Five Things to Consider When Choosing Your Wedding DJ
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
Choosing your wedding vendors is one of the toughest parts of planning your wedding, partly because there are thousands of options out there for each service. For the most part, the quality of their services can be easy to determine; you can go visit different venues to choose your favorite, you can try different meals from catering companies, and you can see portfolios of photographers and videographers.
But what about wedding DJs? How do you actually find out if a DJ is any good and if they are a good fit for you? How do you determine which DJs are true professionals that are all about it, and which DJs are doing this as a side hustle for quick cash?
My name is Mike Lujan, I am a professional wedding DJ and MC in the Washington Metropolitan area, and I came up with this list based on my observations, experiences, and conversations with real wedding couples. In this list, I’ll be discussing five things that you may want to think about when choosing your wedding DJ.
1. What is their style of DJing?
Much like how there are different styles of wedding venues, there are also different styles of DJing. Do they “mix” songs together, transition smoothly between songs, and keep a flow going? Or do they fade-in and fade-out songs? Do they play songs in full? Or play most songs for around 2 minutes to keep things fresh? Do they stick to a pre-determined playlist, or do they choose songs organically based on reading the crowd and their body language?
Please understand that there is no right or wrong answer here. DJs can have many different styles, but deciding which DJ is right for you depends on what kind of vibe you’re looking for. Do you want a more laidback reception with some light dancing? Do you want to make the playlist yourself and have the DJ stick to it? In that case, the fade-in fade-out, play songs in full style might be what you’re looking for. If you want more of a high-energy dance party, or even a harder party vibe or club-style atmosphere, you might want to know if the DJ can “quick mix”, which is the act of mixing songs together quickly to keep the music constant and fresh.
2. Listen to samples!
This is useful if the music itself is very important to you. Most DJs should have a sample “mix” available on their site or page. Check them out and play them while you're driving to work, cleaning the house, cooking, or working out. If you're moving and two-stepping to the music, that's usually a good sign that the DJ is doing their job well!
What is a mix? A mix is a recorded piece of audio or video from the DJ that is meant to demonstrate their style of mixing, transitions, and song choices, and usually ranges anywhere from 10 minutes to a full hour. It might have been recorded specifically for demonstration purposes, or it might have been a live recording of an actual wedding/event that they DJed.
When listening, you may want to ask: is the mix “wedding” specific? Do they have smooth transitions? Do they use remixes or “re-drums”? Do they use sound effects like air horns and sirens? Do they play songs in full, or keep it short? There is no right or wrong answer for these questions as well, but these are things you also might want to think about.
Also, for most DJs, these mixes are usually just demos. The DJ (hopefully) doesn’t play that same set at every single wedding. DJs should be able to change it up based on how they read the crowd, based on the couple’s input, and based on guest requests. Good DJs should be able to accommodate your vision and play (or not play) anything else you specify when planning the music. For example, if you hate (or love) rap music, and if their mix does (or does not) have it, ask and see if they would be willing to exclude (or include) it for the night.
3. What is their style of MCing?
Most DJs serve as both the DJ and the MC for weddings. While there are some companies that offer a combo paring of a DJ and an MC, two separate persons, it is more common these days to find one person that does both. For DJs, you can hear their sample mixes to know their music, but what about how they speak on a microphone?
The different styles of MCing that DJs might have varies greatly. On one extreme, some absolutely love to engage with your guests, walking around and talking with the guests at their tables, and going out there doing the Cupid Shuffle with the family. And you may either love that or hate that. On the other extreme, some DJs don’t even talk at ALL on the mic and will require a separate person be the MC.
The middle ground for this would be DJs that only make the necessary announcements and keeps the entertainment to just great music and great mixing. I myself try to be a confident host, but I do NOT want to steal the spotlight from the couple. I will definitely hype up the grand entrance, and engage with the crowd during dancing, but other than that, I don’t talk unless I need to announce an important event.
Once again, there is no “correct” style of MCing, just the style that is best suited for your needs. Maybe you want a grand spectacle of a show, or maybe you want the wedding to be more laid back and low key. I’ve had couples tell me that they do NOT want a DJ to talk all the time, or they do NOT want a DJ to take the attention all the time and do their stand-up routines, or they do NOT want DJs to shout over the mic “PUT YOUR HANDS UP!!” all the time while the dancing is happening. They sometimes tell me they do not want a “cheesy” DJ, but what that means is up to you.
