Category Archives: hiring a wedding dj

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 guests dancing to wedding theme songs

How to Choose the Best Chicago Wedding DJ

Chicago is a big city with a host of wedding DJs to choose from, but not just any DJ is right for your big day! This step-by-step guide helps you narrow down your list of wedding DJs and choose the “one” that’ll keep your guests on the dance floor and create a custom wedding playlist that feels incredibly you.

Ask friends and family for recommendations for an awesome wedding DJ.

One of the easiest ways to find and choose a wedding DJ is to ask friends and family for a recommendation. It’s a bonus if you were at the wedding where the DJ played, because then you have first-hand knowledge if the DJ was any good.

There is one note of caution that comes with the ask. Every couple should be very careful about choosing wedding DJs that are a “friend of a friend…” or “my cousin…” Though the person recommending that acquaintance may be well-meaning, never hire a friend or family member without some knowledge of what you’re getting (either through online reviews or from another customer). Unfortunately, this approach can lead to hiring an amateur DJ with a one-size-fits-all playlist and amateur equipment. Or worse, a DJ with no back-up equipment or DJ that can leave you without any reception music.

Do your research.

If you don’t have a friend who can provide a wedding DJ recommendation, let Google do the search for you. Once you have a short list of the best DJs in Chicago (either from an online search or from friends), research every one of those DJs online. You can check review sites for testimonials from other couples and social media sites for videos and reviews.

As you research DJs, make sure you look for common wedding vendor red flags. Couples should always be wary of DJs that don’t have a business address for a meeting, are unwilling to show you their equipment, or can’t give you a set price for the evening. Some DJs charge on set price for a certain amount of time and charge overtime fees for any reception that runs over.

Find a DJ that checks off many boxes.

Many wedding DJs in Chicago offer services that go beyond music; if you’re looking for those extras, such as lighting or off-dance floor entertainment, you should look for a wedding DJ that can offer those services as part of a package. In addition to saving you time during wedding planning, this approach can also save you funds when you get all those services in one package (as opposed to renting them individually).

You can find out if a wedding DJ offers any other services by asking them the question (either via message or phone) as part of your initial interview:

  • “Are you available on [insert wedding date]?”
  • “How long you have been a wedding DJ?”
  • “Do you provide other services, such as…?”
  • “How much do you charge? Does the charge cover the full reception or just a set amount of hours? Is there a travel fee?”
  • “Do you offer cocktail hour or dinner music as part of your fee?”
  • “Do you carry Insurance and can you provide proof of Insurance?”
  • “How often do you contact clients?”
  • “If there is a problem, do you offer back-up equipment and DJs?”
  • “What time will you be at the wedding venue? Have you ever worked at our wedding venue before?”
  • “Do I have a say in the playlist?”
  • “What do your wedding DJs usually wear?”
  • “When can we meet?”
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

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?”

Bad Wedding DJ? Watch for these Signs of a Terrible DJ

wedding day planned after meeting with DJWhen you are in the throws of wedding planning, it can be tempting to check off items on your wedding planning checklist without doing your due diligence. You just need to type in “wedding DJs in Chicago” or “wedding DJs near me,” make a few calls, and choose the cheapest wedding DJ, right?

The truth is that choosing a wedding DJ without doing a little research can leave you with some major wedding day regrets (and some crazy unhappy guests). The internet is full of stories of weird and sub-standard DJs. (And we won’t even mention the YouTube videos! Yikes.) Don’t join the ranks of couples unhappy with their wedding DJ; be wary of these signs of a less-than-stellar DJ that is a complete wedding disappointment.

No business address

It’s okay to meet a wedding DJ at a local (and convenient) coffee shop or chat online, but beware of amateur DJs that operate out of their basement. A physical place of business signifies that a wedding DJ is established and reliable; use an address as proof that the DJ has been around for awhile—and is going to show up on your big day.

No reviews or testimonials

If you want to make sure your DJ can do an excellent job at your wedding reception, look back at their past record. An easy way to do this is to check out the wedding DJ’s reviews and testimonials on social media and review sites. Look for positive reviews from other couples; a quality and experienced DJ should have stellar reviews that back up their claims.

No back-up equipment

Don’t be shy about asking if the DJ has back-up equipment for those “just in case” situations. A good wedding DJ is proud to show you that they have state-of-the-art equipment—and back-up equipment—so they can fulfill their promise of excellent service.

No contingency plan

Wedding DJs are really cool people, but people nonetheless. As such, wedding DJs can get sick, or be unavailable due to family emergencies and circumstances beyond their control. As tempting as it might be to hire a friend or a friend of a friend, be wary of a one-man show without back-up DJs available for those emergency situations. Make sure this is one of the questions you ask the DJ before you hire them—and don’t sign on the dotted line unless you are satisfied with the answer.

Lack of Questions

Just as with any other wedding vendor, ask your DJ questions before you hire them (we’ve given you a full list of questions to ask your wedding DJ here). Be cautious about DJs that don’t return the favor; a good DJ customizes their wedding play list specifically to the couple’s favorites and not-so-favorites (use these tips to craft a wedding “do not play” list). If the DJ doesn’t ask for your preferences (such as the fact they hate country music or want tunes specific to the era of your vintage wedding), search for a wedding DJ that does—and can meet and exceed your expectations.