Has anyone planned a wedding before? Yeah, I guess. But most of my clients haven't! Many of them don't know what to ask me. They just don't know what a wedding DJ does.
In this article, I am going to lay out the main things a wedding DJ does. I'm not going to list every thing they ever do, just the things they will be doing for you during your event. Read on and I will answer the following question in 5 parts...
What Does a Wedding DJ Do?
So, of course, a wedding DJ plays music. They fire up their DJ doohickey, press a button, and out comes a song. Any DJ can do that. In fact, any person can do that. That's not what makes a good DJ.
A good DJ chooses songs that make your guests dance.
The dance set starts. Your DJ tries a song. Then tries another. Within 5 or 10 minutes (but probably closer to 5), a good DJ will have all your guests dancing. Guests who are sitting at their tables will get up to see what's going on. Then they'll join in.
And a good DJ can sustain that for 2 or 3 hours. Just by choosing the right songs. That's not easy. Actually it's hard. It comes with a lot of experience
But usually, a wedding DJ doesn't choose all the songs. Sometimes, yes. But usually not. Usually, the couple getting married provides their DJ with a list of songs they want to hear. The DJ will play them, and complement them with similar songs that will get all the guests dancing.
Some DJs have knowledge of a dozen or more different musical genres. They know which songs will make the average crowd dance, and which ones won't. Many of them curate each dance set to the unique taste of their clients and still get everyone dancing.
For many DJs, this is their number one skill.
Makes Announcements or "Emcees"
While some DJs focus on music, others focus on "emceeing" or making announcements on the microphone. Many DJs have differing opinions about this one. I'll give you examples of two types of DJs.
The Minimal MC
Makes announcements in a natural voice
If you're doing an introduction, he or she will just announce the guests in your wedding party
Makes announcements to get your guests to do something
Or to get them to pay attention to something
The Traditional MC
Makes announcements in an MC voice
Your introduction will be longer. They may add a short story and a few jokes before announcing your guests with a theatrical flourish
During your dance set, he or she may "hype up" the crowd by saying things like "hands up," "here we go," or "make some noise"
They may stay on the dance floor with your guests to do sing-alongs or to lead line dances
They often work in pairs during the dance set (and intros) with the less experienced DJ playing the music and the more experienced one acting as an MC on the dance floor
Ask your DJ which one of these they are. Ask them to do a sample announcement for you. If you want a traditional MC (or want to avoid one), ask them if they lead line dances or talk on the mic during the dance set. If they use the word "interaction" on their website, they probably lean traditional. Disclaimer: I lean minimal.
Brings a Soundsystem
Many DJs who work in clubs can roll up with a backpack and DJ all night. That's not how it is for wedding DJs. We have to pack our tiny little car (ok maybe that's just me who has a tiny car) and bring a full sound system. Here are all the times your DJ could possibly provide a mic and/or music at your wedding:
The mic is generally used by/for:
Your officiant during your ceremony
Any readings during your ceremony
You reading your vows during your ceremony
Any toasts/speeches done by your guests during the reception
Your DJ to make announcements or "MC" during the reception (mostly)
Music is played through the speakers for the entire wedding except while the ceremony is going on. During pre-ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner, music will be played at a lower volume so guests can easily have conversations. Your DJ may just set up a small speaker for these times.
Many couples ask me whether I will provide a mic and music at their ceremony. Yes, all wedding DJs I know will. And usually, they are the only ones who do. Bands and venues usually don't. Some of them charge extra for it though (I don't). So when they quote you a price, ask them if it's for all parts of your wedding, or just for the reception. (FYI: almost all DJs will charge extra for your afterparty.)
Don't worry too much about checking if your DJ has good equipment. If they have been doing this for a while and are busy, then they most definitely do. Read a couple of their reviews and if their couple loved them, you can bet their equipment will work fine.
Helps You Stick to the Timeline
Regardless of whether you are working with an event planner or not, you will have some kind of timeline. In some parts of the country, the DJ makes the timeline. In my area, it is usually made by the event planner or the couple. The DJ will get a copy of it and help you stick to it throughout the event.
Here are the situations in my area where your DJ will help you stick to your timeline:
If you have an event planner. They will make the timeline and check in with your DJ throughout the night.
If you are getting married at a wedding venue that has in-house catering. The venue staff or maitre'd will act as your event planner. So, same as above.
If you are getting married in a venue and have no event planner. You or your caterer will make the timeline. Your DJ will be the point person for your timeline throughout your wedding.
If you are in situation #3. ask your DJ how much wedding experience they have and whether they have helped manage the timeline before. It may be a lot for an inexperienced DJ. But for DJs who have done dozens and dozens of weddings, it becomes second nature.
Many DJs provide more services than those I listed above. Here are the most common upgrades (or upsells):
Lighting (decorative and party)
Monogram shone on walls
Smoke machines or "Dancing on the Clouds"
Audio recording of the event
These extras will probably come at an additional cost.
So here's what a wedding DJ does:
They choose music that makes your guests dance
They make announcements/MC
They provide a soundsystem
They help you stick to your timeline
They provide extra services like lighting, a photobooth, etc...
Are you getting married, looking for a DJ, and would like to talk to me about DJing your wedding? If so, schedule a conversation.