Good music is an important part of any magical wedding. But should you choose a DJ or a band to provide the tunes? The answer depends on many variables that should be considered before making the final decision.

First off, pricing. Carolyn Arthurs, owner of All About Events, said she has seen DJs run from $500 to 2,500 and bands run from $1,500 to $10,000. Typically bands will charge more, because their costs include more people and more equipment.

Personal preference and pricing aren’t the only factors to consider, . Susan Zackin, owner of Z Event Company, said venue size and neighborhood noise ordinances should be taken into account. If a venue is small, a DJ could be a better choice. The band and their equipment will take up space, potentially making the space more crowded. 

Zackin recalled a wedding reception in Arnaud’s with a 13-piece band. She had to build a temporary addition to the restaurant to accommodate space needed for the band and the guests. If you have to do something like this to include a band at your reception, it could raise costs.

Aside from fitting people, the other area where venue size matters is volume. Zackin said a large band in a small space will be louder than if they were in a larger venue and will not sound as good because there is no place for the sound to expand. If it’s too loud, guests might have a hard time hearing each other talk.

If the venue and the price are right, a band’s live music can bring a lot of energy to a wedding reception. Arthurs said wedding bands can also sometimes double as second line bands for less than what you would pay a brass band.

If you decide to go for a DJ, it is important to hire a wedding DJ. Yes, being a wedding DJ is a specific skill set. A playlist that works in a club (or even on Spotify in your car) may not work in a wedding.

“People try to bring in their favorite club or bar DJ and assume that the DJ can work a wedding,” said Arthurs. “That’s rarely true. There are protocols and skills that a wedding DJ must have that aren’t required in a club or bar.”

Wedding DJ Ronnie Roux said a wedding DJ needs to be comfortable delivering messages over the microphone to the party. They have to be able to communicate (alerting the audience to dances or the garter toss, and so forth). Most importantly, they need to be able to read the room.

“You have to be able to make sure everyone is having a good time,” Roux said.

Roux added that wedding DJs need to have good volume control. The music needs to be loud enough for people to dance to, but it can’t be so loud guests can’t hear each other talk.

Arthurs and Roux both said couples should not expect to give a DJ a full playlist. They can submit a few “must have” songs and can tell DJs what genres they like or don’t like. On the flip side, couples can tell the DJ if there are genres or specific songs or artists to be avoided and if explicit lyrics should be avoided.

Roux said to also ask any DJ if they have backups for their equipment. If they don’t have backups and something goes wrong, you can end up with a music-free wedding.

When it comes to bands, Michael Taylor of the Phunky Monkeys said people should do their homework and research any band they are thinking of hiring.

Taylor said it is important to talk to bands ahead of time and make sure they are willing to play the genres of music you want them to play. He said some bands will just say “We do what we do.” So if your heart is set on ‘80s pop, you should make sure your band is willing to play it.

What one person might enjoy in a band might be different from what another person might enjoy, so Taylor recommended watching  a band perform before hiring them. If you cannot find the time to watch them perform live, look up videos of the band online. Don’t just take someone’s word for it that they’re good. 

“Everybody’s taste and perspective is different,” Taylor said.

Taylor added that it is good to get recommendations from multiple sources. Talk to videographers, wedding planners and venue representatives — people who deal with weddings all the time know which bands have good reputations and which ones do not.

Ultimately, it is crucial to remember everyone is different, and tastes and priorities vary from couple to couple.

“It’s important for a couple to be realistic about what they want, what their budget will allow, and the type of entertainment they really desire. This should all be considered before a venue is selected,” Zackin said.