Wedding Music: DJ or Do it Yourself?

Many wedding traditions are being modernized by some of today’s more progressive couples. Details that were at one time absolute must-haves – a church, an all-white dress – are now up for interpretation and it is not uncommon, rather, it is the norm for modern brides and grooms to put their own spin on long-held customs or forego them all together.



The latest thing being re-considered is the use of a DJ, as some couples are now choosing to opt out of this amenity. But is a DJ something you can really opt out of?


The short answer is yes, you can have a wedding without a DJ. But it is not easily done and there is risk involved.


The most common do-it-yourself approach to wedding music involves playing a pre-determined track list from an MP3 player, tablet, iPhone, or laptop computer, which is connected to the venue’s sound system. The main advantage of ‘iPoding’ your wedding is the money you’ll save on the cost of hiring a professional disc jockey, which in Thunder Bay can range anywhere from $500 for a few hours to $1800 for the entire day.


The groom of a successful iPod wedding that took place in Wisconsin believes this trend is the future of wedding music.

“I don’t believe in a lot of traditions and I view the DJ role as fairly outdated. For the outrageous cost of a DJ, I think it’s going to become more common for couples to handle their own music.”


The main disadvantage of foregoing a DJ is your iPod’s inability to program on-demand and play to the audience. An experienced professional DJ will know how to read the crowd, choose songs that feed into the energy of the room, and nicely transition them to maintain a smooth and steady flow. If an iPod or iPad is playing one track after another down the list, there is a few seconds of dead air in between, and these awkward pauses can cause the dance floor to suffer.


“Over time, DJs develop a kind of intuition when it comes to playing music that keeps the crowd dancing and having fun,” tells Damian of Thunder & Light Entertainment (TLE). He has over 30 years’ experience in the DJ business. “I never pre-program more than three songs at a time, and I’m constantly observing to know when to take the music in another direction. Using an iPod is a lot less expensive, but there’s lots that can go wrong and you are not going to get anywhere near the same service you would if you hire a good DJ.”


If you do decide on to DIY your wedding music, Damian and TLE have a few recommendations for you.

  1. Use a tablet and download a DJ app to it. The DJ application will let you transition between songs so that the dance floor doesn’t pause every time a song ends before another starts up.

  2. Designate a volunteer who knows at least a little bit about DJing to be in control of the device at all times. This person should remain sober throughout the night. He or she will transition the songs and police requests to prevent the device from being mishandled by multiple guests.

  3. Test the venue sound system before deciding to use it. Many halls have sound systems that are not well equipped to play music as loudly and clearly as needed for a lively dance floor. A lot of venues have public address (ie. ‘PA’) systems that are meant for just that – announcements – and don’t always offer the audio quality needed for a wedding reception.

  4. Build your track list with edited versions of songs. Songs that contain profanities are not the best choice for your reception, but the original versions are usually the only ones available from iTunes. Edited versions (versions that are censored; the ones used by radio stations) can often be acquired through online DJ pool subscriptions – a service that professional DJs use to access hit songs that are edited to be family friendly and wedding appropriate.


Your track list will need about one hour of symposium music, two to three hours of dinner music and another four hours


(60 to 80 songs) of dance music. Come up with a list and start downloading!


Bring a charger for the tablet and at least one fully charged backup device. You will want to ensure you’ve got enough battery life to last the night and have a Plan B in the case the technology fails.


Damian cautions that following these guidelines doesn’t guarantee that the iPod will accomplish everything a skilled DJ would. DJs offer additional value-added services such as dance floor lighting and they come with their own quality audio equipment. For these reasons, self-DJing may be better suited for smaller and informal weddings where dancing isn’t as much of a concern. DJs can also entertain guests with fun games – something an iPad can never do.


Any event professional will tell you that the most important and memorable details of a wedding are the food and the music. The soundtrack of the day is a big part of the experience, so engaged couples must assess the cost/benefit tradeoff and determine what’s important to them and what they want to get out of their wedding when making the decision to hire a DJ or not.

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