Choosing Entertainment

Music sets the tone from the wedding ceremony to the last dance. It heightens emotions, creates atmosphere, fills awkward silences, and gets guests to dance.

You spend months making sure every little detail of your wedding goes exactly the way you dreamed it would. You stress, and plan, and now it’s time for a little fun. You want your guests to dance and enjoy the evening. You want your introductions, your first dance, and all of your special moments to be unforgettable. The entire day should be uniquely yours, and not a generic production. Choosing entertainment to accompany your big day can be a breeze with a few guidelines.

Band or DJ?

While it is increasingly rare to have a band play your wedding—especially the ceremony—bands are still a great option. Having one for just the reception, or even just cocktail hour, is a great way to add a personal touch to your day. This is even more true if you have friends who play as part of a band or are part of a church or other ensemble. Just be sure you have a backup in case one of their members gets sick on the big day, and know that bands come with extra costs. Some will require you provide meals, and they will need rest breaks throughout the night.

DJs are more popular due to their versatility and ability to play almost any song ever written. Most also offer their services for your ceremony as far as fading music in and out between songs based on how fast people walk down the aisle or announcing people at your reception. Many also have the ability to bring lights, dance floors, or other equipment with them, so make sure to ask!

Some couples choose to go without either one and simply play their own music or designate a friend to setup a playlist. While this is a great low-budget option, it can also be hectic and unorganized. Make sure whoever you entrust your music to knows exactly what you expect, and double check they have every important song prior to the day of. You don't want to find out at the reception that they didn't download your first dance song and now the WiFi is out.

Schedule an Interview

Have a phone interview with them first to determine if they are available on your wedding date. Ask about their experience level, their equipment quality, and if they have a back up system. Determine the variety and versatility of their song list, the cost of their services, amount of the deposit, and the due date for the final payment. They are also a common vendor at bridal fairs, so be sure to see if there are any in your area to meet multiple choices on the same day.

When you have all of this information gathered, select the entertainment that best meets your needs. Ensure that the following are stated in your contract with your DJ or band: date and location, music start and end times, number and duration of breaks, and total cost. Ask if they would be willing to include an option to play beyond the agreed upon end time, just in case the reception runs a little long.

On the Mic

You want a DJ for the wedding reception entertainment who has the ability to go with the flow. If you picked a first song months ago, but on the way to the wedding you heard a more perfect song on the radio, can they change your first dance with this little notice? Most DJs have a ton of popular music in their book of albums and can accommodate your change. If your DJ acts as master of ceremony, discuss their level of involvement, and work closely with them in planning, to keep your reception on schedule.

It’s a good idea for your band or DJ to contact the reception site to discuss specifics and avoid potential disasters. Your reception venue may have time or volume level restrictions, and limited electrical usage. Professional DJs and musicians are exactly that: professionals. They are knowledgeable and creative; let them take some stress off your plate by planning out a lot of the night's songs and entertainment so you can relax and have fun.

Playlist Variety

After all of the formality of the ceremony, you and your guests are ready to relax and get the party started! Your choice of music should be enjoyable for everyone at your reception, both older and younger guests. Consider playing a variety of music that is appropriate for the various segments of your reception. Be sure to discuss the volume level and genre of music that you want played during each of the time periods.

Ask your DJ or band for their play list to select songs you would like played at the reception. This is a great way for you to select specific dance music, rather than expecting them to guess your preferred genre of music. A professional DJ acquires their good reputation from their ability to get guests involved at a wedding reception, so ask for referrals.