iPod your Wedding. Part 1: Equipment

by Melissa on July 5, 2011

This is the first part in a multi-part series about how to iPod your wedding or otherwise self-deejay your wedding.  Follow our plans as we prepare to have an iPod wedding in November 2011.

A few weeks ago, I discussed how we decided not to have a deejay.  I was a little worried that it could be a disaster, but, my fiancé assured me that it would be a pretty straightforward process.  The problem is, I’ve never been able to find good, detailed information online about how precisely to iPod your wedding.

Sure, I know that I need speakers, an amplifier, and a mixer.  (Wait, what the hell is a mixer?)  And I know that we need to create playlists and that we should have twice the amount of music that we anticipate, and all that general stuff.  But really, how exactly do you iPod your wedding?

So, follow this series of posts as we learn how to iPod our wedding.

Equipment Essentials

iPod-Wedding-EquipmentFirst up.  Equipment.  We quickly learned that renting the required deejay equipment was only marginally cheaper than purchasing it.  And, since we’re renting our campground venue for several days, we were hoping to get  things set up, including deejay equipment, at least two days prior to the wedding.  If we rented, the equipment would have to be set up that same day, unless we wanted to pay for a longer rental period.  So, we made the easy decision to purchase the equipment.  Estimated equipment purchase cost, $350.

Here is a list of equipment we have purchased to iPod / self-deejay our wedding (including the links to the actual products we bought).  The photo on the right is all the equipment currently being tested on our living room floor!

Essential Cables for your Equipment

Next up, you’ll need some specialty cables.  In nearly all cases, cables are not included with the above mentioned equipment.

All our equipment arrived prior to the cables, so my fiancé tried to set it up using some existing cables he had (for the geeks out there, he was trying to connect it using a cable that was TRS on one end and a TS on the other.  Each end should be the same type).  At first we thought that our setup wasn’t working, because the speakers did not seem nearly loud enough.  But, he quickly realized that it was an issue with the cables.  So, he ordered some of the proper cables from Monoprice.  (Side note: Monoprice is a great place to buy any cables.  HDMI cables, phone chargers, etc. at a great price).

So, this is what we purchased in the way of cables:

  • Headphone to RCA Splitter.  Although we discovered this 1.5ft cable is a bit short.  If you’re planning on using just an iPod, the 1.5 foot cable would be fine.  But, if you’re using a laptop, you’ll probably want a longer one so that you have some space allowance to move around the computer to a nearby table or whatever.  Here is a 3ft version and a 6ft version.
  • Mono Plug to RCA Jack Adaptor (we needed two of these):
  • 1/4inch (TRS or Stereo Phono) Male to Male 16AWG Cable (we needed two of these)
  • Premier Series XLR Male to XLR Female 16AWG Cable (for the microphone).  This is a standard microphone cable.  However, the type of cable required may vary depending on the type of microphone you buy.  So make sure you check if yours requires a different type of cable.  This will depend on the type of microphone that you buy though.
  • Premier Series 1/4inch (TRS or Stereo Phono) Male to Male 16AWG Cable.  While these are the same types of cables came with the above mentioned speaker kit, we ordered these cables as backups.
  • Speakon Cables.  These come with the “Speaker Accessory Kit” listed above, but in case you order a different kit that does not include Speakon cables.  Although Speakon is a new type of cable, so if you have older speakers, you may need a different type of cable.
  • Speaker Wire (as a backup).  We’re using speaker wire as a backup to our Speakon cable.  We’ll only need this if there is some sort of Speakon-related disaster at the wedding.
  • At least one heavy duty extension cord
  • At least one power strip

In fact, we ordered extra of all of these things as backups, considering how cheap everything is.  In the next post in the series, we’ll explain how to set up and connect all the equipment using the cables.

Watts and what size amplifier do I need?

** My fiancé kindly wrote this section.  He did a lot of research to figure out what size amplifier we would need.

Amplifier come in different “sizes” and are rated in watts. You want to get an amplifier that is at least powerful enough to power all your speaker, but not too big because it’ll be more expensive. Although you can damage your equipment by having a amplifier turned up too loud on smaller speakers, it’s actually just as or maybe more dangerous using an under-powered amplifier trying to run speakers that are too big for it, it could cause the equipment to overheat.

If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have any equipment you can first start with the speakers. You need to find out the watts and the impedance of the speakers. Watts tell you how much power the speakers use and the impedance tell you how easy electricity flows thought the speaker. Don’t worry too much about what impedance means technically, just look at the numbers for the product. Impedance is measured in ohms and is representative by the omega sign (Ω). Typically it’ll be either 4 ohms, 8 ohms or 16 ohms.

Looking at the speakers we bought, the listing says 300 watts. Unfortunately, that’s misleading. If you look at the technical details you’ll see that the 300 watts is the “ Peak Power Handling”. The peak power handling isn’t really that useful of a number and what we want to find out is the RMS watts. The RMS watts is the typical watts or the average watts — again it doesn’t really matter what these means technically. So in this case the speakers are 150 watts RMS. The impedance is straightforward and is listed as 8 ohms.

So you might be thinking or cool, 150 watts per speaker, that’s 300 watts total — why the heck do you need a 1400 watt amp? Well just like the speakers the amp manufacturers like to make it sounds more powerful than it really is.

