What to Consider Before You Hire Your Wedding DJ

It seems simple enough- some tunes, some equipment, and a little time on a microphone. Anyone could do that, so why not save some cash and let my future brother-in-law do the honors? This is a scenario that we experience often during our consultations, and it’s rare that the outcome is what was expected. Having a friend DJ your event or wedding is something that you will want to take a lot of time to think about before you sign off on that decision. Here are some things to consider.

Do you really know what to expect in your playlist? And is that really the best crowd pleaser?

A (long) while back we wrote an article that pointed to the importance of letting your DJ get a feel for the room and let the music ride the natural momentum of the event. This is something that takes some time to learn, and you pretty much only get that experience when you are in the events industry and know what cues to look for. Club DJs and radio DJs are great for their niche, but that is mostly because it is their niche. And while your friends may have the same love for Texas Country you have, do they know what works at different points in the evening? While some of our entertainers are also club DJs, they operate on a totally different wavelength when they step into an event. Can you really be sure that your buddy has the same expertise as an event professional? Events are dynamic, but also well-orchestrated. Someone who hasn’t spent time learning this can kill a party with the wrong playlist.

Are they well equipped for the job?

While this seems like an easy question to answer, would you know the right answer? The physical setup for a DJ to do his or her job is comprised of a lot of different components, not all of which necessarily work with one another. Is a friend going to be using a house system? And if so, are they experienced enough to understand how each component works? Are they renting gear to get the job done, and is that gear reliable? Do they understand how the size of a room and a crowd can affect the way the music sounds? If the video crew needs to tap into his or her system, will they be able to facilitate that? There are also other things that make someone well equipped to perform the job, such as liability insurance, a requirement for more and more venues that welcome outside vendors. Many entertainment companies are also branching out into auxiliary services, and you may lose some potential savings by booking an outsider who can’t offer those things in a package.

Do they understand events? I mean, really understand events?

We alluded to this earlier when discussing playlists, but there are a lot of moving parts in events. We work with venues, planners, caterers, photographers, and staffing companies every day. We have good working relationships with those people so it is very easy to maneuver between our job and their jobs. We have a groove that works well that creates continuity in your event, and bringing in someone that doesn’t have that rapport can cause more hiccups, and ultimately cost you more money you may save by using a friend. Can a friend correctly estimate the time it takes to move a crowd of 250 through a serving line and be prepared for the next item on the list? It take a lot of vigilance, and a friend may be distracted and miss some opportunities. Which brings me to my next point…

Microphone skills

Want to know how to make a photographer really, really mad? Announce the cake cutting without making sure that he or she is in the room and ready to capture the event. Want to know how to kill the mood after a touching and intimate first dance? Get on the microphone and tap it a few times to make sure it is working. This also applies to letting guests on your microphone for toasts. A friend may not know that guests are not permitted to give toasts unless they are members of the bridal party, and you can lose a lot of time to an uncle who decided on an impromptu serenade of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Having excellent skills on the microphone is how your guests will feel welcomed and know to whom they should direct their questions as the night progresses. A skilled event pro will also not be flustered in last-minute adjustments to the timeline.

What if you aren’t happy at the end of the night?

So by now we have talked about all the things that need to happen for an event to move fluidly from the entertainers’ perspective. What if your brother-in-law didn’t deliver and you’re feeling, well, a little cheated? You could have lost money and valuable time. When friends and family do the honors of taking on the role of MC and DJ, they usually don’t have a contract in place that specifies the terms of the evening. Having that piece of paper in your hand gives a few things. You know exactly what to expect for the amount you are paying. If there is no contract, then there isn’t any recourse if things go awry. And if they did, are you really going to follow up by asking for your money back or take legal action?

You’re asking your guests to entertain you, rather than entertaining them

While offers to help are invariably sincere, you are asking a lot out of someone. This can include rental pick-ups and drop-offs, potentially complicated load in schedules and late load out times. Your guest/DJ could be looking at fees and time that they may not have anticipated when they agreed to this, such as rental fees, parking fees, music purchases, and a lot of time working with other vendors. If they are there as a guest, they won’t be able to be both very effectively. If their focus is on DJing the event, they will miss out on all the important parts of the event, probably eat late, and have a date that has been neglected all evening. If they are there to be a guest, well, let’s just hope he or she doesn’t drink. Let your guests be guests and let your vendors do their jobs. It works well for everyone.

What if something comes up?

What if your DJ gets the flu? What if there is car trouble? Is there a backup plan? Remember that contract we discussed? Well, unfortunately the reason why we know all of this is because we get calls all the time from couples need someone ASAP because their friend decided they weren’t going to be making the trip after all because something came up. It is a scary consideration, but one you should have in the back of your mind.

So, after reading through all of this, you are probably thinking that I am against letting friends and family take on the role of an event pro. You’re right for the most part, but if you read through all of these bullet points and know that the guy you have on your team is reliable, capable, and flexible, then by all means utilize the people on your team! At the end of the day, our goal is to give our clients every opportunity to have a great event! Just be sure to communicate expectations very clearly and be sure to write a very nice thank-you note at the end of the night.