When it comes to entertainment for your reception, you have two options: a DJ or a live band. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and there is a winning option for every budget. But which is the right choice for you? It depends on everything from your favorite music style to the space restrictions of your venue.

We reached out to professionals Melanie Flannery and Lisa Ciampi to help you figure out who should be delivering the music on your big day.

Meet the expert

  • Melanie Flannery is the founder of the MIXTAPE Cover Band in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Lisa Ciampi is the production manager for Élan Artists.

How flexible is your budget?

A. We have reserved additional funds for entertainment only.

B. Our budget is pretty tight, so we want the best bang for your buck.

“Yes, bands cost money, but you get what you pay for,” says Flannery. “You can always find a garage band that plays all night for less than $ 2,000 – but that’s exactly what it will sound like. Or you can pay a little more to get musicians with a conservatory degree. ”On the other hand, for $ 2,000 you can get a killer DJ, but that’s only one person. “With a band, they split the fee among all the members. So if you compare the cost per person of a great band or a great DJ, it’s pretty much comparable, ”explains Flannery.

What is your dream concert?

A. An energetic open air jam session.

B. A night to dance to the perfect mix of our favorite songs.

“We work closely with our clients to build trust with the DJ throughout the planning process and to give them creative input based on the program put together by the DJ,” says Ciampi. “Must-play and do-not-play lists are crucial! “Whether you hire a DJ or a band, do the research! Read reviews, ask about live video, and speak to current clients for testimonials.

What are your priorities?

A. High energy and crowd interaction, even if it means pauses between sets.

B. Uninterrupted music and the ability to hear songs as they were recorded.

Both Ciampi and Flannery agree that the energy you get from a band cannot be reproduced by a DJ. “It’s really no comparison to live people playing instruments on stage,” says Flannery. But, according to Ciampi, “sometimes a DJ is the way to go for a client with a variety of musical preferences. If a couple loves EDM, country and authentic Israeli music – plus top 40 hits – a DJ will allow them to have it all. ”

Where do you need music for your wedding?

A. Everywhere! Ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing later.

B. Reception only – our venue includes the music.

“If you need music in multiple locations throughout the day, your DJ either needs to be tied into the house sound system or have multiple sound setups available so he or she can physically move between rooms,” says Ciampi.

Multiple setups are much easier for a band. “You can have the guitarist play acoustically during the ceremony, add three more instruments for a jazz quartet for cocktail hour, and then have the rest of the band on stage for an eight-piece performance,” says Flannery. “It’s budget friendly compared to hiring multiple different musicians or performers because they’re all part of the band!”

How much space do you have?

A. Our venue is spacious and has plenty of space for a stage.

B. We are using the capacity of the venue and must use all of our space for tables and a dance floor.

A big difference between a DJ and a band is of course how many people you have during your reception. Even with a full set of turntables and speakers, a DJ takes up much less space than a drum kit, guitarist, and singer.

How would you like to review your band or DJ?

A. We would like to see live footage of actual events.

B. Reviews and references work great for us!

While it’s a great idea, it’s almost impossible to see your band or DJ live before you book them. “We have Juilliard alumni, Grammy winners, and people touring the world in our band,” says Flannery. “We can’t play a free show for prospects once a month, so we’re shooting videos with live audio instead to give couples a taste of what we’re doing.”

She emphasizes that when you’re watching a video of your band, you want to make sure it’s all live – not lip synced and dubbed with recorded audio. And whether you’re hiring a band or a DJ, it’s important to read lots of reviews from a variety of sources. “Find websites with verified reviews from real people and go back a few years,” suggests Flannery. “And don’t be afraid to ask for references from current customers to get a first-hand look!”

Mostly A’s: Hire a band

Yes, a great band costs more, but keep in mind that they will split that fee among multiple people and you will get live energy that simply cannot be reproduced. Make sure all the videos you watch have live audio to get a better feel for what the band can do. And don’t be afraid to start a conversation with your band! Whether it is showing off the clothes or asking them to learn a song for your first dance, a great band will be happy to work with you to make sure your wedding day is awesome.

Mostly B’s: Hire a DJ

Not all DJs are cheesy MCs with too many jokes. A great DJ can play whatever you want and know how to read the crowd to really keep the energy going. Indicate in advance exactly what type of experience you are looking for and what you will and will not do to create a bespoke evening for you and your guests.


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