Questions to ask your wedding DJ before considering them

Wedding planning is tough! Hopefully it’s something that you only have to do once in your life so the pressure to make it perfect can be overwhelming. Unless you are a professional wedding attendee, odds are good you don’t go to many, and the ones you go to, you haven’t paid much attention to what goes into it. I am going to try to make things a little easier when it comes to hiring your DJ by giving you a list of questions that you should be asking your DJ before considering them. I “borrowed” these questions from other sites and put them in one place for you. I will also give you my answers to those questions so you can compare when you talk to other DJ’s.
Top Questions to Ask a Wedding DJ
These are the most important questions to ask any professional disc jockey you are considering for your wedding, and will help you accurately gauge the professionalism, reliability, and honesty of any wedding DJ you are considering. This list of questions will certainly help you once you reach the DJ interview process, but doing some research beforehand will help you determine whether certain wedding DJs are even worth interviewing.  Good luck in your search! MY answers to these questions are below the question. 
1. Do you offer a written contract?
A written, legal contract is one of the first indicators of whether a DJ is professional and reliable. Furthermore, a contract establishes the DJ’s obligation to the client and outlines what is required for the DJ’s success, by outlining his setup requirements and other factors related to his performance. For this reason, I feel, a written contract is absolutely essential and any DJ not using a written contract should not be considered for a wedding reception.
                        Answer: All events require a written contract to secure the date.
2. Will you be the DJ at our wedding?
Often, the person you speak with is not the person who will be your DJ on your wedding day. This is a very common practice among large agencies. It is absolutely paramount that you have an opportunity to interview, in person, the specific DJ that you will be working with and determine whether you feel comfortable with them. You should also expect that the individual DJ’s name is specified on your contract – it is the only way you can be guaranteed his or her services at your wedding.
                        Answer: I will most certainly be the only DJ that I trust to perform under my name.
3. Have you ever DJ’ed under a different name?
As a DJ sometimes its fun to come up with a clever name based on your personality, name, nickname or whatever. For example my friend was a DJ with the last name Shugars, and his “DJ name” was DJ Shuga. With unprofessional DJ’s a lot of times they will “rename” themselves to not drag along previous bad reputations.
                        Answer: I have worked for other companies before forming Prestige Worldwide Entertainment (Audio 1 Sounds, and Eclipse Audio), but I have never DJ’ed by a name other than Jerry Karns.
4. May we meet with you in person before we sign a contract?
Many wedding DJs attempt to conduct their interviews over the telephone and through email instead of meeting face-to-face with prospective clients. In my experience, there are two reasons a disc jockey would do this – either they don’t feel you are worth their time, or they have something to hide. Some DJ’s are very different in person than on the telephone and what is presented on their website, and you should insist on meeting them face-to-face so you can judge for yourself whether they are a good match for you and your wedding.  Your “gut” feeling is very important in selecting the right disc jockey, and it’s practically impossible to make this evaluation unless you are together in person.
                        Answer: I prefer to meet people face to face. It’s not always feasible due to scheduling or distance, but by all means a face to face meeting is just as important for me to make sure that you are a good match for me, as I am for you. If a face to face meeting doesn’t work for whatever reason, technology is great and something as simple as a phone call, video chat, skype  etc can be useful too.
5. How long will you hold our date for us?
When you contact a professional disc jockey, they should be willing to hold your date for you for a reasonable amount of time in order to give you a chance to meet with them. They should also give you ample time after your meeting to make a decision and give you time to interview other DJs. Some DJs will use pressure sales tactics to “hard close” you at your meeting, offering a special sale that ends that day, or claiming that another couple is meeting with them for the same date – attempting to pressure you to make a decision on the spot. Any DJ that uses these types of tactics is unprofessional and is most likely doing so in order to keep you from meeting other DJs (whom they know you’ll like more than you like them). One week is a reasonable amount of time to expect your date to be held for you following an initial meeting.
