How To Be A Wedding DJ

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We have looked at becoming a Mobile DJ, but today we will look at specifically how to be a Wedding DJ.

Now I know you might be thinking “Isn’t a being a Wedding DJ part of a Mobile DJs job?” – and you would be right. For example, I see myself as a general Mobile DJ; I do not generally turn any work down as long as it pays the fee.

There are certain times of the year that are called as the ‘Wedding Seasons’, which is pretty much spring, summer and fall (autumn). But depending on your income requirements, having regular work year-round is better than focussing solely on one market.

That being said, weddings tend to pay more. So, let’s look at this as an option…

A Wedding DJ is a very important job, some people can find it quite stressful. The standard ‘shift’ for a wedding DJ is 7pm until midnight, or thereabouts. This is the general time for an evening reception. Usually the wedding itself takes place during the day, photos, wedding breakfast (meal), speeches and the like are all planned for the main guests – family and close friends.

In the evening, when the happy couple may invite the wider group, such as general friends and colleagues, the scene changes to more of a celebratory party. Often the cutting of the cake, the first dance and the evening buffet is left until this time.

There is normally a quieter period between these times and, if the Bride and Groom hire just one room for the entire day, the room is transformed to allow for the DJ, dancefloor, band, buffet, photobooth and any other evening entertainment.

This can be an ideal time for the DJ to arrive and set up their equipment. More often than not, the DJ will play some background music, which can be a playlist of more mellow tracks to allow people to arrive, congratulate the newlyweds, talk to friends and family and find their seats.

When the time arises, the DJ will play the first dance song, sometimes a Bride and Father-of-the-Bride song, and then into the evening disco until the end of the night.

Should a Wedding DJ talk/MC?

When thinking about how to be a Wedding DJ, there are mixed views on whether you should talk throughout the evening, and this can be discussed with the Bride and Groom in advance, but there are some points in the evening that I believe the DJ should talk, or at least make particular announcements;

Introduce yourself – Start the rapport early, let the guests know who you are, if you are taking requests, what time you are there until

  1. Introduce the Bride and Groom to the dance-floor for their first dance
  2. Announce the cutting of the cake and the throwing of the bouquet
  3. Inform the guests when the evening meal or buffet is being served and where
  4. Congratulate the Bride and Groom at least once while all the guests are there and at the end of the night
  5. Announce the last song – make sure the guests know this so they can enjoy it with the newlyweds.
  6. Call guests for their taxis or coaches
DJ Microphone

Some DJs like to talk more than this, maybe introduce certain songs, especially if they are special requests or important tracks, but I wouldn’t do this too much, and certainly not before every song!

Something you can do, as an extra feature, is introduce the bridal party back into the room, individually;

  • Bride’s parents
  • Groom’s parents
  • Maid of honour
  • Best man
  • Bridesmaids
  • Bride and Groom

This is a great way to get the general vibe of the evening up. It’s even better if each entrance is done with a special song and flashing lights.

Should I meet the Bride and Groom before the big day?

Yes, absolutely!

You cannot make a Bride (and Groom) feel more special than planning the evening with them in advance. You can either go to their own home – my personal preference as they are more likely to feel comfortable and relaxed. You can get a good feel for their personality and find out much more about them and their interests. You could also meet them at the venue if you need to discuss a particular setup or room layout. If neither of these is practical you could invite them to your home or office.

There are a number of things you will want to find out during this meeting, such as;

  • The Bride and Groom’s full name (with pronunciations)
  • Their married surname
  • A list of the bridal party, groomsmen, close family members and any other relevant guests
  • Details about the wedding day, whether it is on the same day and venue as the evening reception
  • The running plan of the evening reception
  • The venue name and address and any important information
  • Ensure the space you will have to set up is suitable, including electric points
  • Whether there is any other entertainment arranged for the evening, such as a band, fireworks, games, magician…
  • Timings: – When you are required to be set up by, when you can start setting up, what time to finish
  • Any particular announcements they would like you to make
  • What package or set up they would like, if you offer a range, along with any add-ons
  • What music they would like, and would not like playing (more on this later)

Those are just some that I thought of, but if you want to consider how to be a wedding DJ, it should get you thinking of the kinds of things you will want to ask. Remember to let them know you are available to contact with any other questions or queries they think of afterwards.

> Read: 5 Things That Should Be In Your DJ Contract <

Reassure them, let them know that you will take care of everything in your role on that evening.

If you are comfortable asking, find out if there is any provision for food and drinks for you on the night – you are there for a long time and you will otherwise have to bring something with you.

Bride and Groom

How do I create my music playlist?

This is (obviously) the most important aspect of your job as the wedding DJ. The music is what the evening is all about; it sets the mood, it (should) get people up and dancing, it brings people together and the planning of what to play and when is key.

