The Average Cost of a Wedding DJ
On average, couples spend about $600 on a DJ for their weddings, but averages are misleading. DJ prices can range from as low as $500 to upwards of $6,000 across the country. Why the large range? So much of the cost depends on where you’re getting married, your DJ’s experience, reputation, as well as the service itself. A lower-priced DJ might mean basic music streaming and little to no customization while the higher-end DJs will customize the mix and know how to keep a dance floor packed all night. Other factors that impact cost are: length of time booked, the type of equipment needed, and any additional service add-ons like ceremony, cocktail hour or even extra lighting and such.
Factors That Affect the Cost of a Wedding DJ
Let's break down what goes into the cost of a DJ and the quotes you’ll receive:
- Reputation & experience. Do they have 100s of rave reviews online or just a few? You’re going to pay more for established DJs who come highly recommended. On the other hand, if you want to give some fresh talent a chance, you may be looking at a significantly lower cost. That said, if you go with a less-experienced DJ, you run the risk of music mishaps. An experienced DJ can keep the dance floor packed all night.
- Location. Prices are usually much higher in large cities. We’re not just referring to NYC and LA. Places like Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Seattle and Denver are all popular markets. And it make sense: demand is higher and the cost of doing business (rent, freelance rates, and general cost of living means higher overhead for DJs and really any small business owner in the city).
- Time. Just like many contractors, you might get charged by the hour for your DJ. Majority of DJs will have a minimum price that you have to meet and then they’ll customize the price, depending on your event, time, and venue requirements.
- Venue size. Speaking of venue requirements, if you're hosting your wedding in a large venue or having an outdoor wedding, your DJ might have to factor in extra costs. Special equipment, extra cords, microphones, and speakers could be necessary to ensure they have your entire space covered. And, the more complicated the space, the more time they’ll have to dedicate to setup and sound check.
- Equipment. You’re not necessarily paying for the equipment, but it does factor into the price for a DJ. To that end, DJs with higher-end equipment that help to guarantee incredible sound tend to charge more.
- Distance traveled. If your wedding is out of town, your DJ needs to factor in travel costs. They may build in a per diem to their proposal or they may have you reimburse them after the fact.
- DJ service add-ons. Do you want your DJ to act as an emcee? Provide best-in-class AV? Coordinate with other vendors? What about lighting? To ensure a top-notch music experience for guests, you’re likely to need more than just the basics.
What Services Does a DJ Offer?
Your DJ's main function is of course to provide music at the reception and create a great atmosphere for guests–whatever that means for you. DJs are total pros at reading the room and working the crowd. So whether you’re looking for nice sit-down dinner music followed by an all-out dance party, or you want something more buttoned-up, the best and most experienced DJs can do it all. Beyond the music itself, you might have your DJ be the emcee, add lighting, or even a live music aspect (sometimes called a DJ-band combo).
What Equipment Does a Wedding DJ Provide?
Most DJs provide a basic sound system (be sure to do your homework as to what that means for you and your venue space!). They are likely to also include:
In addition, many DJs can offer the following add-ons:
- Pinspot lighting
- Gobo lighting
- Fog machines
- Confetti cannons
- Black lights
- Karaoke equipment
Do Wedding DJs Provide Their Own Lighting?
Many DJs offer basic lighting services as part of their packages, which usually includes uplighting (this is great for setting the mood!), spotlights, and/or a disco ball. If you're looking for more elaborate lighting, you might have to hire a separate company that specializes in event lighting. That, or your DJ can work directly with a lighting company and outsource the design on your behalf.
On the other hand, if you’re working with more of an all-inclusive wedding venue, they may have their own sound system and lighting rigs. So, that said, if your DJ doesn't include lighting or charges extra for it, but your venue does, then this could help you save on costs. Caveat: built-in venue sound systems are typically not nearly as high-end as DJ sound equipment. So if you’re concerned about that, do the legwork to understand the differences.
What Questions Should I Ask a DJ Before Hiring?
Your DJ is going to be a face at your wedding, so personality is a major factor in considering who to hire. And, if they're also emceeing, this person is basically running your party! Here are several questions that will help you ensure you can work together confidently, and that their style gels with the atmosphere you're trying to create:
- What types of music do you prefer playing? Are there any genres you don't play?
- How do you typically work with couples to create a wedding playlist? Can we make specific requests or provide a do-not-play list?
- Do you take requests from guests? If so, how does that work?
- Do you have any photos or videos of previous weddings you've worked at?
- How long will you play for? Is there a minimum number of hours you'll work?
- What are your rates? What's included in your fees?
- What equipment do you include, and what services are additional?
- Do you have experience emceeing? If not, do you typically partner with an emcee?
- Have you played at my venue before?
- Are you insured?
- What happens if you get sick or have an emergency and can't make it to our wedding?
- When will you arrive to set up?
- Is gratuity included in your rates?
How Can I Save Money on Wedding Music?
If you're opting for a DJ, you're already saving costs compared to booking a live band, which can run couples anywhere between $1,500-15,000+! But of course, if you’re on a budget, or you’re concerned about going overboard, there are still ways to save.
- Ask about package deals. Some DJs will offer a discount if you book them for other events like your engagement party or rehearsal dinner.
- Alternatively, look for DJs who offer a la carte services. If your venue offers all the sound and lighting equipment you need, it will be cheaper to hire a DJ who offers just the basics.
- Go with new talent. If you're comfortable with someone craving experience, this could save you a lot. Just know that you’re taking a chance and be prepared that the music may not be as smooth as it would be with a more experienced DJ.
- Find someone who can pull double duty as your emcee.
- Develop a shorter set. Maybe you don't need a DJ for your entire wedding day. Work with your partner to create a sweet instrumental playlist for the cocktail hour and dinner, then bring in the DJ for the evening party once your guests have had a couple of drinks!
- Let go of the extras. The simpler and more pared down, the lower the price.
- If you're getting married at an off-peak date or time, you may be able to hire a DJ who you otherwise couldn’t afford.