Category Archives: chicago wedding djs

guests dancing to chicago wedding dj

6 BIG Mistakes Couples Make When Choosing a Chicago Wedding DJ

Choosing a wedding DJ in Chicago may seem like just another overwhelming task on your wedding planning checklist, but it’s definitely not one that you should try to shortcut. A wedding DJ can keep guests on the dance floor or send them heading for the exits.

So how do you choose the best Chicago wedding DJ? We’ve outlined the process for hiring the best wedding DJ in the past. Now we wanted to delve into common mistakes couples make when choosing the right wedding DJ, so you don’t make the same mistake.

Automatically choosing the cheapest Chicago wedding DJ

Managing a wedding budget can be incredibly tricky, especially when there are so many line items and when funds are tight. That’s why it’s important for couples to embrace one of the most important wedding planning lessons: prioritize and allocate funds for the vendors that make the biggest impact on your big day. While wedding favors may be really fun to shop for, your guests are going to care a lot more about a wedding venue with quality amenities, food, and fun.  

Once you’ve allocated most of your funds (approximately 40-50%) for these items, it’s time to choose the wedding vendors (including wedding DJs) that can deliver a quality service. While that quality service does come with a price, it’s typically worth it when you get everything you wanted plus a bit of peace of mind. Basically, a wedding DJ service may cost more than a one-person service, but professionals typically come with quality equipment, quality back-up equipment, an experienced wedding DJ, and an experienced back-up DJ. The result is well worth it, especially when your dance floor is packed and you and your guests are having an awesome time.

“My friend does this on the side…”

It can be incredibly tempting to hire a friend or family member (or a friend or family member of a friend) because it’s so terribly easy, but beware of amateur Chicago wedding DJs. Many amateur services have dated equipment that delivers a terrible sound or don’t let you customize your playlist.

In addition, a one-person wedding DJ service often doesn’t have the back-up equipment or staffing when equipment breaks down or there is a health or family emergency. Sometimes, it might be challenging to contact them because you aren’t their primary focus. You can quickly find out if a DJ is professional or amateur by asking them these wedding DJ questions before you hire them.

No research

When you are looking for a Chicago wedding DJ online, inevitably sites like The Knot or the Wedding Wire is in the top results. Don’t scroll past these results. It is incredibly important to research any wedding vendor before hiring them—including your wedding DJ.

Fortunately, there are more sites than ever before that can make the process incredibly easy. Even social media sites can be filled with a ton of reviews about how the wedding DJ acted, whether they kept guests on the dance floor, if they were prompt, and how interactions with the staff went. While this step in hiring a Chicago wedding DJ doesn’t take long, it’s incredibly worth it!

Waiting, waiting, waiting…gone!

While you should always do your due diligence when choosing a wedding DJ, don’t let the process get so lengthy that you miss out on the chance to hire the best Chicago wedding DJs. These best DJs in the Windy City are in demand, and their calendars fill up quickly.

While hiring a wedding DJ may not be the first item on your wedding planning checklist, it shouldn’t be the last either. Typically, you should start contacting wedding DJs any time between nine months and a year before your big day. When contacting DJs, you should have key details set, such as your wedding venue, date, and even an estimate wedding reception timeline.

Not meeting with your wedding DJ (in-person or virtually!)

While this may sound contradictory, reviews shouldn’t be the only interaction you have with your wedding DJ before your big day. When choosing a Chicago wedding DJ, always try to meet the professional who is going to be in charge of your wedding reception before signing on the dotted line.

Your meeting is your chance to determine if the wedding DJ fits your wedding style, and to see their equipment (be wary if they won’t show it to you). It’s also an opportunity to find out key deadlines that ensure that you get a customized wedding experience that fits who you are as a couple.

Not giving input

Your wedding day should be all about you, including the wedding play list. When choosing a wedding DJ, be wary about hiring a wedding DJ that doesn’t ask about your preferences for music (including what you want played and don’t want played). Unfortunately, many amateur wedding DJs offer a one-size-fits-all play list that usually keeps guests on the dance floor (but may include songs you hate!)