I see the playlist as two parts; a) What the Bride, Groom and guests ask for, and b) What you will play when the requests aren’t working or have run out. Let’s cover both of these points:

  1. If you do meet the Bride and Groom beforehand make sure you find out what music they like, who their favourite artists are, what genres they like, how old they are, what music they hate or don’t want you to play. Ask if they would like to get requests and ideas from their guests in advance, so they can approve them. Find out if they are happy for you to take requests on the evening. I would always recommend using only clean, radio-edit tracks, especially for weddings with mixed ages there – let the couple know this for their peace of mind.
  2. Right from when you start compiling your music library, plan for the type of events you are doing. Start making playlists for different situations. You can always have somewhere to go if you are stuck with what to play next. Some playlist ideas are;
    • Top 40 charts
    • Every Number 1 single since 1960
    • Best-selling songs of 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010…
    • Top 100 wedding songs
    • Top Motown/disco songs
    • Top R&B songs
    • Top dance tracks
    • Top country songs
    • Top rock songs
    • Singalong songs
    • Line-dancing songs
    • End-of-the-night songs
    • Background music tracks

There are plenty of places you can get inspiration, such as YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, online music stores, compilation albums… You can suggest these same sources to your clients if they get stuck for ideas.

The more events you play, the more ideas you’ll get of what to add to your playlists.

I always have my smartphone with me and use an app called Shazam, which you can use to listen to a track, identify it and save the title and artist so when you get back home you can add it to your playlist.

For a wedding, I would expect to play about 20-30 songs an hour, so plan for that. Try to avoid getting your clients to give you every single song to play throughout the gig, especially in a specific order – your job as a DJ is to read the crowd and play the right songs at the right times. But you do want enough suggestions that you can use as a guide. Make sure you have a list of song that you must play, songs that can be played if there is time and anything that they really don’t want.

What equipment does a wedding DJ need?

Similar to the equipment of a general Mobile DJ, there is a list of things you will need to have as a Wedding DJ, and a list of nice-to-haves;

  • Playout system: Laptop and controller
  • Speakers – suitable for the size of crowd you will play to
  • Subwoofers – not essential, but worth looking into
  • Lighting
  • Stands – for your speakers and lights
  • Microphone – wireless ideally
  • Headphones
  • Table – sturdy and portable
  • Façade – to hide all your equipment
  • Extension sockets
  • Cables – lots of cables
  • Backup system

– Read: Wedding DJ Equipment Checklist –

Wedding Disco

Backup system: Set everything up in your home, as you would if you were at a venue and make a list of everything you have. Make sure everything works as it should. Practice playing to an imaginary crowd.

Look at the list of each and every item you have and figure out what would happen if any part failed or broke at a gig. Can you manage without it? If not, think about getting a duplicate, or at least an alternative. Always have more cables than you need. If you use a wireless microphone keep some spare batteries with you, get a wired microphone as a spare. Imagine you are playing in a large venue with a number of events at the same time, and the DJ next door is using the same wireless mic as you – it could be really embarrassing if their voice comes through your speakers!

Get another pair of headphones. Your back up items don’t have to be the same quality as the main kit, but it has to get you through a night if something failed on you.

What should I charge as a Wedding DJ?

In the US, the amount charged by a Wedding DJ can be anything from under $400 to over $2,000. This figure can vary for a whole range of reasons, but location can be a significant factor, so it is worth doing some local research before setting your prices.

Here’s some interesting facts for you: According to The Knot Worldwide, the average cost for a wedding in 2017 was $33,391. In the same year the national average spent on a ‘Reception DJ’ was $1,231.

What I do now is have a fixed price for a 5-hour event, finishing at or before midnight. I then have an ‘overtime’ fee, so if a usual gig is 7pm until Midnight, and a client wants me to start at 6pm, I charge the usual fee plus one hour’s overtime. You could charge more for overtime that goes into the early hours of the morning or have an overtime fee per half hour.

I include the set up and pack down with the fixed price, but you have to allow this in your personal costings.

Consider charging extra for playing at venues outside of your local area, as this will cost you more for fuel and your time.

Remember: time is money – if a client asks you to set up hours earlier than your actual DJing time, charge for that whether you have to set up and return later, or if you have to hang around. Though it could be less than if you are asked to provide music or other services throughout the whole day, but ultimately, it’s up to you.

How to be a Wedding DJ - Final Thoughts…

A Wedding DJ can be a great, rewarding and lucrative job. It can also be a lot of hard work, so it’s not for everyone. But if you market yourself right you could do weddings and nothing else.

You could even get a residency, where you play at the same venue regularly. In this situation, you are the resident DJ for one wedding venue and each booking they get, you or your company will be provided. The venue will often provide this as part of a package. It’s worth noting that you may not get the full fee you normally charge your clients, or the venue may take a commission. But on the plus side, you can get guaranteed regular work. all at one place. They may even allow you to store your equipment there!

To start off you will probably need to accept a range of events until you get established, and in that time,  you can decide if it’s the route you want to take.

These days weddings can be midweek as well as at weekends so you could have more work than you first thought.

Some Wedding DJs like to take a ‘Roadie’ or an assistant to help with the equipment, look after things while you take a bathroom break, deal with guest requests or share the work, and you can agree a suitable fee for this.

If you know a Wedding DJ, why not ask to Roadie for them, or just ask to come along to see what is involved to see if you like it? If you don’t, consider a the other types of DJ you could be.

Mike is a Mobile DJ company owner, providing entertainment services for Weddings, Birthdays and other events for over a decade.

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