set up.
If it works with the logistics of your wedding day then the best time for your DJ to set up is directly before they start playing. If you take a moment to imagine a day in the life of a DJ, you will see that they essentially work night shifts, returning home at 2-3am in the morning. If you allow them the chance to get a full 7 hours sleep and recover from the previous night of DJing then they will be full of energy for your wedding. This means that they will be on top form for your wedding disco – which is exactly what you want! If the logistics of your wedding or the requirements of the venue demand for the DJ to arrive in the morning and set up then this could actually work to your disadvantage. You will either end up with a tired DJ at your wedding or your will have to pay a bit more to your DJ so that they can book some roadies to set up in the morning on their behalf. Not all DJs have roadies so this is something you should chat to them about if you need to have a morning set up.

Where you want the DJ to set up.
At some venues this is really straight forward. The venue has an allocated area for the DJ and it is the only option. At other venues, you might be given the choice of where you would like the DJ to set up. The position of the DJ rig should be considered in combination with your table plan and venue styling. For example, if you hire a dance floor from a venue styling company then you will need to make sure that they leave enough space for the DJ to set up when they put down the dance floor. The position of the DJ rig and the amount of space available for the DJ will have an effect on the equipment that the DJ brings to your wedding, so definitely have a chat about this. You should also think about the access to the room that the DJ is going to be setting up in. Is is ramp access? Are there steps? How many steps? Is their a lift? How big is the lift? If your DJ has worked at your wedding venue before then they will know the answers to these questions and should be well prepared. If they have not then you might need to do this research for them.

The styles of music that you would like the DJ to play.
The ideal situation for you is to book a really good wedding DJ that likes the same music as you. If you are into UK Garage then you want a DJ that loves this too. If you love alternative and indie music then you want a DJ who has an interest in the same type of music as you. The reasons for this are simple. 1) If the DJ also enjoys the music that you like then they will have a greater knowledge of the music and they will know exactly which songs to play to get everybody dancing (rather than just guessing). 2) Your DJ will look as if they are having the best time ever playing your music and this enthusiasm will be contagious for you and your guests. 3) If your DJ likes the same music as you then they are much more likely to play all of your requests. 4) If your DJ likes the same music as you then they will really look forward to your wedding.

How you would like the DJ set up to look.
Every wedding DJ has a different collection of equipment and their DJ rigs all look different. Some DJs have DJ rigs with 100s of cheap LED lights, video screens, lasers and big signs. Other DJs have really discrete DJ rigs with a couple of high quality lights that achieve the same effect as lots of cheap lights. If you have a theme to your wedding then you might want the DJ and the DJ rig to reflect the theme. For example, if you are having a vintage wedding then you might like the look of a DJ using vinyl and using an antique table. If you are having a winter wonderland wedding then you might want the DJ to have a starcloth DJ booth. If you are having a romantic themed wedding then you might want the DJ to have a booth with heart lights. If you want a big cheesy party then you might prefer a DJ with a cheesy 70s disco rig.

Any extras that you would like the DJ to provide.
It can be a good idea to be armed with any of the extra services that you are looking to have for your wedding when you chat to your DJ. The reason for this is because you might be able to get a good package deal for booking more things from the same person. For example, if you want to hire a confetti cannon, haze machine, wedding flip flops, a master of ceremonies for the day, a wireless microphone for the speeches, live musicians, etc.

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What are the top 20 questions that we should ask every wedding DJ to find out if they are suitable for our wedding?

These questions are designed to give you an insight into the wedding DJ. You will learn about their background, musical history and experience of DJing for weddings. You will also start to build up a picture of how helpful your DJ is going to be in the run up to your wedding and what they are going to be like on your wedding day. Ultimately, your aim should be to find out whether or not you can trust them to be the DJ for your wedding.

  1. How did you get into DJing?
  2. What are your favourite styles of music?
  3. What is the DJing highlight of you career so far?
  4. What experience have you got as a wedding DJ?
  5. Why did you decide to become a wedding DJ?
  6. What was the hardest wedding that you have DJ’d at in the last three years?
  7. What techniques do you use to get guests up dancing at the start of the night?
  8. How much do you talk on the microphone during your DJ set?
  9. What equipment do you provide for weddings?
  10. Have you worked at our wedding venue before?
  11. Have you got a photo of your DJ rig set up at our wedding venue?
  12. Can you talk me through a typical evening reception at our wedding venue?
  13. What is the process for choosing the songs that we would like you to play at our wedding?
  14. Are there any occasions where you might not play the music that we have chosen?
  15. Have you got any advice about picking our first dance song?
  16. Can you recommend any songs that would be suitable for a father-daughter song?
  17. What are you crisis plans for illness, accidents, emergencies and traffic jams?
  18. How much do you charge?
  19. What is your booking process?
  20. Are you free on our wedding day?.

