Hiring a Disc Jockey

Martha Stewart Weddings, Volume 13 2000

Even the most versatile and talented band on earth could never provide the range of songs and performers that a disc jockey can. The best way to find a disc jockey is through referrals from friends who have had a good experience using one; you can also ask your wedding coordinator, caterer, photographer, florist, or banquet manager for referrals.

What to Look For
Since most disc jockeys' music libraries are huge, you will rarely find musical reasons to hire one deejay or service over another. Focus instead on credentials and references. Ask about rates; if they are considerably lower than the industry norm ($500 to $1,000 for a four-hour event), there may be a reason. If they are higher, ask for justification.

Meeting With the Deejay
Never hire a deejay you haven't met in person. This is your opportunity to assess his personality and style. Viewing a videotape of a disc jockey's work can be helpful, but you must bear in mind that what you are viewing has been edited to include only the most flattering material.

Equipment and Backup Plans
A professional disc jockey will bring professional digital equipment, not just an impressive home system. In addition to a dual-CD player to ensure continuous music and a good-quality amplifier and speakers, a disc jockey should be equipped with a wireless microphone for announcements and toasts. Make sure that the deejay has adequate backups because equipment failures, though rare, can occur.

Selecting the Music
When you meet with a disc jockey, he will generally give you a list of his most requested tracks -- often ranging from several hundred to a thousand titles -- from which you can select songs. You should also feel free to add any favorites that may not be included in his library. You can either supply them yourself or ask the deejay to purchase the CDs. At most weddings, requests from guests will be encouraged, unless you direct otherwise. But tell your disc jockey about any songs, or even genres of music, you don't want played (even if requested).

Booking the Deejay
Try to book a deejay at least six months ahead of your wedding day. You should both sign a detailed contract specifying all logistics of the reception: date, location, time (including setup time; one hour prior to the start of the event is the norm), and projected length. Other things the contract should do is stipulate price and overtime charges (with a guarantee that the disc jockey will not leave for another event if you need him to stay beyond the scheduled end of the reception); list the sound equipment the deejay will be using and specify that backup equipment and personnel are available; and indicate that the disc jockey is covered by liability insurance. It could even spell out what the disc jockey is expected to wear.

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