How to Choose Your Wedding DJ

Music makes the reception so you need a wedding DJ that can keep the energy all the way up. Narrow down your search with our guide to choosing the perfect DJ for your big day.

By Jenn Sinrich

Wedding reception entertainment comes in all shapes and sizes, but a DJ is one of the more modern options available and has become an increasingly popular choice over live music. Not all DJs are suitable for wedding receptions, though. And even the ones that are may not be suitable for your wedding reception. So, let’s break down how to dwindle your wedding DJ options to one.

Reasons to Hire a Wedding DJ

Typically couples choose between DJs or live entertainment like a band. You can also forgo both options and DJ your own wedding (an ambitious choice!) or figure out some combination of the two. If you’re on the fence, here are some benefits of a wedding DJ.

- It’s cost effective. Compared to live musical entertainment, DJs typically boast lower rates. This isn’t always true, but generally speaking, DJs require less housekeeping costs. Bands require more man power and potentially more travel costs because of their equipment.

- Hear your favorite music—the way you remember it. Don’t get us wrong: We love a cover band. If you chose Elton John’s “The Way You Look Tonight” as your first dance song because it conjures a specific romantic moment for you, it’s nice to know it will sound the same way as the time you fell in love with it.

- DJs can read the crowd. All performers should have some ability to read the room, but DJs have the unique ability to be able to shift musical direction with just a few key mixing elements. Bands, on the other hand, will typically have to finish out a song even if the crowd doesn’t seem to enjoy it. Bands also tend to have a set lineup that they stick to for formal events.

Eli3Photos InlineImage 1080x720 Photo Credit // Eli3 Photography

How to Choose Your Wedding DJ

Start your search early.

While choosing your wedding DJ doesn’t have to be the very first thing on your wedding checklist, it shouldn’t be one of the last either. Once you choose your wedding venue, make wedding entertainment your next focus. Like venues, sought-after DJs book up quickly. So, don’t hesitate to start your search, especially if your top choices are popular in your area.

Consider your style.

Like we said, not all DJs are meant to be wedding DJs—it’s a broad title. Wedding DJs are specific experts in how receptions flow and how to choose music that suits many demographics. Be sure to immediately cross off any DJs without wedding-specific experience (unless you’re having an unconventional reception or if you’re asking a friend to DJ, of course).

Wedding DJ can still mean a lot of different things. So, it’s important to keep your style and wedding vision top of mind. If you’re more old school and a fan of music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, for example, pursue a DJ who specializes in music from those decades. If you’re more into rap or pop or other more modern genres, you want to find a DJ who’s well-versed on the top of the charts.

Ask around for recommendations.

The easiest way to narrow down any vendor search: word of mouth recommendations. Ask your family, friends, colleagues, whoever if they hired a DJ they loved. Even if they’re not engaged or married, they may have recently attended a wedding with a DJ that really wowed.

Of course you can also always trust the Internet to help you start your search, too. We recommend starting with a vendor search from a reputable wedding source. We’re biased but Zola makes the vendor search process basically seamless. You can read vetted reviews from real couples, find out what services each DJ specifically offers, and more. It’s an easy way to taper your search to at least a handful of options.

As you conduct your Internet search, pay special attention to any trends you see in reviews. For example, look out for any mentions of tardiness—you don’t want anything to hold up your reception once you’re ready to party.

PineappleSunrisePhotography InlineImage 1080x720 Photo Credit // Pineapple Sunrise Photography

Conduct your interviews.

Once you choose your top three DJ options, contact them to make sure they’re available on your wedding date first. If so, schedule a call, in-person, or even FaceTime appointment to talk. These meetings are your opportunity to get all of the intel you need to choose your wedding DJ. Here is a list of questions you want to ask:

  • How long have you been DJing?
  • How many weddings have you worked?
  • How many weddings do you do per year?
  • Will you or someone on your team be the actual day-of DJ?
  • How would you describe your style?
  • Do you have any samples of your work?
  • Are you familiar with our reception space?
  • How much equipment do you require?
  • Would we need to provide any separate equipment?
  • Do you plan to use lighting or special effects?
  • Who sets up and breaks down?
  • What will you wear?
  • How do you handle song requests?
  • Can you be the master of ceremonies?
  • How do you measure your rate—hours? Packages?
  • Do you have an overtime fee?
  • How do you handle equipment malfunctions?
  • How do you get a shy crowd moving?
  • Can we make the playlist?
  • Do you use a predetermined set list?
  • Can you give us a full itinerary for the reception?

Get everything in writing.

Before you solidify your wedding DJ, be sure to get hammer out all of these details in writing. Be sure to include any notes on special requests, including certain songs recommendattions, exact start and end times, who will actually DJ day-of, etc.

Once you choose your DJ, you’ll likely be tasked with coming up with a list of must-hear songs, another list of absolutely-do-not-play songs, and a list of nice-to-hear-but-not-necessary songs. After that, your DJ will take it from there.