If you’ve been a faithful follower of the blog, you know that our main purpose is to help eliminate the learning curve many couples face. One of the best ways to eliminate that learning curve is by knowing what questions to ask. Not all questions are created equal. You can go online and download lists of questions to ask your particular vendors, such as a photographer or florist, but that only gets you so far.
The thing is if you ask the questions, do you even know what answer you should be looking for in return? If a photographer says they use a certain type of equipment, do you know anything about that piece of equipment or what it does? If a venue says they supply a certain type of chair or tables, do you know what those chairs or tables look like and why they are better than other tables or chairs?
Pat Mahan, owner and DJ at Digital Musicians Entertainment in New Windsor says “Everyone always asks ‘What kind of equipment do you use?’, ‘What kind of lighting do you have?’, ‘What are your backups…?’ Those are great questions but are a bit generic. Asking the right questions AND knowing what answers to expect is essential for hiring the right vendors. Andrew “Enriquez” Nikola, DJ and president of Enriquez Entertainment in Marlboro says “Knowledge comes with experience…Be sure to ask the right questions.”
Weddings are expensive, and the last thing you want is to invest a lot of money and have regrets at the end.
So, today, we’ve asked top Hudson Valley DJ’s to share the questions you really should be asking when choosing your wedding DJ AND the answers you should expect to receive.
How long have you been in business and what kind of events to you DJ the most?
Experience is key and comes with a price. That’s part of what you need to consider in your investment. Being underpriced could be a red flag that your DJ is new to the industry and are low-balling their rates to book couples fast just build up their experience and portfolio. But do you really want to pay less for inexperience, or do you want to invest more to ensure your day is one in which people really enjoy themselves? In addition to low-balling their price, you can tell how much experience a wedding DJ has based on the questions they ask YOU! Nikola says “Make sure the DJ isn’t just selling you too hard. If they truly want to be engaged in entertaining your guests, they will be interested in what the couples have to say.”
Joey Garcia (DJ Joey G.), owner of Jade DJ Entertainment in New Paltz says that asking your DJ what kind of events they usually work will also tell you a lot about the value you get with your investment. For example, if they primarily work in clubs or do a lot of charity galas or birthday parties, you are going to get a different type of “entertainment” than if you hired a DJ that does strictly weddings, with a few of those other events on the side.
Looking at their reviews online will help a lot with determining what types of events they do. This research allows you to see what their presence is in the wedding world. Hiring a DJ in the same vicinity of your wedding is important. Domenic Trocino, owner of DJ Domenic Entertainment in Poughkeepsie says “Local is important. Have they been to the venue? Do they know where they set up?” If you have an experienced DJ, who may not have been to your venue because maybe it’s a new venue, the DJ should ask to come to a site visit with you or ask for a contact at the venue to set up their own site visit. You want them to do this, but they should be suggesting that first. See if they do. If they do, you know they are on top of their game.
How do you entertain?
Trocino says “Another important question to ask is how they entertain…do they talk and entertain your guests to get them engaged?” Some DJ’s are more outgoing than others. Let’s face it, people are different. Some people are quiet and laid back, some are outgoing and the life of the party. Some people are introverts, some are extroverts. And guess what? Whatever type of person your DJ is comes out through their style of MCing and entertaining. And guess what else? Introverted and extroverted people make AWESOME DJ’s! Sometimes, you may just want someone to play music and not speak too much or interact with your guests. Sometimes, you may want a DJ that really gets involved with the guests and interacts with them all night. Sometimes, you may want someone in the middle. There’s a DJ for every type of couple, but it’s important to know that information before you book. If you want a lively off-the-hook party, you want to hire a DJ with that same personality, otherwise, you may be in for a surprise.
Where do you get your music from?
Have you ever thought about where music comes from? Mahan says “Another question people need to ask is ‘Where do you get your music?’ Is it ripped off YouTube or Videos?” Back in the day, I remember uploading all my CDs to iTunes so that I could listen to them digitally on the go. But did you know that professional DJs subscribe to different websites and organizations that provide them with the best quality version of songs? Your DJ should not be getting their music from sources that are not made specifically for industry professionals. The quality just won’t be as good, not to mention, ripping music from somewhere is unethical.
Richie Schneider (DJ Richie Styles), DJ and manager of Music Speaks Volumes in Wappingers Falls says to also ask how the DJ mixes their music. He says “Make sure the DJ is mixing the music live and not using a prerecorded mix. Mixing live at an event is when you are actually blending the two songs together to make them sound like one. It helps to build that energy and that vibe and getting people dancing.”
Who’s coming to my wedding?
In the DJ industry, just like with many other vendors, they can be a “Single-Op” company, meaning one DJ runs the company and is the DJ that will be at your wedding, or a “Multi-Op” company meaning there are many DJ’s working for the same company. You want to ask this question so you make sure that the person you are speaking to during the planning process is also the same person who will be at your wedding. Why is this important? DJ Bri Swatek, owner of Spinning with Style in Wappingers Falls says, “This is the person who is going to announce your name over the microphone, interact with your guests, do things like move you from entrance to first dance to toast, to parent dances, in a style that fits what you want as a couple. And then this is the person who is going to pick music for you and your friends to dance to.” Essentially, you want to build that rapport with your DJ throughout your entire planning process.
Do you have insurance and what kind?
All wedding vendors should have insurance. If they don’t, that’s a big red flag and you should walk away. In fact, many wedding venues won’t work with a vendor unless they have insurance. DJs, at a bare minimum, should have liability insurance, but many will have more. Why do they need insurance if they are just playing music? Well, it’s protecting you and them from the “What if’s”. What if…someone trips and falls on their wiring? What if…someone has a reaction to the fog machine? You can never be too careful and everyone wants to make sure they are protected from the unforeseen.
Do you bring backup equipment and where do you keep it?
You should always ask your DJ if they have backup equipment and they should always say yes. However, that’s not the end of that question. Where they keep their backup equipment is just as important. Mahan says you want to know this because “What happens, if, heaven forbid, your first dance cuts out? What would they do? What’s their process? What do they have in place to happen if your first dance cuts out?” He says their backups should always be set up and ready to go and not packed in their van. If we take his example of your first dance cutting out, and their backup equipment is in the car, then everything is put on hold because they have to go to their car, unload, set-up and then start again. If their backup system is set up and ready to go, they can easily make that switch so seamlessly that you may not even realize there was a problem in the first place.
How long should a “Must Play” or “Do Not Play” list be?
We spoke in another blog post about how you need to be able to trust your DJ to play songs that you like and that will bring your guests to their feet and give everyone a night they will enjoy. However, there are some songs that a couple loves and really wants them played as well some songs couples can’t stand and don’t want to be played at all! Swatek says “Couples should ask how long a must play or a do not play list should be.” He says 10 to 15 songs is a good amount to give a DJ because it gives the DJ a good direction of where to go with the music while giving a couple a say in music.
Have you found your DJ? Were they able to answer all your questions? Did they say anything to you that cause a red flag to go up?
Featured Photo Credit: DJ Bri Swatek, Spinning with Style