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Now that we have a shortlist of our favourite wedding DJs, how do we choose the perfect DJ for our wedding?

After speaking with a selection of wedding DJs, you should be really well positioned to start making a decision about who would be the best DJ for your wedding. You should have a shortlist of at least three DJs with prices that fall within your entertainment budget. Take the time to review the three DJs, compare the advantages and disadvantages of the service they offer and think about the following points.

  • Compare each DJs knowledge of music and decide if it is a good fit for the guests that are attending your wedding.
  • Compare the personality of each DJ and think about who would get on well with your friends and family.
  • Think about who you would trust to be responsible for the last 5 hours of your wedding reception.
  • Decide which DJs you think will play the music that you like and which DJs will prioritise the music that they like.
  • Compare the different styles of DJ and think about the style that best fits with the type of disco that you would like for your wedding.
  • Compare the experience of the DJs in your shortlist and decide who would be better positioned to be your wedding day.
  • Establish how much each DJ likes their job and how enthusiastic they are about DJing at your wedding.
  • Look of the different DJ rigs, lighting equipment, DJ booths, speakers and equipment – decide what looks and sounds the best for your wedding.
  • Compare the price of the different DJs, look at what is included and decide which DJs offer good value for money.

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How do we know if our favourite wedding DJ is as good as they say they are?

This is the million dollar question!

Step 1 – ask the DJ
Start by asking the wedding DJ if they can show you testimonials from other couples. In particular you should ask for reviews that have been submitted through an independent review site (e.g. Freeindex). The advantage of independent review sites is that they don’t let suppliers take down bad reviews and this means that they give an honest representation of the service provided. However, you should remember that a wedding DJ might not ask a couple to leave a review if they did a bad job at a wedding. This means that bad reviews might not make it to the independent review site. As well as looking at what the testimonials say, you should look for the number of reviews and the length of time that the reviews have been posted. This will allow you to see how busy the wedding DJ is and how long they have been DJing for.

Step 2 – ask the venue staff
Ask the wedding DJ which wedding venues currently recommend them as a recommended supplier. You should then double check to see if the DJ is listed on the wedding venues recommended supplier list. If they are listed on the recommended list then you could make a quick phone call to the wedding co-ordinator and ask for their opinion of the DJ. Explain that you are really nervous about picking the right DJ for your wedding and that you would appreciate any help and advice.

Step 3 – ask other suppliers
If you meet the wedding DJ at a wedding fair, then you should take the time to ask other suppliers at the wedding fair what their opinion is of the DJ. For example, photographers and videographers have more than likely worked alongside the DJ and seem them in action. They have first hand experience of seeing the DJ in action and can probably offer you some feedback.

Step 4 – ask for a demo
If you are after a DJ who can perform interesting mixes of songs live on the night then you should ask them to do a video mix for you to watch. They might have a mix video that has been rehearsed and prepared that they can send you, but to get an honest insight into their skill level, you might want to email them 4-5 songs and ask them to make a video mix especially for you. They can do this using their phone and all DJs have some decks set up at home or in their studio so it should be nice and simple for them to put this together for you within a week. And….if the DJ is prepared to take the time to do this for you then you will know that really care about wanting to be your wedding DJ.

Step 5 – book them for a trial run
If you are having an engagement party or a birthday party then you could book the DJ to play for your party before you decide to book them for you wedding. This will give you the perfect opportunity to see the DJ in action and for you to experience first hand what a night with them is like. If you enjoy the experience then you can book them for your wedding, knowing that you really enjoy the service that they provide. TOP TIP: You might even be able to negotiate a deal for a repeat booking.

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How far in advance of our wedding day should we book our wedding DJ?

If the evening reception is important to you and you want a brilliant DJ and a great party then you should book your wedding DJ as soon as you find the person who is right for you. If you are having a wedding in the summer on a Friday or Saturday then you will need to book your wedding DJ 2 years in advance to guarantee availability. If you are having an off-season or midweek wedding then 18 months is probably enough time before your wedding to book a wedding DJ. That being said, if you know who you want to DJ for your wedding then you should just get them booked up. Your wedding DJ is in charge of the second half of your wedding and so you should give priority to booking your wedding DJ.

