Why Hire a DJ?
I fairly regularly get couples who have no idea what they should expect, or will pay to hire a wedding DJ. Many have little idea what they are actually paying for, what a DJ actually does (or should do) at their wedding, and pre-wedding to prepare for the event. This is not anyone's fault, there's not a ton of information on the subject, and costs and experience vary WILDLY. There's really no 'standard' price due to many variables.
In the age of DIY brides, grooms, and couples, I hear more tales of people attempting to handle music and the coordination of their event themselves, or, they have a friend, friend of a friend, cousin, uncle, dog sitter etc. who says they are a 'DJ' and will do it for them for next to nothing/the cost of the equipment rental. It's true in this day and age anyone can buy some cheap DJ software and call themselves a 'DJ'. But do they have the experience to pull off a 4-6 hour event, manage the crowd/time line/flow of the day/evening?
We all hear horror stories of brides in tears because their event was ruined or nearly ruined because their DJ was terrible and didn't play what was appropriate or requested pre-event, DJ's that were more like frustrated sportscasters, wannabe David Guettas, a DJ that totally screwed up the timing of toasts, tosses etc. the list goes on. Most often this occurs when the DJ was chose based on cost only, hired on blind recommendation without interviewing the DJ (i.e. when DJ's 'come' with the venue), or because they didn't really research their options enough to find the right fit.. or overwhelmed with all the other details of their wedding.
Once you've been to one of these weddings gone bad and witness it yourself, you probably vowed that you would never let this happen to you.
So the million dollar question is how can I avoid this from happening to me and what is it going to cost me to hire the right person? I'll address the costs below.. and more on how to avoid hiring the wrong person and how to choose the right DJ/entertainment later.
It's an accurate price range of what you will pay for a wedding DJ and what you can expect based on that price range. This is based on the Southern California market, but it's also pretty dead on for the Atlanta market, and I'd imagine mostly true for other large markets, give or take a little.
This list is based on the average cost for a 4 hour wedding:
$200 – $600 Typically a beginning DJ, most likely a part-time hobbyist (or your uncle)
$650 – $1,000 More experience than the beginners, but most likely a part-time DJ
$1,050 – $5,000 Most experienced, professionally trained, full-time DJ
Now you should base your budget on what kind of experience you want at your wedding reception. Candidly, if your budget is really limited to the first group, you are probably better off saving the money by having a friend DJ your wedding with an iPod. This way, you won’t risk having someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, plays inappropriate music, or making inappropriate announcements.
The $650 - $1,000 range DJs are more prone to making mistakes because they don’t have time to prepare for your wedding. After all, most probably have another full-time job, so they can focus less on the success of your wedding! If this is your budget, you might find a gem in this group, but you run the risk of having a DJ who is not well-prepared or just “shoots from the hip”.
The $1,050 - $5,000 DJs are making this kind of money for a reason. It is typically because they are well trained, experienced professionals that do it for a living and commit all of their time to making sure the weddings they do are as close to perfect as they can be. They do not have another job getting in the way of them making sure everything is perfect. They also typically spend anywhere from 20-40 hours of time making sure your 4-6 hour wedding reception is perfect. This kind of preparation shows through in their accessibility to help you with questions, coordination, and suggestions to help drive the success of your wedding.