Hey there! We’re back chatting about what weddings cost this week, and we have DJ Jon Strader on the docket today talking about what couples should expect when looking to hire a DJ for their celebration.
It’s my experience that people are pretty divided when it comes to the band vs. DJ subject, and it’s super black and white. People either love and absolutely want a DJ vs. a band, or vice versa. Well, I absolutely love bands but also feel strongly that DJs are a great choice for couples who want an awesome dance party but may not have the budget to support hiring a band! I’ve been fortunate to work with some really great DJs that have converted me from someone who used to be of a band-only mentality to someone totally unbiased when the subject comes up.
DJ Jon Strader was the DJ for one of my very first TLT weddings, and he definitely set a high standard for what I expect from wedding DJs with his performance that night! We had a moment to chat when the wedding was over, and he told me that in his 15 years in the business he had never worked with a planner that was so communicative and helpful before. So, obviously, he won my vendor heart that day, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with him a bunch since!
Aside from being super high energy and extremely professional on the wedding day, Jon is super responsive, extremely knowledgeable about music and how to satisfy different tastes, is really positive and generally pleasant to be around, and, most importantly, keeps a dance floor BUMPING. Let’s dive in to hear what he has to say!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Jon Strader. I’m a wedding and event DJ with over 16 years of experience. I’m 30 years old and have a passion for music and coffee! I’ve toured the entire world playing in bands and now focus on delivering the best client experience through DJing.
What made you want to become a DJ?
My first job ever was an assistant for a very reputable DJ company. I was 14 and spent my weekends djing weddings. I learned a lot through this time. I loved it. I always played music, so this was just an extension of being able to play shows and perform myself.
What types of weddings do you love to DJ for/what types of clients do you love to work with?
I honestly look forward to working with everyone who comes my way. I feel that there’s a reason they found me or were referred to me. I’m always anticipating the next inquiry – I’ve had some of the most obscure wedding requests, and that’s where my experience really comes into play for my couples and clients.
My interest and involvement in the music industry introduces me to so much music. I’m personally into so many different styles and can DJ genres for any environment.
What’s your favorite first dance song?
My guy is Franky.. Mr. Sinatra always wins. But everyone has that one song that represents them as a couple. I feel like the song to begin your life together is so important. Music is always around us. It represents feelings, memories, emotions, and you’ll always associate those things with certain songs. That being said, I always look forward to seeing what my couples have decided on for their first dance.
What’s your favorite last dance song?
Sometimes I leave this up to the couple. They may have a song that they want to capture the night and close it out strong. It may be slow, it may be a massive song that means a lot to their friends and family. I personally love getting into AC/DC or Def Leppard. Who doesn’t like those songs… you know the songs.
What’s your favorite guaranteed-to-get-the-dance-floor-pumping song?
At weddings you have many different ages and interests flowing through your friends and family. But I always love taking everyone on a journey. I love the 60’s and 70’s. That’s usually when the floor is packed. Why? Because those are the years the huge hits that last forever are found. Everyone knows and loves them. I open a lot with Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder. A more current massive track would be Dynamite by Taio Cruz. That’s my jam.
Take me through a typical wedding day for DJ Jon Strader.
Coffee. Always start with coffee. Then I load the truck with my gear from the storage unit and depending on the venue, I always try to arrive about 2 hours before guests arrive. The week prior, I’ve talked with the couple and made sure all the formalities and certain requests are locked in using my planning forms. Being prepared is huge for me. I always have everything backed up as well- you never know when things could go awry for whatever reason!
If I’m providing sound and mics for the ceremony, I set that up first. I find the ideal location and sound check the mics and music. Once the ceremony is set, I move onto reception setup. Speakers, lighting, and equipment always take a bit of time to set up and make neat and presentable- I have OCD when it comes to my gear looking clean. This year I built my own DJ booth (see photo below!). I had a vision for it and made it happen. It looks amazing at venues.
Making sure you’re in tune with the venue manager, caterer, photographer, and videographer is so important. You’re all there making sure the night goes off stress free for the couple and everything is executed on time and effectively. Some weddings have more structure than others, and there’s always going to be different environments and it’s important to understand them.
Introductions, being on the mic in front of an audience, announcing when things are happening, appropriate volume levels, and song choices for different times of the evening are just some of the factors that play a part in the wedding day. I act as a master of ceremonies and conduct when things need to happen while accounting for all these things!
Take me through everything that goes into delivering kick ass music for a wedding, from the moment the client inquires until the wedding is over?
Hiring the right (experienced) DJ is extremely important. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories, and wedding DJs have been put into this category of being cheese balls or sloppy, not caring about what’s going on around them. I’ve heard stories of playing the wrong songs having bad attitudes, being less than stellar on the mic, and as someone who holds myself to a much higher standard, it’s embarrassing. I always meet my couples in person- we discuss details and get to know each other, which is important. I’ve DJ’d weddings where I’ve had multiple couples in attendance who I also DJ’d for. It’s great seeing them again and having a sense of friendship and personal connection to these people!
I always tell my clients to select two or three main priorities for their wedding and focus their resources on those items. If a couple is prioritizing music, how much should they expect to invest in an awesome DJ?
Your DJ is providing the entertainment for your entire day. They’re the first ones to arrive and the last to leave, and they’re working the entire duration of your event, from setting up to taking down equipment, traveling to and from home to the venue, and providing your guests with an amazing time, through music for the love of music.
When you think of weddings, what is it that everyone wants to do? Enjoy themselves! Dance! All while being around the people they love the most. Your friends and family are there celebrating one of the most important days with you. Of course budget is extremely important, but keep in mind that good DJs are doing this for a living. They have equipment to upkeep, and they have bills to pay. They have to take care of their own taxes and insurance. For me, this is my full time job, I’ve invested the time and I love what I do. Always meet your DJ. I feel that connection is extremely important. And you can’t put a price on that.
Editor’s note: you should budget between $1,200 and $2,000 for a high-quality DJ!
What are some ways couples who are on a tight budget can still have great music at their wedding?
I hear it here and there, and it makes me cringe. The dreaded “we were thinking of just getting an iPad and putting together a playlist for the evening.” Stop. Just stop there. This is the most memorable night of your lives! It isn’t a plug and play situation. You have many guests to provide entertainment for – you’re going to need to rent gear that fits your needs and venue size. You’re going to need someone to attend to your playlist. Right there you’re already at a DJ service. What about requests? What about seamless song mixing to ensure everyone is having a great time? Who’s going to make announcements for you? You don’t want to worry about these things on your wedding day.
A great DJ will take your budget into consideration and can work with you on different packages to make things work. Do you have a friend who DJs? Friends of friends? Always ask. These people can help you out in more ways than just searching for people you don’t know. It’s all about the connection you have!