How do you decide whether to hire a band or DJ for your wedding reception? I must say that before I get into this article, I may be slightly biased on this subject given that I am a vocalist and sing in a live band! However, after researching the subject I want to try to remain open-minded.

Originally I thought, ‘Of course everyone wants a band at their wedding’. However, after sifting through various wedding forums, it seems generally people are quite split on this.

Bride Enjoying Dancing at Wedding

It seems that most people’s main worries are the fear that whatever they choose will be wrong… that people won’t like it… that the DJ will end up playing the Birdie Song all night… or that you’ll pay thousands of pounds for a band who are terrible and end up driving your guests away!

Well, I am here to say please don’t worry. Provided you do a bit of research now I’m sure you will not have any such horrors on your wedding day.

First of all let’s look at the pros and cons for each option…

Advantages of Wedding DJs

  • They don’t need much space.
  • DJs have a massive selection of music which will hopefully cater for all genres.
  • People are used to hearing the original version of a song, and a DJ can play that version rather than a live version which may not sound the same.

Wedding DJ

Disadvantages of Wedding DJs

  • Some people consider them a little bit cheesy.
  • DJs are perhaps not as dynamic or exciting as a live band.
  • If you don’t like them, you’re stuck with them all night!

Advantages of a Live Wedding Band

  • A great wedding band makes the event even more special for you. A lot of people feel that they’d book a DJ for any other party, but for their wedding they want something super-duper special and memorable.
  • There’s nothing like live music to create an exciting atmosphere at any event. A good live band, playing at the right ‘peak times’, can really make your event and it’s the kind of thing people will talk about for months.
  • There’s a certain ‘wow-factor’ with a good band that you just don’t get with a DJ. Sure you need a bit of space (but not necessarily loads – you could always go for a small wedding band), but there’s something about the sight of the lights, instruments and, of course, having a group of talented people who love what they do performing for you and your guests. There’s nothing like it!

The Fallows Wedding Band

Disadvantages of a Live Wedding Band

  • A live band can be rather expensive. But remember it’s a personal choice – is it important to you? A lot of people live and breathe for live music, and feel it’s worth paying part of their wedding budget for this element of the day. However, others feel that bands are very overpriced (if you do feel this way, see my notes on this later in the post).
  • There is of course a risk factor involved. If you’re paying out for a band you’d be pretty upset if they turned up and you didn’t like them.
  • Some bands have a restricted repertoire, which means you may not be able to have much diversity. However, some bands have a repertoire of hundreds of songs, so it really depends on who you book.
  • You may not be able to make (many) requests on the night, like you would with a DJ.

Really, I think this is a personal choice that you and your other-half need to make together. Ask yourselves…

Are You the Kind of People that Love Live Bands?

Some people just don’t. It’s loud, cover versions sound different to the original records, and perhaps the thought of a function band makes you run screaming for the hills! But some people (myself included) live for live music, and couldn’t imagine their wedding reception without it.

Are You Willing to Pay More for a Live Wedding Band?

I’m going to be honest – good wedding bands cost money. Like I said earlier, some people feel bands charge a lot for what they do, but coming from a professional gigging musician herself, consider these points…

The day in the life of a musician is pretty hardcore. On average, we generally have to leave home at around midday (although this varies – last week I had to leave at 6.30am!), spend the afternoon driving across the country, then unload lots of heavy equipment and set up in time before the guests arrive. We then usually spend at least 2-3 hours hanging around until it’s time to play. We then go on stage and provide an energetic performance for usually 2-3 hours all together. Once the reception has finished (usually midnight/1am), we pack up all our gear (until say 2am) and drive all the way home again, usually hitting our much needed beds by about 5am. It’s a good thing we love what we do!

Band Waiting to Perform at Wedding

When you also count the months and months a band will spend rehearsing, the hours spent learning songs, and the years of practice it takes to be able to perform the way we do… You can hopefully understand why bands charge the money they do.

But remember, the most important thing in all this is you. Do you feel a live band is worth shelling out for when you could use the money for more drinks at the bar, a more expensive wedding dress, or a honeymoon to the Maldives? You need to decide whether you’d rather spend the money on other things.

Do You Want to Make Lots of Song Requests?

If you do, perhaps a DJ is a better option. Saying that, most bands will take requests, but I always try to steer couples away from dictating a band’s set list – it just never works as well. If you’ve got very strict ideas about what you want then a DJ may be more sensible.

Does Your Venue Have a Lot of Space?

Logistics are boring, but important. Do you have space in your venue to fit a band and all their equipment?

Top Tips

Once you’ve chatted through all these points, make sure you follow these top tips…

  • If you’re booking a live band, check out their demos and videos and, where possible, try to see them live.
  • If you decide on a wedding DJ maybe meet up with them to chat through what you want (some bands offer this too).
  • Recommendations are key. Find reviews online, or ask your band or DJ if they have any testimonials or past clients you can call to get a reference.
  • Devote as much budget to your entertainment as you can. Whether you book a wedding DJ or a band, this will make or break your evening. Usually the more you pay the more likely you are to find something amazing!

So, wedding band or DJ? I’d say if you still can’t decide and can afford to, book both! The two together will complement each other perfectly, and then you have something for everyone. Most bands will have DJs who work with them regularly anyway. Otherwise, there is no right or wrong answer. Only you and your other-half will know what’s right for your wedding.

Guest post by Sera Golding of MIB Music

Images from…

Bride Dancing: Brian Robinson Photography

Wedding DJ: Tom Leishman of Picture My Love

Live Wedding Band: Voyteck Photography

Band Waiting to Perform: Tatum Reid