Category Archives: chicago wedding entertainment

fun wedding reception dances with newlyweds

Fun Wedding Reception Dances & Tips

There are so many fun wedding reception dances and so many ways to take those dances to the next level. Best yet, there are so many ways to customize those dances and make the reception reflect your style as a couple. (Don’t forget to bring your wedding DJ into the mix when you plan out your fun wedding reception dances. They can give you ideas, help you capture those moments on camera, and make it extraordinary.)

Choreograph your wedding reception dance.

Your first dance is an opportunity to show your true personalities and your style as the couple. If you are planning a wedding with a retro theme, consider choosing a song and dance that reflects the decade. A wedding planned around a movie is the perfect chance to dance to one of the movie songs. If you don’t have a theme, the sky’s the limit for first dances and fun wedding reception dances routines. If your fiancé isn’t into choreographed dances, ask your parent to get in on the fun.

Practice, practice, practice.

If a choreographed dance isn’t your thing, or you want something more traditional, consider a more classic dance and head to a local dance studio. You can choose whatever dance fits you, and wow everyone as you glide across the dance floor with a classic dance favorite. Or, for an unexpected twist on wedding reception dances, come up with a new take on a traditional dance.

Get your wedding party in on the fun.

Want to make a big statement? Ask your wedding party if they want to have fun with a choreographed (or semi-choreographed) routine. While this may take a bit more scheduling and coordinating, the result is sure to make a big impression on guests. Plus, if you get your wedding DJ in on the fun, they can make a dance feel like the event of the year.

Throw a surprise into the mix.

The unexpected can make guests howl with laughter or sit in awe (or both). It’s fun to imagine the look on your guests’ faces when an unexpected guest shows up (such as a favorite relative or celebrity) or confetti falls from the rafters. There are so many ideas for wedding reception surprises, and so many ways to customize the surprise to fit with your wedding reception theme and/or atmosphere.

Add table games for non-dancers.

A great wedding reception goes beyond fun wedding reception dances and includes everyone. Table games are a great way to include non-dancers and give guests some down-time fun when they need a break. Plus, table games can become a group activity when your wedding DJ doubles as a game show host. (Ask your wedding DJ if they have experience with table games, plus these other wedding DJ questions, when hiring them.)

Personalized trivia about the couple can leave guests in stitches, or become a conversation starter as guests compare what they know about the couple. You can also take trivia onto the dance floor with fun games like the shoe game. (Make sure you hire a DJ with the experience to lead your dance floor games.)

End your wedding reception with a bang. (Not a literal one.)

If your venue allows it, make a big bang with an awesome firework show at the end of the night. Make sure you tell your DJ so they can discreetly direct guests to the windows or outside to view the show. (Don’t forget to put out late night snacks, like flavored popcorn, cotton candy, or another themed refreshment, for guests to enjoy during the fireworks.) It’s a great send off idea, or a way to hang out with your guests after the fun wedding reception dances are over.

newlyweds dancing at wedding with chicago wedding DJ playing music

How to Book a Chicago Wedding DJ (Fast)

Need to book a Chicago wedding DJ quickly? These step-by-step instructions and tips can get you an awesome wedding DJ and reception in a hurry.

How to Book a Chicago Wedding DJ

Find an experienced wedding DJ (or DJs).

The first step to booking a Chicago wedding DJ fast is to find a good fit for your big day. This doesn’t mean you should hire the first wedding DJ you find or book the cheapest. Instead, look for an experienced wedding DJ or wedding DJ service. The latter may be a good fit for couples who need a DJ quickly because a service is more likely to have a DJ available.

Research, research, research.

You can find a local wedding DJ by asking friends or family, contacting wedding venue staff for recommendations, or doing a search online. Whatever method you choose, it’s important to research your options before you book a Chicago wedding DJ. Look for wedding DJs with experience, “extras” (like lighting and photo booths-great for couples trying to check off a lot of boxes in a short time!), back-up equipment and DJs (in case of a breakdown or emergency). Don’t forget to check Chicago wedding DJ reviews because they give you insight into other couple’s experiences.

Ask key wedding DJ questions.

Now it’s time to narrow down the list of potential wedding DJs in Chicagoland. You can do this by contacting each wedding DJ on the list and asking them questions about availability, costs (including overtime and travel fees), and whether they have back-up DJs and equipment if needed. (Find a full list of wedding DJ questions here.) Be very careful about hiring DJs who don’t have back-ups, a business address, or solid Chicago wedding DJ reviews that prove they provide quality service.

