I can tell you from experience that a your DJ/band can make or break your reception! Because they are both so important but also are a bit different to book, today we are going to focus on the specifics of booking a DJ. Normally I would write about how Derek, the owner of Levity Events, is an amazing guy, is great to be around, and is a fantastic DJ but I’m just going to let him do this thing in his hilarious style…
I’m going to flip the script a bit (while still providing 10 key questions to ask your DJ) and also advocate for the most efficient process to select your DJ. After all, time is money and we want you to be rich with hours. Approaching the booking process as described below will expedite the task, leaving more time to give your annoying cousin excuses as to why she hasn’t received her invitation yet. The questions we recommend below are based on the tenet that you have already googled/stalked a few suitable DJs, so you know a bit about their reputation from reviews, business pages or credit card statements you’ve found in their garbage late at night.
10 Questions to Ask When Booking Your DJ
Round 1: FIGHT! (The video game playing grooms reading this will appreciate that joke) This first round of questions should be fired all at the same time to more easily narrow down your DJ candidates. IE: Send all these questions in your first email/message to the DJ.
1 | Are you available on my wedding date?
This is so important, I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t ask availability on your *specific* date, you could waste a few cycles of replies which could cost days of precious time and grief. Each passing day equates to more reputable DJs filling those spots which could leave you high-and dry with sub-par talent… or worse… a DIY situation. By “exact date” we mean by saying your month, day and year. EX: “9/2/18”
There are at least 4 weekends in each month and even more weekends each season, so asking availability for a “fall wedding” could be a disastrous start to lining up your A-team. I pity the fool who doesn’t give specific dates! **insert Mr. T meme here**
2 | What are your starting rates?
This one is really important if you’re on a strict budget. Again, not asking this question can lead down a rabbit hole of endless emails just to possibly discover the pro you’re inquiring with is charging an arm, leg or any other valuable body parts in exchange for their services.
3 | And what does that include?
A very generic but pertinent question because one DJ’s “basic” package could provide the same luxuries as another DJ’s “ultimate-supreme-premium-mega-wicked-super-cool-miles-davis” package. Most weddings will require a basic sound system and at least 1 wireless microphone for toasts/speeches/blessings. A wired mic will work and is definitely more reliable than wireless, we just recommend considering how it will look in pictures.
4 | What *doesn’t* that include?
Another way to phrase this might be “What is the most popular “add-on” service for your couples?” The reason we encourage couples to ask this is because our packages are considered “All Day” service. But there is a charge to move the equipment for a ceremony or provide additional equipment for the ceremony. All day unfortunately does not mean all-inclusive. Also, for us, “the day” ends at midnight, so if you want your reception to go past midnight, you’ll want to know about additional fees.
Round 2: Now that you’ve received responses from your DJs, it’s time to narrow your selection…Obviously cross-off the ones who are not available for your date. Reply to the ones who are outside of your budget to let them know so. (No one will be offended if your budget is below their rates. They’ll more likely be ecstatic that you even replied.)
Now this is where we encourage an in-person interview. Meeting face-to-face provides an unparalleled perspective as to what kind of person they are and whether or not they’ll be the right wedding DJ for you. The DJ presides over a good 50% or more of your day. This isn’t a time to take chances with phone calls or emails. During that meeting, you’ll want to evaluate the following:
- Mannerisms – Do you see any offensive or poor physical behaviors (scratching in inappropriate places, nervous ticks, eating mysterious objects pulled from their nose, etc.)
- Personal hygiene – Do they appear well groomed? Clean hair, etc?
- Attire – Does their style complement the style you’ve envisioned for your wedding?
- Speaking skills – Are there stutters, mumbles or murmurs which may be difficult for your guests to hear?
And ask these key (open-ended) questions:
5 | Who will be our DJ? What is your hiring/training process? Will we get to meet our DJ?
There are a lot of solopreneurs in the industry so you may be meeting with the DJ who will actually be working your wedding. There are also many companies who employ multiple DJs, in which case styles and personalities can vary.
If you’re not interviewing the person who will be at your wedding, how can you be assured they are going to be a good fit? What is their vetting process? What do they do to ensure your DJ has a set of standards to follow?
