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questions for your wedding band

22 Questions to Ask a Band or DJ

An in-person meeting with a handful of potential bands and DJs is the best way to really figure out whom to hire. Start with this list of important questions and don’t make a decision until you get an answer for each!

Photo: Ira Lippke Studios

How would you describe your style?

What You Want to Know: If their style will work with the vibe you’re going for. If you want an elegant cocktail party with lots of casual conversation, a band that describes itself as “really rockin’ and rollin’ with a whole lotta edge” is a music mismatch.

Can we come take a quick peek at a wedding you’re working?

What You Want to Know: What you should expect on game day. Seeing them perform live will give you the best idea about what your wedding entertainment would actually sound and feel like.

Do you know our reception space and its acoustic, power and amplification requirements? If not, will you check it out beforehand?

What You Want to Know: Your musicians may need an extension cord or backup generator. If they don’t want to check out your venue, cross them off your short list.

Can you play the songs that are important to us, such as a (traditional Jewish) hora tune or a favorite pop hit?

What You Want to Know: The band or DJ should be able to play, learn or download any tune you’d like. If a band says "yes," but they’ll need to learn and/or arrange it, ask them if they’ll charge for that.

How many musicians are in the band, and are available? How many vocalists? Are there different options as far as how many musicians/instruments we can hire?

What You Want to Know: If you’re interviewing a DJ, you want to know if she works with a partner, and if it’s a band, who exactly would be there on the day. Note: Hiring only a portion of an amazing band is a smart way to stick to a strict budget.

Would we need to rent any instruments (a piano, for example) or equipment (extra speakers or a stage)?

What You Want to Know: Find out exactly what equipment they bring, and what you need to rent (or borrow from the venue). You’ll also want to know if you’ll have to hide equipment if it’s particularly ugly (with draping, for instance). You want your wedding to be look like a beautiful event, not an electronics store.

Do you plan to use lighting or any other special effects?

What You Want to Know: Beyond music, some pros will bring special lighting and/or effects, like a fog machine, while others will stick to the tunes. If your pro does amp up his performance with specific effects, they may be standard or they may cost extra, so be sure to ask and get all prices written into your contract.

Who will do the setup?

What You Want to Know: The day of the wedding, someone needs to set up the sound system—usually someone from the company supplying the music. You’ll need to give the name of the person to the venue coordinator and arrange a time that works for everyone.

How do you ensure a comfortable sound level for all the guests?

What You Want to Know: You want to have a plan for dealing with volume control and sound-sensitive guests. Here’s the deal: What your 14-year-old cousin thinks is the perfect volume is different from what your 98-year-old great-grandma is willing to put up with. If you have a red-hot dance party going, you don’t want people who aren’t participating to have to shout like they’re at a crowded bar.

What do you typically wear?

What You Want to Know: A potential band or DJ will usually have several professional, unobtrusive choices for you to pick from such as a tuxedo or simple coordinated outfits, like black shirts and slacks.

How many hours are included in the package?

What You Want to Know: Some musicians and DJs will have a minimum amount of time they’ll play. But beyond that, you’ll also want to know how many breaks they’ll need (and how long they’ll be), and the backup plan for those breaks (such as approved filler music). Tip: Be sure to build in these breaks and offer food to your musicians—you don’t want their energy to flag before the last dance!

How do you handle song requests?

What You Want to Know: What the protocol will be for making sure your guests hear their favorite tunes (if you want them to have that creative control!). A particular pro may prefer to get requests in certain ways (probably not shouted at him while he’s working).

Can you act as the master of ceremonies?

What You Want to Know: It isn’t guaranteed that your bandleader or DJ will introduce the speech givers, announce your first dance or tell people when dinner is served. Sometimes, a planner will do that or even the best man or maid of honor. Clarify this before you hire them.

How many weddings do you typically do in a year?

What You Want to Know: You’re trying to determine how experienced they are—not only how long they’ve been doing weddings, but also how often is important to understanding how well they can handle your dance floor. Ask to speak to some previous couples. Online reviews tell some of the story, but being able to chat directly with couples who used this band or DJ can give you a clearer picture of what they’re like to work with. And if someone only DJs or plays part time, that’s usually a red flag that they’re not talented or established enough to make a living from their music.

Do you have another wedding gig before or after ours?

What You Want to Know: If they don’t have anything after, ask what the overtime fees are if the party is still cranking past the end of the time on your contract. And if they have one before, ask what will happen if the other event runs over.

What’s your sick-day policy?

What You Want to Know: If a key member of your music team comes down with the flu the morning of your wedding, they should have a reliable replacement (and have you meet him too).

Do you have liability insurance?

What You Want to Know: You need to be sure you, your venue and your guests are protected in case of an accident. A true pro will offer to show you their certificate.

What’s your backup plan if there’s an equipment malfunction?

What You Want to Know: Most DJs and bands will prepare for an unexpected event—for instance, an amp that blows out. But it’s best to double-check they have a backup plan. If the plan B equipment isn’t in the band’s van or DJ’s car, you’ll have a lot of silence at your wedding—and it won’t be golden.

What’s your cancellation policy?

What You Want to Know: If you change your date or change your mind on your music—it happens—what are the repercussions?

How do you motivate a shy crowd to dance?

What You Want to Know: Some DJs will teach the latest dance or verbally encourage guests to step onto the dance floor, while others will just select songs that will naturally get people moving. Choose someone who uses a technique that you like (for instance, if you want minimal conversation from a DJ or band, one who uses the mic to amp up the energy isn’t going to be a good fit).

Questions Just for Bands:

Do you have a specialty?

What You Want to Know: Is what they love to play what you want to dance to at your reception? Asking a really awesome rock band to play jazz standards isn’t going to work well.

Is the recording on your website live or produced in a studio? Is the sound technically enhanced?

What You Want to Know: That what you hear is what you get (because anyone can sound like Adele with enough auto-tuning). If their clips are tweaked, they should offer to send you some live, untouched ones.

-- Amy Levin-Epstein

See More: Wedding Music + Dancing