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Ask nearly any wedding guest what makes or breaks a wedding reception, and the answer will almost always be the music. Did the DJ spin a solid mix of songs? Was the band any good? Did they play what people wanted to hear and keep the dance floor packed? When planning your wedding, it feels like there are a lot of expectations to live up to, including your own! When it comes to musical entertainment, the first question to ask yourself: Band or DJ?
Before you take too much time pondering the ins and outs of hiring one or the other, start with these basic influences: mood, budget, and venue. Looking at how your wedding plans measure up in these three categories may help sway, or full-out solidify, your decision.
Mood: Consider what type of feeling you’re trying to create at your wedding. Is this a black-tie event that’s begging for a big brass band, or an all-night party complete with hot pink uplighting and dance jams? Determining the vibe of your wedding will also inform your best choice in music.
Budget: By and large, bands cost more than DJs. That’s just the way of the world! Of course, some super well-known DJs can cost as much as a band, but those instances are rare.
Venue: If you’ve already booked your reception site, it’s best to start with their entertainment rules and guidelines to see if your band vs. DJ decision has already been made for you. Certain venues can’t accommodate bands due to noise restrictions, while others simply don’t have the electrical capacity to power a full band.
If you pass these three tests and are still unsure, there’s more to consider. We turned to some Wisconsin brides to weigh in on the band vs. DJ debate.
Find the right band, and they can bring unmatched energy to a wedding reception. “What a difference having a band made,” says Oconomowoc bride Mary Jahnke. “Our band’s musical repertoire was limited to classic songs from the 60s and 70s, but the energy that came from the live music fueled the dancing all night long. It was great to see guests of all ages on the dance floor, even up until the very end of the reception. They even let us to play our own playlist during the band break, allowing time for any modern pop songs we were hoping to hear.”
Door County bride Olivia Harlan Dekker loved how their band brought personality to the reception. She was also thrilled to find a band that accommodated requests and took the time before the wedding to add some extra songs to their setlist. “They were so interactive with our guests,” Olivia says. “They took requests and learned some songs beforehand for us. They played the best mix of modern and classics.”
With a DJ, brides unanimously agree that variety is what draws them to this decision. “We wanted a mix of music for everyone, to keep people dancing without interruption or too much talking,” says Milwaukee bride Erin Kelly. Some DJs can also offer lighting packages to pump up the party vibe—or not, in Erin’s case. “We wanted a mix of classic and modern, in terms of style and set up. No big disco balls or bulky track lighting for us! That said, having the option is nice.”
For Delafield bride Caitlin Elftman, it was important to her to find a DJ that not only played a range of songs, but also catered to what she and her groom wanted to hear. “I wanted someone who listened to Michael and I and was willing to let our personalities and taste in music shine rather than their own. We really wanted music that was important to us and our families and friends to create moments on the dance floor that we knew we’d always cherish.”
If a curated playlist is important to you, ask potential DJs about this before you sign. Do they offer a no-play list? How do they handle song requests? If you don’t want to hear “The Chicken Dance,” write it into your contract. Milwaukee bride Rebecca Kuss agrees that signing off on songs was a key reason she chose a DJ for her wedding. “I thought there was more of an element of control with a DJ,” she says. “You can make song requests and approve the setlist. Whereas with a band, you’re kind of stuck with what you get.”
Still can’t decide? Ask yourself: Would you rather dance to a band or DJ at someone else’s wedding. That’s how Appleton bride Lindsey Angisetty made her decision. “For me, since dancing is my favorite part of a wedding reception and I find it much easier to dance to a DJ, the answer was very clear: DJ all the way! But to someone else, they may love the idea of experiencing a live band, so that’s their answer. Can’t decide have have deep pockets: Do both!”
Before signing with a band or DJ, see them perform live or ask them to provide a taped performance for you to view. Ask for referrals from former clients so you can follow up with them about their experience. Be upfront about your likes, dislikes, and expectations. Inquire after their contingency plans, should anyone fall ill or find themselves in a family emergency on the day of your wedding. Have your first dance song in mind and make sure they can accommodate you. Do your due diligence, then relax. You and your wedding guests will contribute to the energy on the dance floor, which together with your band or DJ will ensure an unforgettable night of movin’ and groovin’!