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7 questions you need to ask your wedding DJ

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.”
 

RELATED: WHY HIRING AN EXPERIENCED DJ FOR YOUR WEDDING IS A BAD IDEA

 

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.”
 

RELATED: THE ONE MISTAKE COUPLES MAKE WHEN HIRING THIER DJ

 

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.
 

RELATED: AVOID THESE 3 MISTAKES WHEN CHOOSING MUSIC FOR YOUR WEDDING

 

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

 

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father daughter dance Hannah Nicole Photography

Stressed Out Over Parent Dances? Here’s What You Need To Know

Choosing to do a parent dance can be a challenge.  Why? Well, unlike your first dance focused on the happy, in-love couple, your parent dance(s) focuses on a relationship that can be complex, dynamic, good or bad.

 

We’ve all seen videos or photos of brides dancing with their dads, and groom’s dancing with their moms. We’ve even heard stories of brides dreaming their whole lives of dancing with their dad. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s fantastic and great!

 

However, if your family dynamic is one where you know that’s not going to happen, parent dances can cause a lot of stress for the couple.

 

If you are in that situation, know two things:

 

1)    There are no rules to weddings. There is no “wrong” or “right” way to do a parent dance, so you can do whatever makes you feel comfortable, even if it means not doing one at all

 

2)    There is always an alternative, and that’s where hiring a professional WEDDING DJ will make all the difference and make your parent dance a pleasant, not stressful, situation.

 

RELATED: WHY HIRING A PROFESSIONAL DJ FOR YOUR WEDDING IS A BAD IDEA

 

We spoke with some of the top Hudson Valley wedding DJ’s, who’ve seen it all, to give you some pointers for when you’re stressing over your parent dances.

 

Who will you dance with?

 

“With parent dances a lot depends on the relationship,” says David Fischer, DJ and president of M. C. Fish Entertainment, Inc. in Fishkill. He says that there are many ways to work around parent relationships and gives some suggestions:
 

1)    Some brides want two father dances, one with their biological father and the other with their step-dad.
 

2)    Sometimes, the bride’s father or mother might have passed away, so the couple might choose an aunt or an uncle or a person who has been like a “mother” or “father” to dance with.

 

Joey Garcia (DJ Joey G.), owner of Jade DJ Entertainment in New Paltz has these suggestions based on what he’s done with couples at weddings he’s DJ’d:

 

1)    Both the bride and groom and their parents dance to one song (that’s what my husband and I did).
 

2)    A biological father might start a dance and the step-father will step in during the second half of the song
 

3)    Brides dancing with mothers only

 

You and your wedding DJ need to have a conversation about your parent dynamic and discuss an option that’s right for you. DJ Bri Swatek, owner of Spinning with Style in Wappingers Falls says knowing the family dynamic helps a DJ figure out what songs to play in situations that might be determined “awkward” for the couple. He says knowing that is essential to taking your wedding up a notch.

 

RELATED: 5 EASY WAYS TO HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR FIRST DANCE SONG

 

Finding the song

 

Once you figure out who you are going to dance with, if you are even going to do a parent dance, you need to choose a song. The one thing to remember with songs is that when you are listening to lyrics, keep an open mind. Don’t always assume a song is a love song for a couple. Richie Schneider (DJ Richie Styles), DJ and manager of Music Speaks Volumes in Wappingers Falls says “some people have that perception that it’s a love song for a couple, not for my dad, not for my mom.” He says if you really interpret it the right way, it means love for anyone.

 

For example, our parent dance was to “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers. Here are some of the lyrics:
 

“I can’t remember when you weren’t there,

When I didn’t care for anyone but you

I swear we’ve been through everything there is…”
 

“Through the years

You’ve never let me down

You turned my life around…”
 

“I swear you’ve taught me everything I know

Can’t imagine needing someone so

But through the years it seems to me

I need you more and more…”
 

‘Through the years

Through all the good and bad

I knew how much we had

I’ve always been so glad

To be with you

 

Through the years

It’s better every day

You’ve kissed my tears away

As long as it’s okay

I’ll stay with you

Through the years…”
 

It could be taken as a “traditional” love song or a love song to your parents.

