The one behind the turntable at your reception does so much more than play the tunes.

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2019.

OK, to-be-weds: You’ve settled on the setting for your big day, signed the contract with the photographer and completed the negotiations for who is sitting where. Next comes the easy part: Picking a DJ to emcee your reception. After all, it’s just a matter of choosing the tunes and pushing “play,” right?

Wrong.

David Kurtz of D&M DJ Entertainment says that couples should stop to consider the wide variety of tasks that fall to a DJ. They go far beyond cueing up the song for the father-daughter dance.

“A DJ is more than just somebody that is playing music,” Kurtz says. “They’re there to help keep the timeline going. They’re working with a photographer; they’re working with a caterer; and they’re working with a wedding planner.”

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In fact, he adds, the DJ is the person who could—if not chosen with requisite care—potentially disrupt or even ruin an otherwise perfect affair.

“I’ve heard about the DJs that just happen to say, ‘Oh, we forgot to do that one formality—it’s no big deal,’” Kurtz says. “We’ve heard of DJs just not showing up because they found a better-paying gig, or they’ll tell their brides [at the] last minute, ‘Nah, I can’t do it.’”

Because of the duties that DJs often are tasked with, Kurtz cautions couples against farming out the seemingly simple job to a family friend or cut-rate “professional.” He says that there is more to consider than the bottom line.

“If you spent, say, $5,000 on a photographer—which seems to be the recent number—and you’re only spending $200 or $300 on your DJ, you’ve got to get your priorities straight,” Kurtz says. “You want to nickel-and-dime the one person that could not let the photographer know when something is going to happen?”

Kurtz acknowledges that couples want value, but as the old maxim goes: You get what you pay for.

Investing in the right DJ, then, is akin to investing in the overall reception. “When they are meeting with the bride and groom, they’re helping them make those decisions a lot of the time,” says Kurtz, pointing to the fact that when a couple does not hire a wedding planner, the DJ inherits that role. “Sometimes the person that is designing the day is the DJ.”

On the big day, couples should expect the DJ to oversee the occasion and all of its nuances during the time they’re scheduled. The DJ’s responsibilities range from consulting with the couple on favorite songs weeks in advance to ensuring that formalities occur on schedule for the benefit of the photographer. Being adept with a microphone also doesn’t hurt.

“When it comes time for the grand entrance, they’ve got to do their best to get the pronunciations right and [make] sure that they know when things are about to happen,” Kurtz says. Nothing can sour a newlywed couples’ mood quite like hearing their newly shared last name mispronounced as they’re entering their reception.

It can also fall to the DJ to keep extended family members happy by ensuring that key events are properly announced from the stage.

“Our job is to let everybody know what’s going on,” says Todd Jones of T.E.A.M. DJ. “If Grandma doesn’t know the bride and groom are cutting the cake, who is Grandma going to be mad at? The DJ.”

Managing the music, of course, remains a big part of the job description.

“[We] make sure people are dancing,” Jones says. “If a song is not working, [we] switch it out immediately—as fast as possible.”

In selecting a wedding DJ, Kurtz recommends that couples consult online reviews with an eye toward consistency in ratings. Picking a DJ who has the background, personality and skillset to bring off your day without a hitch—musical or otherwise—may result in greater cost, but the experts say it’s an investment worth making.

“An experienced DJ is always going to be so much more worth the money, no matter what you pay,” Jones says. “You really want to look for those experienced DJs who have been around—the longer, the better.”