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Wedding Band or DJ? The Pros, the Cons & the Price

Oct 24, 2022
By Wedding Spot

When it comes to choosing the music for your wedding, there’s lot to consider. From the energy you want guests to feel at the reception to the type of music you’d like to hear on your big day, many factors come into play. If you’re going back and forth trying to decide whether you should have a wedding band or DJ, we can help.

In this post, we’re discussing the different between having the two most common forms of wedding entertainment to help you decide between a wedding band or DJ. We dive into the differences in service, what to expect from each, variations in cost, and so much more. If you need help deciding which form of musical entertainment is right for your wedding, look no further.

Decide whether a wedding band or DJ is the right choice for you

With different costs, space requirements, and setup needs, as well as various pros and cons to consider, couples should research a variety of options before booking wedding entertainment.

Different types of wedding entertainment:

There are many different types of wedding entertainment engaged couples can explore when wedding planning. Popular musical entertainment options include:

• Live bands
• Solo singers
• Live instrumental bands (e.g., string quartet)
• Solo pianist
• Classical guitarist
• Jazz ensemble
• Wedding DJ

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Even with so many musical styles and sounds to choose from, there are two main categories of wedding entertainment everyone will love: band and DJ.  

Compare and contrast: wedding band or DJ?

Whether you choose to have a wedding band or DJ at the wedding reception, your guests are sure to have an incredible night celebrating you. When choosing between the two, however, there are a few primary variables to consider, such as the services they offer, how much they charge, what the setup needs are, and how much music is at their disposal.

When choosing between a wedding band or DJ for your big day, think about:    
1. Variety
One of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a band or DJ is the variety of wedding music you want. Do you have a list of hard-to-find favorites you dream of dancing to? Are there any songs or artists you absolutely do not want to hear on your big day? Those requests wouldn’t be too difficult for a DJ to accommodate, whereas a wedding band would require much more notice (and be willing to agree). While a wedding band provides one-of-a-kind live entertainment, a DJ is more likely to have an extensive library of music on-hand.

2. Space and setup
Another factor to consider is how much setup space each type of entertainment will require. Before booking a wedding band or DJ, think about your venue. How much space do you have available? How much electrical power supply is needed?

If you’re having an outdoor wedding, there are additional components to consider when choosing between a wedding band or DJ. Is there a covered stage at the outdoor wedding venue? Will you need to rent an additional tent to protect your wedding entertainers from the elements? A DJ would require a lot less coverage than your typical band, but live musicians have an incredible ability to pump up the energy at outdoor events; they are used to playing over distractions, loud noises, and unexpected interruptions.

3. Venue restrictions
If you’ve already booked your wedding venue, you may find yourself trying to find a wedding band or DJ that can accommodate strict venue restrictions. Not all wedding venues are created equally, and some venues that have an extensive list of strict restrictions may put a damper on your day.

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Wedding venues may have entertainment restrictions that limit:
• Number of musicians
• Type of equipment allowed
• Instrument type
• Power usage
• Noise/sound

When completing wedding venue site tours, discuss wedding entertainment with the venue coordinator. Ask about restrictions, fees, and other policies related to hiring a band or DJ. In addition, discuss setup options, styles, space availability, and on-site equipment. Does the venue offer use of any on-site equipment? Is it included in the rental, or is there an additional fee?

4. Price
One of the most crucial elements that influences whether an engaged couple hires a wedding band or DJ for their reception is the cost. Many modern couples are wedding planning on a tight budget and may not be able to afford the wedding entertainment of their dreams. Typically, booking DJ services costs less than hiring a live band, but the availability of wedding entertainment in your area also plays a role in pricing.

Price shopping: wedding band vs DJ

Whether you hire a wedding band, DJ, or some other form of musical entertainment, the total cost is likely to be influenced by multiple details. Some of the most common factors that influence wedding entertainment pricing include:

• Wedding date
• Day of week
• Area demand/seasonality
• Schedule of wedding events
• Duration of wedding events
• Special requests

Additional fees and stipulations vary from performer to performer. Wedding bands or DJs may offer pricing for reception services only, or they may offer package pricing. If you booked a string quartet to play both the ceremony and the reception, for example, you can expect to spend more than if you had booked them for the ceremony alone.

The cost of a wedding band

The cost of hiring a wedding band is often dependent on the popularity of the band, their size (number of musicians), and their event setup needs. Couples can expect to see different prices for professional wedding bands, soloists, instrumental groups, brass bands, and so on. Travel requirements, overnight accommodations, and other expenses also factor into a band’s price.

The cost of hiring a live wedding band could range anywhere from $3,000-$20,000, according to Mole Street Artists, a national entertainment booking agency. They completed a nationwide wedding band cost analysis in 2021 to give engaged couples an idea of what they can expect to spend.

Mole Street Artists provided the following estimates for live wedding entertainment primarily based on band size, the number of musical instruments involved, and professional experience:

•    Reception band (less experienced, 4-8 pieces): $3,000-$5,000
•    Reception band (more experienced, 5-8 pieces): $4,500-$9,000
•    Large reception band (more experienced, 10-15 pieces): $12,000-$20,000

Save money on your wedding by hiring small local bands, or even friends and family. Does your best friend play in a folk band? Does your uncle front a rock band? Hiring a band that you know personally is a fantastic way to save money and add a personal touch to your wedding entertainment, but keep in mind: you get what you pay for.

