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Live Band or DJ
One of the key ingredients to any successful reception is the entertainment. Even though it usually doesn’t get the attention it deserves when compared to some of the other items associated with the wedding. When it comes to a wedding, there are two choices, a live band or a Disc Jockey (DJ). But how do you decide which is right for you?
The entertainment at your wedding should be an extension of the Bride and Groom. Below you will find some useful information that will allow you to determine the right choice for your entertainment needs.
Things to consider:
What is your budget for the entertainment?
Are there any restrictions in place at the reception hall?
What is the size of the reception hall?
Is there room in the reception hall for a band and all of their equipment?
How long is the reception?
Are you going to have a more traditional or modern reception?
Live Band Pros
For anyone who has ever been to a concert, the energy is amazing. It is nothing like listening to the album, no matter how much you may enjoy the music.
If your wedding has a theme, or the happy couple is into swing dancing, you can hire a band that specializes in that genre of music.
The sound of a live band will usually be crisper and cleaner than that of a DJ
A live band can slow a song down, or speed it up, based on the needs of the guests.
A good live band adds a touch of class to any reception.
A live band is very good at setting the tone of the wedding.
Live Band Cons
Live bands can be very expensive. It will be difficult for you to find an experienced live band for under $2,500, and for the better and more experienced bands you could easily pay upwards of $15,000 for the evening.
Live bands can only play and keep their energy up for so long without getting tired. Once the band is tired, the performance suffers.
Live bands tend to have a personality. This personality might not mesh very well with your style, or the style of your guests. They might be very up tempo, and when it comes to slowing down the music, they are not as good.
A live band may not be able to play a song that one of your guests is requesting, because they have never practiced playing that particular song or even worse, they will try to please the guest by playing that song, even though they haven’t done it before (I think you can guess what the results of that would be). If there is a particular song or songs you want played at your wedding, make sure the band knows how tom play it, don’t assume that they do.
Live bands do not play all night long; they do what are called sets. These sets can last from 30 – 90 minutes, and then they will take a break. The breaks can last anywhere from 15 – 45 minutes. In the interim the band will put on a CD of continuous music. It is like listening to a CD or MP3 player of music that someone that doesn’t know you created. It can bring the energy in the room to a halt.
Depending on the size and acoustics of the reception hall, a live band can get lost in a big room, or be overpowering in a small room. The last thing you want is the band to be so loud that your guests can’t carry on a conversation while sitting at their tables.
If the lead singer of the live is not feeling well, the performance will suffer greatly. You can’t just replace him, and get the same results, and if he does perform while not feeling well, his performance will not be his best.
Live bands usually do not only perform at weddings, and therefore can be a lot harder to book. Some bands are booked 18 months in advance. If you find a band you like and they fit in your budget, book them as soon as possible.
A live band performing at your wedding can sometimes seem like a concert as opposed to the compliment it is supposed to be.
If you are on a budget, remember that you need to feed the entertainment. A band usually has at least 3 members and most bands have 4 or 5 members, whereas a DJ is only a single mouth to feed.
How do you choose the right band?
Does the music doesn’t overpower the lead singer?
Is one instrument louder than all of the rest?
Is there only one lead singer, or do they all sing?
Do you enjoy the vocals as much as the music?
Is it all live or are they using any pre-recorded instrumentals, or electronically created sounds that don’t sound clear and crisp?
Does each song sound the same?
Is the band organized?
Do their sets seem to have a theme?
Can they play more than one style of music?
Is the band you are seeing the exact band you are going to hire (If it is a 10 piece band, but you only want to hire a 5 piece band, make sure you see only the 5 pieces you are hiring, and not all 10)?
How does the band look? Are they all wearing the same style clothes? Is there physical appearance appealing (if you are listening to a recording ask to see a recent picture)?
Is the leader of the band charismatic (he is going to be the MC of your wedding)?
Does he understand what you are looking for?
Will they take requests from you before hand?
Will they take requests from your guests at the reception?
Disc Jockey Pros
DJ’s have almost any song you can think of, or that might be requested by your guests. From the most current hits to the oldies and everything in between.
Most DJ’s have performed at many weddings prior to yours, and they know all of the tricks to move the reception along. They can get people up and dancing and they know when to slow things down. They can control their volume a lot better than a live band can. They have the perfect songs for all of the wedding traditions, and know how to use background music during the meal service.
A DJ doesn’t interpret your favorite songs, so you hear them the in the same manner in which you always have.
The introduction of the Bride, Groom and wedding party will be more upbeat. A DJ is used to doing this on a regular basis, and you can work with him to be very upbeat, or serious. With a live band, it is going to be based on the personality of the person doing the introduction, and you will not have as much of a chance to influence this portion of the reception.
