The entertainment you have at your wedding reception is something you and your guests will certainly remember. Learn about hiring a wedding DJ and get entertainment tips that will help make your wedding night unique and memorable.
Marty Miserandino: Hey, John. Thanks for having me.
Different Types of Events That Need Entertainment
John: Sure. What was your last gig and when’s your next one?
Marty: The last gig I had was actually a corporate event. It’s holiday season and, basically, serving the corporate clients all over the North Shore. This one happened to be in Boston and just celebrating the holidays.
John: Cool. What’s the next one that’s coming up?
Marty: I have a New Year’s Eve wedding.
John: Oh, you do? Wow.
Marty: Yes. In Boston.
John: That must be fun.
Marty: It’s going to be interesting.
John: Have you done that before on New Year’s Eve?
Marty: I’ve never DJ’ed a wedding on New Years. Typically New Year’s is that day where it’s either I’ll DJ or it’s family time, and in the past, it’s been family time but a friend of mine is actually getting married.
John: Oh, that’s fun.
Marty: I decided I’ll do it and have a great celebration.
John: My wife and I went to a friend’s wedding on New Year’s Eve too and it was fun. At first, we were thinking like, “Oh, it’s going to be kind of a bummer, we’re going give up our holiday or whatever.” But it ended up being a really good time especially when you’re with friends.
Marty: That’s the thing, right? You want to make sure that not only you’re celebrating the wedding but people want to have that big new year introduction. We hope to combine both.
The Business of DJ’ing
John: Right. Awesome. Tell me a little bit about your DJ business and how you got into it.
Marty: Yes. I work for a company as you had mentioned called the NuImage Entertainment. We’re the Boston area’s premier entertainment event group. We focus mainly on DJ, but we also have other services like uplighting, photo booths, photography, videography, things of that nature. We try to do a one-stop full-service event group entertainment organization.
John: That’s great, people can come to your site, your company and get a number of different aspects of the entertainment for their wedding all in one place.
Marty: Absolutely, it can be pretty overwhelming planning a wedding, and as you can imagine, when you’re looking for whether it’s a DJ or a band or ways to enhance the wedding. What type of add-ons are you going to introduce into the event, being able to go to one spot and have an understanding of what’s out there, it can be really important for people.
Pros and Cons of Live Bands vs. DJ’s
John: Right. Live band or DJ? that’s the question that a lot of couples have to ask when they’re initially planning their wedding entertainment. What are some pros and cons of each one of those?
Marty: Sure. Obviously, it would be really easy for me to say DJ, DJ, DJ because I am a DJ. But the reality is I’ve gone to a number of weddings that had bands and they were fantastic. I think, if you have the right band, the right crowd and that’s your style, it can be a great option. With a DJ, obviously, you have an opportunity to hear the actual music, there are songs that you’ve heard from versus homemade, or a copy.
John: A cover version.
Marty: Cover version, sure. Also, with a DJ there are a lot less breaks compared to a band, and I think that’s one thing that people don’t realize when hiring a band.
John: They might play for 45 minutes and then take a 15-minute break, fifteen every hour.
Marty: Yes. Exactly. You might just be into this awesome dance that everybody’s excited and then there’s a 20-minute break and-
John: “Thanks, everybody. We’ll be back in 15 minutes.”
Marty: Yes, exactly. I think that’s the evident flow. Now, I’m certain there are bands that also offer a DJ during that break but if they just put music on you really do lower that momentum of the celebration and then you have to build it back up. Whereas a DJ, a good DJ I would say, they’ll be able to build that momentum and keep it there and really just go throughout the night.
John: Right. Is a DJ generally less expensive than a live band?
Marty: Most certainly. I would say most DJ’s are. I’m sure there are DJ’s out there throughout the country that if you have a very well-known DJ, maybe a professional DJ in terms of creating music and people that you know, they are obviously not less expensive. But generally speaking, a DJ will be less costly than a wedding band.
John: You’re paying one person as opposed to paying every person in a band which can be five, six, seven, eight people or something like that.
Marty: Yes. In fairness to wedding bands, that’s a level of experience and hands-on. They’re experienced, they are playing instruments, they’re out there, they’re singing, they’re entertaining. It’s like a concert. Where DJ’s, they can have that same type of feel, they can provide that same type of entertainment. Generally, you’re paying one or two people versus a band of five or ten and so it would be less.
How to Choose a Wedding DJ
John: A really good DJ can really make a wedding reception and a bad DJ can break a wedding reception. How do you go about picking a good wedding DJ and making sure that you have the right person for you and for your style?