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How do we choose the songs for our wedding disco playlist.?

I recommend starting to think about your music straight away. I can’t think of anything more stressful than leaving the music to the last minute and then having to have a big panic about picking a first dance song or trying to remember all of your favourite songs. Has anyone ever asked you what music you like and your have suddenly gone blank and forgotten the name of every single song that you like? I’m sure that you know what I mean.

To avoid this stressful situation a couple of weeks before your wedding, I recommend that you both create a note in your phones called ‘wedding playlist’. Every time you hear a song that you like (or hate) then you can make a note of it. This way, when your DJ asks you for your music requests you will already have a pretty awesome list of songs. Talk about making things easy!!

If your wedding has a theme then it might be cool to integrate this into your music as well. For example, a Disney or Gatsby theme you could easily pick music that reflects this.

You should separate the music in your playlist into 5 main categories:

  1. Traditional Dances – The traditional dances that you can have for your wedding include the first dance (for the couple), second dance (bride and father), third dance (groom and mother) and last dance (for the couple). For same sex marriages, for families with parents who have passed away and for familes with step parents, etc the traditional dances may or may not work in the same way. The most important thing is that you pick any special dances that you would like for your wedding and let the DJ know who will be dancing. You can even choose not to have a first dance…it is completely up to you!
  2. Your Favourite Music – This is where you get to pick your favourite “must have” songs that you want to dance to on your wedding day. It can be really fun to each build up your own list of favourite songs. During the course of the evening, there will be times when only one of your is on the dance floor – so who cares if your fiance loves the music you hate. A good DJ will be able to mix and match your music choices so that you both have an awesome time. the songs and Styles of music that the couple like. If separate your favourite songs into two lists then the DJ will know exactly what tunes to play for each of you when you step onto the dance floor.
  3. Songs For Your Guests – It is likely that you will be sharing your wedding day with another 50-150 people and for you to have a fantastic evening, you will want your guests to be up dancing with you all night long. Your DJ should be able to read the type of music that your guests are enjoying but if you know any “must play” songs that will get your friends and family up dancing then you should add them to your playlist.
  4. Niche Music – If you are passionate about a specific genre of music and would like your DJ to play a set of this music at some point during the evening then you could send a specific list of your favourite tracks if you think that the DJ will not have the songs in their collection. For example, will your DJ have the old skool vinyl-only Garage tracks that you love, will they have the rare Northern Soul songs that your family always dances to or for a mixed culture wedding, will the DJ have a big selection of Bhangra that all of the Asian wedding guests will want playing on the night? Unless your DJ is an absolute expert in your chosen Niche Genre, you should send over some tracks to help them out. Make sure to choose music that you can actually dance to and also be realistic about how much you think should be played. Is it just you that likes this music or do your friends and family like it too? Perhaps list your top 10 must play songs and then others for if it goes well on the night.
  5. Music That You Hate – Let the DJ know if there are any songs that they are not allowed to play. Perhaps you have a particular song that you don’t want to hear at your wedding or maybe you hate certain artist or type of music. Be quite thorough and honest. If you hate ABBA then tell the DJ and ask them not to play any…even if a guest makes a request on the night.

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What resources are available to help us choose the music for our wedding disco?

I highly recommend Shazam. As a DJ, I use this ALL the time to discover new music. Shazam is a free app that you can download onto your phone. Every time you hear a song that you like, you can hold your phone up to the music and press the “Shazam” button to find out what the song is called. Every time you Shazam a song, it tells you the name and artist of the song and it saves it to a playlist in your Shazam app. It can also be fun to check out the playlists on the Shazam website. They have a hall of fame with the most popular songs of all time.

Spotify Playlists
Spotify have some really useful playlists that might be a good starting point for your first dance song and for good songs to have played during your evening disco.

Spotify Playlist
Most Popular First Dance Songs

Spotify Playlist
Most Popular First Wedding Songs

Father Daughter Dance
If you are thinking of having a father-daughter song as your second dance, then I have written a short article that you might find really useful. It includes a list of the most popular father-daughter songs that couples have chosen at weddings where I have been the DJ.

Alternative First Dance Songs
For fans of alternative and indie music, the NME have a cool article on their website with a list of their top 20 favourite indie wedding first dance songs.

