Ask a LUXELIFE DJ: 8 Things You’ll Want to Know When Planning the Music for Your Wedding
Flavia Abadía is an international Latinx and crossover musical artist, DJ, author, and life coach. Born in France, Flavia has lived in Toronto for many years and brings her Columbian and French Canadian roots to her DJ stylings. She has played at events all over the world: from Canada and the USA to France, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, and beyond. She was also the first and only female DJ to play a Toronto Raptors NBA game during the 2019 Championship season! As a musician, Flavia’s original compositions have over 2,000,000 cumulative streams. She’s been featured on Spotify editorial playlists like New Music Friday Canada and New Music Friday Latin, opened for Latin Grammy-Award Winner iLe, and performed at festivals like the Barrio Latin Music Festival at Downsview Park and Toronto’s PanAmerican Food & Music Festival. One of LUXELIFE’s stable of stellar female DJs, we asked her to share her wisdom on all things wedding music.
First, the basics. How many sets do you DJ in a typical wedding? How long is a LUXELIFE wedding engagement, from start to finish?
This depends on the wedding. I generally play during dinner and into dancing, so for at least 6 hours. I sometimes do cocktail hour before that as well, so that would be a longer period of time.
What goes into making a wedding playlist? What makes it different from other types of DJ gigs?
A wedding is different from other DJing gigs because I’m creating specific moments that will last a lifetime. I do my best to create as many of those special moments as possible so it is one of the most wonderful days of a person’s life.
It is also different from other events because I am playing for different generations with different musical preferences, and I am at times integrating different cultural requirements into the evening.
From experience, having DJed hundreds of weddings, I know what songs can work in what moments. The key is to have flexibility and to really read the crowd and the different factors of the evening to play the best song for the moment. A DJs job is so important because they are helping create the ambiance, set and keep the energy going throughout the evening.
In general, I ask couples to give me an idea of the genres they like and name specific artists they like to have a better idea of their preferences. I recommend couples give me 5-15 requests (song title AND artist name) at maximum for cocktail hour and dinner; and 5-15 requests at maximum for dancing. This allows me to get their requests in and be able to flow with what’s happening in the moment. My priorities are a full dance floor—and the couple’s specific requests in the moment.
How do you plan the music flow? Do you break it down to suit the various stages of the wedding? How involved are your clients in this process?
A western-style wedding can be broken down into different sections: Ceremony, Cocktail Hour, Dinner and Dancing. On meeting with a couple, I ask about their preferences and go from there.
Playing music for people arriving and sitting down for the ceremony is setting the tone for the ceremony itself. The couple tells me what type of music they want for this moment. If they don’t know or leave it up to me, I know what to play, based on the physical setting and their song selection throughout the other parts of the evening.
The ceremony is generally composed of specific songs picked by the couple. These songs are played to walk up and down the aisle, as well as to sign the wedding certificate, if that’s taking place during the ceremony.
For cocktail hour, I generally ask the couple what vibe they want me to set and I take it from there. It can be anything from Motown, to string quartet music, to Deep House. Again, if the couple doesn’t know what they want or leaves it up to me, I use my discernment to choose appropriate music for their specific wedding.
During dinner is a great time to play music parents and the older generation want to hear. It’s also the time when the slowest tempo music is played. It can be a great time to incorporate cultural songs as well. The vibe depends on the wedding. I’ve played everything from old school Italian singers to 90s and 2000s R&B to Top 40/ acoustic music.
For the dancing portion, I tell the couples I’m DJing for ahead of time; I generally play music for the older generation and family friendly music first, so they can hear what they like before they leave. The beginning of the dancing portion can also be a great time to play specific cultural music.
Music to dance to is generally the most up-tempo music of the night. This portion of the evening is where I use my crowd reading skills and play the genres of music required. Being a dancer and a DJ for many years, I know what people dance to. I also know when it’s time to change music styles and go into a different genre. There are also classic songs that work for different types of weddings that I can incorporate into the moment, if appropriate.
Also having a mixed background being Colombian and French-Canadian and growing up in different environments, I know how to blend different cultural requirements together so that people hear what they’d like and I make as many people happy as possible.
How collaborative is your DJ playlist? You’re bringing yours and the LUXELIFE brand to the event. Clients book you based on your reputation. But, obviously, your clients will have ideas too about what they want you to DJ. How do you find the balance there?
I like having a meeting with clients beforehand to understand what they like. If for any reason that’s not possible, I ask for a list of what they like and include artists’ names so I can make sure I fully understand what they’re referencing. I also ask them for any requests, 5-15 songs for cocktail hour and dinner and 5-15 requests for dancing.
The magic is really created in the moment by seeing who is around and what they respond to. I don’t play mixes or have a set list other than the requests and any research I may have done, so I can create great moments for them and be flexible to any requests. I have well over 12,000 songs and am constantly expanding my music so I am confident walking into any event I’m DJing.
How about special requests? Are they easy to add into the flow of your wedding DJ playlist?
I ask for requests ahead of time (at least 2 weeks in advance) so I can decide when is the best time to play them. Some songs may be better during dinner, others are better for dancing. I also ask the couples ahead of time if they want me to take requests throughout the night. I always use my discretion. I don’t guarantee songs will be played; however, I do my very best to integrate guest requests if the couple would like me to. I also ask couples what they DO NOT want to be played. That way, I respect what they want and know what not to play, even if it’s requested by a guest.
What’s the workflow for an event? How many client meetings are required? Do you bring your own gear or do you rent the gear on the clients’ behalf?
With LUXELIFE SOUND (LLS), the client will probably speak to Cleo first. She’s amazing and helps with all the administrative side of things. In terms of client meetings, when working with LLS, only one is required with me. All requests and agenda are sent to me at least 2 weeks before the event date so I can be well prepared. In terms of sound, this depends on the wedding. Generally there is someone else doing sound for me. I am able to do sound, which is an asset. So if there are any technical issues I’m able to fix them on the spot.
Do you test and review your wedding playlist before the big day? Do you have backup plans in case of any technical issues or emergencies?
I make sure I have all the requests ready and specific folders with the vibes needed for DJing the wedding well beforehand. I have many backup plans. I usually have every wire and connection needed as a backup and an extra harddrive with all my music and the requests. I also have pre-made mixes for every part of the evening, just in case something goes wrong with any equipment and I need to temporarily play a mix off my phone or laptop while I am solving the issue. I hate dead air. I make sure that no matter what happens, there is always music playing and that the evening is as smooth as possible.
Any wedding stories from past events you want to share? Most crazy? Most fun you’ve had?
I have the most fun when people are smiling, dancing and having a great time! It makes me SO happy. I love helping create memories and moments for people. It’s very aligned with my purpose here on this earth. There are so many beautiful memories that come to mind. I love emotional dances, speeches, cultural elements to different weddings, people’s excitement when I play a song they love and maybe didn’t expect to hear and generally bringing people together.
DJing for weddings is something very special. I love love and helping people celebrate their love in their own unique and customized way. I love that I get to help make the couples’ day even more special for them, their families and their friends, with music they’ve grown up with, music they love, music that holds deep meaning for them and fun music in general!
I love working with LUXELIFE SOUND because everything is SO smooth! Together, we not only create moments, we create a beautiful, special and unforgettable experience!
Book Flavia for your wedding or event! Contact us to learn more.