|Photo by David Blair Photography|
No doubt about it: Music can make or break a wedding celebration. It’s the heart and soul of a reception and can send your guests home with happy feet — or pained grimaces! The fact that you want to hire a talented band or fleet-fingered DJ is a given. Finding one is a matter of polling friends, surfing online, shopping around with fine-tuned ears, and making a move quickly — top talent can get booked up to a year in advance. What type of entertainment suits your personal taste, budget, space allowances, guest demographics, and killer dance moves best? Keep an open mind, and consider these issues to start your search.
1. Mood Music.
The type of music you choose can set the tone of your wedding and solidify a theme. And remember, 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: Groovy funk or subdued string quartet? Swanky swing or kick-off-your-shoes-and-sweat zydeco? The way the music is delivered — by live band or DJ — also affects the ambiance. The type of music you choose may dictate the choice too — big band sounds are generally best live, for example.
2. Count the Cost.
Reception music fees are dictated by the city, number of performers, day of the week, and time of day. A DJ generally costs less than a band. On average (for a four- or five-hour reception), you’ll pay $1,300 to $10,000 for a band, while a DJ range would be more like $350 to $3,500. The more pieces in your band, the higher the cost.
3. Space Matters.
Consider your reception room size and your crowd. An intimate space won’t fit a 22-piece orchestra, and a 3-piece combo may not cut it for 400 people.
4. Be the Early Bird.
Top talent — be it the kickin-est DJ in town or the local pub’s liveliest Irish trio — can be booked up to a year in advance. The sooner you make arrangements, the better your chances of landing exactly the act you want.
5. Band? , or…
There’s nothing like a live wedding band to get a crowd stoked and create a sense of sophistication. Music groups can synergize with the tone of your wedding and almost any niche theme, offering everything from accordion to klezmer ditties. A good bandleader will play the master of ceremonies at your reception if you want him to interact with folks on the dance floor, pay attention to the “feel” of the room, and select music accordingly.
PROS: Live music is, well, live. You and your guests will experience the pleasure of a performance. Anything can happen to raise the excitement level, from an infectious horn-section interlude to a moving solo.
CONS: Bands can be more expensive than DJs. Also, no matter how great the band, they can’t have the repertoire of a standard DJ, who can keep a huge variety of music on hand.
Don’t fear the DJ: The days of disco fever and flashing lights are gone. Today’s disc jockeys are artists in their own right, offering balanced and eclectic mixes of musical styles for all ages. Plus, the songs played will sound exactly as you remember them, encouraging sing-alongs and improvisation. And, depending on the amount of equipment a DJ brings, she’ll take up less dance floor real estate and can be relocated with relative ease.
PROS: If there are a dozen songs you’re dying to hear at your wedding, it likely won’t be a problem for your DJ to find each track. Also, DJs are generally less expensive than bands. A DJ with a charismatic stage presence and excellent emcee skills can really set the mood and keep the party going.
CONS: On the opposite end of the spectrum, a DJ with a less-than stellar personality can be a party-killer. Also, improvisation is tough if, say, your dad is dragging behind tempo on the father-daughter dance or your nieces and nephews decide to crash the chicken dance.
7. Check Before You Commit.Ideally, you will want to see a DJ or band in action before you commit so that you can gauge firsthand the way they dress, deadpan, and work the crowd. (Ask to see a taped public performance or attend a dress rehearsal, but you should 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 gives you a CD, cassette, or video, be sure that 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.
*Adapted from “Wedding Reception Music Basics: Bands vs DJs” and “Wedding Reception Music: Getting Started” from The Knot.