Why does rocking out take all these cables?!?!
October 31, 2006 8:50 PM   Subscribe

DIY Wedding Reception Music Sound System?!?! Frazzled bride has

Putting together a punk rock (alternatively, cheap ass) wedding. For the DIY sound, though, I am somewhat stymied. What I beseech you for, askmefi: how to put together, with a sub-$600 budget, a fairly decent localized sound system for dancing at the reception? A system which would allow the music source to be a laptop would be optimal.

This reception is in a large hall with high ceilings, and with over 200 guests. Not all of them would be dancing at once, I assume. The sound can be limited to one area, but should be reasonably loud and accomodating to multiple music genres. I am not averse to buying stuff over the internets, but brand and gear suggestions which might be on Craigslist would be awesome, too.

If this is a terrible idea, suggest Bay Area DJs willing to play whatever the heck we want, even if it is the Pop-O-Pie's "The Catholics Are Attacking."
posted by Wavelet to Technology (19 answers total)
Best answer: I can't suggest a specific vendor near you, but you should be able to look in your local yellow pages and find an audiovisual rental house.

From one of these places, you can easily rent powered speakers and a mixer, and the appropriate cables for connecting to a laptop.

Tell them your budget and the size of the venue and see if you can be accomodated. I don't think it will be difficult to hit the mark with your budget.
posted by tomierna at 8:57 PM on October 31, 2006

There is only one mixer. (Though since you have no idea what you're doing, there might be two or three.
posted by ChasFile at 9:14 PM on October 31, 2006

I brought my 10-year old home stereo system (a $100-ish Sony receiver, $100-ish Technics 5-CD player, and, you guessed it, $100-ish Technics speakers to a slightly smaller room for my best friend's wedding and rocked the house. We had mix CD-Rs, but get a $3.00 1/4 inch-to-RCA plug and you're rocking with your iPod/laptop.

I'll bet you or your friends have at least the above level of equipment laying around. If you need a bit more oomph, I'd (as tomierna recommended above) rent speakers and and some sort of pre-amp to plug in the laptop - Not quite as punk rock as your own system, but check out this place (quick Google just to get a baseline on price), looks well within your range.
posted by jalexei at 9:15 PM on October 31, 2006

Many people have done this with great success. Search here with various relevant terms; I know there have been previous questions. Also try Indiebride's message boards; there's a lot of accumulated wisdom on how to make this go.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:19 PM on October 31, 2006

Those mixers that ChasFile linked to are very sweet, but at that point I'd be hiring a DJ.

In your situation (unless I'm really misreading the question) I'd either want something to set up with a 4-hour iTunes playlist (with an inexpensive software plug-in like Volume Logic to balance song volume) and walk away from, or leave it to a professional if I want more sophisticated crossfades, between-song patter, etc.
posted by jalexei at 9:28 PM on October 31, 2006

I'm not where you are, but for events like this I have previously rented a pair of JBL-15s, plus 2 varispeed CD players, plus mixer, for about AU$100 for the night. This rig included aux-ins, so a laptop would be fine.

Also, JBL-15s are overkill and I should've got the 10s.

So, erm, basically what tomierna said. Your budget is huge for this.
posted by pompomtom at 9:29 PM on October 31, 2006

Definitely find a pro audio shop in your area, and go there, explain your situation. They'll be able to make recommendations, and offer reasonable rental/purchase.
posted by fvox13 at 9:35 PM on October 31, 2006

Just make sure your DJ doesn't waste his time getting arty.
posted by wilful at 9:56 PM on October 31, 2006

Ok, I'm just going to vent here for a second.

set up with a 4-hour iTunes playlist

That's just nuts, unless iTunes has a pair of eyes in its new verson. How are you supposed to judge the floor? What if the crowd really resonds to a track? Or worse, what if a song starts clearing the floor like uncle Henry just farted? Then you're fucked, that's what. A good DJ will be able to gauge the mood of the house and build a set that gets things popping. Anything else besides a human behind the wheels is elevator music. If you want your dance floor to resemble an elevator, then go for it.

