... That is the question. Whether it is worth the money and an risky amount of trust in someone you don't know to create the perfect ambiance for your reception and in the mean time take A LOT of work off your plate, OR to brave the task of coming up with hours of music and perfected playlists of your own, ensuring you have the music you like and pick someone you know to take on the duties of being MC....
When I first began planning my wedding I was on a soap box about how necessary it was to have a DJ for the wedding. Aaron ask why it wasn't possible for us to turn on an iPod and run the reception ourselves remembering to cut the cake and have our first dance. I laughed at his suggestion and thought that we DEFINITELY needed a DJ. Afterall a DJ can make or break your reception!! You need someone who will carry the ambiance of the reception and make sure people are dance, have the reception flow from one event into another without a moment of your guests sitting around being bored. It is up to the DJ to announce the bridal party, announce when they are cutting the cake, when the bouquet will be tossed, and when the toasts will be happening. You also need to make sure that this DJ isn't awkward and doesn't hog the spotlight, or make off color jokes to pass the time, and isn't timid with speaking up and making sure things happen.
Will all of this said, in the recent weeks I have asked myself just how important all of that actually is, and here are my questions and alternative solutions:
1. Risky trust!
With all of the above responsibilities resting on the shoulders of one man, it is really uneasy knowing that I will have met this person once or twice before the big day and have probably never seen him actually DJ a wedding!! This is a big risk for me to take! With a photographer you can look through picture after picture... with a videographer you can see their video footage to get the gist of their portfolio. But with a DJ, you might have a 5 minute clip from one of their weddings and that is entirely based on the taste of that particular bride and groom... so how to you know if this DJ will pronounce your best man's name right, or won't be annoying and talk too much, or won't pick awful songs to dance to and alienate a chunk of your guests cause he plays too much rap or too much Journey (note, I want to stop believe Steve Perry, I really really do).
With the way our wedding is shaping up, we have all of our friends involved in all the details. It is truly a community effort. From the photographer, videographer to the minister and caterer, they are all people we know and love! It is amazing how generous our friends and family have been. So with hiring a DJ, he would be the ONLY person there that we don't know, and we is the most vocal throughout the reception.
2. Music Selection
I am a big music person! I have the soundtrack of my wedding in my head and have specific songs I want to have playing during dinner, and during dancing, and before and after the wedding. I also have a do not play list so long I can't even begin to remember every song I hate hearing at weddings, so if I forget to put it on the "do not playlist" and then it starts playing, I'm going to be thinking in the middle of my reception - oh jeez, now people are going to associate My Endless Love with my wedding (note that is an awesomely bad cheesy song that I love, but will not have at my wedding - sorry if any of you had your first dance to this song). So with all these preferences, how realistic is it of me to expect me be able to give my DJ a playlist and say "play this and only this" and deny him the creativity of what he does. And with this desire to have more control over the music selection, wouldn't it just be more affordable to do it all myself from the get-go.
3. There's an app for that
Surprise!! The iPhone has an actual wedding app with allows you to control your wedding's music from start to finish!! You basically put music on your iPod/iPhone/iPad and assign the playlists to the different sections of the wedding - Pre Ceremony playlist, cocktail hour playlist, and dancing playlist. You also can assign specific songs to - Group Processional, Bride Processional, Recessional, Father/Daughter dance... etc. It even knows with certain special songs that it needs to pause afterward to give plenty of time for someone to turn the app off during your ceremony. Plus we have a friend who has a TON of sound equipment we can use from microphones, sound boards, to dance floor lighting.
4. What type of wedding are we REALLY having?
As Aaron and I have been thinking through our reception and planning our wedding, we have realized we may not be having the traditional reception like everyone else. We are having a backyard style wedding, which means, we are having fire pits, lawn chairs, and the dance floor is under a covered patio in the corner of the yard. Also since Aaron and I have basically grown up together most of our friends and family already know each other... so this will very much feel like a huge hang out party in someone's backyard! And we like it like that :) We definitely want dancing, but more than that, we want people to feel comfortable and relaxed. A DJ constantly telling you to get on the floor won't lend to that atmosphere. Also the dance floor is off in the corner, so if no one is dancing, it is not like people will notice a huge void in the middle of the room.
5. But how are you gonna make sure that people DO keep dancing?
Good question, I'm glad you asked :) The secret is.... DON'T PLAY SLOW SONGS!! Here is what happens with slow songs... people either take the opportunity to leave the dance floor to get a beverage or go to the bathroom or end up leaving to talk to people. OR they are single and it is awkward as heck to be standing in the middle of the dance floor after just having had a blast rocking out to Michael Jackson, now watching all your friends pair off and oh yeah, you're reminded that you don't have anyone to slow dance with - WORST PART OF A WEDDING RECEPTION!!! Believe me, I have been that sad person. So either way when a slow song hits 50% of the dance floor makes a pilgrimage off the dance floor and so when the next fast song comes on, you have a hard time getting people back out there. The answer is to keep the tempo fast and fun! People will leave for sure when they need to, but more people will join in as soon as their "jam" comes on! My friend Kendra just did this at her reception and it worked like a charm! People were dancing the whole time!
The no slow song rule of course does not include the first dance, father/daughter dance, and mother/son dance... all of which will be slow, but will happen before the fun dancing starts!
I don't think I need to offer anymore of a case for my decision... and please hear me when I say that a DJ is invaluable if you decide to go with one. My advice is to definitely take the time to research and give yourself enough time before your decision needs to be made in order to meet with a few different DJs to make sure it is the right fit. If you have even more time, see if you can crash a wedding the DJ is playing at and so you can see him in action. Also decide what atmosphere you want to have at your reception. Do you want a dance party? or do you want dancing to be an option, but not the focus? This will help you decide if a DJ is necessary.
Sorry for the no post... to make up for it... here are some pictures of my inspiration for Centerpieces: