Category Archives: wedding music tips

couple at wedding with guests and DIY wedding music or DJ

DIY Wedding Music vs DJ: 12 Pros and Cons

DIY wedding music or DJ? The choice is different for every couple, but may be easier to make after you’ve weighed the pros and cons.

Wedding DJ

Pro: Experienced emcee

It’s common to focus on the music when deciding between a DJ and DIY wedding music, however one of the biggest pros of a DJ is their ability as an emcee. An experienced wedding DJ keeps the dance floor packed and guests entertained! They can also draw on their past experience so they can choose the best playlist and dance floor games that fit with your wedding atmosphere. (Pro tip: don’t hesitate to ask the wedding DJ how many weddings they’ve emceed when you hire them, plus these other wedding DJ questions.)

Con: Cost

A wedding DJ is going to cost more than a DIY wedding playlist, but the cost difference may not be as big as you think. If you’ve got the equipment and have already paid for the songs, you won’t have to make much of an investment. On the other hand, coming up with your own wedding play list is a significant investment of money and time—the latter of which you may need for wedding planning.

Pro: Comes with HUGE playlist

A quality wedding DJ comes with a huge wedding playlist, so you’re sure to hear all your favorites! (Use this wedding music checklist to help you.) Plus, a wedding DJ has the expertise to “fill in the blanks” with songs that guests love.

Con: Equipment may break down

Wedding DJs can supply the best equipment, but it is prone to breakdowns like any other equipment. To prevent a stop in the action during your wedding, always ask your wedding DJ if they have back-up equipment available. Unfortunately, any equipment you use for a DIY wedding playlist can break down too.

Pro: Quality equipment

Most DJs come with some quality sound equipment that’s sure to make your guests feel like they are part of a dance party. When searching for a wedding DJ, you should be able to ask to see the equipment if you have any concerns. (Pro tip: always be careful about hiring an amateur with dated equipment or these other warning signs of bad wedding DJ.) If you want to get the same effect with DIY wedding music, be ready to do your research so you can get good sound equipment.

Con: DJ may be sick

Hiring a wedding vendor always comes with the risk that they may not be able to be there, but there are ways to avoid this scenario. Whenever you hire a wedding vendor (including a wedding DJ), always ask about their ‘plan B’ in case they get sick or have some other emergency. In the case of a wedding DJ, do your research (i.e. check reviews on wedding sites and social media) and make sure you hiring a reputable service.

DIY Wedding Music

Pro: Inexpensive

DIY wedding music is very affordable! It’s usually cheaper than a wedding DJ, though it does require money and time. Make sure you get speakers that adequately amplify music so everyone on the dance floor can hear and enjoy it.

Con: Need to find someone to make announcements and play music

Even if you have a fantastic playlist, you’ll still need someone to make announcements and “man” the DIY equipment. (Pro tip: always choose someone who is just dedicated to this task, and can do it well all night!) Make sure you choose someone who doesn’t have any other roles to fill—and make sure it’s not you, because you have other things to do throughout the reception.

Pro: You can make sure the list is full of your favorites

On the biggest perks of DIY wedding music is that you can make sure you play all your favorites. As you choose music, make sure you choose songs that your guests actually want to dance to. Plus, don’t forget to think about the right songs for your special moments, like your first dance, cake cutting, and parent-child dance.

Con: Takes a lot of time to customize playlist

It does take a lot of time to make a customized playlist, and wedding planning does come with a long wedding planning checklist. But if you’re up for the task, make sure you do your research and get started early.

Pro: Easy to do

If you love music, it’s fairly easy to find your favorite songs. Just make sure you make a long enough playlist; typically, you’ll need 18 songs per hour. You should also think about atmospheric music for dinner, cocktail hour, and any down time.

