All of the wedding disc jockeys you interview may not have the same standards of professionalism. A written, legal contract is one of the first indicators of whether a DJ is professional and reliable. Furthermore, a contract establishes the DJ’s obligation to the client and outlines what is required for the DJ’s success, by outlining his setup requirements and other factors related to his performance. For this reason, a written contract is absolutely essential and any DJ not using a written contract should not, in our opinion, be considered for a wedding reception.
Often, the person you speak with is not the person who will be your DJ on your wedding day. This is a very common practice among large agencies. It is absolutely paramount that you have an opportunity to interview, in person, the specific DJ that you will be working with and determine whether you feel comfortable with them. You should also expect that the individual DJ’s name is specified on your contract – it is the only way you can be guaranteed his or her services at your wedding.
Many wedding DJs attempt to conduct their interviews over the telephone and through email instead of meeting face-to-face with prospective clients. In our experience, there are two reasons a disc jockey would do this – either they don’t feel you are worth their time, or they have something to hide. Some deejays are very different in person than on the telephone and what is presented on their website, and you should insist on meeting in face-to-face so you can judge for yourself whether they are a good match for you and your wedding. Your “gut” feeling is very important in selecting the right disc jockey, and it’s practically impossible to make this evaluation unless you are together in person.
Some DJs will do as many events as they possibly can, and often try to pack their weekends with all types of DJ work. If a disc jockey has already done an event in the afternoon before your wedding, they will likely be physically exhausted by the latter half of your wedding, which is exactly when they need to be the most alert and active. This is most common at large agencies, where “weekend warriors” may perform at four to six events over a three-day period. It is hard to believe that any DJ could give that many couples an adequate amount of attention leading up to, and on, their wedding day.
Any professional wedding disc jockey will take pride in their work, and be able to answer this question honestly and communicate the things that make their services unique. Some DJs, however, will take this opportunity to “bash” their competition and say negative things about specific DJs or agencies. We consider this type of behavior unprofessional, and is a poor reflection on them. In fact, you may want to consider making it a point to meet any DJ that they say something bad about – DJs that engage in this type of thing will often target the DJs they’re afraid you’ll book instead of them, and they’re probably right!
Wedding experience is important, and so is familiarity with your reception site. Every site poses different challenges – different load-in and security procedures, different room sizes and configurations, different acoustics, even antiquated electrical outlets that need to be grounded manually. Hiring a DJ that is familiar with your site will give you peace of mind that you won’t have any surprises on your wedding day. Obviously, even the best DJs can’t have performed at every site in the area (since there are hundreds available in any area), but if he hasn’t been to yours, he should be willing to adequately prepare himself prior to your event by visiting the venue and/or speaking with the site contact and studying a floor plan.
Speaking to a wedding DJ’s former clients is a great way to get a feel for what it is like to work with them, and any DJ should be ready and willing to allow you to speak with their references. He should also be willing to contact several of these references in advance of providing you with their information, so that they have his permission and so you feel comfortable calling them.
This is an important question to ask, because some DJs prefer to control the majority of the playlist and supplement their choices with a small handful of your specific requests. Other disc jockeys prefer to let the client choose the majority of the music, and then use their expertise to make it all work. The DJ should be accommodating of your music tastes, and you should feel comfortable with the DJ’s approach and the amount of involvement you’ll be able to have in choosing the music.
Most DJs are happy to do so, but you should also feel reasonably assured that any request they chose to play would not be something you didn’t like.
Any professional DJ should be willing to honor your requests, including your request for certain songs and genres to not be used. Submitting a “Do Not Play” list will give a DJ a clear idea of your limits and your expectations for their song selection at your wedding.
When dealing with sub-standard DJs, there are often issues with them being punctual and set up well in advance of your guests’ arrival. Professional DJs will always arrive at least a full hour before their scheduled start time in order to have adequate time to set up and get organized before the wedding.
