iPod Weddings? 13 Reasons Why A DJ Is Better

With the birth of the D.I.Y. movement, many couples are starting to look for ways to cut costs for their wedding reception - and wedding ceremony. One of the ways couples are trying to do this is by using an iPod instead of hiring a DJ. While we can certainly understand cutting costs for services, especially if a couple is struggling to pay for their wedding, entertainment is possibly the WORST place to make a cut. It's with 100% certainty that anyone can say the success of a wedding reception is directly tied to both the music that's played as well as the timely, professional and appropriate announcements that are made by an experienced Master of Ceremonies. We can also confidently add that the order of events and how they are presented can dramatically impact the outcome of the wedding reception. So, why would people do this?...

Budget

If you look at the numbers on paper, an iPod is definitely a lesser expense than hiring a professional DJ; that's after purchasing enough music to cover the duration of a 4 or 5-hour wedding, and renting a professional sound system adequate enough for your reception space and the number of guests attending.

Music Programming Control

When you bring your own music source - an iPod in this case -, you have total control over the songs being played (which you'll likely figure out before the wedding day), and the order in which they are played.

Eliminate The "Cheese"

Because it's a fear many couples have, they don't want a "cheesy" wedding DJ ruining their wedding. So, the alternative they turn to is an iPod wedding. They may have seen bad wedding DJs in the past, and assume that all DJs are guilty of being "cheesy" until proven otherwise...but not on their dime.
While we can understand all 3 of these arguments, all 3 have very simple solutions that don't involve an iPod, but instead involve securing the services of a professional wedding DJ at your wedding reception.

You're Not Saving As Much As You May Think

As we mentioned above, on paper it may look like an iPod wedding is more cost effective than hiring a professional DJ. Let's go ahead and total everything up...

Cost of iPod
You may already own one, or maybe you'll have to buy one. Another option here is if you have a Laptop/iPad/Tablet that you can use if you'd like to help eliminate some of the gap between songs using a software-based music player. This may also be something you own, or had to borrow from someone else.

Cost of Music
Music isn't free, and unless you can trust the venue's Wi-Fi capabilities, and make sure you don't run into streaming or buffering issues during a special dance, you'll likely spend a good amount of money on your music. Let's say roughly $50 in total.

Cost of Sound System
You can't play dance music effectively on a pair of computer speakers or home audio for a crowd of 150 guests. You have to have pro audio. Let's say you rented a smaller system of about 500 watts (just to give you an example, our systems are a minimum of 2000 watts, continuous, so 500 watts is very small), it may cost you $175. You then decided that you wanted to play it safe and get a second sound system just in case something went wrong with the first (Murphy's Law is real...we'll talk about this shortly). That's now $350 for sound and $50 in music... a total of $400. Let's also include the cost of a wireless microphone for welcome speeches, toasts and blessings. That's another $75... now totaling $475.

Cost of Event Insurance
You'll want to make sure nobody sues you since you'll be operating your own music and sound equipment, so event insurance will cost you roughly $150.

If we total everything up so far, you're looking at roughly $625. This hasn't even accounted for the time it'll take for you to train a guest on how everything works, what announcements to make, what songs to play at what time, etc. Is it really worth the time and energy?

Your Money Will Be Well-Spent

If we were to ask a random guest 5 years from now what they remember about your day, they aren't going to say the meal (unless it’s really bad), your chair covers, your centerpieces, your invitations, your favors, your cake (unless it’s really bad), or your flowers. We definitely know they won’t remember your wedding pictures or video, because chances are they will never see them. What they will remember, however, is if they had a good or bad time. This already justifies and makes the case for spending money on quality entertainment and cutting costs elsewhere. Our recommendation is to look into the services of an experienced professional; one that shares your same views and will honor your requests. Not only will your guests thank you, but you will be able to enjoy your wedding reception and essentially feel like a guest too!

