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Live Band, DJ or Playlist for Your Wedding Reception?

Wedding entertainment advice

Wedding entertainment advice

Do you opt for a DJ who can respond to all manner of requests, the cheap-and-cheerful iPhone playlist option, or the unique experience of a live band? Here are a few things to consider.

Live Band, DJ or Playlist for Your Wedding Reception?

A big decision to make when it comes to your evening entertainment is whether to hire a live wedding band, a DJ or just put on your own playlist… or whether you even have to settle for one at all.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Budget

Unless you’re set on David Guetta, bands will usually cost more than a DJ, so if you’re on a budget, a DJ or playlist will be the way to go.

That said, with the range of live acts available, budget doesn’t have to be the deciding factor. Some three-piece bands, especially rock and indie bands where the guitarist or bassist is also the lead singer, can still create a huge sound, while not being too much more expensive than a DJ.

For those on very tight budgets, an iPod/iPhone playlist might seem like the obvious solution. But be warned: you'll likely still need to hire in a PA system to plug this into. Even if your venue does have an in-house system, these are usually designed for background music and the speakers will likely be small and tinny.

If hiring a PA, go for at least 500w per side with bass woofers, or it's unlikely your guests will feel moved to dance.

2. Space

Space is another practical consideration. How big’s your venue - or if you haven’t booked it yet, will it suit your preferred entertainment? It’s really important your stage space is appropriate for your band or DJ. If you’ve got an intimate venue and limited space for a band, then a DJ or playlist might work better - but smaller bands or duos might also work, especially if you’re after understated evening entertainment.

If you've planned a large party in a spacious hall, a large band performing your favourite hits could be what you’re looking for. Of course too much empty space doesn’t create a party atmosphere, so if you’re set on a DJ or small band but have a large stage, they might be able to offer you space-filling extras, like an impressive light show or even dancers.

3. Venue noise regulations

Does your venue have a sound limiter? If so, this could rule out some rock and pop bands with drums or bass. DJs can turn down the volume much more easily than a drummer can soften their playing.

Sound limiters cut off power when noise hits a certain level - usually around 95db, which is quiet for most bands. Smaller bands might still be an option, but make sure they know there’s a sound limiter as power outages can cause costly damage to equipment.

4. Venue closing time/last orders

Most bands will perform two sets somewhere between 8:30 and 11:30pm. Many venues will need music off by midnight if not sooner, so a band will play tracks from an iPod for the final half hour.

But if you’re lucky enough to have a late licence, why not have both a band and a DJ? This way you can have wall-to-wall music and your guests can really dance the night away.

If your first dance is early, a DJ can play before the band start and again once they finish for guests who haven’t danced enough.

5. Mobility

Many bands can also offer acoustic soloist or duo line-ups for afternoon background music, in addition to their evening sets.

These line-ups are ideal for background music or during an outdoor drinks reception, where access to a power supply might be difficult.

They're also useful for keeping guests entertained before your ceremony, or whilst you have your photos taken.

Whilst DJs will also offer music in the afternoon, they'll need access to a power supply and will be unlikely to want to move between different spots.

6. Band and DJ combo packages

Do you really have to choose between either? Many bands also offer a laptop DJ option, either as part of their standard package or as an add-on. This gives you the best of both worlds without having to coordinate two different acts.

If you’re set on a band, make sure you ask them about a DJ option and see how long they can DJ after their set’s over.

7. Professional solutions versus the DIY route

DJs and bands are professional people passionate about music and what they do and experienced in delivering wedding entertainment.

For them, doing a great job means leaving a happy customer after they have packed up, so trust them to help you make the right choice.

There's a lot to be said for designating the entertainment to an experienced (and sober) professional who is used to dealing with all sorts of trouble-shooting scenarios.

If you're going the playlist route, consider who will be keeping watch over it. Without a designated keeper of the iPhone, it's likely to be commandeered by various friends in varying states of sobriety throughout the night, who will probably take turns to clear the dancefloor.

8. Repertoire

Most DJs have access to thousands of songs in a variety of formats, and can play and mix your favourite tunes into set lists. However, the live band you choose will probably have a set show and genre(s).

If you’re after on-the-night flexibility, go for a DJ, playlist or a band with a really large repertoire who don’t mind lots of requests. If you go for a band, make sure they’re happy to accommodate all your requests before you book them.

9. Atmosphere

When it comes down to sheer atmosphere, a live band wins every time. It's infectious, inclusive and has a way of bringing out the emotion in the proceedings. Watching musicians lose themselves in their performance will encourage your guests to free themselves up and hit the dancefloor.


Still not sure? Spend some time sharing your ideas, ask around for recommendations, and watch clips of wedding bands and wedding DJs in action. Speak to your live music agent about the acts you like the look and sound of. You’ll soon begin to get a feel for what will and won’t help you achieve your dream day.