by Tim and Tammy Smith
Whether its true or not, most everyone agrees that wedding DJs are expensive. A popular tip circulating the net is to replace your wedding DJ with an iPod and DJ your reception yourself. While this may sound like a great idea, there are some things to consider. Just as with any do-it-yourself project, you must be aware of all facets before you start.
The first most important job for a good DJ is to play music that the crowd enjoys. A simple shuffle has no way of knowing who is dancing to what. A person does need to run things, but not just any person will do. Putting your 12 year old nephew won't do you any good. The person in charge of the music needs a large amount of music knowledge. A good DJ should have this knowledge. A good DJ should be able to identify a song based on a few bars hummed out of tune or a snippet of lyrics that are slightly incorrect. Your DJ must not have a fear of speaking in front of a crowd, and this is not as easy as it sounds. One simply has to think of all the Best men who have hemmed and hawed their way through a wedding toast with the microphone held at waist level. Also, does he/she know how to auction off a garter or any of the other traditional reception activities? If not, will the bride and groom want to do these things while they should be enjoying their guests? Oh, and just like you would give your wedding singer or officiant a tip for performing your ceremony, don't forget a gratuity for your impromptu DJ.
Unless you're a music collector, chances are you don't have a music library with waltzes, polkas, old country, new country, oldies, classic rock, new rock, soft rock, hard rock, hip hop, dance, etc. And, unless you want to subject your guests to your musical tastes, you should probably buy a selection of these songs. If you're not up on popular waltzes and polkas, or don't know which songs are currently topping the country Top 40, search the web. $25 dollars should buy you enough music on iTunes to cover enough various musical tastes that most guests will enjoy themselves.Another task for a good wedding DJ is one who is covered by insurance. Sure, your homeowners policy *might* cover it, but I'd hate to see your premiums next year if an accident does occur. Don't think accidents will happen to you? Are you serving alcohol at your reception? If you're telling yourself, "All the drunk people I know never act like fools!", stop and think about that again. Besides, many venues require proof of insurance because they don't want to see their premiums raised because your grandma tripped on a speaker cable and broke her hip. Searching the web for "wedding event insurance" will yield a whole crop of insurers who will give you a $1 million dollar policy for around $200.
Equipment is of course another important factor a good DJ brings to your reception. Do you know where to get speakers? Or mics? Or Mixer?? Larger cities will have rental companies that can provide these things. You can even find many such companies by searching the web for "dj equipment rental". Most wedding sized systems rent for anywhere from $250 to $500 dollars per day. In most cases, you must provide a truck or van to transport the equipment. Now, do you know how to set these things up? If not, will the rental company give you a tutorial? Some rental companies will give you a tutorial when you pick the equipment up, but make sure to take notes, because if you have to call them later they will likely charge you for a service call. Some equipment rental companies will deliver, setup, and test their equipment as well as pick up later, but this is extra.
That being said, if you KNOW your group will interact without being prompted (or just don't care if they interact or not), and if you've got a person with an encyclopedic knowledge of music that will run your iPod (instead of enjoying your reception), and you have adequate insurance to cover any accidents that occur due to your iPod setup, and you have a large enough music library to make sure everyone gets to hear the music they want, and you're able to get your hands on adequate dance lights and speakers, and will be saving money by spending $550 to $700 then by all means use an iPod. You honestly have no need for a DJ.
If planning and organizing all this sounds like just one more hassle, you'd probably do better to hire a professional so that you can enjoy your reception and spend your first day as husband and wife doing something besides returning rental equipment. For a few dollars more you'll get professional equipment, professional knowledge from someone who has planned and performed at hundreds of weddings, peace of mind that any glitches will be resolved quickly, no hassles about tearing down equipment when the reception is over, and no worries about getting it back before you owe another day's worth of rental fees.
About the Authors: Tim and Tammy Smith own and operate By Request DJ & Karaoke Company in Fargo, ND. They have been providing exceptional entertainment at weddings, proms, and parties since 1991.