Whether it’s true or not, most everyone thinks that wedding DJs can be expensive. A popular tip circulating the Internet from some misguided wedding planners is to save money by replacing a real wedding DJ with your iPod. While this may sound like a great idea, there are some things to consider. Just as with any do-it-yourself project, you must be aware of all facets before you start.
The first most important job for a good DJ is to play music that the crowd enjoys. A simple iPod shuffle has no way of knowing who is dancing to what. A real person needs to run things, but not just any person will do. Putting your 12 year old nephew in charge won't do you any good. The person in charge of the music needs a large amount of music knowledge and experience. He needs to "read the crowd" and select each song based on what the crowd will be most responsive to at any particular moment.
Also, your DJ must not have a fear of speaking in front of a crowd, and this is not as easy as it sounds. After all, he is the Master of Ceremonies for your entire reception. One simply has to think of all the best men who have stumbled their way through a wedding toast with the microphone held at waist level. Also, does your iPod DJ know how to properly handle the grand entrance introductions with appropriate music cued in the background, introduce the first dance and parents dances, announce the cake cutting and set up the bouquet and garter toss? If not, do you want to worry about these things while you should be enjoying your special evening? Oh, and just like you would give your wedding singer or officiant a tip for performing your ceremony, don't forget a gratuity for your impromptu iPod DJ.
Unless you're a music collector, chances are you don't have a music library with big band swing, waltzes, salsas, polkas, old country, new country, oldies, classic rock, new rock, soft rock, hard rock, hip hop, the electric slide, the Cha Cha Slide, etc. And, unless you want to subject your guests exclusively to your musical tastes, you should probably buy a selection of these songs because most of them will be requested by your wedding guests. An on-line visit to iTunes and about $100 of downloads should buy you enough music to insure that all of your guests will enjoy themselves. Of course, this will take some time.
Another requirement for a good wedding DJ is that he is covered by liability insurance. Sure, your homeowners policy "might" cover you, but I'd hate to see your premiums next year if an accident does occur. Don't think accidents will happen to you? Are you serving alcohol at your reception? If you're telling yourself, "All the drunk people I know never act like fools," stop and think about that again. Besides, many venues require proof of insurance because they don't want to see their premiums raised because your grandma tripped on a speaker cable and broke her hip. Searching the web for "wedding event insurance" will yield a whole crop of insurers who will be happy to sell you a $1 million dollar policy for one day for around $200.
Equipment is, of course, another important factor a good DJ brings to your reception. Do you know where to get speakers, amplifiers, mics, mixers? Party Effects has rental companies that can provide these things. Most wedding-sized systems rent for anywhere from $250 to $500 dollars per day. In most cases, you must provide a truck or van to transport the equipment. Now, do you know how to set these things up? Do you know the difference between a mini plug, an RCA plug, a quarter inch plug and an XLR plug? Do you know the difference between the gain control and the volume control on a mixing board? If not, will the rental company give you a tutorial? Some rental companies will explain the set-up procedures when you pick the equipment up, but make sure to take notes, because if you have to call them later they will likely charge you for a service call. Some equipment rental companies will deliver, setup, and test their equipment as well as pick up later, but this costs extra. Plan to use your home stereo equipment? It's not made to withstand transport and heavy use under stressful conditions. Good luck!
That being said, if you're sure your guests will rush to the dance floor without being prompted by the right music (or you just don't care if they dance or not), and if you've got a person with an encyclopedic knowledge of music that will run your iPod (instead of enjoying your reception), and you have adequate insurance to cover any accidents that occur due to your iPod setup, and you have a large enough music library to make sure everyone gets to hear the music they want, and you're able to get your hands on an adequate sound system and dance floor lights, and you still will be saving money by not hiring a professional wedding DJ, then by all means use your iPod. You honestly have no need for a professional wedding DJ.
If planning and organizing all this sounds like just one big hassle, you'll probably do better to hire a professional wedding DJ so that you and your guests can enjoy your reception and spend your second day as husband and wife doing something besides returning rental equipment. For a few dollars more you'll get professional equipment, professional knowledge from someone who has planned and performed at hundreds of weddings, peace of mind that any glitches will be resolved quickly, a smooth-flowing and fun-filled reception, and no hassles about tearing down equipment when the reception is over, and no worries about getting it returned before you owe another day's worth of rental fees.