Should You DIY Your Wedding Music?

In The Emily Post Institute's latest book, Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette: 6th Edition, Emily's great-great-granddaughters Anna and Lizzie Post tackle modern-day wedding questions that the original etiquette expert never could've dreamed about, from how to use (wisely) use technology, the rules for same-sex weddings, and much more. Here, the fourth generation of Posts tackle the big question of whether you should DIY your wedding music.

guests dancing at wedding
Photo Credit: Leah McCormick

There’s no question that the digital music revolution has made it possible to have great music at your wedding at a fraction of the cost of a DJ or band. The playlist can be completely tailored to the event: the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, after party — even brunch the next day.

Building a Playlist

What you won’t spend in dollars, you will spend in time to create your playlists. Check online for sites that offer suggested wedding playlists that can be downloaded — just be sure to edit out songs you don’t like or want.

Using iTunes or Spotify is easy and fast and allows you to add professional touches such as cross-fading songs so there are no long, empty pauses or abrupt song changes. You can also create a wedding playlist folder with subfolders for each different component: prelude, processional, ceremony, recessional, cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing.

When it comes to creating your dance list, keep your guest list in mind. If it’s multigenerational, as it is for many weddings, try to include memorable dance hits that will resonate with your oldest and youngest guests. Pace the music, too. Most guests — unless they’re aerobics instructors — need a break, so sprinkle in one or two slow songs after three to four fast numbers.

Don’t run out of music! Make your playlists longer than you think they need to be by thirty to forty-five minutes to be safe. Better to have too much music than to have to repeat.

Testing, Testing...

You’ll have to be sure that your venue has amplifying equipment you can use or a place to hook up your computer, smartphone, or rental gear. Ask if you need to bring connecting cables. Test everything out to be sure the speakers can do the job in the space, and check volume levels. Better to begin the music too low and turn it up than to jolt guests with it up too high at the start.

Consider running your playlist from a laptop; it can make manipulating the playlist faster and much easier. Don’t forget to bring any chargers and plug in your speakers, laptop, or music player.

Then ask a friend to be in charge of the Play button — you’ll have other things to do during the cere- mony and reception. Run through the music with him before the wedding so he can cue the right music for the right event.

Other Considerations

Here’s a rundown of what to consider if you’re thinking about DIY music for your wedding:

► Will you need to hire additional equipment such as speakers or cables?
► What are the comparative costs? Will renting appropriate equipment make DIY music more expensive than a DJ?
► Is the time involved with creating the playlists worth the savings?
► What are your priorities for the wedding, and is music important enough to spend the money on?
► Is the venue and style of your wedding appropriate for this informal approach to music? More casual events are well suited to DIY music; more traditional weddings (with announcements and such) may need personal attention to music cues.

When you’ve chosen your band or DJ, or if you are creating your own playlist, you’ll want to specify songs/ music/type of music for:

Cocktail hour
► Dinner hour
► Couple’s first dance
► Bride and her father’s dance
► Groom and his mother’s dance
► Guests’ first dance
► Dancing
► Cake cutting
► Last dance
► The “do not play” list

Bottom line: Music can be one of the most memorable aspects of a wedding, so if DIY music can’t be executed well, or if the bride and groom don’t know someone who can handle it effectively, it’s worth it to go with professionals.

—Anna Post and Lizzie Post, as seen in Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette: 6th EditionPublished with permission from It Books/HarperColilns Publishers. © 2014 The Emily Post Institute.

emily post wedding etiquette
The Emily Post Institute has been answering etiquette questions for more than ninety years, and Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, 6th Edition, written by Emily’s great-great-granddaughters, Anna Post and Lizzie Post, will provide you with everything you need to know from past traditions to modern updates so you can approach your wedding with grace and ease.