You’ve booked the venue, nailed down the food, and found your dream photographer—check, check and check. Now it’s time to make your wedding day a party! Whether you’re into dancing or not, music is a crucial part of your big day, and it warrants some serious thought.
You have a few options here, and they vary in cost, vibe and performance value brought to your event. In my years as a Raleigh wedding planner, I’ve seen all of these in action and—done right—they can all work! It just depends on what you and your fiancé want for your big day.
Whether you go the band or DJ route, you’ll probably want to book those at least six months out (preferably closer to eight or nine) since—like everything else with weddings—the good ones book up fast.
Some things to think about as you’re making your decision: your budget, the atmosphere you’re gunning for, the variety of music you want, your venue, the space you have available and how much control you want over the playlist.
With those in mind, here are some thoughts on each option.
- I mean, live music!
If you and your fiancé are really into concerts and seeing bands play live, this might be the route for you. Bands are more costly, but this is your big day, and if going to performances is something the two of you do together anyway, why not bring your own special concert to your wedding?
- Your venue fits the bill
If the place you’re getting married doubles as a concert hall, you might want to take advantage of the acoustics. Not to mention some venues wrap the cost of a sound tech into the rental fee, and some couples decide if they’re paying for that, they might as well go the whole 10 yards.
- A more personal touch
A lot of times bands are really charismatic and like to get the crowd going. They can put a unique spin on some of the classics and respond to the audience by switching songs as needed. Some band leaders will also act as MC, introducing the wedding party and making small announcements throughout the evening.
- Less responsibility
If you don’t want to bother with a song playlist—even a loose one that a DJ might ask for—hiring a band is a great way to go. Most groups have specific genres they play or artists they cover, so they have set lists all ready to go. That doesn’t mean they aren’t flexible if you give them enough time to learn a new song, but it can mean that your title options are limited. Keep in mind, though, that the band will take set breaks, so if you have a specific song in mind that the group can’t play, there will be a time and place for that.
- Something extra special
Almost every other time you have a party, the music will be digital, something you play for yourself. When you go out—whether to dance or to eat—chances are it will be played by a DJ or someone with control over the radio. This is your wedding! Spice it up.
Bands have the ability to slow down or speed up a song depending on circumstances or guest. Is your dad lagging a bit off tempo during the first dance? Did the flower girl take a more meandering route to the head table during the grand entrance? A band can adjust on the spot in a way even a DJ and certainly an iPod can’t.
- Atmosphere (for me—That atmosphere, though!)
Many bands can work with you to fit the ambiance of your wedding, finding some fantastic bluegrass pieces to fit your rustic event or well-loved classics if you want more retro. There’s also something about the energy, the pure adrenaline a live band brings to a room that you just can’t beat. That energy and excitement are contagious, too. People who wouldn’t have danced otherwise might find themselves jigging around the floor.
A live band offers a performance for those who don’t want to dance or need a break from kicking up their heels to watch. It’s entertainment in and of itself! Don’t have a big dancing crowd? Many couples would choose not to pay the extra money, then, for a band. But a DJ standing behind a table doesn’t really captivate attention. Not to mention on a very, very basic level, live music is the tradition of celebration! Who doesn’t love going out to watch live music, and who doesn’t feel a little tickle in their toes and jiggle in their step when in the presence of a live band?
- MC as well as music
DJs will not only make announcements—introducing the wedding party and other information throughout the evening—a good one will get the crowd going and keep the mood and energy high all night long. A charismatic DJ can have the effects of a band leader, setting the vibe and energy and helping to get the dance party going if you or your guests aren’t flooding the floor.
- Less responsibility
If you don’t want to take the time to draft a playlist, this might be the way to go. You can still give most DJs a do not and must-play list, but otherwise they will draft the selection for you.
According to The Knot’s Real Wedding Study in 2013, the average cost of a band is $3,469 while an average DJ costs $1,083. Not to mention vendor meals (which, shameless plug, is a must) – it’s much cheaper to pay for one than for several band members.
- You’re not crazy about covers
Sometimes, bands just can’t pull a song off as good as the original. If you’d rather have the actual version at your wedding, you might want to go with a DJ.
There’s just no way a band can learn as many songs as a DJ has at his/her fingertips. A DJ has access to a whole variety of artists and genres and can adjust that range to appeal to all age levels and audiences as the night goes on.
Though less flexible than bands, a DJ can still help troubleshoot any technical difficulties on the spot and can read the audience mood to switch songs as needed.
DIY (iPod, computer or other device)
I don’t recommend a DIY approach to your wedding music. There’s no better time to invest in professionals than your wedding day! Here are some reasons, DIY’ing your music is a bad idea.
- Technology issues
Sure, this is the most inexpensive route, but it also presents technical challenges. You will have to procure speakers from somewhere if your venue doesn’t have a sound system you can plug into. And what if your friend is focused on watching your beautiful expressions as you’re pronounced man and wife and forgets to press play? Or worse, the power timed out and he/she can’t see the power button because it’s sorta dark and isn’t familiar with the equipment. No recessional song doesn’t sound like the end of the world, and it’s not, BUT it’s awkward for everyone!
2. No MC
If you don’t want someone chatting through the entire evening, just let that be known when hiring your DJ or band. BUT never underestimate the power of a good MC. Even if your friend is gregarious, loud, and personable in real life, I promise you he/she will not be that way their first time using a microphone at an event like your wedding. Chances are, your friend hasn’t been trained on how to properly hold and use a microphone, or how to ensure that everyone in the room hears them. Nor have they rehearsed the proper way and timing to announce your wedding party and the bride and groom so that the grand entrance is fun for all. The MC will also help direct guests throughout the evening so attention can be focused on the guests of honor.
*Check out the featured image of one of my couples (by Ginny Corbin) – a perfect example of a perfect grand entrance that everyone enjoyed!
3. Someone is tied to the ipod
You’re asking a friend to stay near your ipod the whole evening. He/she will not be able to relax and have a good time, for fear of missing the next moment with they have to start or stop the music. Be kind to your friends – they’er there to celebrate with you!
That’s all for now. Until next time…