At some point in wedding planning you’ll ask yourself: should I get a wedding band or a DJ? It definitely is a valid question (even though everyone should get a DJ all the time).
We’ll try as hard as we can to be impartial here.
There are definitely benefits to both sides. And it entirely comes down to you. However, there are a few points to consider that can hopefully help make up your mind:
Your tastes: Do you want one type of music or a wide variety? Is hearing songs exactly how you imagine them important to you?
Your venue: How big is your venue? Do they have any restrictions on space/electric/sound volumes?
Your day: How involved do you want to be in planning playlists and music for the day? How important is continuous music? Or transition music?
And of course, your budget.
Let’s Start With Some Wedding Band and DJ Pros and Cons
Balance of musical genres, volumes, and styles
Less space restrictions on set-up
No breaks in music flow
Budget friendly (typically)
Trained in MCing a wedding and interacting with guests and other vendors
Hey, who doesn’t love loud live music?
Showmanship: will definitely be far more of a spectacle
Personality is paramount. You have to know what you’re getting into in terms of crowd reading and MC ability
How will they handle guests requesting music you might not want?
More like going to a concert than listening to music. So often guests feel more obligated to watch the band than interact with each other (or you!)
Lack of volume control. It’ll be loud.
Doesn’t have the same musical repertoire as a DJ and often can’t handle requests at all
Large amount of gear and set-up time, coupled with needing breaks in performing
So How Do You Decide?
Still feeling undecided? Well luckily, there are proactive steps you can take to get a clearer picture in this “wedding band vs DJ” debate.
Think of Your Crowd
Does your guest list have a wide variety of ages and musical tastes? Do you want acoustic guitar covers for cocktail hour, Boyz II Men for dinner, and disco for the dance party? Is it important that your college friends, young cousins, and great uncles all have something they can get down to? Or is the entirety of your guest list exclusively into jazz?
Honestly, sometimes it’s less about catering to the preferences of the guests and more about the experience for you. And hey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s your big day after all and it should be how you want it to be. So are you more into one type of music in particular? Or do you want to hear a mixture of throwbacks, pop you forgot, and contemporary hits? Would you rather hear covers all played in a similar style, or the originals?
Think of Your Vibe and How to Best Achieve Your Vision
Picture in your head how the day will go. What role do you see the music playing? A DJ will be able to make sure there is continuous, non-stop music and no silence gaps. However, there may be more bursts of hype when the band finally comes out perform, or goes off their break. Do you want the feel of a live concert, or just want the music? Also, is hearing the originals of songs exactly how you imagine them more important that hearing a bandleader’s take on classic songs?
There is a certain energy to a live band, there’s no arguing with that. But is that the energy you want? Do you see the space dominated by a wedding band, or a DJ set-up tastefully adjacent to the dancefloor?
It really comes down to what sort of vibe you want to create with your wedding and reception. A band will be more bursts of music, which can create a very lively atmosphere when they happen. But there will be breaks in the consistency of the sound as breaks are required for the performers. A DJ won’t have such constraints. But a DJ also has a very different energy than a live band (though that energy level is far more flexible and customizable).
See the Band or DJ In Action
Would you want to agree to have someone performing at your wedding without knowing what they sound like? What if you don’t like the genres that the wedding band or DJ plays? Is that something you want to find out on your big day?
Ask for recordings of the wedding band or DJ actually performing. And make sure they’re videos. While yes, the music is a huge part of it, the actual performance is definitely also a large factor. How do they interact with crowds, how does their set-up look, and how to guests seem to be responding?
There’s obviously no substitute for the real thing. But most reputable DJs or bands respect the privacy of their clients and the specialness of their day. So they aren’t super inclined to bring strangers with them to a wedding so they can be vetted. Getting recordings of performances is the best bet.
The big takeaway from all this though is to be direct and upfront about what you want. Before you go into making any decisions at all, have your vision in mind. If you know you want a DJ, then don’t let yourself get talked into going with a band (and vice versa). Talk to performers, tell them your vision, and ask how they can help you achieve it. And go from there.'
Phone playlist vs. DJ – Is it worth it?
Is DIY the Way To Go?
DIY is definitely on the rise. From couples having family members cater to an ordained buddy officiating, doing things yourself has become an attractive choice. And on a tight budget, it can seem attractive to do as much yourself as possible.
But is doing all the music yourself worth it?
It will be cheaper. There is no argument there. However, that’s about the only benefit.
The Dance Party
Sure, you may think, I know a lot of music. I can make an awesome dance party playlist, plug my phone into some speakers, hit shuffle, and dance the night away!
The reality of that pans out much differently.
Generally, what a phone plugged into speakers creates is a group of people with different musical tastes crowded around the phone arguing with each other about what should be played next, with no rhyme or reason to the flow of the songs. And often, while they may play good “driving around in the car” songs, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be good dancing songs. That’s something you only learn through experience in playing dance music.
What this combines to create is a jerky and awkward flow to the dance part of the night. It’s hard to organically dance when the playlist goes from Lil Jon to Frank Sinatra.
The Wedding Reception
A phone and speaker also isn’t going to make sure everything’s on time and coordinate with other vendors to make sure it stays on time. It also won’t make announcements so all the guests know what’s happening and when. Sure, your uncle could. But on what sound system? And with what mic? And what happens when he gets tired of everyone asking him questions and decides to just hit the open bar?
Ultimately, a phone or laptop playlist can’t emulate years of experience.
When you hire professional wedding entertainment, you know what you’re getting. Someone with experience in the best techniques for getting people moving, politely refusing off-the-wall song requests, and keeping to a timeline. As well as someone who’s worked with other wedding vendors before and knows what kind of timeframes they work with. And finally, someone who’s not also a guest who will get tired of the responsibilities of MCing and just want to have a good time.