Most couples haven't planned a wedding before - and the idea that you're supposed to know everything once you get a ring on your finger is crazy. Don't worry - we're here to help you wrap your head around what you might want to budget for your wedding. Considering the DJ's resposible for 80% of your reception - it's easily one of the best values in any part of your wedding planning. However, some budgets are tighter than others - and the questions of how you value the entertainment is something you'll need to really consider and address.
Budgeting is a crucial part of event planning - getting an idea about what your budget might get you is important to help you get a real idea of how to proceed.
DJ pricing generally breaks down into a couple of categories. Bear in mind, this is generic pricing for a 4 hour reception. Adding services or elements can get any DJ package way up. These prices are cobbled together from what I've heard over the past couple of years, and doesn't reflect every single DJ's pricing, and you may find higher performing DJs at a lower price point (rare) or lower-performing DJs at a higher price point. I've also learned that nearly every DJ will tell you they're the best.
This accounts for the vast majority of what I've seen and heard over the years - but I've seen/heard of messy set-ups and middling performances from higher-tier DJs, and decently respectable performances from basement-rate DJs. One of the things you're really playing here are the odds - for good or ill.
Finally - price points are often a reflection of how much work you'll be doing versus what your DJ is doing. A lower price point likely means you're carrying more of the respsonsibilities of your event, whereas a higher price point usually means they've got more time invested in preparing and executing your event. Lower pricing generally means more risk - higher pricing generally means less risk - but there are benefits and concerns at every tier you need to consider.
Ipod/Tablet/Streaming/Bare Bones DJ:
$0-$400 - WE NEED SOMETHING & HAVE NO BUDGET!
Not often a 'DJ' in the conventional sense - but it will certainly be music for an intended audience. You're probably looking for background music & might not be expecting a lot from your DJ. You can rent a sound system and plug in your favorite tunes or put a close friend or ally in charge of picking tunes - or maybe letting your guests hop in. MP3 players can carry a lot of music - or you can stream a playlist - but the secret to a great party is the selection - that's a big part of what you're getting with a more experienced DJ/Emcee. You may even consider hiring a pro DJ to help you design your playlist even if you're not going to have them at your event - it's amazing how flow and tone can impact your event. Plus every song on your player is mastered differently and you'll need to adjust the volume every song to make sure it's not too loud or too low. You're taking a risk in order to keep costs down - make sure you've got someone who can help you troubleshoot in case of emergency.
Craiglist DJs / 'My friend's a dj and can do the wedding':
$300-$700 - THE DJ ISN'T OUR TOP PRIORITY BUT WE CAN STILL DO IT
Usually the lowest price - but there are some pros working here too who keep their costs down by advertising on a free platform. With that being said - we get panicked calls every week from people who just found out their DJ didn't show/isn't coming. Many of the DJs in this category are single-genre DJ, which means they're comfortable with ONE TYPE OF MUSIC. Or perhaps they're first-timers who are going to use your wedding to start dipping their toes in. You're likely getting very little planning insight and you're taking a gamble so you can invest in the stuff that matters more to you than your party. Have a back-up plan in place. This is the choice for the couple that prioritizes most other things more than the DJ - they just need something. The equipment could be cobbled together, possibly mismatched, and might be too little or WAY too much. I've heard about guys showing up with small speakers and huge subs, meaning they don't have a lot of experience with how to balance the sound in a room (makes a big difference). They likely don't have insurance, a website, a business license, or much by way of flexibility, but they're ready to party as long as someone doesn't offer them more money for your date. Please make sure you get a contract. Most of the people we hear from didn't have a contract. Ask any coordinator about their DJ horror stories and they're often from this category of DJ.
New & Training DJs / "In House DJs" / Standard Lite
$600-$900: YOUR IDEAL LIMITED BUDGET CHOICE
With a reputable company they're definitely going to show up. They might not have a lot of music, experience, equipment, or back-ups, but they're looking to build their experience and you can get a decent price if you're just looking to check the DJ box. Sometimes you'll find the venue owner's son is available/required as a DJ for your event - it's easy and they know the space well. Kind of like the DJs at resorts - there's a set they do and that's what you get. The biggest complaint from other vendors about this group is that they might not know how to handle tricky situations or equipment malfunctions, and you might hear comments about the way they dress or their event dynamics might be choppy or uneven. The new DJ's inexperience might show up during the planning as well as the execution- you're less likely to get opportunities to customize but they're usually well-meaning and eager to please. This is a great budget choice if the DJ isn't something you value as much as something like the flowers, cake, linens, photographer, coordinator, ceremony musician, food truck, invitations, bachelor/bachelorette parties, ETC... Music will play, people will listen and you'll have some dancing, and you might even have a great event! Their set-ups might look rougher than most standard DJs pros though, it's something that takes time. There are also some more developed DJs in this category, they like to stay busy by keeping their costs down, and their price point makes it worth it for their preferred clients - not as much pressure - just show up and have fun. Key points here include contracts, timelines, and music choices.
