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A lively dance floor at a wedding reception with guests cheering and raising their glasses in celebration after choosing between a wedding band vs DJ


How to Choose Between a Wedding Band vs DJ

December 1, 2023

It’s the age-old question: Wedding band vs DJ? This seems to be one of the most talked about questions when it comes to wedding planning and there are some people who have pretty intense thoughts about both of them. 

Ultimately though, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It really is going to depend on you and your partner and what you are looking for. But, as a wedding photographer who has been a part of plenty of celebrations, I do have a couple of tips for how to choose between the two. 

So, let’s dive into some questions to ask yourself to choose between a wedding band vs DJ. 

What does your venue allow/have space for? 

This is honestly the first question that you and your partner should ask yourselves because this might make the decision for you. If you are trying to pick between the two, be sure to check with your venue and see what they allow in the first place. 

Some venues may not allow live bands meaning you have to get a DJ or they may just not have the setup that a band would actually need. 

You also want to think about the space that a band will take up vs a DJ. If you are having your reception at a smaller venue or one that has a bit less flexibility, a band may be hard to book. 

After all, you don’t want to take up the majority of your dance floor to make room for the band. So before you ask yourselves any of the other questions on this list, be sure to check with your venue on what they allow/have the space for! 

What budget do you have for entertainment? 

Budget is going to be the next big question that you and your partner should talk about. In general, bands are going to be much more expensive than a DJ. This is even more true if you have a specific band in mind. 

Let’s be honest, not all bands are going to be the same so if you do find one that you love but isn’t in your area, you may also have to factor in travel fees for that band. 

Now, DJs can absolutely be expensive as well, especially if you are booking an experienced or popular DJ. However, when we are looking at averages across the board, you are going to spend less on a DJ than you will on a band. 

What overall vibe are you looking for? 

Next, what overall vibe are you looking for at your wedding? If you want something super upbeat with a lot of energy, a DJ may be the best option. They will have a wider range of music that they can choose from and can cater to whatever you are looking for. 

It is important to point out, though, that you want to find a DJ who can feel the vibe of your event instead of someone who just has a random playlist that they cycle through during your wedding. 

While they may think their playlist is great, if everyone is super high-energy and excited and a slow song comes on, it can dampen the mood which you definitely don’t want. 

So you want to make sure you find someone who can go with the flow and curate a playlist specifically for you and your wedding as the night goes on! 

On the flip side, a band can add an amazing energy to your wedding. There is nothing quite like live music and they can really play off the energy and vibe of your wedding to make it even more special! 

Are you okay with breaks during your reception? 

This is another big one when you are trying to decide between a wedding band vs DJ. One of the biggest benefits of a DJ is that they don’t really need to take breaks during the reception. 

However, a band will need to take breaks throughout. How often this is or when they do it will definitely depend on the band and should be something that you chat about with your band so that you know exactly what to expect during your reception. 

Now, there are going to be some natural breaks in your reception, dinner, cake cutting, bouquet toss, etc, but your band may take breaks outside of that as well. If you do have other events you want to do during your reception, you can just plan them around when the band won’t be live (this way you don’t have any lulls in the music). 

Alternatively, if your venue does allow you to play music while the band is not live, you may also be able to do that. However, you can run into the issue again of not necessarily matching the vibe because it is most likely going to be a playlist you put together before the wedding, and can’t necessarily adjust it based on the vibe in the room. 

Are there specific songs that are a MUST for your wedding? 

Song selection and variety are big reasons why most people will go with a DJ vs a wedding band. A DJ is going to have a seemingly endless list of songs in all different genres, decades, and artists that they can play during the wedding. 

When it comes to a band, most bands will have one style of music that they will play. They may be able to cover songs from a variety of artists, but it is not going to be as vast as a DJ. 

So, it is important that you ask yourself if there are specific songs that you want to be played or if there is a range of genres that you want to be played during your reception. You will obviously want to make sure your band can play things like your first dance song, but you also want to think about other songs that are a must for you. 

When it comes down to it, if you are looking for a mix of genres or very specific songs that need to be played during your reception, a DJ is most likely going to be the best option for you. 

Do you want to do both?

If after all of these questions, you are still torn, or if one of you wants a band and one wants a DJ, you can potentially look into getting both. Now, obviously, this is definitely going to need a bigger budget, however, it is something that you can totally do for your wedding. 

So, if you do want to do this, what you could consider doing is hiring a band to play during your cocktail hour and then having a DJ play during your reception. This way you get the best of both worlds! 

The band can get the party started and help get people energized after your ceremony. Plus, since your cocktail hour is only an hour, most bands will be able to play right through it so there won’t be any lulls in the music. 

Once you are ready to start your reception, the DJ can take over and keep the party going. They’ll be able to feel the vibe of the reception and keep people moving all night. Most DJs will also double as an MC so you’ll also have the added bonus of having them announce things throughout the night! 

Where can you actually find bands or DJs? 

Once you are ready to take the plunge and book a band or a DJ (or both), you are going to find a ton of different options out there and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. So, if you need a place to start, here are my recommendations. 

For DJs in the Virginia, Maryland, or DC area, I definitely recommend checking out Black Tie Entertainment. They have a whole roster of DJs to choose from with some having over 20 years of experience! 

For bands, I recommend checking out East Coast Entertainment. They have a whole directory of bands that play all different genres of music and are a great resource when it comes to finding quality bands! 

Final Thoughts on a DJ vs Wedding Band

Hopefully, these questions help point you in the right direction as you are picking the entertainment for your wedding. At the end of the day, whether you book a wedding band vs DJ, the most important thing is finding someone who can keep the energy high and play off of the vibe of your wedding. 

If you are still looking for a photographer to capture all of these amazing moments at your wedding and reception, let’s chat! You can click here to check out my wedding packages or get in touch to see how we can help capture this amazing day for you! 

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Photographer, amateur snowboarder, dive bar connoisseur,  inspired by music, good movies, and you.

I'm a Charlottesville wedding photographer and I specialize in capturing wedding days with a documentary approach. Love is pretty rad, and your photos should be, too.