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The cost of a wedding DJ

Thumbtack, a home management platform that connects individuals to skilled professionals in their area, completed a cost analysis of DJ services nationwide in 2021. They found that the average cost of hiring a wedding DJ ranges from $300-$1,200, with the national average falling between $500-$600. While hiring a less experienced DJ could cost as low as $300-$455, high-end DJ services are more expensive, starting closer to $650 and going as high as $1,200, according to Thumbtack.

Location also plays a significant role in pricing. In Roanoke, Virginia, published DJ services range from $100-$500, whereas services in Los Angeles start off much higher, with many of the highest-rated DJs not listing a price at all but requiring contact for a quote instead. Search your wedding date and zip code to find specific estimates for DJs located near your wedding venue.

Wedding band pros & cons

Spend some time weighing the positives and negatives related to hiring a band for your wedding. Think about your venue, the wedding theme, the type of music you want, and what your guests will enjoy before booking a live wedding band.

The upside of a having a live wedding band

Crowd work: A great band leader is a crowd-pleaser. They work the room, engage with wedding guests, crack jokes, and help reception events seamlessly segue from one to the next. A professional band leader can read the room, or “feel things out.” They tend to adjust their set list to fit the mood of the room.

Energy: Choose a wedding band if you anticipate that weddings guests will need a push to get out on the dance floor, or if you’re a family full of bad dancers. The right band will inspire wedding guests to let loose and dance like no one is watching.

Improv skills: At a wedding, anything can happen. Whether a drunken guest has an outburst, there’s an equipment failure, or the crowd is low energy, a professional wedding band can navigate unexpected challenges. More than musicians, a great entertainer is also an improviser.

The downside of having a wedding band

The price: Hiring a live wedding band is typically more expensive than a DJ. You are paying for multiple entertainers. For many couples on a tight wedding budget, it can be difficult to find a wedding band that fits their price range.

Setup requirements: Bands take more venue space than a DJ requires, and they often have far more equipment. Additionally, it may be easier for a DJ to adjust to venue restrictions concerning noise.

Less variety: While many wedding bands cover a wide variety of music, they are limited to songs that are known by the entire band. If you have a lot of specific song requests or are interested in hearing a song exactly as it was performed by the original artist, a live band may not be the best choice.

If you’re leaning towards having a live band at your wedding, take the pros and cons into consideration before signing a contract. Before making any decisions, however, let’s take a look at the ups and downs of hiring a DJ.

Pros & cons of a wedding DJ

Similar to having a wedding band, there are positives and negatives to having a DJ as your wedding entertainment. Consider the good and the bad before making a commitment.

The pros of having a DJ at your wedding

The price: Hiring a DJ tends to be much more affordable than hiring a wedding band.

More variety: Discuss your preferences and requests with a wedding DJ ahead of time so that they can find less-known favorites and note any “do not play” songs they should avoid.

Wedding emcee: DJs are well-educated in the art of pumping up a crowd and getting people moving. With the ability to blend songs from different eras, genres, and styles with seeming ease, professional DJs are, by definition, emcees.

Equipment: Many wedding DJs own their own lighting, electronic, special effects, and sound equipment. With what they carry from place-to-place, a top-tier DJ can create an event alone, often in a much smaller space than a band would require.

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The cons of having a DJ at your wedding

Personality matters: When a single individual is responsible for providing wedding entertainment, their personality is incredibly important. They will be announcing events, working the crowd, and will have a lot of influence over the tone and energy of the reception. Even DJs who interview phenomenally could show up to your wedding with a bad attitude.

Lack of improv skills: If you hire a wedding DJ that has a rigid style, or needs every little thing to go exactly right, they may not adapt well to unexpected changes, mishaps, or technical issues. A great DJ is able to go with the flow, adapt to the mood, and get the party plan back on track if it goes off the rails.

Stress guests: Non-stop music may put pressure on your guests to keep dancing throughout the entire reception. This is great if your guests love to dance, but guests who are less confident in their movement skills may feel pressured to dance well or not at all.

Whether you’re leaning more heavily towards a wedding band or DJ, don’t let pressure from others dictate what you choose. Do your research, get a few quotes, and book wedding entertainment that fits your style and budget. At the end of the day, you may find that neither a wedding band nor DJ is the right choice for your wedding.

Do I have to choose a wedding band or DJ?

Not at all. If you decide that neither a wedding band nor DJ are right for your wedding, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be one or the other; couples can choose from a multitude of wedding music and entertainment options. Create a playlist on your phone and sync it up to speakers. It’s that easy!

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Can I hire a wedding band and a DJ?

You sure can! Modern couples are letting go of traditional wedding rules, kicking outdated expectations to the curb, and planning weddings that work for them, that fit their personal style and budget.

When it comes right down to it, weddings are about the engaged couple and what they want. It’s your day; do what makes you happy!

Wedding band or DJ: The choice is yours

Now that you’ve nailed down entertainment, it’s time to start building your wedding playlist. Start by confirming the most important wedding songs first: the walk down the aisle song, the first dance, the father-daughter dance, and so on. Up next, check out 31 unique songs to walk the aisle to, and start planning your wedding song list. 

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.