                        Answer: I will typically keep a date open until I have a contract in place. I do fill my dates up fast, and will make you aware that it’s a first come first serve business. That being said, I do give the courtesy to you that if another couple inquiries about your date, I will tell them I have to follow up with you, then typically I give a week for you to return the contract before moving forward.
6. How long have you been a DJ and how many weddings have you done?
A wedding is such an important occasion, and you don’t want your DJ’s first wedding to be your own. The number of years someone has been a DJ will give you some indication of their experience level, but some DJs only perform for a few events (and fewer weddings) each year. A DJ with half as many years in the industry may have many times as many weddings under his belt, so you should also ask how many weddings the DJ has done.
                        Answer: I have been a DJ since 1995. Weddings have become the majority of my events I DJ and I have done over 200.
7. How many weddings do you do each year?
Just like any other profession, performing for weddings requires one’s skills to be in top form. If a DJ performs for only a few weddings per year, they may not be “at the top of their game” by the time your wedding date arrives. Asking how many weddings they do per year will give you an indication of their level of commitment to your type of event.
                        Answer: the last several years I have averaged between 20-25
8. How many other types of events do you do per year?
Different DJs focus on different types of events – some consider themselves a “jack of all trades” and claim expertise in all types of events, and others are specialists. The ratio between the number of weddings a DJ performs for and the amount of other, non-wedding events they do will tell you where their focus lies. If you are looking for a “low-key” wedding DJ and someone you meet with does mostly school dances or Bar Mitzvahs, they may not be very focused on the type of sophisticated presentation you want for your wedding.
                        Answer:  I typically do 10-15 “other” gigs a year.
9. Do you perform for more than one event in a day?
Some DJs will do as many events as they possibly can, and often try to pack their weekends with all types of DJ work. If a disc jockey has already done an event in the afternoon before your wedding, they will likely be physically exhausted by the latter half of your wedding, which is exactly when they need to be the most alert and active. This is most common at large agencies, where “weekend warriors” may perform at four to six events over a three-day period. It is hard to believe that any DJ could give that many couples an adequate amount of attention leading up to, and on, their wedding day.
                        Answer: Once a wedding is booked with me (signed contract in place) that date is taken off my calendar. Events such as graduation parties, birthday parties etc. I have booked more than one in the same day because they don’t require the same level of preparation and attention that a wedding would.
10. What makes you different from your competitors?
Any professional wedding disc jockey will take pride in their work, and be able to answer this question honestly and communicate the things that make their services unique.
                        Answer: My goal is to include every person who attends your wedding reception in the festivities. I am not simply a DJ who sits behind the mixer and plays music with the occasional announcement. I do my best to make every event interactive and fun for everybody in attendance.
11. Have you played at our reception site before?
Wedding experience is important, and so is familiarity with your reception site. Every site poses different challenges – different load-in and security procedures, different room sizes and configurations, different acoustics, etc.  Hiring a DJ that is familiar with your site will give you peace of mind that you won’t have any surprises on your wedding day. Obviously, even the best DJs can’t have performed at every site in the area (since there are hundreds available in any area).
                        Answer: Where are you getting married? I plan accordingly to give myself plenty of time to setup and game plan before my contracted start time-especially if I am not familiar with the venue.
12. Do you act as the “emcee” and make all of the announcements?
Any professional wedding disc jockey should be comfortable with making announcements and serving as the emcee for the wedding, it is a standard part of the job. Some DJs, however, are not comfortable with this and prefer to pass these duties on to someone else, such as a site manager, who may not have a professional voice or experience speaking on a microphone.
                        Answer: I am very comfortable on the microphone and actually prefer to be the person making announcements and making sure everything runs smoothly
13. How would you define your “style” when making announcements?
This is an extremely important question to ask because it will tell you whether or not the DJ is the right match for your guests and the atmosphere you’re trying to create. If you are planning an elegant, understated wedding, then utilizing the services of a “party motivator” or “entertainer DJ” may not be what you are looking for. If you know your guests will need a lot of encouragement to dance, then hiring someone who flatly refuses to make announcements probably isn’t the best idea either.
