The question of whether or not to get a DJ for your wedding may be stressful and I completely understand your desire to save money on this service, because I’m in the same situation. After much research, it turns out:
A wedding DJ is worth it if having a packed dance floor, professional announcements of certain events (such as cake cutting), and the creation of a certain ambiance is very important to you. A DJ is also valuable if you aren’t interested or cannot be bothered with creating your own music playlist.
Not hiring a professional wedding vendor always comes with pros and cons, and how you feel about dancing, announcements, and DIY-ing your own music playlist will determine whether or not the cost of a DJ is worth it for you personally. For most people who are having a sort of “typical” dance party wedding with a larger guest list (more than 75 people), the act of hiring a DJ and putting this responsibility into the hands of a professional is most likely the right choice for you… but there are plenty of exceptions.
Here I’ll break it down and ask you to ASK YOURSELF some questions – Your answers will help you to decide whether to hire a professional DJ or not! 🙂 Good luck!
Is Flow and Ambiance Important to You?
Let me first say that I write all of this with no intention of hiring a DJ for my own wedding, because ours is going to be small and intimate (and in a backyard) and I think a playlist will do the job. But for a larger wedding with many guests, a professional DJ who can construct a beautiful atmosphere around your big day is probably worth it.
A good DJ keeps a wedding (the reception and in some instances, the ceremony as well) running smoothly, keeps guests upbeat, and lets us all how to feel in many ways. A good DJ can really make things flow well at your wedding. And it’s possibly that a relative or an amateur can do this too, but it won’t be the same as an experienced DJ.
Just think about a few of the key “ambiance” moments a DJ might make or break: A bride walking down the aisle. Maybe she’s dreamed of having a particular song play at this moment. An experienced DJ running the ceremony (some DJs work the ceremony as well as the reception) will not only play her song, but will cue up the perfect PART of that song to play as she walks down the aisle and meets her partner at the altar — and then softly and gently fade out that song. An inexperienced person running the music will start the song from the beginning, completely miss the key section that she wanted to hear, and abruptly stop the track when she reaches the altar. See the difference?
A good DJ will read the room, play the perfect upbeat song when necessary (such as during the recessional) and soft, romantic music when necessary (throughout dinner). It’s kind of like having the movie soundtrack of your life play perfectly on cue for an evening. And no amateur can do that.
Do You Want a Fun Dance Party?
This is the obvious element that most couples DO remember to carefully consider when trying to decide whether or not to hire a DJ. We’ve all been to weddings where there were long lulls of songs that didn’t inspire many people to dance, and long awkward spaces of time where weird songs were playing… and these things happen at weddings where the DJ is bad or where there is a DIY playlist going.
Of course, someone can just go up to the phone or lap top or whatever and just change the song! No big deal. But here there’s also a problem: Guests can gather and take control of your beautifully made playlist and just start playing random songs. It can be chaos without someone in charge. For some people, this is not a problem. They’re happy to let their friends pick and change the music as they please. For others, I am describing an actual nightmare situation.
SO know yourself. Are you okay with an on-again-off-again dance party? Are you cool with the playlist possibly being commandeered by the drunk wedding party? If so, maybe a playlist will do just fine.
Is it OK if Guests Miss the “Cake Cutting”?
A DJ is really more than a DJ. A good DJ often doesn’t get the respect they deserve, to be honest. A good DJ puts a lot of time and effort into choosing music that fits a particular crowd and the personalities of the people getting married.
A good DJ does research and asks questions to find out where the couple is from, what their backgrounds are… to see if some special culturally-significant pieces of music can be played at some point in the night. And they are also… the master of ceremonies, also known as a “wedding host.” Which means they tell us all what to do!
A DJ makes the important announcements throughout the evening to inform guests of what’s going on and to make sure there aren’t lulls. I have to say that I don’t LOVE that this has become a necessity for the modern wedding, and I still don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, but I understand it. What I mean is that I wish that as wedding guests (and couples), we were all MUCH more relaxed in our expectations of weddings and wedding announcements. I wish we didn’t feel like we had to follow these strict minute-by-minute timelines (and you don’t… but you’ll feel like you do) but because this is the modern expectation. SIGH, SORRY that was long-winded.
Basically, your wedding DJ will tell your guests when the speeches are happening, when to eat, sit down, when to gather for certain traditions (parent dances, first dance, cake cutting, garter and bouquet tosses), etc. If these things are important to you, it’s worth it to hire a professional DJ.
Do You Like the Idea of Making Your Own 5+ Hour Music Playlist?
And then there is the task of making your own playlist! And this is no small endeavor, my friends. A playlist that is long enough to last an entire evening of dancing isn’t easy for an amateur playlist-maker to create! It takes research and a tech skill or two. Some people DIY-ing their own playlist make sure to only play 2-3 minutes of each song (DJs almost never play a song in its entirety) and put in crossfades so that songs seamlessly flow into one another. If all of this sounds good and do-able and FUN to you, then go for it! Make your own playlist!
You’ll also have to consider that if you want special songs to be played at certain times of the night (such as a first dance), you will have to put someone in charge — maybe a relative. And you’ll have to explain all of what you want to them before the event, making them some kind of document most likely so that they know exactly what to do and when. It won’t be seamless, but it will save you a lot of money. If this isn’t a big deal for you, then a DJ probably isn’t necessary.
TIP: In the electronic RSVP, if using a wedding website, ask your guests the question “What song will get you out on the dance floor?” And then try to incorporate (the good) suggestions into your playlist! 🙂
BEWARE: Hire an EXPERIENCED DJ
An inexperienced DJ won’t be worth your cash. You may as well hire a young relative at that point or do it yourself. Only hire a DJ if that DJ has a good reputation, is experienced, and is open to working with you and meeting with you at least a couple of times before your wedding. This allows the DJ and the couple to get to know each other, and the DJ especially to get a good feel for the couples’ personalities and expectations. If a DJ won’t meet with you before the wedding or is evasive, or doesn’t come with good recommendations from someone you trust, don’t hire that DJ!