With a DJ, the breaks are minimal if at all, and so there are a lot fewr breaks in the entertainment value for the guests.
A DJ can adapt to any room. If the room is big, the DJ can add speakers through the room, if the room is small, the DJ can use smaller speakers strategically placed not to overpower the space available.
Disc Jockey Cons
Some DJ’s are creatures of habit, and have been doing this type of work for so long, that they think they know everything. These DJ’s will make mistakes, because they do not pay attention to the details. If you give them a list of songs that you don’t want played at your wedding, sometimes they will play them anyway. They will mispronounce your names because they didn’t take the time to meet with you to get the right pronunciation. They will call for a particular tradition that you have decided to skip. I have heard stories of DJ’s introducing a Father-Daughter dance for the bride, when the father wasn’t at the wedding.
The DJ is a one man show. Some DJ’s take this to an extreme, and try to become the party, rather than the Master of Ceremonies (MC).
DJ’s can make the wedding reception seem like a club if you let them.
How do you choose the right Disc Jockey:
Do you like the DJ’s personality (first and foremost)?
Have you seen him perform at a wedding reception (most times this will not be possible to do live, so ask for a video)?
Have you interviewed the DJ?
Do you like his appearance?
Does he use the proper equipment?
Will he accept a Play list?
Will he accept a “Do Not Play List”?
No matter which one of these entertainers you choose, do your homework. Go see them perform. Also, don’t be afraid to ask friends of yours if they have been to any weddings where the entertainment was great. If they answer yes, find out who performed and look them up. You can also ask the person at the reception hall if they know of any good bands or DJ’s. They have more experience when it comes to this aspect of the wedding then anyone else you will deal with, unless you are using a wedding planner. They have seen all types of bands and DJ’s in many different settings, and can definitely point you in the right direction. Make sure you tell them exactly what you are looking for when it comes to the entertainment, so that they send you to the right performer for the image that you are trying to portray. Once you have made contact, the performer should let you know how you can go about seeing them live, without being a “wedding crasher”. Be wary of the performer that invites you to come see them at a wedding. Chances are they will use your wedding in the same way.
Once you have made your choice on either a DJ or a live band, it is time to negotiate the contract. It works the same no matter which version of entertainment you select. Below you will find steps to help you in negotiating a fair deal, and ensure that you are getting what you want out of your entertainment.
Be very clear about the setup time (usually 1-hour in advance).
Determine how many hours you are hiring them for. This should include when they are to start, and when they will finish. How many breaks they will get per hour, and how long those breaks will be.
Discuss overtime fees. Should they just pack up when the time is up, or do you want them to keep playing until the last person leaves?
If they are traveling a long way, you might need to pay for travel. This would include transportation to and from, meals and possibly lodging.
You are required to provide meals for the entertainment, but it doesn’t have to be from the same menu. Pizza or sandwiches will suffice.
Know what the terms are. How much is it going to cost? When are the payments are do? How much of a deposit is required? What is the cancellation policy (get this in writing)?
If possible, hold a portion of the payment until after the reception is over.
Before signing any contracts, make sure you check references very carefully. Get contact information for their most recent clients. Be wary of the entertainers that are unwilling or hesitant to provide this information. When it comes to this industry, word of mouth, reputation and references are all they have to sell themselves.
When talking to the references provided, make sure you ask the following questions along with any other information you would want to know.
Did they make themselves available to you prior to the wedding to discuss you plans as it pertained to the entertainment?
Did they take the time to ensure that they were pronouncing everyone’s names correctly?
Where they punctual?
Where they set up on time?
Did they introduce all of the traditional wedding rituals as requested?
Did they follow your instructions (special songs, “do not play lists”, etc..)?
Did they take requests from your guests?
Additional items to check:
Do they have the proper insurance?
Does the BBB (Better Business Bureau) have any complaints lodged against them?
Before you sign any contract, make sure it includes everything you have discussed. If something you agreed upon is not in the contract, write it in by hand and make sure you both initial it.
If the decision you made was solely based on the performance of the lead singer, or the DJ you interviewed, be sure to include a clause that requires that person by name to perform at your wedding. Some bands have more than one line up, and some DJ’s work for bigger companies that have more than one DJ available to perform.
If for some unforeseen reason, the performer that you hired can’t make it (be weary of “in case of illness” clauses) know who will be performing at your wedding.
Don’t sign anything no matter how much pressure the performer is putting on you until you feel comfortable that you have gotten exactly what you wanted.