Standard Wedding DJs
$850-$1300: STANDARD ON PURPOSE - EXACTLY WHAT WE WERE EXPECTING (YOUR DEFAULT BEST CHOICE)
They've got experience, pro equipment, and a DJ playlist that includes the top 200 songs you're going to probably want played at your wedding. This is the baseline for professional DJs - not necessarily a whole lot of Wow! but it's just the right fit for many couples. They're usually competent on the mic and play songs, usually one after the other, kind of like radio DJs. They're aiming for the middle so that they can avoid anything outside your comfort zone. They'll usually have a good command of all the songs you're going to want at your wedding and you're going to get some useful planning advice. They'll know how to run a wedding (it's an important skill that not everyone has!) and how to avoid making a terrible mess of things. You've got some customization & personalization here and they'll know how to handle some of the issues that can show up often at weddings. Standard set-up includes two speakers on stands, a nice looking DJ rig (controller, CDJs, turntables), usually they've cleaned up their cables and taped down everything so that your guests don't trip. They're there to 'just push play' and make sure your names are pronounced correctly. They're mostly likely going to have back-ups and solutions to handle possible event issues - there's peace of mind here. There are also some really fun DJs in this category. Manyof the DJs at the bridal shows are going to be in this range. They're accessible, competent, and generally reliable. If you found you vibed with someone and have a light budget- this is probably where you want to be.
Club DJs as Wedding DJs -
$900-$1600 : (SPECIFIC) POWER SETS - LET'S GET TO THE DANCING (YOUR IDEAL GENRE CHOICE)
There are some technically talented DJs in this category, but, as a general rule, they're going to lack in the MC and event direction categories. Don't expect a lot of planning, and another element to keep an eye on is they might not have 'clean' edits of songs and are more likely to dress in a club friendly style. My only caveat at this level is don't expect too much more than powerful DJ set and make sure they understand that they need to show up early to set-up since most club DJs aren't regular event pros. They're more likely to need more input from your other vendors to make sure they know what to do - but there are some real gems in this category - they're just really hard to come by. This can be a real win if you REALLY like a specific genre, maybe something clubby, or something Trap, Hyphy, or Techno/House. With some of them, you might not be able to expect a lot of songs your parents will know &, as I've often seen, their turntables/controllers will generally be fancier equipment but they are more likely to have them set up messily and their sound systems are often going to be older, rented, or borrowed.. You're also more likely to have mispronunciantions in this range than the standard wedding DJ, since thye're not practiced event MCs in the usual sense - but you're going to have a lot of power under the hood so it might be a good trade off if that's what you're going for. They're not going to have much by way of back-ups, so you're probably going to want to make sure they have a plan if anything goes wrong. The other element to keep in mind is that many of these DJs might not have a back-up in case they get sick or their backup is a club DJ with even less experience. Finally, you're probably getting what you're looking for - the set the DJ wants to play - give them the freedom to do what they do best.
Top Local Wedding Pros:
$1500-$2500: THE EVENT WE WERE LOOKING FOR (MY BEST WEDDING CHOICE)
This is the group you can be really comfortable with in almost every situation. You're going to get a solid showing on the MCing, DJing, Event Direction, and Planning. The music will be customized and appropriate for every situation. They're going to be right in everyone's wheelhouse and you're going to get great feedback from your guests about your choice. Great planning help, top notch execution, clean looking systems & cord management, and lots of opportunities to personalize your event. Even here you'll see a wide range of styles - and it's really important that you like your DJ's overall approach to your event. They're the director of the most expensive event you'll ever put on. The biggest complaints about this group are varied because it's very individual and not reflective of the category as a whole. You've got some great options and are going to be able to find something that works for you. This is the baseline I chose for my own wedding when we were on a really tight budget of less than $10,000 because I knew that the DJ makes more of an impact than anything else I chose.I chose this instead of a fancy dinner, invitation, cake or flowers since those things didn't engage my guests as long.
Wedding DJ Best of the Best:
$2000-$6000: WE'RE CREATING THE BEST WEDDING THEY'VE EVER BEEN TO
These are the DJs who are doing far more than just pushing play. They can be part of company or on their own. Just like certain restaurants and venues know what they have is great - there's a premium on the experience. More engagement, personalization, music opportunties, and elements that highlight you and your guests engaging together. There's a lot of variation in set-ups, but they'll all look amazing and everything will be safely secured and clean. They are usually insured, have great reviews, and can offer lots of great ideas for how you can develop your event dynamics. Your guests will be more than impressed because the DJ knows how to make it happen for you. They don't get to that level with their secret sauce. There are a few DJs who are operating at this level - this is the top tier in the region. If you're doing something REALLY DIFFERENT - then this is probably where you want to be. The biggest issues I've heard about at this level are managing extended set-up & tear down times (i.e. you can't tear down a big event in 30 minutes), and a slightly higher catering need since they're often bringing an assistant or two. Also, some of the highest paid DJs in this category don't mix a single song. Seriously. They mix like a standard DJ but their level of service is through the roof, which means they're earning their higher fee in different ways. In some cases you can expect more of a production, although having expensive equipment is sometimes seen as a substitute for skill and experience - it's not. While equipment matters, it's not what they're playing on that determines what the experience is - it's how they use it to deliver a great event. But, they're generally going to be using gear that costs 2-10 times what budget DJs are using.
$5,000-$2,000,000: REMEMBER WHEN WE...
You'll need to get your equipment rented, delivered, and set-up and make sure you read the rider carefully. For the love of everything good in the world please get a professional event planning company - something like this requires way more than you think. This is when you just HAD to have the DJ who made the track you danced to the night you met. Find out how many extra people they're bringing and double check. Have a back-up plan in place in case flights get delayed. Be prepared for a crazy story. Calvin Harris was 2 Million for a private event a few years ago - it may be even higher now.