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Music for Your Wedding: Considering Your Options

Updated on September 30, 2015

Wedding Music

Flowers-- check. Choice of entres-- check. Champagne-- check. With your wedding day coming closer, you are probably giving lots of attention to the little details to make your reception a night to remember. And nothing-- but nothing!-- will set the mood for your wedding reception better than the music.

The music is the soul of the reception-- it can keep your guests feeling happy, energies and romantic, or make them roll their eyes and look forward to the end of the evening. That's why it's so important to make just the right choices.

When it comes to wedding music, you have several options. You should weigh the pros and cons carefully to ensure you make the best choice for your special day.


Wedding Bands—the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Live music is so exciting and energizing, it’s always a tempting choice for a wedding. Nothing beats a good live performance and your guests won't forget it.

Generally live music produces a better sound quality than a DJ can.

Experienced wedding bands go beyond just playing tunes; they play the crowds. The entire wedding is a performance, which includes interaction with the audience—your guests. A charming band can keep the mood light and fun, especially if there are any minor mishaps or lulls (of course there won’t be, but it’s always good to have a professional on stage just in case!).

On the down side, a band requires a lot of room so you need to make sure your reception hall can accommodate them. Some bands have a certain sound—they’re country, rock & roll oldies or salsa, and they can have a hard time pulling off variety equally as well. Unless you want a specific type of music only, you have to make sure your band can play different styles with equal expertise.

Probably the biggest factor in deciding to hire a band is cost—bands are generally the most expensive option. The better and more in demand the band is, the more it will cost.

Band or DJ? What's your preference?

As a guest, what do you prefer when you attend weddings?

See results

Hiring a DJ

A DJ is your other major option. On a positive note, DJs are usually cheaper and take up far less space. DJs can provide a variety of music, and since they can use the recordings and artists of your choice you know exactly what the songs will sound like at the reception.

On the down side, you don't get the uniqueness that you get with a band. The sound quality often suffers as well-- sounding more like canned music than a concert.

One of the biggest caveats is that you have to get a DJ who knows what he’s doing and knows his way around weddings. Wedding bands tend to be less of a gamble in this area— the trouble of upstarting a wedding band business is costly and time consuming, and without success a band won’t generally get on the map. Any guy with a halfway decent sound system and CD collection can advertise services as a weekend wedding DJ, however, so you will run into more amateurs or less competent DJs who are used to playing non-wedding venues.

Your DJ will need to be able to perform in a way that's appropriate for a wedding, make the appropriate announcements, charming comments and play the crowd in the way an experienced wedding bandleader would do. Some come just to play the music— they’re not looking to interact with the crowd. Alternatively, they may not have the experience to work a wedding crowd, and think it’s like playing a club or block party.

Music Moves the Soul!


Playing It Smart

Whether choosing a DJ or a band, it’s important to check out the performer to ensure they’ll give you the type of vibe you are looking for at your wedding.

Never give a down payment or sign anything until you have seen the band or DJ in action. Ask for recorded performances, or see if there are any live performances you can see (not someone else's wedding reception, of course).

If you enjoyed someone else’s wedding music, ask for referrals. That’s really the best way to ensure you’ll get what you want— to have experienced it as a guest.

Tell them the songs you would like to hear. Make sure a band knows how to play them (or is willing to learn—make it part of your contract), or that the DJ has (or is willing to get) your preferred recording of the songs. Make sure the professional you are considering is willing to take the time to discuss your needs and work with you.

When you’re ready to hire them, get it all in writing—sign a contract that specifies what you’re looking for, the services being provided, the details and payment specifications.

Finally, make sure you book well in advance of your wedding—professional bands and DJs tend to book up quickly, especially during wedding season.

Other Option for Wedding Music—Do It Yourself

With technology today, it makes it easier than ever for couples to take on the challenge of providing their own music at their wedding. With an I-pod, a play list and rental of some good speakers, you can get all the songs you want in the order you want them.

This is a great option for a wedding on a budget—particularly for a small wedding or a wedding in a non-traditional venue, such as a house or park.

