I know this may seem like a strange question to be posted on a photography blog, but, the music played and the way it is played can make or break a wedding reception and music also sets the mood/attitudes of those attending the wedding reception which has an effect on the pictures taken at the wedding reception. So let’s looks at the benefits of each one:
guaranteed to have your music selections
no embarrassing DJ
Someone to assume liability
These are just a few reasons, but lets look at them in detail.
Yes, an iPod is less expensive, but, by the time you download all the music you want, take the time to organize the music, and rent the sound system to connect the iPod to (you can’t use those little speakers that are on your computer), you may come out cheaper hiring a DJ
Guaranteed to have your music selections
” Since it’s my iPod, I know the music will be what I want to hear.” I’ve worked with DJ’s over the years and I’ve have yet to meet one that does not play the music that the bride and groom want played. When you interview the DJ (just like you interview the wedding photographer), You need to see if their personality is a match to yours. If you are the “laid back” type, then a DJ that is “wild and crazy” would not be a good fit. If you like Jazz and Classical, then a DJ that plays Rap and Hip Hop would certainly not work for you. One of the things you should do during the interview process is have an idea of the music you like and see if he already has it in his collection. Just like with everything else on your wedding day, the DJ works for you and therefore should be ready to play what you want. Yes, he can offer his opinion, but the ultimate decision is yours.
Human Interaction and DJ Experience
Hiring a DJ with experience is better than using an iPod because the DJ can survey the crowd and determine what will keep people on the dance floor. If you have an older group at your wedding reception, then playing something from MTV will either keep them in their seats or help them find the door. On the other side of that issue, if you have a younger crowd, playing something by Frank Sinatra is a sure fire way to empty the dance floor. With a professional DJ, you also get someone who can make announcements and help with the flow of the wedding reception. From the entrance of the bride and groom, to the first dance, to the bouquet toss, to the exit, a professional DJ and keep the evening flowing and consistent.
With an iPod, you have to get someone to “man” it and that person will not have the experience to properly work the sound system and may not have the personality to interact with your audience. The DJ can also do a better job of mixing/blending the music to keep people on the dance floor without the “dead air” you would get from waiting on the next song on your iPod.
When you hire a professional DJ, you are getting someone that gives you one less thing to worry about that day. You won’t have to worry about your friends that want to surf your iPod and argue over which song to play next, or who has more experience with the iPod. You also don’t have to worry if the battery you thought you charged goes out in the middle of a song or if the iPod itself stops playing. Consider this as well; what if one of the speakers on that rented equipment were to blow out or fall over? Who is going to cover that? The person that rented it! the professional DJ is insured and takes care of that for you.
Keep in mind also that no matter how much you plan for, something else can happen to completely change those plans. A professional DJ is prepared for almost any circumstance and can adjust because of their experience.
If possible, check and see if the DJ has any video of a performance or wedding reception that he has done so you can see how he “performs”. Make sure that he dresses properly for the occassion as well. If your wedding is formal, you don’t want the DJ to show up in jeans and a t-shirt.
Some people also hire a live band that is familiar with their music choices, but again, make sure that you interview properly to insure that the group will be a good fit for the wedding reception.
As you are arranging you seating for the reception, it might be a good idea to seat the “older” guests farther away from the DJ so they are not too close to his speakers and possibly complain about the “noise”
A week or so before the wedding, it’s a good idea to go over specific song selections (first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, etc.) to make sure they are available.
Some additional thoughts
Although this article mainly deals with the DJ vs iPod debate, I would also like to add a little about Live Bands. As a wedding photographer, I’ve shot a few weddings where a live band was present during the reception. Just like a DJ, you get the personal interaction, but the personality of the band makes a HUGE difference! If the crowd is excited and the band isn’t, you’ll be left with an empty dance floor. On the other hand, if the band is playing the current Billboard top 40 and the crowd is looking for “Frank Sinatra”, you’re gonna have problems.
If you get a live band, consider the size of your venue and make sure that the band will not overcrowd the venue and leave you room for dancing.
If possible, try and get a video of the band’s performance (the more recent the better) and it will give you a better idea of what to expect. Also, when you meet with them, find out their playing style and if possible, get a song list. Make sure they can play some of your favorties. Find out as well, how many breaks they will need during the event. What music if any will be played while they are on break. Once again, this is YOUR event and you should have some control over the decisions.
Another thing to remember about your music, no matter which one you decide on is this: make sure that whoever is playing knows what to play and when. During the dinner portion of the wedding reception, the music should be soft enough so that your wedding guests can enjoy and hear their conversations. Then, as the wedding reception progresses, the music can get louder and more lively and get your wedding guests on the dance floor.