Schedule a meeting.

Now down to the final steps of how to book a Chicago wedding DJ. It’s time to schedule a meeting with the potential wedding DJ, either in-person or virtually. This is your chance to get answers to your other wedding DJ questions and to (hopefully) get asked a few key questions that shows the wedding DJ creates a custom playlist.

Review the contract.

The last step is to review the wedding DJ contract and make a deposit. When you return the contract, be sure to ask about deadlines for information and payments. You are going to need to provide the names of your wedding party, your “must play” and “do not play” list, and other key details. Don’t forget to bring your wedding DJ in on big surprises. In addition, you are also going to also need to give them the names of other wedding vendors they need to coordinate with (i.e. videographer, photographer, venue, etc.)

Tips for Hiring a Wedding DJ

  • Don’t automatically choose the cheapest DJ. The best Chicago wedding DJs often cost a bit more, but are worth it when they keep the dance floor packed—and your guests talking about your reception well after it’s over.
  • Get organized as you plan. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Create a wedding planning binder or use one of these wedding planning apps to stay on track.
  • Be wary of hiring friends or friends of friends. Many a couple has felt compelled to hire a friend’s friend or relative and has been disappointed by their service. Instead, do your research and hire an experienced professional.
  • Watch for red flags. Be cautious about hiring wedding DJs that don’t return your calls (or messages), can’t show you their equipment, and don’t have a business address. Unfortunately, many a couple has received sub-par service (or no service) from an amateur wedding DJ.

wedding dance floor with DJ after planning a Chicago wedding

How to Start Planning an Awesome Chicago Wedding

Time to start planning a Chicago wedding that is completely you? Whether your ideal big day is a huge bash or a smaller, more intimate gathering, these first steps can get you started planning the day of your dreams.

Talk to your fiancé and set key details.

The first step in wedding planning is to sit down and have a conversation with your fiancé. This is your chance to discuss key details, such as style, budget, when you want to get married, and whether you want a big or small wedding. If you have any one thing you really want at the wedding, mention it now! Most importantly, discuss whether you and your fiancé have time for wedding planning or whether you want to hire a Chicago wedding planner.

Get organized.

Even if you decide to hire a wedding planner, it’s important to get organized. During this wedding planning step, you can set a timeline so you can stay on top of planning. Fortunately, there are a ton of great wedding planning apps and printables you can use to stay on track.

Pick a date and venue.

Remember the old saying, “which came first the chicken or the egg?” The date and venue are a similar question—and either wedding planning checklist item can be completed first. Some couples like to set a date first, and narrow their list of Chicago wedding venues down to the venues that are available on that date (and can accommodate their estimated guest count). Others set a season or month, and choose the date based on their favorite Chicago’s venue availability. If the venue is incredibly in demand, you can also call the venue and choose the date based on the few they have available. The last strategy for choosing a wedding date is to call a favorite wedding vendor that you absolutely have to have—a caterer, photographer, wedding DJ, or baker—and ask about available dates.

As you choose the wedding venue, remember that this is one wedding detail that is incredibly important. The wedding venue is the backdrop for your wedding and creates an amazing first impression. Make sure you choose a Chicago wedding venue that is reputable (luckily Chicagoland is full of amazing wedding venues!) Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you ask each wedding venue these questions:

  • What dates is the venue available? OR Is the venue available on my date?
  • What is the maximum capacity of the wedding venue?
  • Does the venue hold multiple weddings or events on the same date?
  • What is the cost of the venue? What does the cost cover? When is the first deposit due?
  • Does the venue provide rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, etc.)? What is the cost of the rentals?
  • Is alcohol allowed at the venue? Does the venue provide the alcohol?
  • Does the venue provide staffing? Is a staff member going to be on-site during our wedding?
  • Does the venue carry liability insurance?
  • Is there nearby parking? Are there hotels or accommodations nearby for guests?
  • Is the venue handicap accessible?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • What dates are available for a tour?

Start checking items off your planning checklist.

There is one note of caution with this step: always do your research before hiring a vendor. Unfortunately, there are quite a few couples who have been burned by sub-par wedding vendors. When researching vendors, always ask for references and check sites like the Knot or Wedding Wire for online reviews. Never hire a wedding vendor without doing your research and interviewing the wedding vendor.

When hiring your wedding vendors, ask each vendor questions about their cancellation policies, how they prefer to communicate, and other important questions. (Ask your Chicago wedding DJ these important DJ questions.) The goal of every interview is to determine whether the wedding vendor is the “one” and reputable, and to create an ensemble of details that coordinate into a wedding atmosphere that is completely you.

