Category Archives: chicago wedding entertainment

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.

newlyweds celebrating and getting the perfect wedding memory

6 Ways to Make Your Chicago Wedding Reception Unforgettable

An awesome Chicago wedding reception is the goal, and these wedding planning hacks can get you there! We’ve been part of some fantastic Windy City wedding receptions, and every one was memorable in its own way; here’s how to use

Select the perfect Chicago wedding venue.

A breath-taking Chicago wedding venue or your own backyard—whatever wedding venue you choose, make sure it is (or can be) the perfect backdrop for a wedding reception that is completely you. Think of it as your chance to make a breath-taking first impression.

If you don’t have a favorite Chicago wedding venue, start the process by setting a budget and thinking about your style as a couple. Are you drawn to an elegant wedding venue? Would you prefer a venue with history and a story? Could you picture yourselves in a more natural outdoor setting? Or is a rustic venue more your style? Would you prefer a more casual setting that your guests can relax and enjoy? Whatever your style, Chicago is full of beautiful wedding venues perfect for your special day.

Plan a surprise—and keep it a secret!

A wedding reception surprise is a fun way to jazz up the reception—and another way to add a custom touch to your special day. This is your chance to add a special moment to all your other special moments. Plus, there are so many options: a surprise visit by a mascot or special family member of friend, an unexpected wedding first dance, a balloon or confetti drop, fireworks…the list of wedding surprise ideas are endless. Don’t forget to bring your wedding DJ, venue staff, or band in on the surprise so you can seamlessly build it into the reception order of events.

Have fun with the details.

There are no small details in a wedding reception (though there are low-priority items that shouldn’t require the majority of your budget.) Have fun with your wedding décor. This is your chance to coordinate all the details into a beautiful wedding atmosphere, with awesome signs and tons of opportunities for entertainment.

In addition to dancing, look for ways to entertain guests of all ages. Kids love bubbles, magicians, face painters and these other children wedding entertainment ideas. Your more experienced guests can enjoy tasting stations, local brews and wine samplers, photo booths, table games, and other ways to have fun off the dance floor.

Customize the wedding reception playlist.

One of the ways to make a wedding reception feel personal is to customize the play list. This can only be done with a band or wedding DJ that personalizes the play list, so make sure that question is on your list of questions to ask prospective Chicago wedding DJs.

In addition to a customized wedding play list, look for a wedding entertainment pro with experience that makes the night enjoyable for everyone. The best Chicago wedding DJs and bands have quality equipment, both primary and back-up, that ensures a smooth performance regardless of breakdowns.

Set a smooth wedding reception schedule (with minimal down time).

While we can’t promise that your wedding day goes off without any issues, the best Chicago DJs and bands make the wedding reception a smooth experience with minimal interruptions. This is especially true for wedding receptions where the ceremony and reception are in the same area. When planning the wedding day, try to make sure the transitions are smooth and seamless—without any interruptions in entertainment.

Find cool ways to capture the memories.

Every newlywed couple can attest to the fact that the wedding day goes by way too fast. As you plan, try to find ways to capture the memories. You can do this with social media hash tags, photo booths, and by hiring the best videographer and photographer (this guide to hiring wedding vendors can help). Be creative with your ideas, and prepare to enjoy the results!

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.

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.

wedding day planned after meeting with DJ

What is included in a wedding DJ cost?

Budgeting funds for a wedding DJ can feel like a guessing game full of questions. How much does a good wedding DJ cost? What services does a wedding DJ offer? How do I find a wedding DJ that keeps my guests on the dance floor without busting the budget?

Hiring the Right Wedding DJ

Every wedding DJ offers different services as part of the cost. At the very least, a wedding DJ should offer the basic services: equipment and a DJ. At the very most, a wedding DJ service should provide equipment, an experienced (this is important!) DJ, back-up equipment and DJ (in case of emergencies). Some DJ services also provide other entertainment as part of a package deal, such as lighting or a photo booth rental.

Choosing the right DJ and wedding DJ cost starts with setting a wedding budget. (This article from Wedding Wire can give you insight into the amount for the wedding DJ line on the budget.) The next step is to compile a list of wedding DJs to contact about services and wedding DJ cost. As you contact DJs, watch for red flags that signal they are not the right DJ for your special day. Be cautious about wedding DJs who don’t have a business address, don’t want to meet or show their equipment, or don’t return your calls.

