Should you hire a Band or Professional Wedding DJ? The Pro’s weigh in.
When a couple is searching for entertainment for their wedding, they are faced with a few major decisions; whether to hire a live band or DJ? Our expert Los Angeles Wedding DJs at Elegant Event Entertainment would like to point out a few tips to help couples make the best entertainment decisions. We will try to remain unbiased toward our own profession. There are good points for having a live band, or a DJ, and a few things to keep in mind when deciding. Sometimes couples choose to hire both a DJ and live musicians, and when your budget allows it, that can be a great option. We have worked with bands and live musicians many times, and now we’d like to offer some tips based on our experience.
We’ll break down each portion of a wedding, and offer pros and cons for Bands/live musicians and DJ/MCs:
The Ceremony: Music Band OR DJ.
THE PRO’S: A band offers a live version of songs chosen by the couple or based on a theme designed by the couple that the band follows. It certainly offers a nice “look” and “feel” when you have a guitarist, a violinist & cellist, or a saxophonist , harpist, and/or flutist playing the prelude and ceremony music. The live musicians offer a wow factor and it looks great in pictures. The sound they provide, when they’re really good, is hard to compare with pre-recorded music, it’s just much more intimate and personal.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND: If you aren’t getting married in a Church, and your venue does not have it’s own PA system, you will still need someone to run the microphone sound levels for the officiant and vows to be heard. When we consult with clients, the number one complaint we hear with regard to Ceremonies is “we couldn’t hear the vows”. If the band offers a PA for your officiant and vows, make sure they will personally control the sound and not simply set it and forget it. Some people speak more softly than others and the person controlling the sound can adjust for this. Our professional Los Angeles Wedding DJs meet with the officiant just prior to the ceremony to make sure they understand the proper use of the mic and what to do in the case of an equipment failure…make sure your DJ or Band does this to avoid any problems which could ruin your Ceremony. If the Band doesn’t have a PA system for the officiant and vows, you may need a DJ to provide the Ceremony sound system, which is usually an additional cost…If your budget is a concern, remember that the DJ can provide the sound support for the ceremony as well as play all of your prelude and ceremony music for a nominal additional cost, while bands/musicians can cost quite a bit more. Also, Bands often have multiple members who all come with many pieces of equipment that can take up quite a bit of space. The musicians may have several amps or instruments that require electrical outlets to be available while a DJ requires only 1 outlet. Also, many musicians play by reading sheet music which means between songs you may have a “gap of silence” while they prepare the next song. DJ’s come prepared with a full list of music selected by the couple or based on the DJ’s experience and the general wishes of the couple, and there is no gap in the music. DJs usually only need one speaker and a wireless microphone and laptop or ipad (and some backup equipment for emergencies), so they take up very little space and are not a focal point of attention. Finally, (this one is very important!) if you hire a musician or band, it is crucial that you hear them play live. You don’t have to hear a DJ play live, because a DJ is playing pre-recorded music that you know will sound great…as long as the sound system is a good one and the DJ is experienced with performing Ceremonies, but a live musician who provides a “demo” may have polished the recording to perfection but when it comes time to play live, they simply aren’t that good. Ask to see them play live, at least for those key Processional songs you’ve chosen. We don’t want to step on any toes, we simply want to caution our clients to make certain the musicians they hire are proficient players.
Cocktail Hour and Dinner Music Band OR DJ?
THE PRO’s: Again, a band has the look of a classic wedding long before there were DJ’s with CD’s or laptops. Bands create a tangible atmosphere and an interactive experience which people take a mental picture of throughout the day, Bands generally bring a lot of energy to an event, BUT, DJs can also have a wow factor when they run an event flawlessly, can be as interactive as the clients want them to be, especially if they have a great personality, aren’t obnoxious or cheesy, and play great music. THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND: Bands might have an awesome set list to choose from, but they usually have a limited number of songs and styles they can play. Should you want to change the feel of your cocktail or dinner music on the fly, this may be impossible for them in most cases. And remember, if the band uses sheet music they may have that “gap of silence” between each song that can be very josseling for your guests. A Great band will have a fixed set of music which they’ve memorized and prepared for and generally there is little to no gap between songs…but those bands cost a lot more money. Great bands memorize their music, it’s just that simple. The good DJs will usually have gone over music with the clients and have arranged a list of songs that fit the couple’s idea for the feel of cocktail and dinner. This music list can include popular hits everyone can sing and tap their toes to, or favorite bands that the couple love. The theme can be changed at any moment using a giant library of music already installed in the DJ’s computer. It will run on a loop and have a fading effect that makes song transitions seamlessly and with no “gap of silence.” By using computers for cocktail and dinner music, this also allows the DJ to be free to help wherever they are needed and talk to the wedding party and the important people involved in the Grand Entrances, Special Dances, Toasts, etc. This is very useful when you’re trying to keep the schedule moving and rely on the DJ to MC the event. While many bands have MC’s who can be working to arrange and execute the schedule while the band continues playing, the less expensive bands are generally not as prepared, experienced or interactive behind the scenes as a professional wedding DJ.
Also, With a band it may be hard to control the volume levels unless they have a professional sound technician with them. Without a sound technician, a guitarist’s amp may be too loud while a singer or trumpet player is getting louder trying to compensate, this isn’t ideal. DJ’s control their sound by walking around during a song and checking levels to make sure the music isn’t too loud or is just loud enough…or in some cases, meets the noise ordinance requirements set by a Venue.
Something else to consider: if you are providing vendor meals, with a band you might have many mouths to feed which will increase your catering bill, while a DJ may only be 1 individual or 2 at the most when there is a DJ and MC combo.
The Dance Music: Band or DJ?
Bands are lively, fun, loud, and energetic…the good ones are, anyway. DJs can be all of those things too. Really great wedding bands cost anywhere from $4000-15,000 while really Great DJs can cost between $1500-2500. These prices are based on location, experience, talent, reputation, number of musicians, and of course, supply and demand. For the dancing portion of your wedding, you have to ask yourself “do I want all styles of music?”: including the latest pop hits, hip-hop, jazz, rock, oldies, etc… and if so, “do I want a band that plays their own rendition of those songs? Or do I want to hear the Actual Original Recorded version song itself? “ That’s what it really boils down to. Beyond that, keep in mind that DJ’s can act as the MC and provide all of the music across tens of thousands of songs, prearranged or on the fly, while bands may have an MC, to assure that you’re getting a good one, you’ll have to pay for it.
It’s important to interview DJs and determine how they will Look, Sound, and “feel” in front of all of your guests. You can tell if that person has the right personality, experience, and expertise you are looking for to provide the right music and be a great MC for your most special day. With a Band, you need to interview them to determine their MCing abilities and just how involved they will be with the execution of the timeline and announcements, and you absolutely need to hear them play live so you know exactly what you’re getting ahead of time. We’ve actually had people tell us they hired expensive bands for previous events and when they attended a wedding we DJ/MC’d, they wish they had hired us. So, just because a band or DJ costs a lot, that may not be a full indication of whether they are really good or fit your desires for a great event.
You can see that there are many reasons why you should or should not hire a band and/or a DJ. Bands are not our competition and we love to work together with them side by side, sharing the entertainment responsibilities while we usually act as the MC. It’s comparing apples to oranges when you really consider everything you get from both types of entertainment. Your decision should be about what will make your night fun, entertaining, stress-free, and an event that you and your guests will never forget. We hope you always make confident choices and consider all the details. We wish you love, happiness, an awesome wedding and a beautiful future.