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.
It creates a pleasant vibe for your big day and keeps the party in a flow. The importance of a good DJ to lift the whole event can not be overstated. However, if you are budget conscious and not exactly into events for a large number of guests, then you can definitely try to be a DJ at your own wedding.What makes a good DJ at a wedding? ›
A great wedding DJ acts like a professional in all manners. At your wedding, your DJ should be well-dressed and well-groomed, as well as relaxed and in control of any situation that may arise. He should not be drinking during your ceremony, or engaging in any type of inappropriate behavior with your guests.What should I charge to DJ a wedding? ›
The average cost of a wedding DJ is around $1,200, but this doesn't reflect the wide range of prices you're likely to see while planning your event. In reality, you'll see DJ companies charging anywhere from $600 up to $3,500.Is it better to have a DJ or live band? ›
If you want a club or festival DJ atmosphere at your wedding or have a limited budget you should pick a DJ. If you have a healthy budget, love live music, and want premium wedding entertainment you should hire a live wedding band.How many hours should a DJ play at a wedding? ›
Obviously the amount of time for the DJing will be dependent on how coverage you've paid for. The normal, optimal length for a wedding reception is 4 hours (this includes the dinner portion). When you add in cocktail hour and the ceremony, there would be another 2 hours of music.Who traditionally pays for the DJ at a wedding? ›
- The bride and her family pay for all professional services, including food and decorations.
- The groom's family pays for the DJ or band and liquor.
Try not to request too many songs
“You've got to trust their judgment,” Groh says. “Give them 10 or 20 of your favorite songs and let them do the rest of the work. And if you want to see dancing, make sure the songs are danceable.
A successful DJ has an eclectic range of tracks that keep the party going. Knowledge of classic hits and modern songs makes a good DJ stand out. When the crowd is having a good time, an experienced DJ knows when to lay down that new popular song.How do you know if you are a good DJ? ›
Great DJs have skills, but they also have restraint. They know when to do a high-tail echo fade out, or a crush filter, and when not to. They know when there's too much gain, when to adjust trim and how to DJ solely by ear. They know how to get the crowd to play in.How much should a DJ charge for 4 hours? ›
The average cost of hiring a DJ for four hours is around $400 in the US. However, this may fluctuate depending on your specific location and the type of event you are hosting. For example, a wedding reception that lasts four hours may cost an average of $500, while a 4-hour corporate party may cost around $300.
Wedding DJs typically cost less than a live band, as they're only one or two people. Where you're getting married also has an impact on a DJ's price range.How do DJs save money for weddings? ›
By only hiring your DJ during the reception, you are cutting down the timeline which of course, decreases the price. To save further, make a playlist/CD to play of your own at the ceremony and cocktail hour, leaving room for your DJ to pump up your reception!What makes a great DJ set? ›
In summary, the best DJs sets use a combination of planning and freestyling to create an amazing experience. Knowing what you're trying to achieve is the key in deciding what to play, when to play it, and how to mix it all.Does a DJ set have to be perfect? ›
There's no such thing as an absolutely “perfect” DJ set – there's always something tiny that will muck up a performance, whether that's a mistake coming from your end such as a mix error or a “mental gap” when choosing your next song, a technical issue spurred by faulty gear that the venue provided, or even just that ...How long should you have a DJ for? ›
It's usual for Wedding DJs to provide music for around 4-5 hours. Just bear in mind that even the most professional DJ needs a break now and then, and your guests would probably welcome a breather from dancing every 90 minutes or so too!Do DJs get tips at weddings? ›
Expectations & Appreciation
Generally, the range for wedding DJ tips is 10-20% of the billed amount. If your DJ was professional, worked well with you and your planner, and did a truly fantastic job as an MC and DJ at your wedding, consider tipping closer to the 20% end of the range.
During Dinner Hour
As you and your guests are eating dinner, you can expect the DJ to play background music, but don't expect the music to be too loud because the DJ understands that guests will likely be talking to one another. If they were playing music too loudly, then people wouldn't be able to hear each other.
For many DJs just starting out, their first gigs are usually shorter sets between 45 and 90 minutes. It can sound like a piece of cake for pro DJs, but for new DJs it's often totally nerve-wracking! Succeeding at DJ sets like these can help you build the confidence to play longer shows for bigger crowds.What should the mother of the groom not do? ›
- Don't overshadow the bride's mother. ...
