Mac Your Wedding

by C.K. Sample III Nov 17, 2004

A little over a week ago, I was married. The wedding was a very nice affair, and during the two years of planning that went into pulling it off, there were several instances where having a Mac at my fingertips paid off nicely. I wasn’t the stereotypically passive groom, but used my tech skills to help cut costs and limit wasted time.

So, for the technically savvy bride or groom, here’s a few brief sketches of ways to use your Mac to help alleviate the stress and cost of your wedding:

Keep Lists:
Whether you are a very unorganized person or a very organized person who is used to working with pen and paper, I can not stress enough the importance of keeping electronic documents of all the lists involved with your wedding. This includes names and addresses of guests, a checklist of things that need to be done before the wedding, and an itinerary of when what is supposed to happen.

You can go gonzo-crazy with all sorts of progressive iCal calendars, Konfabulator countdown widgets, and Filemaker / SQL databases if you like, but no matter how much you geek-out about it, I recommend keeping a plain text / Word document lying around that mirrors these basic lists. Why? For easy emailing. Kristin (the organizer of the family) easily distributed lists to my parents, her parents, and myself about which invitees from our respective lists were in need of addresses and which were in need of nudging once the RSVP date had come and gone. She also easily added gifts to the list each time something new came in, so that a Thank You note would quickly follow. If you’re not hand-writing all the addresses in calligraphy, a mailing list can be made out of one of these lists for easy printing of labels. Consider investing in a DYMO label printer.

Also, print out instruction sheets for all your vendors and the wedding party. All this preparation beforehand will help ensure that you are enjoying the party, rather than shouting instructions across the room to the photographer about what pictures you absolutely must have.

Invitations, programs, and menus:
For our wedding, Kristin and I were fortunate enough to have some very nice invitations printed out by Soho Letter Press in Manhattan. In fact, the invitations were so nice that we (and by “we,” I mean her parents) wouldn’t normally have been able to afford them.

Here’s a tip to help save you lots of money. When you order invitations from a company that specializes in wedding invitations, they charge you for the paper, the printing, and the layout of your invitations. That last bit of the equation normally doubles the price of your invitations, programs, menus, or any printed materials involved in your wedding. Find a professional printer in your area and ask them what type of file types they accept for projects. Most accept Quark or InDesign, and some even accept an Adobe pdf. Talk about paper types and sizes and take notes. Layout your own invitations in all the correct sizes in a program like QuarkXpress or InDesign CS. If you use a non-standard font, you will have to purchase the font and give a copy of it to the printer with your files. The money you’ll save by playing around with the page layout and design yourself is significant. If you’ve been looking for a way to rationalize purchasing InDesign, here’s your chance.

If you’re really on a tight budget for these printed materials, then you can print it out yourself. Office stores like Office Max and Staples offer an assortment of paper sets for weddings. We printed out our rehearsal dinner invites complete with envelopes for about $9, our ceremony on some pre-packaged program paper, and the place-cards for the reception for about $10 (plus the amount of black ink that the ink-jet printer burned through; I’d estimate about half a black ink cartridge / about $15).

iLife shines pre-and post-wedding:
When booking your band or DJ, burn them a CD of all the key songs that you want, complete with a list of which song is for what dance. Consider doing away with either a band or a DJ and simply putting together a well-orchestrated playlist on your iPod. Rent an amp and speakers for the night, plug in your iPod, press play and you’re good to go.

Rather than spending tons of money on a videographer for the wedding, why not just ask a few of your friends with DV camcorders to record everything? Give them two DV tapes each, let them record away the entire night, then collect the tapes and start splicing them together in iMovie and burn them to disk with iDVD.

This same principle goes for photography. Hand out disposable cameras that you’ll collect at the end of the night and ask all of your friends with digital cameras to email you the pictures they take. Trust me: new digital pictures of the happy day come in extremely handy when a few days after the wedding your wife becomes sad that the day she has dreamed about her whole life has come and gone.

