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Friday, June 11, 2010

Ron Grandia - My Day as a Wedding DJ's Assistant

Me, a Wedding DJ's assistant? Work a 13 hour day out of curiosity? Why not? With the "can do" attitude that has led to some great adventures, I headed up to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa with Wedding DJ Ron Grandia. Why? Because I wanted to share with you what it's like to be a mobile DJ but first I had to learn myself! I wanted to see first hand: Just how hard, beginning to end, does an owner operator, Wedding DJ work? Especially on a wedding day.

Photo of Ron by Rhee Bevere. All other images by Stacie Tamaki.

I do know the DJ's job can begin months prior, consulting with the bride and groom, answering their questions, making suggestions about what type of sound system is needed and what would be extraneous are just a few key details to go over when they first meet.

As the Master of Ceremonies Ron will request the names and pronunciations of the wedding party and for the parents of the bride and groom. He will also clarify important details, such as when a married couple uses different last names. Additionally he confirms which songs are to be played for special moments like "The First Dance," "Father Daughter Dance" and "Last Dance" making sure he owns the songs requested.

If there is one, he will work with the coordinator or wedding planner to know the timeline so that as MC he can make sure everything (introductions, toasts, cake cutting, first dance) happens when it's supposed to. He can also hold a moment back if the photographer or videographer isn't in place to get their shots before announcing the next event.

Our day began at 10:15 AM for a 4:30 PM wedding ceremony. The drive to Sonoma was going to take 2 hours each way in good traffic so we left early just to be certain that we would arrive on time. There was a lot of gear!

A stop for gas and a quick bite to eat and we arrived at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa at 1:30 PM. It was a gorgeous day!

The areas that we needed to set up:

The outdoor ceremony sound system...

The front lawn for the cocktail hour between the ceremony and reception...

And the tent for the wedding reception.

What did I do to help out? Well among other things I pulled this little suitcase, pushed and pulled the equipment cart around, went back and grabbed supplies out of the car, went back and turned off the cocktail music once dinner had started and basically anything and everything I could do to help Ron and anyone else who needed help. I even broke down one of the speaker stands all by myself, on the lawn, in the dark, at the end of the night. LOL

After unloading everything onto a cart we rolled into the air conditioned tent. This is where Ron set up his equipment for the wedding reception. It was an ideal location right beside the dance floor which helps to more quickly create the connection, energy and momentum that helps to make a reception successful.

I have often heard DJ's say that when they arrive at the venue they find no space was created for them. They end up having to shift tables and chairs around to create enough space to set up their sound systems. Or often, DJ's are tucked away into an empty corner far away from the dance floor which makes it much more challenging for them to connect with the audience and can degrade the sound quality from some speakers.

That's Ron unloading all of the equipment for the reception and setting it up.

Ron uses two laptops and mixing boards with special music software. Having the right music and equipment matters. I asked him about the current chatter about iPod weddings. He said he would love to be able to show up with speakers and an iPod but currently iPods are just not capable of doing everything he needs them to do.

I think it's fair to say that an iPod can suffice, but you will never be able to mix music with the same success a complete sound system can provide. As the evening progressed and the dancing really took off it was both the choice of songs and the way Ron was mixing them that kept the energy on the dance floor building higher and higher.

If your budget is a modest one with little or no wiggle room, an iPod wedding might be an option worth considering. If that is your plan a suggestion for a best result: Rent professional sound equipment and use iTunes on your laptop instead of an iPod for best results. And don't forget you'll still need to recruit an MC to help make announcements :)

The tall skinny poles are the speakers. No big boxes propped up on top of tripod stands. The look was clean and the sound quality was great reaching all corners of the tent. The set up took an hour and we were off to the ceremony site...

We took the cart across the grounds with the 2 remaining sound systems. Did I mention it was hot? Not a heatwave or anything but about 10 degrees hotter than what would have been comfortable for all of the set up work :)

The outdoor ceremony was beneath a stand of redwoods and a cottonwood tree. The bride entered on a fresh rose petal "runner" and the floral garland draped canopy for the wedding ceremony was by Amy Burke Designs.

Another set up. This time Ron set up a single speaker, which is preferable to two as they can create visual distractions, just to the right of where the guests would be seated. He played music while the guests were being seated and then the ceremony itself was run through the sound system so that all of the guests could hear every word. One of the reasons we arrived early was also because sometimes it takes more time to set up when the electrical outlets are not on. Then it takes finding someone from the venue to talk to someone in maintenance to get things running smoothly.

The second set up was complete! We were off to set up music for the cocktail hour.

Halfway between the ceremony location and the reception tent was the front lawn where the outdoor cocktail hour would be held.

The hotel already had a power source set up which was a very nice touch as often DJs have to dig through the bushes and greenery to locate outdoor outlets themselves. Ron brought a plain black cloth to wrap around the tripod legs creating a much more finished look. Done! It was 4:00 PM and the guests were arriving so we went back to start the ceremony music.

