Wedding entertainment is an obvious place for couples to cut wedding costs. Why pay for a pricey DJ (or an even more expensive wedding band) when all the songs you could possibly want are right at your fingertips? Thanks to the easy proliferation of mp3 files, music-streaming services, and the advanced sound quality available in small, affordable speakers these days, DIYing your own wedding music seems fairly doable—easy, even. But there are some major considerations you should keep in mind when deciding to DJ your own wedding, not to mention some guidelines to follow to make sure the experience is harmonious for everyone (see what we did there?). Read on for our expert tips for how to DJ your own wedding that will have you and your guests keeping the beat all night long.
Pros and Cons of DJing Your Own Wedding
Before you start shopping the aisles of Best Buy, take some time to really consider whether DJing your own wedding is the right move for you. Here are some pros and cons of being your own wedding DJ:
- Saves a lot of money.
- Offers ultimate control over your ceremony, cocktail, dinner, and dancing playlists.
- Allows you to control the mood and vibe (and avoid cheesy DJ antics).
- Might have to “work” at your own wedding.
- Potential poor sound quality or lack of amplification.
- Guest might want to overtake (or offer lots of feedback on) the playlist.
- There’s no professional to deal with any technical difficulties.
- Must know how to build a good wedding playlist that flows, encourages dancing, and matches the right moods.
What You’ll Need to DJ Your Own Wedding
While you don’t need a truckload of professional A/V equipment to DJ your own wedding, don’t think that you can just plug your phone into a speaker on the day of your wedding and be ready to roll. As with any DIY wedding project, the more preparation you put into it, the better the results. Once you decide to self-DJ, visit or talk to your wedding venue to find out more about their setup for playing music:
- Do they have a fully equipped system for playing and amplifying music already on-site, or will you need to bring one (or parts of one) in?
- Can someone walk you through the locations of equipment, cables, outlets, and other considerations so you will know exactly how to set up on your own?
If you will be providing your own equipment, consider renting professional-quality amplification. One of the biggest DIY DJ missteps is not realizing how much volume you’ll need: while your bluetooth speaker sounds plenty loud in your home, you’ll need powerful amplification in order to project sound over hundreds of bodies, their chatter, and general party din. Plus, nothing makes it harder to pack the dance floor than music that just isn’t loud enough. Renting a basic set of speakers and an amp will cost you $75-100; adding a mixer and a wireless microphone will add another $100-$200.
Here’s the list of necessary equipment you’ll need to buy, borrow, or rent to successfully DJ your own wedding:
- An iPod, laptop, or other digital music player
- A good speaker system, including:
- (2) 12-15” speakers with stands
- Subwoofer (optional)
- A mixing console
- A cable to connect the player to the mixer (most likely a mini-stereo to a male dual RCA)
- A microphone, either wireless or with a very long cable
DIY Wedding DJ Gameplan
Follow these steps to smoothly pull off the perfect evening of curated, meaningful, and crowd-pleasing tunes.
1. Gather Your Equipment
Check out the list above, and go about buying or sourcing all of the gear you’ll need to self-DJ like a pro. Check with your venue to see if they have any of the necessary items already on site.
2. Rent Amplification
We’ve already mentioned this, but powerful speakers can make or break your party—look into renting a set of speakers, an amp, and possible a subwoofer and a mixer from a local music or A/V shop. It will set you back much less than hiring a professional DJ, and is well worth the investment so you and your guests can actually hear your finely crafted playlist.
3. Build Your Playlists
Sit down with your partner and start making a list of your favorite tunes. Throw everything on the list at first, and whittle down later. Think about the songs that are meaningful to you as a couple, songs that you love to dance to, and songs that you know will please your crowd. You can purchase new music from iTunes, or build playlists from streaming music sites like Spotify or Apple Music. Just be sure to download your playlists to your computer so that you can create multiple copies, and so you’re not relying on a wifi connection for access.
While you might be laser-focused on the dance party, there is more to your wedding day music than just the reception. We recommend that you make separate playlists for each part of the day, which will make it easier for whomever is helping to hit the play button at the right time. Here are suggestions for the different wedding playlists you should craft:
- Pre-Ceremony: For when guests are arriving and finding their seats.
- Ceremony: Include (and clearly label) the processional song, the bride’s processional song (if different), any songs that appear in the service itself, and the recessional song.
- Cocktails: You want some ambient music to be playing during your cocktail hour, but nothing that overwhelms the room or inhibits people from conversing. Think upbeat, light tunes in such genres as jazz, bluegrass, classical, standards, and folk.
- Reception Introductions: You may want some fun music to escort you and/or your wedding party as you’re introduced into the reception.
- Dinner: Similarly to cocktail hour, your dinner playlist should mainly focus on pleasant background music that’s easy to talk over. Start building towards more upbeat, danceable tunes towards the end to get folks in the mood for what’s to come.
- Special Dances: These include specially chosen songs for the first dance, the father/daughter dance, and the mother/son dance. Clearly label and order each of these according to where they appear in the event timeline.
- Dance Party: The bulk of your focus, the dance party playlist is where the wedding music really needs to shine. Play a variety of songs that will please all of your wedding guests, from young to old, but that also suits the tastes of you and your partner.
- After-Party: If you’re having an after-party that will involve dancing, keep the good times rolling with lots of deep, dancing cuts. You can skew the playlist to the younger crowd here, as most older folks will have gone home.
4. Ask for Guest Input
A laptop or iPod sitting by itself tends to invite certain “empowered” guests to become hands-on and change up the song choice. One way to avoid this unwanted participation to allow guests to recommend songs or submit preferences ahead of time. The easiest way to do this is through your wedding website, and it can actually be a fun way to get guests invested in and excited for your upcoming celebration.
