Raleigh Wedding DJ Costs, Pricing, and What To Expect
WEDDING DJ PRICING IN RALEIGH DURHAM CHAPEL HILL NORTH CAROLINA
Every couple has got to keep an eye on their budget. Considering your entertainment is doing most of the heavy lifting for your event, what does wedding DJ pricing in Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill, or around North Carolina look like and how can you maximize your budget?
While it’s possible to find a great experience at nearly every price point, being honest about your needs can help you find the right fit.
Just like every decent wedding planner will tell you, you’re going to have to make some savvy budget choices to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. For some couples, that means investing heavily in the entertainment to make sure they’re getting their wedding day right the first time. For other couples, that means getting the cheapest wedding DJ they can find and taking on more of the work themselves.
For instance, you don’t necessarily need Raleigh’s Most Fun and Interactive DJs if you’re doing a superior 12 course dinner that will take up 98% of your event time, you can make do with a DJ who’s just doing background music that suits your vibe. At that point, a decent sound system and basic mixing and transition skills will likely cover your event just fine.
Simultaneously, if the entertainment is going to be a big part of your event (and for most weddings it’s around 75%-85% of the average North Carolina couples’ wedding day) then you might want to prioritize the entertainment higher in your budgeting.
Wedding DJ pricing has shifted more in the past 6 months than they have in the past 15 years. This is because wedding DJ pricing was artificially depressed due to a variety of fears by the service providers themselves. One ‘low-mid’ tier service provider hadn’t changed his pricing since 2004. His fees were $875 for the most ‘basic’ 4 hour event in 2004. That would be equivalent to $1,353.94 in 2022 monetary value. He only just recently considered raising his prices. When demand increased, the price increased.
Here’s a quick survey of what you might expect at different price points, as communicated by our interviews with over 30 different local Raleigh Wedding Coordinators, Planners, DJs, and entertainment directors in the Triangle:
96.6% of Coordinators said that they expected a ‘standard’ DJ to be taking care of the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception, and to cost between $2,500 and $3,500. One planner said that her couples were expecting it to be around $2,000-$2,500. Another planner suggested that, while she knew what clients were and weren’t getting at lower price points, it wasn’t her place to tell the DJs what they were charging since she felt the average DJ was underpriced anyway.
The ‘standard’ expectation for a Wedding DJ included two speakers on stands and a DJ ‘rig’ for the reception, as well as a wireless microphone for toasts and announcements, and to include ‘emceeing’ or MCing for the event as well. They felt that this was going to be a very ‘standard’ and ‘acceptable’ and ‘decent’ DJ experience. Several coordinators mentioned that they saw a difference in the dance parties based on what the DJs equipment looked and sounded like. Five (16%) of the coordinators expected this to include live mixing/transitions between tracks.
90% of coordinators expected the upper-tier experience Wedding DJs to run between $3,500 and $5,000. They expected this experience to include a nice-looking set-up, more than just ‘average’ dj lighting, uplighting, and to cover all necessary audio needs for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. They also expected it to included planning time, early set-up (as early as 3 hours prior to event start for one planner, but average of 2 hours for most), and a higher level of skill on the turntables (live mixing, great transitions, mashups) and the microphones (more interactive and engaged MCing). They also expected this DJ to work closely with them and other vendors both before and during the event. They expected this to include 10-12 total hours on the event day, including roughly 6 hours of performance and 2 hours of set-up and breakdown time on both sides of the event start/end. They estimated that this would include the top 10% of wedding DJs in the area. They also expected that this tier of service would also feature an assistant for the DJ to make sure everything would be set-up on time.
The state’s most expensive wedding DJ is in Charlotte, North Carolina and costs $6,000 for a starting package. He has over 30 years experience and is a phenomenal MC as well as a very charming and professional wedding DJ service provider.
No coordinator thought that a DJ should cost as much as a band, even if the DJ is providing a better entertainment experience. The average band cost for most coordinators was estimated between $6,000 and $15,000.
100% of coordinators expected the cheapest and most basic DJ service they’d book for an event to run between $1,500 and $2,800 (no ceremony, ‘average’ DJ/MC with ‘average’ set-up of DJ controller, two speakers, and basic 2 hour event pre-planning). They expected this service to last around 4-6 hours.
The most affordable & reliable budget-friendly DJs in Raleigh, Elite DJ Solutions, were charging $250-$300 hour for standard DJ services. They’re a great team who have streamlined the process to decrease the back-end and prep time, allowing them to keep their costs lower. Their DJs are also, in general, younger & less experienced. This can be a great option for clients who blew their budget on other elements.
The absolute cheapest DJ services in Raleigh can often be found on Craigslist or by asking a ‘friend’ to help. Every coordinator shared various stories about weddings where a ‘friend’ or a ‘cheap’ DJ backed out at the last minute, costing the couple even more headache, money, and a lot of lost time. While every coordinator suggested that they weren’t comfortable working with clients who were choosing to go that direction, they sometimes had no choice and had a lot to say about it. The interviewed experts had stories of cheap DJs who ruined weddings for some very interesting reasons. The cheapest wedding DJ option in 2019 was a DJ in Greensboro for $400-$500. He’s currently charging $2000 in 2022.
