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.
Regardless of whether House DJ is your DJ or not, does your DJ have a backup plan? If you don't know, ask! As we all know, technology is great—until it isn't. Laptops can crash, hard drives can fail, iPads can lag, speakers can blow, controllers can burn out, etc.
Your wedding is the biggest organized day of your life, and your entertainer should treat it as such. However, most just trust their equipment to work all the time, and when it doesn't? You get lackluster performance and possibly even a massive black hole in your wedding, miserably silent until backup arrives. Considering technology isn't perfect, most seasoned professionals have had it happen: a silent moment in time that feels like eternity (really only a few seconds). The difference between a seasoned professional and a fly-by-night DJ is how this is handled. The amateur panics, stares blankly into space at their controller, and says to themselves "I should've brought a backup." Then, at best, he used a Spotify, Amazon Prime, or iTunes streaming service with no real mixing. The seasoned professional, however, immediately switches to his iPad on a different channel (because they were forward-thinking enough to have backup ready) to keep the party going for the next song, isolates the problem within a few seconds, replaces the laptop and harddrive with replacements, and fades back over to continue the party for the rest of the night. What happens after the event is equally important. What is the definition of insanity? Well, according to Webster, I believe it is using the same failed equipment with the same circumstances and expecting a different outcome. Right? Anyway, he finds the problem, fixes it, and eliminates the possibility for it to happen in the future.
Equipment failures happen. It happens to outdated speakers, old mixers, software, laptops, technology. Different pros have different strategies to fool-proof. Whether it is buying new equipment constantly, bringing an entire backup, partial backup, or simplifying a system and removing outdated technology, they should have one.
What's my strategy? (Please mind the geek speak.) A mix of all of them. I customize my entire setup myself, so I know exactly what happens when it happens. I eliminate a master amp and use independent powered speakers. This way, even if one fails for some reason, I still have sound. I bring an 2 identical computer-harddrive setups. As a last resort, I bring an iPad with several playlists available JUST IN CASE (I have had to use this one time). I bring another whole set of cables, because wires. So, I have a backup for any scenario to have going within a minute or so.
With that all being said, does your entertainer have a backup? If you aren't sure, ask!
Brides, mothers, bridesmaids, maids and matrons of honor, stop—all of you. Yes, you. Stop. Stop the stress, stop the hurry, stop the rush, stop the panic.
As an industry professional—and one that works closely in several facets of the wedding industry—, I see it all the time. I see the bride, groom, and their families working tirelessly months (or even years) before the wedding to make sure everything is meticulously planned and that every form has every color and every song filled out. I see the bride stressing over the smallest details of the event that won't take place for another several months. As a wedding entertainer with planning forms of my own, I do appreciate the concern; don't get me wrong. However, as your friend, I need you to know this truth:
The stress you are causing yourself is unnecessary and extraneous. Your wedding should be among the happiest days of your life. We can't stand to watch you do this to yourself.
So, let go of it. Let go of the minor details that make you stress, sweat, scream, and cry. I understand that there is a level of stress that comes with planning any event, but stop stressing over the shades of blue, the songs, the guests. Sure, search Pinterest, fill your boards, follow Buzzfeed Weddings, go to your boutique or Hobby Lobby and design your centerpieces, do all of that! Do things that are fun because this should be fun! However, until a year out, everything but the date should be a thought and a baseline. I'm not at all saying you shouldn't book a venue, DJ, photographer, etc., but I am saying that you can do all that and then relax for a minute. Here's why:
For the same reasons you wouldn't hire a lawyer so you can handle the case yourself, hire a realtor so you can find your own house, or hire a mechanic so you can change your own oil, you hired a DJ, photographer, venue, or caterer so they can handle the details. The people who chose these as a profession did it because they have a passion for it. I chose to be a DJ because making people happy and assisting them in having a great night is a passion of mine. Very few people do these jobs because the money is good. The majority of us have a blast at it and do it every day. We live and breathe this stuff, so it'll be much easier for us to handle an aspect of your wedding than for someone who has never done it before. Of course, if you enjoy aspects of it, then let your pros know! We would absolutely love to incorporate you into aspects of the parts you enjoy.
Here is the bottom line:
Myself and my friends in various other sects of the wedding industry see it all the time—and it hurts us to watch you do this to yourself. Brides will stress out the months and weeks before the wedding over small details, stress out the day of the wedding, and then when 11PM comes and it is time for her to leave, she realizes that none of the stress mattered. She realizes how much fun she had, she remembers the tears of joy, the vows, the love of her life standing in front of her. Let us handle the pre-wedding stress. Let us handle the details, this should be the most blissful time of you life, so let it be.