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What advice can you give us about including music that our guests will like?

As a starting point, you should both sit down and have a chat about your families. It might be that on your wedding day you are meeting a lot of your fiance’s family for the first time and it can be fun to share stories of your family members with each other so that you get to know a bit more about each of the guests that you have invited to your wedding. Even if you have met everybody before, it might be that you have only met some people once or twice and you might not know them that well.

If you have been to any other family weddings or parties then you should have quite a good idea of whether or not your family is into dancing or if they tend to prefer to sit and chat. Are the men of the family the stereotypical “manly men” who will stand at the bar and drink or are they up for a good dance?

To get a bit of a better idea about the type of music that your guests enjoy you could ask them to let you know their favourite song when they RSVP to your wedding invitation. Make sure that you specifically ask them for an upbeat song that they will promise to dance to if the DJ plays it. When you receive all of the RSVPs, you can go through the requests and vito any of the songs that you think are terrible!

As a nice gesture to your parents, it could be a really sweet touch to find out if they have a special song that they would like to have played during the evening. Perhaps they might enjoy dancing to the first dance song that they had at their wedding.

If you have any guests coming to your wedding from abroad then it would be a really nice gesture to include some music that they might enjoy. Drop them an email and ask if they would appreciate this. If they are planning to travel 2000 miles to attend your wedding then the least you can do is take the time to make sure that they have a few musical treats in store for them.

You are probably the people best placed to know what songs you and your mates love partying to although it can sometimes be really hard to remember all of the songs that you and your mates danced to at uni / college / sixth form. Why not organise a get together with all of your friends and head back to one of the clubs you used to visit for a bit of a reminiscence and catch up. Your stag and hen do can also be a really good chance to see what songs get everybody dancing. Remember to make a note of the epic ‘tunes’ that get everybody going nuts!!.

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How many songs should we put in our playlist and should we put them in a particular order?

The amount of songs that you provide the DJ with is completely up to you. Some couples provide a handful of songs and other couples put together a list of 100s. If you are really into music then you probably have lots of great ideas and you might be bursting to share them with your DJ. If you know nothing about music then you should book an awesome DJ who can do all of the hard work and pick the songs for you.

If you have booked a good DJ for your wedding then they should have the experience required to read a crowd and understand the styles of music that will get you and your guests up dancing. The idea is that a good wedding DJ will pick out the guests who are itching to dance and play the music that will get them going.

It is your wedding day, so if there are loads of songs that you want to dance to the you should definitely let the DJ know them all. If you take a break from dancing on the night and the DJ switches to some different music for your guests (who might have requested something else) then when you are ready to dance again, just run up to your DJ and let them know to jump back to your playlist. Your wedding DJ should be at your beck and call, so anything that you ask for should be absolutely no problem at all!

PET HATE – A personal pet hate of mine is when I receive a list of 100 generic wedding songs that have clearly come from a Google search for “top 100 list of wedding songs”. As a professional wedding DJ, I know these songs inside out and these songs are all obvious song options. A list of 100 generic songs doesn’t give me any insight into the music that you like and it doesn’t help improve the experience for you. In this instance, for example, it would be much more useful to know the top 5 songs that you love and that you would like a mix of songs that you would hear at a typical wedding disco.

It is almost completely impossible to predict who will dance at any given point of your wedding disco. This means that it is completely pointless to pick the order that the songs on your play list should be played in advance of the night. Here are some factors that can affect the flow of the dancing during the night.

  • During a course of a wedding evening, different people will want to dance at different times. After a day of champagne, your day guests will be a bit tipsy by the time it gets to the evening and they will be ready to start dancing. Your evening guests will have arrived after a (long) car journey, they will be completely sober and are likely to need some time to get into the party mood. On top of this, some of your guests will be dying to chat and catch up with relatives and friends before they start dancing.
  • If you have lots of children at your wedding then they will not be able to resist the flashing lights on the dance floor and it is quite normal to find them up dancing with their parents as soon as the music starts.
  • The weather can make a big difference to the evening reception. On a hot sunny day, you might find that your guests prefer to stand outside and enjoy the early evening sunset with a refreshing drink until it cools down enough to dance. On a rainy day everybody will be crammed inside and be looking for something to do – expect a sauper packed dance floor!
  • At some point in the evening, food or cake will be served and the hungry guests will leave the dance floor to sit down and eat.
  • If you have booked entertainment (photo booth, casino) then you have to expect that this will take the attention of your guests for a substantial amount of time.

