How to Budget for Entertainment at Your Wedding

Fire throwers entertaining at a wedding.

Wedding entertainment runs the gamut from the traditional band or wedding DJ to photobooths or even professional dancers to help celebrate your big day. What factors should you consider as you begin to budget for these aspects of the wedding reception? Read the points below for things to think about as you move forward in the planning process.

Determine Your Priorities

As with all budgeting choices for your wedding, the first thing to consider is the big picture: where do you and your partner’s priorities lie when it comes to your wedding budget? If you know that your main priority is photography, for example, then you might need to cut back on your entertainment options in order to make that happen. However, if you know that having your favorite local band play for your reception is your number one priority, you may be able to more easily adjust your wedding budget to accommodate your needs. Before moving forward with any aspects of the wedding finances, make sure you and your spouse-to-be are on the same page with where your priorities lie. This will make every decision that much easier moving forward.

Band or DJ?

A guitar player in a band playing at a wedding reception.

If you do think you’d like to go the more traditional route for your wedding entertainment, the first big question you’ll need to consider is whether you’d like a live band or a DJ to provide the music for your event. There are, of course, pros and cons to each option, both logistically and financially, but at the end of the day it really comes down to personal preference. Consider the type of music you’d like to dance to (think about the first dance and father/daughter or mother/son dances) and which of the traditional entertainment options would best fit your needs.

Consider Unique Options

If you know you don’t want to have any traditional entertainment options—or perhaps you’d just like to include even more fun for your day—look into some unexpected ideas! There are companies who will bring exotic animals to your event, dance companies that will do live performance pieces, or even options like acrobats or magicians if that’s more your style. Think outside the box and consider what you and your partner love—maybe you’d be able to make it happen even if there isn’t a traditional company that offers this service. It’s important to realize, of course, that adding any unique or additional acts to your entertainment line-up will cost more cash, so continue to prioritize, even as you move forward with unique ideas.

Compare Prices

As you’re moving forward with ideas (traditional, unique, or maybe even both) it’s extremely important to really sit down and compare and contrast pricing for each option. Look at the overall cost for booking this vendor for your event, of course, but also look at the nitty-gritty details. How long will the entertainment be at your celebration? Does pricing change depending on the date, time of day, or specifics needed? Don’t just look at the bottom line—really make sure you get into details and see where your money would be going for that particular vendor. Would you need to rent or provide equipment, meals, etc? What would those folks need as far as taking breaks and how would that fit with your day-of timeline? Really take a look and see where things would compare and make sure you’re deciding based off of all of the factors and not just the initial conversation or numbers on paper. If you can, schedule a meeting with potential bands, DJs, and the like to sit down and make sure you get all of your questions answered.

Don’t Forget the Ceremony!

A musician playing a string instrument at a wedding.

Your reception isn’t the only time you’ll need entertainment for your wedding—you will also likely want some kind of entertainment for your ceremony as well. If you decide to hire a DJ, they will often be open and available to play the music for your ceremony, such as processional and recessional song choices, but do you want anyone playing or performing during the ceremony itself? Or would you prefer live musicians for the entire ceremony? It’s totally optional, but certainly an important thing to consider as you’re making these plans. It would be such a nightmare to spend your entire wedding budget on your reception entertainment only to realize that you have no one to play during the ceremony itself! As you’re looking at your options, make sure to budget for both, whether that means hiring one artist for the entirety of your day, or splitting your entertainment budget category to include both portions of the event.

Set Aside Cash

Once you’ve made all of your decisions regarding the entertainment at your wedding, make sure you set aside that amount in cash and have it ready to go for your big day. It’s also a good idea to provide a cash tip for your wedding musicians and performers, both ceremony and reception, so be sure to include that dollar amount (usually between $25-$50 per person is recommended) into your budget as well. By having this money ready, you’ll avoid having to deal with any budgeting on the day itself—you can just hand your band or DJ an envelope with your payment and tip inside, and be good to go!

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