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What does the average wedding DJ cost?

October 30, 2018

Wedding DJ prices are all over the place…

When couples call around to look for wedding professionals often times the first question that comes to mind is, “How much?”, or “May I have a quote?” It makes sense from the standpoint that most couples are focusing on their budget. However, this is also where most couples find their first surprise when wedding planning.

Everything costs more than originally thought!

The statistics say that over 80% of the couples getting married have both people in the relationship getting married for the first time. All of the information out there is new to these couples, and the info on prices their parents paid is likely 20+ years old. Here’s where it gets even more difficult: there isn’t a lot of reliable pricing information out there on the Internet when it comes to the individual providers. Nowhere is this more true than with creative professionals for weddings – the photographers, videographers, musicians, and DJs. Before even calling around often times couples greatly underestimate the actual cost of these professionals, and, due to this misperception, end up spending a lot more time considering amateurs which makes wedding planning even more stressful!

It’s not your fault!

With garage sale groups on social media, cheap/free websites, and the simple fact that just about anyone can buy gear and claim they’re a photographer/videographer/DJ, it has made it harder than ever for couples to know where to be when it comes to cost. In fact it can sometimes make things so much about cost, that people get caught up in how much they’re spending rather than focusing on choosing the right professional. (More on that later.)

​The simple fact is, while there are more amateurs than ever before, and new technologies have made the barrier to entry easier into these crafts; the professionals will always stand out because they have put in the work, dedication, and drive to provide excellence in their service.

So where do people often end up when looking for price?

A lot of times they wind up on the major wedding planning websites to help make their determination for what to budget. While this is helpful to an extent, it can be a mistake when using it to determine the cost for certain professions. Why is this a mistake you may ask?

Simple, often times these averages don’t discern between the professionals and the amateurs.

I’ll use DJs as the example. According to one website,, the average rate for a wedding DJ in 2017 was $1,231.

Why is this number extremely misleading? In a word: quality. It’s a poll from what couples reported they spent. It has no other qualifying factors to take into account – especially a question that really matters – was the person they hired an actual professional, and did the couple even like the service they received? Trust me, the profession that has the most “my friend does it” people are DJs (photographers a close 2nd). This average DJ cost number used by includes the $200-$1,300 amateurs as well as the $1,300-$3,000+ professionals.

Why does it matter? The number one thing that couples say is most important to them at a wedding is that “everyone has a good time”. Since the DJ is the service provider that is going to have the most impact on this, who would actually want someone that isn’t working on a professional level?

What about a percentage?

The other advice we’ve seen planning websites give are percentages. This is better than using averages (like above), but only to a certain extent. A lot of these planning websites say 5-10% for entertainment. That number is outdated, and is what often times leads people to finding sub-par services. The actual percentage is 10-20% for entertainment, and if you take into account what the average wedding costs (in 2017 $33,391 source: this percentage falls in place far more realistically. Why is the actual portion 10-20%? Well, this is another area where couples get tripped up in budgeting.

DJs aren’t just DJs anymore…

DJs, at one time, weren’t the Master of Ceremonies. They used to begin only once it was time to dance (btw “DJ for 4 hours” is so last decade), but now they begin when the event begins as the leader of your party. Being a Master of Ceremonies is a separate skillset from being a DJ, and this is now another thing to strongly evaluate when choosing your professional. Not only will they be in charge of the music, they will also be the spokesperson for your party. Ask yourself, “Do I fully trust this person on a microphone in front of my friends & family on my wedding day?” If you don’t feel at least 100% confident, then don’t hire them. Hire the person that makes you feel 150% confident.

Pro tip: if you can’t meet the potential spokesperson for your wedding up front, then it’s likely that the DJ service you’re speaking to doesn’t assign you a DJ till only a short time before your wedding. Do you want someone that only knows you on paper who’s never heard of you until two weeks before your wedding?

It has even grown beyond being an MC and a DJ

DJs can now actually fit into several different categories of your wedding budget. Of course their core service will fit in the entertainment category, but what about things like Photo Booth, uplighting, etc.?
Uplighting, or any other decorative service a DJ can provide should be considered separate from your DJ budget. Services like lighting design (includes uplighting, downlighting, architectural lighting, etc.), pyrotechnics (if legal, and the DJ is properly licensed), and atmospheric effects for visual purposes (i.e. dancing on a cloud) are all things that should be under the “decorative” portion of the budget. If you factor decorative services under the entertainment portion of your budget, you’re robbing yourself of getting the best core service when it comes to your DJ.
Photobooth is something that should still be under the entertainment category, but then you need to factor towards the higher end of the percentage range. Also, keep in mind, that if you’re doing a ceremony in a non-traditional location (outside, not at a church), then the DJ can often-times offer a service to help with that too. 

