DJ or Band? How to Decide What Music to Have at Your Reception

Wedding couple dancing at reception with confetti

The aisle has been walked, the vows have been said, you’ve both said “I do,” and now it’s time to dance the night away. But when you imagine getting down on the dance floor, what do you picture? Do you see a DJ there, taking requests, playing the old favorites, and reading the mood of the crowd to select the music? Or, do you envision a wedding band playing all your favorite covers, entertaining the crowd from a stage, and giving your reception a little bit of flair?

Choosing between a band or a DJ for your wedding sets the tone for what kind of reception you want to have and ultimately what kind of experience your guests will have at your wedding. There are several factors to consider, but the decision needs to be made. When it’s time for you to face the music and pick between a band or a DJ, here are a few things to consider.

DJ working at a wedding reception with people dancing

Choosing a DJ for Your Wedding

Although DJs may get a bad rap for being a bit corny, they are indeed wedding professionals. Not just anyone can get up there on the mic and entertain (not annoy) a crowd for several hours without missing a beat. But not only do DJs know how to work the speakers and stereo equipment, entertain a crowd, and get the music going, but they also are a bit of an emcee for the evening.

They’ll let the guests know when the newlywed couple is about to cut the cake, do their first dance, or when they are about to leave for the evening. They can also be one of your most reliable wedding vendors and know how to step in when something goes awry. For example, if your string quartet is over an hour late for your ceremony, your DJ may be able to jump in and have some ceremony music at the ready just in case they don’t show up (which just so happened to go down at this writer’s wedding).

Most likely your DJ has an infinite selection of music, and whatever they don’t have you can probably request. If you have very specific taste in music (or you just don’t want certain things to be played), then have a consultation with your DJ before the wedding so that he or she can get a better picture of what kind of reception you want to have.

However, DJs do have a reputation for being corny for a reason. If having someone enthusiastically encourage your guests to do the Electric Slide or the Cupid Shuffle isn’t your thing, you may not want to hire a DJ. This is a person who is going to have control of the microphone and speaker system for a few hours at your reception, so you should be 100% sure you are comfortable with the person before you sign a contract.

Person playing electric guitar with band at a wedding reception

Choosing a Band for Your Wedding

Hiring a live band for your wedding is sure to be an unforgettable experience for you and your guests. A live band will provide entertainment as well as the soundtrack for your ceremony and can really liven up the atmosphere of a wedding.

However, it’s not without its caveats. Hiring a band takes considerably more time and effort than going to Google and looking for a DJ. But if you are committed to having live music, then it’s well worth the time to search for a good wedding band.

First, think about what local bands (to your wedding venue) that you have seen and liked. If you’re thinking about hiring a band for your wedding, you want to make sure that they can play not just their own original material but also cover the classics that your guests will want to hear at the reception. Although you may love all of their original material, it’s best if they can play some crowd pleasers that everyone knows and loves to really get the party going.

You’ll need to set up a meeting with the band to ensure that they perform at private events and figure out how much everything will cost. It is likely that hiring a band will be more expensive because it has more people and equipment than just a single DJ. After discussing expenses you’ll also want to go over their song catalog and whether or not you can add to it. Go over a song list and break down when everything will be played (giving them a little bit of wiggle room if need be). Additionally, you’ll want to discuss whether or not the band members will need to be fed and what other extra costs could be incurred.

One more thing to consider with a band is to figure out whether or not they are prepared to entertain a wedding crowd. Be sure to ask them if they’ve performed at weddings before, and if they would feel comfortable making announcements about when dinner will be served, when the couple will be doing their first dance, etc.

Not Sure Which to Choose? Consider Making your Own Music

Many modern couples are skipping the band and the DJ and are making their own playlists for their reception using Spotify or Apple Music on their phone or tablet that’s hooked up to a speaker. This is one of the only ways to ensure that every song you want to be played will be played (and none of the ones you don’t). The only drawback to DIYing your music is that you won’t have someone on the microphone guiding your guests through the reception. If you choose to go the make your own playlist route, be sure to ask a friend or family member who is comfortable on the microphone and with the technology if they would like to play DJ for a night.

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