One thing that likely won’t have to change about your wedding in the post-COVID-19 world is music. And today, with lots of do-it-yourself DJ apps, and essentially unlimited digital storage of music, obtaining the technical tools DJs use is easier than ever. But that doesn’t mean actual DJing is easy.
While opting to be your own DJ is a commonly recommended money-saving tip, it’s harder than you might think. For my wedding, my wife and I decided to go that route, though we had a live band play a few songs at the start of the evening. We found it more difficult than expected but ultimately rewarding. What we learned is applicable whether you’re having a traditional wedding with 100-plus people or a more intimate gathering.
1. It’s not all about the music
DJs are the unofficial hosts and party leaders of weddings, helping to make sure the mood transitions correctly from the ceremony to the first dance, and to the after-dinner dance party. They also control the crowd. If you’re considering DJing your own wedding, some of the first questions to ask yourself include how you plan to cover this aspect of the DJ’s job. Are you all right with skipping bridal party introductions and other announcements? Or are you confident that you have the public-speaking chops to get “everybody on the dance floor.”
2. Be App-ropriate
There are lots of apps available for various smartphone and tablet platforms. The best app depends on what level of DJ proficiency you hope to obtain. The iTunes app WeddingDJ costs $7.99 and is simple and easy to use. It lets you organize your music by wedding categories — cocktail hour, ceremony, etc. — and fades songs into one another. However, it lacks the ability to start songs later in a set and won’t let you scratch or attempt any other DJ tricks. Algoriddim’s djay 2 for iPhone is free, works with iTunes playlists and offers more capabilities than you can learn to use in time for your big day, including looping, set start points and automatic tempo adjustments. We ended up going with djay 2, and though we attempted some very bad scratching, we shut off the automatic tempo adjustment after a trial run made Michael Jackson sound like a chipmunk.
2. Come Mr. (and Mrs.) DJ, won’t you turn the music up?
Without a high-quality PA system to play your music, all your planning will be for naught. Some wedding venues have existing PAs you can plug in, or you might be able to borrow equipment from a musician friend. Party rental companies often offer speaker equipment rentals. No matter what, you’ll want to test the equipment, make sure you’re familiar with it and that it is compatible with the device you’re planning on playing the music through. Price this before going the DIY DJ route; if you can’t find a good rental deal this might not be a money saver after all.
Bonus tip: Remember that people absorb sound, so a system that seems loud enough in an empty banquet hall might not be when that same hall is filled with revelers.
3. Good music does not equal good dance music
You may have fallen in love to an Adele song, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good song to keep the dance floor crowded. The first dance doesn’t need to have an infectious beat, but most of the songs you choose for the dance party should. Many couples, whether DJing themselves or hiring a professional, choose too many personal favorites that are great songs but are simply not dance songs. We learned this lesson and, as much is it pained me, only played one Led Zeppelin song all night — “D’yer Maker.”
4. Mind the generational gap
One common complaint from wedding-goers is the playlist didn’t give older folks anything to enjoy. I’m not about to shake my cane and complain about the newfangled hippity-hop music (our playlist was heavy with recent hip-hop and reggae hits), but it’s important to throw some classics into the mix. Some stars like Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Prince have cross-generational appeal. Also don’t be afraid to play some rock ‘n’ roll. One of the most successful medleys of songs I played was “Brown Eyed Girl” into “La Bamba” into The Young Rascals’ version of “Good Lovin’.” We also made sure to play classics like “Beast of Burden” and Paul Simon’s “I Know What I Know” earlier in the night.
5. Have fun
If you want everything to go 100 percent smooth and seamlessly on your wedding day, hire a professional. If you go this route as a newbie DJ, expect mistakes, awkward transitions and one or two technical delays. It will likely be a bit of a hassle, but it can be a fun hassle. One of my favorite moments from our wedding was my tongue-in-cheek, speaking-in-the-third-person introduction of the wedding party with a wireless mic. Treat it like you would if you were playing music at a big party, which is what a wedding is at the end of the day. Relax and have fun. After all, this might be the only DJing gig you ever get.
Digital technology makes building a playlist easy — Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, YouTube Music and Amazon Music are all fine options — but if you want to get more advanced with DJing, here are a few apps that can help you handle the music on your big night.
DjayPro: This versatile but still easy to use DJ app is one of the most popular around. To use it you need to pay $4.99 a month, but it affords you the ability to do most of what a new DJ might do, including cross-fading into and out of songs and adding a variety of sound effects.
Music DJ: While this app isn’t as visually appealing to use as DjayPro, it has lots of functionality. You can set limits for the maximum length each song can play (the default is 3 minutes), fade in and out of songs, and — if you want to get advanced — add sound effects.
The Music Concierge: This app will help you choose appropriate music to play throughout your special night. Popular playlists are organized by themes such as ceremony music, grand-entrance songs, cocktail-hour songs and more. There are also playlists of popular wedding songs organized by decade.
A version of this article appeared in a previous issue of The Connecticut Bride.