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The average cost of a wedding DJ in Chicago varies a LOT. Here's why. (Plus, how our Chicago DJ pricing works.)

How to use this guide

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If you're like most Chicago couples, wedding planning is completely new to you. It's no wonder a top concern we hear from couples is, "we have no idea what this is supposed to cost!"

You can see our company's pricing on our website - but since DJ companies are so different, it's hard to understand that number without some context. That's why we wrote this guide: So you'll know how to compare prices as you hunt for a wedding DJ in Chicago. We want you to understand exactly what you're paying for. We want you to know how Chicago DJ pricing works, where your money goes, and how to figure out for yourself what is and isn't worth the money.

This guide will walk you through what you need to know to understand wedding DJ costs, and it'll help you decide your own expectations and ballpark your own rate - step by step. Then, for an even more accurate expectation, we'll show you how to True Wedding pricing works and show you our own wedding DJ rates.

Of course Backthird would love to be your wedding DJ company. But most of all, we want to help you avoid "rookie mistakes" - no matter who you book. So most information on this page is general. We hope it helps, no matter who you hire to DJ and MC your wedding day.

- Robbie, Louise & Benjie

Backthird Entertainment

Intro: 3 things you must know about wedding DJs

couple-rig-036613-editedNew world; new rules.

Welcome to the world of wedding planning - where you've never heard of any of the companies, you've never used any of the services before, and you don't know how much anything should cost.

Don't worry, that's not going to stop you from having the time of your life - there are few things as fun or as rewarding as planning a wedding! But if you're still building your budget, it will help to know a bit about how the Chicago wedding world works.

Here are 3 things you must know about the wedding DJ world as you start looking for your perfect match:

1. You're making a hire, not a purchase. 

When you see a car you like, it's smart to check at several dealerships to see who's got the best price for the same car. When you compare DJ pricing, though, you're never looking at "the same DJ" - it's a service, not a commodity, so no two companies are the same.

You should still look around, of course - but think of yourself as hiring a team, not shopping for a product. (The same applies for photographers, wedding planners, and florists too!)

2. There's no standard DJ qualification.

It's against the law to practice medicine without a license - but there are no such laws for wedding DJs. Getting started in this business is as easy as downloading some songs to your phone, buying a set of speakers, and telling your friends "I DJ weddings now."

But trust us, that's not the guy you want to hire.

As you're pricing Chicago DJs, watch for companies that maintain memberships in professional organizations or enforce their own internal standards of quality. And expect rates to be higher for DJs who focus on quality service than for those who don't.

3. There are a lot of amateurs.

There, we said it.

Anyone can call themselves a DJ - and the job's so fun, that plenty of newcomers give it a try every year!

Usually without much success.

As you investigate Chicago wedding DJ cost, you're going to come across folks with no DJ experience, folks with DJ experience but no business sense - and folks with both. The first group will be cheap, but hard to work with. The second group will be cheap too, but might no longer be in business by your wedding day.

The third group - folks with experience AND business knowhow - won't be cheap.

Taken together, the three points above give you a sense of why the wedding DJ price spread in Chicago is so wide. So how do you decide what YOU should plan to spend?

In this guide, we'll try to walk you step-by-step through answering that question. Start by considering which aspects of a DJ's service matter most to you.

1. Decide how much quality matters to you.

andrewPay for what you want.

As you can tell from the section above, there's a lot of variety in wedding DJ rates - and in wedding DJ services. Your goal should be to pay for what's important to you (and nothing else).

Here are 6 things a wedding DJ might bring to the table. Which ones do you care enough about to pay for?


Setup1. Provides sound (and lighting) gear. Most wedding DJs bring, set up and run their own speakers, microphones and so on. Some setups are attractive, some are basic, and some are downright ugly.

Hopefully, your DJ brings backups too for any gear that could malfunction during your wedding (ahem-laptops-ahem).


Deck2. Provides & plays cocktail, dinner and dance music. You'll hear more than 100 songs during your wedding reception.

Hopefully, played at the best possible time in the best possible order, with the freedom to make requests.


Mic3. Makes announcements and runs your reception agenda. You wedding will not work on music alone - somebody's going to need to let your guests know what's next, prep your wedding party when it's time to give toasts, and so on. Most DJs do this too.


Clipboard_-_with_checklist4. Expert on wedding production. Making announcements isn't enough either - if the wrong events are happening in the wrong order. Most DJs don't just execute your agenda; they meet with you to help plan it. An expert in wedding flow can be invaluable in making things run smooth behind the scenes (that's why we call them a "master" of ceremonies). 


Robbie AM crop5. Professional business structure. In the entertainment business, there's the talent - and the management. Most DJ companies do both. But if you hire a DJ who's not so hot on the business side, expect to work a little harder to get calls returned before your wedding. Expect a kind of stressful planning time. And think about a backup plan in case your DJ has an emergency (or goes out of business!) the week of your wedding.


DJ-dinner6. Rare talent/high demand. Some DJs are just special - maybe they're celebrities, or maybe they have a rare talent like juggling and DJing at the same time. Expect to pay more for one of these rare birds, because they're only free so many dates a year.