As an added bonus, making a list of must-play and don’t-play songs can be fun! It’s a great way for you and your fiancé to de-stress before your wedding day—while still getting another item checked off your wedding planning checklist.

collage of pictures from epic wedding dance

How long should I book a wedding DJ?

Hiring a wedding DJ (or “booking a wedding DJ”) for your Chicago wedding revolves around two big questions. When should I book a wedding DJ? How long should I book the wedding DJ for?

When to Book a Wedding DJ

Typically, the wedding planning checklist put hiring a wedding DJ at about 9-12 months before the wedding date. Hiring a wedding DJ is multi-step process which starts with finding the best wedding DJ. This can be done online on third-party websites or by asking a friend or family for a recommendation.

When getting recommendations, always be careful about contacting “a friend of my friend…” or “my cousin…” Though your friend or family may have good intentions, it’s always best to contact someone that your friend or family has personally experienced (and enjoyed!)

As you search, be careful about hiring amateurs who only DJ on a part-time basis. Unfortunately, these services often don’t have back-up DJs or equipment that’s essential during an emergency. Plus, many of these operations have outdated equipment and have one playlist (meaning no customized playlist or requests!)

Once you have a list of awesome Chicago wedding DJs, it’s time to narrow down your list of vendors with online research, an interview, and meeting. Fortunately, it’s easy to visit third-party websites (i.e. Wedding Wire, the Knot, etc.) and social media for reviews and feedback from past customers.

You should be wary of any wedding DJ that doesn’t have a place to meet or another way to get (easily) in touch with them. Whatever way you contact them, always ask the wedding DJ these questions, such as about availability, insurance, and prices (and fees for overtime and travel).

How Long to Book a Wedding DJ

A wedding reception usually lasts approximately 4-6 hours and follows this timeline:

  • Cocktail hour
  • Dinner (Requires serving and background music)
  • Wedding Cake and Cutting
  • Reception Dance
    • Bridal party announcement
    • First dance
    • Bouquet and garter toss
    • Mother-son dance
    • Father-daughter dance

As you plan around the timeline (or create your own custom timeline), always ask your wedding DJ if they offer dinner music during your meal. This time is typically included in the wedding DJ time on the contract (though feel free to ask the wedding DJ if you are unclear).

For couples who don’t want to worry about overtime fees, there are Chicago wedding DJs who offer unlimited packages with no time limit. This is a huge benefit for couples who want a never-ending dance party—or just don’t want to push their guests out the door.

wedding dance floor with deejay

28 “Must Ask” Questions for Every Wedding DJ

A list of questions for a wedding DJ is more than just another to-do on your wedding planning checklist. It’s a way to ensure that you are hiring the best wedding DJ for your big night—and a reputable entertainer that’ll deliver exactly what you want: a personalized, incredible wedding reception.

When hiring a wedding DJ, it’s important to make sure both items are checked off on the list. Unfortunately, the news is full of couples who have been left high-and-dry by a sub-par wedding vendor. This checklist of questions for a wedding DJ ensures that you get a personalized wedding reception music play list, a high-quality (and high energy) DJ, and the reliable service that guarantees and unforgettable wedding reception.

  • “Are you available on my wedding date?”
  • “How many years of experience do you have? What year did you start your business?”
  • “Do you have any references?”
  • “Do you offer any other services (lighting, photo booth, etc.)?”
  • “Can you do….” (Ask this question if you have a really special request)
  • “How much is the cost?”
  • “What does the cost cover? Is there an overtime fee?”
  • “Do you offer dinner music as part of the total cost?”
  • “What is your final total cost?”
  • “How much of a deposit is required and when will the balance be due?”
  • “My wedding is at…. Do you charge a travel fee?”
  • “What is your cancellation policy?”
  • “Do you carry Insurance?”
  • “Can you provide proof of Insurance?”
  • “When do we meet with you to discuss details of the wedding?”
  • “Do you have back up DJs and equipment available in case of emergency?”
  • “Typically, what time do you arrive at the wedding venue?”
  • “What kind of electrical needs does your equipment require?” (for an outdoor wedding)
  • “What songs are included in your wedding DJ playlist?”
  • “When do you need information from me?”
  • “Do you have a wedding DJ checklist that I can write my favorite songs and songs I do not want played at my reception?”
  • “Will the DJ be in formal attire?”
  • “Will the DJ act as Master of Ceremonies (MC)?”
  • “How many years wedding experience does my DJ have?”
  • “How do we contact you?”
  • “Is it possible to meet over the phone or internet instead of in person?”