Con: If there is a break down, it takes time away from guests for troubleshooting

Unfortunately, even the best planned out DIY music comes with the risk of breaking down. Be aware that you may have to take time away from fun—and your guests—if any of your equipment breaks. The only way to avoid this is to have another person who can troubleshoot or have back-up equipment.

couples headed to wedding reception with wedding music

Answers to 6 Common Wedding Music Questions

It’s normal to ask a million questions about almost every aspect of wedding planning, including wedding music. We hear many of these questions as we assist couples planning their Chicago wedding! Here are our answers, and some tips, that can help couples as they plan their wedding reception in the Windy City.

Do I need a DJ during cocktail hour?

This is a wedding music question with two answers: yes and no. The answer depends on the couple’s preferences. Some couples prefer the music of a musician (or music group), while others like to keep the music seamless at their wedding reception with a wedding DJ for the whole reception. If the cost of additional hours is a concern, couples can look for a wedding DJ who offers an all-inclusive wedding package with no fees for “additional hours.” (Use this guide for finding and hiring a Chicago wedding DJ.)

While it may be tempting to make a do-it-yourself music playlist, it’s important to weigh the amount of time it takes to compile a wedding playlist and get the right equipment. With a long wedding planning checklist, many couples opt to use a musician or wedding DJ so they can enjoy every minute of their big day.

When do we need to book our wedding music?

Typically, couples should confirm their wedding music 12 months before their wedding date. However, the best Chicago wedding bands’ and DJs’ calendars do fill up early, so it’s important for couples to start looking for wedding entertainment early. (This wedding planning checklist helps couples stay organized as they plan their special day.) When contacting potential wedding DJs, couples should use this list of wedding DJ questions and tips to decide which DJ is the “one.”

How many hours of wedding music is needed? What is the typical order of dances at a wedding reception?

Typically, wedding reception dances last 4-6 hours. This timeline typically includes the meal, toasts and dances.

For the latter, a wedding reception typically follows this order of dances:

  • Introduction of Newlyweds
  • Newlyweds’ First Dance
  • Father-Daughter & Mother-Son (Or Parent-Child)
  • Wedding Party Introduction & Dance
  • Guest Dances

While this is the traditional order, it’s okay if couples want to shake it up and set a custom plan for the night. They just need to make sure they hire a wedding DJ who sets a personalized play list for every reception and can change things up. (Here’s questions those wedding DJs typically ask, so couples can tell if they are hiring a high-quality professional.) Also, if couples are adding any surprises for the night, they need to tell their wedding DJ so they can seamlessly incorporate it into the order of events. A good wedding DJ can also coordinate announcements and special moments with the videographer and photographer to make sure they are captured in photos and video.

What other entertainment should we offer with wedding music?

Wedding music is a huge part of a wedding day, but not every guest wants to hit the dance floor at the reception. Fortunately, there are other entertainment ideas for guests who don’t want to dance, such as a photo booth, table trivia, sampling stations (i.e. ales, desserts, wines, etc.), and yard games. (Get a full list of “other” entertainment ideas here plus a list of wedding reception surprises to take the reception to the next level.) Couples should also let their wedding DJ know about the “other” entertainment so the DJ can make announcements and direct guests. Plus, the wedding DJ might be able to incorporate these ideas into the entertainment for the reception. (Don’t be afraid to ask your wedding DJ for ideas!)

wedding guests having fun dancing at wedding reception

How to Get the BEST Wedding DJ Playlist

Crafting the perfect wedding DJ playlist for your big day is about more than just choosing your favorites from the 100 Most Requested Songs of All Time. While this wedding planning task isn’t the most complicated, it’s still a major undertaking that can get even better (and more fun!) with these tips.

Start browsing and listening.

The best way to fill in the blanks on your wedding DJ checklist is to start crafting a list of favorite dance songs. Remember, that these songs shouldn’t just be your favorites; they should be your guests’ favorite songs too—plus they should be incredibly dance-able. While your favorite mellow song might seem like a logical option for the list, it’s also a sure-fire way to clear the dance floor and put your guests to sleep.

Choose an awesome wedding DJ.

