This is a great and very fair question! A professional DJ should do more than just hit “play” on a playlist. The DJ is a big part of your event and it’s an important decision that might call for more than simply price shopping.
First of all, your DJ often ends up becoming your de-facto wedding planner. We have even done weddings where the bride introduced Brendan to their guest and referred to him as “their wedding planner”. Your DJ is also your MC, so they will be making all of the important announcements as the day progresses and basically have control of your entire timeline. A good DJ will consult with you on the best times to do what, and the pitfalls of poor timing/ spacing of events throughout the day. He or she will also be experienced enough to know the ideal order to conduct things like cake cutting, or photos, or calling guests to the buffet, which will maximize efficiency. Take advantage of your DJ’s expertise to help you build out a timeline that works for everyone, including your vendors.
Your DJ should also have a great mic voice, as they will be doing introductions, making announcements, and encouraging guests to party when it’s time to dance. So, they need to be able to read the energy in the room and sense when it’s time to change things up. In terms of music, they should be educated in a large range of genres to suit all ages of people in attendance. They should be willing to let the bridge and groom dictate the direction and flow of the event, and not insist on doing things their own way. They should also take requests from guests when appropriate. In terms of personality, they should be jovial, responsible, and diplomatic. Your DJ should dress professional and setup and breakdown in a calm, organized manner.
What else does your DJ do? Often DJs are responsible for bringing and setting up the audio equipment (all of the speakers) and possibly lighting as well. Setting up audio equipment requires technical savvy and knowledge of how to make the acoustics sound good in a room. There’s also a significant amount of manual labor in setting up all of the equipment and tearing it down. A variety of speaker types, wires, extension cords, and batteries along with backups are needed to make sure things flow smoothly without a hiccup. The DJ will also be putting a mic on your officiant and bringing microphones to your guests to make speeches. It’s imperative that all the microphones have fresh batteries and are in proper working order. A good DJ may have invested in wireless versions of these items, which are more convenient. If you’re having a live band, your DJ may need to know how to switch back and forth between digital music and the band.
Your DJ also has to be able to pivot and be prepared for a change of plans. If you’re having an outdoor wedding and it starts to rain, your DJ may have to hastily move all of their equipment under cover, which is a major undertaking.
A DJ may have $10,000-$20,000 invested in audio-visual equipment and lighting. They may also periodically have to buy additional cords, batteries, stands, speakers and accessories depending on the demand of each event. Some large events require renting a trailer or truck to transport the speakers and equipment, and larger more complex events may even require that your DJ hire an assistant.
The DJ is on their feet for many hours, generally arriving 3-4 hours before the event and pulling out 1-2 hours after the event is over. Keep in mind that your DJ may be working 8 hours or more. Be sure to feed them a meal and tip them at the end of the night along with the rest of your vendors (this is proper protocol for all weddings).
Hopefully this article was useful in helping you understand the value that a good DJ brings to an event. If you have any additional questions about what we can provide at Smith Event Services, please reach out to us!