 

Now, if you unfortunately have a parent who has passed, Swatek says there are other ways to honor that parent if you don’t want to do a dance. You can always play their favorite song during the night, and at that point, it’ll be up to the DJ to suggest how to incorporate it. An experienced DJ will know what to do if the song is fast or slow. He says if it’s a faster song, you can play it during the night and have everyone get up and dance to it for a fun moment. If it’s on the slower side, the song can be played during dinner or during a slower point in the night, maybe a slow dance during the reception. Either way, speaking with your DJ will help you make what could be a stressful situation into one that will create memorable lasting moment.
 

We want to know…Are you doing a parent dance? Who are you dancing with? What song are you choosing?

 

Featured Photo Credit: Hannah Nicole Photography

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Avoid These 3 Mistakes When Choosing Music For Your Wedding

One of the most agonizing (in a good way) parts of a wedding for me is waiting for all the reception formalities to take place, like the first dance and speeches, so that I can get on the dance floor. Don’t get me wrong, the first dance and speeches are romantic and beautiful, but I get itchy after a while to get up and move!
 

Knowing that people go to a wedding to have a good time, many couples often struggle with choosing the right music to play to make sure everyone has a good time. The unfortunate truth is that couples stress way too much over this.
 

There are mistakes many couples make, without even realizing they are making these mistakes, that cause a lot of added stress and anxiety when it comes to choosing wedding music. Sometimes, they feel like they need to give their DJ a list of all the songs they want to be played and then all the DJ does is play them. We learned already that a DJ does so much more than hit PLAY. Sometimes they think only about the reception and forget about the rest of the day.
 

So, we asked Hudson Valley DJs to share their best advice to help you choose music for your wedding without making the common mistakes that add stress.
 

RELATED: THE ONE MISTAKE COUPLES MAKE WHEN HIRING THEIR DJ

 

Mistake #1 – Not trusting your DJ

 

There are many reasons why couples feel like they have to choose their entire playlist, but one of the things they need to do is trust their DJ. Some responsibility does fall on the couple in terms of letting the DJ know what songs they love or hate, what their style is, what specific songs they want to be played during special dances, but ultimately the DJ is in charge. Why?
 

Domenic Trocino, owner of DJ Domenic Entertainment in Poughkeepsie, says the same DJ can play the same music in the same order and the reaction will be different because of the crowd. “They (the couple) need to trust the DJ. That’s the most important thing.” Trocino says. “You are not hiring a DJ so you can tell them what music to play…As wedding DJs we do what we do for a reason and a lot of our execution is done on the fly. It’s always good to prepare the DJ with what’s important to you…but the rest of it, the DJ probably knows a little bit more about what’s going to make the day go right from an entertainment standpoint.”
 

DJ Bri Swatek, owner of Spinning with Style in Wappingers Falls, says what couples don’t realize is the amount of songs time allows for, after cocktail hour and formal dances are over, is a lot less than they probably think. He says a typical wedding goes through around 80 songs for the entire day including dinner and cocktail hour. “We’ve got maybe about 50 dancing songs, that’s all we have time for…If you dictate each one of them to the DJ – he or she – does not have the chance to take a left turn.” Meaning, reading the crowd and keeping the party going
 

Donnie Lewis, owner of Your Event Matters and Illuminate Event Lighting in Hopewell Junction, says, “We don’t need couples to give us lists of music and we actually advocate against it, because 9 out of 10 couples aren’t paying attention to the guests in the room, that’s the most important part. The most important part about the music is just that the music is recognizable and that people know it and it expands all generations, and you’re not just playing four hours of rap music or hip hop.” Instead, DJs take your guidance and choose a wide array of music based on the crowd in front of them.
 

