First time hiring a DJ
So you just got engaged. Congratulations! You have set a date for your Seattle area wedding. Maybe it’s a Saturday in the middle of summer. You realize that is peak season so you expect to pay a bit more. You book a venue, it’s a lot of money, but you get it. Someone had to buy, build and maintain this space. You hire a photographer, again it’s a lot, but they have a big expensive camera and will spend a lot of time editing images after the wedding. The caterer you lock down is charging more than you could get the same meal for at a restaurant. Still you get that they need to create potentially hundreds of meals in a short period of time and that sounds very difficult.
Then you start getting quotes for the DJ. “How can they justify charging that much to just play music?”. “Maybe I’ll just just play a Spotify playlist through a speaker”. “Is there really much of a difference between the cheap and expensive DJs?”
If you are truly doing a full DIY wedding maybe an iPhone DJ will work. Maybe your parents are making the food. A cousin who is taking a photography course and owns a nice Cannon camera will do the photos. The whole thing will take place in a backyard or a public park. Your wedding sounds fun. I would love to be invited! With this arrangement borrowing a Bose speaker from your uncle and hooking up an iPhone makes sense. You are doing what makes works for your budget and priorities.
The DJs at the very bottom of the price scale, a beginner or someone with very cheap equipment, they should be a step up from a DIY setup, right? The pitfalls of someone operating at an unsustainable cost, maybe this is a hobby for them, is that they have cuts corners to get to that price and the results could negatively impact your wedding.
Your officiant’s mic cutting out, horrible feedback during speeches, awkward emcee announcements, saying the wrong names, playing the wrong songs, ugly setup, not actually mixing the songs, showing up late… there are a lot of things that could be a disappointment or even ruin the day.
The wedding experience
Maybe you envision your wedding day differently. You want to fill a large venue with all your best friends and family members. Hope they all experience the full emotional impact of the wedding ceremony. Expect stunning photos of your favorite people looking incredible. Want to treat them all to an enchanting day. Are excited to treat these fine people to the most delicious food and beverages.
You want them to dance hard all night. Dance until their feet hurt. Your arms around your best friend belting out your favorite songs. A party to remember forever. You need to hire a true professional.
In the Seattle area there can be a vast range of prices quoted for wedding DJs. They can go from $500 to $4000 and well beyond depending on how elaborate the lighting and staging is. Most couples have never hired a DJ before and it can be confusing as to what you are getting for the amounts quoted. It can be tempting to go cheap on the DJ and save some money. I’ll lay out in detail what that extra money gets you.
Most importantly your wedding music should sound fantastic. You can buy speaker for any price. At Flux VJ our speakers cost about $800 each and we will be bringing 3 to 6 speakers to your wedding depending on your layout and guest numbers. They sound a lot better than speakers that are a quarter the price.
Ceremony sound is so important. Do you want your officiant or your vows to be carried over a $30 wireless mic your DJ grabbed off Amazon? A professional will have Shure brand mics or similar, costing thousands to cover the live audio of your ceremony and reception.
Dance Floor lighting
A cheap DJ might not supply dance floor lights or use cheap party light or laser lights. These might make your dance floor look like a kiddie dance party. Photographers hate lazer light effects. That key photo might be ruined but weird light fragments on the subjects face. Our lighting setup has evolved to a sophisticated look with moving head fixtures that cost close to a thousand dollars each.
You don’t want a cheap looking DJ setup scuzzing up your beautifully decorated wedding space. A good mobile DJ will have purchased a quality setup that will fit elegantly in your space. Personally I DJ with a super reliable Macbook Pro and a backup laptop. There are lots of other little professional equipment expenses that add up. A DJ mixer, sound board, professional audio cables, battery gear for outdoor ceremonies, a well dressed DJ etc.,
Your DJs time
Any day I DJ a wedding I’m pretty much giving up the entire day to that event. Let’s say a wedding starts at 4pm. I will get to the venue at 1pm at latest to set up. If the venue is 2 hours away, perhaps I’m taking a ferry, at latest I’m leaving at 11am, I’ll spend 2 hours checking and loading gear and getting myself ready before that. If the wedding wraps at 11pm, it can take and hour to break down, then another 90 minutes to get home and 30 minutes to unpack. That is a 17 hour day for a 7 hour wedding.
That doesn’t include all the time I spent communicating with the couple, in person consultation, doing paperwork, planning their music, creating photo montages, organizing music and other tasks.
A DJ needs to purchase all the music played. These may be original versions or more likely it’s specialized DJ versions. These aren’t necessarily remixes but versions that facilitate smooth mixing and consistent energy.
You DJ’s business should be insured. This shows professionalism and offers a level of protection to you and the venue.
Featured profiles on Wedding Wire and the The Knot range from $130 to $500 a month. Yelp ads are about $300 a month. Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram ads can add up to a few hundred per month. Sites like Thumbtack charge about $30 to the vendor for each lead. Having a booth at a large wedding shows costs range in the thousands.
A DJ needs to transport all that gear to your venue and more elaborate setups won’t fit in a car. On top of that there is the cost of gas, tolls, ferry charges, parking costs (I’ve paid up to $30+ in Seattle) and wear and tear on the vehicle.
For the DJ business to be available for that Saturday summer wedding the business needs to survive the rest of the year. There are times when full price bookings aren’t easy to come by to off-nights, off-season months, recessions and pandemics.
You are also hiring a lifetime of knowledge. To stay relevant a DJ will need to attend industry conferences, other DJ events and emcee training. They’ll also buy courses and books to add to their know-how.
We are lucky to live in such a prosperous city. Still those living expenses apply to small businesses too. The higher costs of living need to be reflected in business fees.
Hire an expert
I hope this was informative and that you understand more about the charges of hiring a wedding DJ. Now you can make a more informed decision when consulting with DJs and booking the best professional for your upcoming event. Get in touch, I’m here to chat! – Shane, Flux VJ