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"Any Plans to iPod Your Wedding?"

Any Plans to iPod Your Wedding?
Ron Grandia

Returning from their friends wedding celebration, my son and his wife complained about a venue in the Bay Area (not in BRO). "Can you imagine the venue coordinator disconnected the music 20 minutes early." It turned out that the groom "iPod-ed" the music and there was nobody to stand up for the clients' rights.

When I interviewed Ron Grandia and he told me about the new trend of "iPod-ing" a wedding, I asked him if he would write an article about it.

What a fabulous job. Thank you Ron!

You have no doubt seen the articles in bridal magazines and online about how easy and fun it would be to have your iPod act as DJ at your wedding.” With little help from your friends, you can have total control over the playlist and add a personal touch to your special day. Now, as I am a professional DJ that specializes in weddings, you might expect the next five paragraphs to be a treatise on why this is such a horrendous idea. But if you are determined to do it on your own, I’d rather have you take on the challenge knowing fully what you are getting into and give you some pointers that will help you avoid some common pitfalls.

Understand that there is no possible way for me to cover all the possibilities, so I am going to address a “typical” wedding reception of 125 guests or so held in a hotel ballroom. But first I have a small score to settle with those cutesy wedding magazines and websites whose blind endorsement of this trend is about as useful as suggesting that couples have their 9-year-old nephew blow into a metal tube as a cheap alternative to a flautist during the ceremony. “iPodding” your wedding is not for everybody, nor is it cheap and easy, and suggesting otherwise is a crude oversimplification. This is the real world, not Cosmo in a white veil. This is your wedding, and if you are going to do this right, you will have to visualize every aspect of your reception and how you want it to go, then prepare a plan to make it actually work.

" I’d rather have you take on the challenge knowing fully what you are getting into and give you some pointers that will help you avoid some common pitfalls. "



"Ipod DJ Package #1"


Your plan is going to consist of a several crucial elements: the music, the proper equipment, the timeline of the event, and the right person to pull it all together.

Background music for cocktails and dinner is the best place for the “do-it-yourself” music programmer. Have fun with it, but remember that your guests are trying to converse during dinner. Instrumentals work perfectly here. Try to keep the music mellow, but still upbeat. Start off easy and build tempo and intensity. You want to see toes tapping and heads bobbing as your dinner ends and the second half of the party is ready to get underway.

You might favor a particular kind of music, but remember that there are a lot of people at your wedding who might not share your passion for Belgian Death Metal. Weddings are not the place to teach music appreciation. Folks tend to respond to music with which they are most familiar. So while it seems cliché, if you are hoping to have a hopping dance floor, your safest bets early on are the good old wedding standards, at least until people are warmed up. Then you can start being experimental. Now, that does not mean you have to play YMCA and the Chicken Dance, but remaining flexible for the enjoyment of all your guests will help you reap the rich rewards of a party that is fun until the end.

When you are planning the music, it’s often hard to look at a list of songs and envision them in the context of your own wedding. But understand that some of the music that you’d probably never choose off of a sterile list of alphabetically-ordered songs will be perceived completely differently when played to a throng of happy friends and relatives who have been celebrating with you all afternoon. Suddenly, Play That Funky Music seems like a lot more fun than you ever could have imagined. Hopefully, you can trust your chosen DJ to know when or if the time is right.

Song order is important. Try to create sets of music that build in tempo or intensity. When you’ve peaked, drop in a slow song or change to another type of music. Watch out for songs with long, plodding introductions (the long talking intro to Baby-Got-Back is a dance-floor bulldozer) and beware of songs that last too long. If a song clears the floor, be ready to switch gears again; there is no point in playing through a song that’s not working.

With regard to the equipment required to “iPod” your wedding, forget about using the iPod. It’s a clumsy and wholly inappropriate tool for the job at hand. Use iTunes or some other kind of software on a laptop. This provides a far easier means of searching the database of songs, and allows for changing playlists on the fly. And do yourself a favor – rent a decent sound system. The home stereo won’t cut it. One magazine article suggested that hooking into the venue’s sound system might be a good idea. It is not! Ceiling speakers are for elevator music. Believe me, if I could avoid carting heavy, expensive speakers and amps around and just use the house gear, I would. Another important reason for using pro equipment is that you will want to be able to run at least one mic along with your music for toasts, announcements, etc., so you will need a mixing board and someone who can schlep this stuff and hook it up successfully. The ideal location for the equipment is right near the dance floor for a number of reasons, among which are your hopping back and forth to keep the music going and getting enough sound onto the dance floor without blowing Gramma out of her wheelchair. Make sure you work out a floor plan that accommodates your equipment and try it out beforehand. The day of the wedding is no time for last-minute fumbling with wires and speakers.

"PA Package #1"


"The ideal location for the equipment is right near the dance floor for a number of reasons,"


Hopefully whomever you deputize to run the show has some idea about such things and can handle the music, MC tasks, and light engineering duties. Choose carefully, as this person will be your voice for the evening and will have to be the kind of generous person who won’t mind working throughout your entire wedding,

When scheduling the day’s events, remember to ask yourself “And then what?” Too often, even pro DJ’s will forget to consider what comes after a scheduled activity. For instance, not having a plan to follow the exciting announcement of the bride and groom’s entrance into the banquet hall creates an awkward letdown. Follow it immediately with a toast or speech from the bride’s father. Then, of course, don’t forget to ask yourself, “And what happens after that?”

I strongly suggest that you decide beforehand who will make toasts and speeches, and when they will appear. Make sure your MC keeps control of the mic. It’s not uncommon for some well-meaning uncle, filled with the spirit of the moment (or some kind of spirit, anyway), to want to say things he’d regret in the morning (if he could remember them). Another common pitfall is the open-mic syndrome, when it seems most everyone wants to toast the bride and groom while dinner gets cold. It’s hard for me, as a distant third-party, to control some of these situations. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to have to deal with friends or family in the same way.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Remember: good wedding DJ’s spend their entire careers learning the in’s and out’s of what makes wedding receptions fun and seamless. They put a lot of time and preparation into their song libraries and equipment; they have learned how to keep even the most finicky crowds out on the dance floor; they know how to conduct a wedding reception, and they have perfected the art of sounding polished and genuine without seeming rehearsed.

I’m willing to wager that a great number of people who are considering taking all this upon themselves are not really keen on doing the work; rather, they are just trying to put a more personal stamp on an already deeply personal time in their life, and it just seems that they can do it better themselves than trust a stranger to do it for them. Perhaps this describes you?

If it does, then I have one more suggestion. Before you commit yourself and your guests to the iPod plan, take some time to talk to a few DJ’s in your area to see if they are the kind of DJ who will listen to exactly what it is you want (and don’t want) at your wedding reception and then find a way to provide it for you. Find out if they are willing to work with you to develop playlists that suit your tastes. Find out if they have helpful suggestions that will make your day more relaxing, more fun, and more personal.

Perhaps you will find a new friend to whom you can trust some of the most crucial details of your party – so you don’t have to.
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