And this whole "I want a DJ that will play whatever I want" attitude? Shitty. That's a great way hire a hack. Do you want a DJ, or do you want a robot? All the DJs I know would tell you to take that "And then I want to go from the Chicken Dance straight into some Bon Jovi" crap and shove it up your ass. Would you tell the chef to add some more Rosemary to your roast chicken? No? You would trust the fact that he can put a good meal together without your input on every little decision? Then let the experts work. Let the DJ put a good set together without your input on every little decision. Good DJs are worth their weight in gold because they have a specialized kind of knowledge that few possess: they know exactly how to run a party. They know what tracks to pick, when to play them, when to slow the floor down, when to pick it back up, and when to really start kicking your ass, and when to start kicking it more than you knew it could be kicked. You, having done this exactly (judging by the nature of the question) 0 times do not have this knowledge. Don't pretend you do. Find a *good* DJ who plays in the genre you enjoy and let him work his magic. Just realize that no good DJ is going to have his set dictated to him like that.

And get this one, too: some people only hire ONE DJ! This BLEW MY MIND the first wedding I went to. It was FOUR HOURS LONG! WTF?!?! What planet do these people live on? I have been to a couple parties in my time, and every so often - rarely, but every so often - I've seen DJs attempt marathon sets like that. I've yet to see it done well top-to-bottom. I have seen quite a number of INCREDIBLE 60- or 90-minute sets, on the other hand. At this point, there have been musicians working dance floors for around 5000 years, and it seems that 60 to 90 minutes is pretty much the agreed upon legnth of time that any one act can or should stay on for. I swear, its like sometimes people have never even been to a party. Picture it this way: imagine your wedding is your average Saturday night out. Imagine you traveled for hours and hours, got a hotel room for the night, and payed a $150 cover to get into some shit-hot 200-person party in a nice dance hall with tall cielings. Now imagine that for your $150 you were treated to one mediocre DJ struggling to match beats between Frank Sinatra and Guns 'n Roses without twisting anyone's ankle. Would you be pissed? I would. For all that effort, I'd expect at the very least a tag team (again, if they were good), if not a full bill.

Finally, DJs? Patter? (What planet are these people from? Its like they've never even been to a party!) Not most of the ones I know. The people who do that are called MCs. Maybe you've heard of them. Patter is not in a DJs job description. I wouldn't ask the priest to bake the cake, and I wouldn't expect my DJ to take the mic. And anyway, you know what DJ patter is? Downtime. You know what clears a dancefloor and kills a party faster than ANYTHING? Downtime.

Gah. Anyway, I kind of singled you out once or twice there and I know you are rawk and all that and this rant wasn't directed at you, it just included you because its a reply (sort of) to your question. Really it was really directed at all the people who's weddings I've attended that have been GRAVE disappointments, fun-wise. Don't be one of those people.
posted by ChasFile at 10:25 PM on October 31, 2006

We hired a DJ to play our music and it worked great. We got married in a small town and all the DJs' playlists were the standard wedding crap, and there was no way we were having that. We burned CDs (to the DJs specs for quality, ask him) and gave them to him a few weeks in advance. He listened to them, told us which tracks to toss (we agreed), had us separate the final cds into slow songs and fast songs, and he took it from there. It turned out great and we got compliments from friends as well as family. Seeing my great-aunt-and-uncle dance to The Ramones was one of the highlights of the night.

I do recommend hiring a professional DJ, though,as opposed to renting equipment or asking a friend to stand by the iPod. A DJ will come with equipment that he already knows how to operate (and troubleshoot in case anything goes wrong), plus he'll be able to determine which song to play when. He'll know when to turn the music down, up, change songs, etc. to match the events of the evening. It's the perfect middle ground -- you get to play the music you want, but you don't have the headache of dealing with audio equipment during your own wedding.
posted by boomchicka at 6:25 AM on November 1, 2006

Do you have friends that are in bands or put on shows, that would be willing to loan you equipment? At my very DIY wedding, we used the speakers that were in the hall we rented, the PA that my husband has from putting on punk rock shows in the basement and a laptop with itunes. We made a few playlists for different moods and had one person that went over and started the appropriate playlist at the appropriate time, it worked beautifully and for us since we had the equipment, was free.
posted by trishthedish at 7:04 AM on November 1, 2006

We had an iPod hooked up to a home stereo at my wedding. We were covering a smaller dance floor than you might be. As others have said, a PA rig can be rented cheaply.