First the 1400 watts is total power, so that 750 watts per channel (i.e. per speaker). Second that’s only if your speakers are 4 ohms. In the case of 8 ohms, like our speakers, it’s only 350 per channel (half of the 4 ohm value). Finally we don’t want a situation where the amp is exactly the same size as the speakers, we want to give a little cushion or headroom. A rule of thumb is to multiply the size of the speakers by 1.6. So in this case it’s 150 x 1.6 which equals 240 watts. So the 350 watts per channel is still plenty big enough. In fact, the 1000 watt version (which works out to 250 watts per channel) would have been fine, but at the time the 1400 watt one was only a few bucks more.

Next Post

Our next post in the series will provide an overview about how to connect the equipment using the cables and we’ll provide a quick overview of how to use the equipment.

If you self-deejay’ed your wedding, is this in line with what you did?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Darlene Taylor July 7, 2011 at 6:51 am

I am concerned that you are thinking of setting up this equipment *2 days* prior to the event. Since you said you were having your reception at a campground venue – a pavilion – I’m assuming this will be out in the open. (?) Are you not worried that someone could come and take the equipment? Also, November is a time of year where there is dew in the morning. Moisture and electronics…well, you know. Even if you cover it, the equipment is exposed to the elements for 2 days…I would not be comfortable with that. But that’s me and this is you. You have spent a great deal of money of this equipment and I’d hate to see it disappear or get damaged.

I’m curious – from your previous blog post about deciding not to have a DJ – that you feel that having a DJ at an event is “rigid” and “structured.” Is this your experience with DJs? If so, I’m sad. I’ve never done a wedding where it’s been rigid – in fact the DJ acts as the emcee for your event, working the crowd, getting them up to dance and party! A good DJ will will follow the couple’s schedule. He will make your event memorable. He creates the atmosphere. He keeps the crowd pumped up. They have an extensive song selection that goes beyond our iTunes libraries because music for your wedding is not so much about you as it is your guests. Your guests want to hear songs they like, too, not all of your favorite music. A DJ does more then “spin records” (to use an old phrase) or push buttons, he entertains! If all you want is music played at your reception, than an iPod reception is fine. But if you want your guests to party, have a good time and get up and dance, then you need entertainment! Do you have someone to fill this spot as DJ on your wedding day?

My experience with iPod weddings is only one and it was very dry. It was nice for the Bride/Groom 1st dance and the other dances, but without an emcee, guests were left not knowing what was happening and there were only a dozen or so people on the floor. For this wedding we plugged the iPod right into the house system and it was plenty loud and it was easy. However, the bride was disappointed that only a few were dancing.

What do you want your guests to feel/to walk away with from your wedding? Do you want them to let loose and relax and get down? Do you want them to say, “That was the best party ever!!” “We had so much fun!” Will you create that with a self-deejay-iPod wedding?

From Northern Virginia’s Top DJ: “We present those most popular selections that are certain to inspire your crowd on the dance floor. Each and every event is different, and requires an assessment by the disc-jockey to determine what type of music to play. Our Disc-Jockey’s will normally start the dancing segment of your event by playing a variety of music in a short period of time. Usually, after the first 30 to 45 minutes, the disc-jockey will get a feel for what your guests like to dance to, and make the necessary adjustments to the music rotations.” Can you do that with your iPod?

Another one: “We maintain an extensive music library which contains selections that will appeal to every age range and music taste. Most of all, our music library contains thousands of selections that allow us to play an average of 95% of the requests that we receive. An extensive music library is especially important if you are planning a wedding.” What will you do about requests with your iPod? Will you be able to have something for everyone?

You have valid concerns about things going wrong with this area of your reception. You have obviously thought about this a great deal and did not make your decision lightly. In my opinion, this is one area that should not be DIY. But that is my opinion based on experience over 10 years in. There are good DJ/Entertainment companies out there that don’t cost a whole lot. You may need to find the right one whose personality fits yours and what you’re looking for for your party. It’s not always about money. Don’t let money be what drives your decisions. Just spend wisely.

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Melissa July 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Hi Darlene, thanks for you thoughtful comments!

About leaving the equipment outside: that’s not something we plan to do. we’ll set it up, have a sound check, and then bring it back in to one of the many heated, indoor locations (there are four heated cabins, plus a “mess hall” dining area.) Since we’re renting out the campground for several days, we’re offering our guests (very rustic) accommodations free of charge. We already have about 20 people planning to stay at the campground, so I’m not that concerned about someone taking it with so many people around. So, it’ll be dry and secure.

I guess our biggest thing with the deejay is that 1) all the ones we interviewed (most were top-rated Wedding Wire deejays), just did not impress us that much. Two of them carried on conversations full of umms and uhhs. Another two did not seem knowledgeable at all about the type of equipment we would need for our venue, including when my tech-savvy fiance asked very specific technical questions about wireless speakers and receiver distances. There were another two that were helpful and knowledgeable, but we questioned whether a $1500 price tag was worth it. It’s not a question of whether we can afford it. We can. We’re on a budget by choice, not by circumstances.

2) our other issue is that we don’t really want a normal wedding vibe for our reception. We plan on having games set up all around the campground, indoors and outdoors, scavenger hunts, laser tag, poker and euchre, and just hanging out around one of the 3 fireplaces. We don’t want people to feel glued to the same location the whole night, whether they be sitting at the table or up on the dance floor. And we have a very, very difficult time communicating this to our vendors, who tell us that our guests won’t like it and that there needs to be some certain order of events. We’ve very clearly communicated to our guests via our wedding website (different than this blog), how we envision our wedding. And we realize that since a deejay is so much a part of directing guests to how the evening unfolds, we figured we just wanted to take it into our own hands. We know what we’re getting ourselves into!

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