Music can make or break your wedding. The DJ can be the difference between your guests raving about your party for weeks or leaving early because the vibe sucks, so it’s no surprise that looking for a DJ to hire for your big day comes with some pressure.
How do you decide who’s right for your wedding and once you’ve made that decision, what’s the next step?
If you’re unsure how to go about getting the best possible service with your DJ, look no further. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to everything you need to know to ensure your wedding goes off with a bang and that your guests will be dancing long into the night.
1. How to choose the right DJ
Let’s start with the basics: How do you choose the right DJ for your wedding?
These days everyone with a laptop and a pair of headphones can claim to be a DJ, so how do you wade through the amateurs to find the real talent that’s right for you?
First of all, do not be tempted to book a random DJ you found on Instagram, or a friend of a friend. Sure, you might save a few bucks but you are risking your big day being ruined. There's no contract, no deposit, no systems in place to ensure you get what you want on the night, and it can be hit or miss whether they even turn up on time..or at all. We've heard too many stories of brides being let down days out from the wedding when their cheap DJ turns out to be double booked.
Book your DJ through an agency. With a reputable agency, you'll get a seasoned professional, top quality sound and lighting, a money back guarantee, and public liability insurance covering every eventuality.
A good agency will have a contract in place that covers both parties no matter what happens. You'll get properly looked after with prompt, professional communication in the lead up to your big day. You'll be able to let them know the types of music you enjoy and they'll put together a playlist specifically for you.
Once you’ve found a range of DJs available in your region, narrow it down with their general songlist and the types of music they like to play. It’s important you establish the vibe you want for your wedding. Some DJs specialize in Pop and Top 40s while others like to throw it back with bangers from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Create a short list of the selection of DJs available for hire in your region with the style you’re after.
Finally, establish your budget. You have your short list, you know the artists who play the music you want in your area, now you need to figure out who falls within your budget. If you’re going through an agency contact them for a quote with your specific wedding date (which you’ve hopefully set by now, more on that later…), the DJ you’re particularly interested in and your budget and let them get back to you with options. If you’re looking at an independent artist, contact them directly.
2. Don’t make your decision based on price
Weddings are expensive and you’re on a budget, but the music is not an area where you want to be cutting corners.
If a DJ seems much cheaper than others, it’s probably because they are less experienced and will be using low quality equipment (remember those home DJs with the laptop and a pair of headphones we just talked about…?)
You get what you pay for. Top DJs may cost a little more, but their pricing will reflect their experience, sound and lighting equipment, and the service they provide. What you put in is what you’ll get out in the preparation of your one and only wedding day.
3. Get an experienced wedding DJ
DJing a wedding is a very specific thing. Playing at weddings requires the DJ to leave their ego at home and play to the needs of the crowd.
An experienced wedding DJ will know exactly how to read the room, meet your needs and get the dancefloor pumping, including encouraging the guests who are hesitant to get up and out of their chair.
Alongside the ability to work the crowd (and handle potentially rowdy guests), there will often be many additional requirements when performing at a wedding. This can include microphones and equipment for the celebrant and MC to playing the first dance song at just the right time and volume. Wedding DJs know these things and know how to ensure your big day runs smoothly and without issues.
Find a list of recommended Auckland Wedding DJs here.
4. Book as early as possible
So you’ve been in touch with the agency, they’ve gotten back to you with a quote and available dates for your chosen DJ - Yay! Now, like anything you book for your wedding, in order to get exactly what you want, you need to book as soon as possible.
Top DJs will book out months in advance, especially on popular days like Fridays and Saturdays. Once you’ve secured your date and venue, music should be next thing you book. As soon as your agency gives you the greenlight on your budget and available dates for hire, you should be locking your DJ in ASAP.
5. Make sure the DJ you book is who you’ll get on the day
If you’ve contacted a DJ agency, then you should already know for sure which wedding DJ you’ve booked for hire. However, if you haven’t received that clarity, it’s important to check.
Most agencies have several DJs on their books and if you don’t specify exactly who you’d like, they may assign you whichever DJ is available and within your budget for that date. Other agencies may not commit to a particular DJ at all and you could end up with someone you don’t gel with.
