As a bride-to-be, Jessica Spence was taking extra care to note the details at a friend's wedding recently.
One thing that stood out to her was an idle-looking DJ who hit a few buttons on his laptop and appeared to take the rest of the night easy.
"I swear to god, the DJ was playing Solitaire throughout the dinner and cocktail hour," Spence noted in an online forum at wedding-planning site TheKnot.com. "It seems sort of silly to pay someone a lot of money to sit at a laptop and put on songs when we can do the exact same thing."
"You bring it, you program it, it sounds great. It doesn't surprise me at all that more people are doing it."
--Lori Leibovich, editor, IndieBride.com
With their confidence in wedding DJs dented, Spence and her fiance are counting on their iPod to provide the musical entertainment at their wedding reception in Minneapolis later this month. They're among a growing number of couples making personal music players a central part of their big day.
Keeping wedding budgets in check is one reason couples are going the digital-DJ route. According to wedding-planning guide Bridal Bargains, professional DJs charge an average of $600 per wedding. A live band can run upwards of $1,000. If a couple has already plunked down $300 or so for an iPod or an iRiver, and spent hours refining their digital-music collection, it's easy to see why a DJ might seem superfluous.
"What could be easier?" said Lori Leibovich, editor of IndieBride.com, a Web site for brides. "You bring it, you program it, it sounds great. It doesn't surprise me at all that more people are doing it."
Do-it-yourself wedding music has emerged as a popular discussion topic on IndieBride's discussion forums, as well as those at TheKnot.com. In another signal that the trend is on the rise, the latest edition of the best-selling book "Bridal Bargains" features a section on "the iPod wedding."
Celebrities are looking into iPods as DJs, too. Rock star Alanis Morissette, who's engaged to actor Ryan Reynolds, has said during recent interviews that she may use an iPod at her wedding next year. Indulging your inner DJ
Saving money obviously isn't the only motivation. Many couples view their wedding music as an opportunity to express themselves and put a personal stamp on their event. A digital-music player seems to set a more relaxed tone, too, one bride-to-be said.
"I think it will really add to the feel of the night not being so staged," said Emily Mighdoll, who is planning to use an iPod at her wedding next year in Delray Beach, Fla. "There's music, but no one will be telling us what to do the whole night. It's also sort of neat being able to control a piece of how the party goes."
It's also the ultimate way to indulge a bride or groom's inner disc jockey. Grooms, in particular, find that aspect appealing, Mighdoll said.
"My fiance is definitely an audiophile and has tons and tons of music--anything we'd want a DJ to play and more," she said. "He's definitely selecting the playlists." (Mighdoll, however, said she's retaining veto power over the song selection.)
But do-it-yourself wedding music is not as simple as it might sound. For one thing, most couples find that they need to borrow or rent a sound system, including speakers, amplifiers, cables and a microphone. Rental costs can easily exceed $100.
Couples may also want to ask a trusted friend or family member to play MC and manage music transitions from dinner to dancing. Others advise using a laptop to sidestep some of pocket-size players' limitations, such as some iPods' 2- or 3-second pause between songs. Backing up music to a CD in case of a technical malfunction is also not a bad idea.
Music selection can also be tricky, a former radio DJ writes on IndieBride's online forum. "From a DJ's perspective, the music is not for you," she writes. "You are not playing your favorite songs. You are playing songs people want to hear and that people want to dance to."
She recommends sticking to crowd pleasers like "YMCA" by the Village People and "Whip It" by Devo.
Professional DJs say all of this detail is too much for most amateurs to handle. That's why the technology isn't putting any DJs out of business, said Jim Tremayne, editor of DJ Times magazine.
"A good, experienced, professional mobile DJ will offer more than music selection," Tremayne said in an e-mail interview. "That DJ will offer the timing that an iPod can't. He'll do introductions. He'll play the music at the exact time that you want. He'll offer the expertise of someone who's done this hundreds of times."