- Don't act (or dress) like a bridesmaid. ...
- Don't get too critical. ...
- Don't steal the bride's spotlight with your mother-of-the-groom outfit. ...
- Don't try to invite extra guests. ...
- Don't skip the pre-wedding events.
- Get plastered. ...
- Skip meals or dehydrate. ...
- Wear killer heels. ...
- Miss the cocktail hour if you don't want to. ...
- Host too much and party too little. ...
- Lose your husband. ...
- Have it out with a vendor in front of your guests. ...
- Complain about your in-laws.
What Does the Groom's Family Pay For, Traditionally? The groom's family is responsible for corsages and boutonnieres for immediate members of both families, the lodging of the groom's attendants (if you have offered to help pay for this expense), and sometimes the costs of the rehearsal dinner.Can a wedding DJ play any song? ›
In order for a wedding DJ to legally play a song at a wedding, they must own the rights to play the song. This means the DJ must have purchased the song from a legal source such as Amazon, iTunes or a legal DJ music pool like Promo Only.How many songs do you need for a 5 hour wedding? ›
A good rule of thumb is 15 songs per hour.How long should a DJ let a song play? ›
Every DJ has their own practice habit and opinion about the duration of a song played during performance. Some play two, three, maybe others do it for five minutes. I'm sure you will find out your own way by playing public gigs and experiencing it yourself.What were three skills a DJ must develop? ›
There are a number of basic skills to consider when learning how to become a DJ: mixing, EQing, phrasing, beatmatching, and prep.How do you get noticed as a DJ? ›
- Put out a mixtape series. ...
- Start your own podcast or mixshow. ...
- Release your own music. ...
- Put out blogs, vlogs and other social content.
Scout it out beforehand! Knowing other people who are a part of the event. This makes all the difference in feeling confident – if you know the other DJs, the promoter, the club owners, security staff, bartenders, event planners, or even just a few people who are attending, it can have a huge impact. Showing up early.What is a DJ salary? ›
How much does a DJ make? As of Feb 21, 2023, the average annual pay for a DJ in the United States is $47,611 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $22.89 an hour. This is the equivalent of $915/week or $3,967/month.How does a beginner DJ start? ›
For the smallest possible setup, you can get started with just a laptop and the right software. Other simple options include using only two turntables (vinyl or CD) and a mixer. You can upgrade either of those setups by adding a laptop with a DJ interface package for additional effects and options.Do DJs bring their own equipment? ›
Absolutely! Usually all DJ's will have their equipment and would prefer to use it. If you are bringing a DJ from interstate, then typically they would opt to hire some equipment locally for them or yourselves to pick up upon arrival.
As a rule beginner DJs get about $5-15 for their set in a nightclub. It also often happens that they perform for free at all, as they want to receive the experience and new fans, some popularity, or simply have fun at the party. For example, for my first performances, I was paid $10-100 per set.How many songs can a DJ play in an hour? ›
The general rule of thumb is to take the number of hours you want your set to last and divide it by 2. This means each song will play for an average of 2 minutes (e.g, 60-minute set = 30 songs).
A wedding isn't as simple as 'show up and play', and that's why it's more expensive. Expect the DJ to put in around 20-25 hours of prep work in advance, including preparing all the specialty music, meetings, organizing the final details, communicating with the client and other vendors.How much should I charge to play music at my wedding? ›
Musicians for wedding ceremonies cost between $200-$350 per musician. Groups like bands, quartets, and the like can charge up to $800 depending on how many musicians are in the group. This price may go up or down depending on how much musician equipment they have to bring for the ceremony.How do DJs afford their music? ›
Some DJs buy songs from popular sites or get songs sent to them in subscriptions. Some DJs also make their own music on music production software which they perform live. They're also labels that send DJs tracks way before its released.What do DJs talk about before wedding? ›
- Is the DJ available on the date you need them?
- How long have they been in business?
- How many events/weddings have they provided music for per year?
- Are weddings their main events or do they play at other events or clubs?
- Do they have another event the same day or weekend?
