Band or DJ?

Having trouble deciding on the type of entertainment you want at your wedding reception? Below is a list of the pros and cons of each choice so you can weigh what elements matter to you most:

BAND Pros:

Nothing compares to live music in terms of sound quality.

You can choose a band based on your own tastes, and the music will be what you and your spouse like.

Live music can be more exciting and can get the crowd more involved.

A band can vary the speed of the songs, depending on the mood of your guests and the atmosphere you wish to create.

Different instrumental or vocal solos can also be played throughout the evening.

BAND Cons:

There are limited songs a band can play.

The songs never sound the same as the original recordings.

If the musicians need to take a break, the music stops as well.

Bands can sometimes cost several thousand dollars more than a DJ.

It can seem more like a concert instead of an accent to your reception. (Sometimes bands like to play loud – even if you ask them to keep the volume at a reasonable level).

Band or DJ?


A DJ comes with a choice of hundreds of songs. Therefore, the DJ can play songs to cater to the varying tastes of several generations.

They will often cost much less than a band.

While the music is playing, the DJ can get out on the dance floor and rev up the guests.

Your special dances will be played exactly like you’ve heard them before.

There is no reason to have a break in the music.


Contracts can be misleading in terms of who will really be at your wedding.

It may take more effort to get the crowd engaged (versus a live performance).

Some guests may think a DJ is too casual for a formal reception.

You might not like the styles of music that are being played.

Selecting A Disc Jockey

Good entertainment can be the key to having a successful reception. The best way to hire a great DJ is to pick one you have seen and heard before or one recommended by friends. However, this is not always possible. To find the names of potential DJs consult our list at the end of this section, newspaper supplements or yellow pages.

1. Once you have a list of DJs talk to them. Pay attention to their professionalism on the phone and ask for printed information and referrals.
2. Your wedding will most likely require music to satisfy all ages and musical tastes so ask about variety and the policy on requests.
3. Find out about equipment. A DJ should have professional sound equipment -- not consumer-grade gear. If lighting is important to you, be sure to ask about special effects.
4. A good DJ will take the time to explain how he or she will handle the details of the introductions, first dance, toast, blessing, cake cutting, bouquet and garter tosses and special dances. They will be able to communicate well with you and should be willing to listen to your ideas and special needs.
5. Your DJ should be familiar with most of the music you want and should know how to organize the reception within your guidelines. Try to determine if your DJ has the ability and willingness to "read" and motivate the crowd.
6. Most reputable DJs will be willing to provide you materials, song lists and informational planning sheets.
7. Try to set up a meeting with the prospective DJ. This will give you a chance to share your ideas, get suggestions and meet the DJ in person.
8. If a video is available, request to see it. Also be sure to check references and recommendations. Auditioning a DJ at a stranger's wedding in not usually practical. Remember, a good wedding is an individually customized event lasting four hours or more. To properly observe a DJs show, you need to stay for the entire time.
9. Make sure you sign a contract. This is for the DJs protection as well as your own. The contract should detail date times, fees, special requests as well as possibly include dress code, alcohol policy and music style.

The perfect DJ will be affordable, experienced and have good references. He or she will know music, communicate in a friendly and helpful manner, and should be interested in what you and your guests want.

A professional DJ will be well-dressed, mix music types well and blend motivational dances and special activities with your requests. Your DJ should do it all with style, microphone presence and proper volume. The best weddings are classy yet fun, well organized and well run. Above all, you want your wedding reception to be memorable, fun, worry-free and a good time for your family and guests.

Selecting Musicians

When hiring musicians for your wedding ceremony, reception, shower or any special occasion, start your search as soon as you set a date. Professional musicians, orchestras, bands and soloists may be booked a year or more in advance. Here are some guidelines to use when making a decision about the type of music you want and whom to hire:

1. The music should compliment your special event, and not be overpowering. Take into consideration the size of the venue and the acoustics (a set of full Highland Bagpipes inside a small church is probably a bad idea).
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for and check references of the performer you are considering. Chances are, if other people have been pleased with the musician, you will be, too.
3. Take the time to audition musicians. This will give you an overall feel for their style of music and ‘on-stage presence’. Auditions can be in person, over the phone, by cassette tape or video. Audio tapes let you sample the style and expertise of the musician. Video additionally allows you to see the appearance of the performer. Make sure you like the quality of the music and that it is appropriate for your event.
4. If you have particular selections you want included, be sure to discuss this in advance with the musicians. Make sure they can honor your requests and will have enough time to get the music and rehearse.
5. For wedding ceremonies, always check with your officiant before making selections. Some faiths or houses of worship do not allow secular (non-religious) music or particular selections. Knowing this in advance of hiring a ceremony musician will help you determine who to hire. Also, if you are getting married in a church, check with your officiant to make certain hiring a ceremony musician outside the congregation is permissible.
6. Discuss your expectations with musicians. Musicians should dress and present themselves according to the theme of your event. Be very clear on what duties you expect of the musician, such as when to play a certain selection. Be as detailed as possible, and get everything in writing. Don’t leave anything to chance.
7. Amplification is important for any sizable events. Ask if the musicians are providing their own sound system and be sure it is electrically compatible with the venue or is battery operated.
8. Most importantly, look for a harmonious working relationship. If the musician is not responsive to your needs during consultation, keep looking.

If you don’t know where to start looking for a musician, check with the Johnson City Symphony, Symphony of the Mountains or the ETSU music department for recommended classical musicians. Try the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance or the ETSU bluegrass department for bluegrass or country ideas. If you are interested in Celtic Music, call Symphony of the Mountains or the Wedding Loft in Jonesborough (there is a piper on staff there). For rock or alternative bands, your best source (other than word of mouth) may be the back page of the region’s “Loafer Magazine” as it lists booking and contact information for many of the area’s most popular bands.