All in all, I would suggest that it is impossible for you to predict who will want to dance and when they will want to dance in advance of the wedding. This is the DJs job on the day. If you decide to specify the order of songs to a DJ then you are literally making their job completely pointless and you might as well play the music from an iPod..

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How do we send our playlist to our wedding DJ?

After you have taken the time to put together the playlist for your evening disco, you will need to send it over to your DJ. Every wedding DJ has their own system for accepting playlists and music requests. Some DJs will have a paper form, other DJs might ask for requests by email, more tech-savy DJs will have an online form or request app that you can use. When your wedding DJ asks you for your music requests, you should use their music request form to send across your playlist.

Even if you have made your own spread sheet, you should attempt to give the DJ your music requests in the format that they asked for because it is likely that they have a system that they are used to and they know that this works really well for them when they are DJing on the night. If you refuse to use the DJs request form then it will mean that your wedding DJ will be DJing using a request list that is in an unfamiliar format. It will mean that an element of uncertainty has been added to your evening disco.

If your wedding DJ uses an online music request form or an app, it might be that this gets saved somewhere online so that it can be sent to a replacement DJ in the event of an emergency, accident or breakdown on the day of the wedding.

TOP TIP: After years of planning, you don’t want to risk messing up your disco because you can’t be bothered to retype your play list into your DJs music form..

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What are the deadlines for paying our DJ, submitting our playlists and confirming our final timings?

It is normal to pay a non-refundable deposit to secure a DJ for your wedding. This can range between 25% to 50% of the total fee. Make sure that you get a contract from your wedding DJ as this will protect you in the event that they don’t turn up to your wedding (wedding nightmare!!). The contract should just confirm all of the details of your wedding (date, venue, timings, services provided, etc).

When you have chosen your wedding DJ, your venue will usually ask for a copy of your DJ’s public liability insurance (PLI) certificate and their portable appliance test (PAT) certificate. If your DJ has switched from using CDs to using USB sticks or computers then it is likely that they will need a pro dub licence for all of the files that they have copied from a CD format to digital format. If your DJ has only ever used music in a digital format then they do not need this licence.

The usual deadline that wedding DJs set for music requests is between 2 weeks to 4 weeks before your wedding day. This gives the DJ enough time to fully prepare and immerse themselves in your preferred music. If you have booked a really passionate DJ then they will want to spend time tracking down new edits and remixes of songs that fit in with your requests so that they can prepare some really exciting mixes espexially for your wedding disco.

The final payment for your wedding DJ is usually due before the wedding and this can be any time from 1 week to 4 weeks before the wedding. If you are worried about your wedding DJ not turning up and want to pay cash on the day then I would suggest that you have booked the wrong DJ…..why choose somebody you think will be unreliable?

When you have had your final planning meeting at your venue, you should get in contact with your wedding DJ to confirm all of the timings. It is possible that your timings may have changed from the timings that you gave your DJ when you originally booked them to play for your wedding. Important timings to confirm with your wedding DJ are: what time they are going to arrive to set up the equipment, what time you would like them to start playing music, a rough idea of what time you would like to do your first dance and the time that the music has to finish at the end of the night.

If your DJ has not already got in contact with your venue by now then you should give them a contact phone number for your wedding co-ordinator. Your DJ should contact the venue and confirm their arrival time. They should also run through the logistics of setting up at the venue (even if they have been to the venue a million times before) and they should ask for an “on the day” contact number for the wedding co-ordinator in case they need to call the venue in the event of an accident or emergency.

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What is the best way to communicate our plans and playlists with our wedding DJ?

Once you have booked a DJ, the whole planning process can be done really successfully by phone and email. The planning process is an ongoing process that takes place over months and you will find that you can achieve so much more in a series of email conversations than you can in a one-off face to face meeting. It is much better to have an ongoing conversation by email rather than a one off meeting and you can keep track of everything that has been said by looking through your emails. This is especially important if anything is not as you expected on your wedding day – you will have written confirmation to fall back on. Besides, in a one-off meeting, you are bound to forget things and you are sure to come up with new ideas the moment you leave the meeting anyway!

