7 Tips for Choosing Between a Live Band vs DJ for Weddings

February 2, 2024

A male DJ in a grey suit and blue tie getting into the groove while mixing tracks at a wedding party.

It is an age old question: a live band vs DJ for weddings. While the debate is often over exaggerated online and in the media, it still is an important consideration when it comes to your wedding. 

After all, music plays a big role in your wedding day and your reception is where you are going to spend the most time with your guests so you want to make sure it is good, right? Well, as a wedding photographer, I know how much thought goes into your reception and I have some tips to help make this a bit easier on you. 

So, if you are choosing between a live band vs DJ for weddings, here are a few things you can think about to help make your decision! 

How to Choose Between a Live Band vs DJ for Weddings

Consider your venue space and what it allows 

First and foremost, you have to know what your venue actually allows. There are venues that may not allow live bands at all and there are others that may have regulations when it comes to live music. 

When it comes to a band vs a DJ, you’ll want to either make your decision before you start looking at venues, or if you can’t quite come to a decision… find venues that allow both just so you have some flexibility. 

Part of your decision is going to come from what the venue actually allows. If you book a venue and they don’t allow bands, a DJ it is. However, there are a few other factors that play into the decision (even if you can have either). 

The biggest one of these is space. Just because you can have a band at your wedding, doesn’t mean there is necessarily enough space for them. After all, is it worth it to have a band if they are going to take up half of the space you were going to use for your dance floor? 

If your wedding venue allows bands and has enough space for them to set up without cutting too much into your own reception space, then you can keep going down this list to ask yourself the other questions! 

Look at your entertainment budget for your wedding 

Next, you want to take a step back and look at your entertainment budget for your wedding. Generally speaking, when it comes to bands vs DJs, bands are going to be more expensive to book than a DJ. 

Now, this isn’t always going to be the case. An experienced DJ can cost just as much as a band sometimes, but normally you can expect to pay more for a band. The size of the band can also play into the overall price. 

A smaller 3 or 4 person band may have a very different price than an 8 person band. You also want to consider any costs associated with travel. This applies to both bands and DJs. 

If you can find someone who is local, you may be able to avoid travel costs, but if they are not local, you may have to add on hotels or transportation on top of the price to actually book them for your wedding. 

Again, this is where bands may also start to cost more as you may be paying for multiple people’s travel and accommodations compared to just a single DJ. 

Think about the vibe you want for your wedding 

Bands and DJs can have two very different vibes and that difference may be important when it comes to your wedding. Let’s be honest, there is nothing quite like a live performance. There is a certain type of energy that just comes along with live music and it can add so much to your wedding. 

Even though DJs are amazing, sometimes they just can’t match that type of energy because live and recorded music are just on different levels. 

However, DJs also have a lot more flexibility when it comes to customizing their setlist and making adjustments based on what is going on at the wedding. When it comes to bands, they are most likely going to have a set list of songs that they are going to play during your wedding. 

If you do get a really experienced band, they may be able to take requests, but in general, they are going to come with a set of songs that they are going to play throughout the night. 

A DJ, though, has a lot more flexibility when it comes to what they can play. This means that if everyone is really feeling the upbeat music, they can keep that going and continue to play more and more songs on that level! 

Decide how you feel about breaks during your reception 

One of the key differences between a live band vs DJs for weddings is that bands are going to need to take breaks. After all, they are performing live which can be taxing so it is only natural that they would want to take a few breaks throughout the night. 

This is something to think about and consider how you feel about that. Is there a backup sound system that you can use during those breaks to continue to play music in the meantime? 

Can you plan out your wedding and reception timeline so that the band can take breaks while you are doing things like cutting the cake, doing a bouquet toss, or any other events you have planned throughout the night. 

Consider how much variety you would like 

Variety is the biggest reason why most couples will choose a DJ over a wedding band. Even the best wedding band in the world is not going to be able to compare to the endless list of songs, artists, and genres that DJs are able to play during your wedding. 

So, when you are picking between the two, think about how important that is to you. Are you okay with sticking to one genre (in general) throughout the whole night or do you want that variety? 

Most of the time, wedding bands will specialize in a certain genre or sound. While they may be able to adapt certain songs to fit their own vibe, your wedding band probably isn’t going to sing a Taylor Swift song and then follow it up with Doja Cat and then finish it off with Frank Sinatra (if they do, I think you have found the best band ever). 

Think about any must have songs you want played during your reception 

On that same note, think about if there are any songs that are non-negotiable and need to be played during your wedding. Most importantly is going to be your first dance song. But there may be other songs that you want played throughout the night. 

If you are booking a band, you want to make sure that they 1) already know the song or 2) are willing to learn it and have enough time to do so before your wedding. If they aren’t able to do that, then a DJ may be a better option. 

Now, that isn’t to say that you should communicate that with your DJ either. In order for DJs to play music at your wedding, they need to have purchased the song. So if there are any specific songs that you absolutely want to be played, make sure your DJ knows that so they can prepare them ahead of time. 

Don’t forget about who is going to emcee 

Finally, don’t forget about who is going to emcee. Generally, if you hire a DJ, they are also going to be your emcee throughout your reception. They will most likely introduce you and your partner for the first time, announce anything like first dances, cake cutting, etc, and relay anything else that you and your guests need to know. 

However, bands may not do this. So, if you do plan on booking a band and they are not going to emcee for you, make sure you have a backup plan that includes someone who is experienced at emceeing weddings. There is a certain skill-set and knowledge that comes to the flow of a wedding reception, and not having an emcee that understands how to keep the night flowing can often ruin the vibes.

Final Thoughts on a Wedding Band vs DJ

So, there you have it. My top tips for choosing between a live band vs DJ for weddings. If after all of this, you still can’t decide, why not break the mold and go for both!

You can have a band play during your cocktail hour or even play music as you walk down the aisle. Then, once the reception kicks off, your DJ can take over and finish off the night. 

Whatever you choose, you and your guests will have the time of your life dancing the night away. If you still need someone to capture those amazing dance floor moments and all of the other special memories throughout the day, let’s chat! 

You can take a look at my wedding photography services here or you can click here to get in touch. 

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