Today, let’s talk about the age-old question: Should we have a live band or DJ for the wedding? Okay, it might not be up there with “to be or not to be?” but it’s definitely a question most couples come across during their wedding planning.

Related: What to Do When You’re Fed Up With Wedding Planning

For some, it’s an easy answer, as they know exactly what kind of music and entertainment they want. But for many couples, the answer isn’t so clear cut. Both options come with their pros and cons, so it really comes down to which is the best fit for your wedding.

To help uncover the answer you can ask yourself some questions:

  1. What vibe do we want to set?
  2. What does the venue allow?
  3. What is our budget?
  4. What would our guests enjoy?
  5. What kind of music fits our style?
Photo of a live band playing at a wedding venue by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikkolas Nguyen.

PROS A LIVE BAND

Pro: A live band provides not only music, but a performance, making it a unique experience for you and your guests.

Pro: Band members are able to “feel the room,” play to the crowd, and interact with the guests.

Pro: A live band provides entertainment for both the people on the dance floor and those sitting back and watching.

Pro: Certain kinds of music just sound better live, so depending on the songs you want played, a live band might pull them off better.

Photo of a live band at a wedding at Dove Hollow Estate by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikkolas Nguyen.

CONS OF A LIVE BAND

Con: Live bands generally cost more. Factors that can affect the fees are the number of band members, set up and take down time, the day of the week/season/time, etc.

Con: A live band may take up more space, so you’ll need to consider your venue size.

Con: A live band will likely be louder than a DJ (with little volume control), so check your venue for noise restrictions. Also keep in mind your guests, as they may not be the kind of crowd who wants to yell over a band.

Con: Bands have a set repertoire and can only play what they know (obviously), so you may not get to hear all the requested songs and the songs that are played won’t sound exactly like the original version.

Photo of a DJ at a wedding by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikkolas Nguyen.

PROS OF A DJ

Pro: A DJ takes up less space and is generally more mobile, so they can easily transfer between cocktail hour and reception, if need be.

Pro: A DJ has a much larger song repertoire, so the chances of hearing whatever song is requested are high. Plus, the songs will sound exactly like the original version.

Pro: DJs are generally less expensive than live bands.

Pro: A DJ will need less breaks, if any, than a live band.

Photo of a wedding guest dancing by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikkolas Nguyen.

CONS OF A DJ

Con: Although good DJs can set the mood and keep the party going, they are not as equipped to improvise or play to the crowd as a live band would.  

Con: There is less of a wow factor with a DJ.

Con: A DJ may crack weird jokes, have horrible emcee skills (get names wrong, for example), or have a rotten personality - all of which can really kill the mood.

BEFORE YOU SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE:

  • Make sure the band or DJ can play your requested songs (like the first dance).
  • See the band or DJ live/watch a recording, read reviews, and meet in person to gauge personality and professionalism.
  • Provide the DJ or band with a list of must-play songs, as well as absolute no-gos, and make sure they are on board with your requests.

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer. What you choose depends on the kind of entertainment that suits your style, budget, venue, etc. And if you just can’t decide, consider hiring both if your budget allows: a live band/string quartet for the ceremony or cocktail hour and a DJ for the reception.

Related: How Much to Tip Wedding Vendors

Looking for an Austin, Texas based band or DJ for your wedding? I've worked with several that I can highly recommend!

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