Marty: That’s a great question because I think when people start to explore DJ’s for their wedding, they think every DJ is the same, and the fact is no two DJ’s are the same. As a matter of fact, you can have two DJ’s who play the exact same music but you’re leaving out maybe their microphone skills. How are they doing the introductions? How are they reading the crowd? How are they working with other vendors? Really, how are they paying attention to what is most important to the bride and groom? And not all DJ’s look at an event, a wedding, as really what it should be. It probably is one of the most important days in a couple’s lives. My wife once said something to me when I was going to DJ my first wedding, it was back in 2002 I think, and I’ll keep it clean but she basically said, “Marty, women think about their wedding from the time they were little girls and the last thing they want is for some DJ to mess it up.” It stuck with me to this day. Not that grooms don’t think their weddings are important, but that’s the level that I approach a wedding. It is the most important day in their life, probably until they have children. Choosing a DJ, you want to connect with them, you want to feel that they can take the bride and groom’s vision and understand what is most important to them. Music knowledge is very important as well, and really being able to read a crowd. All those aspects really go into planning and executing the perfect day for people.
John: I think a lot of people might think on the surface that being a DJ is just a matter of you have a set list, you have certain songs that you’re going to play, maybe have them already in an order and you’re just hitting play on a CD player and you’re playing those. But what you are saying is this there’s a real art to it where you’re selecting the next song based on, are there people up dancing? Are they into this really rocking song and I want to play another one right after that, or are they getting tired and maybe now is a good time to throw a slow song in there and give everybody a little break? You’re playing with the crowd like you said.
Marty: Yes. You’re a 100% right. I mean, you need to understand music. You need to understand, in my opinion, how to beat-mix music. You’re playing a song, maybe it’s more of an upbeat song and we’ll just say it’s an old school hip-hop song. Just to throw it out there. You want to bring something in more modern. Well, you don’t want to have a song that’s just going to take them from a high all the way down to a low back up to a high. You can actually beat-mix the music to bring it in nice and smooth and have it seamlessly work so people are staying engaged with the music and you can see it on people’s faces. When you’re bringing that next song in and people hear that beat in the background and all of sudden they’re like, “Oh, here it comes.”
John: All of a sudden they recognize that song and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh.”
Marty: Exactly. You can just see it. Exactly.
John: It’s almost like the two recordings just go one right into the next, almost like the artists recorded it that way with playing one song right into the next one.
Marty: Exactly. In my opinion, that’s very important because it helps with the ebb and flow of the wedding. People are out there dancing — it’s similar to a band taking a break, right? People are out there dancing, they’re having a blast and then all of a sudden the song’s fading out, they stop dancing. You can see them literally looking at you if you do it that way.
John: You don’t want to be dancing on the dance floor when there’s no music playing, so people just stand there going, “What are we doing now?”
Marty: Yes, “What’s the next song? Where is it?” Being able to match music seamlessly, and beat-mix is really important, but it’s not just that. There are plenty of DJ’s who are unbelievable DJ’s, but they don’t want to be on the microphone at all. There’s that balance between being an MC, a master of ceremonies, really understanding what the clients want, what the room is giving you, versus being a circus entertainer. If a client wants to have a more classical introduction, well, you’re not going to bring people in as if you’re coming to Gillette Stadium. That’s part of being a DJ as well. It’s not just the music. As a matter of fact, I would say the music is really the easy part, it’s the easy part of reading a crowd and understand what the clients don’t want. I mean, jeez, if a client doesn’t want a particular song just don’t play the song. I mean, there’s so many great songs out there, it’s not that difficult.
Different Styles of Wedding DJ’s
John: Are there different styles of DJ’s in terms of what you just talked about. The circus performer, versus a classic kind of person. In terms of mic skills and things like that. Can you adapt to both of those styles or is it a matter of choosing the right DJ? Because I’ve seen both and I’ve been to weddings where the music is great and people are up dancing but they hardly ever touch the microphone and then I’ve been to other ones where it is more of like a circus performance where that DJ is out on the dance floor with a handheld microphone and is showing everybody the dance moves to the next song. It was fun but it was a very, very different style. I could see where if the bride and groom didn’t know that that’s what they were getting in the DJ, they might have been upset by that. In that case, they knew exactly what they were getting and they loved it.
