Wedding Band vs DJ: Who Should Play at Your Reception?

Many decisions have to be made during the wedding planning process. Decisions that can make or break the day, like, wedding cake or donut wall? Or sit-down meal or casual buffet?

But right at the top of the big day decision tree is the classic battle of wedding band vs DJ. The live sound of real instruments and a singer performing all your favorite songs or a DJ playing eclectic hits and making sure the dance floor is full all night. Tough call.

Both have their pros and cons, and often, unfortunately, the decision may come down to budget. However, there is always a right choice for every couple, and an option to suit all tastes and limitations!

If you’re stuck debating wedding band vs DJ and need a little guidance, we’re here to lend a helping hand.

Today, we’ll explore the top questions couples typically ask wedding planners, while also explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each style of wedding music.

Hopefully, by the end, you should have a good idea of whether you should be looking at wedding DJs, or searching for a wedding party band. 

What Is Your Entertainment Budget?

Ok, we’re not starting with the most fun topic, but your wedding budget can be the dealbreaker when deciding on wedding reception entertainment.

As you can imagine, unless you’re hiring David Guetta to perform at your wedding, a DJ will nearly always be the cheapest style of musical entertainment. 

The cost of bands for weddings varies across the country, and the overall wedding budget you’d need to put aside for one would depend on the band itself.

Compare a three-piece cover band from your local town with barely three gigs to their name to a 12-piece band who regularly entertains at weddings of celebrities around the world. Obviously, you’d expect the latter to cost more, much more. 

wedding band

Bands for hire cost on average around $4,500 and when searching for a potential band in your area, you can expect to see prices in the range of $2,850 to $6,488. Is that more or less than you were expecting?

If those numbers do feel a little high, don’t panic. Maybe you can hire a band on an hourly basis and cut costs? Or hire a local function band and cut down on their travel costs. There’s always a way to get the perfect wedding entertainment for your day. 

If you do feel that your budget for wedding musicians is just too tight to hire a band, then potentially a DJ would suit you better.

Typically, a DJ is a lot cheaper than a band as they are just one person, with a lot less equipment. According to The Knot’s real wedding study, the average wedding DJ cost around $1,400 in 2021. In our experience, we’ve seen that figure rise to $2,000, but again, it depends on the type of wedding DJs you’re looking at. 

What Is Your Wedding Theme? 

Now we’ve got the icky subject of money out of the way, let’s concentrate on the fun stuff.

How do you want your wedding day to feel?

Do you want a very elegant occasion with wedding guests mingling and chatting throughout the night? Or would you prefer the tables pushed to one side, and everyone on the dance floor until 2 am?!

Two very different evenings, and two types of wedding music bands or DJs to think about. 

For your elegant sit-down meal, maybe a string quartet would be the perfect soundtrack to your celebrations. Whereas for more lively events, a cover band would be ideal for getting everyone up and off their seats.

In general, consider your wedding style first, and then look for a potential wedding party band after. Don’t make them fit your theme. 

While nothing beats live music, if you want your wedding to have a variety of different moments sound-wise, then possibly a DJ would be a perfect choice. They can play whatever kind of music you want, exactly when you want it.

Agree on a playlist ahead of time, and they’ll throw on the right tracks to fit the style of the occasion. 

Do You Have Any Wedding Venue Restrictions To Consider?

Are you celebrating intimately or on a large scale? This may affect your music decision.

Bands for wedding receptions typically require more space and bring along a lot more equipment than your average DJ. There are all their instruments, speakers if necessary, and possibly extra lighting too – especially if you’re going for that classic 80s wedding singer look! 

Your venue space may also have tight restrictions on the amount of electricity that can be used, the area they can give you, or even noise limitations. Not every venue will let you turn it up to 11 and possibly blow a fuse in the process.

So before you start looking for amazing wedding bands, consider first your reception space, and talk to your planner or coordinator about limitations the venue may put in place. They may well end up settling this debate for you.  

Can You Have Both a Wedding Band and a DJ?

This is surely the dream scenario, and if space, budget, and time were no object, most couples would certainly have both.

It would be ideal for lovers of the live sound and perfect for keeping the vibe high at all times. However, mainly due to cost, most wedding couples cannot choose to have a band on stage and a DJ playing after. 

It’s not impossible though, even if you have a limited budget, as there are wedding entertainment companies that have bands that do both.

Some DJs incorporate live music into their set, either by playing the drums themselves or having extra musicians play along to a track. This style can really elevate the humble DJ set, and make it more of a performance.  

Have You Considered Making Your Own Playlist?

While scanning through this post, and debating over wedding band vs DJ, you’d be forgiven for thinking, why don’t I just make a playlist myself on Spotify?!

With some thoughtful choices and well-timed presses of the play button, there’s no reason why you couldn’t ‘DJ’ your wedding. But should you? 

Yes, creating your own wedding playlist would be fun, and could potentially save you hundreds of dollars. However, it’s not without its disadvantages…

Depending on your venue, you may still have to rent equipment such as speakers, professional output cabling, and mixers. All of which a DJ or band would typically provide.

wedding dj

You, or a member of your wedding party, would also still need to keep on top of the various playlists, making sure the right one is playing at the appropriate time. 

Plus, you may have created your dream playlist, but will all of your guests like it? The classic jobs of a wedding DJ include taking song requests and creating a soundtrack to the evening that (almost) satisfies everyone’s tastes.

Being able to blend on-the-fly requests and a pre-planned playlist is an art. Trust us, we’ve tried to DJ enough house parties! If you hand over your phone to your wedding guests and let them pick whichever songs they want, it would be chaos and certainly lead to disputes and lots of dead air!

Wedding DJs also often act as MCs for the evening, directing and announcing parts of the evening to your guests. This can be vital when trying to keep everyone together, or making sure all eyes are on you.

And unless you have a very confident bridesmaid or a wedding guest who fancies himself as the next Ryan Seacrest, most members of your group are unlikely to want this high-pressure job. Or be successful at it. 

On the other hand, as we said, you would save a fortune, and you’d be able to play precisely the songs you want on your wedding day.

Furthermore, you could still take requests from your guest list, but maybe get them to do it ahead of time. Create an area on your wedding website for loved ones to share their favorite tunes, which can then be used to fill your playlist.

This way, you’re allowing them to have their special moment on the night, and increase the overall audience interaction level. 

Should You Hire a Wedding Band or a DJ?

At the end of the day, the decision has to come down to taste and budget. If you both love live music and enjoy going to concerts, then you should start looking into wedding music bands.

They are ideal for those with specific music tastes, and will always create wonderful energy in the room. But if you feel you want something more eclectic, and possibly cheaper, then a DJ would be the better choice. 

Whichever style of wedding celebration music you choose, always meet the performers and preferably sample their work before you book.

Ask for live recordings of a performance at a wedding or event, and if possible, go along to see them play somewhere. Especially if it’s a live band.

Music is such a personal preference, and on your wedding night, the last thing you deserve is to be “entertained” by an average wedding band or DJ you don’t like in real life. 

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