Even if you’re not hiring a wedding planner, hiring vendors is all about adding members to your wedding team. Hopefully, you’ve chosen every team member for their expertise. This is your chance to lean on them!

To be clear, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your input into the wedding playlist. Every wedding playlist should be customized specifically to the couple. This is your special day, and the playlist (like every other wedding detail) should reflect who you are as a couple. It does mean that you should hire a wedding DJ (with these questions) who you trust to put together a playlist that reflects your tastes and keeps your guests on the dance floor.

Jot down the songs that make your ears hurt.

An awesome wedding DJ playlist is based just as much on the songs you don’t like as your favs. If there are any wedding songs you absolutely can’t stand, now is the time to voice your opinion. This is the time to talk with your wedding DJ about wedding songs and games you don’t want to hear played on your big day.

Think about non-music entertainment.

The best wedding receptions are a combination of dancing and games. As you plan your wedding DJ playlist, think about what other wedding games you want included. Don’t hesitate to ask your wedding DJ for recommendations; they may have suggestions you haven’t even considered. For guests who don’t want to hit the dance floor, browse through this list of other wedding entertainment to make sure every wedding guest enjoys your big day.

Easy-to-Avoid Wedding Music Mistakes to Dodge

shot of people dancing at epic wedding receptionWedding music is an expected part of every wedding reception, but it’s also a part of a wedding that can make or break your wedding reception. If you don’t want to stare at an empty dance floor, avoid these wedding music mistakes that get made by couples way too often.

Choosing the cheapest option

Don’t automatically assume that you can’t afford a band or DJ—and don’t assume that all wedding entertainers are created equal. Contact wedding DJs and bands to evaluate your options. Meet with the entertainers that fit your budget (and look for these red flags so you can rule out the substandard wedding DJs) and look for signs that they are the ‘one.’ Screen your vendors so you can choose an experienced entertainer with excellent equipment and a contingency plan in case of emergencies (for DJs, that goes for the DJ and the equipment in case of breakdown).

Drafting a LONG ‘Do Not Play’ List

We totally get that you hate country music or those stereotypical wedding songs that get played at every wedding. But some of your guests do enjoy those songs. Don’t let your personal biases get in the way of your guests’ enjoyment. When drafting a ‘do not play’ list for your DJ (and don’t hire a DJ that doesn’t request one), make sure that you aren’t tying your DJ’s hands by giving them TOO long of a list.

In the same way, keep your guests in mind as you draft your must-play list. As much as you love grunge, your guests aren’t going to be crazy about dancing to it all night long. This may be your wedding day, but don’t forget to keep those celebrating with you in mind as you plan your wedding.

Not listening to the experts

You hired your wedding DJ (or you should have hired a wedding DJ) for their experience. Use it. Lean on it. Ask your wedding DJ for their recommendations for dance floor games (if you’re interested), must-play songs, and wedding surprises as you plan (and keep them in the loop as plans change). Be wary of ANY wedding DJs who can’t share their experience because they don’t have any (and look for these other warning signs of a bad wedding DJ so you can make sure you hire the best).

Loud dinner music

Even if you have a full dinner program planned, dinner music is a necessity before and during your wedding supper. If you hire a wedding DJ, they can take care of dinner music (look for wedding DJ who offers dinner music as part of the package) at the appropriate volume. For those couples who want to tackle the do-it-yourself option, be conscientious that the music (and all videos and slideshows) are at an appropriate volume so you don’t drown out the socializing.

Not checking into venue curfews and permits

Some wedding venues have curfews or volume limitations; don’t find out about them on your big day. Talk to staff at your wedding venue about curfew times, permits that need to be secured, or any limitations that your wedding DJ or band should know about.

Choosing an awkward first dance song

Couples love to be different, especially when it comes to their first dance (we’ve even detailed ideas for a memorable first dance here). Make sure that your desire to be different doesn’t turn into an awkward moment for you and your guests. Choosing a first dance song that you shared with a previous ex or is inappropriate for a wedding can make your wedding memorable for all the wrong reasons.