Meetings with DJs at their showroom or at your wedding venue provide the DJ with a really good opportunity to sell you extra lighting, speakers, accessories, decor, etc. If you agree to attend a planning meeting with your DJ then you should be aware of this up-selling sales culture. Never agree to buy any added extras when you are in the planning meeting. Always take the time to think about it at home when you have your whole budget plan in front of you. This will also give you an opportunity to negotiate on price. It is really easy to get caught up in the moment at a meeting and after years of planning, you owe it to yourselves to take the time to make the decision that is right for your wedding.

A really good way to keep in touch with your DJ and get to know them is to bump into them at local wedding fairs. You will get to meet them a couple of times in the run up to your wedding and you can gradually introduce them to any friends and family that join you at the wedding fairs. You might also get to meet others brides who have booked the same DJ so you can chat to them and share ideas.

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What happens on the day of our wedding

This is the fun part!!

The DJ will arrive to set up their equipment at the agreed set up time. It is normal for a DJ to set up just before they start playing, but if a morning set up is required, they will usually head back home until they are needed later on in the day. Wedding DJs usually work late into the night and where possible, you should try to avoid asking them to set up in the morning. The last thing that you want at your wedding is a DJ who has not had a full nights sleep. You want a fully charged, energetic DJ who is ready to get a big party going.

When the DJ starts playing music in the evening, they will begin with a warm up set. This usually starts when your evening guests begin to arrive and continues right up to the cake cutting and first dance. During this set, a good wedding DJ will play a range of different songs to get an eye for the styles of music that your guests seem to be enjoying.

It is usually the job of the DJ to announce the evening formalities (unless you have hired a toastmaster) and the first of these is traditionally the cake cutting.

Before the DJ announces the cake cutting, they should check that your photographer and videographer are both in the room and ready to go. They should have a quick chat with them about any specific shots that they are trying to get so that everybody is working to achieve the same goal. If the cake had to be moved after it has been cut, then the DJ should also check that the venue / catering staff are lined up and ready to help with this. As soon as everything is in place, the DJ will come and speak with you to make sure that you are both ready. At this point, the DJ will invite your guests to gather around the wedding cake and they will compere the cake cutting.

It can work really well to go straight from the cake cutting into the first dance. This works particularly well if the wedding cake is positioned on the dance floor for the cake cutting. This is a good time to do the first dance because you will already have a captive audience gathered around the cake. You want to make sure that all of your guests come to watch your first dance so that your DJ has the best chance of getting them up dancing after your first dance has finished!

The first dance is one of the big wedding traditions. It is the first time that you take to the dance floor as a married couple and it is the moment that kick starts the evening entertainment. Traditionally, the first dance is taken by the couple who dance by themselves to a song of their choice. More recently, it has become quite normal for the DJ to invite your guests to join you both on the dance floor after a couple of minutes of the first dance song.

The second dance is traditionally reserved for the bride and her father, although this can be interchanged for groom and mum of any other combination. Not all couples choose to have a traditional second dance and instead opt for something more upbeat for everybody to kick start the party.

During the course of the evening the DJ will play upbeat dancing music and will work hard to select the right songs to tempt your guests up onto the dance floor. They will combine your favourite songs with other songs from their collection to create a frenzy of dancing, singing, celebrating, partying and raving. Their aim is to get as many people as possible dancing together and having an incredible time with you both for as much of the night as possible.

The DJ will also act as your mc and compere, announcing: evening buffet, bouquet throw, guestbook reminders, special requests, last orders, formal dances and any other announcements.

It is your wedding and the DJ is under your employment so they should be at your beck and call. Make the most of this and have the best time ever.

At the end of the night the DJ will gather all of your friends and family onto the dance floor to join you for the final song. Some couples choose a traditional song such as New York New York, other couple choose to finish on a romantic slow dance and other couples choose to finish with a big party anthem. Whatever you choose, The idea is to give you a really big send off and to formally mark the end of the wedding.

And soon as the house lights come on, the DJ will pack everything down into their van and head back home for a well deserved sleep.

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What happens after our wedding day?

Your DJ will not provide any further services after the wedding has finished, unlike a photographer for example who will have to edit your photos and put them into an album.

It can be really useful for for other brides to hear about your experiences with your DJ and if you get a moment, you should definitely leave a testimonial about your DJ on an independent review site: free index, Google reviews, Facebook, trip advisor, etc. Drop your DJ an email and asks if they have a preferred platform for this. If you have any feedback about the services provided then it can be really helpful for the DJ to know what you thought was really good and if there were any improvements that you could think of, or any areas where you felt the services was not as good as you expected.

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