Bride and groom sharing a special moment at the wedding leaning with their heads close together before their wedding dance

8 Top Chicago Wedding Planning Tips for an Amazing Wedding Day

Getting married in Chicago starts with a lengthy wedding planning process—one that it is a lot easier if you use these Chicago wedding planning tips. We’ve been part of thousands of Chicago wedding days, and here are some of the top Chicago wedding planning tips we’re passing on to you.

Don’t procrastinate.

Fortunately, Chicago is full of top-quality wedding venues and vendors. Unfortunately, many of those venues and vendors are in demand and their calendars fill up quickly. If you want the best Chicago entertainers, venues, caterers, and photographers, it’s best to start planning your wedding as soon as possible.

Professional tip: Set your wedding date first, then start contacting your must-have wedding vendors.

Talk with your fiancé before you start wedding planning.

Chicago wedding planning is a blank slate full of possibilities. If you want to narrow down those possibilities, sit down with your fiancé and discuss your wedding style, estimated guest count, budget, and any other items that are important to you.

Professional tip: Use these wedding planning tips to get an estimated guest count that you can use as you interview wedding vendors.

Choose the perfect Chicago wedding venue.

The perfect Chicago wedding venue creates a powerful first impression for guests and sets the stage for every other wedding detail. The Windy City is full of beautiful Chicago wedding venues that fit with every couple’s style: elegant, traditional, rustic, natural, and historic. When planning your wedding, choose the right wedding venue that fits your style, budget, and needs.

Professional tip: A wedding venue checklist and this list of wedding venue questions can help you narrow down your options.

Get organized.

Wedding planning comes with a long list of tasks, all of which comes with some research, follow-up, and deadlines. That’s why it’s important to choose your preferred method of wedding planning (paper or electronic) and figure out the best way to organize your research and receipts.

Professional tip: Set reminder alarms in your phone for key deadlines to stay on track with planning your Chicago wedding.

Set a wedding budget.

Discussing—and setting a wedding budget—is one of the most part of planning a wedding in Chicago. It’s important to discuss how you are going to pay for it and the total amount. From there, the total wedding planning budget should be broken down into categories, either in a wedding app or on paper. Always allocate the majority of your budget for items that play the biggest part in making your night magical (i.e. venue, food, entertainment).

Professional tip: For easier wedding planning, look for wedding vendors that offer package services (i.e. lighting and entertainment, equipment and food, etc.)

Research your vendors.

Hiring the best wedding vendors is key to a successful night. High-quality vendors not only deliver the best service, but they make the whole wedding planning process easier. To get the best vendors, ask your friends and family for recommendations and research vendors online (such as on social media and wedding websites like the Knot and Wedding Wire).

Professional tip: Watch out for amateurs that don’t have a business address or set business phone.

Don’t limit your wedding entertainment.

It’s natural to want to check off items on your long wedding planning checklist, but it’s important to make sure you have all your bases covered. This detail-oriented approach especially applies to wedding entertainment, where it’s important to have on- and off-dance floor entertainment and children’s activities.

Professional tip: Make sure you let your Chicago wedding DJ know about all your entertainment (and surprises) so they can make announcements.

Take a break from wedding planning.

Surprisingly, one of the most important wedding planning tips is to take breaks! Wedding planning can be extremely stressful, and an occasional get-away or break can be the perfect way to recharge your batteries and get you ready for tackling the next wedding planning takes on your wedding planning checklist.

scene of bride and groom just married after a smooth wedding day

10 Outdoor Wedding Entertainment Ideas for Your Chicago Wedding

Chicago summers are made for outdoor weddings, and Chicago outdoor weddings are synonymous with fun—or they can be with these outdoor wedding entertainment ideas!

Table Games

Table games are a great way to get everyone in on the fun, especially when waiting for dinner or drinks. This outdoor wedding idea is a great way to entertain guests with fun trivia facts about Chicago and the newlyweds. (Professional tip: get your Chicago wedding DJ in on the fun! As the emcee, he or she can have a lot of fun when making announcements.)

Dance Floor

Dancing is a favorite wedding reception idea, though planning a wedding dance is a bit more complicated for an outdoor wedding. You should consider permits, curfews, and any limits of volume when planning an outdoor wedding. (Contact your local municipality for more information.) No one wants their wedding reception to be broken up early! If your outdoor wedding is held at one of our wonderful Chicago venues, you may also need to rent an outdoor dance floor to protect their lawn (and your guests’ shoes).

