One of the biggest dilemmas when planning a wedding reception is whether to go with a band or a DJ to provide the entertainment. Like everything else about your wedding, it's a personal choice. But there are considerations to take into account. Here's the advice I give my clients.
1) Bands are loud. I’ve never been to an indoor wedding with a band that wasn’t too loud for the space. But if your reception will be outside, under a tent or open air, the loud volume can be less of a concern.
2) Bands are more expensive than DJs. Not only from a baseline cost perspective, but also because you have to feed all the band members, whereas a DJ is usually just one (maybe two) people.
3) Depending on the type of music you want to play for dancing, bands may not be able to accommodate. I was at a wedding where one of the guests put it this way: “Until bands learn how to rap, a DJ is the way to go as far as I’m concerned.” But if you want a swing-y, Big Band style of music, then a live band is definitely your best bet. If you want a mix of popular and classic songs, a DJ would be a better choice.
4) Bands have to take breaks, during which they will set up prerecorded music to play. A DJ is already playing prerecorded music. Most of them will set a few songs up in the playlist long enough for them to scarf down their dinner, and then they’re right back to being hands-on.
5) A lot of couples hire live musicians for the ceremony (and cocktail hour too, sometimes) and then have a DJ come in for the reception. String quartets and jazz trios are very popular choices. A harpist is also a cool choice for ceremony music.
6) As you’re shopping for either a band or a DJ, I highly recommend hearing them play if at all possible. A good DJ can match beats and mix songs together in a seamless way. He/she can read the crowd and transition quickly away from a particular song if it’s not resonating. And they should also be able to act as an emcee without being cheesy. It’s hard to know in advance if someone has skills in that area without hearing them play in person. But reading reviews can also be really helpful if you can’t hear them play in person.
The music is a really important part of setting the mood and scene for your wedding. Think about your guests and the kind of music that is likely to get them up and dancing, and consider that in conjunction with your own tastes. Think about weddings you’ve been to that you enjoyed and what the music was like there. And try to picture in your head what you envision your wedding to be like. You may find that you had the right answer all along.