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Wedding Education

A Person vs a Playlist: On Hiring a DJ for Your Wedding

April 19, 2024

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I know as a runner that a freakin’ awesome playlist can help make an average run into a great run. But I know as a wedding photographer, just a playlist alone can’t do the same with your wedding.

Person vs playlist

Your carefully crafted playlist on Spotify or Apple Music or TIDAL can’t run a room. At best it can passively set a vibe! But it can’t turn itself down if someone needs to make an announcement without intervention. It can’t run fun lighting on the dance floor, take requests, emcee speeches and traditions, or be responsive to the dance floor’s mood shifts throughout the night. I know — probably not the answer you were hoping for! 🙂

And speaking as the person who runs the timeline up until there are enough people in a room where folks can’t hear without a mic, I want to make sure your handoff to the reception is a smooth transition. In my opinion, after attending (and working!) a bazillion weddings, hiring a person instead of a playlist is the way to go, hands down. I’m all for making as many decisions as you can to reduce the stress and anxiety you can possibly feel on what should (and will be!) the best day of your life. Sometimes that means a little help :).

can I just use a playlist instead of a DJ photo

If you feel resigned about hiring a DJ for your wedding, you can rest assured that you do have options! You can skip most of the extras if you’d like, and if you’re feeling particular about having a certain personality of DJ, you can definitely find an individual DJ who fits your vibe. But if you don’t want to make another dang decision, there’s a solution out there for you, too (well, fewer decisions anyway!).

How to choose a wedding DJ

choosing a great DJ

First, we should talk about types of DJs. Just like how hiring an individual photographer vs hiring a studio provides different services (and vibes!), hiring an individual DJ vs hiring through a company can provide very different experiences.

Here are some super awesome individual DJs I’ve worked alongside in the past:

And here are some majorly popular companies you could go through to find a DJ:

Even just peeking at some of those websites, you’ll probably notice the way they talk about their services differs. There are pros and cons to each approach — it all depends on what YOU want for your special day. 

If you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ about wedding DJs, I’ve provided two lists of questions to ask yourself and to ask a DJ candidate. Your answers to these questions may sway you one way or the other when making this choice!

Things to ask yourself when choosing a DJ

  • What roles do I want the DJ to take on? How much talking do you want them to do? Companies have to have more simple DJ packages, and individuals tend to have a more stylized approach. Larger companies hire a wide range of skill levels, which is nice for the pocketbook, but if you have a vision in mind for your wedding that involves the DJ doing specific things, an individual DJ may be your best bet.
  • Does it matter to me that I build rapport with my DJ first? Do they know me? If you just want some skilled and charismatic person to fill the role of DJ, and it’s not important to you to meet them first or anything, going with a larger DJ company might be a good fit. On the other hand, if you want the DJ to know you as a couple, meet with them ahead of time to get to know one another, etc, you may enjoy your experience with an individual DJ a bit more.
  • Is it important to me that the wedding DJ have many years of experience? It’s totally okay if this is not a must-have, especially if you’re working with a tight budget. And perhaps other vendors like your photographer is higher on your priority list (😇). But if, for example, the party is what you’re looking forward to the most, and super smooth transitions are a big deal to you, that will inform how experienced you want your DJ to be.
  • Do I want to have a live band instead of a DJ? This post isn’t really about live bands, but it’s just something else to consider! 
  • What kind of extras am I interested in? (Hint: I throw in my two cents about the extras later in this post!)
wedding dance floor action shot

Things to ask your DJ when choosing a DJ

  • What’s your style like? Pretty straightforward, but if you don’t like pop music, and they specialize in pop music, you’ll want to go with someone else!
  • Do you have any references? A DJ or company can market themselves however they want, but talking to someone who’s worked with your specific DJ can be really insightful!
  • How do your must-play and don’t-play song preferences work? Do they have a system? Are they flexible? Are last-minute requests okay? Do they take requests from wedding attendees? No wrong answers here, but if you find one of these is especially important to you, that can guide your decision.
  • What is your backup plan if there is an emergency and you cannot make the wedding? You know how I am — it’s just so important to plan for the unexpected so you can celebrate the best day of your life stress-free!
  • How many events do you work in a typical weekend? Just like how I only take on 25 weddings a year because I want to ensure my work is sustainable and I can give all my couples my undivided attention, it’s good to get a pulse on if your other vendors (including your DJ!) operate the same way. 
  • When do you need details finalized and how do you need that information delivered to you? Also just want to put in my plug that the DJ will need information and a timeline just like your photographer, day-of coordinator, etc. 😀 
  • Are you insured? Some venues require all vendors to be insured, but it’s just a really great thing to ask anyone you hire… for anything! 🙂

Some of these wedding DJ places are offering extras. Are the extras worth it?

In my humble opinion, it depends! Here are my quick thoughts based on what I’ve seen with my couples:

  • Uplights: yes! They give your venue dimension in your photos.
  • Cold sparks: no! They are toxic to breathe and can be temperamental. Talk about a buzz kill…
  • Photo booth: totally! You and your guests will love it!
  • Ceremony coverage: absolutely…professional microphone service, someone to queue music from your officiant, etc. The exception would be if your venue has AV service and you want live music at your ceremony.
  • Travel: if it’s the right DJ, it’s the right DJ!

DJs can really make your wedding the party it’s destined to be. Best of luck on your DJ-finding quest! And hey, want photos that match the energy of the dancefloor? I’m ya girl!

energy on the dance floor at a wedding in minneapolis

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It's Jess!

Passionate about celebrating relationships between partners and between us and our home, Earth.

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