Saturday, April 25, 2009

Band, DJ, iPod?

Guys, let's start with a topic I know you all care about - music. It's perhaps the only manly wedding issue there is. So we'll take baby steps on our "Let's all care about our wedding planning" journey. Instead of jumping into the "make our own invitations" and "DIY centerpieces" pool, we'll just getting a toe wet and talk music puddle.

Reception entertainment is huge. I think we can all agree that it will make or break the wedding. So the question is: Band, DJ, or iPod? I think all have their pros and cons.

Band: Most expensive, but easily most awesome. What kind of band do you pick? Personally I don't want a band that's going to play music I would tell a DJ not to play ("Celebration", "We Are Family", "Shout"). Just because it's live, doesn't make me love it. You want to appeal to everyone at the party, but where do you draw the line? One of my cousins had a New Orleans jazz band at his wedding. I didn't know a single song, but it was the most fun I've had dancing at a wedding. So do we pick a band that plays fun music nobody knows? I almost love that idea. (post your wedding band ideas, suggestions, etc, in the comments section!) Oh, also, what happens if the band doesn't know the song you want as your first dance? Will they learn it? I picture a jerk lead man saying "This band plays what we want, when we want, we aren't going to learn "You're still the One" by Shania Twain." (that is not my first dance song btw).

DJ: Less expensive than a band, but in my opinion the biggest risk. Wedding DJs seem to be loose cannons. They take song requests even when you tell them not to, they play ice breaker songs like the macarena, chicken dance, etc. How can I trust a grown man that calls himself DJ Dano (actual name found when googling DJ, wedding, Los Angeles)? HOWEVER, I'm in no way totally against having a DJ at the wedding. I just want someone I can trust. Someone that knows I will throw him out if he plays something I don't like. I'm sure there are incredible DJs out there that can be told "don't talk unless asked", "only play our approved music", and "NO icebreakers" and will listen. Post your DJ advice, horror stories, success stories, in the comments section of the blog!

iPod: Definitely the least expensive option. I have the ability to create my own playlist. Sure it can't change with the flow of the party, but my playlists are awesome. Okay admittedly I've been at a party where I plugged in my iPod and then questioned why the hell I put songs next to one another - six 80s songs in a row - really? Friends have said there are horror stories about wedding iPod entertainment. I'd love them to elaborate in the comments section! Has anyone ever considered hiring someone to sit by the iPod - a makeshift dj? I want to hear your iPod reception stories!

Alright everyone, voice in! Let me hear your advice and opinions! What did you do at your wedding? Did it work? What are you planning at your wedding? Are you happy with your selection? Nervous? Comment below.


  1. People have complained that comments aren't working! Email me @ if you've tried to comment but it's not showing up. I'll try to remedy the problem!

  2. ...and I just loved the post. Thought it was brilliant. Keep up the good work!

  3. Davey, let me just put this out there...If you are hiring Donna Jo Tanner as a wedding present to me, then I want you to know that not only will I make sure you are the happiest man on earth for the rest of your life, but I will even let her have a microphone at the reception AND allow her to bring Gibbler as her plus one.

  4. I went the DJ route -- more variety, more flexibility, more budget-friendly -- but I was only 100-percent confident in this because I knew him and had seen him DJ multiple events and weddings. But you're right, a crazy DJ can ruin the night, and there's only so much a DO NOT PLAY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES list of songs can do.

    My uncle went with the iPod (or rather computer) option. He made his playlist and then had his son on duty to insert new songs as requested by guets. Deffinitely low-cost, but you have to have someone willing to babysit the ipod/computer. The other thing to think about when going this route is having good enough speakers and coordinating having them dropped off, set up and picked up after the event.

  5. Leslie I didn't even THINK about the speakers needed for the ipod setup! Good call!

  6. My opinion Dave... don't go with a DJ. Even if it's someone you trust and you know will play good music... it's still just cheesy looking. Maybe that's just me.

    When selecting a band you need to communicate directly with them by phone, and get a serious feel for them. The first choice I had for my band was unavailable, which was quite funny because they ended up doing my cousin's wedding three weeks after my proposed date. The reason why I was comfortable with them is because from first contact they were very clear about what they were. They were like "we're a band that's going to party. If we start a riot, that's awesome." I immediately liked them, plus their willingness to learn not just the one song for the first dance but THREE songs to be played whenever you wanted. They played a lot of traditional stuff, but also a lot of modern rock numbers towards the end of the night plus some ska and swing. Also, they were funny and energetic. So basically I say learn as much as you can about potential bands, and deal with them directly. Every wedding is going to have a different feel, just make sure it fits. Also, spare no expense. It's the most important part of the reception, even more important than the food.

    The Ipod thing is perfect for a low budget wedding, simply because you can customize your own playlist and have complete control. You might want to pay a family member $100 to be the master "DJ" of the evening, just make sure their duties are communicated explicitly prior to the reception. Really I think it's a lot better than having a DJ, but if you go this route, make sure A)that you customize the playlist with your intended, including noting the times for toasts, cake, and whatnot... and B)you spend $250 renting a solid soundsystem or borrow one. You don't want it to sound fuzzy. One of the weddings i helped coordinate went this route and it worked perfectly.