As you ask these questions, look for red flags that may indicate you are hiring an unreliable or amateur wedding DJ:

  • No business address
  • Does not return phone calls or communications
  • Is unwilling to show equipment (and back up equipment)
  • Does not have back up equipment (and staffing-in case of illness or breakdown)
  • Few reviews or negative reviews on social media and wedding websites

Instead, look for signs of a quality, reliable wedding DJ:

  • Business location
  • Prompt communications
  • Easy answers to questions
  • Back-up staffing and equipment
  • Positive reviews and industry awards on social media and wedding websites
  • Willingness to customize their play list to your specific wants and needs
  • Lots of experience!
shot of people dancing at epic wedding reception

10 Questions that Get You the Best Wedding Entertainment

Wedding reception music is a HUGE part of an awesome wedding, which is why narrowing down your choices for wedding entertainment are so important. Do you want a band? DJ? What’s the right wedding entertainment for your wedding day?

The good news is you can answer this big question with a few easy questions.

Do we want live music? Do we need an emcee?

The main difference between a band and wedding DJ is the issue of live music, though this does come with some pros and cons. While bands can deliver an awesome performance, they may be limited to the songs they can play. DJs offer a variety of wedding dance songs, but don’t deliver them live. Both wedding entertainment options should deliver an interactive experience, though you should be leery of wedding entertainers (bands and DJs) that don’t ask questions about songs you want played. This is a sure sign of an amateur that delivers the same playlist to every wedding—-they don’t customize their song list to you!

It’s also important to remember that you need an emcee to announce important events throughout the night as well. Most bands and DJs offer the service, but you should always make sure to ask if they can emcee so you’re not yelling at your guests at the top of your lungs.

What are our favorite songs? What wedding songs do we hate?

A custom playlist is one of the biggest perks of hiring a professional wedding entertainer—and not one that you can get from any wedding entertainer. Some bands come with set playlists. Unfortunately, some DJs have the same limitation.

Before contacting any entertainers, decide what you songs you want played (and not played). The answer steers you to the right kind of entertainer (band or DJ). Better yet, you can make a list with our wedding DJ checklist that you can use when interviewing prospective entertainers.

What is our wedding theme?

If you have your heart set on a wedding theme, like a Great Gatsby or a tropical wedding, look for wedding entertainment that can customize their playlist. For the latter theme, a wedding DJ who can compile a tropical playlist or a steel drum band can complete the theme and transport wedding guests to a warmer climate.

How big is our wedding? Where are we holding the wedding?

These details may not narrow down your options, but they are important logistical details that can help you as hire a wedding DJ or band. A top-notch Chicago wedding DJ or band should have experience at many of the top local wedding venues, which minimizes the amount of calls you need to make. If you have your wedding venue booked, you should also let the entertainers know; some wedding entertainers (bands and DJs) charge a travel fee. 

What is our budget?

Your wedding budget is an important part of choosing a wedding entertainer. It can also narrow down your options considerably because wedding DJs are typically more affordable than wedding bands. This advice does come with an important tip: always allocate enough money to hire a professional wedding DJ. Unfortunately, hiring an amateur DJ comes with the risk of a one-size-fits-all playlist, substandard emceeing and equipment, and no back-up in case of an emergency.

What other wedding entertainment do we want? Should we include a surprise?