                        Answer: I believe my “style” is adapted to the situation. When we sit down to discuss details and come up with a timeline for your reception that is what we can talk about. I can accommodate whatever you would like to have happen.
14. What do you do to motivate the crowd if nobody is dancing?
Different wedding disc jockeys handle this situation in very different ways – some opt to use the microphone to try to “energize” your guests and motivate them to dance. Others would never do something like this and prefer to use careful song selection to ensure dance floor success. You need to know what the DJ would do in this situation, and determine if that is the way you would like the situation handled.
                        Answer: As a DJ with over 20 years of experience, there are various ways to entice dancing, either through song selection, crowd interaction “games” or activities. A professional DJ shouldn’t have to rely on just one method, but rather should have an arsenal of “tricks” up their sleeves.
15. What if something happens to you and you can’t make it to the wedding?
Despite meticulous planning and preparation, accidents do happen. If the DJ is injured or otherwise unable to perform on your wedding day, what is the backup plan? Most responsible professionals have some sort of backup strategy should this situation ever arise, but others do not. Often, DJs will be members of a local DJ association, and network with other DJs who could possibly provide backup services for them in the event of an emergency. Others take this planning more seriously and reserve a specific DJ for every date, ensuring that backup is both available and prepared in case of an emergency.  You need to feel comfortable that you will still have a qualified, prepared DJ on your wedding day, regardless of the circumstances, so the answer to this question is very important.
                        Answer: I have a working relationship with a series of professional DJ’s in the area that I would ensure be able to help out in an emergency, just as I would for them if available. That being said, I haven’t ever missed a gig for any reason.
16. Will we meet again before the wedding?
Just as some DJs will prefer not to meet you when you book them, others will prefer to conduct a “final meeting” in the weeks before your wedding over the telephone instead of in person. While having a face-to-face meeting for the final meeting is arguably less important than meeting personally for an initial interview, the DJ should still be willing to meet you in person for a second time if that’s what you prefer.
                        Answer: I prefer to meet before the wedding. This is a great opportunity to build our timeline of events, know what expectations are, and make sure everybody is on the same page so we don’t have to scramble for anything on the day of your reception.
17. Can we visit you at a performance?
Hopefully the answer to this question is “no.” We’re sure that you wouldn’t appreciate the DJ inviting prospective clients to your wedding to see him in action. A professional DJ should be willing to take a stand for his clients’ privacy and not offer this as a possibility.  Professional wedding DJs never allow this.
Answer: No, sorry. I have video’s and photo’s available from previous weddings (Click here for the video gallery), but as stated above, you wouldn’t want me to bring somebody to your wedding.
18. May we speak to your references?
Speaking to a wedding DJ’s former clients is a great way to get a feel for what it is like to work with them, and any DJ should be ready and willing to allow you to speak with their references. He should also be willing to contact several of these references in advance of providing you with their information, so that they have his permission and so you feel comfortable calling them.
                        Answer: I have a full list of references available upon request
19. How do you keep your music collection up-to-date?
The majority of professional DJs subscribe to at least one of the major music update services in order to keep their collections up-to-date. These services provide the DJ with new, radio edited music, often before it is even playing on the radio. Ask the DJ if they subscribe to any of these. The most common are Promo Only, TM Century Prime Cuts, RPM Top Hits Monthly, and ERG NuTraxx.
                        Answer: I subscribe to TM Century Prime Cuts and receive new music every week. All tracks are the latest releases from multiple genres and radio edits to keep everything wedding appropriate.
20. How involved can we be in selecting music for our event?
This is an important question to ask, because some DJs prefer to control the majority of the playlist and supplement their choices with a small handful of your specific requests. Other disc jockeys prefer to let the client choose the majority of the music, and then use their expertise to make it all work. The DJ should be accommodating of your music tastes, and you should feel comfortable with the DJ’s approach and the amount of involvement you’ll be able to have in choosing the music.
