Keyboard player as part of a wedding band performing at a reception

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Should You Have a Band or DJ for Your Wedding Reception Music?

Much like your planning your wedding speeches the music can really make the wedding party.  So if you’re asking yourself if you should have a Band or a DJ for your wedding reception I’m hoping this guide will help.  Both have their pros and cons. Before deciding though there are a few straightforward questions you should ask.

1) Is there space for a band at my wedding venue?

This might seem obvious, but the reality is that some wedding venues are just too small to accommodate bands. As well as you, your guests, the venue may struggle or limit how many instruments or large pieces of equipment it can accommodate. Check with your wedding venue. They will likely be able to advise if a live band is possible. How big it can be and perhaps even be able to make some recommendations.

2) Are there any restrictions concerning the entertainment your venue has?

You should also ask your wedding venue of any ‘house rules’. That is any restrictions they may have concerning choosing a Band or DJ. For example, you may not be allowed to use large or powerful speakers. There may be a limited power supply, and you will need to know this in advance.

3)What is the atmosphere and vibe I want for my wedding?

The type of music you want and atmosphere you want to create may also dictate your decision on whether you opt for a Band or DJ.  A DJ, for example, may just not fit at a very formal and glamorous wedding.

Wedding Reception Music – Choosing a Band

Wedding Bands often get booked a fair bit in advance – especially for popular ones so make sure you start hunting for band early on in the planning of your wedding.

Bands are generally much more expensive than a DJ and may charge in a variety of ways. Sometimes they will charge a fixed flat fee for an allocated amount of time. Other’s may charge per musician or an hourly rate. Sometimes there might be a minimum or a maximum number of musicians required so your available budget may be a factor in your decision. Also, your potential musical selection will be limited as the band will have a limited repertoire of songs and a set style in how they perform so your song choices will be restricted. If you want a specific song(s) it is best asking the band way in advance if it is possible to avoid disappointment.

A good band will interact with your guests and select music according to the vibe of the night, so they often get the crowd going. That said they often play in ‘sets’ requiring a break in between, which can mean that the momentum and vibe on the night is broken.

Wedding Reception Music – Choosing a DJ

Like wedding bands, the good ones get booked in advance so make sure you start looking early. It is much simpler to choose a DJ than a wedding band luckily. The most critical factor is their personality. Their personality will either make or break the performance.  It is therefore essential you meet them. Get a feel for how they will be on the night. The last thing you want is someone irritating, talking through all the songs or making crass jokes.

DJ’s are generally much cheaper than a wedding band, and will likely give you a fixed price for a set number of hours, and will usually not require too much organisation on your part or your wedding venue as the space requirements are minimal.

Able to play pretty much anything a DJ allows for a variety of music genre’s to appeal to guests of all ages, music preferences and moods – just be careful they are aware of the songs you like and any songs you don’t want them playing or you could find guests asking for hard-core drum and base or cheesy pop. The main downside is that a DJ just doesn’t create quite the atmosphere and focal point in comparison to a live band for your evening celebrations.

Wedding Reception Music: Having both a DJ and Band

If you can afford it this can be a great compromise and choice. You get the benefits of a band to get the party started. It gives your guests a focal point for the evening.  A DJ to add variety, keep momentum and hopefully the party going into the early hours.

Some Hints & Tips when selecting a Band or DJ

Some final pieces of advice regardless of if you chose a band or a DJ or both:

  • Ask friends, family, work colleagues, wedding venues, your photographer and anyone else in the industry for their recommendations. They will likely give you a good starting point and may help you eliminate some options early on.
  • Before booking a band or DJ make sure you review their samples. Watch performance reels and check out their reviews. If it is a band make sure the example you experience is the same number or musicians you have requested.  A 10 piece band performing a song will sound very different to a trio.
  • If possible try and see them live for yourself before confirming your booking. This shouldn’t be at someone else’s wedding. If they do that to someone else, they will do it to you.
  • Be sure to check what they will wear or give them instructions on what you would like them to wear. A DJ in jeans and a t-shirt will stick out like a sore thumb at a more formal wedding.
  • Don’t bombard them with a long list of song requests. It isn’t practical, but do indicate what you do want and don’t want from them. A few songs are excellent, just don’t go overboard.

Ultimately your choice of wedding reception entertainment is down to your budget and the vibe and feel you want for your evening. My personal opinion is that if you can afford it, a band is an excellent investment.  That said if you can push the budget for a DJ too you have a great combination there.

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