When you contact a professional disc jockey, they should be willing to hold your date for you for a reasonable amount of time in order to give you a chance to meet with them. They should also give you ample time after your meeting to make a decision and give you time to interview other DJs. Some DJs will use pressure sales tactics to “hard close” you at your meeting, offering a special sale that ends that day, or claiming that another couple is meeting with them for the same date – attempting to pressure you to make a decision on the spot. Any DJ that uses these types of tactics is unprofessional and is most likely doing so in order to keep you from meeting other DJs (whom they know you’ll like more than you like them). One week is a reasonable amount of time to expect your date to be held for you following an initial meeting. At ITMEG, we give two weeks.
A wedding is such an important occasion, and you don’t want your DJ’s first wedding to be your own. The number of years someone has been a DJ will give you some indication of their experience level, but some DJs only perform for a few events (and fewer weddings) each year. A DJ with half as many years in the industry may have many times as many weddings under his belt, so you should also ask how many weddings the DJ has done. Also be sure to ask if the DJ has any formal training, either from a DJ company or a DJ school.
Different DJs focus on different types of events – some consider themselves a “jack of all trades” and claim expertise in all types of events, and others are specialists. The ratio between the number of weddings a DJ performs for and the amount of other, non-wedding events they do will tell you where their focus lies. If you are looking for a “low-key” wedding DJ and someone you meet with does mostly school dances or Bar Mitzvahs, they may not be very focused on the type of sophisticated presentation you want for your wedding.
Despite meticulous planning and preparation, accidents do happen. If the DJ is injured or otherwise unable to perform on your wedding day, what is the backup plan? Most responsible professionals have some sort of backup strategy should this situation ever arise, but others do not. Often, DJs will be members of a local DJ association, and network with other DJs who could possibly provide backup services for them in the event of an emergency. Others take this planning more seriously and reserve a specific DJ for every date, ensuring that backup is both available and prepared in case of an emergency. You need to feel comfortable that you will still have a qualified, prepared DJ on your wedding day, regardless of the circumstances, so the answer to this question is very important.
Just as some deejays will prefer not to meet you when you book them, others will prefer to conduct a “final meeting” in the weeks before your wedding over the telephone instead of in person. The DJ should still be willing to meet you in person for a second time if that’s what you prefer. At ITMEG, we prefer you to come in again for your final meeting, we know that there are a million things going on for you that day, and we want to reassure and go over every detail, so we’re the last thing you have to worry about on your big day!
Hopefully the answer to this question is “no.” We’re sure that you wouldn’t appreciate the DJ inviting prospective clients to your wedding to see him in action. A professional DJ should be willing to take a stand for his clients’ privacy and not offer this as a possibility. Professional wedding DJs never allow this.
Hopefully your DJ will do such a wonderful job at your wedding that you’d like to keep dancing! Be sure that the DJ’s contract outlines a specific rate for additional time at the end of the night, whether it is a set price or a pro-rated amount based on the original price.
It is absolutely essential that any DJ you consider carries a full liability insurance policy. Some reception sites have even taken the step of requiring all vendors working at their facility to provide proof of insurance before the wedding. Liability insurance protects you and the reception site in the unlikely event that your DJ injures one of your guests or burns your reception site to the ground.
One of the major advantages to using a DJ instead of a band is that a DJ does not need to take breaks, outside of using the restroom and possibly eating a meal quickly in another room (if this is what your site contact or caterer requires). In any case, the DJ should assure you that there will be no break in the music at any point during the reception.
A professional DJ will never consume alcohol or take cigarette breaks during your wedding. If you interview a DJ and he tells you he needs a few drinks to “loosen up” while working, you should probably look for a DJ with higher standards of professionalism.
Even the very best and most well-maintained equipment will malfunction at some point. Your DJ needs to be prepared in case this happens at your wedding. The only way you will not suffer a setback on your special day is if the DJ brings a full second sound system with them to each and every wedding. Having backup equipment in a warehouse 50 miles from your reception site won’t do much good if there is no music at your wedding for an hour.