Surely you've seen them in Bridal Magazines and on wedding sites.
While there's no such thing as a bad question when you're face to face with your DJ, there are some questions that are frequently repeated that don't tell you much of anything.
Let's run through them:
Have you done weddings before?
This is not going to work for you because even a first-time DJ isn't going to say “No” if they’re trying to get you to spend your hard-earned money on them.
A better question is "How many weddings have you done this year and can we contact some of your previous recent clients?"
This covers you on so many levels. With that being said, you’re opening yourself up to being contacted by their potential clients in the future, so get ready to make an email template that talks about your experience with them (hopefully it’s a great one!).
As a general rule, we don't hand out clients information, but there are many clients who have offered to talk to anyone who wants to ask about their experience with us. Some DJs will not have clients but may have reviews. Another option is to ask them to describe what THAT wedding's challenges were and how they handled them.
This is crucial because an experienced DJ makes all the difference on so many levels. Wedding DJs do a lot more than just press play, which is part of why this next questions isn't a good one:
How Long have you been DJing?
This is so fraught with loopholes that it can boggle your mind. To begin with, most DJs are single-genre DJs (one type of music). That means they’ve been playing rare-crate hip hop or psytrance for years but might not know about any of the music you actually want at your wedding.
There are plenty of DJs who got back into DJing when they wanted to make some extra money outside of their real estate job, and because they were DJs in college they’ve technically got 30 years experience (just not with modern equipment or contemporary music). Be careful with this one because it can give you misleading answers.
At Stylus, most of us started when we were 13-16, which means we've been DJing for 10-20 years each. We're also resident DJs which means we're even more up to date on the music than just about anybody.
A better question to ask would be “What are some of your favorite songs and artists right now.”
Why? It’s simple. If they can’t name anything that fits your vibe they might not be a good fit. You’ll also get to see how the feel about music and if they’re stuck in one genre.
You can follow this up with questions about how they usually run their weddings, because that’s almost half of what a professional DJ is doing at your event and it matters overall.
At Stylus, when we do weddings, we're making sure we're helping the couple fulfill their day, so it's not so much about how WE do weddings as it is about how we help YOU do your wedding day.
What type of equipment do you use?
This is difficult to justify but it's understandable why you would ask. This is a great question if you understand DJ equipment, otherwise you might get a lot of DJ jargon. Consider asking a photographer if they shoot on Canon or Nikon – how would you best judge their answer? In some ways, the equipment is less important than what they can do with it.
A better question to ask is ‘Can we see a photo of your set-up from a recent show? Maybe on FB or Instagram?” Then ask “Why do you use this particular set up?”
It’s not that you’re going to understand every facet of the Turntable/CDJ/Controller or JBL/QSC/Martin Audio debate but you’re going to get a sense of what their equipment allows them to do and why they chose it. Remember, there’s no wrong answer here (actually that’s not true, there are plenty of wrong answers here including ‘Can I borrow your iPod?”) If they’re using entry-level equipment then they’re probably entry level DJs and will probably be priced as such. The best follow up question here is “What do you do when something goes wrong?”.
In the Stylus SE office we actually have DJ rigs set up so you can see the equipment (and maybe take it for a test drive yourself!).
Can we come and hear you at a wedding?
If you ask this and the DJ says yes you need to consider how that would make you feel if your DJ brought prospective couples to your own wedding. I imagine at some point in the distant past it was OK, but they also used to wear purple tuxedos and lycra and there’s nothing alright about that.
We would never invite someone to your wedding because I can't honestly say that I'm giving you my full attention when I'm literally trying to get another couple to book us for their event.
A much better question to ask is: “Do you have recordings or video we could watch? Do you have any public nights where we could watch you perform?” This covers the bases pretty well.
Be warned - there are subtle dangers to this approach , and it’s also why some DJs will post mixes instead of videos, that way you can see how they're handling the music instead of focusing on other distractions in the frame.
On the Stylus Website, we've got over 60 hours of live DJ mixes and wedding recordings as well as interviews and video reviews from happy couples. You're also welcome to see us at any of our weekly residencies.
