If you're like a lot of cost-conscious couples planning a wedding reception, perhaps you've considered putting on an iPod wedding. Here's what you need to make it happen. If you don't have the full setup, it can all be rented for $200-$400.
Plug your iPod into it. Then, the person who stays with the mixer and runs it all night long can balance the volume levels. Otherwise, you'll hear one song at ear-splitting volume, and the next song practicallly silent. It's highly unlikely that all of the music you loaded onto your iPod is balanced to the same audio output level. And an iPod doesn't automatically self-correct.
For your announcements.
To plug into your mixer
To plug your mixer into your amplifier. Be sure it's properly attenuated, or all of the music will sound distorted. And be sure you know the difference between a 1/4" plug, a mini-plug, an RCA plug and an XLR plug. If you get the wrong cables, you can't feed the music from your mixer into your amplifier.
Amplifer, Speakers, Speaker Stands and Speaker Cables
If you want all of your guests to hear the music, you'll have to amplify it. And even the world's cheapest DJ uses minimum 12" speakers. Don't expect to use the 4" overhead speakers in your banquet hall. Even if they work, most banquet facilities don't keep a sound engineer on duty all evening to balance the volume levels. And there's no back-up if their in-house sound system suddenly fails. Also, a house system feeds the same volume level to every part of the room. So music that's loud enough for the dance floor will make it impossible for any of your guests to have conversations. Have you considered that?
May we suggest an alternative idea? If your venue will let you tap into its sound system, why not record your cocktail music on your iPod, and play it through the venue's speakers? Then, hire a professional DJ to begin with the introduction of the wedding party, and continue with dinner and dance music, plus all of the important MC duties. With the money you save on cocktail music, you can let your guests dance for an extra hour.
If any of the above items fails (with the exception of the microphone), you have no music. You can try to call the rental company for a replacement. But they may not be open until 9 o'clock the next morning. And most companies that rent you a full iPod sound system, and set it up, don't put a full backup system in place. So even if they agree to rush to your reception to fix a broken piece of equipment, your party will be dead by the time they get there. A full set of backup rental equipment, on site, costs another $200-$400.
Professional DJs always carry it, just in case Grandma trips over a cable and breaks her hip, or your little nephew gets too playful and knocks a speaker over, and it falls on one of your guests. And don't forget, if you're serving alcohol, some of your guests are going to be less than graceful by the end of the evening. Equipment rental companies don't provide insurance, so you have to buy it yourself. The cheapest single-day liability policy costs about $200. If you're not insured, and a guest gets injured, you may spend the rest of your lives paying off a huge damage settlement.
All the Right Music
Remember, your guests aren't there to dance to your favorite music. And you want to please all of your guests, not just a handful of your closest friends. Elsewhere on this site, you'll find our list of the Top Ten songs from each of the past 60 years. Click the "Select Your Music" link on the right of this page, then choose "Top Songs by Year" from the drop-down menu at the left. If your iPod music collection already has these songs, you may be able to survive the evening. If you're missing any of them, expect to spend at least another $100, and several hours of your time, downloading the rest of them from iTunes.
That's $700-$1,100 So Far. Are You Still Saving Money?
Someone to pick up all of the equipment, take it to the reception site, set it up, and run a sound check before the reception. This may be a good friend who has agreed to miss your wedding ceremony, in order to be your sound man. Remember, he's probably doing it as a giant favor to you; so if he does a bad job, you can't criticize him without jeopardizing your friendship.
Someone to do the announcements -- preferably someone who knows his way around a microphone. Most people grab the mic and walk directly in front of the speakers, setting off an ear-piercing squeal of feedback. And they think the way to stop it is to put their hand over the microphone -- causing even more feedback. An MC with some professional experience would be a real plus.
Someone to break down the equipment at the end of the night and take it back to the rental company the next day. Banquet halls won't let you leave the equipment on site. And even if they do, it's not insured. So if someone steals it, you have to buy the rental company a full set of replacement equipment -- between $1500 and $2500.
"The Gap" Remember, most of the songs on your iPod gradually fade out at the end, leaving anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds of dead silence between songs. Silence empties a dance floor like nothing else. And a sequence of song-silence-song-silence, etc. won't generate any momentum or energy to keep people dancing.
Where'd Everybody Go? Also, an iPod doesn't take requests, and it doesn't automatically change music when it senses an empty dance floor. And a song that can fill a dance floor at 11pm, may leave it completely empty at 9pm. A professional DJ has the experience to know what songs to play, and when. A random selection of iPod songs can't read a crowd and respond. So if your guests don't like the music you've pre-programmed, the dancing will last only a few minutes, and the party will die. But if all you're looking for is some nice background music for quiet conversation, an iPod will serve you well.
Dancing vs. Listening If you plan to use an iPod, and ask your guests in advance for their requests, remember to ask them what songs they would actually dance to, not just what songs they like to listen to. There's an awful lot of great concert music that can empty a dance floor in a split-second. An experienced professional DJ knows the difference between a dance song and a listening song.
Do Your Homework You can learn more about iPod weddings by simply Googling "iPod Wedding." You'll find an eye-opening video of one couple's experience with an iPod wedding reception. You'll also find several sites with comment boards, where people who have tried iPods, or plan to, can share their thoughts. Some peoople say DJs play all of their favorite music, and try to be the center of attention. But a professional DJ asks you what music you want, honors your wishes, and presents himself with class.
People who dislike DJs in general, and who can't say "DJ" without saying "cheesy," are usually those who went to the wedding of a friend who hired a bargain-basement DJ to save a few dollars. And when he did a horrible job, the guests didn't just think, "Don't hire that guy." They thought, "Don't hire any DJ. They're all awful."
Well, they're not. A professional DJ adds a new level of class and professionalism to the occasion, keeps the reception moving at a steady pace, has the flexibilty to change the music to keep the dance floor full, and keeps the photographer, videographer and caterer informed of all important moments during the evening. And you can find online reviews about a professional DJ, unlike an amateur. Here are some of Fourth Estate Audio's reviews.
Your DJ is also your best line of defense against the party guest who insists on breaking up a successful dance set to play a totally inappropriate song that brings the party to a crashing halt. Plus, he adds countless touches and fluorishes that make the entire evening a great success and a wonderful memory.
It's Your Signature Event
If you're looking to make a statement to your families and friends about who you are, and how far you've come, there is no substitute for a professional DJ. But we understand that not everyone has the financial resources for a full reception, and an iPod wedding may be the only option for people of modest means.
As long as you understand the requirements and risks we outlined above, and you have someone who will work full-time for the evening as an amateur MC, and you're fully insured, and you're willing to risk that your guests won't like your song selection, or you just don't want any dancing, an iPod may work for you, and perhaps even save you $100 or more. Only you can decide whether that's enough of a savings to justify the many hours of extra work you'll need to do. You may come to the conclusion that a professional DJ isn't so expensive after all.
Would you like your Chicago DJ from Fourth Estate Audio to contact you? Start by checking our availability on your date. Just follow this link.