There is no such thing as same for less.

The adage “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more true than it is for creative professionals. However, A WORD OF CAUTION: when you’re looking around you will come across those that try to sell you on the phrase, “We can do the same for less.” This is a flat out lie, and people who say this are either intentionally misleading or extremely ignorant. In a creative profession one can’t even claim to do the same thing for the same price. The nuance & style of a performance is based on the individual you hire. Now, there will be artists that are objectively better than others because they’ve invested more in their education, skills, & practice, but you won’t ever find someone that can do the same for less. It simply doesn’t exist, and the people who try to sell you like this do so because they have no value other than their tools (equipment). This brings us to the next point –

Don’t purchase equipment, purchase results.

Some DJs will try to sell you on their equipment. They’ll even list out every light, speaker, and component used in their setup. The ONLY thing you should spend your time caring about when it comes to the DJs equipment is:

  • Is it of professional quality, and will they have backups in case something fails?
  • Is the presentation of the equipment neat, clean, modern, and professional?
  • Will the DJ’s lighting make my photos look like a unicorn decorated the place, or will it look classy?
  • Does the DJ know how to use their equipment to its most effective extent to get you the results you want?

To illustrate the point. Here is a DJ that has decent quality equipment, but very poor presentation:

What makes the presentation and use of the equipment very poor is the height of the lighting (spotlights should be above eye level, these are at chest level), poor cable management (too many wires visible, not bundled properly, etc.), it’s asymmetrical (TVs around the table are at different heights, laser [the pink light] on one side and not the other), and overall just appears cluttered. Did we mention how poor the cable management is?

The other thing to consider is that with the DJ’s party lighting the photographer is going to have their work cut out for them, and it will likely reduce the quality of the images taken – especially with that laser.

One last thought on this topic:
Let’s say instead of a DJ you were picking out a carpenter to build you an heirloom bedroom set. Would you pick the carpenter that talks about what tools they purchase, or the carpenter that builds the highest quality, most beautifully designed furniture?

If we get back to talking about DJs, it’s the difference between the image above, and this:

Which would you rather have in your wedding album?

So how much should I spend?

Ultimately, that’s entirely up to you.

​That being said, ask yourself what’s most important to you about your reception. If you are like most couples who say, “I want everyone to have a good time.” then be true to that statement, and make the DJ a high priority in your budget. They will make or break the reception, so invest in a high-end pro that will “make” the reception in an exceptional way. I gave a number example earlier in this post saying professionals are $1,300-$3,000+, and I believe that, at the time of writing this, that’s a fairly accurate range of low-end to high-end professionals in the Wisconsin market. Keep in mind that range is for a starting rate, and not a “package”. Below that price range will generally be amateurs, low-end/budget DJ farms (some that contact local amateurs the week of your wedding to send to your event), or the newly hired DJ on which the company is trying out on you.

​How much is your wedding experience worth to you? Do you actually want average, or do you want an experience you and your guests can rave about?

A better way…

Does focusing on price first feel like putting the cart before the horse? That’s because asking price first when you talk to wedding professionals is backwards from how we shop for everything else.

Normally when we shop for something, the first thing we think of is “What do I want?” Let’s take a TV for example. We don’t start off by saying, “I want to spend $500 on a TV.” We start off by thinking of size, features, brand, etc. i.e. “I want a 65″ Samsung TV with smart features and built in apps.” When it comes to choosing a DJ why not think of this the same way? i.e. “I want a DJ who can gracefully lead my event over the microphone, rock the dance floor, provide in-depth personalization, not be corny, and make my night unforgettable for the right reasons.”

Take a minute to figure out what you want in your DJ. Not sure what that is yet? Talk to DJs without bringing up price. Talk about the quality of the experience. What do they actually do for you? Do they make you feel like just another number, or is your wedding something they actually care about?

​Want to skip the stress and go straight to having the ultimate wedding DJ experience Northeast Wisconsin has to offer?

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