Updated: Aug 1, 2018
Since the 80's, DJs have been the go-to source for entertainment at wedding receptions. Classics from the era like Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' or Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody' can still be heard during many wedding dance floors. One could even go as far to say that the average American's idea of what to expect from a wedding DJ has been most largely influenced by the 80's 'wedding DJ persona'.
But is it still the same? After nearly 40 years, has anything changed? What should one expect from a wedding DJ in 2018?
Quite frankly, the bottom line is this: DJs and dance music have progressed into America's mainstream now more than ever, and with their rise, the average music listener has learned to expect more from those calling themselves disc jockeys. No matter you're own age, your reception is likely to have people of all ages, from kids to grandparents, in attendance, and it's also likely that you expect the dance portion of your reception to go on until(at least) midnight.
Younger people will be the ones carrying the energy on your dancefloor into the late hours, and as they've learned to expect more from DJs, you'll need someone who knows how to do more than simply fade from one track to the next to keep them dancing. If you want a memorable party, it begins and ends with how well your dancefloor goes. You can only reminisce about good food or good weather for so long. Your dancefloor experience will be something not only you, but your guests won't be able to forget, for better or worse.
So that covers the young crowd, but what about everyone else?
While it is true that the younger crowd is the hardest to please and that they will inevitably be the group carrying the dancefloor into the night, that doesn't mean you want a DJ who will cater ONLY to this crowd. You should expect a DJ to follow the energy on the dancefloor, and seldom does that mean going full-on 'Tiesto' at the beginning of the night. The older crowd will want to hear the slow songs, and the classics that everyone will know. They'll want to hear more than just a portion of the song they're dancing to. You should expect any DJ you meet to be able to please this crowd. They want to hear the whole song, and your DJ should recognize and accommodate this. What you don't want is a DJ who can appease your parents and grandparents, but can't push the energy any further after the older crowd has left. You should expect a DJ to have the skills to please everyone, and the experience to know when to 'turn up' and when to 'turn down'.
Equally as important, you'll need a DJ who is also a trained MC unless you plan on having a family member or friend on the microphone for introductions and announcements throughout the night. You'll need someone with more than just a good voice; you'll need an experienced professional who knows how to keep the night moving without making guests feel rushed, and without making your timeline feel 'choppy'. DJs/MCs often do the work of a wedding planner during the night. They gather everyone (videographers, photographers, parents, special guests, etc.) for every event. They are charged with making sure events happen on time and that there is a clear sense of direction throughout the night. Any DJ company worth their weight in CDs should be able to provide you with examples of how they sound on the microphone, alongside examples of how they mix for the different moments during your wedding.
If you're looking to save money (and who isn't?!), drop your wedding planner, and find a DJ company that also specializes in planning. There are many 'secrets' in the wedding industry. One of them being that there are often multiple people doing the same job at your wedding, each with their own price tag, the biggest example being duplicated efforts by the day-of wedding planner and the DJ.
They are usually both tasked with running the entire event, from lining people up for introductions, to coordinating time for photos and dancing. The difference is usually this: day-of wedding planners are not photographers, they are not DJs, and they are not banquet managers. A day-of wedding planner is someone with second-hand knowledge about these topics. Every photographer, DJ, and banquet hall is different, and you should be picking vendors who reach out and work with each other on a final timeline. You don't need to spend $1000 - $3000 for someone to manage your vendors. It makes more sense to pick professional vendors whom you are confident will manage themselves and reach out to each other to make sure you don't have to worry about running around on your big day. Even the most average of DJ companies will be able to help you plan your wedding better than some of the most expensive wedding planners.
Picking a DJ in 2018 can be rough for millennials in the United States. There are a lot of companies in every major city, many of which only want your hard-earned cash (read more on that here), but sifting through the bad apples doesn't have to be daunting. Always ask for examples, always ask to meet your DJ/see them mix live, stay away from wedding planners, and don't lower your standards based on what you may have seen or heard about wedding DJs before. Be picky. Do your research. It's 2018. You can expect more.