So there I am laughing at the New York Times for jumping on the DIY wedding music bandwagon so late — it’s 2009, jeez, and even I had an “iPod wedding” — when I decided to search this blog to see what I or my counterpart had written about it. As it turns out, a whole lot of nothing. The closest I came to writing about DIY wedding music was a post about how to organize a wedding playlist in which I totally spaced on replying to a commenter who asked me to share some of my own wedding playlist. Sorry, Nadia!
To make sure we don’t have any massively jarring gaps here at Manolo for the Brides, I’m going to excerpt some of iDo, since I spend a number of pages in Chapter 14 discussing DIY wedding music and it’s Friday and I don’t feel like reinventing the wheel. Note: More and more people are calling this the iPod wedding, though you can DIY your wedding music with any mp3 player or a laptop.
Search for “iPod wedding” and you’ll come across hundreds of DJs on the warpath. The moment a bride-to-be brings up her choice to ditch the traditional disk jockey in favor of some digital alternative, pro DJs start weighing in. It’s a bad idea, they say. You can’t anticipate what people will want to listen to or read the energy of the room like a real live DJ. Guests will mess around with your playlist when you’re not looking, and the rented sound system will fall over and injure someone who will then slap you with a hefty lawsuit. Your wedding will be an colossal failure!
But there’s really no reason for professional entertainers to get so defensive, because no one is trying to permanently replace DJs and bands with iTunes playlists. The fact is that some people can’t afford either or would rather budget money elsewhere, some people have tastes that are way too eclectic, and some people just don’t care overmuch for the two standard options.
If you’re sold on the idea of an iPod wedding, read some how-tos and learn the basics of live sound so you understand what the challenges are before you rush out and buy or rent anything. Search for “sound reinforcement” or “sound system basics” to find plain English tutorials that will give you a handle on the equipment you’re going to need. You can’t just hook your computer speakers up to some music source and call it a day. First, you need to find out what kind of sound system (i.e. mixer, amp, crossover, EQ, speakers, mics, and cables) your reception venue has. You need to be sure you can go from a headphone jack to whatever kind of sound system is available. Some venues may not even have a PA. And do not neglect to go over your setup with the venue manager ahead of time to make sure the equipment you’re planning to use will work in your reception space so you don’t end up having to send the best man to the local music store for cables on your wedding day. I’d also recommend having back-up mp3 players loaded with your playlists!
When your MP3 or your laptop will be standing in for a wedding disk jockey, it helps to have hundreds of CDs in every possible genre from acid rock to hip hop to new country to reggaeton to zydeco. Those CDs—or folders full of MP3s—will be the raw materials with which you will build your ultimate wedding playlist from the ground up. You may need to borrow some music from friends and download some fresh albums… um, legally, of course. If you’re worried about the dead space between songs, the latest versions of iTunes offer gapless playback and crossfade options so one song will blend into the next. To keep it seamless, try to match tempos so you have slow songs grouped together and fast songs grouped together.
It’s easy to do this using iTunes because you can set up multiple playlists and give them names that will help your music coordinator do their job. What’s that? You don’t have a music coordinator? This’ll probably be your MC—you’re going to have to designate someone to introduce people and announce things like the first dance. The best man is often the most natural choice for this job as he’ll be up on the mic anyway, but your mileage may vary.
The beauty of the iTunes organizational system is that the music coordinator only really has to mess with the music just before or just after they make announcements. Musical categories can include Cocktail Hour, First Dance, Father-Daughter Dance, Mother-Son dance, Meal Music, Pre-Cake Slow Songs, Cake Cutting Song, and Post-Cake Party Songs. Your MC will already be on the mic—and thus close to the sound system—while letting guests know that it’s time to eat or dance or whatever. They can click over to the appropriate playlist while they’re close to the laptop without missing too much of the action. Just make sure to pad the playlists and that you have more than enough music in each category so you don’t accidentally run out of sweet tunes just when guests are starting to boogie.
Now that would be a tragedy of epic proportions.