Don’t limit your wedding entertainment to only a band or DJ! Instead, have fun giving guests other ways to enjoy themselves at the reception. It can be a lot of fun generating trivia games, coloring tables for young guests, and coming up with fun wedding themed props for a photo booth. Or, if you want to make your reception more spontaneous, twist one of these wedding surprises into a one-of-a-kind event your guests won’t forget.

shot of people dancing at epic wedding reception

Wedding Playlist: 5 Ways to Choose the Perfect Wedding Reception Songs

The perfect wedding playlist should more about quality instead of quantity. Instead of asking, “how many songs do DJs play at weddings?” (the answer is typically 15 per hour), think more about the wedding reception songs you want included in your playlist.

Make a list of “special” wedding songs.

The most logical place to start crafting a wedding playlist is by choosing the wedding reception songs that are played during those special moments. After all, these are the memorable moments that you can look back on for years:

  • Wedding party entrance
  • Father and daughter dance
  • Mother and son dance
  • First dance
  • Bouquet toss
  • Garter toss

As you select these songs and the right wedding DJ to play them, be careful about hiring a DJ that doesn’t give you the option to customize your wedding playlist. You don’t want to get stuck with a wedding DJ who uses the same list over and over and doesn’t give you the chance to hear your favorite tunes.

Start listening to songs.

Some couples have a million songs they want played. Others have no clue! It’s okay to fall into either category. If you fall into the latter, the best way to decide on first dance songs and choose a few favorites is to start listening to songs. (If you’re planning a throwback wedding, make sure your ‘must play’ songs are from the right time period.)

Make a short list of favorite and not-so-favorite songs.

The best wedding DJs customize the wedding reception playlist to your special night. (If they don’t, be worried!) You should always choose your wedding DJ carefully (with this list of wedding DJ questions); the best DJs are the source of many memories and are well worth the funds.

Mix it up.

As you make a list of favorites, don’t forget that the wrong song at the wrong moment can really kill the mood—and clear the dance floor! A good wedding DJ can help with selecting the right song at the right time, but you can help them by not overloading your playlist with slow songs.

Don’t nix all your guests’ favorites.

Everyone has a few songs that sound like nails on a chalkboard. However, you should make sure your list of “most hated” songs doesn’t coincide with your guests’ favorites.

Lean on your DJ’s experience and expertise.

Remember that you hired your DJ for a reason. An experienced wedding DJ comes with a whole list of perks. At the top of that list is expertise! A good wedding DJ knows what songs to play at the right time. It’s okay to leave the wedding reception playlist up to them and enjoy an awesome night of wedding songs.

wedding dance floor with deejay

Wedding DJ Services: Quick (and Complete) Guide

The right wedding DJs should be your go-to for the services that put your wedding reception over-the-top. The best DJs can provide all of that with customized service and the back-ups that ensure your dream wedding reception occurs without a hitch.

Finding the best wedding DJ for your big day does come with a few, “yes, but…” As tempting as it might be to choose the cheapest DJ for your wedding reception, the best Chicagoland wedding DJs come with guarantees that make it worth the time to find the right service.

What to Look for in a Wedding DJ Service

  • State-of-the-art equipment (be concerned if the DJ won’t show it)
  • Back-up staffing (in case of an emergency)
  • Experience at wedding venues and providing service to wedding DJs throughout Chicago
  • Excellent reviews on social media and review sites (i.e the Knot, Wedding Wire, etc.)
  • Contract fine print about the amount of time the DJ plays
  • “Extras” for easy wedding planning (i.e. lighting, photo booth, etc.)

Wedding DJ Red flags

  • No business address
  • Wedding DJ services that don’t communicate or return calls
  • Overtime fees that can add to the wedding DJ cost
  • Lack of back-up equipment or another experienced professional (in case of an emergency)

Questions to Ask a Wedding DJ Service

  • “Is there a DJ available on our wedding date?”
  • “Do your DJs have experience working at other weddings?”
  • “What is the total wedding DJ cost? What is included in the cost? Are there any overtime fees?”
  • “Is there a travel fee charged for coming to the venue?”
  • “Have you ever been to my venue?”
  • “Does your wedding DJ service have insurance? Can you provide proof of insurance?”
  • “What do your DJs do if they have an emergency or equipment breaks down?”
  • “Do you offer any other services?”
  • “Does the cost include dinner music? Can your DJ emcee the dinner (if needed) and reception?”
  • “Can we meet? What is the best way to contact you as we plan our wedding reception?”