When you go to develop your film, make sure you choose to have them developed someplace where they can include the pictures on a Photo CD for easy import into iPhoto. Organize your wedding pictures into little slideshows. Export these slideshows as transitions to be worked into the iMovie of your wedding.

I realize this list of ideas is somewhat loosely joined, but hopefully it will get you started.


  • Having been a mobile DJ for over 15 years, I can tell you that JUST playing music ignores the primary reason to have a good DJ; Master of Ceremonies.  The primary role of the DJ at the wedding is to coordinate the events, the other contractors and the guests, so that there is a smooth flow of activities, and photographers have their cameras prepped in advance of the special moments.

    When I got married over 15 years ago, we justified the purchase of a LaserWriter II by producing all of our invitations on the Mac.  We used pre-printed 8 inch square cards and envelopes, that had appropriate color designs around the border of the card; the invitation verbiage went in the center.  We also included another 8 inch square card with additional information; times, directions, gift registry info, attire, etc.

    Last point, by using a database for keeping track of guests and gifts, including showers, we printed the RSVP cards like a merge document; each card had the name of each guest.  How many times have guests sent in the generic cards, checked they would be in attendance, without writing in their names?

    Dana Berkow had this to say on Nov 17, 2004 Posts: 1
  • As someone who just got married as well, I can say that a mac savvy couple can do wonders on a tight budget.  We did our own invites in InDesign, and printed them on really nice paper on the best printer we had access to and the results were beautiful.  Other nice touches were stuff that would have cost us a bundle in printing charges alone were accompanying literature on the sights, hotels, and things to do in the region since we were married in France and my family was coming over from Canada.  Nice paper combined with a color printer and a paper cutter with decorative blades made for a very elegant package.

    We didn’t have a DJ or fixed master of ceremonies as they can get a little out of hand, and things are done a little differently here (ie no speeches!), but all of the music was selected and arranged on my powerbook which drove the rented sound system with awesome results.  Still able to make on the fly adjustments to the playlist to keep in sync with the crowd.

    And in the post ceremony stage, iMovie and iDVD are killer.  I imagine that we are among the many who used the gorgeous wedding theme in iDVD, combined with a selection of the photos from all of the digital cameras. Idea: see if you can’t get someone with a digital wallet or a portable to snag people on their way out of the reception to take a copy of their memory cards so you’ll have everything right away.  We saw most everyone the next day and managed grab copies into iPhoto during the visits.  Hint: make sure people have their clocks set properly in the camera so that you can sequence the day’s photos easily. As we had people from Canada, the pictures were timestamped 6 hours out which made browsing and organizing a little complicated!

    We were also lucky enough that several people got the wedding waltz on video with their digital cameras which we were able to include in the iMovie project.

    We also added in pics from the honeymoon on the same DVD in a separate movie.

    Everyone who’s seen it has been bowled over and asks for a copy as a keepsake, so don’t forget to add in lots of blank DVD-Rs into the wedding budget grin

    Erik had this to say on Nov 17, 2004 Posts: 1
  • Yep, the DJ/Music can be a touchy area to venture into on your own. As a full time Professional DJ for 25 years, from 45’s to now iPods, you can trust me on this, or not - is your choice and your *maybe, maybe not, successful* Reception.

    Granted, there are many DJs/Bands who, like TV/Movies/whatever, really suck. So do many Caterers, Florist, etc. Do your homework, see them “work” some beforehand. Any good ‘entertainer’ at a Wedding Reception should point out clearly ahead of time that THEY are not the *star of the show* .. YOU are, and whatever they do should reflect good light on you and your guest. And any true Professional will not get “out of hand”.

    Also, you may not have as complete a selection of desired music as a competent DJ will make available. And, you may not know how to mix the *right song* at the *right time* through the course of the Party. Is no fun to have a great dancing session underway, only to have something from left field show up that clears the floor. Plus, any ‘rental system’ could have numerous tech probs that you may not want to contend with WHILE you should be attending to your guest. After all, isn’t THAT what YOU are there for?—your Guest? You don’t want to spend your time messing with Music and Knobs.