You absolutely should meet your DJ at some point in time. Companies who employ multiple DJs (commonly referred to as “multi-ops”) usually won’t have their DJs “sell themselves” to clients before booking. (Otherwise, the DJs would just work for themselves). But you should definitely meet with your assigned DJ prior to your wedding to make sure you’re on the same page.
6 | Tell me about your equipment and contingencies.
What type of equipment can you expect to see at your wedding? How does it look? Will it infringe on your design? How powerful will it be? Can it handle our number of guests? Our venue? Can it be scaled if needed?
Then as far as contingencies, what are they going to do if a speaker blows? A mixer craps out? That annoying (uninvited) cousin who somehow managed to sneak her way in spills tequila all over the computer while requesting Funky Cold Medina?
7 | How do you deal with tough crowds, dead dance floors or unruly guests?
Let’s hope none of those are issues on your wedding day. But let’s also be real. Some groups are incredibly tough to please and some groups are insanely belligerent. How has the DJ controlled those situations? You’re going to be speaking with a wedding DJ, so they’ve probably dealt with their fair share of hostile guests. But was it professional? Was it offensive? Ask them to give examples.
How were they able to accommodate groups with very particular tastes in music? What are your methods for filling a dying or dead dance floor? Here is a moment of honesty some couples may have to prepare themselves for too – sometimes, guests just don’t want to dance. Whether they’d prefer to sit and chat, hang at the bar or are too inhibited – the DJ may need to call a Time of Death on that dance floor and just play chill background music while everyone just taps their foot along to the beat. Your DJ should have a strategy in place to prevent this.
8 | Tell me about your insurance.
To get up and running as a mobile DJ doesn’t cost much. It’s easier than you think to find cheap, used (and beat up) gear on Craigslist and start a Facebook page.
To get up and running as a legal business is another thing. Insurance is often the most overlooked piece when starting a DJ company and for someone who plans to work around an unlimited/open bar on the regular, liability insurance is a must. Major mishaps at weddings are fortunately uncommon, but no one wants to start their happily ever after by spending their honeymoon fund on an attorney or hospital bills.
Speaking of legally running a DJ business…
9 | How did/do you acquire your music?
Why is this an important question to ask? Well, with the proliferation of YouTube artists as well as YouTube audio ripping software a lot of n00bz are sourcing their material from YouTube. Now, I have to say that I appreciate YouTube from an artist’s perspective. Artists are able to generate income from ad revenue, which in turn supports their work and allows them to continue creating. Here’s the catch; besides being illegal AF, how often do you listen to a YouTube song where it has an absurdly drawn out intro or the music drops half-way through for the artist to have a scripted conversation with someone, just for the music to pick back up where it left off? Do you want that during your reception? Or worse… ceremony?
We heavily advise our clients against YouTube to source specific music selections because the ability to legally acquire the license for those songs is limited or flat out impossible. Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Prime (streaming services) all present the same legal barriers, so if your DJ answers with any of those services – run. The right answer, is somewhere that your DJ can legally purchase music, that he/she then owns, and can play at your party.
A final note on the legal foray of questions…
10 | Will you go over your contract in detail with me?
Some contracts are in “legalese” and can be confusing to interpret. You need to know what you’re agreeing to; contracts are used to set clear expectations from both parties. The DJ should know exactly what each sentence means and be able to put it into layman’s terms for those who don’t have a legal degree.
Bonus Round: Questions that aren’t very effective:
Will we be able to provide song lists? Every wedding DJ does this. If your DJ has experience with a single wedding, they’ll know to do this. Do you take requests? 99% of wedding DJs will take requests. The ones that won’t are DJs who have club residencies or who have never done a wedding before. Can we come to a wedding where you are performing? Because the scope of service can take hours to properly witness, and weddings are private events, we wouldn’t allow a potential client to crash anyone’s wedding to watch us “in action” How far in advance do we need to book? Most DJs work on a first come, first served basis and do not hold spots without a deposit. All of your vendors should be booked as early as possible to ensure you have the best team available. How much space do you need? There should always be ample space allowed for a 4’ or 6’ table and a couple speakers. DJs should not require any more than that, but they will require that space at a minimum. Be sure to plan accordingly.
For those out there who are engaged or married…what questions did you ask your DJ? I’d love to hear other questions that you found to be helpful in your search for your wedding day disk jockey!
10 Questions to Ask Series:
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