Settle in. This is a long one.
You might remember my little rant about how much I hate when DJ’s comment on blog posts and comments that advocate an iPod wedding. Many DJs call them “disasters” and I was tired of the attitude.
Two weeks ago I had my iPod wedding. And it was far from a disaster. In fact, it was quite awesome and a few of our guests even commented about how much they enjoyed the absence of a DJ and his attention-stealing ways.
Was it perfect? Absolutely not.
Would we change a few things? Sure.
Was it worth saving $1,300? Abso-friggen-lutely.
Part of the reason why we were fairly confident that it would work out was because of Chuck’s experience with the music and equipment necessary. We had two keyboard amps/PAs, cables and a microphone. The only thing he bought was a mixer to bring it all together.
He also used Logic, a music mixing and recording program, to put arrange our playlists. Instead of crossfading songs, Chuck mixed them.
This knowledge definitely helped, but I think even music amateurs can pull this off.
Using a generic timeline that was provided to us by our catering manager, we downloaded enough music to be played during eating times and dancing times. It amounted to about 65 songs or about $100 worth of music.
We downloaded a wide range of music. We included a lot of stuff we liked, like 70s funk, country and bubble-gum pop (stay tuned for a video of my matron of honor and I doing the dance routine from Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)), but we also included stuff that was popular with our guests, like a lot of Top 40 crap that I generally can’t stand. Sure, I vetoed Beyonce’s Single Ladies, but made sure Lady Gaga’s Poker Face was on the setlist.
Chuck then mixed the files into one long set of music for each specific part of the reception timeline. So instead of 60 songs, we had 10 45-minute songs. There were some problems with this that I’ll discuss at the end of this post. It’s important that you guys learn from our mistakes since we don’t get any do overs.
I then hired one of my favorite blog readers, Rebecca, to be our computer guard. She. Was. AMAZING. Not only did she tolerate my crazy on the day of, but she was amazing at making things run smoothly. And she tolerated my craziness and total disorganization.
Everything was set up the day before with the exception of the computer. Chuck dropped that off on the way to the hotel the next day and left it with out catering manager. All Rebecca had to do was ask for it, plug it in and she was good to go. When we arrived at the venue, Chuck and his musician groomsmen ran off to make sure everything was working properly.
Most of the issues we had with the music were due to some misunderstandings with the schedule of the reception. Since I didn’t realize that cocktail hour was going to be held outside, our cocktail music played on for an hour with few people to listen to it. But, because of that, Rebecca knew that she could repeat the playlist if it ended before cocktail hour.
After our official entrance and first dance, there was an hour of dancing, which was at the suggestion of our catering manager. Between the odd break and our not informing our guests properly of the long dancing set before more food, the dance floor was pretty empty. I made an effort to force people up, but because they thought food was coming, no one moved.
I’m always honest on my blog, so I’ll fully admit, I began to panic. In my head all I could think was “IPOD DISASTER”. It nearly ruined the entire day for me.
But as the day progressed, more people hit the dance floor and by the end of the party, we had a giant group of people rocking out to Cotton Eye Joe (don’t judge me. I love that dance) and everyone telling me that they had an amazing time.
And to pat myself on the back, a large number of people told me that our wedding was one of the best weddings they had ever been to. This was for a number of reasons, but clearly our lack of a DJ didn’t make it a disaster.
Learn from Us
– Make sure you have a clear understanding of the timeline for the day. Verify the information numerous times to make sure you have it correct. This is how you will know how much music you need and when it can be played.
– Make shorter music blocks. If we could do anything over again, I would have Chuck make smaller 10 minute blocks of music rather than the longer set that we did. This is because nothing really runs as planned on your timeline.
For example, it took our guests a lot longer to eat than we had planned, so when our food music ended, the dance set began. Half of our dance set had already finished when people started dancing again. Had we had shorter blocks, we could have played more softer music until we saw that people were finishing.
– A few of our guests commented that they wish that some of that music could have been louder if they wanted to dance. Well, they bring up a good point. But, then we’d have the guests that would have been annoyed that the music was too loud while they were eating. Either way, you’re going to piss someone off.
– Have someone play EmCee. We did, but it’s worth mentioning. We had my friend Lex who did an amazing job. But, since people are so used to be told what they should expect next, there was some confusion. I hate to say it, but you have to treat your guests like children. Make everything as simple as possible, but give them clear and concise information.
– We had a cocktail reception, which was totally new to pretty much all of our guests. Without the comfort of cocktail hour, salad, pasta, main course, cake, it had the potential to be a little confusing. If you do this, make sure there is a shorter period of time between cocktails and a hot-food hour. Even though we said, “the dance floor is now open”, everyone was still expecting more food and had to wait another 45 minutes. Instead of hitting the dance floor, most people stood around waiting, almost inducing a heart attack for me.
– Bring a mic stand. Chuck asked if we should bring one and I said no since I had assumed that we could keep the mic near the computer. Sure that would have been a great idea had our mic had an off button. Because it didn’t, despite it being a very good and expensive mic, anytime we brought it near the speaker we got feedback. So we had to lay it on the ground along the wall. My musician husband knew this would happen, but for some reason he didn’t think it mattered. I blame this on him having a penis and subsequently lacking common sense.
Sure we had a few problems, but nothing that was so terrible that it ruined the day. A few of our guests said our DJ was fantastic and we had to tell them that technically, we were running an iPod wedding and that Rebecca wasn’t actually a DJ. Though she did get a round of applause when we introduced her at the end. Like I said, a few people thought it was better without a DJ since many of them tend to enjoy the spotlight themselves, often taking away from the bride and groom.
I also think that because we didn’t have a DJ our guests cut us some slack if there were a few things that went wrong or were unclear. It wasn’t like we paid a professional $1,500 and they screwed things up. We were doing it ourselves, with the help of someone who had never done something like this before.
It added to the laid-back atmosphere that was our entire day and was more like a backyard party than a formal reception. That was the kind of feeling we were going for and we were complimented on it throughout the day.
I liked having control of my music. I could veto anything that I didn’t want to hear and guarantee that what I wanted would be played. If people started hitting the dance floor during a particular song, I could tell Rebecca to turn up the music without her telling me to let her do her job. Though, she did tell me on numerous occasions to stop worrying and have fun, which I did and then felt bad that I was hovering so much. When we missed Cotton Eye Joe because it was being played during dinner, I asked her to toss it in at the end. She did and it worked great.
I also like that I now have all of this music. I can play it whenever I want and enjoy it as I see fit since I own it. We paid about $100 for music and we got to keep it all instead of shelling out $1,500 for a DJ that will work for 4 hours and then we will never hear from again.
The total cost for our musical entertainment was about $250.
I don’t have to mention that any DJ, or vendor for that matter, that tells you that your day would be a disaster without their services is an unprofessional asshole who shouldn’t be in business.
DJs offer a valuable service and experience that those without it can’t match. If you can afford one, I suggest doing so. It’s a lot of work to pull this off and you’re bound for a few bumps here and there. It requires a lot of hands on attention and the ability to depend on your friends.
But if a band or a DJ isn’t in your budget don’t be afraid to do this. Take it from me, an iPod wedding can work and it can be a success if done right.