Once you have compiled a prospective list of wedding DJs, interview each service to narrow down your options. Ask each wedding service:

  • “Are you available on our wedding DJ?”
  • “How long have you DJ’ed at weddings?”
  • “What is the cost of your services? What do those costs cover? Do you charge overtime fees?”
  • “Have you ever DJ’ed at my venue? Do you charge a travel fee for coming to my venue?”
  • “Do you have insurance? Can you provide proof of insurance?”
  • “What is your plan if your equipment breaks down or a DJ can’t make it?”
  • “Do you offer any other services or package deals?”
  • “Is dinner music provided as part of the cost? Does the DJ serve as an emcee?”
  • “Can we meet? What is the best way to contact you as we plan our wedding reception?”

In addition to an interview, research each DJ service. Check their social media sites and major wedding websites for reviews from past customers. Before signing on the dotted line, carefully review the contract fine print to ensure that the DJ is the “one” who fits your needs and your budget.

Wedding Budget Tips

  • Allocate the majority of budget funds for wedding details that make a big impact on guests, such as the venue, catering, and entertainment. While a particularly budget-busting favor may be incredibly cute, good food and an excellent wedding DJ have a bigger overall impact on guests’ experience.
  • Use a wedding budget checklist or wedding planning app to stay within budget and avoid overspending on minor details.
  • If the wedding budget is a concern, try to choose a wedding date during the off-peak season (when weddings aren’t popular) and on a day that isn’t in high demand (such as a Thursday, Friday, or Sunday).
  • Always review every vendor contractor for hidden fees, such as overtime charges by wedding DJs.
  • Ask wedding vendors if they offer additional services or package deals. Many wedding vendors offer discounts for packaged services (i.e. many wedding DJs offer discounts for music and lighting).
  • While sticking to a wedding budget is important, be cautious about always choosing the lowest cost option. The cheapest vendor is not always the best vendor for the job.
  • Carefully screen each wedding vendor. Look for red flags, such as a vendor with no business address or no communication before the big day.

wedding party celebrating at wedding reception

(Fun!) Bridal Party Entrance Ideas

The bridal party entrance is another opportunity to take your wedding dance to the next level. If you’re planning a wedding dance that’s over-the-top, these tips and ideas are a ‘must’ for an incredibly memorable bridal party entrance.  

Bridal Party Entrance Tips

Bridal Party Entrance Ideas

Plan a dance that gets everyone in on the fun.

If you have a bridal party full of dancers, ask them (don’t assume!) if they want to plan a fun bridal party entrance dance. Have each attendant pair choose their favorite dance song, then turn the songs over to the DJ to take the medley to the next level. For a bridal party that doesn’t want to stand out, ask your DJ how to create a “flash mob” effect with everyone dancing together. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you plan times when your attendants can practice so you look coordinated and polished.

Make your entrance pap-worthy.

For couples who want to make your bridal party entrance feel like a walk on the red carpet, plan an entrance flanked by the paparazzi. You can make this fun by asking friends to fill the roll (make sure you fully outfit them for full effect) or hiring entertainers for the occasion. Complete the bridal party entrance with a real red carpet and a song that would be fitting of any Hollywood style entrance.

Prop it up!

Props can be a fun addition to any bridal party entrance WITH a few caveats. Remember the non-tacky tip above. Choose props that are fun or fit with your wedding theme AND make sure your bridal party has an easy way to get rid of them. Don’t leave your DJ out of the fun. Ask the pros for song ideas that fit with bridal party entrance ideas and the props.

Make the entrance a trivia contest.

If you are a couple who loves trivia contests, make the bridal party entrance a trivia contest. Have fun with this bridal party entrance idea; choose an awesome DJ who can serve as the perfect trivia contest host and give him or her the information that makes this an unforgettable game show.

Plan the ultimate race.

Make your bridal party entrance feel like the end of a fantastic race. Have your bridal party attendants cross the finish line—and cheer you on as finish your first race as newlyweds. Get out the checkered flags and lights…this is sure to be a race that everyone’ll cheer for!

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.