Ask your agency to provide confirmation in writing of the artist you’ve requested.
Once you’ve established exactly which DJ you’re booking, find out what their backup plan is in the unlikely event that for whatever reason, they are unable to provide their services on the day. Have they got a DJ who closely matches their style and approach? What’s their contingency plan? It’s essential to figure this out well in advance to save any nasty surprises on the day.
6. Check that the price includes everything
Some operators will quote for the DJ alone, but the overall price you’ll end up paying will ultimately include sound and lighting hire, setup and packdown, travel, overnight accommodation and more.
When you ask for a quote, find out exactly which services that price covers and ensure the final quote is for the full package, so there are no hidden or unexpected costs that crop up later after you’ve signed a contract.
7. Check their references
A professional DJ should have reviews or testimonials on their site. Ask for the phone number of one or two recent clients and call those people to see how they felt about the DJ and how their experience was and if there’s anything you should be made aware of.
8. Meet with the DJ beforehand
Just like the other key players in your wedding day like your photographer and celebrant, it’s a good idea to meet with your DJ beforehand.
Not only is it the best way to ensure all bases covered but you want to make sure you actually gel with this person who’ll be largely responsible for the atmosphere of your wedding reception party.
Meeting your DJ gives you the opportunity to ask them anything and everything you’ve been thinking about and there are no stupid questions. Your DJ should be professional, experienced, happy to answer any questions you have and know exactly how to put your mind at ease.
Ask what other services they can provide in their package, many DJs offer all the sound, lighting, microphones for the celebrants and speeches as well as other optional extras like photo booths, disco balls, smoke machines and more for hire. Ask your DJ what extra services they have that could add the finishing touches to your big day.
This is also the chance to establish if there are any special requirements you need to know about like logistics of power, set up, what kind of space they need and any equipment they need you to provide. Also you’re most likely required to provide food and drink for the DJ so be sure to clarify that so you can factor it into your catering budget.
Don’t forget to ask them what information they need from you, such as a wedding timeline and a playlist to help them get to know your likes and dislikes.
9. Have they played at your venue?
This is good to establish because it’s a big advantage If your DJ has played at your venue before. They’ll have a familiarity with the space, know who to talk to, how to pack in and out, how everything works and how long it will take to get there.
If they haven’t played there before, request a site inspection to take a look with them, figure out any extra equipment they may need, map it all out and get clear on how everything will work on the day.
10. Get their advice
Don’t be scared to ask your DJ for their advice and input. If you’re struggling with song selection, they can help a lot with suggestions for your first dance, processional, recessional and any other special songs you need. Especially an experienced wedding DJ, they’ll know exactly which tunes will hit just the right note in those key moments.
11. Dress code
You can largely dictate the dress code to the DJ. “Wedding formal” is a reasonable standard to start with and you can then add notes like “please wear a suit, but no tie is required” or “suit pants with a dress shirt please. No jacket and tie required.”
These notes are very specific and much clearer than simply “Wedding”. Of course if your wedding is more casual you may want something different, but it’s good to establish things early on to save your DJ turning up in skinny jeans and a t-shirt to your black tie wedding reception.
You should have a fair idea of the types of songs your DJ plays from when you booked them, but it’s a good idea to give them a playlist of some of the songs you like to give them a good idea of the vibe you’re after. Also ask your DJ if you can review their songlists and make selections of your favourite tunes. A professional DJ should have the capacity to put together a very bespoke songlist just for you.
Also if you have a list of “must plays” and “do not plays”, ensure your DJ knows these when putting together the setlist for your wedding.
13. Trust the DJ to do their job
Finally, trust the DJ to do their job. This is their thing, their profession. They know what they’re doing.
Don’t try and tell them every single song to play, they’ll have more experience choosing songs that work for everyone and that get the dancefloor pumping than you will.
The DJ will enjoy themselves and get into the party a lot more if given the freedom to do their job the best way they know how.
So there you have it, everything you need to know before booking you wedding DJ. If you have any questions or feel we’ve missed anything, feel free to contact us. You can browse our full list of New Zealand wedding DJs for hire below.
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Author Jenny Eastwood is a freelance Auckland copywriter.