Here's a general guideline: Ceremony Musicians: 15% of the ceremony music fee or $15–$25 per musician. Reception Band: $25–$50 per musician. DJ: 10–15% of the total bill or $50–$150.What is the most important skill for a DJ? ›
Phrasing is an important skill to have as a DJ. Phrasing is defined and is usually referred to as an “alignment of phrases of two tracks in a mix.” This will allow the transition between the two tracks to be done without breaking the structure.How do DJs get high quality songs? ›
- Website: Beatport.
- Website: Traxsource.
- Website: Beatsource.
- Website: iTunes Store.
- Website: Bandcamp.
- Website: Amazon.
- Website: Juno Download.
- Website: Boomkat.
Above all, it's never “too late”! That goes for anything, including DJing; you're never too old or too young to learn a new skill. So if you have a dream, make sure you follow it, no matter how old or young you might be. Because at the end of the day, you're going to be so much more fulfilled doing something you love!
Takes more space. Another drawback of being a Vinyl DJ, is the fact it just takes up SO much more space. You can't quickly pull out and put away your DJ controller when you want to practice, and there's going to be a lot more set-up and pack-up time before and after your gigs.Do Pro DJs prepare their sets? ›
More proficient DJs don't prepare sets in advance in such way but select tracks right during the set looking at the crowd in front of them. Most often, they use tempo as a plain simple criterion for choosing the next track. Obviously, the energy on the dancefloor went down; people going out.Do you feed your wedding DJ? ›
You will definitely need to feed your wedding planner, photographer, videographer and band or DJ/emcee, plus their assistants. (On the other hand, you won't need to feed your baker, your florist or anyone working only at the ceremony).Is being a DJ stressful? ›
You get to listen to music all of the time, then get paid to play what you feel to a crowd of people. That's not to say it's easy - there are a lot of reasons why being a DJ can cause a lot of stress, and they don't have to do with debating over "pushing buttons."How many songs does a 5 hour DJ set? ›
Depending on what kind of music will be played, your average song works out to be about 3-4 minutes each. Now we do some simple math. Let's go in the middle with 17 songs per hour. Multiply that by 5 and we get 85 songs.Can you have a band and a DJ at your wedding? ›
Music and entertainment play a large part in making your wedding day exciting for your guests. Plenty of couples choose to have both a live band and a DJ at their wedding.How many songs should I give my DJ for wedding? ›
How Many Songs Should You Pick? A good rule of thumb is 15 songs per hour. A typical wedding reception will see about 3 hours of dancing after dinner and all the formalities are over. That is just 45 songs.Should you have live music at wedding? ›
It sets the tone and the mood like nothing else
Live musicians can change to mood of a room as it is needed. They can bring a grand level of elegance and sophistication to your wedding, especially to the ceremony, cocktail hour, or during dinner.
Before we got married, I read SO MANY posts about how it's just easier to hire a DJ and not worry about ceremony music on an iPod.What is a DJ called at the wedding? ›
The master of ceremonies (also known as emcee) may be the most important role your wedding DJ plays. Think of your DJ as the host, cruise director, and point person for the evening, making announcements and ensuring that your guests are aware of what's going on and what's next.
A great wedding DJ will also act as your Master of Ceremonies, introducing the wedding party, the toasts, your first dance and everything of importance. They will keep the reception moving along and your guests informed of all of the important happenings.Can you give wedding DJ a list of songs? ›
It's always appreciated when you provide your DJ with a small playlist for both the Dinner and Dancing sections of your wedding. This helps them get a clearer idea of exactly what you are after and then they can expand on your choices based on the dance floor response and requests from your guests.How do you structure a wedding playlist? ›
- 1) Make a song list with your fiancé.
- 2) Ask for song requests from your wedding guests.
- 3) Host a playlist-making party.
- 4) Create a collaborative playlist.
- 2) Add a Variety of Music Genres to Your Wedding Playlist.
- Chicken Dance.
- Cha-Cha Slide.
- Cupid Shuffle.
- YMCA – Village People.
- Electric Boogie (Electric Slide)
- Hokey Pokey.
- Wobble – V.I.C.
A more interactive experience
It makes people feel that they are an integral part of the party. On the other hand, DJs usually aren't any more interactive than that—they are somewhat limited. A good band leader, however, not only knows how to emcee, he knows how to interact with guests.
Don't Marry Her – Beautiful South
We'd say this is easily one of the worst songs for weddings that's out there.