Once you’ve exchanged vows, had some amazing food and had some beautiful wedding photos taken, it’s time for you and your guests to let your hair down and hit the dancefloor. Having an expert in charge of the music can have a huge effect on how great the party is and one of Montreal’s most-established DJ/MCs is Stefan Jez from Uptown Xpress.
We asked Stefan a little about himself and his approach to DJing weddings and what advice he had for couples planning their own wedding.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m married – 15 yrs this summer, we have a great 12-year-old son. I love animals, especially dogs! I am a huge Montreal Canadiens fan!
What made you want to become a wedding DJ?
I started DJing in high school. I have always loved music and lighting. As I got older I really found myself enjoying weddings more than any other type of party. Each wedding is always different and that is what I love about them. Especially in Montreal with our multicultural population, it’s really cool to see all the different traditions from so many places around the world. Also, at a wedding we can really focus on quality from an MC standpoint, making the reception be something special and unique that reflects the couple.
What do you think makes for a great wedding DJ?
My love and passion for what I do! Being a wedding DJ is very different than being a club DJ or a sweet 16 DJ. Weddings are a very different type of animal completely. What makes me different is that I have formal training in performance, staging, storytelling and being a Master of Ceremonies. In fact, I continually take performance workshops and attend industry conferences to keep learning and honing my craft. I care for each couple that I DJ for and want their wedding to be exactly what they imagined, and I will do anything to make that happen for them. My training and style are unique in Montreal, and because of that, the couples that choose me really get a different experience at their reception, something that is totally not cookie-cutter. I help extraordinary couples create extraordinary moments at their wedding.
How would you sum up your DJ style?
Open format. Being a wedding DJ, I need to keep all options open all the time. I play all genres, all styles, but add a little flair to them by mixing everything live.
As a wedding MC, my style is formal and classy. I look to use my MC skills to create an engaging, romantic and fun receptions for the newlyweds and their guests.
How do you work with couples to create the perfect playlist for their reception?
Music is a part of the planning discussions I have with each couple. Sometimes couples just want a “mood”, sometimes couples really love a particular style or genre. I take that information from them to help me curate the playlist that I will use for them. But again, a great wedding DJ is able to read a room, set a tone, and depending on what the desired outcome is, can adjust the playlist to achieve that.
The service I provide is much more than just music though. I also act as a coordinator for each couple during the reception. During the planning process, we discuss all kinds of ideas, what is important to them, what types of special moments can we create. I help each couple create their reception timeline and then I take care of making it happen. Acting as the MC I then set the room for each moment we create. Getting the newlyweds ready, their parents, and any other people who are about to be involved, I also coordinate with the other vendors like the photographer and videographer, this way, everything goes smoothly and nobody misses anything.
Describe a typical day for you when you’re booked for a wedding?
I start off with a really good breakfast! After that, pack the truck and head out to the venue to begin setup with my team around noon most days. Once our setup is done, we do all our testing and sound checks. We will then get changed into our suits and be fully ready at least one hour before guests arrive. During that time, we go over last minute details, coordinate with the maitre’d and anyone else we need to. During this time and throughout the entire day actually, we are taking pictures and video to post to social media too.
At the end of the reception which typically is anywhere from 1-3am, we then tear down all the gear, pack it back up and finally get home between 3-5am!
One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a lot of preparation that goes into every wedding I work. It is not just the hours of performance on the day. Because of the level of detail I get into with each couple, I spend anywhere from 20 to 25 hours preparing for each wedding. Writing scripts, working on their love story, making custom audio recordings and of course music preparation.
What tricks do you have to motivate a crowd if nobody is dancing?
First step here is to be paying attention because even if they are not dancing, they still might be having an amazing time. There are moments during a wedding reception, like the midnight table when people want to take a small breather, get some more food, sit for a bit, then get back to dancing. You can’t always force the dance floor. But for those times when the crowd is a little bit shyer or reserved, I will get out onto the dance floor with the newlyweds, and start some sort of interactive dance. This way I can have the couple gather some people and create some momentum.
What’s your go-to song to really get the dancefloor rockin’?
Danza Kuduro by Don Omar
What’s your favourite first dance song?
From This Moment – Shania Twain and Bryan White
And what’s the craziest first dance song you’ve played?
Radiohead – Pyramid Song
What are your thoughts on song requests?
Bring them on! Of course, I take requests, it’s part of being interactive with the crowd! Weddings have the widest range of ages and musical tastes, taking requests helps us throughout the night to fine tune what they want to hear.
Here’s a trick I use as well, during dinner, I’ll go and ask some of the older couples for any song requests, this is because often they’ll tell me their wedding song, which is something I can then play during dinner or a slow dance segment.
What do you do if a song has explicit lyrics?
As a wedding DJ, I subscribe to several music services, these provide clean edits of most songs. I will not play songs with explicit lyrics at a wedding.
What advice would you give to couples who are considering a DJ for the wedding reception?
Don’t wait until 6 months before your wedding to book a DJ! 10-12 months out will increase your chances of booking your first choice!
Meet with the actual person who will be your DJ or MC. You need to be a good fit!
Look for proof! Videos, pictures, reviews, testimonials. As for videos, not just video of people partying, videos of the DJ or MC actually performing.
You should feel that the DJ cares as much as you do about your wedding.
Remember that a wedding DJ is not only there to play music. There are so many little things that happen behind the scenes throughout the night that a great DJ or MC can make or break the event.
Which are your favorite Montreal wedding venues to play at?
How do you know when you’ve done a great job?
As an MC, I know I’m doing a good job when guests come up to me during dinner and ask me if I am related to the couple! Because of the work I put into getting to know each couple I collaborate with, and the storytelling skills I use during the reception, many guests assume I have known them for years!
As a DJ, I know when we’re doing a good job when people are happy, and enjoying themselves. And no, it doesn’t necessarily mean a full dance floor. Some weddings are more the drink, talk and a little bit of dancing type, but they are still having an amazing time. Of course, there are plenty of weddings where the dance floor is packed the entire night too!
Where can people find you online?
Big thanks to Stefan for taking the time to answer our questions. Also, check out Stefan’s super useful guide to wedding DJ pricing in Montreal.