Music Man

My biggest pet peeve about the wedding industry is that it’s just a gigantic mess of vendors all thrusting their wares at brides- and grooms-to-be using the ever-popular tactic of fear mongering.

What do you mean you haven’t thought about chair covers? But it just won’t be the same if you don’t have live butterflies glued to your bouquet! I can’t believe you’re not writing your own love song (thanks James) – is your relationship so indistinct that someone else’s words and melodies can adequately describe it?

For the most part, I’ve done well at generally shoving those things aside as frivolous and unnecessary and keeping my attention focused on things I feel are far more likely to make or break a great party (and how much of it’s remembered): Food, Liquor, Photography.

However, something else has just come up from nowhere and blindsided me with its apparent importance: Music.

The plan so far is to have a late afternoon wedding and evening reception, complete with dancing into the night. Of course music is necessary. We naievely figured we could simply create our own playlist, and plug either an iPod or laptop into the venue’s AV system (the planned location has one) and let ‘er rip.

But after doing some reading, I’m now not so sure.

Every Source I’ve Consulted has made mention of the fact that music is vital to any successful wedding reception. The list of adjectives to describe such is alarming: crucial, critical, necessary, complicated, and “best left to the professionals.”

Ok, colour me frightened.

So, gentle readers, it’s now your turn to smack me firmly into reality, either with a good shaking and the knowledge that there is no way in hell I should entrust my music to anyone but a professional, or ample reassurances that asking a friend to man the iTunes Party Shuffle feature is more than adequate. We plan on having a fairly swanky affair, the music will generally be jazz standards and the like, and now I’m concerned that the do-it-myself-DJ solution will detract from, rather than add to, the atmosphere.

In the meantime, I’ll be thinking up meaningful phrases for my own custom love song, to add to the mix.

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17 thoughts on “Music Man

  1. Mark

    well slip me some lacy panties, I’m hanging out my shingle as a wedding planner!

    I was just at a wedding down here, in the Ritz Carlton ballroom no less, and they made do with an iPod. it sucked. Not that their music choices sucked, but there was no continuity and flow, and someone had to keep going over to click to a different song or whatever. You can agonize for however many months til your wedding making the best playlist evar, and then any one little thing can fuck it up and throw your segues and carefully, nay anally, processions of music out the window.

    Compare that to the wedding I was at in September hired a DJ. This guy was the Simpsons Comic Book Guy character, except about music. But he was good at what he did. He was in his mid-30s and say what you want about the ‘type’ of person who’s a wedding dj at that age, but he’s been to and seen 1000 wedding and more importantly what went wrong and why and how to avoid it.

    If you’re going for extravagant, why not reach out a degree of separation and hire the Neurotics for live music?

  2. Travis

    I see two problems with your plan:

    1) Yes, you might even have a friend who WANTS to run the iPod, but having been to weddings as guest, as photographer, as officiant, and as best man, I can tell you that even though I liked having a role, I didn’t really get a chance to just ENJOY a wedding as much when I had a job. So the friend either better get a lot of satisfaction out of that job, or not be too emotionally invested in the wedding in the first place.

    2) DJs or bands should be better able to match the mood / timing of the room than an ipod. They may be blunderheads, but that’s not the goal. πŸ™‚

    Oh, and a DJ might have more/better music than you do on your iPod. Again, that’s the hope.

    TTFN
    Travis

  3. Chris

    We’re doing an iPod, and we’re not really concerned about it. Our MC was the iPod DJ for a wedding last year and enjoyed it, and he said the wedding worked out well.

    The articles you linked to didn’t really convince me that iPods were a bad idea. Two were written by people that have a vested interest in DJs (one by a DJ, another by a DJ company). One showed pros and cons, and the cons seemed pretty minor – do you really care if there’s no DJ to alter the speed of big band hits? Do you really think your friends will run up and swap their iPod with yours? As for dead air, I’m pretty sure all iPods support gapless playback. The last article didn’t even mention iPods, just hints for getting your DJ/Band to perform properly.

    I don’t think it’s a really big deal – we’ve thought “iPod” from the very beginning. The organizer at our venue (he does several weddings per week in the high season) says that a lot of people do their own music, and said that it would be no problem at all.

  4. Derek K. Miller

    There’s a reason people get paid either to DJ or play live music at weddings: the vibe is different from just playing canned music in the background, and it takes professionals to do it well. But different doesn’t mean better or worse in the big picture. The key thing about DJs and bands is that they can respond to the specific crowd and specific atmosphere of the event — generally, a band more than a DJ, I would suggest — and shape the reception accordingly.

    Part of it depends on how important music is to YOU GUYS, in general, and whether that will affect your choices.

    I work in a wedding band (http://www.theneurotics.com — hey, get in touch, maybe I can swing you a deal), but one of our regular bass players is also a DJ. Each has its place. And at MY OWN wedding, we just played CDs (this was back in the Pleistocene– I mean 1995), because ours was relatively low-key and having my colleagues playing at the event would have seemed too much like work.

