Rock (band), paper (DJ), scissors (iPod)

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding reception where an actual band played.

I keep thinking there was that one time at Kirsten Dunst’s wedding in 1953, but that was just me watching Mona Lisa Smile.

I love live music, and (watch my stocks plummet) I love cover bands. Especially Friday night cover bands in Kalgoorlie.

I remember the first time The Mister and I went out on a real date that wasn’t on the down-low, we headed into the York Hotel in Kal and he said he was just ducking in to visit the men’s room. In the short time he took, I was already up with the cover band singing some Sheryl Crow number.

The strange thing is, I don’t know really know any Sheryl Crow songs well enough to sing them in the car, let alone in front of an audience.

But nothing beats the in-the-moment, sweaty sounds of a live crooner. And because of this, you pay top dollar.

So when The Mister and I were starting to talk reception entertainment, there was no way we could duly compensate a bunch of musos for spending the better part of their Saturday night entertaining us lot on our ‘Speshal Day’.

So the next option was a DJ.

When scouring the interwebs to get some ideas on DJs, I noticed that there is a hierarchy, a pecking order, where some DJs are on higher eschalons than others.

This is how I saw it –

‘DJ Deluxe’ – $$$

My cousin Nina (who is about to have her first baby :D) got married a couple of years ago to a guy that is in a band and even they didn’t  have a band at their wedding.

But they were lucky.

Being in ‘the music industry’ meant that they were more likely to find someone who was great at mixing up the decks than many of us. And it was true. Their DJ was one of the best DJ’s I’ve ever heard at a wedding. So. Much. Fun. I danced so much I fell down many, many times. A couple of times I wasn’t even on the dancefloor.

Someone like a ‘DJ Deluxe’ is obviously is a professional, bringing all their own equipment and actually reads the crowd and mixes the music live to suit the mood.

I got a couple of quotes for this breed of DJ.

They were upwards of $2000.

I didn’t go any further.

The ‘MC Deejay’ – $$

(I had to change my original name for this category as it turned out to be an actual DJ’s name)

He’s the music man that has his own get up including the smoke machine and puts phrases like ‘I’ll put on a Good Time for the dynamic couple I know you are’ on his business card (because a ‘good time’ isn’t the same as a Good Time).

He’s also the DJ that congratulates you on choosing him and outside wedding receptions, you can find him schmoozing at the nearest bridal expo.

The Deejay, whose working name usually has the word ‘sensation’, ‘rhythm’ or a gloriously misspelt kooky titles like Phat Choones, also likes to be The Ringmaster, the Centre of Attention, the MC. He’ll usually throws in the MC-ing ‘service’ for no charge. Which just means he’s gagging to do it.

His assistant, if he has one, is usually his wife, long supporting his frustrations of not having his own show on Smooth Soundz FM.

He also knows way too much about Britney Spears for his age.

The thing that worries me about The Deejay is that, unless you see him perform at another wedding or similar event, you’re never completely sure what you’re going to get. This, friend, is the risk you run.

Exactly what level of cowboy are you going to get? Nothing quite like your own wedding to find out if they’re a loose cannon or not, amirite?

In my experience, they usually have the kind of schtick that’s best left to your Uncle Wal….

‘DJ No Frills’ – $

I kind of like this guy. My friend had him at her wedding. He was an older man, one you would refer to as a ‘gent’.

He brings the bare minimum. A trestle table, a tablecloth, two CD players and speakers. He wears black pants, white shirt, black vest and a bowtie.

He is in direct competition with The Deejay. But DJ No Frills has a point of difference, he just gets on with it with such little fuss. And hair mousse.

The one at my friend’s wedding did not speak to the crowd in any way. When he did speak, it was to gently shoo me away from my persistent Lady Gaga requests with the perfect feedback sandwich of ‘we have some other requests to get through first, but I haven’t forgotten you’.

He did not do any MC duties, and kept the ‘Do Not Play’ list which protected us from an aural beating from ABBA and novelty tracks like the Grease Megamix and anything from Jivebunny. I was however disappointed that Shuddup A Ya Face didn’t get a guernsey.

Brides and grooms luckily have another option that is cost-effective.

