Band, DJ, or iPod? How To Choose

Last week, regular reader and all around awesome bride to be srah asked for advice on deciding whether a DJ or an iTunes set up will be better for her wedding. I’m going to freely admit that I have little personal experience with using an iPod or similar sound system for a wedding and my experience with DJs has been less regular than that of most regular wedding attendees. After all, I married a musician. I move in musically artistic circles. Most of the weddings I’ve been to either have had live music or were held well before iTunes had been invented.

Nevertheless, I’ve done a bit of research this week looking for ways to break this down for you, srah, and anyone else facing a similar decision. And since I am a little bit prejudiced in favor of live music whenever possible, well, I opened up the question just in case someone else is thinking along those lines and wondering what to do about it.

Of course, the first thing I did was google the question. Not so surprisingly, the first five sites returned in the search were all written by DJs to explain why using your own sound equipment and pre-recorded music is a Very Bad Idea.

Then again, people seeing their oxes gored rarely see an upside to that situation and tend to protest. Just as a florist is probably going to counsel you against silk flowers and it’s a rare bridal salon consultant who is willing to admit it’s possible (with the right skills) to produce a beautiful wedding gown by sewing it yourself, DJs want you to purchase their services. They don’t want you to DIY it. Therefore they will naturally point out every possible flaw that could come up while giving you only the upside of working with them.

But just as there are DJs who are skilled party professionals who make everything run smoothly… and there are DJs from the depths of perdition who ignore the requests of the happy couple or can’t read a crowd to save their own skins, there are couples who can successfully run their own music via iPod or similar device, and those who would do well to leave the job to people who make their living at it. And there are those of us who would much, much rather work with living, breathing musicians whenever possible… even though there are living, breathing musicians who are pains in the lower digestive tract who don’t know how to play their instruments, too.

Basically, I would beware of anyone who says too firmly that there is only one way to do things successfully. It’s almost never true, and there’s a potential downside to every answer. So ultimately it’s a matter of finding the balance that works for you and seeing that it’s run by someone competent.

Note that I did not say professional. A lot of people talk about all amateurs as though the reason they’re amateurs is only because they aren’t good enough to be professional, and all professionals as though they were universally competent. This is simply not the case. The key is not in whether or not a person is paid for their services, but rather whether or not they know what they’re doing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, here. First you need to decide what approach works for your needs, your preferences, and your budget.

Luckily, I found an article on Destination Weddings that can help put a lot of it into perspective. It discusses some of the issues related to each potential decision for how to handle your music/emcee needs.

But there is a little more to it than that. After all, when setting up your iPod to run your reception music, there’s more to it than the iPod and the playlist entered in it. You’re also going to need a sound system to fill the room with it and someone to make announcements.

Before you set your decision in stone, talk to your contact at your venue about what sort of sound system is available to you and whether it will work with an MP3 player, in particular, the kind you plan to work with, whether that’s an iPod or another brand. Chances are you won’t be the first couple to request this information. Make sure you have access to a microphone, too, for announcements.

About those announcements, it is helpful to have one voice doing most of them for the duration of the party. Choose someone who has a good command of a room, but sounds friendly and warm. A sense of humor is also helpful. If you have a relative who has used a microphone before (regular public speaker, avid karaoke singer, etc.) either ask them to speak or ask them to give the person who will do the announcements a quick lesson in microphone technique. It’s not difficult, but there are things to know and remember… like the mic probably won’t pick up your voice if you don’t speak into it. Hold it a couple inches away from your lips and face it directly before you begin speaking. Oh, and never blow into a mic. You can break a very expensive piece of equipment that way.

What? I told you I married a musician! What I don’t mention so much is the fact that he’s also a recording engineer who works with actors on a regular basis. He knows from mic technique for both singers and speakers.

Anyway, if you’re still on the fence, I found an article at A Practical Wedding by a bride who used her iPod to run the music at her wedding and how it turned out. She has some great tips for making it work well.

Ultimately, the only important thing to remember when making this decision is that it needs to please you and your intended. If you look the information over and decide you’re not comfortable with a DIY music set up, then hire someone to do it for you. If you decide you feel good about giving it a go, then take a chance and best of British luck to you!

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