Tips for Hiring a Professional DJ

If you are taking a few minutes of your time, to read this article, you will be pleased to hear some bits of information that may provide insight into the world of the Wedding DJ.  Some of this information is rarely disclosed by some in the industry. In my 15 years as a professional DJ, I have learned so many things - good, bad, and ugly. In that time, I have performed at over 600 weddings. Sometimes I reflect on just how much Perfect Entertainment has been blessed to be a successful business for so long, and to have been trusted with one of the most important days in a person’s life, over and over again.

Anyone who aspires to become a DJ spends many hours honing their craft, developing a style of mixing and blending that keeps people dancing. I had been doing this at parties and other events since the 90s. In 2001, I began the transition from spinning mostly at parties and clubs to weddings. What I quickly learned is that like the classic TV show, it was a different world from where I was coming from. One can rock crowds in a club or house party with ease and then be a fish out of water without proper knowledge and experience working weddings. When I began to perform at weddings, I lacked wedding experience, and my services, equipment, and pricing reflected this. If you have never planned a wedding, or worked in the industry, you probably would not know what to look for in a wedding DJ. Perhaps you would think that it does not matter if the DJ does not have wedding experience, state-of- the-art equipment, or excellent presentation. Well, it matters big time. There are no do-overs when it comes to wedding entertainment. With that in mind, here are some Tips for Hiring a Professional Wedding DJ:

● Go see the DJ live or schedule a face-to- face consultation. I like to think that the Perfect Entertainment website is wonderful, and informative in helping potential clients make a decision on our services. However, nothing beats live interaction. After viewing the preliminary information and images on their website, ask to meet in person. This should be no problem for a full-time professional DJ; in fact, we encourage it. If the DJ has a residency at a club or venue, go see them mix live and interact with guests. You will be able to discern if the entertainer’s style and presentation matches your vision.

● How do past clients and wedding professionals view the DJ? It is difficult to choose a wedding DJ with so many choices available, and it is even harder when you have not experienced the DJ for yourself. If the entertainer has been in business a number of years, he or she should have plenty of reviews to assist in your decision. The feedback can come from wedding industry sites, personal referrals from family, friends, co-workers, or event professionals. Your wedding planner likely has seen it all when it comes to wedding DJs, and is a good source for identifying the best fit for you. Some DJs post video testimonials from past clients on their website or social media platforms. Every client is different, with varying opinions and perspectives. Ideally, a professional seeks to have many reviews with a 5-Star Rating. It goes deeper as well. Look at the number of reviews and how many years back they go, in order to get a good picture of their level of sustained excellence. Every now and then, even the best entertainers may get a few reviews that are not 5-Star. I have seen fellow wedding DJs that I know are top-notch get an overall 4.8 or 4.9 out of 5.0 and wonder who would not give them 5 stars. It happens. However, the overall rating should be stellar and close to an overall 5 out 5 stars. An example is when I was shopping for a Macbook Pro for my DJ setup. Apple products are widely known for their build quality and reliability. Surprisingly, I saw some reviews that were not 5 stars. However, I felt comfortable trusting the 90% of reviewers that gave 5 stars, and their glowing comments. Look carefully at the information, and when it is all said and done trust your gut.

● Take a good look and listen. Of course, it is always best to hear the DJ spin live or listen to mixes on their website or platforms such as Mixcloud or Soundcloud. This will give you an idea of their style of mixing, blending, and song selection. Videos and pictures of their equipment and presentation are also important. The system needs to sound great and the presentation should be visually pleasing. Before I began rocking weddings, I just showed up with my Technic 1200 Turntables and my crates of albums. Yes albums. This was before Serato and modern DJ controllers. The club usually had their own sound system for me to plug into, or the event sponsors hired a professional sound company to take care of the amps and speakers. Now that I was jumping into the wedding DJ business, I had to invest in the purchase of my own sound system. People tend to overlook the importance of sound quality until they experience a DJ with a bad sound system. Often it is due to either cheap equipment (all they can afford) or improper usage. Admittedly, my equipment was mediocre at best when I first started. It got me by at the time. Although the average wedding guest could not tell the difference because I knew how to optimize the equipment I had, anyone with a keen ear for music would notice. Being a perfectionist, I knew this would not suffice, and began reinvesting thousands of dollars in equipment upgrades. It took years to get the setup to the level where I knew I could guarantee the quality and durability of my setup and provide a premium audio experience. This is one reason why a professional wedding DJ is worth the investment.

