As I’ve mentioned before, the DJ at our wedding went a little “rogue.” Despite spending months working on a 70+ song playlist (which the DJ company provided an easy online database for), selecting songs that we would like (The Smiths, Arcade Fire, T.V. On the Radio) AND our parents and their friends would like (Lionel Ritchie, Otis Redding, Neil Diamond) the DJ managed to overlook 90% of the songs we asked for. When he did finally get one right, it would be the wrong version (he thought Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” was a rap song).
After countless trips up to the DJ stand to ask “What IS this?!,” I finally decided to give up and give in. Besides, after my 5th glass of Prosecco I didn’t care if I was dancing to the Isley Brothers or David Bowie. Thankfully, when I told the owner what happened a week later, he ended up giving us a partial refund, taking $500 off the final price. However, I would have much rather paid $500 more to have a DJ that understood what we wanted.
That led me to reach out to Scratch Weddings, a DJ company that matches up world-famous DJs for weddings and events, so I could find out what bride-to-be’s should do to get a DJ they’ll be happy with. Scratch started as a DJ Academy in 2002 (co-developed by Jam Master Jay of Run DMC), and has since become a leading source of marquee DJs. With over 15,000 weddings and events under their belts, they’ve pleased clients ranging from major luxury hotel chains (W) and cool stores (Urban Outfitters) to major television networks (MTV).
I spoke with one of their top DJ’s, Vida Ventura, about the DJ selection process, and how a couple can make sure they get the right DJ for their musical tastes. The Q&A is below:
What should bride-to-be’s look for in a DJ company? How do they know it’s a good fit for them?
I shop at a store where there’s a giant rock with a policy that should apply to DJ companies, too:
Rule 1: The customer is always right.
Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1
Any DJ company that does more talking than listening probably doesn’t have a customer-first mentality. If you and your fiancé take your music seriously, don’t settle for less than someone who truly knows your favorite tracks and artists and can demonstrate that expertise. One size does not fit all!
You should also make sure your DJ company has 100% positive reviews on sites like WeddingWire, The Knot and Yelp, and is listed with the Better Business Bureau in the unlikely event you need help resolving a business dispute. Make sure the company has full liability insurance coverage, because your wedding venue is going to require it. Finally, make sure the DJ you select is someone you’d actually want to be part of your special day.
How can a couple make sure they have the same musical taste as the DJ? Should a couple ask the DJ what music he/she knows best and is most comfortable playing?
A DJ’s biography should reveal what kind of genres they know. If all they’ve done is spin weddings, you can expect less musical range and skill than someone who has held residencies in clubs or lounges, or a DJ who has opened for touring indy rock bands. So your first step should be to review the professional background of the DJ you are considering.
When you speak with the DJ, you should absolutely ask questions about his or her style and comfort in spinning various genres, including those preferred by the wedding couple. Listen to the prospective DJ’s mixing style. Talk about whether you like scratching and mashups, and whether you mind frequent transitions as opposed to longer tracks.
Do you recommend the bride/groom giving a playlist to the DJ, or letting the DJ do their own thing? Can a couple give you a 100-song list of songs they want to hear, or is that a bad idea?
It’s never a bad idea to give a bride what she wants! I welcome as much input as I can get, because it ensures that the bride and groom will hear all their favorites all night long. They won’t know exactly when a particular track is going to play, and hearing it will make the party that much better.
That said, there are couples who provide pretty general musical instructions and that’s fine, too. Good DJ’s are experts at reading the crowd and keeping the dance floor full.
How do you keep a happy medium between the older adults at a wedding and the younger guests who want to listen to bands their parents have never heard of?
One of the advantages of hiring a DJ is the opportunity to include a variety of music to please a wide range of guests. A DJ has to seamlessly move from genre to genre to keep all guests, both young and old, on the dance floor. Guests are surprised we can transition from disco to hip-hop to Ella Fitzgerald to top 40. And we do it in a way that builds energy and keeps every generation involved. One trick I like to use to perk up the oldsters in the room is to spin a modern cover of an older song.
Are there any musical trends at weddings you’re seeing recently?
Mashups are certainly in. The popularity of the TV show Glee has shown how much fun it is to take a song like Elvis Presley’s original “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and mash it with UB40’s remake. You can also mix two different tunes, such as “Holiday” by Madonna with Lady GaGa’s “Alejandro” so that the beats and lyrics flow together.
Is there a formula you tend to follow for each wedding (such as slower music at dinner, dance music after), or is every wedding different?
Every wedding is different. Some have a string quartet or a jazz ensemble during cocktails, while others ask me to play music the bride and groom love, but the stuff that’s not particularly danceable. I actually recorded a video on this topic, along with a Scratch colleague, Jay Jung. He looks at the wedding music very scientifically, like a bell curve, starting slowly and building energy. Here’s a link to the video.
Even though I gave my wedding DJ a list of songs I wanted, he actually played the wrong versions of several of them, or forgot to play them altogether. Do you recommend a couple checking in with the DJ and going over their intended playlist before the event?
Yes. Music is such an important part of the wedding, you’ll want to make sure all the worry and doubt is removed well ahead of the reception. Part of the Scratch Weddings process is to meet in the weeks prior to the wedding to confirm details of the play list and the no-play list, the order of events during the wedding day and even the specific pronunciations of wedding party VIPs, so no names get butchered. Our advice to couples is to be very precise about what songs absolutely must be played, and even the specific version of the song that should be used. Details are important.
DJ Vida Ventura got her start at Lower East Side hot spots and LA nightclubs, and has since gone on to highly-sought after DJ appearances everywhere from Munich to the Winter Music Conference and Art Basel in Miami. Vida’s style is “eclectic and energetic,” and she says she is passionate about bringing her skills to couples looking for a fresh, fun take on a wedding DJ. “I love to mix genres and play everything from James Brown to Michael Jackson to Beyoncé in the same set and appeal to everyone at the wedding.”
To learn more about Scratch Weddings or to book them for your wedding, click here.