After deciding you want a DJ for your wedding, an important question that comes up quickly among couples alongside the stylistic ones is a very practical one – what amount of sound equipment will you need to have the music be easily heard in all the spots you want it?
For example, if the cocktail hour area isn’t nearby the reception area, will you need a separate sound system in each area? Or, if the ceremony area is close to the reception area, will a speaker extended from the reception’s sound system will be enough for guests to hear the ceremony music well?
These decisions are easily resolved if your DJ is both experienced enough to know when a separate sound system is needed or not, and is honest enough to tell you the right answer.
In my almost 15 years of DJ-ing, I know that I have experience and honesty (go here for my bio, here for my experience, and here for my approach) – as do many DJs and DJ companies in the NYC area. However, there are some DJs or DJ companies that, due to innocent mistakes from inexperience, will get it wrong, or, due to seeing a chance to make more money, will tell you that you need more sound equipment than you really do.
Here’s some information and tips I can share from my experience in setting up DJ sound systems for all kinds of weddings that I think will help you determine the right amount of audio equipment for your wedding.
First, DJs often refer to a sound system as a “set-up.” A set-up usually means the same thing: a self-contained combination of audio equipment that includes speakers, a mixer to transition between songs, two decks (whether vinyl, CD or digital) to select the music from, a microphone, cords, and often a table or rack where the mixer and decks are placed.
How much does a single sound system / set-up cost? Price quotes from DJs are usually inclusive of more than just the effort in setting up a sound system – DJs arrive at their rates based on this, but also commonly based on travel time to a venue, overall time playing music, and amount of time planning the music flow and schedule. So the average price for a single set-up can be difficult to extract from a quote. However, if 2 or 3 set-ups are needed, often the DJ will have a higher rate than the base rate, which more directly reflects the work involved in setting up additional sound systems.
It’s easier to know the range of set-ups needed for weddings. For the average wedding, usually you’ll need 1 at the least, and 3 at most. The usual areas a DJ is wanted are: the ceremony area, the cocktail area, and the reception (dinner and dancing) area.
How do you know if you need more than one sound system / set-up? Generally, if your ceremony or cocktail area is beyond what is practical for a speaker with a cord coming from the main set-up (I find this distance is roughly between a hundred to two hundred feet), then you’ll likely need 2 set-ups. If the ceremony, cocktail, and the reception areas are each about this far from each other, 3 set-ups would definitely make sense. However, even when the areas needing music are far away, and you can’t afford 2 or 3 set ups, there are some options to save money.
If you can afford 2 set-ups, but the 3 areas of your wedding are far apart, decide which areas are most important. In my experience, it makes most sense to use the 2 set-ups for the cocktails and the reception areas, since the ceremony involves the least number of songs, and you can have the DJ plug in a digital music player directly into a speaker with the songs in a playlist. The DJ might charge extra for setting up the speaker and cords, but likely not as much as full set-up.
If you need 3 set-ups in each area, but can only afford 1 set-up, have it be in the reception area, and for the ceremony have the DJ play music with a speaker and digital music player, then have the DJ transfer this equipment to the cocktail hour and use a pre-made playlist.
Now, if these areas are difficult to set up in for the DJ, or the DJ is going to have to be running around so much that music after the ceremony will be not be able to be playing soon after people enter the cocktail area, transferring a speaker might not be feasible. Plus, for setting up and re-setting up, the DJ may charge extra.
But, options like these could work if you discuss your particular situation with the DJ. I have encountered these situations many times before, and if I know the layout of the venue, or do a visit to the venue and see where the electricity is, I can often feel confident in a specific equipment arrangement.
Another way to avoid 3 set-ups is if the DJ brings a second DJ (often one of them will act as the MC if they are a team and work together often). This way, a first set-up can be used for the ceremony, then, as a second set up is used for cocktail hour with one DJ spinning, the other DJ takes apart the ceremony set-up and transfers it to the reception area. However, two DJs can be more expensive – but not always.
The fuzziest area with wedding DJ set-up decisions is if the ceremony, cocktail and reception areas are not far away, but not that close so a single set-up can dependably cover the adjacent area with sound. In these cases, you usually know a separate sound system is too much, but not sure how much more sound is needed. In this case, it’s important for couples to know the distance between areas, where the power is in each area, size of the areas, and roughly how many guests will be in each area. Then, in explaining these factors to the DJ, a decision can more accurately and quickly be made as to the best answer.