There appears to be an apparent trend lately for wedding planners and other "experts" to suggest that brides eliminate DJ's at their receptions in an effort to save money. In this economy, everyone seems to be interested in saving a buck here and there, and I would agree one should shop carefully for their DJ to avoid overpaying for someone under qualified...but to suggest a complete elimination is discounting what it is a professional wedding DJ actually brings to the table.
For example, here is an interview with one Jenny Lefcourt, who suggests dumping a DJ completely in favor of IPODs...:
Now, when they get to the reception...what are they going to play this IPOD on...a home stereo? What will they use to make announcements or other public address related needs? Who will coordinate the itinerary with the caterers and photographers and videographers to ensure that all are on the same page and no snags happen...or if the snags do occur, who will make things transition smoothly so the bride and groom are not bothered? Who will watch the flow of the room and keep the energy maintained? Leaving the IPOD on shuffle is going to do this? Who will coordinate the dedicated dances, and the requests and dedications throughout the night?
A good DJ is not someone who just shows up and plays music like an over paid boom box. A professional wedding DJ (or DJ for any event for that matter) is bringing a quality pro grade sound system, thousands of songs and the knowledge to play the appropriate songs at the appropriate time. He is bringing the organizational skills to coordinate the event. He is leaving his ego at home and working for the bride and groom, and has the interests of all the vendors at heart to bridge the needs of everyone in the room. He is working with the caterer to balance their needs, and working with the photographer to ensure they are aware of when the magic moments are going to occur. The DJ, if used properly, is an important cog in the machinery of a finely honed event. What is that worth to the success of the event?
I like to calculate wedding/party expense values by factoring the number of guests at a wedding, then dividing what you pay for services by the number of guests. For example, if a bride has 100 guests, and the cake is $100...that is a dollar a guest. If the bride pays $500 for flowers, that is $5 per guest. When you are paying 30-50 dollars a plate or more for catered food per person, why would you balk at paying a fair rate for the entertainment? At the end of the reception, what do people remember more, the veal marsala or the entertainment? I have done consultations where the brides balked at my price, but then I point out they are paying more for their seat covers in the reception hall than they are for my services. I like to think I bring more to the table than the seat covers.
There are plenty of ways to save money on a wedding reception, but I cant imagine, if you envision music at your soiree, and you are considering the music to be entertaining, that you would ever overlook the value of the DJ. Shop all of your vendors carefully, check references and be penny wise, but not dollar foolish!