RELATED: WEDDING RECEPTION TRENDS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

 

Mistake #2 – Forgetting about your ceremony, cocktail hour and dinner music

 

“More and more couples are using DJs outside of the reception,” says Joey Garcia (DJ Joey G.), owner of Jade DJ Entertainment in New Paltz. “They (DJs) set up at a location at the venue different than the reception space and focus on three songs: processional, recessional and bridal march.” He also says that the Bridal March is not as common of a processional song as it once was, with many couples using acoustic versions of songs or playing string instrumentals during the time guests are being seated. He says you need to ask your DJ if they provide ceremony music and what comes with it, such as wireless mics for you and the officiant so that your guests can hear you.
 

Lewis says, “There’s a couple other aspects of music that we always tell couples to pay attention to, and it’s dinner and cocktail hour. Those are crucial times.” He says that cocktail hour is the time that subliminally transitions your guests from ceremony mode to party mode, so you want to start off with some classic songs and end with more upbeat party songs. “For us, we always say that dinner should be upbeat and fun. We’ll keep them low key and less danceable songs, but more about what the couple likes. If they’re into country, play some country music. Or if you’re into really obscure songs play them during dinner.”
 

Mistake #3 – Not paying enough attention to lyrics and not using clean edits

 

Today, it seems like every song out there has a hidden meaning to it. There are so many songs that I love just because of the beat and the music, but when I actually take a step back and listen to the lyrics, I’m shocked sometimes to learn the song is all about sex or drugs.
 

I still love the songs and listen to them, but I certainly thought twice about playing them at our wedding. Now, are most people going to pick up on those hidden meanings? Probably not. But what everyone will pick up on are curse words. If curse words don’t bother you, great, but remember your guests.
 

Swatek says clean edits are a “…personal preference, but I see no reason to have anything but clean edits…I don’t see any reason to have language at a wedding that might offend anyone. If one guest is offended, it’s one guest too many.” He goes on to say that “even with clean edits, there are certain songs that are not appropriate for a wedding.” That’s ties back to what I said about listening to the lyrics and what they are really talking about.
 

You’ll find many DJs will only play clean edits, because, let’s face it, a wedding is a classy event, even if it’s an informal wedding, not a club. Lewis says, “We only play clean music. We always let them (couples) know to pay attention to the people in the room…” Basically, if you think your parents or grandparents are going to cringe at lyrics, you might want to reconsider.

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the one mistake couples make when hiring their DJ

When you hire a DJ for your wedding, did you know that you are not hiring them based on the fact they play music? That sounds crazy, right? I mean, they are called disc jockeys for a reason!

 

I’ll be the first to admit that we hired a DJ for our wedding because we wanted people to dance, have a good time, and get their groove on for a couple of hours. But when I stopped to think about it, our DJ did so much more than play music. Actually, the music came second to what really made our guest have a good time.
 

Here’s what I mean. A few weeks ago I saw this on the website of Digital Musicians Entertainment: “In this new age of easy access to technology it seems like it’s possible for anyone with a laptop and some speakers to be a “wedding DJ.” The truth is, what we do encompasses so much more than pressing play. It’s so much more than playing other people’s music through some big speakers.”

 

I was floored! That really made a lot of sense, so I thought I would ask professional wedding DJs in the Hudson Valley their thoughts, and they all agreed that playing music is just a part of what makes your wedding hop.

 

RELATED: Why Hiring an Experienced DJ for Your Wedding is a Bad Idea

 

David Fischer, DJ and president of M. C. Fish Entertainment, Inc. in Fishkill, says, “A lot of people think that a DJ is a human jukebox – that a DJ just plays music – and that is about the last thing we do.”

 
dj quote
 

In fact, Domenic Trocino, owner of DJ Domenic Entertainment in Poughkeepsie, says, “The DJ, more important than the music, guides and directs, becomes the master of ceremonies, makes sure things happen at the right time, they coordinate between the vendors, the caterer, and the other various vendors. … The DJ is the nucleus of the formalities.”

 

Those are some powerful words – the nucleus of formalities. So let’s break this down into what DJs really do, and that goes far beyond playing music.

