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We did not hire a DJ for our wedding.  We were very particular about the music we wanted played and we didn’t want a “personality” hijacking our party–since we were going to be so controlling about it, it didn’t seem worth it to pay someone.  We caught a lot of flack for this but we think it was a huge success.  Our wedding playlist is still my favorite thing to listen to!  I’ve been at a lot of weddings since where the couple goes a similar route…except they miss a few key steps.  While it’s definitely possible to skip hiring a professional DJ, you do not want to just plug your iPod into some speakers and leave it unattended.  Here are the steps we found to really work:

1. Figure out when music will be played and what type will be appropriate.  The music you want for cocktail hour is different than what you’ll want for after-dinner dancing.  Create playlists in iTunes for each section, then drag all your favorite and appropriate songs over.  (Our lists consisted of: before ceremony, processional, recessional, reception entrance, dinner, cake cutting, first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, dancing, last dance.  Some of these lists were only one or two songs long, but it makes them easier to find.)

2. Edit your lists.  You probably know how long each portion of your wedding will be and so you know how many hours of music you need.  Keep a little extra just in case the timing isn’t exactly as you expect or you want to skip a song in the moment.

3. Edit each song.  This is absolutely crucial.  We spent our entire 1 1/2 year engagement on this process.  Without this, you will have those awkward 30 second pauses between when one song fades out and the next one gets going.  This kills the mood.  To edit each song, right click on the song, select Get Info, then Options.  You’ll see little boxes for start time and stop time.


I’ll warn you, this was the most tedious project we had (even with folding the tissue paper pom-poms and cootie catcher programs).  Why?  We had to listen to the beginning and end of every single solitary song a million times and note when it started to fade in or out, change the start or stop time to match, then test it with various other songs to make sure they flowed together.  Yes, this is a pain, but it is the only way to ensure everyone at your wedding isn’t groaning about how you just plugged in your iPod and the music sucks.

4. Mix it up.  Don’t stick to all one kind of music.  Think about what your parents, peers and little cousins and nieces and newphews will enjoy, so there’s something for everyone.  (This usually means a lot of throwbacks mixed with current pop and a bunch of irrefutable classics.)  For us, this meant Boyz II Men’s I’ll Make Love to You was followed by Notorious BIG’s Hypnotize was followed by Kool & the Gang’s Get Down On It. And throw in some slow slongs every now and then.  Two slow songs to every eight to ten fast songs is a good ratio–this gives the folks who aren’t big dancers a chance to get on the floor and it gives the folks who are big dancers a much needed breather.

5.  Recruit a friend to oversee things.  We had my brother’s friend man the music.  He switched from playlist to playlist at the appropriate times, pressed play and stop, acted as emcee, and could skip or rearrange songs depending on how things were going.  As jobs go, I think it’s a pretty easy one.  We invited his girlfriend as well, put them up in the hotel as payment, and they got to hang out with my brother and enjoy the wedding (I hope!).

6. Last, but absolutely not least: DO NOT USE AN IPOD!!!  It sounds counterintuitive, but iTunes is really the key to all this, not the iPod.  An iPod is just to tricky to use when you’re under pressure like this.  And all your song editing will be lost, and that’s no good.  Instead, use your laptop.  You’ll be creating and editing your playlists on your computer anyway, and this gives you way more options and flexibility.  Borrow or rent a sound board with your speakers, plug in and go!