Planning a wedding is a LOT of work – and you can’t tackle everything at once. So how far in advance do you need to lock down a Chicago DJ or live jazz or string music?

The best answer is another question: How important is wedding music to you? Musicians and DJs can only be in one place at a time – if your first choice is already booked on your wedding date, they can’t play for you. So if you care a lot, book early to ensure you get your top choice. If you don’t care a lot – work on the part of the wedding you do care a lot about first.

So how early is early when it comes to booking wedding music? I looked at the averages for Backthird Entertainment to find out how far in advance our Chicago-area couples usually book. Are you ahead of the curve – or behind schedule?

Average wedding music booking times

Wedding DJ

The average couple booking a wedding DJ with us signs a contract 7 months in advance. Plan to make your decision 8 months or more before your wedding for the best shot at getting your first choice.

Wedding How Soon Should I Book Wedding Music?Ceremony music only

Couples booking live music for a ceremony or cocktail time, but NOT a DJ for dancing, book on average about 5 months in advance. Plan to make a decision about your reception music first, THEN about your ceremony music – but remember that many people book both types of music with the same company.


Services like decorative uplighting is often reserved a little closer to the wedding date – 5 months out is common. Nail down your entertainment first, then finalize decor and other services.

Earliest and Latest

It’s not unusual for couples to book music with us a year in advance to ensure their first choice of performer. Some have booked with us as early as 2 years before their wedding date.

The latest a couple has booked with us is about 2 weeks before the wedding date – but that was an emergency situation! In my office, we consider anything booked less than 2 months before the wedding date to be “last minute.” These events require us to expedite our planning and production process to make sure that your requests, equipment and event plans are still ready to go. You’ll still meet with your DJ and talk personally with your lead musician to plan the details – but you may not have much time to think about requests before that happens.

3 Reasons to Book Early

Just like in college, working ahead is smart! Here’s why:

1. More selection.

Your favorite DJs and jazz or string ensembles are more likely to be free on your wedding date if you ask early.

2. Better price.

Professional musician and DJ rates either stay the same or go up – they don’t go down. And while your caterer might reserve the right to increase your bill if the cost of food goes up, entertainers seldom do. Locking in a rate early can actually save you money overall.

3. More fun.

Planning your wedding is a blast – as long as you don’t find yourself doing a hundred things at once! The sooner you make the “buying decisions” like which vendors to work with, the more leisurely you can be with the “vision decisions” like whether or not you really want us to introduce you to the Darth Vader theme music at your reception.

For a taste of that process, drop us a line and set up a meeting with one of our DJs. It takes about an hour to get the basics taken care of.