A wedding DJ is more than wedding day entertainment
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Mariana Diaz. I am a DJ/choreographer with 5th Element Entertainment. I’ve also been practicing photography & videography because I do want to specialize in weddings. Currently, I’m an event DJ so I’m not specific to weddings but I have done a few. I’ve been doing choreography since 2008 and DJing since 2012. I am bilingual so I do both Spanish and English events and because I have done several choreographies, I’ve actually picked up MCing from other DJs I’ve worked with.
How did you become a DJ?
My favorite part would have to be the laughs. It gives me a warm feeling seeing people enjoy their evening on the dance floor and my all-time favorite compliment is “My feet hurt so much!” It means I’ve done my job well.
When I was in middle school, I started listening to a local radio station where DJs mixed live. Before that, I had no idea of such a thing. It was amazing to me how songs could be blended seamlessly to create an extended string of entertainment. I began practicing on cassette tapes (unsuccessfully). As I got older, I kept training my ear with radio DJs and club DJs. I finally got some software to practice digital DJing. It was hard to learn but I was determined. I ended up recording a few mixes and uploaded them on SoundCloud. One of them reached the maximum amount of downloads within a few months.
In 2010, I picked up my first controller and spent months practicing. I finally booked my first gig in 2012 for a birthday party. It was the ice breaker I needed since I had only been a bedroom DJ until then. I’ve picked up new things from every event since then. My favorite part would have to be the laughs. It gives me a warm feeling seeing people enjoy their evening on the dance floor and my all-time favorite compliment is “My feet hurt so much!” It means I’ve done my job well.
Are there things that differentiate DJs?
There are a lot of similarities in this industry but every DJ has their own style. There are some DJs who are accustomed to being the center of attention. There are some DJs who are constantly on the mic to engage with the crowd and encourage them to step on the dance floor. There are some who never touch the mic and may hire someone to do presentations for them. There are DJs who create playlists and run them on automix. “Good” DJs is really a subjective term. It really just depends on what type of service you’re looking for. For a DJ that will want to provide you with the best service, they’ll ask what your preferred music is. They’ll want to know if you have specific songs you want to hear or songs that are “do not play”. They’ll ask if you have a planned layout or idea of how you want to arrange your evening. Some things you want to consider when booking, is when do you want to have music provided.
- Do you need music for the ceremony, reception or both?
- Do you want dance floor lighting or uplighting?
- Do you need a wireless mic for the ceremony or for toasts?
- What attire would you like your DJ to be wearing?
It’s details like that that tend to get overlooked.
In your words, what do wedding DJ's do?
Wedding DJs are there to help you make everything (that falls under them) run smoothly and enjoy one of the greatest days of your life. Some DJs have enough experience to be prepared for additional situations. For example, I carry a bottle opener in my gear bag because there have been a few times none were available. The DJs job is to make your event memorable with as little hassle as possible the day of. You are already nervous and don’t need additional stress. Everything should be planned out prior to the event and rehearsed, if possible.
Where can you easily find a DJ for a wedding?
I feel like the most common ways brides find DJs are through expos or through package deals with the venues they book. The issue with that is those DJs sometimes have so much business, they’ll book another DJ to work in their place so they can still receive revenue from it. I had a couple book me for a choreography because the DJ was included with their venue. They originally met with one individual, sat down, discussed music and everything. A couple of weeks before their big day, they wanted to see if their DJ had any additional questions. Apparently, that DJ was going to work another event already so they were re-assigned without notice. They had to go thru the whole meeting again. It was stressful, to say the least. Another common way is just by word of mouth or from attending other weddings. I’ve gotten more weddings by referral than anything else.
How much do wedding DJ's cost nowadays?
Wedding DJ prices vary on the market. It’s hard to determine a price point. It also depends on the package you’re looking for.
Basic packages could range from $300-600, while intricate packages could range from $1500-2000. The more customization and gear you would like, the higher the price. Some DJs even go up as much as $4000 because the client asks for all-inclusive setups.
Is a DJ necessary for a wedding reception?
DJs are not necessary but are definitely recommended. If you are having a really intimate reception with less than 25 people, you may not want to have any music at all. If you are wanting to have any form of dancing though, yes, please book a DJ. Otherwise, you’ll run into the issue of buying or renting a PA system and someone playing music off of Spotify without having knowledge of “reading the crowd”. That will lead to poor engagement from guests and extra stress for you.
What is a DJs worst nightmare?
There is actually a few of these. One is lack of, or limited, power. Outdoor weddings, while beautiful, are sometimes challenging. Power is limited and may not be enough for certain setups. Also, depending on the area, weather can be a great downer. Another one can be a dead dance floor. There have been cases where the playlist requested is music that sounds great but doesn’t really inspire dancing. Unless the hosts say otherwise, that’s one of those events that stay with you. Additionally, ease of access to venue and spacing would probably be mine. Some places have stairs. Some places have tiny elevators. Some places only have an access door that is nowhere near where the setup is. This creates tension because it increases setup and tear down time and sometimes venues don’t allow anyone to enter more than an hour prior to start time while some DJs need 2 or more hours to properly set up and do audio/lighting checks. Lastly, the biggest one is incomplete or no payment.
Which portion of the process keeps you busy the most, and what takes the most energy?
The most time-consuming process would probably have to be preparing playlists. A lot of clients don’t realize how much work is put into actually obtaining music and organizing it. When I ask for requests, I ask for them to be sent in no later than one week to leave enough time to tag and cue songs. Included with playlists is preparing the program for the reception. Making sure everyone who will be mentioned is listed with correct first and last names.
The most physically demanding part is loading, setting up and tearing down. That’s why ease of access to the venue is most appreciated. A typical schedule for a wedding is doing any computer updates the night before to prevent interrupted service. Doing a test mix at home. Checking traffic constantly. Checking alternate routes in the event they are necessary. Loading the vehicle 2 hours prior.
Checking the weather to see if there are any changes. Heading to the venue to arrive an hour to an hour and a half prior to the start time (depending on setup). Loading in, setting up and running sound/lighting tests. Then, I’ll go over the program and load my playlists. For the reception, I’ll usually suggest the entrance of the wedding party and bridegroom, followed by dances (mother/groom, father/bride, first dance). Afterwards would be arranged to the client’s preference but would include moments like toast, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss and with Hispanic families, they’ll do “La Vibora de la Mar” which is essentially a conga line. Then dance hour begins!
If you could ask one thing of the grooms and brides that would make your job at their wedding easier, what would it be?
If you have any ideas on what you want, please share. It’s your day and I would just want to help you make it as best as possible.
Please give me any requests, whether specific songs or genres. From the moment you set a date, write down songs you would like to hear so you aren’t flustered trying to think of songs last minute. If you have any ideas on what you want, please share. It’s your day and I would just want to help you make it as best as possible. If you have any questions, ask early on. Last minute is sometimes hard to accommodate. Lastly, have fun! Leave the work to the professionals and enjoy your time.