  7. our dj was a turd.
    its impossible to find a dj w/ the personality that matches your relationship.
    turd turd turd.

  8. i'm all about no bands at weddings! it's a great way to cut cost w/out cutting entertainment. do you really want to hear Outkast's "Hey Ya" (a great get up and dance song) sung by a band?? and you can easily find a DJ who's not annoying, there are a lot of young talented DJs who totally do weddings for extra cash while on the week days DJ at ur favorite bar/lounge! bands don't do autotune, but a DJ and ur ipod can!

  9. Depending on the band's speaker set-up... Maybe you can have the best of both worlds. You can't expect a band who makes their money playing rock to play your favorite Prince Paul tracks live. Find a fun "party band," see how much they will charge for a certain amount of time, and compliment it with someone who will jockey the ipod for free.


    Promise I won't play any Boingo.

    Before 1982.

  10. I'm surprised there's so much support for the band option here-its ridiculously more expensive than the other two options, and I've only been to 1 wedding where the band wasn't embarrassing... and it was an Irish band playing songs you'd only recognize if you'd ever been on a road trip with my dad. That being said, the Irish band was pretty awesome. BUT every other band i've ever seen at a wedding was pretty terrible. We even saw an "amazing" 9 piece band with a brass section... but I'd still rather listen to the original recordings instead of their cheesy covers.

    Basically, i've been to more weddings with embarrassing bands than embarrassing djs... and I've been to more weddings with djs... so I'm not sure where all the hate's comin from.

    That being said, if you know a band you love and trust and will give you a decent price, go for it.... may I suggest an Irish band? Otherwise, it was kind of a non-option for jamie and i; we went straight to the dj/ipod side of the argument... and landed on dj.

  11. I agree with not wanting to hear a cover of a song when you can hear the actual thing. That's a STRONG benefit of having a DJ.

    Degan, I'm telling you - the best wedding band I ever heard was that New Orleans jazz band. I didn't know a song, but it was a blast. Sounds like people had the same experience with the Irish band!

    And by the way... I would love to go on a road trip with you and your dad if you're offering.

  12. Degan,

    I can totally see why you think that way. For most of my life I went to weddings that had terrible bands. That's why I'm saying you have to do your homework.

    But the best band a vailable will always be better, and classier, than the best DJ possible. Also, of course I have some bias as a musician, but i think there's something awesome about having a tangible band there. It's just good energy.

  13. I'm pretty sure our DJ only played the songs we told them not to play.

    put some real effort in to making a great playlist.

    If you want the option to change songs up bring a laptop instead of an Ipod and hire someone to reorder songs as the mood changes. You can make lists of high energy and low energy songs for their reference.

  14. Having seen the ipod option a couple of times, I can safely say it doesn't work.

    Here's the thing - playing the ipod is like getting a free DJ. You get the music selection, but you don't have any control over shaping the night. Now, personally, I take song selection and timing very carefully.

    You play the ipod thinking "Bon Jovi is the perfect follow-up to Madonna! Everyone will be dancing and ready to ROCK!" Except that you didn't factor in Nack taking his shirt off during Madonna and kind of killing the whole vibe. So, while you should be switching up to "Wonderful Tonight" you got an empty dance floor echoing "Dead or Alive"...and there's a no repeatsies rule for ALL jovi tunes.

    Look, if you want to save some coin, pay the brides 19 year old cousin to play tunes. Or assign each of your groomsmen an hour of DJ duty, but don't leave the technology unattended with blind faith it will work smoothly. That's how the Raptor fences get shut down.

  15. Well... we are going the iPod/CD route. We're building in a playlist, and putting certain "indicator songs" in areas.... like, when the Speed Racer sound goes off... it's time to cut the cake. When Doctor Who tardis rings out across the room (yes....we're geeks), its time for something else. So our groomsmen know to stop the music at that point so whatever is supposed to happen happens. Having been to several ballroom dances in the area (the inexpensive kind) where the CD line up has been decided ahead of time, we're kind of used to that. WE'll have our playlist on the table, along with the type of song it is. Maybe we'll sit out the tango, and hop up for the Foxtrot.... or move to Footloose. People will know what kind of dance is coming up and be able to plan accordingly.

    Of course, we do actually have live music for the wedding and the dinner hour... but this group is not something that you can dance to.

  16. I'm not engaged yet, but probably almost, if my instincts are correct. At my first and most horrible job ever, as a caricature artist, I went to well over 300 overpriced fancy hotel office parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, and wedding-reception-type huge family shindigs. I did not ONCE, in those three and a half years, ever experience a good DJ or a good live band. Not once. That's really saying something. I know all their gimmicks and go-to songs.

    Which is why when my guy proposes, I am going to plead to him on my hands and knees to let us go the ipod route, so our wedding will not be totally ruined by Pink, Lionel Richie, Black Eyed Peas, or someone's horrible live version of Tony Bennett.

  17. I recommend going with live party bands, so long as you can find some positive reviews or know someone that can vouch for them!