...Is this all starting to boggle your mind a little? If so, that's ok - skip to the True Pricing section below.

If not, read on to start ballparking your own DJ rate.

2. Ballpark your wedding DJ rate.

DJYour budget starts at...

Ready to ballpark your wedding DJ rate? Count the items from the list above that you consider important - then multiply that number by $300.

That's a VERY rough rule of thumb, but it will give you a general sense of what to expect with Chicago wedding DJ rates. For example, you can find a DJ for $600 - he'll even have some music and some sound gear to play it on! But don't expect him to be a strong MC. Or an expert. Or a professional.

If you want to work with a trained and certified expert, you should be ready to spend closer to the $1500 mark.

Again, this is SUPER rough - but it's a start. In general, the more you pay for - the more you get.

That's your baseline when it comes to wedding DJ cost, Chicago.

But it's not your real cost. It's your baseline.

There are some brass-tacks details that will probably increase your DJ's rate, and they're specific to your wedding. Read on to learn what they are.

3. Add your setup needs.

StefTom_620Mo' volume, mo' money.

Most DJs have a "standard" (or minimum) rate for a wedding reception - but if your setup's a bit more complex, you might pay a bit more.

These setup needs aren't really "optional," since your wedding just won't work without them. Here are 4 needs that might increase your DJ cost beyond the minimum:

1. Ceremony sound and services. Should your DJ play music or provide amplification for your wedding ceremony, too? If you're saying your vows outdoors or in the same venue as your reception, there's a good chance the answer's "yes."

2. Reception in more than one room. Having cocktails in the bar or garden, then moving into the ballroom for dinner? That's a GREAT way to party - but it means you'll need a basic music system in both rooms.

3. More than 250 on your guest list. The "250" number is arbitrary - but every reputable DJ company knows how many guests their "standard" sound system can serve comfortably, and at what point they'll need to add extra volume and equipment to make your wedding rock.

4. Travel and loading. Every company is different here, but in general if your wedding's in downtown Chicago you might expect to spend more than if it's at a suburban banquet hall. Why? Those incredible skyscrapers and boutique hotels take longer to get into, and we pay our DJs for the effort.

So what sound setup does your wedding need? It's not your job to know, but a professional who knows your venue can plan your setup and include the right equipment in your final wedding DJ rate.

If this is starting to confuse you, you might want to skip to the True Pricing section below. Otherwise - keep reading for more charges.

4. Add extra stuff.

lightcropYou don't need this (but you might want it).

Most DJs offer "extras" too. Your wedding will work without these services - but it might feel more like YOUR wedding with them.

1. Lighting is a common add-on for a lot of DJs. Some companies specialize in fancy dance-floor lighting, while others (like ours) offer uplighting for an all-night aesthetic effect. It's worth it if it's in your budget, but it does cost more. This post can help decide if it's for you.

2. Photo booth. Another common add-on for a lot of DJ companies. But you can also book a photo booth from a company that does only that, if you're looking for a more "boutique" vibe.

3. Live music. It's less common for a DJ company to offer live music, but some do (and Backthird Entertainment specializes in it). This post will give you a sense of how musicians think about their rates, and this one tells you how band and DJ prices compare.

There are a million ways to sell extra services - most DJs give you a menu and say "do you want fog and lasers? monograms? a bliss light?"

This can be fun for you. It can also turn an $1100 DJ booking into a $3500 DJ booking.

Which is fine for some - but makes it practically impossible to know ahead of time what you should budget for a DJ.

We do it differently.

5. The alternative: True Pricing

CalculatorOne rate. Everything your wedding needs.

No calculators necessary.

The problem with the usual approach to wedding pricing is it charges you for every little gear or service you need - and unless you are a DJ yourself, you won't know what gear and service you need.

That's confusing. It's time consuming. And it means your actual wedding costs is obscured, so all you can do is guess until you see a contract. How are you supposed to set a wedding budget that way?

There's a different way to do it.

Backthird doesn't charge for DJ services - we charge for expertise. In other words, we say this to our clients: Here's your price. For that, we'll do whatever is needed to make your wedding work.

We only have 3 rates, and they cover ALL your wedding DJ services - ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner time, and dancing.

Three rates. And no upcharges.

The only difference between our rates is how much live music you want along with your DJ: Lots, a little bit, or none at all.

That means, unless your wedding is on New Year's Eve or outside the Chicago area, you can know now exactly what your wedding's going to cost.

No, not the starting cost. The True Price.

See our rates right here. If they simplify your plans, we'd love to work with you.

And either way, we hope this guide was helpful.

Backthird was SO worth the investment. The string trio was wonderful - they are talented musicians and play a wide variety of music. And our DJ was awesome - very down to earth and fun. He kept the dance party going all night - he even got people to dance that I've never seen dance before! Backthird was amazing. Seriously, hire them.
read the full review on WeddingWire!

Jake & Heidi

People were dancing from dinner until last call! The DJs are phenomenal at reading the guests and choosing songs that the most people are going to enjoy while also taking into consideration the musical taste of the bride and groom... I can't say enough good things about our experiences with Backthird and would recommend them to anyone!
read the full review on the Knot!

Allison & Ben