How to Choose Between a Band or DJ for Your Wedding Day

Read expert tips to help you determine the entertainment for your nuptials.

The entertainment experts at EastCoast Entertainment share their tips for deciding between a live wedding band or a DJ at your wedding reception!

real wedding photo from east coast entertainment live band performing on stage with bride and groom wedding reception
Photo: Chris Bailey Photography

From a meaningful ceremony to a fabulous reception, the driving force behind a perfect wedding day is the entertainment. Aside from getting to see you tie the knot, your guests will be happy they decided to attend your celebration once they experience the reception. They get to enjoy a meal, mingle with loved ones, and dance the night away. 

Your wedding entertainment will set the tone for your special day, so it’s especially important that you take some time to weigh the differences between a band and a DJ to determine what means the most to you. Choosing between a band and a DJ can be a bit tricky – but both have their advantages! 

It comes down to personal preferences and costs, so consider these few tips to help make the decision easier.

How flexible is your spending limit?    

Consider the difference in cost between a live band or a DJ for your wedding. Yes, a band will cost more; there are more people involved. Bands build in their fees based on their experience, size, and travel, since the cost will be split among players. Not to say that DJs are not spirited or enthusiastic, but with a band you’re getting personalized energy that just can’t be replicated. 

DJs are less expensive because they’re typically a one-person show, so if your spending limit for reception entertainment is pretty conservative, hiring a killer DJ might be your best option for a fun-filled night.

Bride & Groom Dancing at Wedding Reception

Photo by Hannah Alyssa Photography; Entertainment by EastCoast Entertainment

What is the vibe of your dream concert?    

Knowing the style of your wedding and the mood you want to create will help you choose between a band or DJ. You want music to enhance your environment. Think: a high-energy, open-air jam session with crowd interaction or a night of dancing to a non-stop mix of your favorite, pre-recorded songs. 

Bands typically come prepared with a previously agreed upon set list they’ve discussed with you and can improvise with fun twists they see fit along the way – like a shoutout to your grandma who is crushing it on the dance floor. Plus, it’s like attending a personal concert! 

DJs can essentially play any song you request, so they are a better fit if you prefer a much wider range of music genres. You can still create a playful, interactive setting by providing whimsical eyeglasses, feather boas, blow-up guitars, and neon wands to energize the crowd while they sing along to popular hits.

Couple Performing on Stage with Live Band

Photo by Courtney Price Photography; Entertainment by EastCoast Entertainment

Where do you need music at your wedding?    

If you prefer music to be played through every hour of the timeline (i.e. ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and reception), then having multiple setups is easier for bands than a single DJ. You can ask the guitarist to play romantic acoustic versions of your favorite ballads during the wedding ceremony, add three more instruments for a rousing jazz quartet at cocktail hour, and then have the entire band on stage for a dynamic performance during the wedding reception. You can still consider some of these live-musician ideas for earlier in the day, and later during the reception opt for a DJ. 

Jazz Musicians on Wedding Dance Floor

Photo by Kir2Ben Photography; Entertainment by EastCoast Entertainment

Again, recognize what matters most to you, what emotions you want the crowd to feel, the ambience of the space, and more, and then speak with your wedding planner and other integral vendors to help make the best decision for your nuptials. Feel free to be creative and think outside the box, as you want your entertainment to represent you as a couple as much as the décor details illustrate your personalities.

How much space do you have?    

Let’s talk logistics. One big difference between a DJ and a band is, of course, how many people you’ll have performing during your reception. Even with a full set of turntables and speakers, a DJ will take up much less space than a drum kit, guitarists, and singers will. If your heart is set on a large band, check in with the wedding reception venue to make sure they can accommodate the number of musicians and pieces of equipment they require.

Bride & Groom on Dance Floor with Live Band

Photo by Pat Robinson Photography; Entertainment by EastCoast Entertainment

Ultimately, your wedding entertainment is up to you, and there is no wrong choice in either a band or a DJ at your wedding. As you do your research – and we highly recommend doing so –  be sure to ask for live performance viewings, if possible. Seeing performances in live action, whether it be a band or a DJ, can be a huge help in determining whether or not they fit your vibe.

This expert advice article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Inside Weddings magazine. 

To order a copy of the Spring 2022 issue, visit our library of Inside Weddings back issues available for purchase.