On the other side, I know some couples that DO want a true host, someone that can easily put on a whole show and truly go above and beyond to entertain the guests with more than just music. They can capture their attention with a genuinely fun personality. I know many amazing DJs with this style and it works amazingly for them!
The MC, no matter the style, will be the literal voice of the wedding. Figure out what style fits best with your wedding vision and ask accordingly when talking to DJs.
4. Are they a solo-DJ company or multi-DJ company?
There are pros and cons for working with either types of DJ companies. Multi-DJ companies usually have you talking with the owner or agent as the intermediate before talking to the actual DJ. This is fine and normal, and there are many good multi-DJ companies out there that do this, but there are also some shady ones that could switch out DJs on you after signing the contract and without notice. Or, you might be talking with the owner who is leading you on to think that they will be your actual DJ, but then they end up sending someone else for your wedding. Don't panic, there are plenty of trustworthy multi-DJ companies out there. You only need to ask to make it clear who exactly is your DJ.
Solo-DJ companies on the other hand can be more personal. You meet the owner and DJ directly and they can get a better feel for the vibe you’re looking for right away. If you have a question or concern, you might be able to simply text them to get a quick answer, as opposed to waiting until Monday office hours from the bigger companies. The big downside to solo DJ companies is that if they get sick or get into an accident and can’t come to the wedding, you could be screwed. if you are at all worried about this, make sure they have a backup plan or a network of other DJs that may be able to take their place in a pinch.
When dealing with either kind of DJ companies, if you are at all concerned about their professionalism and integrity, then you should absolutely read through their reviews and testimonials and keep an eye out for any red flags.
5. How is their presentation?
What does their DJ station (also known as their “setup”) look like at the wedding itself?
Many venues or catering companies will often provide the DJ with a 6 foot table at the wedding reception. Some DJs will use this table, some will opt to not use it and bring their own table or DJ station. There are thousands of different ways that DJs can present their setup, regardless of if they use that 6 foot table or not. DJs can take that table, put a nice white scrim on it, tidy up their cables, and make that station look nice and neat. Some might put a nice facade (front board that covers the table) around it. Other DJs might be sloppy and have their cables dangling all over the place.
DJs that are passionate about their craft will take pride in their presentation, and I would even go as far as saying that it's a reflection of their own personality. Wether it's a simple setup with the 6 foot table, or an extravagant setup with lights, moving-head lights on totems, a facade that lights up, and TVs that show slideshows of your photos, there are so many ways and styles that DJs can present themselves with. For just an idea of the variety, this Google image search will show you what kind of options there are out there.
I myself use a custom-built DJ "booth", also known as DJ furniture, where my DJ controller sits inside the podium-style table. My table and my speakers are all white for a nice elegant white presentation. In the past, I have also used the facade to cover a 6 foot table, and even no facade while still trying to make my setup presentable.
Shoutouts to Team Lujan's Carla for taking all these photos!
What you may want to think about is, which of those styles (not just mine, but any DJ's styles) will be in line with the reception space, atmosphere, and your vision? Do you want something simple, or something extravagant that will amaze your guests? If you are at all concerned about any of this, you may want to do some research on the DJ's presentation. They will usually have a photo on their website or social media, but if not, ask to see a photo of their setup so you know exactly what you can expect at your wedding. You might think you’ve found a great DJ at a great price, or you might think that the presentation is not very important, but then they come in with a sloppy and unsightly set up.
Much of this list will apply to you IF music is important to you, and if having a great dance party is important to you. If that’s the case, and if you have to cut corners on your budget, do not cut the entertainment budget. According to a recent survey with recently married wedding couples, 81% of guests said that what stood out the most to them at a wedding is the entertainment, and 72% of couples said they should have made their entertainment a higher priority*. And for good reason: the entertainment really could make or break your wedding, and you only get one.
*These statistics were published in Bride & Groom Magazine. Sources include Simmons; USA Today; National Bridal Service; The Knot; Brides Magazine.
My message is not that you should spend extra money on the DJ, or that you should choose one style of DJ over the other. My message is that you may want to spend more time and research so you know exactly what you’re getting when your wedding day comes. I wish you the best of luck in your wedding planning, and I hope that your wedding dance party is an absolutely beautiful and unforgettable one!
If you have a question about wedding DJs or hiring them that was not covered in this post, reach out to me. If you need DJ for your wedding and it's somewhere in the DC Metropolitan area, reach out to me, I would love to work with you!