There are two choices when it comes to music at a wedding reception – hiring a DJ or hiring a band to perform live. Although this article primarily deals with wedding DJ's, the concepts still apply to whoever is leading the band and interacting with the guests.
You can find local talent by looking through a wedding DJ directory. These are available online as well as through local even planners. When newspapers put out special wedding inserts, there is a section for musical talent advertising. Regional bridal magazines will have this information also. Of course, there is always the ADJA – American Disc Jockey Association.
If you are booking a DJ through a company that hires out, or an agency that represents, multiple disc jockeys, be sure there is agreement on the specific individual that will be working your wedding reception. While the reputation of the overall company is important and worth checking into, you should primarily be concerned with the reputation and skill of the person who will be part of your wedding memories forever.
You should, at a minimum, ask for references, but you should also see the person perform at another function to ensure that you are comfortable with the style and manner in which he or she runs the festivities. People are often shy to get up and dance at first at wedding receptions. It's up to the DJ to figuratively light a fire under the crowd and get them excited about getting out on the dance floor.
Part of the initial discussion should be about who will supply the "prizes" and incentives which get the crowd going. Some examples are lottery tickets for the first person on the dance floor when the DJ announces a specific song or mini prizes that can be raffled off for everyone who participates in a particular activity. These are good ice breakers at the beginning of the event and can be used any time throughout when the enthusiam starts to wane for some reason.
As with any wedding vendor, especially one eating up such a large percentage of the budget, brides and grooms should insist on a written contract that includes all the specifics of the ceremony and/or reception such as duties to be performed and fiscal responsibilities of both sides. You can ask to see the DJ's or company’s standard contract as a starting point. Inquire as to whether the DJ provides backup equipment in case of equipment failure. Details of this aspect should also be written in to the contract.