On the down side, you’ll need someone to tend to it as you will probably be preoccupied. With a pre-programmed play list, there is no room for last minute or spontaneous changes. You also lose the professional performer up there making announcements and leading the crowd through the transitional parts of the evening. You have to decide if this is important to you in making your decision.

Should You Ask Your Friend?

Some couples, in attempts to stay within a budget, have a friend who has some good music equipment and a large collection of songs to DJ the wedding. Like all your other options, there are pros and cons to this approach.

The first pro is that no one knows you more than your friend. It’s not just another job—your friend cares about you and wants you to have a great wedding. Your friend may even offer to do it for free as a wedding present, which can open up a tight budget for other things. Your friend knows your tastes in music and will plan accordingly.

On the down side, your friend isn’t a professional. It would be unfair to expect the quality of a professional in a friend. If your friend is at all unreliable or unpredictable, it may not be a good idea at all. If you and your friend don’t work well together, it can put a strain on the friendship.

When it comes down to it, you have to be fair to each other. If your friend agrees to do this for you, he or she has to be conscientious about it and very trustworthy. If you are going to ask this favor of your friend, you have to be willing to ease up and cut your friend some slack; go with it and don’t expect perfection.

Whichever you choose, just remember it’s your day—make sure you get what you’re paying for, that you’re on top of whatever option you chose to ensure it works out as you want it. Then—just enjoy your day. Mistakes or disappointments take a moment, but your memories last a lifetime so don’t dwell on them.

Most Popular Father-Daughter Wedding Songs

Butterfly Kisses (Bob Carlisle)

Daddy (Beyonce)

Daddy's Little Girl (Michael Buble)

Daughter (Loudon Wainwright)

I Loved Her First (Heartland)

Isn't She Lovely (Stevie Wonder)

It's For My Dad (Nancy Sinatra)

Just The Way you Are (Billy Joel)

My Girl (the Temptations)

To Sir With Love (Lulu)

Most Popular First Dance Wedding Songs

Endless Love (Lionel Richie and Diana Ross)

From This Moment (Shania Twain)

It Had to Be You (Harry Connick, Jr.)

I Swear (All 4 One)

Faithfully (Journey)

No Ordinary Love (Sade)

Power of Love (Celine Dion)

The Way You Look Tonight (Frank Sinatra)

Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers)

Unforgettable (Nat King Cole)

Best Songs for Walking Down the Isle (Besides the Wedding March)

Back at One (Brian McKnight)

Cannon in D Major (Johann Pachelbel)

Can't Help Falling in Love With You (Elvis Presley)

Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor (Johan Sebastian Bach)

Largo Winter from the Four Seasons (Vivaldi)

"Lara's Theme" (Maurice Jarre)

One Hand, One Heart (West Side Story)

Stairway to Heaven (Led Zepplin)

This I Swear (Nick Lachey)

What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)

Most Popular Mother-Son Wedding Songs

A Song for Mama (Boyz 2 Men)

Bridge over Troubled Waters (Simon and Garfunkle)

­­Forever Young (Bob Dylan)

If I Could (Barbara Streisand)

I Hope You Dance (Lee Ann Womack)

I'll Always Be Your Mother (Jim McShane)

In My Life (the Beatles)

Sweet Child O'Mine (Sheryl Crow)

The Man You've Become (Molly Pasutti)

This Is Your Song (Ronan Keating)

Enjoy your Happily Ever After



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    • shai77 profile image

      Chen 5 years ago

      I agree, you lose a lot when doing your own music-- for some couples on a very strict budget it might be the only viable option and it can work for a very casual do-it-yourself wedding; but the full service of a professional DJ will take so much off a person's mind for the day, especially if you're going to the trouble to rent a hall and get a caterer and such there is no point in skimping on the music. It's good to know we have options, though. Thanks for your comment!

    • weditorial™ profile image

      weditorial™ 5 years ago

      Nice article. I'm glad you listed Pros & Cons, especially when it comes to DIY music. I'm a planner/coordinator and I must say that people who try to save money on musical entertainment usually end up regretting it. I've seen so many situations where equipment didn't work properly, sound was not adequate for the space, there's no MC to make announcements and help bring attention to key elements - just to state a few. These are all very important details.