    On the other hand, our guitar player got married last year and just invited all of his musician friends to mix it up and jam, with The Neurotics as the core of the stage act, and it was a blast. That made the whole reception (in the same space as the wedding, the Elgin Hall in White Rock) a big blowout party, which is what they wanted:

    flickr.com/photos/penmachine/sets/1062601/

    Keep in mind that if you’re going to hire a DJ or band, you’re looking at the mid-hundreds (for the DJ) or couple of thousand dollars (for a good band) to get someone decent, most likely. That may help your decision right there.

    Of course, in self-interest, I think a band is the best option, even for relatively small weddings, because a good one can be funny and assist in the whole the-ice-is-broken-now-let’s-have-fun thing most people really like after all the stress of preparation.

  5. NetChick

    Vern (and I) dj’d his sister’s wedding in September… And quite honestly, I’m glad we did. Nothing replaces watching the vibe and playing the music accordingly. As much as you know your friends and family, there’s no telling how the night will go, and the last thing you want to do is be concerned with changing music on the fly (or worse, having someone who doesn’t have a clue try to.)

    I’d highly recommend you find a friend or family member who has experience with dj’ing, and get them to do it as a wedding gift. You’ll be happy that you did.

  6. peechie Post author

    Chris: the articles were only intended to highlight the importance of good music, however it’s delivered.

    Mark, Travis, Derek, NetChick: Thanks for confirming what I already strongly suspected – I definitely need more than an iPod and a playlist.

    The only thing is that I’m not a huge fan of mixing “business and pleasure” – I don’t like hiring or bartering with friends for services. If I invite someone as a guest, I’d like them to be able to enjoy the wedding as a guest, and I’d rather suck it up and hire a DJ or band.

    The research continues.

  7. Diane

    DJ! the last thing you want to be doing is running around stressed out about the music… music sets the tone for the evening and sets the vibe for the party. A good DJ will sit down with you a couple of times see what you want in music and make it happen.

  8. Darren

    My advice on weddings boils down to my advice about most things: question the status quo. By way of example, we didn’t have dancing at our wedding. That sounds like sacrilege to most people, but it was definitely the right thing for us. We had a string quartet for before, during and after the ceremony. The reception immediately followed in the same location–the Victoria Art Gallery–so it worked out well, I think.

    You can’t go wrong with a live band. Comparing the weddings I’ve attended with a live band to those with iPod/DJ, I think the former generally had more energy and individuality. Get a good jazz trio or quartet with a singer, and you’ll definitely be swankolicious.

    Here, incidentally, is my only piece of really solid wedding advice:

    http://tinyurl.com/ydxu53

  9. jen

    We had a guitarist for the ceremony, but for the reception we went with a playlist on a laptop and everything was great. Our reception was a fairly casual affair, as far as receptions go, but we did still have continuous, good music with no problems and lots of dancing. Often one of the factors determining whether people are dancing or not is how readily the liquor is flowing. πŸ™‚

  10. Mel

    The main reason Chris and I decided to use an iPod instead of a DJ for most of our wedding was the difference in cost, since we’re very conscious of our limited budget. We’ll be splurging a bit to rent a piano because my sister will be playing as part of the wedding, but that still won’t cost anything close to what a professional band or musician would. As far as the iPod goes though, the more I think about it, the more I think I’d do things the same way even if money wasn’t an issue.

    Chris and I are both audiophiles, and music has always been important in our relationship. Though I definitely couldn’t choose just one song to sum up our lives together so far and in the future, there are definitely a lot of songs that have meaning for us. Since we got engaged I’ve spent some time going through our 40 GB music collection and making playlists for the different parts of our wedding (ceremony, dinner, dancing, etc.), from these special songs and others, keeping the atmosphere we envision in mind. Before the wedding they’ll be tweaked a bit, backed up on CDs, and loaded onto the iPod. Our venue has a compatible sound system with both indoor and outdoor speakers, and we’ve got a couple competent individuals that will be given charge of the DJ responsibilities throughout the night.

    If you aren’t willing or able to do something like this yourself, by all means hire a professional. You can give them a list of must-have songs and they’ll do a flawless job with managing the crowd and playing lots of hits. When it comes down to it, as with pretty much everything weddings, it all depends what you want and how much you’re willing to spend and/or do yourself.

  11. Chris

    Yeah, what Mel said – with the minor nit that we’re not audophiles, we’re music lovers. Audiophiles are the type that spend $1500 on a power cable for their sound systems, whereas we listen to 128-192kbps mp3s over computer speakers πŸ™‚

  12. peechie Post author

    I think Mel nailed it with the “what you want and how much you’re willing to spend and/or do yourself.” Considering the music I want, the venue and the destination-ness, I think I’m going to look into DJs (I don’t think a 10-piece “big band” would fit into the room) and continue my “trust in the vendor” wedding mantra.

  13. Crissy

    We had an iPod playing for both our ceremony in Italy as well as at the reception we had back home here in Vancouver. It worked perfectly!