    In the same regard on all this, you COULD also try to sell your own home without a Pro Realtor. Again, your choice. But beware of the results and headaches.

    Like I said, do your homework. Caveat Emptor. But, don’t just automatically think all DJs, or Bands, are only capable of High School Dances and nothing else. Some REAL Pros are out there, find them.

    BC Kelly
    BC Kelly’s Music Express
    Tallahassee Fla

    BC Kelly had this to say on Nov 17, 2004 Posts: 1
  • Whoa!  Sorry to all the DJs.  We had a great DJ at our wedding.  My point was just that one *could* go the iPod route if one really wanted.

    C.K. Sample III had this to say on Nov 17, 2004 Posts: 41
  • Does anyone know of any good wedding planning software for OS X?  I just got engaged a week ago and have only found “The Essential Wedding Planner”, but it isn’t customizable enough for my needs.  Thanks!

    Tim had this to say on Nov 20, 2004 Posts: 1
  • DO NOT use The Essential Wedding Planner—I paid for this product and it has major problems with its built-in database going corrupt & toasting ALL your data. Worse, the author is terrible at support, downright ignoring my pleas for help. I sent a number of professional, courteous requests for help which were completely ignored; after 5 attempts over a 2 week period I gave up. A month later I tried again, and finally received a snotty reply stating that he (the author) had never receied any of my messages. Yeah, right. Nonetheless I gave him teh benefit of the doubt and sent him my info again; it been about 6 months with no further reply…

    Bottom line, The Essential Wedding Planner is crappy software with crappy support. Don’t waste your money. Also, there is no other wedding software that I could find for OSX, so build yourself a simple Excel spreadsheet & add to it as you need to. Another option is that has a decent tracking system for guests, etc. Good luck, J.

    render had this to say on Nov 24, 2004 Posts: 1
  • If I didnt have my mac, pre and post wedding efforts would have been tripled.  We did our invites on the mac, compiled guest lists, and I stretched iMovie, iDVD, and iPhoto to the limits by putting together a slick DVD of our ceremony, reception, several slide shows of events surrounding our wedding(destination wedding in Disney) as well as some behind the scenes bloopers we had with one of our Flower Girls.  I used iPhoto to arrage and organize over 1000 digital images from the week of Magic in Disney, and incorporated them with my DVD project using songs from my iTunes library as well as songs that I had to buy on the spot.  We made Books from iPhoto for our parents and close relatives complete with a DVD in an adhesive sleeve neatly placed in the back cover of the book(custom label printed on DVD, made by my Mac!)  People found out that I did all of this myself, and now I get asked to do this type of stuff for Money!!!

    Stan Tyszka had this to say on Feb 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Whether it’s true or not, most everyone agrees that wedding DJs are expensive. A popular tip circulating the net is to replace your wedding DJ with an iPod and DJ your reception yourself. While this may sound like a great idea, there are some things to consider. Just as with any do-it-yourself project, you must be aware of all facets before you start.

    The first most important job for a good DJ is to play music that the crowd enjoys. A simple shuffle has no way of knowing who is dancing to what. A person does need to run things, but not just any person will do. Putting your 12 year old nephew won’t do you any good. The person in charge of the music needs a large amount of music knowledge. A good DJ should have this knowledge. A good DJ should be able to identify a song based on a few bars hummed out of tune or a snippet of lyrics that are slightly incorrect. Your DJ must not have a fear of speaking in front of a crowd, and this is not as easy as it sounds. One simply has to think of all the Best men who have hemmed and hawed their way through a wedding toast with the microphone held at waist level. Also, does he/she know how to auction off a garter or any of the other traditional reception activities? If not, will the bride and groom want to do these things while they should be enjoying their guests? Oh, and just like you would give your wedding singer or officiant a tip for performing your ceremony, don’t forget a gratuity for your impromptu DJ.

