How to Hire a Wedding DJ for Your Big Day

Leave your wedding-day playlist to the pros.
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Elizabeth Ayoola
elizabeth ayoola headshot
Elizabeth Ayoola
The Knot Contributor
  • Elizabeth contributes a range of lifestyle content to The Knot.
  • She also works as a full-time writer at NerdWallet and contributing writer at ESSENCE and POPSUGAR.
  • Elizabeth has a degree in Environment, Politics, and Globalization from King's College London.
Updated May 03, 2023

Several elements come together to create an indelible wedding experience. Music is one of the main characters at a ceremony and reception and rightfully so. The right playlist can help the couple and guests express their love, joy and excitement on the day. There are different ways to incorporate music into your wedding including booking a live wedding band or hiring a DJ.

If you plan to do the latter, the process should be relatively straightforward if you give yourself enough time to plan. Here is everything you need to know about hiring a wedding DJ.

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When to Hire a Wedding DJ

Everyone takes a different approach to wedding planning, especially when it comes to urgency. While some people want everything done ahead of schedule, others live on the edge and wait until the last minute. If you plan on hiring a wedding DJ, you may want to do the former. Henry Potter, of DJ Mr. Potter Washington, DC, recommends booking at least six months in advance.

"If you have a DJ you really like I would even go out as far as one year. Those wedding dates start to fill up fast when you have a quality professional DJ," he says.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Wedding DJ?

When putting your wedding budget together, you want to include the cost of your wedding DJ. As you can imagine, the cost of a DJ can vary depending on factors like their experience, location, the equipment required. According to The Knot Real Wedding Study, the average amount couples spent $1,500 on their wedding DJ, but Jennifer Allen, a micro wedding expert at Just Elope in Dallas, Texas says it could cost anywhere between $550 to $5,000.

"Off-season DJs or DJs who work on other days than Saturday may also offer discounts," she adds.

How to Choose a Wedding DJ

Choosing a wedding DJ requires careful thought and consideration. Not everyone is capable of creating the type of atmosphere you want at your wedding. Here are some questions to ask and what to look for when hiring a wedding DJ.

Can the DJ deliver on your vision?

Potter says couples should look for someone who can deliver on their vision for their wedding day. "My job is not to be the best wedding DJ, it's to be the best DJ for your Wedding and whatever that may look like," he explains.

Before you can clearly explain what you want from a DJ at your wedding, you need to make those decisions yourself. Think about what mood you want to create, any themes you want the DJ to align with and some dominant genres you want played. You may also list out your favorite artists and songs that bring out the dopamine in you. Once you've got a clear picture, you can look for a DJ who can deliver.

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When will the DJ play?

Some people only hire a DJ for the wedding reception, but they can play at the ceremony too. Think about whether you need them to play at both and how that decision will impact the cost. Potter says the difference between a DJ playing at just the reception or playing at both could be a couple of hundred dollars. If you have your ceremony and reception at different locations, it may make sense to only have a DJ for the reception. For instance, if your wedding ceremony is being held at a house of worship, you could choose to have a local artist sing while you walk down the aisle instead of using a DJ.

Do they have wedding experience?

Just because a DJ can shut down a club or bar, it doesn't mean they're a good fit for your wedding.

"There are some significant differences and equipment requirements for wedding DJ's," says Potter. "During your wedding day you may not want someone making shout outs on the microphone like it's the club," Potter continues.

He suggests making sure the DJs you have in mind have wedding experience. You can verify by asking for references and checking reviews if they have a website.

Do they understand your culture?

Allen suggests finding a DJ who understands your culture. For instance, if you're Nigerian, you may want someone familiar with afrobeats. Likewise, if you're Latin your wedding DJ should know the top latin artists.

"You want someone who knows exactly how to keep your wedding's transitions flowing so there isn't an awkward pause," she says. "You don't want somebody who just Googles "hip hop wedding songs". You want someone who can match."

How to Hire a Wedding DJ

The first step to hiring a wedding DJ is to do your research as mentioned above. Once you've done that, you can look for a DJ who fits the bill. Create a shortlist of your top three choices, reach out and schedule a consultation. If you're not sure where to start looking for a DJ, the Knot Marketplace is a robust resource you can use to find your wedding DJ. You can search based on a wide range of genres and styles. It's also possible to start a conversation to see whether they're a good fit.

How to Coordinate With Your DJ After Booking

Now that you've booked your wedding DJ, what's next? There is still much work to do. Here are a few things that should come after the booking.

Provide the who, what and where.

Providing the DJ with key details about your wedding should be one of the first things you do after hiring them. These might seem like minor details, but they're essential to a smooth wedding day.

"You will provide them at the time of booking with the venue name, start time, arrival time, rehearsals etc.," says Allen. She adds that most of the time, this information is collected when creating your contract. Your job is to make sure those details are accurate and up-to-date.

Work together on song selection.

This will probably take the most time, but it's arguably the most important part. Potter has an organized and collaborative approach to choosing wedding songs with his clients.

"I create a spreadsheet that we share where they can update the songs for the ceremony, must-haves, don't-plays and any other info they would like to share," he says.

If you have a specific way you'd like to coordinate the songs on the day with your DJ, don't be afraid of communicating that with them.

Connect the DJ with other vendors.

Remember that a wedding is an event where many different vendors are involved in the process. Allen emphasizes the importance of connecting your wedding planner with your vendors so they're updated on things like timelines and rehearsals. This can help eliminate confusion or falling behind schedule.

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