The DJ vs. Band Debate: What's Best for Your Wedding

Celebrity Planner and wedding guru, David Tutera, helps you strike just the right notes for your wedding-day tunes.

While we know that your wedding is all about showing the world the love and commitment you and your hubby-to-be have for each other (and also, of course, how good you look in white), it’s also important to know that as host and hostess you have a “responsibility” to throw a great party to celebrate that love and show your guests a good time. When it comes to entertainment, I always tell my brides that this is the part (besides getting to see you wed) when guests decide they’re glad they RSVP’d yes to your invitation. From serious ceremony to fabulous reception, the driving force is the entertainment. They have come to the wedding to support you at the biggest milestone of your life, so by all means, let them have a blast!

wedding band

Photo Credit: Royal Dukes Band

Spin My Song
In The Big White Book of Weddings, I include advice on ceremony music, but in this column I will stick mainly to the reception. Often, brides ask if they should have a band or a DJ. I always say that DJs are an excellent choice because, for one thing, they are much less expensive than live entertainment. Their playlist can be customized, and a well-chosen, sophisticated DJ may be perfect for your wedding. Meet DJs to gauge their personality and style. Discuss your needs and wishes for your wedding, including the DJ’s wardrobe. Find out if you can watch him in action and listen to him spin and mix. Discuss various styles of music—a variety should be played throughout the night to keep guests entertained. During meetings with your DJ, develop your song playlist and be clear about what you like and dislike. Make sure your DJ will take your song requests.

And the Band Played On
Whether it’s swing or salsa, a 20-piece or a four-piece ensemble, live music has the ability to stir the soul of even the most stagnant chair-sitters at a reception! Think about what kind of sound you want: big band, contemporary, golden oldies? Knowing the style and mood you want to set will help you locate the band suited to you.

I Dos For Choosing A Band

  • Get references from other couples. A wedding has specific needs. Ask other couples what they liked and disliked about the band that interests you.
  • Be sure to hear the band play live — a CD or a video is not enough! 
  • Choose a playlist with your band, as well as a “Do Not Play” list. “Y.M.C.A.,” “Macarena” and “The Electric Slide” are no-no’s (and you know it).
  • Make sure your venue has proper power for the band’s electrical needs. No blackouts in the middle of the festivities, please!
  • Give the bandleader your wedding timeline, and meet to discuss it a week or two prior to the wedding.
  • Know that bands come with a rider, a list of all their requirements, including the smallest details, i.e., how much time they need to set up, what kind of technicians they must use and so on.
  • Bands need breaks and break rooms.
  • Make sure the bandleader can correctly pronounce the names of your bridal party, your family members, people giving toasts and so on.  

I Don'ts For Choosing A Band

  • Avoid having one style of music throughout.
  • Don’t position the band too far from your dance floor; if it isn’t directly in front of the guests, there’s a disconnect and the energy in the room dissipates. 
  • Don’t hire a band you once saw at a bar or an outdoor concert. Everything is much different in a wedding venue. Hire a professional band that allows you to be contractually protected and that you know will be prepared to perform proficiently.  

David’s Rule: Ask the DJ how he will decorate his platform: no disco balls, no 1980s lighting, and no christmas lights allowed!

Your Walk Down The Aisle
Some tunes I like:

  • "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" —  Bryan Adams
  • “Truly Madly Deeply" — Savage Garden
  • “At Last" — Etta James
  • “When I Fall In Love" — Natalie Cole
  • “Breathe" — Faith Hill
  • “Musetta's Waltz" —from Puccini's La Bohème
  • “Trumpet Voluntary" — Henry Purcell
  • "Toccata And Fugue in D Minor — Johann Sebastian Bach
  • “When A Man Loves A Woman" — Percy Sledge

More Advice on Wedding Music:

Top 90 Wedding Songs