Should You Have a Band or DJ at Your Wedding Reception
Updated: Jun 18
Find the Best Music Option for Your Celebration
As you may already know, planning a wedding can be tedious. There are seemingly endless options. For many St. Augustine wedding couples, one important challenge lies in finding the right musical entertainment for a memorable reception. It's your wedding night, and you likely want a party your guests will be talking about for years to come. In regards to music, the decision comes down to choosing between a band or a DJ. There really is no right or wrong choice, but we’ve listed some pros and cons of both.
Some Pros and Cons of Live Music
Bands are known for putting on a great show. Not only do they play live music, they provide entertainment by interacting with wedding guests. Live music always helps create an exciting atmosphere that will encourage your guests to dance. Bands can make a wedding feel more intimate and a live concert where everyone can't help but to participate. Seeing real instruments being played up on the stage and a real vocalist singing is a huge plus.
Experienced, professional bands can come at a high price. How high? We're talking between $9000 – $20,000. We saw a band from Tampa perform at a reception that was on the more expensive side, but I will say, they put on a show we will never forget. It was like being a Blue Man Groove at Universal Studios or seeing a mainstream artist. It totally blew us away. So cost is something to consider when you look into music options. If you spend enough, you can get something truly spectacular. Another potential downside worth considering is bands don't have the same songs a DJ will.
This limits the songs you can request or the list of music you can choose for them to play at your reception. A DJ's library is usually pretty massive. Bands have to know the songs by heart so, naturally, the playlist isn't endless like it is on your Spotify. The biggest advantage of all for hiring a band is you're getting LIVE music.
Our Pros and Cons of Hiring a DJ
A good DJ can keep a reception lively and exciting, but know when to bring the energy down and then back up. DJ's are sending the audience on a rollercoaster ride constantly feeling the energy on the floor and deciding where to take it next. One of my wife and I's favorite things about planning our wedding was choosing the music. It is so much fun to hear the songs you want played and have some control over the party.
There are likely playlists full of songs that you and your guests will want to hear, and a DJ would be able to play all of this and more. DJs can remix songs, blend them together seamlessly, and keep the beat going so there is never a dull moment. You are also going to get to hear your favorite songs how they were originally recorded by the artist. Another plus side in hiring a DJ is the cost. In general, hiring a DJ is less expensive than hiring a band. Surely there are some exceptions. One night we saw a DJ that also played an electronic violin in an LED light suit. Now that was something unique and will of course cost more than someone who isn't putting on the same show. The downside for a DJ is there's a lot of weight on the shoulders of your DJ, as they are responsible for keeping the reception upbeat all night. A DJ whose personality doesn’t align with the energy of the party could be frustrating at times. You just need to make sure you are on the same page as them and they won't get frustrated about switching up the song if you ask them too. DJ's like to have creative freedom without constant requests but they also really need to understand it's your wedding reception and your party. Just make sure you are polite about it. They are creative artists, so compromise with them by giving them some freedom and trust.
How to Choose
When it comes down to choosing between a band or a DJ, do plenty of research on the entertainment before hiring them. Seeing videos of them live and reading reviews is a strong starting point. Is the DJ a "one-man-show" or are their other DJ's on the company roster? Ask who will actually be there. It may not even be the person you speak to. It always nice to talk to get to know who will be there. Another thing to ask about is lighting. Some fun lighting from a band or DJ adds a tremendous contribution to the overall experience, and even helps the wedding videography look better (wink, wink).
Some venues, like The Treasury on the Plaza, come equipped with their own dance floor lighting and it does a great job. Definitely talk to the company about their lighting situation. Lastly, get as many recommendations as possible. The more opinions you get around town, the better. Once you’ve made your decision, they should request your music preferences and favorite songs that you would like to hear at the reception. They will also ask you for songs you definitely don't want played to get a better understanding of your taste. Whether hiring a band or DJ, they will surely make your day special and memorable. We’ve even seen both at the same reception. We've seen a band play and a DJ fill in when the band takes a break or close out the night with some high energy favorites. Personally, we are not fans of bands taking a break. There is usually only 2 hours of music or less so it's good to keep the music going no matter what. But many bands have a good solution for this by playing songs (like a DJ would) when they take a break.
Let us know which option you are leaning toward. We have lived in St. Augustine for over a decade and would be happy to help you decide. First Sight Films is here for all of your St. Augustine Wedding Videography needs and recommendations for other local vendors. We've seen it all, so reach out to us if you want our insight on anything wedding related in the St. Augustine area.
Written by Brady, a Wedding Filmmaker at First Sight Films