What to look for when hiring a band or DJ

When planning your wedding – or any event for that matter – deciding between a DJ or a band (or both) is one of the tougher decisions. What should you look for when interviewing talent, what separates the good from the bad, how much of your budget should be dedicated to the entertainment? Here are some tips to help you navigate these waters.

What you want to look for is the experience you want to create. Do you want to hire a band that covers your favorite songs? Or would you prefer a high-energy DJ that is going to keep your guests dancing through the night? Make sure you check out their repertoire first to get a feel for the type of mood that is going to be set at your wedding reception. Read reviews, interview the talent, watch them perform at another event – there’s nothing worse than booking this element “site unseen” thinking you’ve made a good selection, only to see an empty dance floor and bored guests.

If music is important to you, it should be a bigger part of your budget than other aspects. Think about what component of your wedding you want to convey that memorable experience in. If you’re really concerned about visuals, than flowers might be more important. But, if you want to simply have a great party, then the music is what you’re going to use to create that experience. It shouldn’t be stressful, as you have a budget. It’s up to you to allocate the money where you see fit - there’s no right or wrong. Typically flowers and music are about 10 percent of the budget, but scale down flowers to ramp up your music budget and you’re set!

If money is no object, think big! You wouldn’t have to hire a DJ to play a record or a cover band to play the song you like. You could go directly to the band itself. Similarly, you could go to a booking agent that can deliver top-notch bands by taking your vision, and through video and audio samples of bands, help you hire someone just for you.

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New trend is influenced by themes. Many weddings today now are planned with a theme in mind - vintage, southern flare, or the current most popular Great Gatsby theme. Couples want music that is going to carry their wedding theme full circle, something that will fit their decor, attire or time era.

One thing that separates the good from the bad is the amount of breaks the band/singer takes. If the talent will be preforming from the moment your guests arrive to the bride and groom’s getaway, they will need to keep the party going. Some bands take breaks, which is fine and expected, but they must keep in mind that the whole wedding is riding on a time line that they must abide by in order to make the wedding flow from one aspect, such as the father/daughter dance, to the next.

According to Martha Stewart Weddings, “A set number of breaks for the band will need to be specified, typically three or four during the course of a four-hour reception – one twenty-minute meal break and the rest around ten or fifteen minutes.” Remember to go over what music will be played to fill in the gaps during these breaks.

When deciding between a band or DJ, keep in mind the type of entertainment that suits your personal taste and budget. The Knot outlines the pros and cons of each, but in the end remember that it’s your special day. Follow tradition, or don’t if that’s not who you are. Skip the preset playlists and cheesy love songs, come up with something that reflects who you are as a couple, and enjoy the reception as if it were your own private party.


  1. David · July 29, 2013

    I can not imagine hiring either as a random choice. If I had not heard someone myself or gotten a recommendation from someone I trust, it would be like buying a car that I never seen or driven.

  2. Something New for "I Do" · July 29, 2013

    Thanks for the comment David. We couldn’t agree more - booking talent without hearing them perform for yourself, or getting a credible review from someone you know could be disastrous. You make a good point, it would be like buying a car without test driving it! Whether it’s a birthday party or wedding, no matter now important the event in the grand scheme of things, we always recommend checking out their repertoire first. Appreciate your post!

  3. Expert Advice: Hire a band, not a wedding band | Something New for I Do · September 2, 2013

    […] we covered a topic that many brides frequently ask us about: {What to look for when hiring a band or DJ}. To further delve into this dilemma, our friends of {Ghost Town Blues Band} chimed in to provide […]