By 4:30 the ceremony was underway. I found a secret spot so that I could watch and be out of the way at the same time. If you look closely you'll see Ron and Wedding Planner Janece Shellooe in the lower right hand corner. It was such a gorgeous ceremony and thanks to the sound system I could hear every word of it even from the second floor landing! By the way, my feet were officially hurting and it wasn't even 5 O'clock yet, so that meant we still had 5 more hours to go. Yikes!

Even complete strangers (a couple and their dog) staying at the hotel stopped to watch once the ceremony began. It was really touching to see how people enjoy being at a wedding even when they don't know the bride and groom. There were also ice cold drinks served as the guests arrived to the ceremony and the aisle was decorated with beautiful filigree paper cones of rose petals.

We had stashed the equipment cart nearby so as soon as the guests had moved on to the cocktail hour Ron packed up the ceremony sound system and we were off to the reception tent.

He wanted to run one more sound check before the reception started. Everything was looking and sounding good.

This is wedding planner Janece Shellooe of Every Elegant Detail. It was such a pleasure to see her vision come to life and I want to thank her for allowing me to be a part of her "day of" team.

With the reception sound system in place Janece and Ron took a stroll to the cocktail area to chat with some of the bridal party members he was about to announce during the introductions. As the cocktail hour drew to a close the guests began arriving at the tent.

Once everyone was seated, Ron welcomed them and introduced himself as their Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Needless to say the room was in a very happy and festive mood. The Introduction of the wedding party began and Ron had to speak clearly and quickly to introduce everyone in a smooth and steady stream of information. There were some very funny bits and the audience clapped, laughed and whooped it up the entire time. He was off to a great start...

As MC he worked the microphone sparingly. When speaking directly to the audience it was with needed information about what was about to happen so that everyone knew what to expect next.

The introductions for the toasts and toasts were followed by dinner.

After dinner Ron announced the cutting of the cake, inviting the guests to come out to the dance floor and use their cameras to take a picture.

As soon as the cake cutting was done, he asked everyone who was already on the dance floor to stay but to surround the floor so they could be there, up close and personal, for the first dance.

Why were the tables all empty? Where was everyone? Out on the dance floor having a great time! For the next two hours Ron played all of the right songs from classic favorites to rock, pop and club music, the mix was perfect. His audience couldn't get enough. You could feel the momentum of the party building up on the dance floor.

I don't think he was through the second song when the requests started coming in. Some were in the form of a list while others dropped by and made their requests in person.

Everyone was having a great time and all I could think was the entire day was Ron's blog post about "Flow" brought to life.

As the dancing continued the crowd just kept having more and more fun. There was the longest conga line I've ever seen at a wedding, people were dancing on their chairs and there was even some pretty kick ass break dancing happening at one point. With one rock song he hit the "sweet" spot and had everyone on the dance floor pretty much singing along at the top of their lungs so that when he turned the music down unexpectedly, they kept right on going. It was so perfect. The entire reception was the epitome of FUN!

At the end of the night there were still a lot of people on the dance floor. I saw Ron approach some of the guests and watched as they began ringing the dance floor surrounding the bride and groom. When he got back to his microphone he invited the guests to step closer and with their arms outstretched, give the bride and groom a group hug. It was so cool! And that's how the reception ended, with Erin and Andy surrounded in a huge embrace by their loved ones. It was so special.

It was 10:00 PM and then came the breakdown packing everything up one last time. As Ron did all of the work, I sat on a chair. My feet had hit their maximum pain threshold about 3 hours earlier, LOL. I was sad the wedding was over but my feet were relieved.

Ron received some really wonderful compliments from many of the guests while packing and loading up the car. At 11:00 PM we hit the road. We still had a 2 hour drive ahead of us and arrived back in San Jose just before 1:00 AM.

The drive flew by as we chatted about the day. Even though I thought I knew, I was really surprised by how much work it was. How much walking, standing, loading, lifting and trouble shooting being a DJ requires. I definitely finished the day with much more appreciation for the effort, caring and concern that Ron gives his clients.

I hope you've found this post helpful if you're in the process of looking for a wedding DJ. Please feel free to message Ron directly if you have any questions for him about his services.

Visit Ron Grandia website by CLICKING HERE

If you enjoyed this post you'll probably like these too:

A Wedding Day with Elegant Occasions
A Day in the Life of a Professional Wedding MC
How Much Should Your Wedding DJ Cost?


  1. It was a lot of fun seeing such a sweet couple have such a great wedding day! And spending quality time with Mr. Grandia was a pleasure.

  2. What a great post! Stacie, it was fun to have you at Erin and Andy's wedding taking it all in. Thanks for your perspective and great insight into the in's and out's of how big a job the dj's is.

  3. Hi Stacie,
    Congratulations to you and Ron. Wonderful job writing about a wonderful job! So many details go into making this celebration one the participants will enjoy then and remember for years and years. In our own ways, EACH of us strives for that same goal, time after time. You and Ron show what it takes!

  4. Hey Ron, Thanks for posting this on Facebook! This is a great blog and a very informative article. Rabbi Gershon and I have worked with Ron on several occasions. His attention to details and professionalism are outstanding. Thank you for a great behind the scenes article. You've done a wonderful job on educating brides and grooms on what it takes for a successful DJ experience.


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