Sunday, November 19, 2017
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iPod helps do-it-yourself couples say 'I do'

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The three words are increasingly linked as couples turn to technology to put a personal stamp — and save a bundle — on wedding entertainment.

And why shouldn't they? The national average cost of a wedding is pushing $28,000, with $900 or more often going to a DJ. Live bands can cost thousands.

Do-it-yourselfers have figured out that an iPod or laptop loaded with a handpicked playlist, coupled with some good speakers, doesn't cost anything.

Rebekah Schwartz, a St. Louis bride-to-be getting married June 6 at the Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa in St. Pete Beach, said her small reception won't require the services of a professional.

"We thought it would be easy enough to gather a list of songs that we liked and play it ourselves," she said in e-mail.

The "iPod wedding" isn't just about saving money, though. Members of wedding Web sites say custom playlists spotlight the couple's taste, not the DJs.

"DJs likely wouldn't even have our favorite artists in their stash of music, let alone play them," one blogger on the uber-wedding site theknot.com wrote.

"The mere thought of hearing the Village People at my reception makes me want to hide under my cake table," wrote another.

"More and more, couples are taking control and personalizing their day," said Anja Winnikka, 25, editor at theknot.com. "Whether that's a special playlist or motif they've used for their cake, couples are tuning into the fact they can customize the day."

Professional DJs are saying what you'd expect them to say: that the "iPod wedding" is loaded with land mines. Those handsome little mp3 players make crummy emcees, they say. Not to mention the occasional iPod freeze or computer crash.

"You can't preprogram a party," said Doug Shaw, president of the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Disc Jockey Association. "But I certainly understand the budgetary interest."

Johnny Yancey, who runs the St. Petersburg-based Bigmouths Productions, called the trend "a joke" and an "uncoordinated mess" to be used as a last resort.

His company charges $695 for four hours of service.

For the price, Yancey says, you get two decades of entertainment experience. His DJs keep dance floors packed, coordinate with other wedding vendors and come armed with backups of CDs and sound equipment.

"You don't get that with some dude playing the iPod," he said.

Still, some couples say what you could get is an overzealous DJ.

Yancey, known in a former life as DJ Eyez, isn't against donning an Elvis suit or playing games with the crowd when he's on duty.

"They freak out," he said. "They just light up."

That's precisely what Schwartz and her fiance, Scott Stiever, 30, hope to avoid. They're loading a playlist with family requests and choice cuts from their favorite albums.

"I have always felt DJs were cheesy and have never really enjoyed a wedding with one," said Schwartz, 29. "I'm still trying to sort out who will do these tasks, but for me, it's still not worth hiring a DJ just for this."

She said she's enlisting a relative to stand in as the emcee. For tech issues, she'll turn to another family member who works with sound equipment. She's confident the big night will be hassle-free.

The pros say proceed with caution.

"It's not just the music," said Shaw. "If it were, it would be easy."

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