What to Expect from a Quality Wedding DJ Service

  • Prompt communication
  • Long play list of music
  • Business address (be wary of amateur wedding DJs who don’t have a set business)
  • State-of-the-art equipment
  • Back-up wedding DJs (in case the DJ is sick, hurt, or has a family emergency)
  • Set fees (with no surprise additional fees)
  • Package deals with additional services
  • Packed dance floor

How long do DJs play at weddings?

shot of people dancing at epic wedding receptionSetting a timeline for your wedding reception may not be the most glamorous part of wedding planning, but it’s necessary—and incredibly common. The internet is full of engaged couples grappling with the common question, “How long do I need to hire my wedding DJ?”

How long do wedding DJs play?

The primary reason behind the question pertains to budget. Many wedding DJs charge by the hour, leaving budget-conscious couples looking for ways to cut costs. That cut often means cutting the hours of the wedding DJ; usually, DJs play for 5-6 hours at a typical wedding reception.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to hiring a DJ for a set amount of time. Some DJs charge overtime fees if the reception runs long or if they have to stay longer than the contracted amount of time. This leaves couples asking, “What if my wedding reception runs long? How do I avoid a big bill or surprise charges?” Obviously, no one wants to kick their guests out and shut down an epic wedding dance.

There is another solution: find a wedding DJ who offers an all-inclusive package with no limit on time and no overtime fees.

Where can I find a wedding DJ?

Chicago is full of wedding DJs. The path to the right DJ is different for every couple. Here’s where to start:

  • Chicago Wedding Shows. Visit a wedding show near you in Chicagoland. Make sure you come equipped with a list of questions to ask your wedding DJ.
  • Social Media. Let the search engines find wedding DJs for you. Browse through the websites and social media sites for reviews and testimonials. E-mail and message every wedding DJ with a list of questions. This approach comes with a caveat: never hire a DJ without a face-to-face meeting.
  • Wedding Sites. Wedding websites like the Knot and Wedding Wire provide lists of Chicago-area DJs. These websites come with reviews from newlyweds and an easy contact button for contacting local DJs.
  • Recommendations. Finding a wedding DJ may be as easy as asking friends and family, but use some caution to this approach. Be careful about recommendations that come with “my friend has a DJ service,” “my brother is awesome,” or any endorsement that was given without any personal experience.
  • Review Sites. Similar to wedding websites, review sites are useful for couples looking for neutral reviews. These sites are helpful for finding and researching wedding DJs; the next step is to set up a meeting with the wedding DJs and decide which service is right for your big night.

Ways to Find (and Hire) a GOOD Wedding DJ

wedding dance floor with deejayA fantastic night of dancing at your wedding reception is about more than music. Planning an epic wedding reception is not difficult, but it does require hiring a few quality vendors. An excellent photographer, a great videographer, an awesome wedding venue for pictures, an over-the-top wedding bar—they all play a part in creating the perfect setting and capturing memories from an unforgettable night of dancing and fun.

The main factor in a really awesome wedding dance is undeniably the main entertainer: the band or wedding DJ (weigh options for wedding reception entertainment here). If the latter is the “one,” use these ways to find and hire a local wedding DJ that fits the occasion (and those high expectations!)

Chicago Wedding Shows

The easiest way to find a DJ is to head out to one of the many wedding shows held throughout Chicagoland; this is also a time-saving way to compile a list of potential wedding vendors because they are all together in one location. Bring your wedding checklist (or binder) so you can kickstart your wedding planning off on an organized foot.

Social Media

Social media can serve a dual purpose when finding and choosing a wedding DJ. Depending on the social media channel, the site can be a useful source of testimonials (are other clients satisfied with their service?) and examples of service. If the potential wedding DJ is a serious prospect, don’t hesitate to contact the DJ through social media (a good DJ promptly responds).