5. Edit and Fine-Tune
Once you have your playlists put together, take the time to listen through them carefully and make revisions as necessary. Listen for the general flow of the energy, particularly for the dancing playlist: you’ll want to have some quiet and romantic moments, some more energetic moments, and to build to a crescendo as the dance party culminates. Weed out any songs that feel jarring or out of place, and reposition songs to create harmonious transitions.
We also highly suggest you trim down the length of songs to around 2-3 minutes, and cut out any long introductions or dragging moments, which you can do in iTunes. Be sure to also apply the cross-fading function to your playlists, which will automatically ease the transition between songs for you.
6. Test It Out
Running multiple tests prior to the big day is imperative to avoid regretting your self-DJing efforts. Try out your playlists on your equipment at your venue and check for any audio feedback, poor sound quality, and the overall volume. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, test your setup in both the outdoor locations and the rain-plan locations just in case there’s inclement weather.
7. Assign Music Captain/Emcee
There’s a difference between DIYing your wedding music, and actually being your own DJ. Save yourself from having to think about musical logistics (when you should be focused on the joy of getting married) by recruiting a “music captain.” On the day of your wedding, this person will be responsible for:
- Ensuring the sound equipment is ready to go.
- Relocating the sound equipment throughout the event as necessary.
- Queing up your various playlists and hitting play, stop, and skip as necessary.
- Guarding the playing device from rogue guest DJs throughout the evening.
- It’s ideal if your music captain is tech-savvy and/or has a good working knowledge of music and sound technology.
Even better, if this person is up to the task, have him or her act as emcee for the night. This involves using a microphone to announce when special dances or moments (such as toasts, cake cutting, bouquet toss, or shuttle departures) are taking place throughout the celebration, and making sure the microphone winds up in the right hands at the right moment. The emcee should have a copy of the event timeline and be familiar with it ahead of time.
If your music captain isn’t a good candidate for emcee, there’s no harm in having two people serve in these roles. They will work in tandem to make sure your wedding sounds great and flows beautifully.
8. Have a Backup Plan
All good wedding DIY projects have a backup plan, and wedding DJing is no exception. Even the best-laid musical plans might fail: perhaps bad weather interferes, or your devices batteries aren’t fully charged, or something falls and breaks. Have a backup plan in place for peace of mind that hopefully you won’t have to use, such as the number of a local professional you can call last-minute. It’s also a good idea to write down the locations of a few nearby electronic stores in case you need to send someone for emergency purchases.
9. Do a Final Sound Check
Because you can never be too prepared, you or your sound captain should try to get to the venue early on the day-of just to do one final sound check before guests arrive. Once it’s go-time, it will be hard to adjust the equipment’s location or settings without disrupting the party flow.
Tips for Being Your Own Wedding DJ
1. Think Through The Whole Day
Wedding music is necessary for other parts of your wedding day beyond the reception. If you’re going to provide your own music for your ceremony and/or cocktail hour, make sure you have a plan in place for what you need in each location, who will set up and operate the sound equipment in each location, and who will move the equipment to the next location (if necessary). Make sure to test out your playlists and equipment in all locations ahead of time.
2. Play Dance Hits
If you want your guests to get up on the floor and bust a move, be sure you craft a reception playlist that touches upon many classic dance songs that your guests know and love. Think about weddings where the dance floor was packed and you had a blast dancing: what were the hits? We’re not saying you need to play the “The Electric Slide” or the chicken dance, but be sure to throw in enough crowd-pleasers.
3. Play a Variety
Similarly, if you want everyone from your little cousin to your grandmother to enjoy the music, consider playing a variety of songs from different genres and time periods. While you might listen exclusively to ‘90s hip hop, EDM, and obscure indie bands, chances are most of your wedding guests won’t share your eclectic musical tastes. Play a variety of popular songs that build in energy and chronology, including some classic, slow-dance ballads, some danceable funk or Motown tunes, and some contemporary pop hits that you can get behind.
4. Do a Trial Run
We already mentioned this, but we’ll say it again to hammer it home: make sure you test out your equipment and do a trial run of your most important playlists at your venue. You don’t want any surprises on your wedding day.
5. Don’t Rely on The Internet
Be sure you have your playlists downloaded to your music player so that you’re not relying on a wifi connection to play them. While streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music are awesome for general use, your wedding music should be saved (and backed up) on your devices so you can access it regardless of the internet.
6. Assign a Music Captain
Your music captain will take over some of the musical logistics on your wedding day, freeing you up to be in the moment as much as possible. This person will also offer safeguard against well-meaning, but pesky wedding guests who want to take over the dancing playlist. Entrust this role to someone who’s responsible and ideally both musically and technologically savvy.
7. Cross-Fade and Cut Your Songs
The difference between a professional playlist and an obviously DIY playlist can be found in the gaps or awkward moments between songs. Use crossfade functionality to eliminate long transition between songs, and use iTunes to cut songs down to shorter lengths that match dancers’ attention spans—otherwise, your crowd might lose momentum.
8. Use a Wedding DJ App
There are several handy apps on the market made specifically for those who want to DJ their own weddings. Check out MyWeddingDJ to see how using the app can streamline your process (and help ease your day-of setup) even further.
9. Read The Room
While other people should not mess with your carefully crafted playlist, you and your partner can. If you feel like the energy needs to shift, or you notice people aren’t dancing to certain genres of music, feel free to skip ahead or change your song order to better match the party vibe. The beauty of DJing your own wedding is the freedom you have to change it up (without obsessing, of course).
10. Pad Your Playlist By 2 Hours
Running out of music is a big no-no, and some portions of the wedding timeline might go on longer than you expect. Be sure you have extra music to fall back on should things run long, if you need to switch up the mood, or if you’re at a venue that will allow you to keep the party going if no one’s ready to call it quits at the appointed end time.