A Lawsuit Waiting To Happen

Something many couples forget to factor in is liability. You may not know this, but you are potentially exposing yourself to a lawsuit when using your own music source and renting a sound system. A professional DJ carries liability insurance that covers them in case  a speaker falls over and hurts a guest or breaks/damages something, or if the equipment malfunctions and/or starts an electrical fire (that's why having quality gear is a good idea...something every professional DJ should have). However, since you are the one in charge of the sound system and in current ownership of all the equipment, you are the one that is going to be sued if anything happens. Your homeowners’ policy MAY cover you in this instance, but the insurance agents we talked to told us it's an additional purchase you would have to make. At a minimum, you're looking to spend $150 to make sure you are covered. Is it really worth the trouble?

Your DJ Can Offer Protection

One issue with the "D.I.Y." or "do-it-yourself" approach is that everyone in that room will think they can do it too. We recently heard in a conversation with a local wedding planner that she attended a wedding where a couple of the bride and groom's friends stood by the iPod and argued about what song to play next. In fact, we can tell you that at every wedding we've done, there is always a guest that approaches us with terrible music requests. Luckily, our couples have never been subjected to those songs, which lead us to a successful event in the end. They just needed someone there to tell that guest...NO.

Unfortunately, for an iPod wedding, this guest is going to be the one that goes through your iPod (or may even unplug it to put on their own music) until they find the worst song possible, and plays it at the worst possible time, because nobody was there to them them NO. Plus, they'll probably find a way to mess things up and you'll have to be the one that goes over to the iPod and try to resurrect your own wedding reception. Why put yourself in this situation?

Murphy's Law is REAL

Everyone knows the law, "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." Even the very best equipment will fail at some point. It's also impossible for you to tell if the equipment you rented was properly cared for and maintained by the company you rented it from and it's previous users. If the mixer (there's another piece of gear you'll have to rent too) suddenly failed, would you know what to do to get the music back up and working? Do any of your guests? This is one of the unknown benefits to having a professional wedding DJ. They know how to troubleshoot equipment and know how to work around the issue quickly so that the party doesn't have to end early. If you don’t feel comfortable troubleshooting professional audio gear, or having to rent a full backup sound system, you may be left without the most important part of your entertainment experience... the music.

Is there an Audio Professional in the house? Anyone... Anyone...

Unless you rent the equipment from a reliable source, and are trained in how everything works and what everything does, chances are you aren't going to know exactly what to do. Do you know if a 500-watt sound system is adequate enough for a 60’ x 90’ ballroom with 150 guests in it? It’s definitely more powerful than your standard home sound system, but is it enough? What if your room is covered in carpet and thick curtains? Windows and hardwood floors? What if your venue has high ceilings? Would you know how to eliminate the echo so it doesn't sound like you're in a large chamber? An experienced wedding DJ will know how to “tune a room” to get the best sound, and will know how big of a system you'll need and the proper placement of speakers in a room for the best experience.

You have the ideas, the DJ executes them

We never understood the "total control" argument over the music. They tend to be the least successful events. Plus, why would you even hire someone that doesn't do exactly what you want for your wedding? During the interview process with prospective DJ candidates, simply tell them that you have a comprehensive playlist for the evening. You can them tell them to stick to the playlist given, not to add or remove songs from it, or take requests from your guests. If they are cooperative of this request, then you’ve just established total control over the music at your wedding (minus the order in which the songs are played). Most professionals, while they may not agree with this approach, are willing to accommodate it. If they don't want to honor this request, simply... do not hire them!

Radio-Edited Music

Do you have access to radio-edited versions of popular songs? Most online music sources offer clean versions, but that's not always the case. In fact, some record companies make the edited versions only available if you purchase the whole album. You can rest assure that the majority of professional DJs subscribe to one or many music services that either mail them CDs, or give them access to mp3’s via digital download of all new music.  This includes the fully-edited versions you hear on the radio, along with DJ mixes with intros, outros, and occasionally a remixed version. These subscription services are available to professional DJs ONLY, and there is a lengthy process they have to go through to prove they are a legitimate DJ and should be given access to promotional copies of music.

