With more than 20 DJs on his roster at any given moment, Gary Hoffmann, who runs a DJ company, cannot recall a single time he has had to turn an engaged couple away.
"I've never done that," said Hoffmann, the founder of Brooklyn-based 74 Events, who has also been a DJ himself since 2001. "I've never -- in my 17½ years of being in business -- had to tell anybody that we don't have anyone."
That all changed this year, as the tsunami of postponed 2020 weddings came crashing down onto Hoffmann's calendar. He has had to deal with many postponements because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I stopped counting around 400," he said. "The reality was a lot of couples early on in the pandemic were conservative or delusional about how bad it was going to be and for how long. I've had multiple couples postpone their date two, three -- and in some unique cases -- four times."
Right now, he has a handful of dates that are especially popular. And it's putting him in a tough and unfamiliar situation.
"I'll use a specific example: Sept. 18," Hoffmann said. "I have four or five different emails sitting in a folder where I told the couple, 'Hey, I'm so sorry, I'm booked solid. But I'll save this email and if something changes, I'll let you know.'"
In Austin, Texas, Jason Alexander Rubio and Diana Anzaldua, the husband and wife team behind Austin's Best DJs, have also struggled to manage an influx of postponed weddings now happening all at once.
"We've seen a 300% increase in clients calling and emailing, and booking in the last month or so," Rubio said. "We're doing our best to meet demand: hiring more staff and passing events we cannot do to other DJs who may not be as busy as we are."
Further complicating the process is identifying a DJ who complements a couple's vision.
"Finding the right fit based on style, experience and professionalism could be tricky nowadays because they might be all booked up," said Vel Menash, the founder of TablePop, a platform for planning event experiences and an event concierge based in Burlington, N.J. "A multicultural couple I know needed help finding a DJ that would be great for their cross-cultural wedding, which included Afrobeats and Indi-pop."
BOOKING A DJ
As with any major wedding decision, research is essential. Decide on a budget for the DJ and entertainment. Rubio recommends allocating 8% to 10% of your total wedding budget. Then, check out wedding websites and make a list of your top five DJs.
"Do a little online stalking, and check out their social media and other reviews," Rubio said. "Figure out which DJ is best able to fulfill your overall wedding day vision and understand your vibe. See what other options the DJ has -- you may be able to book more services and not have to worry about paying too many vendors."
IF YOUR DJ CANCELS
If you have a signed contract, review it carefully to see if there's a section that discusses cancellations and how you're covered.
"Good, reputable DJ companies will have a policy in place that doesn't allow this to happen," Rubio said. "If a DJ is unable to make it, the company should have a backup DJ who can easily cover. This is one advantage of booking a DJ company over a solo DJ."
IF YOU CAN'T FIND A DJ
Hitting dead end after dead end? Think about other places you may not have looked. According to Rubio, some DJs don't advertise on the major wedding websites because of the cost. And many others may not have websites and rely exclusively on social media to attract potential clients. Search Facebook and Instagram by typing in "wedding DJ" and the name of your destination.
"There are some decent DJs on Instagram and Twitch," said Schquita Goodwin, a DJ based in Washington. "But your most trusted source would probably be by asking around: alumni networks, co-workers, kickball team. The vast majority of my business is recommendations from previous clients."
WHAT ABOUT RECORDED SETS?
While couples may encounter this option, Hoffmann cautions against it. Without a live DJ to improvise and riff off guests and their energy, a recorded set could run the risk of not matching the atmosphere of the event as it unfolds in real-time.
"It's not really an ideal situation, and I wouldn't recommend it," Hoffmann said. "Save your money for the honeymoon or mortgage. Just set up your own playlists for great background music, and don't worry about the dance part."
ALTERNATE MUSIC SOURCES
Consider live musicians. Quartets, guitarists, and other performers may be contracted through freelancer sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
"I would even consider scouting local spots that have live music, like a church or bookstore," Goodwin said. "However, the absolute, most cost-effective method would be to rent a speaker from a local audio visual equipment rental service. Then, get your family and friends involved."
Get acquainted with your venue's sound system and ask about audio connectivity so you can plug in your own device and equipment, if necessary. Once these capabilities are confirmed, start curating on your preferred streaming service. Earlier this month, Tidal, a streaming music service, launched a Wedding Hub, a one-stop source for music of all wedding-theme events, such as the processional and the first dance.
Spotify tends to be the most popular. Don't forget to sign up for a premium account to avoid awkward interruptions from ads during cocktail hour and dinner.
HIRING A FRIEND
Asking friends to flex their amateur spinning skills could well be a suitable alternative, especially if the dance party is an absolute must-have. They should have "a basic instinct" for selecting music that's fun for everybody, Hoffmann said. But even if they manage to get the party started, they might struggle to rein in over-enthused -- and intoxicated -- guests.
"This is a serious gamble," Goodwin said. "If you trust your friend, yes. If you don't trust your friend, listen to their samples. If they can't come up with six hours of music, then no."
One major con: turning friends into vendors. Even if they insist, it may not be worth the hassle.
"If your friend is already a DJ, then sure," Rubio said. "If not, this isn't the best idea. Plus, you want your friend to be there to celebrate and enjoy the special day with you, and not have to work."