How to Choose Between a Wedding Band or DJ

When it comes to your wedding planning, there’s a lot to think about and having been to 100’s of weddings over the years, I’m often asked for my help or, opinion. One debate, I get pulled into, is how to choose between a wedding band or DJ, so I’m pulling in the big guns for this one – my friends at Alive Network. They’re the biggest and best-loved, live entertainment booking agency in the UK, providing both DJs and bands for weddings and events for over 20 years, so they know their apples. If a couple are struggling to find someone they like, I often send them my local recommendations but if my local faves are booked, then a booking agency is a great place to have a look at all the different options out there! So, without further ado, here’s Gemma from Alive Network to help you navigate the wedding band vs wedding DJ dilemma!

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Hi! I’m Gemma and I’m one of the friendly music obsessives / Entertainment Coordinators you can speak to on the phone at Alive Network. We help thousands of couples with planning live entertainment for all parts of their day. Your evening reception is almost always about pulling off the ultimate party for you and your nearest and dearest, which is why this Q is such a biggie… So which should you book, a wedding DJ or a live wedding band?

What are the major differences?

A crowded dance floor at about a voewood wedding

The cost

A pro solo DJ can cost between £300 – £1,200, while a leading 4-piece rock & pop party band can range from £800 to £2,500.

The set list

You probably already know what vibe you want at your evening party – perhaps a mix of your fave tracks, those that you know your guests will love and those anthems that remind you both of happy times! Pro DJs and bands will usually specialise in certain genres, so finding the one that matches your tastes is key. They’re there to provide the party of your lives, so you can be as prescriptive or hands off with the tracks as you like. They can customise a playlist just for you, go with one they know works, or be free to do a little of both.

Tip: Most like a list of your top faves AND any definite don’t play songs… this gives them a really good feel for what vibe to create.

Both DJs and live bands can adapt their playlist to your crowd, ensuring the dancefloor’s full all night. A DJ has thousands of tracks at their fingertips, or can download music on the fly if you’re happy for them to take requests, so they can play a mix of genres. Likewise, your live band will often have a wide repertoire of tracks they’ve learned – some from a range of genres, and some specialising in only one or two styles – so check out the list of songs they can play before booking them. Plus, they can learn and perform a totally new song just for you, so long as they have enough notice to practice it – this can be a brilliant touch for your first dance, for example. When you’ve decided on your band or DJ, communication is key to getting the awesome night you’re imagining.

The sound

A DJ set usually peaks at around 100 decibels (dB) in volume (think food processor – in volume, not sound!), while a live band will peak at around 130 dB – roughly equivalent to the volume of a stadium of people.

If your venue has a sound limiter and volume restrictions, a DJ can easily reduce their volume to suit, at the turn of a dial. While the acoustic drums in a live band can’t be turned down, some will happily perform with a quieter electronic drumkit, within your venue’s volume restrictions. This is a great option if you have your heart set on a live band. Check out Alive Network’s collection of sound limiter friendly party bands, or consider a silent disco with guest headphones, where your non-partying guests can happily chat while everyone else throws shapes!

The space

Your average 4-piece wedding band needs around 4 × 3 metres, while a solo DJ will need around 3 × 2 metres. Both will need to be raised up on a flat performance area, and will need to have good access to the area to setup and pack away.

The equipment & the setup

A live band comes with a plethora of equipment – from instruments, mics, amps, lighting, and that all-important sound system. It generally takes a band around 60–90 minutes to setup, while a DJ can be a slightly quicker set up, often between 45–60 minutes. Both will need a parking space that’s close to the venue’s load-in area, plenty of power sockets, and food & refreshments to keep them going.

The performance time

A band will usually perform two 45- or 60-minute sets, as well as offering a pared-down DJ service to keep the dancefloor full during live music breaks.

A DJ will play up to 4 or 5 hours, and – unless they’re very chatty over the mic – it’s less likely you’ll notice when they’ve popped off for a quick comfort break!

Both can perform for longer at additional costs, tailoring their sets to you, to ensure you have the night you want.

The extras

Do you want to borrow your artist’s microphones for speeches? Do you want a karaoke set (some live bands will play a bandeoke set – perfect if you’ve always wanted to strut your stuff on stage!)? Or how about a confetti canon, or extra lighting? There are loads of optional extras you could choose, that vary between artists. In some instances, you can get a bigger show, with lineup and production upgrades. Several DJs perform with live musicians like sax players and vocalists, adding to the Ibiza vibe and giving you that live music feel. Bands can perform with extra members, horn sections, staging and effects, and lots of other options for a bigger live stage show.

The vibes

A DJ is on the decks, changing things up to create exactly the right vibe at the right time, and keep your party pumping all night. Depending on your music tastes, adding a live performer to the mix is great value and can give you that live music feel for about the same price as a three-piece band.

A live band often gives you more presence, energy, and an authentic music experience. If you’ve ever been to a live gig, you’ll know what I mean! There’s nothing quite like live music to set the goosebumps off and start the hands-in-the-air singalong.

What did I have on my wedding day?

Erm… both of course!

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So there you have it – ultimately, it comes down to what best suits you and your entertainment plans. I hope this advice helped you to make up your mind and I’ll look forward to seeing you on the dance floor!