The MANual: Wedding Music
The “Great DJ or Band” Debate
As you start planning your wedding music, there’s a basic question you have to answer:
Band, or a DJ?
How you answer depends on a lot of factors, like budget, venue, and your wedding theme. But the question is an important one, because music will have a decisive effect on how much you–and your guests–enjoy your big day.
So what are the differences?
Well, the most obvious difference is cost. On average, a band will cost you about four times more than a DJ. (The average for the US in 2017 was about $4000 for a band and $1000 for a DJ).
Then there’s logistics. Does your venue have the space for a full band? Does it have the power supply for a DJ set up? Are there noise ordinances or space regulations you need to consider?
Finally, there’s the overall atmosphere the music will create. Frankly, we find a band to be more special, if only because technology has rendered live musicians the less convenient option. A band will set your wedding apart from a typical house party or a rave. A DJ? Not so much.
On the other hand, a DJ offers you more potential track selection, and the comfort of hearing songs with which you are intimately familiar. And, you know, 1/4 the price.
Obviously, there are plenty of opportunities for the whole thing to go pear-shaped: the DJ might be one of those cheesy wedding MCs who’s more concerned about following their own script than accommodating the bride and groom. The band might just be off that night, or one of the members might get sick and have to be replaced.
There are pros and cons for each, and–lucky for you–we’ve broken then out below.
Hire a Band:
—The more festive option, giving the wedding more of an “event” feel, and providing your guests with something to look at if they don’t feel like dancing;
—A more flexible option. While the wedding band may not have the virtually limitless selection that any WiFi-connected DJ will enjoy, any serious wedding band will have a pretty huge repertoire to draw from. So while they may not know that obscure Lionel Ritche b-side, they will definitely be able to pull off a credible version of “All Night Long.”
— A band can theoretically take care of all your ceremony and reception music, which will ensure a nice continuity throughout the event.
— More expensive on average–as much as 4x the cost of a DJ;
— More people to worry about. More chances for one or more of them to get drunk, get into an argument with their bandmates, hit on your mom. We’re not saying these things happen often, but they are within the realm of possibility.
— Will not be able to keep the music going as long as a DJ. All bands will have breaks written into their agreement, between 5 and 15 minutes every hour or hour and a half.
Hire A DJ:
— On average, cheaper than a band
— You’ll have a much wider range of song choices, especially in the age of Spotify and the WiFi-connected DJ.
— Music that that you know, and which most of your guests will know;
— Less people to worry about and feed. The most you will probably have to deal with is 2 or 3, if the DJ brings any assistants.
— May be more appropriate to the venue, especially if it’s a small space.
— Not as exciting to watch as a band (though obviously a great DJ is more exciting than a merely ok band);
— If there are any technical issues, it can grind the reception to a halt.
— Because a DJ is not making the music him or herself, they have less flexibility, less ability to roll with the punches.
How Do You Hire A Band or A DJ?
The quick answer is: research, network, and audition.
Google is your friend here, and you can research any number of options by simply typing in “wedding bands” and your area code.
But you’ll probably need to network to narrow down what you find–and by networking we just mean ask your friends and co-workers if they’ve been to any weddings or other events where the band or DJ was particularly good.
Finally, don’t book anyone until you’ve auditioned them. This doesn’t mean renting out a performance space and sitting stone-faced in a black turtleneck while they play their set. Go and see them at a live event. See how they interact with the audience and the atmosphere they create. If you like what you see, find out how much they cost, if they’re available, and so on.
Of course, the easiest way to hire band or DJ is to go through a local event company. If you’re getting married in New York City, for instance, we’d send you to On The Move. The advantages of booking through an event company are many:
—they work with a wide range of talent and groups, and will probably be able to provide almost any type of music you want;
—if something goes wrong (i.e., half the band drops out at the last minute, or the DJ’s mixer gets trashed by an angry ex-girlfriend), they will be uniquely positioned to get new talent to your event;
–this is by no means their first rodeo: both the agents at these companies and the artists they hire go to more weddings in a year than you will attend in your entire life, so they know the drill, and they know how to keep the party going.
Whether you use an agency or find all the talent yourself, keep a couple of things in mind:
— Book early. Really good bands or DJs will be in high demand, and their schedules will fill up months or even a year in advance.
— Don’t book too early. There’s no point booking a band before you have you date and venue confirmed. The venue in particular will have an impact on who you book: if there’s barely enough room to fit your guests, there’s no point in hiring a 20 person gospel choir.
— Make sure you understand your responsibilities to the talent, including things like feeding them and making sure there’s a stage and appropriate power supply. Most of this will be covered in the band or DJs contract, which you should read carefully.
— Look into any noise restrictions or cut-off times for the area surrounding the venue. Nothing put a damper on a wedding like a visit from the fuzz.
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