If you visit a DJ on a public night (i.e. bar/club/block party, etc…) you’re going to hear that DJ’s interpretation of the format handed to them. A good DJ knows how to play their role and if the club owner wants them to play Bassnectar or Teefli you better believe they’re going to do it even though that may not be the sound you want at your own wedding.
The trick to this one is to listen for how they’re transitioning between tracks and managing the flow of the evening. Can they combine different genres together cleanly? Do you notice the mixes or do they flow? Is there silence? Silence is bad for DJs.
What song should our First Dance be?
Ok, I’ll admit, I could probably pick several great first dance songs for you to consider once I got to know you much better, but a consultation is like a first date - you don’t ask what to name the baby. This is a very personal choice and, while we're happy to help come up with ideas, you should pick this yourselves.
A much better question is tastefully simple: “What do you think makes for a great first dance?” This allows you to gauge a thousand things from their response including “how much have they been paying attention” and “do they know anything about music?” The best answer to this question from the DJ is “Well, that depends…” and then following it up with concrete, reality-based opinions.
How many songs do you have?
On the face of it this might seem like a valid question, the problem is that you have no real way of judging this correctly. The Library of Congress has 90,000 songs but none of them are going to be floor-fillers. Conversely, if your DJ has too few (10,000 or less) they’re probably missing some big chunks of tunage but the vast majority are going to be songs you’ll probably want to hear. A good dance party will cruise through between 15-30 songs an hour or so (sometimes more depending on your format). Meaning that a 4 hour dance party may only have 60 song at a bare minimum, or up to 200 if they’re flying through at the end of each chorus. It isn’t that you need 80,000 songs to crush that party, the questions is do they have the resources and knowledge to respond to the particular moments developing at your reception.
In general, we recommend skipping this question entirely – it’s misleading and easy to lie about. Instead, ask about how they organize their music and what their favorite go-to floor fillers are. This also makes a great segue into how they can get the crowd involved. Professionals will have a variety of organizational tactics and will happily share them with you.
Do you take requests?
The reason this question is troublesome is because THEY’D BETTER take your requests. The real question isn't whether they take requests, it's HOW they take requests. Some DJs will play anything a guest asks for, others will work it in when it feels appropriate (and it may never feel appropriate). Your DJ is going to be your final line of defense against inappropriate song requests, so understanding their thought process will help you decide whether to work with them.
You can nip this one in the bud by asking them for some ideas about how they’d warm up or follow certain key songs you’re looking for. It’s not that you’re going to legally hold them to these mixes, it’s just going to help you get a sense of where their heads are at. If you like Drake and they’re following it up with Glen Miller they’re either cutting-edge or off their rocker, hopefully you’ve asked enough questions at this point to get a sense of that.
Other Djs are uncomfortable outside of what they know so they’ll be less likely to be able to handle an esoteric request or respond appropriately.
At Stylus, whether or not we take guest requests is entirely up to you and we're well versed on how to handle inappropriate or denied requests in a way that makes sure your guests don't feel like we're not taking them seriously.
How many performances will you do that day?
Some DJs can stay fresh and thrive over long shifts (you know they’re in demand!), while others can barely maintain through one event. This is a bit of a misleading questions. You should be asking “What happens if we want to add more time to our event?” Pros will dedicate themselves to your event and make sure you get exactly what you’re asking for. Bear in mind, adding time at the event is usually more expensive than adding it in advance – so plan ahead!
There are some unexpected and relevant questions you can ask your DJ. Let’s start with the ones we haven’t covered:
Will you also be my Emcee?
There are some DJs out there who won't talk on the microphone, others will have a partner who's making your announcements. Your professional DJ will guide you and your guests through the whole evening smoothly and without upsetting anyone. Your Stylus DJ is also your emcee and wedding entertainment director. We've got you covered.
What’s your back-up Plan?
Sometimes things go wrong, how do we fix it? At Stylus, we're usually the ones fixing problems, but we're happy to tell you what our layers of back-up are and how we've handled difficult situations at events. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that there's no reset button, and how you handle it moving forward requires quick wits, self-assurance, and great tunes.
Have you been to my Venue before?
This is a great question, although the answer doesn’t have to be yes. This just leads into the discussion about how your professional DJ will be knowledgeable and prepared in time for your wedding. I've been to scores of venues that I'm not very familiar with, the difference was I did my homework and, where possible, did a site visit in advance. If I can't do a site visit I'll get pictures, diagrams, and specific instructions from direct contact with the coordinator, venue rep, and the clients themselves.
How do you prepare for your events?
The answer should encompass months of communication, planning and intensive preparation immediately before your event (you should read that as a week or two out, not the night before). This should also be where your DJ walks you through everything you’ll need to do to make sure they deliver the event you’re looking for. Lots of pros will have an online form (or 4) they’ll want you to fill out, others may still do it old-school with a pen and paper. Either way is just fine as long as the details are clear and understood.
Our planning process starts the moment you contact us. We're taking notes, preparing ideas, and getting you ready to have a great time. This involves phone calls, emails, in-person meetings, and communication with your other vendors to ensure we're the most prepared vendor in the room.
What’s included and are there any extras that we might need?
Some DJs start with a low price then add on the extra hours or services based on your needs. Others may throw in a bunch of extras to help win you over (or to overcome a deficiency elsewhere). The professional you want to work with makes this very clear and transparent. Some fantastic DJs don’t do any extras, others will have a bunch. Equipment doesn’t make the DJ but someone who’s been paying attention to you will be able to offer some informed opinions.
Stylus' wedding packages include everything you need for a great event, but every client is different and we're honored to help you make it happen.
Will You Be My DJ?
Some less than scrupulous DJ companies (not naming any names!!!) will bait and switch you. The only compelling reason to switch your DJ would be for the same reasons you might postpone your wedding date (anything that might land you at the hospital). If not, meet your DJ and make sure you’re compatible. Personality accounts for a lot in this line of work. At Stylus, we've never missed an event or made a switch, although we have back-up plans just in case of something extreme.
What makes you different/special/ a unique and beautiful snowflake?
There's no right answer to this, its really just for you to get a sense of what they're emphasizing. Stylus SE was founded on quality, skill, and professionalism. Others may focus on price point, celebrity status, gadgets/add-ons or something else entirely.
For Stylus' Marquee DJs, the answer is simply skill, professionalism, & raw dance party power.
Will there be any breaks or silence?
Bands take breaks because, with that many people, it can be hard to keep everyone going for an extended session. Most DJs won't have a break in the music even if they need a break to run to the restroom or get a glass of water. If they are taking a break, ask them how music will be played when they're away.
Is your music edited?
I feel embarrassed that we even have to include this one, but there are some people out there who think your wedding is deserving of the audio equivalent of a high school locker room. It’s not. You don’t want Grandma having a heart attack because your DJ dropped the unedited version or I’m On A Boat or Greased Lighting (which is a dirty, dirty, dirty song).
Radio Edits are the way to go, usually edited for language (not content) and it’s the fine balance between Chris Rock and Kidz Bop.
What’s in the contract and how do we pay you?
Is there a schedule? Since wedding work is sometimes feast and famine, some professionals have a payment schedule in place to make sure everything is running smoothly throughout the year. A professional will also present you with a contract that legally obligates them (and you) to perform (and pay) for services rendered. Make sure it details what services they’ll provide, start & end times, and anything else (like power or a table) they might need to be successful at your event.
What’s your mic style and level of interaction?
Photographers will tell you that interaction is the single most important element of what makes a great DJ. That doesn’t mean they’re out front the whole time, but it does mean they know how to use the tools they have to get the results they want. Some DJs can guide your guests with limited mic work, others really work to get your guests engaged or will help create special moments. The real test of this is going to be talking to talking to them. You’re going to be listening to them all night – make sure you like what they're doing to ensure it’s what you want. I love it when clients talk about what they DIDN'T like at a previous event they went to, that helps us narrow down exactly what they're going for.
Picking a DJ matters - this might be the single most important vendor choice you make about the entire event. You'll spend 4-10 times longer at your reception than you do at your ceremony and it's certainly where the most memories are formed.
Do your homework, check out their credentials, and don't forget to ask away (as long as it's the right questions!).
Don't forget to call us at 919-346-4669 if you have any questions