Let me set the stage...
Recently, I was subcontracted to run a photo booth at an event with a DJ who I didn't know. I watched as he attempted to line up the wedding party for the grand introductions. He was very soft spoken and had a very difficult time commanding the attention of the wedding party, who had clearly started celebrating hours ago (That's what weddings are about right? Celebrating!). I looked on as four times he asked if he could have everyone's attention while everyone continued to hoot n holler for the happy couple. This went on for five minutes until the banquet manager came to see if he was ready and he simply said, "They wont settle down." She, the banquet manager, stepped in and took control of lining the wedding party up and explained where everyone is going as they entered the ballroom. The DJ actually thanked her for doing his job.
I followed to the next room to watch his style of being the Master of Ceremonies. (Part of your DJ's responsibilities is representing you as they introduce your wedding party during the grand introductions, directing your guest's attention to what's happening and where, as well as playing the right music at the right time.) He had a difficult time once again. This time it was commanding the attention of the guests who had also been...we'll just say celebrating. The introductions started with guests still wandering around the room, having no idea one of the biggest moments of the day had just begun. About half way through the grand introductions, some guests actually started pulling wondering guests off the floor that were blocking the way as the bride & groom were next to be introduced.
Things didn't get much better from there. When the bride got up to dance with her father, I had no idea who he was because the DJ introduced him as "Father of the bride." That was followed by "The groom and his mother." Wouldn't it be nice if he said something like, "Suzi would like to share a special dance with someone who has been waiting for this very moment since she was a little girl...her Dad. Let's welcome Suzi and her father, Mr. John Smith to the center of the dance floor." Is that difference important to you? Only you can answer that.
The dance floor was semi-active after dinner as the wedding reception entered the dancing portion of the evening despite no blending or creative mixing of music from the DJ. The alcohol was apparently working. I listened on from the next room as he randomly jumped from genre to genre of mediocre music selections. To me, it sounded as though he was given a list of music to play, entered the list in a program, and pressed automix. There was absolutely no flow from one song to the next and I could see that guests were not staying on the floor, but rather would get up for this song, then sit down for two. As a seasoned DJ who specializes in wedding reception entertainment, this is horrifically painful to watch. By this point, it was obvious to me this DJ had very little, if any, formal industry training and I felt awful knowing what this very happy couple could've had if they only did a little research. Mind you I don't know what this couple paid for this DJ's service or if price was the determining factor, but I can tell you his performance was less than average.
The example above is just one experience from one wedding I was at as a photo booth attendant. What a DJ costs is going to vary on the level of awesomeness you're looking for and will absolutely vary from DJ to DJ. This certainly wasn't what I would call an awesome wedding.
Getting concerned? You should be. These are the types of things you're likely to experience when you base your choice of DJ primarily on price.
So what questions should you ask when looking for a wedding DJ?
The best way to avoid a weak DJ who is perfectly happy pressing automix is to ask a few direct questions like:
-Can you give some examples of how you can make my day awesome and about my fiance and I?
Your prospective DJ should get excited about this question. If they get hung up here, hang up on them because they specialize in McWeddings. A McWedding is when a DJ can do and say the exact same thing at every wedding and it works. "And now the groom and his mother will dance."
-How accessible are you if I have a question? Lower priced DJs often work another job and are difficult to reach. If they're working for someone else, they're simply working for someone else and can't help you until later. Sometimes much later.
-Will you make sure my guests know what's going on and where to look? This is the Master of Ceremonies part. Commanding and directing attention is key. Your prospective DJ should hold your attention (even on the phone) and actually make you feel the stress melt away when they answer. How they answer will give you some insite on what your guests will experience during your wedding reception.
-How do you determine what songs to play?
A good DJ will listen to your style & taste, then build a music program to include it. For best results, leave some room for your DJ to be creative. This is what will keep more of your guests dancing. A DJ who just answers with "I'll play whatever you want" will likely make a playlist and hit automix.
There's a simple rule of thumb when deciding what to spend on a DJ for your wedding. As you start to look around, you'll get the feel for what the average price is for a wedding DJ. Shop in this price range if you want an average wedding reception: One that everyone has fun at and flows without problems, but isn't very unique. Shopping for DJs lower than the average price is going to give you a less than average experience like the example above. Shopping for DJs higher than the average price is going to give you...yes, you guessed it. A better than average experience that is focused on who you are and filled with personable, memorable moments that seem to magically unfold as time goes on: Suzi would like to share a special dance with someone who has been waiting for this very moment since she was a little girl...her Dad. Let's welcome Suzi and her father, Mr. John Smith to the center of the dance floor. Meeting with your prospective wedding DJ is always a good idea if you want a better than average wedding reception.
I hope this gave you some insight on why these questions are important when shopping for your wedding DJ. You can learn about me and how I can make your grand introductions awesome at BrianFligg.com, or give me a call at 978-855-5834. I'll even answer the phone.
~Wedding DJ Specialist Brian Fligg