● A Wedding DJ should also be an MC and use the microphone properly. It is still surprising when wedding planners and others tell me that they have worked with wedding DJs who either refused to perform MC duties, or were not prepared to do so. Even when I first started in the wedding industry, I knew that introducing the wedding party with a clear, articulate voice and engaging the crowd were important to a wedding entertainment experience. Your wedding planner or relative should not have to announce anything or keep the guests engaged. There is also a such thing as doing too much. Excessive talking, using corny jokes or gimmicks throughout the reception will make for a bad experience. The DJ/MC should also work well with your planner to keep your timeline on schedule and even provide you with music planning assistance. A professional spends hours preparing for your wedding. In your initial consultation, check with the DJ to find out their approach to this important part of your wedding.

There are so many tangible and intangible factors that work together to make a DJ a great Wedding DJ/MC, and it cannot all be covered in one article. This was meant to start the conversation and help individuals to know where to start. Look for more on this topic soon.

@iamdjperfect on social media.

The True Value of Wedding DJs

My very first public event as a DJ was a good friend's wedding reception.  Back then, all I had was my turntables and a few records that I practiced with in my small apartment.  Maybe if I knew as much about what all is involved with being a wedding DJ/MC as I do now, I would have been nervous and perhaps would have turned down my friends' invitation.  

We had to rent an amplifier, speakers, and microphone from a local sound company.  The little money I was paid went toward the purchase of more music.  It was an honor to be part of the special day, and I can report that the couple is still together 15 years later.  Since then, my DJ skills have been perfected and I no longer have to rent anything.  My booking calendar fills up quickly.  Indeed my business has been blessed.

Over the years, Perfect Entertainment has performed at hundreds of weddings, each one presenting a different venue layout, equipment requirement, guest count, and set of challenges. In order to rise to the level of professional DJ, and one of the most sought after and respected professional entertainers in the wedding industry, many hours of preparation and practice has been required.  In one of my wedding videos, I mentioned that being an awesome Wedding DJ is more than just showing up and playing hot music.  Much time and planning goes into preparing for each wedding.  Here are just some of the things that we do as wedding DJs:

  • Initial meeting/consultation
  • Acquiring & organizing requested music
  • Phone conversations/video chats with clients
  • Responding to email/text inquiries from clients
  • Visiting or communicating with venue representatives
  • Communicating with wedding planner
  • Assisting client with timeline/music requests
  • Pre-programming and setup of Uplighting or Gobo monogram
  • Up to 16 hours of work on day of wedding (loading equipment, driving to venue, setup, event performance, breakdown, loading vehicle, commute back home)
  • Provide music and PA system for ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception
  • Introduce wedding party and make announcements
  • Work with wedding planner to keep to the established timeline
  • Ensure that photographers, videographers are in place for each moment

Some weddings require additional prep and equipment beyond the usual sound system, lights, and microphones.  For example, some venue layouts make it necessary to bring in additional speakers or wireless setups.  It's easy to see why there is usually a customized quote for each event, based on several factors.  However, there is typically a general price range given by most DJ companies.  

The old cliche, "You get what you pay for" is usually true in the wedding industry.  Most of the experienced and highly talented DJs are going to cost significantly more than the beginners. Just like relationships, there is somebody for everybody.  If you're on a tight budget, there are cheap DJs out there.  Unfortunately, in most cases they lack top-notch equipment, mixing ability, and the ability to adapt to curve balls that comes with experience.  

Our clients have been wonderful to work with because they appreciate quality and professionalism to the degree that many of them have made comments such as, "We don't care what it costs, we have to have you for our wedding."  Because integrity is very important to us, our prices are not inflated when we hear this. The point is that the more people understand the time and effort that goes into preparing for their wedding, along with the many things that wedding DJs actually do to make the wedding come off successfully, clients are more than willing to pay what you are really worth as a professional.  Rocking the party is usually the easiest thing to do for an experienced DJ.  There is so much more that goes into making sure that your wedding is truly one to remember.  

To those shopping for a wedding DJ, remember that you only get one choice for your special day. Choose wisely and save up a little more money to get the best available performer, rather than splurging on a candy table or ice sculpture that people won't remember years later.  To fellow DJs, know your worth, and don't take shortcuts.  Exceed your clients' expectations.  Every event has guests who are potentially your next clients.  You're always building your brand with each performance.

Check out this video from Brian S. Redd who discusses the prep time involved with a wedding gig: