After hearing some of the horror stories of Disc Jockeys (DJs) who are no-shows for the wedding reception, I decided it was time to offer some professional advice on hiring a wedding DJ.
There are 21 essential questions to ask a potential DJ:
1. Do you DJ full-time?
2. Will you personally be the DJ for our reception?
2. Do you also Em-cee the reception?
3. How many consultations do you provide in your package prices?
4. Do you provide a wedding reception planner?
5. Do you come to my home or business to go over the entertainment planner?
6. Do you carry liability insurance?
7. If in Canada, is your business registered with the Audio Video Licencing Agency Inc. (AVLA) to legally play re-recorded music?
8. Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or BBB?
9. Have you received any formal classroom training as a DJ?
10. What time do you arrive to setup your equipment?
11. Do you wear a suit and tie?
12. How many songs do you have in your library?
13. What format is your music in? (eg. records, cassettes, CD)
14. Do you provide cocktail/ dinner music?
15. Do you provide a wireless mic for speeches?
16. Do you bring backup equipment with you?
17. Is basic effects lighting included?
18. Do you offer lighting and sound upgrades?
19. Are there any additional charges, for instance for travel?
20. Do you have a website and/ or toll-free telephone number?
21. Do you provide a written contract and guarantee?
We at SoundsXtreme.com believe your DJ should meet all of the above criteria and more. A career DJ has much more at stake when it comes to providing professional service, full-time. A DJ company with a solid reputation will not want to send another DJ to represent them.
Once a DJ has gained experience and confidence, being an Em-cee will come naturally to them. Before getting in front of your guests however, a meeting will be necessary to go over all the details in the wedding reception planner. It is common for the DJ to meet with you in your home a few months before the wedding to go over the planner, and to call you at least a week prior to the wedding. A good reception planner will have all the details of the reception including names of the bridal party; times of events happening throughout the evening; type of music to play; and all other details that will ensure the evening's perfection.
"Does your DJ have liability insurance?", is a common question asked by the venue.Liability insurance protects you, your guests, the venue and the DJ. Also of equal importance in Canada, is the DJ AVLA licensed to play re-recorded music? If not, you could find your entertainment cut short as it is illegal to play re-recorded music without an AVLA license.
A good DJ will be known in their own town, so ask the DJ if they are members of a Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If so, contact the Chamber of Commerce of BBB and inquire about their standing.
To be considered a profession, it takes some degree of training and experience. Inquire as to where they received their training; was it in a classroom or on the road?
To be sure your DJ will not be unloading and setting up after your guests start to arrive, ensure they will be there at least two to three hours before the event is scheduled to begin. This gives time to setup and test all equipment, and to replace any defective cables or components. It is normal for a DJ to setup the equipment in street clothes, then to change to appropriate attire shortly before the reception gets underway.
Music is very important at your wedding reception - you have thought about the music you would like and probably imagined the evening as you would like it to be. Should the DJ not have a sufficient music library, you may find your guests aren't going to be on the dancefloor as much as you would have like them to be. As a minimum, 5,000 songs is a reasonable library for a professional, and 10,000 songs is a very good sized music library. But having the song titles may not amount to much if they are not the format you are looking for.
Records scratch, cassette tapes are recorded in a specific order and the tape stretches over time. The best format is of course Compact Disc (CD). Songs on CDs are digitally recorded, so they are perfect virtually everytime they are played. A new emerging format is called MP3. MP3 music are digitally recorded then 'compressed' to sound similar to a CD recording with slight degredation. Consider a piece of paper - if you scrunch it in your hand, then spread it back out again, it is still a full piece of paper but not exactly the same as before you compressed it.
As the guests begin to arrive, and as they enjoy their meals it is nice to have dinner music playing. DJ packages generally include at least one hour of dinner (or cocktail) music. At this time, it is customary for persons seated at the head table to make speeches or to offer advice or good wishes to the new couple. For this, a wireless microphone is a necessity. A wireless microphone enables everyone to be more relaxed and comfortable as they do not have to stand up and go to the front of the room. And maybe an elderly or handicapped guest may have something to say - a wireless microphone reaches places a standard microphone cannot.
One of the most common horror stories I hear is of equipment failure, and the DJ doesn't have backup equipment with them. Professional series DJ equipment is very expensive - and very, very mandatory. Therefore the most common advice we say to DJs starting out is, "if you can't afford to buy a backup amplifier, speakers, CD player and cables, DON'T DO WEDDING RECEPTIONS!".
After you have determined that a DJ has the right music, to ensure your guests are going to be up on the dancefloor you may want to have some effects lighting. Basic lighting is generally included in any entertainment package. This may include a mirror ball with a couple spotlights, or a similar effect.
If the dancefloor is large enough, adding effects lighting will generate a good deal of excitment on the dancefloor. When operated correctly it also sets the mood for the song. For instance a mirror ball effect is great for the slow dances. Lighting upgrades are usually packaged together with sound upgrades.
The most common sound upgrade is bi-amping. By seperating the lows (bass) from the music and amplifying it seperately then playing it through bass bins, there are two benefits. First, the sound will be very crisp and clear, and second, the music is louder. For large venues accomodating over 300 guests, a bi-amped sound system is optimal.
Professional DJs charge accordingly. It is very, very seldom that a DJ will charge more than the market warrants (in fact I have never heard of it). If you find a DJ charges more than their competitors, ask them why. And of course if you encounter a DJ charging significantly more or less than their competitors, I anticipate you will know why. One or more of the aforementioned 21 questions will tell you why there are price differences.
During the time that you book a DJ, you will need to reach them. Knowing they are available full-time without additional costs to you is comforting. A toll-free telephone number could save you quite a bit of money. And a good website will enable you to send them questions or information anytime - day or night. A well designed website may provide extra benefits such as on-line planners, pricing or upgrade information. It is a good place to begin looking for the right wedding DJ.
Terry Dillon , of SoundsXtreme.com. SoundsXtreme.com is a full-time entertainment company located near Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.