With design to perfect and cakes to taste, oftentimes music can get a little overlooked in the wedding planning process. But, if you’re hoping to throw a party your guests will never forget, choosing the right music is absolutely key for a memorable event—it can set the mood and determine the vibe of the entire reception. So, should you hire a band or DJ for your wedding? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but there are definitely some things to consider when you and your fiancé are making that all-important decision. Read on for our top tips for determining if you should hire a live band or stick with a tried-and-true DJ for your wedding day.


1. What can you afford?

 

Because live bands often cost more than a DJ, if you’re strapped for cash for your Big Day, you may end up wanting to go with a DJ instead of an eight-piece band for your reception. If live music is the most important thing to you, however, then look for other places in your budget where you can scale things back a bit to make room for hiring a band.


2. What kind of music experience do you want?

 

If you’re dead-set on hearing the original version of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies or dancing your first dance to Bob Marley’s original Stir it Up, then a DJ is probably for you. If, on the other hand, you don’t care so much about hearing the original artists’ versions of these jams, then you can stray from a DJ and opt for a live band instead. A live band will bring a TON of energy to your event—and the right live band will be able to cover your favorite songs in a way that doesn’t leave you longing for the originals. Plus, there’s something about a great live band that tends to magnetically draw people to the dance floor (which isn’t always the case with a DJ playing recorded music)—so, if it’s super important to you that your guests cut-a-rug on your Big Day, you may want to spend the extra cash to bring in a great wedding band. (And trust us when we say—there are no better wedding photos than shots of the late-night crowd dancing the night away to a live band.)


3. What works with your venue?

 

Logistics are another big consideration when deciding whether you should hire a band or DJ for your wedding. Work with a professional wedding planner and your venue’s on-site team to determine what you have the space and infrastructure for at your reception. Maybe a live band won’t work so well on that sandy beach—and does your venue even allow for a live band? Maybe you fell in love with that ten-piece band, but it turns out you only have space for three musicians on that small band-stand area. Consider the overall aesthetic and vibe of your wedding venue as well—a playful rooftop reception in the City almost screams for a live band, doesn’t it?  


4. Consider mixing it up if you can’t decide.

 

Keep in mind that your ceremony and reception can be two totally different vibes—and the same goes for the music at each, as well. Many couples opt to have live music during the ceremony (an acoustic guitarist or small three-piece set) for the processional and recessional, and then switch to a more simple DJ format for the reception. Some musicians even offer both services—at a recent wedding we attended, there was a small jazz band that covered Ray LaMontagne and Bob Marley during the processional and recessional and played some live music during cocktail hour, and then the lead singer/guitarist stayed behind to DJ the indoor reception afterward.


Overall, the decision to hire a band or DJ for your wedding ultimately comes down to what you can afford and what kind of party you want to throw—with a few logistical considerations thrown in, of course. No matter what you choose, it’s so important you do your leg work before you sign on the dotted line (read reviews, work with a wedding planner to find out which musicians in the area are best, and even sit in on a band practice or audition if they’ll let you)—as the musician or DJ you choose will end up setting the tone for the entire night.


Photo courtesy Cara Robbins

Band The Dustbowl Revival