When we were first making lists of priorities for our wedding, we knew that we weren’t psyched about the idea of spending money on a DJ to make our wedding dance memorable. While I would have loved to have a live band entertain us for the evening, that just wasn’t in the budget, so we decided to run the music ourselves, thanks to our handy dandy iPod.
For me, as a type-A personality and a control freak, having absolute control over the music played at our wedding was a MUST, and for the cost of renting speakers, we had an instant DJ set-up that was A) be cost-effective for our budget; and B) reflected who we are as a couple, as all of the songs were selected by us (and by our friends and family members).
One of the most helpful things that we chose to do was to utilize Google Docs to manage the multitude of song lists and playlists that we made before actually creating the iPod playlists. Jordan and I both are Gmail fans, so Google Docs proved extremely useful to us throughout our wedding planning. Side note: We actually utilized Google Docs for A TON of wedding-related documents, including day-of agendas, our guest list, ceremony script, reminders of phone numbers and things to bring with me to the ceremony site, and our wedding budget spreadsheet.
Below is the process we went through to compile our wedding dance playlist; NOTE: We only used the iPod at our reception; we had live music (piano and organ) before, during and after our ceremony:
1. Combined our music libraries together by transferring our songs over to Jordan’s computer, using a combination of an external hard drive and a few jump drives.
2. We listened to nearly every song in our newly combined library, making lists of songs that, to us, sounded like “good wedding dinner/dance material.”
3. We divided our lists of “good wedding dinner/dance material” into two separate lists, one devoted to “Dinner & Mingling Music” and one dedicated to “Dance Party Music.”
4. We mailed out our wedding invitations, including a Song Request card. As these began to arrive in the mail, we kept a running list of the songs that were requested. While we didn’t have enough time in our wedding dance to include absolutely every song, we used trusty Google Docs to manage this list.
5. While we were wrangling Song Request cards and simultaneously putting together these two separate playlists for dinner and for dancing, we also made sure to keep an ongoing list of songs that we wanted to download. Again, thanks to Google Docs, this was easy for both of us to update a centralized list.
6. Now it came time to actually download the songs and put together the playlists! Creating the playlists was Jordan’s pet project, which he approached in the following way: he listened to each song that made the cut as either “good wedding dinner/dance material” and/or was a song requested by one of our guests. Then, he basically used his own discretion in placing the songs together in a playlist, paying attention to the ratio of fast songs to slow songs and the way that the overall wedding dance flowed and built from one song to another. He made the playlists span approximately three to four hours each, just to be safe. We didn’t need that much music, especially for dinner…I would estimate 2 hours at most for dinner, but the dance playlist felt right, although we never reached the end of the playlist before taking off at the end of the evening.
For the “Dinner and Mingling Music” playlist, we simply created a playlist based on how the music felt to us. If it felt like dinner music, it went into the playlist. Some examples of songs that we used: Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash’s “Jackson,” Katrina & The Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine,” and selections by Elvis, Dean Martin, Ingrid Michaelson, Howie Day, The White Stripes, James Taylor and Hootie & The Blowfish.
For the wedding dance playlist, I had read somewhere (I forget where!) that for every slow song that is played, seven fast songs should be played, so he kept that ratio in mind as he compiled the lists. NOTE: We frontloaded the wedding dance playlist with all of our special music, including our first dance, the father-daughter dance, the mother-son dance, and the parents’ dance (we honored our parents with a special dance just for them).
In terms of the songs that we chose for our wedding dance, we chose to kick off the dance party with Goldfinger’s “99 Red Balloons.” This was a fun, high-energy song that really set the tone for the rest of the dance. In terms of the rest of the dance, we threw in a bunch of our favorite songs (like Backstreet Boys classics, Blink-182 hits, and classic Sinatra) with song requests (which varied from Serbian music to the Black Eyed Peas to the Spice Girls!).
7. After all of the songs were downloaded (we probably spent $30 at most on downloads, a bargain compared to the average cost of a DJ or live band) and the draft playlists were created using iTunes, Jordan loaded the playlists onto my iPod so that I could listen and make edits. I was largely impressed with the playlists that he created, especially since neither of us had ever had experience in creating a playlist that, to us, would be responsible for setting the tone of our wedding dance.
8. After all of the playlists were finalized, we burned the playlists to an iPod, making sure to CHARGE the iPod before the dance! It was as simple as that. We also burned the playlists on another iPod to use as a back-up, just in case the first iPod faltered…we never ran into this problem, though (luckily)!
9. The day of the wedding, we had one of our groomsmen meet up with our MC for the night, a coworker and friend of mine, to set-up and discuss the operation of the iPod during the wedding reception. We instructed our friend (and my Dad, too, as a back-up) to start the “Dinner & Mingling Music” playlist on the iPod as soon as they arrived at the reception.
Issues That Occurred
– Our playlists were somehow formatted to “shuffle” at the beginning of the wedding reception, so when we arrived at the reception, we sent one of our groomsmen up to fix that issue. Luckily, most of our guests had yet to arrive, so it wasn’t a big deal!
– The volume of each song was a bit inconsistent, which was frustrating at times. I’m sure that a more experienced techie would have a recommendation to remedy this, but for us newbies, we were proud of our playlist, despite this issue.
– The most significant issue we had was related to the dollar dance. The dollar dance is big in our neck of the woods, and happens at nearly every wedding reception, so we thought we’d join in the fun. But, if we could do it over again, we would have switched to the “Dinner & Mingling Music” playlist for the duration of the dollar dance, instead of attempting to guess how many songs we would need for the dollar dance. At a few different points during the dollar dance, I had to interrupt my dance with a guest to move our playlist backward to keep the slow, dollar-dance-appropriate songs playing. This problem could also have been alleviated by creating a dollar dance playlist to switch to during this part of the wedding dance.
– Get in touch with your techie side. Tweak settings for volume control. Learn what crossfade means.
– Think about possibly bringing your computer and playing the playlist directly from iTunes. It’s more user-friendly than an iPod, and you can make playlist edits and/or additions on-site with an Internet connection.
– However, know when to trust your gut. Technology can only tell you or do so much – think of your own musical tastes, and the musical tastes of your guests. Working hard to create playlists that you love will help to get others out on the dance floor – you set the example!
– Know when to use multiple playlists. Like I said above, creating a “Dollar Dance” playlist would have alleviated a headache during the middle of the wedding dance. Maybe a “Cake Cutting” playlist or a “Speeches” playlist makes sense to you; go with it!
– Ask someone familiar with technology (and, maybe, someone who isn’t a close friend or someone you want to enjoy the wedding festivities along with you) to act as “DJ/MC” for the night, and consider paying them. You’re saving money already by not hiring a DJ or a live band – why not throw a few bones to a coworker, acquaintance, friend of a friend, etc. for their services?