What Should A Wedding DJ Cost?
Updated: Feb 22
Weddings can be an enormous expense… the cost of a venue, décor, caterer, photographer, DJ/Band and other vendors can quickly add up. How can you know what to prioritize and what their costs should be? Great question and hopefully you will find some insights as to what a wedding DJ should cost and what you can expect for that price.
First, let’s start with a general overview of the three levels of DJs and their approximate price range (my company works in the upstate NY region so this would be for cities like Buffalo, NY; Rochester, NY; Elmira, NY; and Ithaca, NY). You might be paying more if you live in a large metropolitan area as additional costs for parking, security, employee support, etc.…. might impact rates.
Level 1 is the newer or part-time DJ. These are often people who DJ weddings as a side gig to their regular jobs and or are newer to DJing weddings (a couple years’ experience or less).
Average Price - $1000 or less
Pros – Very Affordable
Cons – Limited experience and knowledge, often unorganized, can cancel at the last minute or not show at all, inadequate lighting and sound equipment, lack of confidence and know-how, poor planning, and event management experience, does not carry liability insurance.
Level 2 is a seasoned DJ who works full-time or has many years’ experience working part-time. These professionals have upwards of a decade of experience and a higher level of excellence with crowd work and customer service.
Average Price - $1500 to $2000
Pros – Years of experience and knowledge, organized with planning and event management experience, reliable, accessible to their clients, confident with crowd work and engagement, quality sound and lighting equipment, usually carries liability insurance.
Cons – Higher price point, sometimes a level 1 DJ can present themselves as a level 2 DJ, sometimes does not carry liability insurance.
Level 3 is a highly experienced DJ that offers a total package experience to their clients. These professionals usually have 10 years of experience or more and the highest level of customer service.
Average Price - $2500 and up
Pros – Exceptional customer service, over a decade of experience, time-line planning, high-end lighting and sound show, incredibly engaging and reliable, fully insured.
Cons – Highest cost.
Now there are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing the levels above. First, this is a general guide… are there some DJ’s that are part-time but give incredible service and experience… of course. Are there some Level 3 DJ companies that offer Level 2 pricing… absolutely. But in general, just like with most everything else in life, you will get what you pay for.
Second, it is very important to ask the following questions when talking to a prospective DJ…
How long have you been DJing weddings?
Will you be the one helping me plan and the DJ the day of?
Can you tell me about your vibe or style?
What kind of sound and lighting experience is included?
Do you manage and emcee the reception?
What is most important to you as the wedding DJ?
What sets you apart from other wedding DJs?
What if I have questions or concerns before the wedding date?
What do you do to make sure you and the other vendors are working together?
These questions help give you a bigger picture of who your potential DJ is and how they work. This should help you get a good understanding of their personality and professionalism. If you interview at least three DJs, almost always you will find one whose personality you connect with and stands out as “the right fit” for you. But also, it is always wise to ask for some referrals (preferably recent weddings) to ensure the experience the DJ is describing is in line with what past brides and grooms have experienced.
But why does a Level 2 or 3 DJ cost so much more than a Level 1 DJ? Another great question! Most people do not fully understand what is involved in preparing for and performing at a wedding.
Most weddings will last about 6 hours. A quality DJ will usually arrive about 2-3 hours prior to set up and spend at least 1 hour packing up. It is an average drive of 1 hour to most events and usually about 6 hours in preparation including: contracts, time-line planning, song list preparation, and equipment maintenance and preparation. So, in short, an average weddings will take about 16-20 hours of total time.
Also, there are the costs of purchasing and maintaining professional grade equipment, travel, insurance, employees, music, and other needs.
So while it might seem like a good idea initially to focus on price when hiring a DJ, in reality you will get a much better value for your dollar with a Level 2 or Level 3 DJ as there is a significantly better chance that your event will be worry free and an amazing experience for both you and your guests.
A great analogy would be if you are going out to eat dinner. You can go to a fast food restaurant like McDonalds or B.K., and you wont pay much. But the customer service experience is going to be less than par, the environment is far from relaxing, the ingredients used to make your food will also be sub-par and while the food meets your basic need of eating, at the end of the day it simply was not that memorable and probably will not make you feel that great.
Now you can also go to nice local restaurant in your community or maybe a chain restaurant like Applebee’s (you know, fancy like Applebee’s). The service will be pretty good, the food is made with fresh ingredients and over all… you have a pleasant experience. It was a nice evening, you enjoyed the ambiance, your company and the food.
You could also choose to go to a high-end restaurant… where the service is prompt and highly attentive. The food will cost more, but it is made with the freshest ingredients and special care is taken both in its preparation and presentation. Your dining experience is so exceptional, you can not wait to tell other people about it. In fact, you will probably remember that experience for years to come.
This is a great way to think about the level of DJ you might want to choose.
At the end of the day, there are two things that guests most remember at a wedding… the DJ and the food. If they are bad, your guests will talk. If they are good, your guests will have a great time. If they are amazing, your guests will rave about your wedding for years to come! So weigh the outcome you want and budget for that level of DJ.
I would like to leave you with this…
My company takes great pride in offering what I call, The White-Glove-Service… My three goals at the end of the day are to create a memorable wedding and amazing party for both the couple and their guests. To be incredibly prepared and organized both heading into and the day of the wedding. And lastly, to remove the worry and stress from the couple so they can focus on making memories with their family and friends. Any DJ you interview should be articulating the above to you. If they are not, I would recommend moving along to the next.
-Marshall Green, Owner
Top Entertainment DJ