Here's Exactly How to Decide Between a Band vs. DJ for Your Wedding

Time to figure out who should play your wedding tunes.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Mar 21, 2023

There's no doubt about it, music can make or break a wedding––think of it as the heart and soul of a reception. But if you don't know where you stand in the live band vs. DJ wedding debate, don't get frustrated. Start by asking yourself some basic questions. Specifically, what type of entertainment suits your taste, budget, space allowances and killer dance moves best? Read below to learn if a live band or DJ is better for your wedding. Plus, how to combine the two music entertainment options if you can't make yourself pick just one.

In this article:

Live Band vs. DJ Cost Difference

The average cost of a wedding band vs. a DJ in 2022 was a $2,400 price difference. The cost of bands and DJs varies based on the hours booked, the number of members and the required equipment. According to our internal study, a live band costs $3,900 and a wedding DJ costs $1,500. Usually, DJs cost less than bands because they have fewer members, typically one or two.

How to Decide Between a Live Band and a DJ

There are a couple of things to consider if you're wondering if you should have a live band or DJ for your wedding. Here are four ways to help make your final decision, according to wedding experts.

Base it on your wedding budget.

If having a live band or DJ is a top priority, you need to make adjustments to your wedding budget so you can book the music entertainment you want. Carrie Darling, the lead designer and owner of Carrie Darling Events, gives some insight into determining your budget. "If the entertainment is taking up more than 20% of the budget, you might be giving up something pretty significant, so you need to look at the wedding budget as a whole and reconsider your options. Some couples come to me knowing they want a band, so we try to work that into the budget from the beginning. For couples working with strict numbers, I would suggest spending less on entertainment with a wonderful DJ to rock the house." Darling also wants to-be-weds to think about other factors impacting the final price. "When budgeting, it's important to be aware of additional costs that might come with a band, which can include renting a stage, extra power drops or generators and hotel room requests for the entertainers if they're traveling from another area."

Figure out the kind of vibe you want.

Besides budget, Michael Carleo, managing partner and music director of Elegant Music Group, suggests couples "consider the atmosphere they want to create for their wedding day and what kind of energy they want to bring to their reception." The type of music you pick can set the tone of your wedding and solidify a theme. And it's the thing people most often remember. Think about what musical genre best reflects your and your partner's personalities and inspires the ambiance you want to create. '70s disco or a romantic string quartet? A throwback big band feel or kick-off-your-shoes rockabilly? The way the music is delivered, by a live band or DJ, also affects the atmosphere. The type of music you want may impact your decision too––big band sounds are generally best live, for example.

Consider the amount of space your venue has.

Have your heart set on an eight-piece band or a DJ with a huge stereo system and sparkler machines? Then you first need to check whether your reception venue has any restrictions on the number of musicians and pieces of equipment you may bring in and whether there are any electrical power supply or noise limitations. For example, a registered landmark may not allow you to use large speakers. Ask your venue questions before booking anyone so there aren't any surprises.

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Think about what would make you happy.

When you're thinking about a band vs. DJ for your wedding, Carleo suggests thinking about these various details if you want a wedding DJ. "Having a DJ is great for many reasons besides being cost-effective. Having one or two people provide a soundtrack for the night will be more affordable than having eight to 10 people in a band. You will also have versatility in the playlist because they can switch between genres and styles quickly. Some couples may want little interaction with the crowd, and having a DJ can achieve that for their wedding." Another thing people love about DJs nowadays is how many are like mini-production companies since they offer lighting packages, projectors and much more, which is perfect for to-be-weds who want an elevated DJ experience without paying separately for an A/V company.

For couples leaning towards hiring a live wedding band, Darling says that form of entertainment has a lot to offer. "When it comes to a band, I think the selling feature is the performance factor and the energy they exchange with the crowd during the party. There's something special about the sparkling dresses and costumes, the horn section blaring and the choreographed dance moves that make you want to jump out of your seat and be on the dance floor. Plus, they interact with the crowd. I've seen sax players breaking it down with a solo in the middle of the dance floor, and the bride & groom pulled up on stage for the last song of the night. Their interactions with the couple and crowd make the night extra magical."

Just remember: "When you're exploring options, you should ask yourself, 'What is important to me, and what are the goals we want to achieve through our entertainment?' You can't go wrong with any option because every couple has different preferences and priorities," Carleo says.

Booking Both a Live Band and a DJ for Your Reception

If you can't pick between a band or DJ for your wedding, luckily you don't have to choose. Darling says there are numerous ways you can combine these two forms of entertainment. "If the band takes breaks, the DJ can take over during these lulls to keep the energy up. Perhaps play songs that aren't on the band's roster. Wedding after-parties have also become increasingly popular so you could also have a DJ take over the party once the band closes out the official reception. A final (and outside-the-box) way to combine a DJ and live band is through a more recent concept called fusion bands. The DJ is the central focus, but they also feature live instruments like guitars, drums and horns so you still get the performance factor on stage. You trade in live vocals for a DJ, but it gives you the best of both worlds and tends to be a high-energy option." Some entertainment companies, like Elegant Music Group, offer a DJ and band combo for weddings which is less work than finding a band and DJ that has the same style and is willing to work together.

The Knot Expert Tip: Schedule a consultation or live audition with your desired band or DJ (or both) before booking.

Ideally, you will want to see a DJ or band in action before you commit, so you can gauge firsthand how they dress, improvise and work the crowd. You can ask to see a taped public performance or attend a dress rehearsal, but never crash another couple's reception. If that's not possible, ask for a playlist and look for songs you know and love. If a band sends you their songs or a link to a video, be sure the musicians you hear or see are the same musicians who will play at your reception. Also, ask for referrals from the last few weddings the band or DJ played. Consider your first dance song a test. If the band doesn't know it and is unwilling to learn it, or the DJ doesn't own it and is unwilling to get it, move on.

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