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

There's no doubt about it: Music can make or break a wedding celebration—think of it as the heart and soul of a reception. Hiring a talented band or DJ (or both!) is a given. But how do you find exactly what you want? It starts with asking yourself some basic questions—specifically, what type of entertainment suits your personal taste, budget, space allowances, guest demographics and killer dance moves best. Here, we list five things to know before you make your music choice.


1. You have a few things to consider.

Vibe: The type of music you pick can set the tone of your wedding and solidify a theme. And it's the thing people most often remember. Think about what musical genre best reflects your personalities and inspires the ambiance you want to create: '70s disco or a romantic string quartet? A throwback big band feel or kick-off-your-shoes rockabilly? The way the music is delivered—by live band or DJ—also affects the atmosphere. The type of music you want may also dictate your decision too—big band sounds are generally best live, for example.

Variety: Regardless of whether you choose a band or DJ, be sure they play slow and fast songs, as well as old and new tunes to encourage all guests to hit the dance floor.


Budget: In the price war, DJs generally cost less, and prices vary depending on equipment requests and whether it's a weekday or weekend. A 12-piece band, for example, will generally be more expensive than a DJ, since there are more people to pay. (There are always exceptions; well-known DJs can be just as expensive as live bands.) Band prices vary by the number of musicians, the amount of time you want them to play for, day of the week and what time of year it is.


Space: Have your heart set on an eight-piece band? You first need to check whether the reception site has any restrictions on the number of musicians and pieces of equipment you may bring in, and whether there are any electrical power supply or noise limitations. For example, a registered landmark may not allow you to use large speakers. Ask these questions before you start scouting.


2. You should see them live at some point. 

Ideally, you will want to see a DJ or band in action before you commit so you can gauge firsthand the way they dress, improvise and work the crowd. (Ask to see a taped public performance or attend a dress rehearsal, but never crash another couple's reception.) If that's not a possibility, ask for a playlist and look for songs you know and love. If a band sends you their songs or a link to a video, be sure the musicians you hear or see are the same musicians who will play at your reception. Also, ask for referrals from the last few weddings the band or DJ played. Consider your first dance song a test. If the band doesn't know it and is unwilling to learn it, or the DJ doesn't own it and is unwilling to get it, move on.

3. Tell them your likes and dislikes before you sign. 

Know that all professionals should be open to your likes and dislikes. Give them your personal request list, songs they must play and, perhaps more importantly, a do-not-play list. Worried you'll hear the "Macarena" at your once-in-a-lifetime event? Specifically prohibit the playing of a song you feel strongly about in your contract.



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