There are a lot of pro’s and cons to both in deciding on whether to use either a band or a DJ for the music at your reception. In a nutshell the choice boils down to what kind of musical feel and experience you want for your reception and the amount of money you want to spend. Let’s talk for just a minute about wedding bands to illustrate the major differences and see if maybe that’s the way you want to go, then we’ll get back to DJ’s. The same rules of thumb will apply to finding and hiring either and to the contracts and what you should ask for and expect for from both.
Having a live band provides a much different musical experience for your reception but they usually cost a lot more. Live bands have a much bigger sound, different dynamic and larger presence and can interact with your guests a bit differently than a DJ. Wedding bands will usually always play requests and emcee the reception in basically the same way as a DJ.
An experienced wedding band knows how to keep your reception moving along and keep it exciting, keep people dancing and do all the traditional, intimate things like having special dances for the bride and her father, groom and his mother, etc. On the downside, you are dealing with a group of people instead of just one or two, and a lot more equipment, which means there are that many more things that can go wrong, so bands can tend to be somewhat more unreliable than DJs tend to be.
A DJ is not as large a presence and the sound is very different than a live band, but a good DJ can really work a crowd and entertain your guests and they cost a lot less. An experienced wedding DJ can really make your reception special. DJ’s usually have an extensive library of music so they can take care of almost any requests, they cost a lot less and you’re only dealing with one or sometimes two people, so your chances of something going wrong are minimized. Having said that, since you usually are only dealing with one person, if something does go wrong with that one person, or they have the wrong or a bad personality, you can end up with nobody or just a really long, really bad day. Bands and DJ’s can both usually find a quick replacement if someone can’t make it, but you can see the problem with both.
A good rule of thumb is to try and have a backup for either and that they will be available on fairly short-notice and that your band or DJ will try to call you in plenty of time if they run into trouble of any kind in making it to your reception. A phone call to your band or DJ one month and again one week before your wedding, to confirm everything is set, is always a good idea, this gives time to get your backup in place if you need to. This should just be a quick, friendly call, just to say hi and make sure all is still on track and to go over any last minute changes, requests or ideas.
Don’t get overly concerned with problems or something going wrong though, just have fun planning you special day! Many of the problems with no-shows and bad equipment we discussed above will rarely occur if you do your homework and use due diligence in picking an experienced, professional band or DJ. But they can happen, and it’s a really good idea to have some kind of a backup plan in place.