• DJ James Stephens

Choosing the right DJ for your Wedding

Updated: Jan 2

You've chosen the venue of your dreams, the most talented cake maker, the once-in-a-lifetime outfit. Yet sometimes, choosing a DJ isn't always as straightforward.


Word of mouth can, of course, be a good way of finding a great DJ. Asking a close friend who had a good experience is a start. But what if their tastes aren't the same as yours?


Asking a close friend who had a good experience is a start. But what if their tastes aren't the same as yours?

"What music do you play" is a very common question I get. Most DJ's will respond with, "I have a huge collection spanning all decades and genres." That might be the case. But something you need to consider is whether they can actually mix the songs together! Ask if they can send you a mix they've done, so you can get an idea of what they're like. One of the main roles of a DJ is to be able to seamlessly transition from one genre to the next, keeping the dance floor buzzing all night long. One thing I offer to anyone who enquires, is a 5-song minimix - a chance for them to get an idea of how I mix songs together.


Weddings bring together a wide range of ages and tastes, so it's important you find a DJ that can cater to everyone's demands. You don't want a DJ that waits for a song to end, then just clicks "play" on the next. If that was the case, you could just put a playlist on instead!


Weddings bring together a wide range of ages and tastes, so it's important you find a DJ that can cater to everyone's demands. You don't want a DJ that waits for a song to end, then just clicks "play" on the next. If that was the case, you could just put a playlist on instead!

Most Wedding DJ's usually ask for a list of 10 to 15 must-play songs from the bride and groom, and then work around that playlist, to get a sense of your tastes. I work a little unconventionally. I actually encourage as many songs as you like! Want to send me 80 songs? That's fine! It's what makes it exciting for me - to be able to mix from one genre to the next - whilst ensuring the dance floor is busy all night long! I love all types of music. I've been fortunate enough to have DJ'd many different types of events, from RnB and Hip Hop Nights, to UK Garage Nights, Funk and Disco Nights, and even K-Pop Nights. So when I say I'm comfortable DJ'in anything, I genuinely am.


But I digress...How to choose the right DJ for your Wedding...I'd recommend getting in touch with a few of the DJ's that have been recommended to you. There's a few questions to ask: how much do you charge? What is your performance start time and end time (i.e. the time you start DJ'in, and the time you finish DJ'in)? What is the setup you are bringing? (do you have examples of previous gigs? Pictures? Videos?). Do you have any mixes I can listen to? Can you provide anything on top to make it that extra bit special (starlit dance floor, confetti cannons etc.)? Is your equipment Portable Appliance Tested (PAT)? Do you have Public Liability Insurance? (I'll touch on the last two later on). Once you've narrowed it down to two DJ's that you like, you might find that speaking to them over the phone will help you decide which one to go for.


The cost of a Wedding DJ varies massively. At the lowest end you could probably get one for £150 at a push (please don't expect much for this price). At the highest? Well, that could go into the thousands. There will be a difference of course. The setup will be vastly different. The quality of the DJ? Well, I imagine there would be a noticeable difference in MC ability, and probably their ability to mix, too. That age-old saying: you get what you pay for. Yes, that is true in the Wedding DJ market, but there are anomalies for sure (i.e. some that under-price themselves, and some that over-price themselves). Most Wedding DJ's will offer their evening party services for 4 to 5 hours. I.e. 7pm start, 12am finish. Some Wedding DJ's offer an all-day service, providing master of ceremonies and background music in the day, as well as DJ'in the evening.


The cost of a Wedding DJ varies massively. At the lowest end you could probably get one for £150 at a push (please don't expect much for this price). At the highest? Well, that could go into the thousands. There will be a difference of course.


Haven't been given any recommendations of Wedding DJ's of who to enquire with? There are a few sites such as Bark and Add To Event, where you can "request a DJ". Basically, you put your requirements in, and DJ's will get in touch with you. If you do go down this route, have a good "Google" of the DJ's that have made contact with you. Look at their Google Reviews, their Facebook reviews, their Website, and so on.


I'm going to be honest with you, the "Mobile DJ" market is saturated. There's one on every corner of every street, and they're all battling to DJ at your event. There's a big difference in quality and the services which the offer. Some DJ's specialise with certain genres, and some specialise in a particular service (take Igloo Disco, for example). This is why price plays such a big part in this industry. Some DJ's will follow the "race to the bottom" strategy (i.e. they will undercut to try and secure the booking). Just bear this in mind when you are making enquiries and looking at prices. I tend to find the "better" DJ's will remain solid with their prices. They will hardly budge on price. It's not them thinking they're above everyone, it's simply them knowing their worth. It's also a case of demand for their service. If they're getting a lot of bookings, they don't need to come down on price. It's quite an obvious point, but food for thought nonetheless.


A lot of couples will start making contact with Wedding DJ's a good year or two before they get married (i.e. at the time of booking their venue). This is the best time to enquire. It goes without saying, but the longer the leave it, the less likely they are to be available!


When you choose your venue, the venue itself will usually provide a recommended suppliers list, which contains a list of all the suppliers they work close with, such as wedding planner(s), cake makers, dress makers and evening entertainment. This is a relatively safe way of choosing a DJ because the venue have recommended them. What I would say is, still contact them and ask them those questions I talked about earlier. What if the recommended DJ doesn't "normally mix RnB and Hip Hop", your two favourite genres, for example? They might know the venue like the back of their hand, but if they can't properly mix your favourite genres, you may as well get them to set up their lights and whack a playlist on.