Marty: Correct. There is a balance and I think being a top-notch DJ, you need to understand what’s most important to your clients plain and simple, and you need to be able to adapt. You need to be able to improvise. You need to be able to interact with the crowd when you feel the crowd needs it, and you need to stay back when it doesn’t need it. My philosophy is, once people are out there dancing kind of really where the dancing — the meat of the wedding, the meat of the party is happening — I talk very little on the microphone. People are dancing. They don’t need me to talk on the microphone. But, earlier on the wedding for the introductions, in my opinion, you want to set the tone for the wedding, you want to understand the layout of the venue, you want to know if you have enough room to engage with people. There may be a wedding where you can bring people up on the edge of the dance floor so it’s a really intimate introduction, there are times where it’s not open enough. You don’t want to invite people onto the edge of the dance floor because it will be too crowded.
John: You ask people to stay in their seats.
Marty: Exactly. You want to be able to adapt for clients. I don’t think it’s a good policy, again just my opinion, where you’re just one type of DJ. I think you’ll limit not only yourself but I think you’re going to disappoint clients.
Working with a Wedding DJ
John: How do you know what a bride and a groom wants? What’s that process of working with a DJ and with a bride and a groom? How do you work together to decide what it is that they want?
Marty: Sure. It’s really simple in the scheme of things. A few months before the wedding we’re going to reach out to the bride and groom, we’re going to talk to them about how their planning is going, do they have any questions, can we offer them any advice. That also might be a time where we’re talking a little bit about, do they have any other add-ons that they want to consider? Like the uplighting or a photo booth or things of that nature, so part of that planning. There’s also a time where they might say, “Hey, Marty, what do you think about this song for our first dance?” We’re having that initial conversation but we end that conversation with simply, let’s plan on talking the week of the wedding to go over all of the final details. The week of the wedding really is where they have everything already laid out, they’re really getting to the final details, and my job is to really understand what’s most important to them and what has to happen for them to feel that they’re getting what’s most important. If they say, “Hey, we want to make sure everybody’s out there dancing right off the bat.” I ask them, “Do you want to start right away with maybe after your first dance doing an all-guest dance and really setting the tone–an upbeat song?” Some couples say, “We want to come in. Believe it or not, we don’t want to be the center of attention so we just want to move over to the blessing and the toast.”
John: They don’t even want a first dance.
Marty: Correct. You get to know them. You get to know them and what’s most important to them. And obviously, on the music side of things, really understanding what type of music they like, what music they don’t like, and offer suggestions and work together. It’s really that type of relationship where you’re working together to understand the vision and make the vision happen.
Planning the Music for a Wedding
John: Can couples give you a set list of songs that they want to hear at the wedding or do you try not to be too locked in with that?
Marty: It can go a couple of different ways. I truly feel that people who hire DJ’s from NuImage understand, probably most likely have seen us, that we understand how to read a crowd and understand what our clients want and don’t want. With that said, we always encourage clients to choose a good number of songs, say 10 or 15, different types of song. Maybe a couple slow, different genres of music, and at that point, once we have that understanding of the music that they like and that they don’t like, it’s our job to be able to build those sets on the fly. So staying within the genre of music or saying, “All right, they like current stuff right now but they also said that they like some ’80s rock music and you can blend those songs in together knowing the beats per minute and things of that nature.” Very important, though, is the songs that they don’t want to hear. I always encourage that because I typically stay away from songs that we’ve probably heard at every single wedding since we were little kids. The Chicken Dance, The YMCA, stuff like Celebration. Those are great songs and if a client wants them played, I will absolutely play them, but I want to let them know it’s okay to tell me not to play certain songs.
John: You’d rather get a don’t play list than a playlist?
John: And as far as the playlist it’s more, “I like this type of music, I don’t like that type. Don’t play country music, but I really like hip hop music” Or something like that’s what you want to hear.
Marty: Or, “Hey, my grandparents love Frank Sinatra. Can you put a couple of songs on during dinner?”
John: Even if it’s not the bride and groom’s favorite.
John: They know that some of the guests are going to love that.
Marty: Correct. Again, it’s working together as a team to make sure that we understand their vision. And, also, it’s not just before the wedding, it’s the night of the wedding. It is going up to them — my assistant or I are going up to them and saying, “How is everything? How is the music? Are there any songs you want me to play?” At this day and age, we have access to songs pretty much instantly if we wanted it.
John: That’s the great thing about digital music now.
Marty: It really is.
John: We used to have to lug around records and then CDs after that, and you were limited in the songs that you could play to what you had in your boxes.
Marty: Correct. If somebody has [a request and] if I don’t have a song and for some reason I can’t download a song at the moment, somebody can come over literally with an iPhone and I can plug it in and play the song if I needed to. It’s amazing. There are very few limitations in terms of the music options that we have. But, then at the end of the day, it really is taking what they want, reading the crowd, interacting when necessary, and trying to have a fun, classy, in my opinion, party.
