Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Even Budget Brides Should Hire a DJ

Wedding Noveau, a print/online magazine that celebrates multi-ethnic weddings is featuring our wedding today: "Gorgeous Bay Area Wedding for $10,000!"
Feature on Wedding

We are super excited and honored...and the first bits of Wedding Noveau's coverage of our "budget savvy" wedding concerns the music -- it was a huge part of our wedding (food being the other half the equation). For our ceremony, a friend played the classical guitar while another friend sang "Ave Maria." Later on, our friend, Quinn, raised the roof with his band during cocktail hour/dinner and we had an iPod for the dancing portion of the evening.

So, you're going to think I (Ms. Budget Bride) am off my rocker when you hear me say this: say no, to the iPod!Well, at least a 100% iPod wedding. :)

Let me share my personal experience and you might better understand. Our coordinator flaked on our wedding day, leaving us on the lurch. While we had a friend step in to help coordinate the day (bless her heart!!), we didn't have another person solely dedicated to managing our playlists and coordinating announcements. For example, a friend who had volunteered to emcee followed my timeline to the "T" and announced the father-daughter dance, but didn't realize that he should have checked with my dad first to make sure he was ready! And my poor friend who was stepping in to coordinate was dealing with some other emergency related to the kitchen -- so she wasn't there to help our emcee manage the playlist (totally understandable). As it turns out, my father was in the bathroom changing out of his tux and when I got onto stage (our dance floor), I was standing in front of 95 people, awkwardly waiting for my father in silence. When we realized he was unavailable, I walked over to our iPod and switched to the first song of open dancing -- ironically, it was Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself." Some of my good friends jumped onstage to mitigate the awkwardness of the situation and to my relief, everyone else followed suit.

Nonetheless, I was mortified.

Granted, most people who choose to go the "budget" route and have an iPod wedding do have someone in point to manage the playlist. But many don't realize all the factors that should be considered with this scenario.

Here are my top reasons why I strongly advocate at least hiring a DJ (or live trio/band/sound tech) for part, if not for all of your wedding, instead of going 100% DIY (aka iPod)**:
  1. iPods don't come automatically loaded. You have to create discrete playlists (Ceremony Procession 1, Bride's Entrance, Dinner Music 1/2, First Dance, etc). And if you don't already have a vast music library, then you will be spending a lot of time researching, purchasing and organizing music in a logical manner. Maybe you love music and you don't find this challenging and in fact, relish this -- that's totally cool! But for some couples, they don't know what the best songs are for X, Y, Z. And then they may push that to the back burner until it's close to the wedding day!
  2. iPods cannot read the mood of the guests. Typically, DJs have hundreds of songs on their laptop/music library that they can quickly pull up and cue to address the energy (of lack thereof) of the audience. If they notice no one's dancing to a slow song, they have the ability to use their sound board to fade out and introduce a new one. This smooth transition is difficult when you just have an iPod hooked up to a speaker and have to not only use your thumb to turn down the volume, but then search for the next best song without an awkward pause!
  3. iPods can't talk to your guests. You still need to ensure you have someone to "emcee" -- to cue and direct activities so that guests have a sense of what's coming next and continue to feel festive or entertained.
  4. iPods don't set themselves up. Although renting sound equipment may be cheaper than hiring a DJ, who's going to pick it up/return it, set it up, conduct sound check and troubleshoot if the system malfunctions? And if you put a friend or family member in charge of all of the above, it may take away from them relaxing and having fun at your wedding.  
  5. You will feel less stressed knowing you, your husband, your friends or family won't have to deal with coordinating sound. If you hire someone to at least manage the music [having friends as emcees is cool in my book, more personal in most cases] DIY, then you have one less thing to worry about since a professional handling it instead of you!
Now, I'm not saying that all DJs are great and know their stuff. Believe me, I've worked with some pretty lousy DJs -- who are rude, too cheesy or just don't have the people skills to read the audience or tone down.

That said, it's very important in the interview process that you listen to your intuition and know that you jive with the DJ (or band) personality and music-wise. Does the DJ spin their own music or do they prefer to play straight from a playlist? Does the band own their own amps, and necessary cords, and mics? Are they professional, charismatic? Are they okay if you choose to have a family or friend emcee and they just manage the music, transitions and equipment?

Fortunately, our sound equipment (Fender) was built in at the venue and we didn't have to rent any mics and our friend (an A/V professional) loaned us his projector and laptop for our slideshow and knew how to hook it up to the sound system. And a majority of our music was live. But if I had a chance to do it all over again (hindsight is 20/20!), I would hire a DJ or even just a sound tech for the 2 hours of dance time that we did have -- to manage our music and ensure transitions from major announcements throughout the night were as smooth as could be.

At the end of the day, having a budget wedding is not solely about price, but knowing your priorities and how to manage your expectations accordingly. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks!

**Unless your friend/point person who is managing the sound is a professional/hobby club DJ, or member of a band, adept with or owner of the equipment you're using.

Monday, July 11, 2011

From Here to Eternity: Sneak Peek!

I'm super excited to share with you a sneak peek of a collaborative styled shoot ("From Here to Eternity") that I worked on with Anna Wu (Photography) and Ellen Kim of Gingerleaf Floral! Read more about our work at Anna's blog here. Part Two will share our inspiration to creation and then Part Three will show you how to accomplish the look on two different budgets. Enjoy!

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