Some elements of the lower price point DJs that repeatedly came up in our interviews was the lack of equipment, lack of professionalism, or the lack of music. Several triangle-based wedding planners reflected that, since some DJs were just streaming music, being in rural venues or in areas with bad reception or wifi meant that some events ended early or had gaps in music throughout the night. Others commented on how DJs weren’t bringing microphones for the ceremony or reception, or showed up dressed inappropriately. Nearly every coordinator and wedding planner shared a story of a DJ who played inappropriate music (i.e. unedited) or embarrased the client in other ways.
Nearly 85% of the coordinators said some variation of “You get what you pay for.” The others could be far less polite in their assessment. This isn’t to suggest that you might not get lucky if you opt for a lower price point. Great talent has to start somewhere! But their personal experience reflected a sentiment was that it was a risky gamble for many couples.
Just under 99% of DJs are part-time. Very few are full time DJs. The average entry level DJ will have between 1 and 4 years of experience. Your mid-range experienced professionals are going to have between 5 and 10 years experience. Your most experienced professionals are going to have even more. Some professional DJs in Raleigh have been event experts for over 30 years! Stylus’ founder, Jason Huggins, just celebrated his 25th year (he started very young). Stylus only features experienced professionals and doesn’t feature entry-level DJs.
Basic Reception Sound System Rental, Delivery, and Set-up in Raleigh will usually run between $400-$700 depending on your supplier, equipment (i.e. how good are the speakers), and timing (i.e. if you need it delivered at a certain time or if they can drop it off when it’s convenient). This would include a DJ controller or CDJ & Mixer system (usually $150-$400), two speakers ($150-$300) and stands ($45-$80), as well as an additional $40-$75 for a wireless microphone, and $35-$50 in cables. The average delivery and set-up fee within the triangle was around $50-$125, although the pricing has been going up recently.
The average a-la-carte wedding ceremony system package runs around $500. That would include one or two small speakers (usually 10’’ or 12’’ speakers), a basic mixer, and a handheld microphone at a minimum (or a couple of lapel microphones for the more inclusive services). Many DJs are adopting over-ear microphones (think of Britney Spears) for the officiant because of the superior sound quality.
Some DJs have moved to an ‘unlimited time’ format at a higher price point ($2500-$3500) for ‘standard’ DJ services. The average ‘unlimited time’ event is estimated to be at 6.5-7.25 hours including ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception.
While the ‘standard’ or ‘basic’ DJ set-up just uses a 6’ table, there are some DJs using ‘command center’ style displays that dispense with the table or facades that cover the table. These can be great opportunities to customize your DJ’s overall presentation.
The ‘standard’ DJ lighting package will often include a ‘gig bar’ or ‘light tree’. More inclusive lighting packages may include moving-head fixtures, wash lights, black lights, light bars, intelligent lighting, uplighting, custom GOBOs or projections, or pinspot features.
More inclusive sound systems will usually feature subwoofers (recommended by nearly every DJ for most events, with some saying anything over 50-75 people depending on the situation), additional speakers for ‘near-field enhancement’ or a variety of ‘looks’ (i.e. white speakers).
To review, your most affordable and entry-level DJ options in Raleigh and the Triangle area are going to run between $1200 to $2000.
The next level up will likely feature enhanced sound & lighting options, as well as additional services like cocktail hour and ceremony. The average cost on this will run between $2500 to $3500.
The ‘top performers’ in North Carolina will run between $3500 and $6000 or even higher. These performers are bringing experience, high quality sound and lighting, and usually a team of people to help them achieve what they’re looking for.
Another growing trend is offering special effects. Some DJs have added cryo-cannons (co2 blasters), dancing on a cloud dry-ice effects, or indoor-safe cold spark machines. It’s also more common to see ‘party packs’ featuring foam light batons, glow sticks, led bracelets, and other party props.
The trend we’re most excited to see is that couples are choosing to skip many of the traditions that don’t apply to them or their group and are focusing on what really matters to them. For Stylus clients – that’s the party.
We hope this has helped put the Wedding DJ Pricing in perspective and allowed you to figure out your wedding DJ budget expectations. This was designed to reflect the Triangle wedding market (specifically Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Garner, Clayton, Morrisville, etc…) and is just a guide, since you can sometimes find a ‘diamond in the rough,’ so to speak, or excellence at nearly every price point.
The feedback the coordinators gave us during their interviews was that the lower price points often meant more work for the couple, but a lower cost that reflected in the way the event was handled. The higher price points offered more customization and engagement, but there were variations throughout. While the DJ you choose may offer things that seem familiar, others may offer more or less, so please get a sense of what you’re getting before you try to gauge value.
While there were lots of other great insights, we’ll be reflecting on those in future posts. Contact Stylus for the best wedding you’ve ever been to! We’re here to help anytime – reach out by the CONTACT US page or call us at 919-346-4669 anytime to set up an appointment with our DJ Matchmaker to make sure you have the wedding everyone can’t stop talking about!