I realize my approach probably offends ChasFile, but then again, it was a wedding, not a show. Those who wanted to dance seemed to enjoy it anyhow.
posted by adamrice at 7:10 AM on November 1, 2006

I would put forth that even if good DJs are as awesome as ChasFile says, they are then vanishingly rare (I've never seen one - the best DJs I've seen have reached a level of not sucking. Most of them just reach the level of suck.) So you're probably just better off with, as a recent wedding invitation put it, "we're having an iPod wedding - tell us songs you want us to make sure are on an iPod."

Where I am there's a Halloween party every year, ~800-1000 budget, and I found myself part of the group running it this year. Dumping any of the DJs that had been used in previous years and going with a laptop and one person vaguely in charge of music with the vague assistance of everyone was a great decision. We used part of the money saved for renting better fog/light equipment than any DJ had brought with him and the rest to just get more beer/snacks/decorations. We knew someone with speakers, amps, and a mixer.

The one problem was we a few times had to chase assholes trying to change the songs away from the laptop since we didn't have someone standing there continuously. But since this is a wedding, not an open party, you should only have people you like there anyway and not have to worry about that.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:28 AM on November 1, 2006

My wife (also a metafilter member) and I did something similar for our wedding (roughly three weeks ago). If you already have a laptop loaded with songs, you can just rent a powered mixer and speakers with stands (this cost roughly $100 here). You run a connection from the line out on the laptop to the mixer (in our case it was a 1/8" stereo plug to two rca cables). If you know anyone that plays in a band they should be able to hook up the rest for you.
posted by drezdn at 9:10 AM on November 1, 2006

ChasFile, didn't mean to strike a nerve -

I don't even really disagree with anything you said, and I do apologize for my sloppy terminology - most weddings I've been to the DJ is the MC. If you've been to fancier multi-DJ ones more power to you. I was just working off some of the keywords in the original question (cheap, DIY, punk rock) and the fact that the poster seemed pretty confident of and knowledgeable about the music they were looking for.

Take one iPod with a varied/extensive music collection, set up a few playlists, plug it into a rented PA/speaker system. Put a musically-inclined friend in charge of checking on things every now and then, maybe jumping around a bit based on mood/requests. It's not like they're hopping in the Gulfstream and winging over to Ibiza to man the decks at Es Paradis.
posted by jalexei at 10:00 AM on November 1, 2006

I had an iTunes wedding, and I think ChasFile's totally out of line. It was a blast. People danced. People ate. When it was all over, we were married. If you want a pre-fab wedding that's exactly what people think a wedding should be, sure, hire a DJ. Otherwise, do what you want.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:07 AM on November 1, 2006

As a counterpoint, I have seen an iTunes wedding go horribly awry. Technical malfunctions during the ceremony and during the reception. Unauthorized people changing songs, horrible song choices, and the bride getting pissed b/c someone was playing songs she didn't like.

IMHO, the good thing about a DJ is that one single person is responsible for getting the equipment setup and playing the music you want to be played. For me, it's worth the $$ to make sure all that goes through without a hitch.

If you choose to go the DIY route, I would highly suggest delegating the role of DJ to a willing and knowledgable friend, rather than having multiple people trying to stick their hands in the pot.
posted by gnutron at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2006

Best answer: I've emailed the address in your profile. You're welcome to borrow my stuff and play itunes through it to your heart's content.
posted by wzcx at 12:26 PM on November 1, 2006

Contact KFJC at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills (650-949-7260). I'm not totally sure they're still offering this service, but last I heard the fee get someone (usually a DJ from the station) to DJ your event was about $400, and the station has a huge selection of stuff--Pop-O-Pies would be no problem at all.
posted by oats at 4:13 PM on November 1, 2006

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