What if the recommended DJ doesn't "normally mix RnB and Hip Hop", your two favourite genres, for example? They might know the venue like the back of their hand, but if they can't properly mix your favourite genres, you may as well get them to set up their lights and whack a playlist on.

You don't always have to book a DJ for you Wedding. You could book a band, for example. Even better, book both! I've worked with a fantastic band called Gatsby, for a large corporate event. They performed 2 x 45 minute segments, whilst I DJ'd in-between. Guests got the best of both worlds.


Some Wedding venues will ask the DJ to provide a "PAT" Certificate, as well as proof of Public Liability Insurance. The former stands for Portable Appliance Tested. A DJ should have, at minimum, all of their equipment safety checked, and also have Public Liability Insurance cover. If a DJ has both of these, at least it's a sign that the DJ has a vested interest in best Health & Safety practice (i.e. they're not just doing it to make a bit of cash on the side). Some venues may also ask a DJ to carry out a risk assessment prior to setting up. Again, a reputable DJ will understand all of the potential risks that could arise during the party (a very obvious one being someone spilling their pint of beer over your DJ decks!)


Hidden Fees & Hidden Terms

1) If you are booking a DJ, carefully read their terms and conditions/contract before booking. It's not exactly what you want to be doing when you've got a wedding to prepare for, but if you take the time to read the contract carefully, at least you know where you stand if anything goes wrong. Most DJ's require a deposit or non-refundable booking fee upon booking. Percentage can vary from around 15-30%. The remaining amount is usually paid closer to the date of the Wedding. Most of the time the deposit is non-refundable. Best case is if your event got postponed, they'd keep the fee and just move it to another date. If your event got cancelled, most DJ's will still keep the deposit. You can view my terms here.


2) Ask the DJ to be clear who will be DJ'in your Wedding because there's quite a few bigger mobile DJ companies that use several DJ's. How do you know which DJ you want and which DJ you'll get? If a company operates like this, then they should provide you with their individual styles, and match the appropriate DJ to your preferences. Cadence Entertainment do this really well. They match the best DJ for the style you're looking for. Some couples prefer to go to a DJ because they know that's who will be DJ'in for their Wedding (like me!). There's no right or wrong, Just be clear with the company that you are booking, what you're looking for in a DJ. The last thing you want is a DJ who specialises in 80s music, turn up to your Wedding Party, which you had planned as being a night full of Bass House and banging Drum & Bass!


3) Ask the DJ when they will be arriving. Sometimes, DJ's will set up in the morning (or the day before), if the evening party is in a completely separate room. Otherwise, a well prepared DJ will allow at least 60-120 minutes to set up prior to the event start time. You may also want the party to go on past the agreed finishing time. Make sure you know the DJ's additional hourly rate prior to the event. The rate varies, but £50-£100 per additional hour seems likely. Partying past the agreed finishing time is at the discretion of the venue management and the DJ (venues have an array of strict licensing rules they must abide by).


4) Ask the DJ about how they obtain the information they need from you! What I mean by this, is the DJ you've booked should be providing you with a form/login system, which allows you to provide everything the DJ needs to know! Your music choices, First Dance, timings/logistics, special requests...the lot! From there, the DJ can then speak with you to go through everything, and make sure everything runs nice and smooth! The DJ should actively be asking you about everything about the night. It may seem like 21 questions, but it's more likely to make your party run smoother!


5) The DJ should, where necessary, be making contact with the venue. For most Weddings I DJ at I make contact with the venue to brief them on when I'll be DJ'in, and who for. I then ask any necessary questions I might need to know. Fortunately, I have DJ'd at some of the most prestigious venues in the South West, including Orchardleigh House, Bristol Musuem and Art Gallery, Clevedon Hall and Elmore Court, to name a few. Regardless of how well I know the venue, it's great to build a rapport with the venue, and to keep eachother n the loop with what's happening (timings, logistics, etc.). Communication is key, especially for a wedding!


6) If your party is going to be in a marquee, with no access to mains power, you will need a generator. The venue, marquee provider or your event planner may source this for you, but it's important that you let the DJ know if there will be no access to main power. The DJ should also let you know how much space they will need for their lighting and sound rig.


7) Some DJ's will stipulate they require food and drink during the event, especially if they're there all day. I personally don't stipulate any such requirements. But please read the T&C's carefully, as it may be written somewhere in there. When I'm DJ'in, the only time I leave my decks is to go to the toilet or if an emergency situation arises. I don't drink alcohol either. Again, it's worth checking to see if your DJ will be leaving the decks for any particular reason, during the night.


If you're unsure about anything, simply ask the DJ that you're booking, the questions you need to know! If they've got nothing to hide they'll be happy to speak with you about any concerns you have.


If you've read this far, I'd like to thank you. Simply click here to find out about a few offers I have on at the moment. It also has a contact form at the bottom for you to get in touch (if you wanted to find out more about me, or even check if I'm available for your special day!).


Here's a video of me DJ'in at Lakota Club in Bristol, at the start of this year. Currently, students love anything Disco/Funk/Soul related. Who would've thought that in the year 2020 we'd see such genres at the forefront of the club scene!



Best wishes,


DJ James Stephens (Owner & Sole DJ of Feel The Funk Disco)