    Unless you’re a music collector, chances are you don’t have a music library with waltzes, polkas, old country, new country, oldies, classic rock, new rock, soft rock, hard rock, hip hop, dance, etc. And, unless you want to subject your guests to your musical tastes, you should probably buy a selection of these songs. If you’re not up on popular waltzes and polkas, or don’t know which songs are currently topping the country Top 40, search the web. $25 dollars should buy you enough music on iTunes to cover enough various musical tastes that most guests will enjoy themselves.

    Another task for a good wedding DJ is one who is covered by insurance. Sure, your homeowners policy *might* cover it, but I’d hate to see your premiums next year if an accident does occur. Don’t think accidents will happen to you? Are you serving alcohol at your reception? If you’re telling yourself, “All the drunk people I know never act like fools!”, stop and think about that again. Besides, many venues require proof of insurance because they don’t want to see their premiums raised because your grandma tripped on a speaker cable and broke her hip. Searching the web for “wedding event insurance” will yield a whole crop of insurers who will give you a $1 million dollar policy for around $200.

    Equipment is of course another important factor a good DJ brings to your reception. Do you know where to get speakers? Or mics? Or Mixer?? Larger cities will have rental companies that can provide these things. You can even find many such companies by searching the web for “dj equipment rental”. Most wedding sized systems rent for anywhere from $250 to $500 dollars per day. In most cases, you must provide a truck or van to transport the equipment.

    Now, do you know how to set these things up? If not, will the rental company give you a tutorial? Some rental companies will give you a tutorial when you pick the equipment up, but make sure to take notes, because if you have to call them later they will likely charge you for a service call. Some equipment rental companies will deliver, setup, and test their equipment as well as pick up later, but this is extra.

    That being said, if you KNOW your group will interact without being prompted (or just don’t care if they interact or not), and if you’ve got a person with an encyclopedic knowledge of music that will run your iPod (instead of enjoying your reception), and you have adequate insurance to cover any accidents that occur due to your iPod setup, and you have a large enough music library to make sure everyone gets to hear the music they want, and you’re able to get your hands on adequate dance lights and speakers, and will be saving money by spending $550 to $700 then by all means use an iPod. You honestly have no need for a DJ.

    If planning and organizing all this sounds like just one more hassle, you’d probably do better to hire a professional so that you can enjoy your reception and spend your first day as husband and wife doing something besides returning rental equipment. For a few dollars more you’ll get professional equipment, professional knowledge from someone who has planned and performed at hundreds of weddings, peace of mind that any glitches will be resolved quickly, no hassles about tearing down equipment when the reception is over, and no worries about getting it back before you owe another day’s worth of rental fees.

    Tim_Myth had this to say on Nov 17, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I know this is an older post but, I am planning my wedding and just wanted to say Thanks for some great tips. For those who seem to be upset by the notion of not hiring a DJ please relax.  The Author was sharing some tips for those on a budget and also made mention of great ways to help the DJ.  For anyone who comes across this, I would agree that if you don’t have some knowledge of how to run the equipment (P.A. etc.) then you may need the additional help.  I am a musician and have no problems dealing with any equipment.  I compose my own music so again, song transitions and setting moods are no problem.  If you are on a budget, don’t let others scare you.  If you decide to rent equipment, be smart. Ask questions, test the equipment before the reception and most local music shops rent at a decently low cost.  Before we invested in our own equipment, we rented with great success.  If you’re reading this because you are in my shoes then, Congratulations on your engagement and I wish you the best!

    DerekMDH had this to say on Aug 24, 2008 Posts: 1
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    john had this to say on Oct 07, 2010 Posts: 2
  • I was trying to find some wedding photographers san luis obispo and I must tell you that I haven’t thought about mac-ing my wedding.I think it is a great idea and I will consider it.

    Aramica had this to say on Oct 30, 2011 Posts: 14
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