Every couple’s wedding day is meant to be one of the happiest days of their lives, making countless memories to be cherished forever. But there’s a lot of aspects to consider when planning a wedding, and perhaps one of the most crucial is the music that will set the mood and tone for the big day. Nobody knows this better than Ray the DJ, an Arizona man who transformed his disc jockey dreams into a flourishing, award-winning business.
Voted the top wedding DJ in the valley five years in a row, Ray the DJ is recognized as an experienced expert in the business, with nearly forty years of experience. Last year alone, Ray and his talented team completed over 400 gigs, including weddings, corporate gatherings, holiday parties and more.
While they’re busiest when the weather cools down, Ray and his twelve terrific DJ partners work throughout the year, setting the scene for fun, happy and romantic nuptials. They have cemented their role as one of the most reliable, trustworthy services in the state, and it all began during Ray’s years at ASU. As a Sun Devil student, he enjoyed experimenting with different disciplines, taking a variety of classes, but when it came time to declare a major, he couldn’t shake his interest in music. He pondered the possibility of getting paid for playing music, and how he could make it happen. “I thought, I’m not that good of a musician, so that was out…and I thought DJs get paid for playing music, so I ended up getting a degree in broadcasting at ASU.”
Ray wanted more than a degree- he craved hands-on experience. “I applied at different clubs around town to DJ, and lo and behold, one day I got a call from a guy that asked if I wanted to play, and if I could start that night.” He accepted the offer on that day in 1979, and Ray headed for his first shift at the local disco, where he used turntables and vinyl records to entertain the crowd. While he originally planned to make audition tapes for radio stations, life as a local disco DJ led him in a different direction, with more opportunities popping up each day. “I was getting requests to do parties at people’s houses and events, and before I knew it I was getting calls for weddings, corporate functions, and holiday parties. The business simply grew.” Word quickly spread of Ray’s friendly personality and talent, and before long, it became difficult to keep up with all the requests. “I ended up being booked one Saturday, and when I told the client, they said well can’t you get me somebody else? So I asked a friend of mine if he wanted to try some DJ work, and I brought my first guy on board. Somebody else approached me and we grew to have a nice crew of DJs.”
This early start in the business helped Ray make a name for himself, as did recruiting multi-talented DJs with a wide range of skills to join him. By 1981, Ray the DJ was a trademarked name, and their reputation of detailed, individualized service continues to set them apart.
Ray the DJ and his team pride themselves on actively listening to their client’s wants and needs. “I think the mistake that some DJ companies will make is trying to fit every event into their mold, and doing every event the same way. We look at each event, each bride and groom as very unique and special, and sometimes they will have ideas that are new and different, and I have to incorporate their desires exactly as they envision their wedding,” Ray said.
Many clients comment on what they are not looking for- such as the DJ who was a little too talkative and cheesy. “We get it that people want elegance and fun as well, so we are the perfect mix-we are very attentive to the desires of our clients and do everything we can to make their dreams come true.”
To do so, Ray relies on his extremely efficient office staff to coordinate schedules and gigs, making it possible for him to participate in as many weddings and events as possible. His diverse group of DJs handle the rest, including bilingual DJ Gustavo and female emcee Teffanie. With different strong suits and musical tastes ranging from modern hip-hop to classic country, his DJs know what they’re doing. “A lot of our DJs have another thing going through the week, such as a full-time job, and they are thrilled when the weekend comes because they get to do what they love,” Ray said. “I don’t take the job unless I know we can take care of them 100%. We match clients and DJs up based on what they are looking for. Sometimes we get a request for a 50th wedding anniversary, so we need an experienced DJ that knows older music, and other times are looking for somebody very young and want an experience like they are in a club. That’s the advantage of having multi-talented DJs-their different skills and talents and what they can bring in the table.”
With nearly forty years of experience, Ray is able to make suggestions for the minor details of the ceremony and reception. Weddings can require patience and problem-solving, especially when both parties have different tastes and requests. “We are the diplomats right in the middle. We are the peacekeepers, doing our best to keep everybody happy.”
From Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud to Elvis Presley’s classic Can’t Help Falling in Love, every couple has a unique musical taste and inspiration for their big day. The power of music is not lost on Ray. “We are entrusted with the power of music to make their celebration a success. We are bringing back memories, making memories and being a part of the happiest day of someone’s life.”
Considering all the financial and emotional investments to make the wedding possible, Ray says its a huge honor. “It’s the zenith of their happiness…imagine all the people that have come to help them celebrate, from other states and other countries. They have traveled to this particular place at this particular time, and you’re never going to have this same collection of people in this same spot to enjoy this unique event ever again.”
Corporate gigs have taken him to the tropics of Puerto Rico and The Bahamas, but that’s not the most rewarding part for Ray. He is thankful his passion for music turned into a successful business that could support his family. “It’s a wonderful way to make a living. The nicest thing for my wife and I is we were able to raise 3 beautiful daughters, all with college degrees and careers, and we did it all on the DJ business. It’s pretty cool to pay your bills and raise your family by doing what you love.”
Check out the official website of Ray the DJ here.
Photo: Marcia the Art of Photography