Your wedding is one of the biggest days of you life. Your DJ should treat it as such and should be prepared for whatever comes their way. They should be dressed properly, have the proper equipment, be prepared with their library, and they should be attentive to the circumstances of the day. To help you, we put together 10 questions from our experience for you to ask your DJ before you hire them:
1. What role do you take on the day of my wedding?
This is an important one, and one that gets skipped over. In my opinion, the DJ should act as your representative if one isn't available. Often, a DJ's response will be: "I will play music and keep the crowd dancing." While that would seem like that is the DJ's job, their job should be much more than that. A seasoned DJ will coordinate with the venue, photographer, videographer, officiant, etc. and will keep everyone in tune with each other. The DJ should contact the venue and make sure dinner is almost ready before he starts toasts, make sure the photographer and videographer are ready for cake cutting before he announces it, and make sure the officiant is ready to go. Traditionally, this may not have been the job of the entertainment, but the times have changed and the DJ should help you keep everything together.
2. Do you carry backup equipment?
The ol' spare tire. Your DJ should always have a backup plan. Whether laptop, harddrive, speaker, microphone, cable, etc., your DJ should have a Plan B and C in case something(s) goes wrong. This is your big day, and it shouldn't be ruined by not getting music for 2 hours because his harddrive failed and he doesn't have a backup. While this is a drasticly unlikely example, the quality of the performance should not be diminished either because of a failure.
(See: Mayday, Mayday)
3. What will you be wearing to my wedding?
Mini-story: Some personal friends of mine had hired a local DJ company for their wedding years back. When we met, they learned I was a DJ and told me of the disasterous performance, but one thing that stuck out to me was the dress: ripped skinny jeans, a trashy t-shirt, and some frayed canvas Toms. Even after the vulgar performance at a contemp. baptist wedding, they still remembered to tell me about the way he was dressed. Make sure your DJ will be dressed for the occasion. I say "for the occasion" because I do understand that different style weddings require different styles of dress. Your DJ should like like he's supposed to be there are comfortable there. I'm not saying that he should wear a three-piece suit to a barn wedding in rural Missouri (like this beautiful barn venue south of St. Louis), but he should be dressed with respect to the occasion.
4. How current is your library?
Music is interesting and current. Every week, a new song comes out that everyone loves and dances to in the car. Your DJ's playlist should reflective current trend. Sometimes, the song isn't even new! The resurgence of songs like 'Gold Digger' by Kanye West 'My Boo' by Ghost Town DJs (Running Man Challenge) are a few examples of songs that may have been overlooked when they first came ou or shortly thereafter, but absolutely must be given some attention now. If a DJ is charging a reasonable price, he should have a music pool that comes with it, or should have a monthly budget on library updates.
5. What is your emcee technique and style?
This is one that has as much to do with skill as personal taste. Not every DJ will fit everyone's taste. Some DJs would rather not speak anymore than he has to, and to energize the crowd with the music. Other DJs are very interactive, leading in dances, openly making vocal jokes with the crowd, and talking throughout the night. Some like a good mix of the two. You have to consider which one is right for you and make a decision based on your choice. Like I said, this is more personal taste than skill.
6. What time will you be at the venue to setup and prepare?
Definitely a great question and one that brides and grooms don't generally consider. The DJ has to arrive, setup, rehearse, and sound check—all before anything actually happens. DJ Veterans understand the concept because they've scoffed at arriving 2 hours early, but then once time, they needed it. There is nothing quite like being 15 minutes from start and something goes wrong that requires you to alter your setup. Showing up early just in case something goes wrong doesn't make your DJ amateur, it makes him prepared. In addition, your DJ should take the time to set microphone levels, position the speakers correctly, clean his setup, rehearse his scripts, and memorize the names of everyone. If your DJ refuses to show up an hour or two early, he isn't serious. This is a great time to take a breath, work on a congratulatory scheduled Facebook post, and rehearse; it isn't a burden.
7. How many weddings have you done?
While a DJ's worth is not exactly measured by the amount of weddings they have under their belt, weddings are a beast of their own nature and require a certain amount of experience to pull them off correctly. This is a reasonable and fair question to ask your DJ. Chances are, they'll be more than willing to brag about their experience to you. While you're at it, for question 7.5, you may consider asking them for their most memorable wedding story. If anything this is an icebreaker, because I'm positive they have some hilarious or nightmarish story to tell you if they've been in it for a while!
8. Can I and my guests request songs? If so, when?
An elementary concept, but a concept nevertheless. You would be surprised how many DJs only have a few hundred songs at each gig, and past that, you're out of luck. As a DJ myself, I've had it; any of us have! The maid of honor walks to the booth, asks for a recognizable, but rather obscure song from your high school days: "This was her favorite song in freshman year!" she exclaims! The DJ plays it and your guests go wild! What a blast! However, if your DJ didn't have the short order song request and doesn't have a way to retrieve it, that burst of energy never would've happened! Most DJs today have a way to get songs on-the-fly if needed, if they don't have it. Make sure your DJ has a way to get your favorite songs and throwbacks!
9. What is provided in your price?
Like buying a new car, the price is never the price. The sticker says 20k, think 25k. The same goes for a lot of DJ companies. Oh, you wanted a strobe light? That'll cost you. Make sure that your DJ company is upfront and fair on its price before you sign anything. DJ companies that offer packages are fine, but make sure that what you want is included in the package before you choose it. Take a minute, consider your DJ wishlist, and verify. And finally:
10. How do you get the crowd moving?
There isn't an exact science to this. Every DJ has their own technique and formula, but a DJ needs experience and needs to be able to read a crowd before he even plays music. By looking at the bride and groom, their friends, and their relationship to the crowd, a DJ can tell how to get the, moving. Whether starting with a high energy throwback, that new party song everyone loves, or a group dance, everyone has their own technique to start people on the dance floor. The tricky part, however, is keeping them up there. How does your DJ space icons and slow songs? How does he pace the older music for grandma and grandpa before they go home while keeping everyone interested? These are great questions to ask your DJ so that you can recognize how his technique is and can give him suggestions about your crowd before the party starts.
Your DJ is an integral part of your day. Before you sign a contract with them, make sure you have read reviews, asked your questions, and included these in your interview.