Your Reception Music: Band Or DJ?

Decide on the vibe you want to set for your wedding reception, while keeping your budget in check

You’ve recited your vows, you’ve said “I Do”—now, it’s time to have fun. Your wedding reception should be exciting and festive; there’s nothing more embarrassing than an empty dance floor. To ensure that your guests dance the night away, you need to have great music. For some, that means the energy and artistry of a live band. For others, the musical energy comes from hearing great songs pumped up loud with coordinating lights, in a club-like atmosphere that only a DJ can impart. Which one is right for you?

• First, set your budget. You want to do this first so that you don’t fall in love with an option you can’t afford. For instance, if your music budget is $1,000, it’s doubtful that you’re going to be able to book a quality five-piece rock band for the night. Prices run the gamut from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, with many variables (number and quality of musicians, number of hours booked, quality of the DJ(s), whether lights or other elements are involved, etc.)
• Decide on the vibe you want. A band can be exciting, but it puts the musicians center stage and, unless you’ve seen the band perform at a wedding or similar function and were wowed by their sound and the reaction of the guests, you’re taking a chance. With a DJ, because you can choose the songs you want—the way they were recorded by the artists who recorded them—the margin for error (and, consequently, your stress levels) may be smaller. Still, for some, there’s no substitute for live music, and the exactness of the songs is secondary. At Sound Active Entertainment, a DJ can run you anywhere from $1800 to $3600 for the night, depending on the package(s) and options you choose. 
• Consider both. Some couples hire a band and a DJ for different parts of their reception. This does not have to be pricier than one or the other, especially if you’re paying by the hour and/or the DJ and band are booked as a “package” from the same entertainment company. For instance, a DJ might be great for getting people up on their feet, but during dinner and dessert, a trio or quartet could be lovely and more intimate. “It’s a way for you to get the best of both worlds,” says Jill Prince, owner of Hal Prince Entertainment. “If people can’t decide between the two, they typically end up getting both.”

Related: Do’s And Don’ts For Perfect Wedding Photos

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