For this article, a bride of an affordable, self-DJ’d wedding, Jennifer Woolfe, is providing what she learned from planning her own wedding in 2018.
This post contains affiliate links and/or links to my own products. I never recommend anything I don’t love or wouldn’t use myself.
When I planned my wedding, I skipped the DJ and opted for a DIY setup with my phone and speakers. This saved me about $1,500 and worked well for my 30 guest house party. I borrowed some outdoor speakers from my dad, upgraded to Spotify premium, and went to town.
As you plan your wedding, you might consider if you need a DJ. Maybe you’re not going for a dance party vibe, or maybe you’re just trying to save money. Read on to see if a DJ alternative is right for your special day.
Is it OK to not have a DJ at a wedding?
As one of the last things on your list to be booked after the venue, catering, even your dress or suit, you may be tempted to look for alternatives to a DJ.
It is ok to not have a DJ at a wedding if you’re having a smaller, more informal wedding. If you don’t need someone to direct people from one event to the next, a playlist can be sufficient. For larger, more traditional weddings, having a DJ is a good idea to maintain the flow of your wedding and keep the dance floor engaged.
Before you rule out a DJ, consider your venue and guest list. If you are having a large wedding at a hotel ballroom or banquet hall, you will need a DJ. (And you might need to select one of the venue’s pre-approved vendors.) At a large wedding like this, you need someone reliable to create a fun atmosphere. A DJ will also help with practical logistics like making seamless transitions throughout the night by keeping to your schedule. Or by announcing tables to head to the buffet.
If you are having a smaller wedding at a park, community center, or house, you may be able to skip the DJ. At a more lax setting, you will be good with a playlist, some speakers, and someone to press play.
If you’re decided against a DJ, let’s get into some alternative options for music at your wedding whether you’re trying to save money or just want a different experience from the traditional DJ.
1. DJ Your Own Wedding With A Spotify Playlist
I’m here to give you permission to play Spotify at your wedding. There are a few tips to keep in mind when using a playlist from Spotify or any other online streaming service as the music for your wedding. I wrote a full DIY post here to serve as your guide.
The benefits of a Spotify playlist are that you can make it your own. Choose from your favorite songs. Or even crowdsource the list of tunes by sending a link to your guests to add a song to the list before the bid day!
2. Have Live Music at Your Wedding
Okay, so this option probably won’t save you any money. Bands cost about $4,000, while a DJ is usually about $1400. (And Spotify Premium is free for the first 3 months.) The bonus of having a band is enjoying fun, upbeat music.
One way to split the difference is to hire a musician for your ceremony, and use a playlist for your reception. A harpist is a great traditional choice, while an acoustic guitar fits in with a boho wedding at a park.
3. Rent a Jukebox for Vintage Wedding Vibes
Depending on where you live, you can rent a jukebox for about $400-700. A jukebox has a nostalgic feel to it, so it’s best for an older crowd or a vintage themed wedding. Guests will have fun taking turns to play their favorite tunes.
4. Create a Karaoke party At Your Wedding
There are two ways to have karaoke at your wedding, either use a standard karaoke machine or rent out a karaoke bar for your reception or afterparty. Karaoke will definitely make your wedding a memorable event. For best results, invite a bunch of former theater kids.
Do you need music at a wedding?
Not really. Your wedding should be a reflection of you and your partner. If you dread slow dancing in front of a group of people, just skip the music and do something else.
You do not need music at a wedding if it doesn’t fit in with the kind of event you want to host. Couples who don’t like dancing, are having a very intimate micro wedding, or just prefer an alternative can skip music and plan a different activity to keep guests entertained.
A lot of these options can also be tailored to those with sensory issues. Keep reading for some unique alternatives to your typical dance party.
5. Hire a Stand Up Comedian to Entertain Wedding Guests
Maybe you met your partner at a comedy show. Maybe you just like to laugh. A comedian is a great way to get the party going. You can either contact a local comedy club to book the venue, or find comedians to come to you.
Check Facebook for comedy groups in your city, and reach out to find someone suitable for your group. Before you book them, watch their set to make sure they are legit! Nothing worse than a bad comic bringing the party down and making guests feel awkward.
6. Play Games at Your Wedding
If you’d rather be home playing Catan than out in the club, this is for you. Set up tables of board games (or video games) around the venue. Include games of different skill levels, so your niece can play Candyland, while your aunt plays Spades, and you play Ticket to Ride. To save money on supplies, ask guests to bring a board game to your shower, in lieu of a gift.
You still might want some music playing softly in the background to set the party mood. But this activity is a great alternative to having a DJ host the evening if you’re into gaming.
7. Host an Intimate Dinner Party Wedding
Pretty self-explanatory. It’s increasingly common for intimate dinner parties to replace full-on receptions. (Thanks Covid.) To take your event up a notch, consider a themed tasting menu or carefully paired wines. Without loud music playing, your guests can focus on the food and learn something new from an expert sommelier or chef.
8. Rent out a Movie Theater for Your Wedding
Something for the cinefiles. You can rent out a movie theater for a few hundred bucks. Look into big chains and your local indie cinemas. The only question is what to watch after you say “I Do?”
9. Create A Beach Wedding Bonfire
First things first, make sure a beach bonfire is legal where you live. You may need a permit or advanced registration for a bonfire. Once you get the OK, bring lots of marshmallows and extra blankets. (Also, can I get an invite? I love s’mores.)
10. Make it a Murder Mystery Party Wedding
This is a great option for your most dramatic friends (and your drunk Aunt Cheryl). You can buy a murder mystery kit online or hire a company to plan the event (google your city and murder mystery…it’s a thing.) Whatever the theme (‘20s era prohibition, ‘70s disco), lean into it with your decor and food.
11. Rent Out a Bowling Alley For Your Wedding
Although this option might sound like it’s better suited for a kids’ birthday party, it can be really chic for a wedding if done right. Pick a high end venue like Lucky Strike and rent out the whole place (so there’s no one actual kids’ birthday party in the next lane). Encourage your guests to dress to the 9s in something they can move in. You’ll have some really memorable pictures of your guests in fancy dresses and bowling shoes.
Now you have some different options for wedding entertainment. No matter what you choose, make sure the event is true to what you and your partner want. It’s okay to stray from traditional wedding DJs–it’ll make your party more unique and you!
Looking for other alternatives to popular wedding items to save money?
One of my favorite tips to cut down on costs is to use an affordable wedding stationery option. Zazzle has some of the best quality and beautiful designs for the price. You can check out my favorite styles on Zazzle here. And don’t forget to check out my review of Zazzle to see why I recommend them.