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$5k Wedding Wednesday- Fire Your DJ: How to “DIY” Your Reception Music

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I Giovani e la Musica

When I set out to plan my fabulous and fun wedding on teensy-weensy budget, I knew there were some things I was going to have to live without.  I knew there would be no releasing doves, or swans swimming in a chocolate moat, or psychedelic pyrotechnics. But fowl and fireworks aside, there was something I never imagined my wedding would be without: a DJ.

As I started looking at what we could cut from the wedding budget, I noticed a theme. A pattern if you will emerging right before my eyes.  I would say things like “ok, well we will have to do a cash bar” and I would hear people shrieking and groaning “OHMYGAWD, You just CAN’T do a cash bar. It’s tacky! Its terrible! Everyone will shun you from the family!” So I said ok….well let’s look at the next thing. A cake. We don’t need a big fancy cake right? And people would wail “Noooo! You HAVE to have a cake! It’s your WEDDING. Everyone looks forward to the cake! It must be exquisite!” Ok fine…well we don’t need the photographer for 8 hours right? Maybe we can cut that back? The people revolted “OH absolutely not! These are memories you will treasure forever! Sure it’s weird to have photos of your mother dressing you on any other occasion, but this is your WEDDING!” And on and on it went: Every time I tried to cut something from the budget, everyone said it was the ONE THING you simply MUST have in your wedding.

But by far the cries of dissent rang loudest when I said I was canning the idea of having a DJ. Everyone cringed. There was universal scowling. Simultaneous pity and dread. HOW can you have a wedding without a DJ? Won’t the party suck? Sure I guess potentially, but I won’t let that happen! And neither will you!

The potential pitfalls of being a DIY DJ is that the party could fall flat. Put in too many slow songs, and people will fall asleep. Put in too many of your fiance’s obscure garage band buddies songs that no one knows? Snoozeville. Let your 16 year old cousin man the turn tables and you might wind up listening to Skrillex’s complete discography. So how do you avoid this problem? Playlists.

The great part about being your own DJ? YOU are in complete charge of the playlists. You decide what goes and what stays. You can make sure no one requests the song your ex used to sing to you (eek!) or one of those painfully awkward baby-making songs that have no business being in a wedding (I’m looking at YOU Bump and Grind!)

So how do you create a playlist? iTunes is probably going to be your easiest bet. There are settings in there that allow for cross-fades and other features to make it sound more authentic and less like a random set of songs on shuffle.

If you’re going to brave the DIY DJ routine-here’s some helpful tips:

  • Aim for 4-5 medium to medium/fast songs and then one slower song.
  • Save some of your biggest hits for towards the tend of the night.
  • Choose an obvious “last dance” song.
  • Have a trusted friend or relative be the designated playlist monitor. They will make the announcements as needed and make sure no one is messing with the iPod (DO NOT allow anyone else to start shuffling through and skipping songs and whatnot.)
  • Don’t play songs with overly profane lyrics unless you want to make your 90 year old grandmother extremely uncomfortable
  • Avoid lots of cliche, over-played songs like the Macarena, Chicken Dance, etc. If you must have one or two at most, then go for it, but doing a string of 20 cheesy songs is going to make your guests want to hurl.
  • Try to gear the music towards your audience, while still choosing songs that represent you. It’s a delicate balance to find universal  favorites, but it is possible!

Make sure before you choose a song to add to your list, LISTEN to the lyrics! What is the song really about? The following popular songs often make it into weddings because people don’t pay attention to what the song is really saying.  Songs to avoid:

Every Breath You Take– it may sound romantic, but the song is about a STALKER.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light– great song…about teenage sex in the back of a car.

I Will Always Love You- Beautiful vocals, but it’s actually a break-up song.

Too Close- “Stand back you’re dancing kinda close, I feel a little “POKE” coming through, on you.” Ever listened to the words? It’s about dancing with a guy who is a little TOO excited.

We Belong Together– Again break up song

Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For– Lionel Richie plays a teacher stalking and gawking at an unsuspecting blind student. Creepers.

Most importantly, don’t let anyone bully you into having ANYTHING at your wedding that you cannot afford. Don’t feel like you HAVE to have a DJ (or professionally baked cake, or a chocolate fountain, or a five course sit down dinner, etc). If you can’t afford a DJ…then do it yourself! There’s no shame, and with a little planning, your guests will still have a fantastic time, and you will keep $1,000 or more in your pocket!

 What other tips do you have for DJ-ing your own wedding?

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