Band vs. DJ

February 19, 2010

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I talk with my clients a lot about what is BETTER: a band or a DJ at their wedding. The answer, in my opinion, is YES. Which means, there’s really no right answer, only personal preferences and how each relates to your budget. They each have a PRO/CON list (if you haven’t gathered, I love making those lists)

In this PRO/CON list, I am going to talk about a professional party band that can keep the crowd rocking with Oldies, Motown, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and today’s Top 40. These bands are usually a minimum of four instruments (drums, bass, guitar, keys) and two vocalists, both male and female. They sound much, much better with horns and multiple vocalists though! These bands are NOT CHEAP. In Los Angeles, their rates start around $5,000. To get around this fact, many couples will find a specialty band like Latin, Swing, Bluegrass, or Jazz. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that people consider these bands novelties, and after Swing dancing for 30 minutes, they’re over it and the dancefloor fizzles down to those two drunk people shakin’ their thang. People need variety to keep the dancefloor rockin’. They need Frank Sinatra and Outkast within minutes of each other. If you really want a Bluegrass band, I recommend hiring a DJ along WITH the Bluegrass and let them alternate.

In this PRO/CON list, I’m also talking about a professional DJ who will also MC your event. Not your cousin Bobby. Contrary to popular belief, being a DJ isn’t just pressing play. A great DJ will read the crowd’s mood and play what everyone wants to hear before they even know they want to hear it. I work with a DJ who is so good that people get up during dinner to ask him what song this is. A great DJ will work in sync with the other wedding vendors making sure that we are staying on the timeline, activities are happening as they should, and the guests know what is going on. A great DJ will whip the guests into a frenzy and will make your Uncle Charlie attempt the worm across the floor.


1. Cost. You’re hiring one guy (plus a possible assistant) as opposed to 10.
2. Variety. Not only does he literally have thousands of songs to choose from, most requests can probably be accomodated, as well as those specialty or specific songs that you want incorporated into your reception.
3. Flexibility. A DJ can turn on a dime. He can fade the music down with a signal of the hand, and he can keep the music playing as he runs to the restroom or eats his dinner.
4. Sound. A DJ can play as quiet or as loud as you want him to. Keep in mind that if the sound level goes down during dance sets, those sets will fizzle .


1. Appearance. You just don’t get a “WOW” factor from a DJ booth set up off to the left of the dancefloor.
2. Energy. While the music is good and loud, there just isn’t the live energy of a band performing to pump up the overall energy of the ballroom.
3. Attitude. We’ve all been at a wedding where the DJ was a total tool. And it’s cringe-worthy. If you have not seen your DJ in action or given a high recommendation from someone you trust, tread with caution. A bad DJ can ruin a reception.


1. Appearance. If image is important to you, then nothing less than a stage with 10 attractive people belting out hits will work for you.
2. Sound. No matter how loud a DJ turns up his speakers, it just won’t have the depth and fullness that live horns and a drumset can give
3. Energy. 10 people on a stage doing what they love to do carries out to the guests and the energy between the guests and band feed off of each other.


1. Cost. Not only is it incredibly expensive to hire a good band, but you have to feed those people as well. Vendor meals range between $25-50 per person depending on the venue.
2. Sound. Sorry, but there’s no such thing as turning down a drum set! Yes, the horns can play softer and the amps can be turned down, but this WILL take down the engergy in the party and people will stop dancing.
3. Breaks. Bands are hired and paid for four hours, yet they only play three of them as they play 45 minutes then take a 15 minute break. Some bands are flexible and won’t cut into a screamin’ dance set to break, but most will put down their instruments after 44.5 minutes and walk off stage, even as Uncle Charlie is mid-worm. You can pay extra for continuous music where the band members will rotate on break, but you will be charged a hefty amount for this.
4. Attitude. Most bands don’t have the best attitude, but that’s something that normally affects myself and other vendors as opposed to the guests. Unless you have someone like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer.

Best line ever:
“Cindy and Scott are newlyweds…..WHOOOPEDY DOOO!”

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