Trends in Wedding DJ’s and Music
John: You’ve been doing this for about 15 years or so. Have you seen sort of the trend of DJ’s change in that time of what brides and grooms are looking for?
Marty: I think in the whole big picture the trend is that brides and grooms don’t want somebody who is overly interactive in terms of that circus director. That, “Hey, ladies and gentlemen!”
John: Kind of over the top?
Marty: Over the top. They want a DJ from the MC’ing side of things that is going to be professional and upbeat, in my opinion, and start off the night in a fun upbeat way that’s going to set the tone, but not over the top. In terms of the music, I had mentioned some songs that pretty much those songs, I would say, are on 99.9% of brides’ and grooms’ do not play list. It’s only because — this is not a criticism of other DJ’s, those are songs that have traditionally worked to get people up dancing.
John: People like to dance to songs that they know.
John: Those are songs that everybody knows.
Marty: And DJ’s who might not want to change or step out of the box can easily put those songs on and you’re going to get some people who dance. But I think that the trend really is to have it upbeat, be professional, understand the clients, [and have] a really good mix of music for all ages. I think in terms of more detail, clients are looking for people who, from a DJ perspective, know how to mix music, who [can] beat match and be able to keep things seamless.
John: Not just playing one song and letting it stop and then playing the next song.
Marty: Fade it out and bring the next one in. There are times as an art form where you have to do that.
John: That’s what make sense.
Marty: Absolutely. You’ve kept people on the dance floor for 45 minutes straight, all right, let people come down a little bit and do a slow song. Well, that’s not a beat mix situation, that’s a fade it out and bring it back in.
Wedding Music for the Ceremony and Reception
John: Can a DJ provide music for both a wedding ceremony and for a reception? These days a lot of people are having their ceremonies right there where the reception is in the same hall, or maybe right outside, or something like that. Are you able to provide that as well?
Marty: Absolutely. The Essex Room is a perfect example because they do many ceremonies right outside, they have a perfect venue for that. Yes, we do provide a separate sound system where we can provide the music and then either have another sound system setup in the main reception area or move it. Yes, it’s very, very common these days.
Entertainment Tips for Weddings
John: You’ve talked a little bit about some of the common things that you discuss with brides and grooms and the issues that you have with weddings and doing the music. If you could sort of sum it up, what are some of the tips that you generally have for people when working with a wedding DJ or for planning their entertainment for their wedding?
Marty: I think the big thing is that you want to connect with the person who’s going to DJ your wedding. You want to feel confident in them that they can understand what’s most important to you, that vision. I know I keep saying it but I can’t say it enough, that you feel that one on one connection with the company and the person, and that they can really provide that level of service, literally that customer service. That’s what we’re really providing. That DJ is going to put everything and more into their day and that they understand music and they play good music. Sometimes, I will say, that as a DJ, it’s difficult to come across or explain that there are, in fact, differences between two people. Hey, a DJ is a DJ, is a DJ and I’m going to go with the person that’s the lowest price and whatnot. I think that’s probably not the best way to choose a DJ. If you’ve seen them before and you had a great time at the wedding, great. You see what their skills are. If your friend had them and you didn’t go to that wedding and the friends were really ecstatic about the job that that DJ did, that’s a great way to reach out to that company and potentially choose a DJ. But just be confident that you’re hiring a professional that is going to look after your every interest and work with the other vendors to really make the day as special as possible.
John: I’d imagine that it’s a good idea also to hire a company like NuImage Entertainment, where you have a number of DJ’s. If, God forbid, something happened to you and I hired you to be the DJ for my wedding, is there somebody that can fill in for you?
John: I imagine that that is a huge benefit of hiring you guys.
Marty: It is. Thank God, we have not had situations where we’ve had to really lean on another DJ. Literally, somebody would have to be in the hospital for that to happen. When we go to a wedding, we have two DJ’s that go. You have the main DJ, MC, and an assistant. And if something were to happen, we do have somebody on site to be able to take over.
John: That’s great.
Marty: And then there are circumstances where if all of us are booked, because Peter Accolla who owns NuImage is so well know in the industry, if he had to, he could reach out to other people to say, “Hey, can somebody cover us?” But knock on wood. We haven’t had to do that.
John: How do we reach NuImage Entertainment? How can people get in touch with you?
Marty: Sure. A couple of different ways. They can visit our website at nuimagedj.com. Instagram, DJmartymiz is my Instagram. Facebook, the website Nuimagedj.com. We’re pretty available on the web to reach out to us.
John: Great. All right. Well, Marty, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Marty: Thanks, John.
John: I appreciate it.
Marty: Thank you.