Wedding Sites

Wedding websites like the Knot or Wedding Wire can be a useful first step in wedding planning. These sites are full of potential local wedding vendors, along with information and reviews. As an added bonus, these sites can be a valuable asset when vetting wedding venues that require couples to choose from a list of wedding vendors.

Recommendations

Friends and family can be an excellent source of wedding DJ recommendations. Think, “I used this wedding DJ and he was awesome!” or “Don’t use the wedding DJ that was at my cousin’s wedding because…” Be extra careful about recommendations that are not based off of personal experience, such as “My brother…” or “My friend’s friend does it on the side.” These recommendations can lead to amateur DJs who don’t have quality equipment or a back-up in case of emergencies.

Review Sites

Online review sites can be an easy way to compile a list of potential wedding DJs. When sifting through comments, understand that some internet trolls leave false negative reviews. However, if the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, proceed on to the next step: interviewing potential wedding DJs.

Interview

Don’t hire a wedding DJ without a thorough interview. An interview can help cross wedding DJs off the list because their prices exceed the wedding budget, they aren’t available, or for a variety of other reasons. The interview can be done via phone, in-person (schedule an appointment), e-mail, or social media. Ask these questions:

  • “Are you available on my wedding date (or these dates)?”
  • “How long have you been in business?”
  • “Do you have any references?”
  • “Do you offer any other services (lighting, photo booth, etc.)?”
  • “Can you do….[insert a special request]?
  • “What is the final total cost of your services?”
  • “How long is covered by the quoted cost? Are there overtime fees?”
  • “How much of a deposit is required and when will the balance be due?”
  • “Is there a travel fee to come to my venue?”
  • “What is the cancellation policy?”
  • “Can you provide proof of insurance?”
  • “When can we schedule a meeting? How often would we meet to discuss details?”
  • “Does your company have back-up DJ and equipment?”
  • “How soon would you arrive before the wedding?”
  • “What kind of electrical needs does your equipment require?” (for an outdoor wedding)
  • “What services are included in your wedding package?”
  • “Can your DJ offer dinner music? Can I tell you what songs I want and don’t want?”
  • “Will the wedding DJ be in formal attire?”
  • “How many years wedding experience does my DJ have?”
  • “What is the best way to contact you?”
  • For busy couples: “can we meet via the internet or over the phone instead of in person?”

20 (Fun!) Wedding Reception Table Games

Beautiful floral table decorations and table games at wedding receptionWedding entertainment is about more than hiring the best DJ in Chicago. Obviously, that is a BIG part of a memorable wedding reception, but there are the “other” times to plan for, too. Guests need to be entertained before the bride and groom arrive, while they wait for dinner and the dance, and for those moments when they need a break from their dancing shoes. The obvious choice—and the solution that keeps guests at their table and ready for dinner—are wedding reception table games.

Of course, if you want to make those in-between times more fun, bring your DJ into the conversation (and make sure you have a pro that’s up to the task). They can make announcements, coordinate games, and basically make the night more fun for everyone.

For adults…

  1. Trivia (i.e. related to the theme, about the couple, etc.)
  2. Crossword
  3. I Spy
  4. Word Search
  5. Wedding Hash Tag Game (i.e have them post photos with the wedding hash tag to social media)
  6. Mad-libs Wedding Style
  7. Find a guest with…
  8. Bride or Groom Guessing Game (for a funny photo, ask the DJ to play the game as a group give the guests signs they can hold up)
  9. Wedding cootie catchers
  10. Marriage Advice Cards
  11. Bingo
  12. Request Cards
  13. Photo Booth Props (that they can model and take to the photo booth)
  14. Date Idea Cards

For kids…

  1. Tic Tac Toe
  2. Coloring Sheets
  3. Connect-the-dots
  4. Legos/Bricks
  5. White Play Clay (that doesn’t stain)
  6. Simpler versions of adult trivia, crossword, etc.