Music is usually wedding after thought. It’s left to the last minute to figure out. Personally I love the idea of having the perfect soundtrack to your wedding day. Just like the movies. But this post is about finding the right people to handle your wedding music – whether it be a live group, a DJ or an iPod. Here’s how your choices break down:

Live Music

There is no better entertainment than live music – it is something special, something that cannot be duplicated and gives your wedding a much larger, more upscale feel. A live band will get your guests up and dancing and will know how to keep the wedding flowing smoothly.

But live music goes beyond the band that plays at your reception – you can hire many different types of musicians for various portions of your ceremony and reception including soloists, ceremony ensembles (quartets, trios), singers or choirs.

  • Pros: Dynamic atmosphere, unique twists on songs, wow factor
  • Cons: More expensive, more space, more requirements, bands take breaks, bands don’t know all the songs
  • Cost: Expect to pay between $100 to $150 per musician per hour

Questions to ask when interviewing bands

  • What you see is what you get?
    • How long has the band been playing together at weddings and events?
    • Can you arrange to see the group perform live? If not, can they provide you with a video of recent performances?
    • Will the band members featured in the video/recordings/website be the actual people playing your wedding?
    • Does the group have substitutes available to fill in at the last minute should one of the members fall ill?
    • Does the group play entirely live or do they use tracks?
    • How will members of the band be dressed?
  • Fees
    • What is their fee structure and how many hours of music does that include?
    • When is the deposit / balance due?
    • How much will you be charged for overtime?
  • Requirements
    • How long will they need to set up?
    • What equipment (furniture, lighting, electrical) will they need and will your venue be able to accommodate it?
    • Are you required to provide food and drink for the band?
  • Schedule & set list
    • Can you request specific songs?
    • Can you request that they learn a new song?
    • Can you include a “do not play” list?
    • How many breaks do they require, if at all?
    • What is their recommended timeline?

DJs

There are many great advantages to choosing a DJ over a live band including lowered cost, less spacial requirements and the ability to play multiple genres of music or specific songs. While not as large or dynamic a presence, a great DJ can really work a crowd and get them moving.

On the other hand, there are a lot of terrible DJs out there. We’ve all been to a wedding or two with music that fell completely flat. Do not make the mistake of hiring you’re friend’s brother-in-law thinking that all DJs are the same because a bad wedding DJ can ruin the experience. Work with a DJ who has a long history of playing at weddings. They understand how weddings are supposed to flow, how to keep the party moving and how to improvise when things don’t go according to plan or schedule.

  • Pros: More affordable, accept song requests, broader variety of songs, can adjust volume levls
  • Cons: Won’t have the same unique impact as band
  • Cost: DJs can cost anywhere from $300 to $3000, depending on location and experience. On average, a wedding DJ charges $1200 for a four hour set.

Questions to ask your wedding DJ

  • What you see is what you get? Ask to see a video of them working, or better yet, go watch one of their sets live. And make sure that the person you see in the demo is the one who will be playing your wedding – you don’t want any surprises!
    • Is the DJ you see in the demo video the person who will be playing your wedding?
    • What will the DJ be wearing?
    • How well do they work a crowd and keep the party flowing?
  • Fees
    • What is their fee structure and how many hours of music does that include?
    • When is the deposit / balance due?
    • How much will you be charged for overtime?
  • Requirements
    • How long will set up take?
    • What equipment (furniture, lighting, electrical) is needed and will your venue be able to accommodate it?
    • Are you required to provide food and drink?
  • Music selection
    • How extensive is their musical library? Does it cover all genres?
    • Can you approve the music selection for the different segments of your wedding ceremony?
    • Can you submit a play and do not play list?
    • Do they allow karaoke? (for some weddings, this is a huge plus, for others, this is on their “do not do” list of requirements)

DIY Music

Live musicians and even DJs can be expensive and many couples just are not in a position to spend that kind of money just on music. Many couples are opting for the trusty old iPod – it’s virtually free and you have complete control over what music you play and when.

However, it’s not a plug and play situation. Make sure you have a proper sound system at the venue – you don’t want to get stuck having to shell out money for a new one. You’ll also need to designate someone responsible to select the playlist (or backup playlist in case your music selection falls flat) and push play and stop on the right songs at the right times. Bonus points if he/she can keep the flow of the evening going, the way that a band leader or DJ would.

  • Pros: Complete control over music, low cost
  • Cons: Someone needs to manage playlist, risk of running into technical difficulties
  • Cost: The cost of downloading music as well as the venue sound system and equipment

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