                        Answer: You can be as involved in the selection as you wish to be. My thoughts though are, if you have to give a DJ 4 pages of songs you picked out, then you hired the wrong DJ. As a professional, I am very good at judging the crowd and knowing what songs are working, and which ones aren’t and from which genres. By all means we will discuss the music for special dances, but for the rest of it, we can work together on it, but you are paying me to make sure the music is keeping everybody dancing… let me handle it so you don’t have to worry.
21. When do we need to submit our music requests and event details?
You should be given ample time to make decisions regarding your music choices and event timeline, but the DJ should also require this information far enough in advance so that he can adequately prepare for your event.
                        Answer: Along with your contract, you will be given a list of special events that you might consider for your reception (first dance, father daughter Etc) and a space to choose songs for those dances. A week to two weeks before your reception we will sit down and create a timeline of events, (what time you want to eat dinner, what time are the toast, who is toasting etc.) and you will give me that form that you filled out with specific song requests.
22. Do you take requests from our guests?
Most DJs are happy to do so, but you should also feel reasonably assured that any request they chose to play would not be something you didn’t like.
                        Answer: Request are MORE than welcome. The only thing is, I have veto power. If I don’t feel like a song is appropriate, for the atmosphere you have created, or the guests in attendance … ie. Grandparents, or 4 year old flower girls etc…. then I have the right to veto requests.
23. Can we submit a “Do Not Play” list?
Any professional DJ should be willing to honor your requests, including your request for certain songs and genres to not be used. Submitting a “Do Not Play” list will give a DJ a clear idea of your limits and your expectations for their song selection at your wedding.
                        Answer: of course
24. When do you arrive to set up for our wedding?
When dealing with sub-standard DJs, there are often issues with them being punctual and set up well in advance of your guests’ arrival. Professional DJs will always arrive at least a full hour before their scheduled start time in order to have adequate time to set up and get organized before the wedding.
                        Answer: I would rather be set up and waiting for 45 minutes to an hour, than scramble for 15 minutes. I tend to arrive an hour and a half to two hours ahead of my start time to allow adequate time for set up and trouble shooting if necessary.
25. What will you wear when you set up and break down your equipment?
This is something that is often overlooked, but can make a big difference. If your guests arrive early for the reception or stay afterward, will they see the DJ in a sweaty undershirt and gym shorts? Professional disc jockeys maintain acceptable appearance standards regardless of the situation, including setting up and breaking down their equipment.
                        Answer: When setting up depending on the season I am either in pants or shorts and a polo shirt then change into my suit once everything is set. I typically wear the same attire as I was wearing during the reception but might remove my coat and tie, and roll my sleeves up tp tear down.
26. How much of a deposit is required to secure our date?
Almost every DJ will require some sort of deposit or retainer in order to secure your date. This is for their protection and yours. The industry standard for deposits is 50%. Some DJs require far less, but this is not always a good idea. If the contract language doesn’t stipulate a specific guarantee of services and clearly outline a cancellation policy, the DJ may only legally be responsible for returning your deposit (sometimes as little as $25) in order to back out of doing your wedding. While it would certainly be considered unprofessional, there certainly isn’t any financial incentive for the DJ if he’s only forced to pay a small fee for backing out on you.
                        Answer: Because the language of the contract is worded so you and I are both equally protected, I don’t typically require one. When booking events it might be hard to come up with deposits for venues, photographers, caterers and your DJ at the same time. If for budgeting purposes and/or peace of mind on your part, a deposit certainly could be paid.
27. What is included in the cost of my event?
DJs use vastly different systems when pricing their services. Most DJs price their services a la carte, charging an hourly rate and adding charges for any additional equipment needed. Others choose to use a flat-rate pricing system and make their packages all-inclusive. You need to be clear about what a DJ is offering for the price they’ve quoted you, so you can compare their package to those of the other DJs you are interviewing.
                        Answer: My base rate covers the one on one meeting ahead of time to go over details of the reception and the first 5 hours of music for weddings and 4 hours for other events. Additional time is billed, but there are no extra charges for additional equipment or services unless clearly outlined and not part of standard equipment. I give every event my all, not an extra special experience if you pay me more.