    But … if you want to handle song requests and whatnot, it’s not the way to go …

    For us, at our reception, we just let our playlist run … until the end of the night when it was only the diehards left – then our bartender took over DJ’ing duties. Ha ha!

    Cheers,
    Crissy

    http://www.paraviondesign.com

  14. donna

    Oh so many years ago when I was planning my wedding, we were going to do the computer hooked into the stereo. (iPods didn’t exist. Le sigh.) ‘Course, my wedding was also going to be an extremely informal event in my parents back yard.

    It suited me fine because while I’m certainly a fan of what I think is good music, I’m not any sort of audiophile, or even a music lover. There wasn’t going to be dancing, so as far as I was concerned it was just background noise.

    Granted, I have no idea how it would have turned out, since I didn’t actually get married, but the way I saw it: It was my day. I already had a copy of every song I would want to hear, so why the heck would I spend a bunch of money so someone else can play stuff I don’t? Between my ex fiance & I, we had close to 100gb of music. Surely we could find a song or two to play ourselves.

    That said, we also had a roommate who *was* a reasonably good DJ, and while there was no way he was going to be expected to DJ the event (like you, if I’m inviting someone to my wedding, the most work they’re going to be expected to do is… holding a bouquet of flowers), he was helping us put together the playlist ahead of time. I think it would have been fine, and much more customized to our preferences. What I *didn’t* want was a wedding where there was a bunch of music playing I’d never heard before, like most weddings I end up at. Or worse, non-stop Celine Dion. As it turns out, most “wedding” music makes me want to vomit. πŸ™‚

    As an aside: That “tailored music” thing might be the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

  15. Sue

    I’m going to weigh in here with myyyyy experience. We got married in ’02 and didn’t have an IPod. We made up three wedding music CDs and chose the progression of music to be precisely what we wanted. Granted we only had a three-hour long reception which didn’t involve dinner, so the music requirements were somewhat lessened. However, I’d think that a shuffle would end up being a real headache because inevitably you’d want a change in mood and you haven’t got the right things on the Ipod, or that rockin’ song you were hoping to play towards the end when all the fuddy-duddies (or exhausted new parents) are gone to their beds comes up just after some incredibly emotional speech. Yeah. These things are avoided with a DJ.

  16. Tcottntail

    Apparently I was married back during Pleistocene as well, I was also married in 1995, I guess you really do learn something new every day!

    My standard wedding advise to all new brides-to-be is DON’T tell ANYONE you are getting married until the invitations are mailed and that way no one has (much of) a chance to tell you how things “should” be.

    Just remember it’s your day, do whatever will make the two of you happy, you and Neil are the most important – does it really matter what happens as long as you are both happy with how the day turns out?

    Weddings tend to be very stressful and even the most careful planning cannot account for everything. Be prepared to go with the flow.

    Case in point – I was matron of honor for my sister-in-law’s wedding in ’03. Since I had been there for dress rehersal and weddings are generally boring, when we got to the alter I starting thinking ahead to what comes next instead of paying attention to the pastor. I suddenly realized that I did not have the groom’s ring – it was still in the dressing room at the back of the church. I hoped when the time came that the pastor would for some reason have her fake putting his ring on him, but NO, I had to pick up my dress hem and truck my ass down the isle an back to get it. Everyone laughed and agreed the situation broke the air, that everything before that seemed tense. I was just glad my sister-in-law wasn’t pissed that I “ruined” her wedding!

    Back in ’95 when I was married, we had a small ceremony (approx. 75 people) at a B&B that had a river running behind it. We were married outside near the river without music. The only thing I heard as I walked down the isle was the deafening CRUNCH CRUNCH of my shoes on the crushed stone (at least that’s what it seemed like to me). We had a reception of finger-foods immediately following indoors with whatever piped in classical music the B&B had playing. The photographer took a million photos, then we toasted, ate and then everyone watched us open our gifts and then they went home. It was wonderful, it was short, it was sweet.

    Congratulations!

    Tiffany

  17. Jeffery Simpson

    I’ve been to both DJ’d weddings and self-run ones. Unless you have no friends with a) computers or b) music I would not go for a DJ.

    Don’t use an iPod, they’re too hard to change on the fly. Use a laptop with iTunes. That way you can alter the songs based on the mood.

    The easiest way to do it is to find a friend with a laptop and whose taste in music mirrors your own and who is not already the bestman or bridesmaid and ask them to be the DJ. Give them a list of songs that you specifically want for certain things, (first dance, last dance, photo slide show) and songs that are special to you and then trust him/her.

    DJs tend to be inferior and cost more. If you do decide to go the DJ route make sure you see a copy of a standard set list. My friend hired a DJ for his wedding and it was a nightmare. He played country music the whole night to a crowd that had maybe five country fans out of about one hundred people. He would take requests for songs we wanted but after playing a few of them, and getting people onto the dance floor, he’d go back to his country songs until everyone went back to their seats.

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