The iPod

Wedding DJ’s obviously hate this and, like scaring a first-time pregnant mum with nothing but birthing horror stories, will infer that having an iPod shuffling in the background will ruin your entire wedding and will coyly say ‘you don’t want that now, do you?’

Don’t let a DJ talk you out of anything just yet. If you have the time and the inclination, this option could save you some serious coin.

The Mister and I are doing this option as our venue (a pub) is already set up for this kind of entertainment anyway. We don’t need to fork out for extra equipment like speakers, cables, microphones etc. Which you’ll have to consider forking out for extra hire costs if your venue can’t provide it.

I asked my Facebook friends to get a realistic view on what’s great and what’s annoying about having an iPod or laptop music at your wedding…

Pros 

  • You have complete control over what tracks get played
  • It’s super cheap
  • It’s maddening fun to put together your playlists
  • No cheesy lines like ‘hey all you beautiful people, get on the dance floor and let’s start the conga line!’ from DJ Phat Choones Sensation.
  • Indoor reception places usually have a decent sound system you can hook your iPod into, but best to give them a call and find out as some older places might not have upgraded their equipment to complement your equipment.
  • Super portable and easy to set up and disassemble.
  • iTunes has some great crossfading* and volume equalizer settings so a mixer isn’t going to be absolutely necessary.

Cons

  • Remember when hiring a jukebox for a party was really cool? But remember there was always that person that would pull out the power plug to restart it as they didn’t want to wait 20 minutes for other people’s selections to play before their choice of I Wear My Sunglasses At Night came on? This person still exists. They may hang around the laptop or iPod ready to pounce.
  • It can look amateur
  • You have to do your own playlists and crossfading to avoid the dreaded 2-second silence between tracks.
  • A DJ can ‘read’ a crowd, an iPod can’t (yet).
  • Think about your reception area – your iPod needs appropriate speakers. Not just a random pair of Dick Smiths your grandad’s garage that he uses to listen to the cricket, you may need to hire some good quality ones on tripods, which will incur a cost. If it’s an outdoor reception, they will also need appropriate protection.  You might also need these speakers to hook up a microphone for your MC or for speeches.
  • Consider a back-up plan. A second iPod (or preferably a laptop) loaded with the same playlists just in case the first one is lost, water-damaged or stolen (what thief would want to steal it? One with GREAT TASTE IN MUSIC, yeah?).
  • You might LOVE The Vengaboys, concept albums like Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Death Metal, Broadway showtunes or Celine Dion, but this isn’t the time for you to teach your guests music appreciation. You may need to aquire (read: buy or *cough* download) more music to have a crowd-friendly mix that everyone can enjoy.

Handy hints

*Crossfading means the next song will be fading in while the previous song fades out, so they cross over. Essentially this segues the music together so there shouldn’t be any of that awk 2-second silence between songs.

This is how you do it –

Open iTunes > select your playlist

Go to your toolbar > click iTunes > Preferences > Playback > Crossfade Playback

Adjust the toggle to how many seconds from the end of the first song you want the next song to start – I usually hover around 10 seconds.

Also, tick the box that says ‘sound check’

Click OK

I mucked around with a dummy playlist first to see how it worked. Fast forward the first track to almost the end to see how the next track fade-in sounds. It should sound awesome.

UPDATE –

Oops, I forgot to add that if you want to transfer your saved crossfaded playlists to your iPod or iPhone – you need to download a 3rd party app, I am going to try a free one called My DJ – Crossfade for iPhone.

OR

Once you have added the crossfading to iTunes, you have to sync your iPod before the preference is applied to music on it.

Connect your iPod to your computer. Select your iPod in the iTunes source list

Select the ‘Music’ tab, then click ‘Sync’ in the bottom right corner of the screen. The sync will replace everything on your iPod with your current iTunes library. If you only want to sync certain songs, click ‘Library’ link in the source list and manually drag the files to your iPod.

To be honest, I’ve been having a bit of trouble with this so I’m going to have to get some help from my Apple-savvy mates. I’ll let you know how it pans out.

I hope this helps!

Oh and don’t give me grief about the Big Hair Rox albums, they’re really cool. Shut up.

What music option worked or didn’t work for your wedding or party?

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