NOTE: This is an important question to ask your DJ. If they obtain their music illegally from sources like YouTube or SoundCloud, and they get caught, your DJ may be out of business before your wedding day comes!

Beat Mixing vs. The Gap

Beat-mixing is something many couples don't know about, but can tell what it is by listening. It's also something people don't normally ask for unless they are well-versed in the DJ and nightlife culture. Beat-mixing is simply the blending of songs together to keep the beat going from one song to the next. It's a tool used by professional DJs and is impossible for an iPod to accomplish. It takes a great deal of pre-planning for you to put songs in order by BPM (beats per minute) and overlap the tracks so it blends seamlessly. Using a laptop with the correct software instead of an iPod can help to eliminate this gap, but still doesn’t address the issue of beat-mixing and lack thereof. 

Variety Is Essential

If you are passionate about music, which you probably are, your tastes probably vary greatly. It's probably no surprise that many of your guests feel the same way. Weddings that take into account a variety of genres and decades of music tend to be the most successful and inclusive types of celebrations. So, for an iPod wedding, not only would you have to pay to rent a sound system, you’ll also have to purchase roughly $50 worth of music to make sure everyone is happy. We would highly recommend hiring a professional DJ if this doesn't sound like something you would like to do; they probably own all of the music you’ll need for your wedding and will most likely purchase any that they don’t.

Polished and Flawless Announcements

The biggest drawback in not using a professional wedding DJ is the lack of a polished and capable Master of Ceremonies. Do you have a friend that is well-versed in wedding etiquette and can comfortably and eloquently introduce special moments? How about confidently pronouncing the names of those guests that play a special role in the day? Do they pay attention to detail? Are they quick-thinking and capable of smoothing over an awkward moment by gracefully diverting guests’ attention to something else? This takes years of experience and hundreds of performances to acquire the confidence and competence necessary to deliver flawless MC work at a wedding. And chances are your friend doesn’t have this skill set.

Versatility and Flexibility

You can have the greatest plan in the world, but without the proper execution, it can fail miserably. We've had a number of clients over the years that would've bet us that they knew their guests best and what songs were going to get them up and dancing all night long. In some rare cases, they would've won that bet. An experienced and professional DJ relies on their ability to “read the crowd,” and sense the time where a certain set of music would be beneficial. They can tell when it's a good time to slow things down, and when to hype things up. This flow only comes with the knowledge and experience gained from performing at hundreds of weddings, and is something an iPod will never possess over that of a professional wedding DJ. Even a music expert can’t always predict in advance which songs your guests will respond to, which is why we never pre-plan DJ sets. The last thing you want to do is clear a dance floor with a bad song choice.

No Two DJs Are Created Equal

And lastly, let's talk about the "cheese." Spending the extra money to get a professional DJ to do exactly what you want is a great case to make over an iPod wedding. We will say though, that an iPod wedding is a much better option than a terrible DJ. We aren't going to put a price on what a professional DJ charges, but we are going to say that if your DJ charges less than what it costs for you to run the event yourself ($625 to be exact), a red flag should go up.

The goal is to hire a good DJ, not to cut the DJ out completely! There are plenty of non-cheesy wedding DJs out there – we have a number of them here that have the same simple, yet sophisticated approach and performance philosophy. Do a search online and ask your other hired wedding vendors for companies to reach out to. It may take a little work, but your perfect, professional wedding DJ is out there.
If you found value in this article, or know of someone thinking of having an iPod wedding or event, share this with them now! Also, if you would like articles like this, as well as our newest content sent directly to your inbox each week, enter your email address below and join hundreds of other subscribers to the Classy Cat Entertainment Weekly Music Buzz!
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Jonathan Paduano

I am the owner of Classy Cat Entertainment - an award winning, upscale wedding and corporate entertainment company. As an open-format DJ, I love performing at weddings and marquee private events. In my spare time, you can find me watching the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, spending time with my beautiful fiancée Sarah and our cat - Princess - and rat - Stewart.

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