28. How much would you charge for overtime?
Hopefully your DJ will do such a wonderful job at your wedding that you’d like to keep dancing! Be sure that the DJ’s contract outlines a specific rate for additional time at the end of the night, whether it is a set price or a pro-rated amount based on the original price.
                        Answer: Extra hours are billed at $100 an hour.
29. What do you require from us?
Every DJ will require a few things that you’ll need to provide them in order to be successful. The most common are adequate shelter, electricity, and a table for their equipment. Make sure that you understand exactly what the DJ needs from you so you can communicate those needs to your reception site and caterer.
                        Answer: All things are clearly specified in the contract.
30. Do you require a meal?
Some DJs require that they receive a meal at the wedding, and some even demand that they be fed the same food as your guests. Others do not require a meal at all, or simply accept one if you happen to offer. Again, be sure you know what the DJ’s requirements are so you can plan accordingly.
                        Answer: I would hope you would feed me (haven’t been to a wedding yet that it’s been an issue), but if you choose not to please tell me ahead of time so I can plan to bring snacks.
31. Do you take any breaks?
One of the major advantages to using a DJ instead of a band is that a DJ does not need to take breaks, outside of using the restroom and possibly eating a meal quickly in another room (if this is what your site contact or caterer requires). In any case, the DJ should assure you that there will be no break in the music at any point during the reception.
                        Answer: No… other than a quick bathroom break I am “on duty” the entire time and at no time will that mean the music stops.
32. What is your policy on alcohol or smoking during the wedding?
A professional DJ will never consume alcohol or take cigarette breaks during your wedding. If you interview a DJ and he tells you he needs a few drinks to “loosen up” while working, you should probably look for a DJ with higher standards of professionalism.
                        Answer: I enjoy an adult beverage as much as the next person, but I do not drink while working, and I am not a smoker so that isn’t an issue.
33. Do you bring backup equipment with you to the wedding?
Even the very best and most well-maintained equipment will malfunction at some point. Your DJ needs to be prepared in case this happens at your wedding. The only way you will not suffer a setback on your special day is if the DJ brings a full second sound system with them to each and every wedding. Having backup equipment in a warehouse 50 miles from your reception site won’t do much good if there is no music at your wedding for an hour.
                        Answer: Yes. I bring a full back up system with me
34. Do you have a wireless microphone?
Every professional wedding DJ should offer a wireless microphone to be used for your guests’ toasts, blessing, and any other speeches that need to be made.
                        Answer: Yes
35. Do you have a “light show”?
Some DJs also offer “party lights,” either as part of their package or as an additional service they can provide. You should find out whether the DJ plans on setting up lights for the dance floor, and whether this matches your preferences.
                        Answer: Yes I offer “Party lights” and they are provided at no additional cost. I do not however provide or offer Uplighting at this time. That is a specific lighting aspect that I feel is best suited for lighting people or even the venue itself. Some DJ’s offer uplighting and photobooths and various other add on’s… I prefer to focus my attention on the music and entertaining your guest. Not watering down my services with a lot of extra things like that.
Dates for are filling up fast, so I hope to hear from you soon. Best wishes, and please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or if I can help you in any way!
4 replies
  1. Scott
    Scott says:

    I like that you suggest to ask if they take requests from guests. I can see why this would show that they are flexible and willing to please your guests. My brother is planning is wedding with his fiance for the end of April. I’ll have to talk to him about asking this when he starts planning the music portion of it.

    • Jerry Karns - Professional DJ Bath NY
      Jerry Karns - Professional DJ Bath NY says:

      Have your brother contact me if he is still planning… I would love to DJ his wedding!

  2. Millie Hue
    Millie Hue says:

    I like that you suggested asking if they have wireless microphones because it will be useful for speeches during the event. I will share this information with my sister since she needs to hire one for her wedding. Since I will be one of those who will deliver a speech, it would perfect if they can provide microphones because my voice is too soft for everyone to hear.

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