[Image: Emily Clack Photography]
A few months back Slate wrote a somewhat infuriating article titled, “Can’t decide between a band or a DJ? Easy: pick neither“. There was so much in this article that was OBVIOUSLY written by a very uneducated person when it comes to the REAL logistics of wedding music/entertainment. I was so angered by it that I couldn’t write a rebuttal anytime soon. But after working my last wedding a few weekends ago, which was sans-professional DJ/Band and “DIY”ed, I felt compelled to finally respond to that Slate article.
And no, not with anger, but with the reality of what it’s like to actually DIY your wedding music and opt out of a professional DJ or Band. I’ve worked a few weddings now that have gone this route and I can tell you it’s not nearly as easy (or cheap!) as the Slate article portrays. I also asked my Facebook fans for some input to see if they had any other advice or thoughts on going DIY with your wedding DJ or Band. What we are left with is a REAL look at what it takes to successfully “DIY” your wedding music – the good, the bad, and the ugly! Let’s break it down.
[Image: The Girl Tyler]
1. Quality Sound System
If you hire a professional band or DJ they should (hopefully) be bringing along with them a PROFESSIONAL grade sound system. This means multiple speakers, (in case you want music for your ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception … and they are all in difference places) a microphone for the ceremony (this is huge), the ability to actually fade in and out of songs, and someone that knows how to setup and work this sound system, and probably a ton of other things that I don’t know of because I am not a professional DJ or Band member.
I cannot emphasize enough that this is the most important item if you are going to DIY your wedding music. Being able to actually hear the music (that you will undoubtedly spend countless hours planning) is the whole point of having wedding music, isn’t it? And no, that Bose speaker you have is NOT loud enough. If you want to DIY your wedding music the right way, so that people can actually hear it, you will need to rent a quality sound system, which includes a microphone for your ceremony. I cannot stress this second point enough. Even if your “I can project and I am loud enough” officiant thinks they can talk over 80+ people moving, whispering, laughing, etc, they can’t. And I cannot tell you how awful it is for a guest to not be able to hear your wedding ceremony – you know, the whole REASON you are having a wedding. So I implore you, if you are going to DIY your wedding music, PLEASE rent a proper sound system.
And if you chose to rent a sound system, you will also need to appoint someone on your wedding day to:
- lug HEAVY boxes of said equipment into your wedding space
- setup all the equipment
- test the equipment
- ensure the equipment works during the wedding
- troubleshoots the equipment if it fails
Still think it’s “easy” to be a DIY DJ or Band like Slate suggested?
Real wedding experience: “I made the cardinal sin of DJs. I thought since I had a small wedding I could set up the whole system before the event and not have to tend to any problems during the reception. BIG MISTAKE. I will strongly suggest getting someone to assist you so you are not having to leave your bride when something needs attending. Notice I said WHEN something needs attending and not IF.”
[Image: Sarah Gormley Photography]
2. Appointing an MC
This has got to be the #1 thing I see when my couples want to go the DIY DJ route. They COMPLETELY forget that a DJ or Band ALSO serves as your wedding MC. They help push your timeline, they make announcements, they keep the flow of your wedding going. I have had to be the MC for one of my weddings (never again!) because the couple never appointed anyone and needless to say I now ensure that any of my couples that do DIY music re-select a trusted friend or family member to serve as the MC. I also advise them to write a script for the MC, so that the MC doesn’t say anything too off-book (or doesn’t pre-prepare and then has nothing to say at the actual wedding).
So if you are going to DIY your music for your wedding, make sure you also have a wedding timeline of when you want certain things to happen. Think about the weddings you attend, do you:
- Want someone to announce the wedding party? You and your partner?
- Want an announcement for Toasts, parent dances, the cake cutting?
- Want someone to run the anniversary dance? the shoe game?
If you responded YES to any of those questions, then you need to plan for this and find someone to be your MC.
Real wedding experience: “I would recommend writing and giving the script to your friend who will be doing the announcing AT LEAST a week ahead of time. We had a few botched last names, but nothing we don’t laugh about now.”
[Image: Leo Druker Photography]
3. Keeper of the iPad
Another thing about a band or DJ that you might forget is that they control the music. That means they will ensure that your playlist/must-have songs are played and the “do not play” songs are not. Sometimes, when a couple decides to use an iPad or a playlist, things can get a little hairy. I’ve seen guests takeover the iPad (and thus you hear the same song a few times, or maybe only 30 seconds of another song) and the result isn’t always great – sometimes it kills the vibe and can lead guests to be a little confused.
If you are going to DIY your wedding music, and use an iPad (or the like) then I do highly recommend the WeddingDJ App (I’ve helped couples use this app at a few weddings). But more importantly, I recommend entrusting a friend or family member with being the “keeper of the iPad”. That means fending off guests (usually the drunk ones) that just HAVE to hear Timber (that would so be me) or want to search for a very specific song that nobody else really wants to hear. You might also want to consider not placing the iPad in a highly visible place and ensuring you have a back-up iPad in case the one you plan to use dies.
Real wedding experience: “We did our own using pre-made Spotify playlists and borrowed speakers from a friend who was in grad school for music and is now a DC DJ, producer, etc. Somehow the music during brunch got switched to a Frank Sinatra xmas playlist (as you may remember), which was more of a laugh than anything. During the dance party people started picking and choosing their own songs, which was fine bc it kept the dancing/sweating/fun going, but we have noticed over the last year that because of that a few of our favorite songs were missed. It’s really nothing to cry about, just something to note if it would bother someone else.”
[Image: Ken Pak Photography]
In sum, whenever I write these types of posts, it’s not to really sway you from doing one thing or the other – the point is for you all to make an educated decision about whether or not DIYing is really the best route to go – in this case with your wedding music. Most people claim that it is cheaper (and yes, DIYing usually is…) but they never seem to mention the things you still need to buy, the friends/family you need to lean on to make the “DIY” vendor action happen, and the things that could go wrong if you leave something like your music, up to a friend instead of a professional.
So now that you know some hard facts, some advice, and some real life wedding experiences, you will understand that a DJ or Band’s job isn’t so easily replaceable (as the Slate article makes it out to be). So I’ll leave you with this last real wedding experience and leave the decision up to you!
“We rented some speakers and my husband’s groomsmen had no problem setting them up earlier in the day, hooking up our laptop w/pre-made playlists for the cocktail reception and dancing. Neither my husband, nor I, like being the center of attention, so we didn’t have any big announcements to make (e.g., just went from dinner to dancing, no cake caking…). It definitely helped that we had access to the venue all day, with amazing family and friends to help set up everything!! I still love listening to the playlists we made for our wedding.”
Did we miss anything on our “how to DIY your wedding music” post? Got any other personal experiences to share? Sound off in the comments!