B&H Wedding Guide: Do-It-Yourself DJ Systems
One way you can offset the overall cost of a wedding is this: take on the task of providing the music yourself. Obviously, creating a do-it-yourself wedding DJ system will require a bit more effort on your part. This guide will explain the basics of what you need to do, point out the many pitfalls, and give you some creative ideas that can spice up your event.
The Song List
One of the most important jobs you need to do is to create the song list for the day's events. You need to figure out exactly which songs will be played at the wedding. You also need to determine the order in which they’ll be played and when they will be played. Most weddings are comprised of a ceremony, followed by a reception, which includes a cocktail hour, dinner and dancing. If the average song is around three minutes in length, you’ll need a minimum of 120 songs to get you through the ceremony and subsequent celebration. Once the list of songs is compiled, you need to acquire all of the music and organize it for your playback system.
The Playback System
You’ll have to choose a device to play music at the wedding. The most common way to do this is with a media player, a tablet or a laptop. It’s strongly advisable to have the wedding music loaded onto more than one playback device, as a safety backup. Another way to go is to burn CDs so you can play the songs through a CD player. No matter what playback system you end up using, it’s a smart idea to always have a backup. If you’re playing CDs, have a back-up CD player and duplicate discs at the ready. If you’re doing the laptop thing, maybe have a separate MP3 player loaded with the wedding music ready to go in the event that the computer breaks down.
The Sound System
Some wedding venues come with an included sound system, while others do not. If your venue comes with a sound system, be sure to ask if a qualified person will be present on the day of the wedding to help you set up and operate the equipment. It’s very important to do a test run before the day of the wedding. Go to the wedding venue, set up and run the sound system with your playback device and give it a listen. This way you can make sure it’s going to work, and you’ll have a solid idea of what it’s going to sound like.
If your wedding venue doesn’t have an included sound system, you’re going to need to provide one yourself. The good news is that such PA systems aren’t terribly expensive. A basic PA system consists of the music playback device, an audio mixer and a pair of powered speakers. Decent-quality powered speakers, like the Behringer B208D, are well within reach on a limited budget, and will provide ample sound coverage (especially when more than one is used).
One of the tricks of having good sound coverage at an event is by raising the speakers up to ear level. The most common way to do this is by using speaker stands like the On-Stage SS-7730. You have to make sure that the speakers you’re using have speaker stand mounting holes built into them. B&H sells pre-configured kits that include a powered speaker, a speaker stand and an audio cable, like this one, which includes the ever-popular Mackie SRM450v2 powered speaker. Pick up a pair of these and a mixer and your wedding soundtrack will sound great.
If you don’t buy a B&H Kit, don’t forget to also purchase the appropriate cables to connect your speakers to your mixer. The specific kind of cables that you need can vary depending on what kind of inputs your powered speakers have and what kind of outputs are on your mixer. However, the most common cable used to serve this purpose would be a ¼” male TRS to XLR male cable.
Making Announcements with a Microphone
If you want to make announcements during the wedding (such as introducing the couple, announcing the first dance, giving speeches, etc.) you’re going to need a microphone (in addition to the other sound equipment). The trouble with making announcements through a microphone and a loudspeaker is that you run the risk of experiencing loud feedback. Feedback occurs when the microphone picks up the sound of the speaker. Sound travels into the microphone and instantly gets amplified and sent out through the speakers and continues in this loop. The result is a loud, ear-splitting squeal.
If you think you can handle running a live mic on your wedding night, it’s fairly easy to add one to your PA system. You need to make a point of buying a mixer that features an XLR microphone input. If you have a mic input on your mixer, adding a mic is as simple as picking out a microphone and a mic cable, and plugging it in.
We strongly recommend purchasing a handheld microphone that includes an ON/OFF switch. Don’t assume that all microphones have an ON/OFF switch. In fact, many microphones don’t have them. The reason why having an ON/OFF switch directly on the mic is a good idea is that it’s easier to kill the feedback if the person holding the mic can just turn it off. If you plan on using a microphone, you should definitely make a point of testing it through your PA system before the wedding.
Using Wireless Microphones
The freedom a wireless microphone provides is desirable at weddings. It’s nice to be able to pass around the microphone for toasts and speeches, without having to fuss with a cable. However, the same dangers exist for experiencing feedback with wireless mics, and you have to be mindful of additional issues.
The airwaves are busier today than they’ve ever been. It’s likely that many of the guests at your wedding will be carrying and using smartphones and other wireless devices of their own, so you need to be aware of potential interference issues. Should you encounter interference during the wedding, someone besides the bride and groom needs to be familiar enough with your wireless system to be able to remedy the situation. This usually requires adjusting the channel on which the wireless system is operating, so the person who takes the responsibility of running the sound system should read the manual that comes with the wireless mic.
Wireless transmitters need batteries in order to operate. It’s a smart idea to have extra batteries on hand during the wedding. It’s also advisable to use Lithium batteries, as they last much longer than alkaline or rechargeable batteries. In the event that you encounter catastrophic problems with your wireless mic, it’s a good idea to have a wired handheld mic at the ready as a backup.
Using Microphones in the Ceremony
Running live microphones during a wedding ceremony can be tricky, especially if inexperienced people are operating the sound system. You need to be really careful not to create feedback. This is a setting that needs to be as peaceful and serene as possible, and nothing spoils that like a loud feedback squeal.
The kind of microphone you use can really help you keep feedback at a minimum. Unfortunately, using small clip-on lavalier microphones is usually a bad idea, especially if the person operating the equipment is inexperienced. The problem is that the lavalier mic is usually placed several inches away from the speaking person’s mouth. You need to really crank up the PA system in order to hear the mic, and it’s really easy to create feedback when the PA is turned up so high.
A much better solution is to use a handheld microphone. Your best bet is to have the wedding officiant hold a handheld microphone. However, some people don’t want the visual presence of a microphone in the ceremony. The only other option is to use a headset microphone, which some people also find to be visually unappealing.
Spice Things Up with Video Projection
If you’re comfortable using video-editing software and you have time to commit to creating a multimedia project for the wedding, you may want to consider making a video-based song mix. The basic idea is to burn a DVD and use a DVD player as your playback device. You can connect the DVD player to the sound system, so it will serve the same purpose a CD player would. You can also connect the DVD player’s video output to a projector, so you can have a visual show to accompany your music.
It’s up to you to choose the material you use in your video projection. It can be something as simple as a slideshow of photos, or something as elaborate as full-blown custom music videos that you create. Obviously, this requires a bit more elbow grease on your part, but it could end up being a big hit at the wedding.
Boogie Down with some Disco Lights
People love to cut loose on the dance floor at weddings, and having a few disco lights can really draw people in. The good news about dance lights is that they’re pretty easy to use. We sell disco lights at B&H which have sound sensors built into them. The sound sensors react to changes in the music, and automatically come up with a light show that’s in sync with the music.
LEDs are a good option for dance lights. They run cool, so you don’t have to worry about anyone touching them and burning their hands, and they’re pretty affordable.
Hopefully, we've given you some ideas about how you’ll approach your wedding DJ system. If you have any questions about wedding sound systems, please visit the B&H SuperStore in New York or speak with a sales professional, either on the phone at 1-800-606-6969 or via Live Chat.