Dance Floor Games

Dance floor games are a great way to take a wedding reception to the next level, either with a game or one of these cool wedding reception surprise ideas. A good Chicago wedding DJ can use these games to mix up the evening and even incorporate a few special details about their couple into the night’s fun.

Yard Games

Yard games are a great way to entertain guests after the ceremony or at the reception. The list of yard game ideas is endless, such as cornhole, ring toss, and yard bowling. If your wedding reception is at night, you can mix up the games with glow-in-the-dark games and cool lighting.

Photo Booth

This is an outdoor wedding entertainment idea that entertains and produces memorable mementos. A photo booth—with custom photo booth props—makes for great fun and awesome photos to enjoy for years to come!

Ale or Wine Tasting Station

A tasting station can be as sophisticated or casual as you want it to be. Your guests won’t care as they sip local (or homemade) ales or wines! If you fancy yourself a foodie, you can also customize this idea into a dessert or favorite dish tasting station.

Food Truck

This outdoor wedding entertainment idea adds a unique flavor to a wedding. Food trucks are a great way to serve the main course, dessert, or a late-night wedding course. (Don’t forget to tell your wedding DJ about this idea so they can direct people to the food truck.)

Painter/Caricature Artist

A painter adds a formal flare to a wedding, while a caricature artist can leave guests in stitches. Whatever your taste, guests’ll love to watch as the artist turns the setting or person into a piece of art.

Bubbles

Bubbles are a wonderful addition to a couple’s entrance or exit. It’s also a wonderful way to entertain children that attend your big day. Even older guests love to play with bubbles, and parents are going to love that their kids are having fun.

Craft & Coloring Table

Children love craft and coloring tables because it gives them something to do during down time. Best yet, this Chicago wedding entertainment idea comes with an endless list of children activities that kids and parents love.

wedding bride and groom surprising guests with balloons

7 Solid Tips for Organizing Your Wedding Planning

We’re not going to lie to you: planning a Chicago wedding reception comes with a long wedding planning checklist. If you want to stay on top of it, you have to get organized. These tips can help you organize all your vendors and deadlines—and even help you enjoy the process.

Talk with your fiancé before diving into wedding planning.

Knowing what you both want can make wedding planning smoother and a bit more effortless. This doesn’t mean you have to lock in every wedding detail before you start, but it does mean knowing what each of you want on your big day.

Before you start wedding planning, sit down together and ask where you want to get married, if you want a big or small wedding, what your style is, and what you both want on your big day. This is also an ideal time to set a wedding budget and discuss your finances.

Make a system.

If you want to keep track of deadlines and your checklist tasks, come up with a foolproof system at the beginning of planning your Chicago wedding reception. Your system can be a paper binder or one of these great wedding planning apps. Either way, setting a system now makes it easier to keep track of deadlines, like when you need to contact your DJ with your must play list.

Use a wedding planning checklist.

A wedding planning checklist, either on paper or in an app, is one of the most important guides—if not the most important—during wedding planning. It’s a great way to set deadlines for hiring vendors and getting do-it-yourself projects done.

Set a budget (but be realistic).

In terms of importance, the wedding budget worksheet ranks right behind the wedding planning checklist. This is your chance to set a budget for vendors and allocate money for the most important items, such as the wedding venue, food, and entertainment.

When setting a budget, be careful about setting the bar too low. Unfortunately, the saying, “you get what you pay for” often applies. Be cautious about settling for amateurs that come with a small price tag and deliver less-than-stellar service.

Ask your vendors about deadlines.

As you prepare for the fun journey of wedding planning, be incredibly careful about sticking to vendor deadlines. You can track these with a wedding app or by setting alarms in your phone. If you have friends that are managing projects, don’t forget to give them deadlines as well. Unfortunately, missed deadlines are the source of many last-minute panic attacks and headaches.

Don’t be afraid to lean on the pros you hired.

When hiring vendors, always do your research and interview every vendor (like with these Chicago wedding DJ interview questions) to ensure that they are a good fit and have the experience you need. Once you are comfortable with your decision, don’t hesitate to ask the pros you hired for assistance and guidance.

Keep at it.

Wedding organization is a marathon not a sprint. As you plan, remember to keep organizing! If you feel overwhelmed, take a break and head out for an impromptu date with your fiancé. When you’re done, you can return to your organized wedding planning and enjoy the idea of a fantastic Chicago wedding reception.

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.