 

 

Wedding DJs can sometimes act like your wedding planner, and guests look at them as the ones in charge

 

Think about weddings you’ve attended in the past. Did it seem like a choreographed dance? Dances, speeches, cake cutting, dinner, photos all seemed to be happening at the right time. That wasn’t by chance.

 

“There’s so much more to DJing a wedding than just playing music,” says Joey Garcia (DJ Joey G.), owner of Jade DJ Entertainment in New Paltz. “We’re involved in everything, and the whole flow of the evening is in our hands. We need to make sure that everything is happening according to the schedule. We need to make sure that it’s what you want it to be, and planning is the biggest part of that.” That includes working with all your vendors and making sure everyone is on the same page following the same schedule.

 

Andrew “Enriquez” Nikola, DJ and president of Enriquez Entertainment in Marlboro, says, “DJs aren’t just playing music. It is not an iPod. An entertainment company is a wedding planner, an MC, and a DJ. They are working closely together with all the other vendors, as well as the venue, to ensure the greatest success of the event for the couple.”

 

This is why Fischer says guests often look at the DJ like they are the ones in charge.

 

RELATED: 9 Crucial Things You Need to Do for Your Wedding Vendors

 

Wedding DJs are also the MCs (Master of Ceremonies) and entertainers

 

I spoke to Pat Mahan, owner and DJ at Digital Musicians Entertainment in New Windsor, who was the inspiration for this post, to explain what was written on his website. “The DJ is so much more than playing music,” he says. “If you take away the master of ceremonies or if you take away the DJ, yes, you have somebody playing music at your wedding … but the downfall to that is, all the little things add up and take away from the total music time.” Little things, such as not mixing songs properly, stalling when certain formalities are being done, essentially anything that a DJ with little experience does, that interrupts that natural flow of the night and takes away from dance time.

 

When you work with a single operation DJ, meaning the DJ is the company, they are the DJ and the MC. With multi-operation DJ companies, meaning the DJ business has several DJs working for them, you will often times get a DJ and an MC for your wedding. Richie Schneider (DJ Richie Styles), DJ and manager of Music Speaks Volumes in Wappingers Falls, says, “It’s really important to have a two-man show, like a team. You need a DJ to play the music all night long and an MC to be on the microphone and get in the crowd to make sure that everything is being hosted correctly.”

 

 

DJ Bri Swatek, owner of Spinning with Style in Wappingers Falls, says, “If certain things don’t come together … if the DJ isn’t doing a good job moving people through the day, people will remember that lack of flow, they’ll remember it wasn’t organic, it wasn’t natural.”

 

Wedding DJs are your own personal AV, backstage, and lighting crew

 

Swatek explains “a good MC, a good DJ will get their hands into every single part of the wedding day, even little things like ‘what are your wedding colors?’ Well, why are you asking that? Because I’m bringing lighting, and I want to make sure that it coordinates with what you’re doing.”

 

But you also need to look at your wedding day as a whole, not just the reception, in terms of what you are hiring your DJ to do. For example, are you having an outdoor ceremony? Then you need wireless mics. Are you having music at cocktail hour? Then you need a separate setup.

 

Fischer says, “They (couples) lean on me a lot for the ceremony. Two-thirds of all the weddings I do, I’m involved in the ceremony.” He says almost any ceremony outside of a place of worship is going to need something, whether its live music like a violinist or at the very minimum a PA system. “If they (the couple) are out in the middle of a field on a farm and there are 200 guests,” he says, “the people in the first three rows are going to hear it (the ceremony) but what about the other 175 guests? So at the minimum, you need PA.”

 

 

Mahan says music should really be the last thing you discuss with your DJ. “The music is a byproduct of the process,” he says, “and the process is what’s important.” A truly experienced and qualified wedding DJ will be able to answer questions like “What happens if the first song cuts out? What happens if I have a last minute request? How do you accommodate that?”

 

So, you can see, a wedding DJ does so much more than play music. In our next article, we’re going to teach you the best ways to hire a DJ, what you should be looking for and questions to ask.
 
If you already booked your DJ or had your wedding, what did your DJ do that surprised you in any way? What made you say “Oh, I didn’t know that?”

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