When searching for a wedding DJ, in your research you are almost certainly going to run into a wide range of pricing from as low as $150 to the many-of-thousands. So why do wedding DJ prices vary so much? Well let’s break down a few things to help gain some perspective.
Searching For “The Best Deal”
As a customer, you want to find the best deal you can. It’s instinct. It’s bread into our DNA to bargain. For instance, if you were shopping around for a HDTV you would research around for bargains, naturally applying some basic criteria, but in the end trying to find “the best deal.”
A lot of wedding couples can fall into this same cycle when searching for their wedding DJ. Some treat it as simply looking for the best price, sometimes they see an article or two on the amazing bargain someone found. But when you peel back the layers and see what the end result is with these choices they seldom pan out into a quality experience. The wedding DJ, along with other services, are not a commodity. They put forth years of knowledge and dedication to their craft. So instead of defaulting to the question of price, the most important thing to ask in this moment is “will this DJ make this a night truly remarkable.”
The Misconception Of “Hours”
Now there is some confusion when it comes to choosing a wedding DJ because many brides and grooms initially ask the question “how much and how many hours”? When thinking of hours, what you will typically find, including myself are the hours of performance. This does not fully encapsulate what a quality wedding DJ will provide for you. The quality wedding DJ will consult with you from day one and throughout the time till your special day, sometimes spending 15, 30, or even more hours on your event alone. I have a pretty interesting breakdown of it all on my article What Does A DJ Actually Do At A Wedding but rest assured there is more than the 4, 5, 6 or more hours you have booked for you wedding day.
Equipment & Investment
Now some people will read this section and say “well who cares what a DJ spends on their business” and they are right to a point. You don’t ask a deli or a grocery story what their overhead costs are (although those are fascinating questions to ponder). But given the great discrepancies between the “Cheap DJ” and other DJs I felt it as part of my duty to inform the general public on some of the very basics of what a wedding DJ needs to invest in to maintain a high quality level of service for their customers. This is really a key in determining the type of wedding DJ you should hire is the amount of time and effort that they will invest in your event and their own business. Take into consideration the high cost of purchasing professional DJ equipment. Audio, playback, lighting, redundancy; they can all cost tens of thousands or even hundred of thousands of dollars.
Below is an example of what a typical “Cheap DJs” investment would look like versus what I, as a single-person-operation, personally brings to a standard 150 guest Ceremony & Reception service and this only covers providing an audio setup. This does not include your typical yearly recurring costs like music purchases and subscription services, insurance, and other operation expenses for the day.
The "Cheap DJ" Setup
- Inexpensive Laptop: $350
- Inexpensive Speakers: $500
- DJ Controller: $300
- Corded Microphone: $50
The Professional Investment
- Two Top End Laptops: $6000
- Speakers and Subwoofers: $4000
- Mixer and Backup: $3600
- Decks and Backups: $3000
- Wireless Mics and Transmitters: $5000
- Multiple External Drives: $500
- Digital Post Mixers: $1600
- Cases, Cables, Etc. $1800
A “Cheap DJ” does not take into account all these variables while a Professional DJ takes the time and effort to invest in their clients and their business to produce repeatable services and have a very successful wedding night that is free of issues and interruptions. And yes those figures are not a joke or some pie in the sky numbers. A professional DJ can spend 17x, 25x or even more than the “Cheap DJ”. It’s a requirement of serious investment in their equipment which professional DJs consistently updates their equipment to keep up with new technology trends or to retire older equipment.
One big complaint you will hear about low-cost wedding DJ services is unreliability. The DJ showed up late (or not at all), the DJ did not come prepared for the event, the DJ did not act in a professional manner, the DJ had a technical problem they could not overcome. This can ruin an event and over time these “cheap DJs” can tarnish an industry as a whole. A professional wedding DJ will give you all the assurances necessary, a contract to protect you, impeccable references, and a professional and friendly attitude from start to finish. You will never have to worry about reliability if you hire the right DJ.
Price vs. Value
This is the big one, the largest factor you should consider in choosing your wedding DJ. VALUE. If that DJ cannot over real value for your wedding then you should look elsewhere. But what is value? A great wedding DJ goes well beyond just playing music, but is in charge of the ebb and flow of the entire wedding. They will know what you want to hear and not want to hear from the planning meetings leading up to your wedding. They will know the names of your most important guests, they will establish relationships with the vendors and venue. They will know what to do when something goes not as planned and carry out a plan B, or plan C, anything to ensure your wedding is as stress free as it possibly can be. This is what sets apart the the quality wedding DJ over the rest. This is their value proposition.
The Bottom Line
So how much should you spend? Well of course only you can set your budget and expectations. For instance here in the Hudson Valley, quality entertainment averages around $2100. and in general that is a good average of quality entertainment. When you see someone advertising services well below that number they may be lacking in one or more areas that could spell trouble. Consider everything the DJ offers, how they click with your personality, and when you find the right one sign them. Many DJs like myself tend to book 9-18 months out. and in some case two years out!
Many brides and grooms interviewed after a wedding feel that the DJ was the most important element of the entire wedding. The DJ is in control of the tempo of the wedding and manages the evening with the venue and other vendors if a wedding coordinator hasn’t been hired. You can read more on what I typically do as a wedding DJ here to gain even more insight into your special day. But remember, you only get one chance to walk down the aisle, one chance at introductions, one chance to have a great night of entertainment for your wedding.
Choose value over price. Choose experience over the bottom line.
Author Biography: Lou Paris of Paris Creative
Lou Paris has been DJing since 1988 and has a deep passion for music of all styles and genres. Coincidentally Lou is also a successful 20+ year IT professional and has merged many technology concepts to ensure a successful night of entertainment. Click here to learn more about Lou's background.