Brides and grooms planning their wedding receptions know that it's the music that makes the celebration unforgettable. With great entertainment, guests fill the dance floor and have the time of their lives, and the couple themselves dance to "their song" in a moment that's captured forever on video.
The big question facing these brides and grooms: Should we hire a DJ or a band?
Both options have pros and cons. Music played by a DJ is instantly recognizable, with the celebrity singer's voice filling the room. It's almost as good as having Beyonce, Celine Dion, U2 and The Jackson 5 performing live for you. The artist versions you know -- and that may have played a part in your love story, from the first date to the first mix you made for your partner to the songs played on the night you got engaged -- become highlights of your reception.
A band's pros include that undeniable dynamic of the live performance, the energy a great group gives off as it blasts out a hit song, the vibration of the bass, the beat of the drums, the blare of the trumpet and the amazing collection of talented singers. A live band treats guests to a concert and creates an entirely different, charged vibe in the room.
The DJ or band leader will act as your emcee for the event, introducing you into the room, interacting with guests and inviting them onto the dance floor, even inviting guests to spin music or sing. The personality factor of DJ vs. band depends on the personalities of the professionals involved. So that part is evenly matched. Hiring the perfect entertainer revolves around the entertainer's personality.
The next consideration is the purse strings. A DJ almost always costs less to hire than a band. According to The Wedding Report, the average price of a DJ ranges from $800 to $1,000 for a four-hour package, which is approximately 30 percent of the cost of a live band. A band that is composed of 10 members obviously commands a higher booking price than a solo DJ. And don't forget that each of your entertainers needs to be fed at the reception.
Wedding experts advise that you should make your selection based on which option works best for the style of wedding you have in mind. Fran Hansen, author of "Our Wedding Wish Book & Keepsake Planner," says: "Your typical DJ will have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of songs available. Your best options for entertainment should always include a large selection of musical styles." A DJ, then, could play songs ranging from the top 40 and hip-hop music your younger crowd likes to Motown songs your parents' generation likes to big band swing -- and maybe even cultural music, such as polka. Bands filled with talented musicians and singers may have great range, as well, so have your wish list handy when interviewing potential bands.
The first dance is an integral part of your decision. Stacie Ivers Francombe, founder and editor-in-chief of Get Married magazine, says: "Something to take into consideration: your first dance. I went to a beautiful wedding that had a terrific band, but when the bride and groom started the routine that they had practiced for months -- and mastered, with the help of a dance instructor -- they could not make it happen. That's because they had practiced with a CD of the song, and the band played in a slightly different beat."
The perks of both a DJ and a live band or musicians have inspired the latest trend: having both.
"Mixing a DJ and a band -- and not just having one or the other play at different times -- is an option most couples forget to consider," says Meredith Bodgas, wedding blogger for Glamour magazine's website. "Many entertainment companies will edit recorded song tracks and add the missing pieces back in with live musicians. The DJ and live musicians play together throughout the reception (except when the live musicians need the occasional break). It costs less than a band; the songs still sound like the originals; and you get the upscale feeling a band provides."
Another twist on hiring both a DJ and live performers is having live musicians play during your cocktail hour and dinner hour of the reception and then having a DJ take over for the dancing hours of the reception.
Find professional entertainers to interview and audition through a great wedding coordinator (http://www.bridalassn.com) or friends' referrals, or see them in action at free bridal expos.