Ask the Expert: DJ Mark McFadden

After 20-plus years in the wedding biz, DJ Mark McFadden—owner of McFadden Music DJs & Lighting—knows what it takes to get (and keep) people on the dance floor. Here, he shares his tricks of the trade.

Photograph by Michael Bambino

What would you say is the mark of a good DJ? There’s so much of a difference between a DJ that just plays music and a DJ that actually mixes music. If a DJ is just playing music, he’s really just hitting buttons, where we’re actually taking two different songs and mixing them together where you can’t even tell the songs are changing.

What’s the advantage of a DJ over a band? More variety. The DJ is able to be a little more spontaneous.

What are some good interview questions to ask a DJ? Do you know how to professionally mix the music? How much are you on the microphone? If my crowd isn’t responding, how are you going to get them on the dance floor? Do you offer lighting? Do you have a backup DJ in place? Am I going to get to meet the DJ that is going to be at my wedding reception? What do they wear? Have they been to that facility before? And maybe check with the facility itself to find out about the DJ.

What are some red flags to look for early on? Where they’re meeting. Does the DJ company have a true office? Are they treating this like a real business?

Is it wise for couples to submit a “do not play” list? If they have music that they don’t want, absolutely. But keep in mind your guests. Are any of my guests really going to want to hear this? You want to make sure they’re having fun as well.

What’s your opinion on letting guests request songs? I think taking requests from the crowd is a good idea, but with some caution and making sure it fits in with what the bride and groom want.

How do you get guests on the dance floor if people aren’t dancing? By being able to get on a microphone. Try to win that crowd over with you, and make them feel like you’re part of the party. Some line dancing can break the ice a little bit. Slow music is a way to get people up. Being able to read the crowd is a big part of it.

How should couples decide their last song of the night? I would make sure it is an upbeat song because I want people walking out of my wedding reception not wanting to leave. Maybe it’s a brand-new one that’s going to make everyone dance like crazy, or a classic—like “Don’t Stop Believin’” or “Piano Man” or “Sweet Caroline” or “Friends in Low Places.” We always try to end on a high note.

By  The Numbers

The range of tips McFadden has received. “Is [tipping] a must? No. But is it a nice gesture? Sure, absolutely,” he says.

5 hours
The length of time most DJs are booked for an event, not including set-up and teardown time.

$795 to $2,500
The cost of hiring McFadden Music DJs & Lighting, depending on the DJ’s experience and whether lighting is included.

The number of weddings McFadden DJs per year/The number of weddings McFadden Music DJs & Lighting collectively works each year.

6-18 Months
How far out Mark McFadden is booked for a wedding. September and October are his most popular months.

Mark McFadden, McFadden Music DJs & Lighting,

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