April 11, 2013

Wedding Advice: {DJ vs. Band}

There are a lot of decisions to be made for each wedding, and one commonly asked question that we get is:

Should I hire a DJ or a Band?

Well, that's a lot like asking if you should go see a ballgame live, or watch it on the big screen at home. There are pros and cons to each, and your decision should really be based on a multiple of factors--your wedding venue, budget, event flow, and the overall experience you want to provide your guests.

There are no shortages of wonderful bands to be hired for weddings, including exceptional cover bands from all genres. That said, there will be some limitations to the repertoire of each band, and that is something to keep in mind if you're trying to play music from several different genres to cater to a more diverse crowd.

It's never too early to start thinking about your wedding music. If you go through your band's repertoire and do not see some of the songs you'd like, you can certainly ask the band to learn them prior to the wedding. Most bands can learn 1-2 songs beyond their existing repertoire, and anything after that would likely incur additional fees that ranges from $200-$500 per song. They need ample time to learn each new piece, so it's important to make your requests earlier rather than later. We would recommend at least 6 months out.

Bands create an amazing vibe at wedding receptions. The fact that the singers can get up close and personal to the guests really brings up the energy on the dance floor! There is a lot of interaction between the performers and guests, which make it really fun for everyone.

Pop Rocks at a Bently Reserve Wedding | Photo by Lisa Lefkowitz

High energy guests as the Joe Sharino band rocked it on stage | Photo by Gertrude and Mabel Photography

If you are considering a band, we have some tips for you to keep in mind:
--Size matters. Whether you choose a 4 piece band or a 12 piece band, this decision should be carefully considered as you look at your venue, budget, and guest size.

--Assess their performance time. Many weddings are a 5-6 hour event, with the dancing portion taking up 1-2 hours of that. Therefore, don't get too excited if your band is offering you 3-4 hours of performance time, as it may not be realistic to have them play for so long. Some bands have a minimum, which may make you lose out an hour or two, so that's just something to keep in mind when determining the length of their performance time. Also, most venues and events lends itself to a quieter form of background music during dinner, so that guests can converse with one another. Thus, it is quite common to request for the band to play pre-recorded music off of their sound system during that time.

--Review their Riders. All band contracts will come with a rider. Some are simple 1 page riders, and some could potentially be more complex with multiple pages. Basically, riders are the bands' specific requests to guarantee a more successful performance. Often included in riders are their requirements for their dressing room, the type of meals and snacks that would be provided to them, stage and lighting requirements, and more. Keep in mind that such specs can affect the total cost of the band, even if it's not a part of the contracted performance fee.

--Who will be the Master of Ceremonies? Many bands can provide simple MC services by assigning one of their singers to make the pertinent announcements. However, it's worth it to pay a little extra to have them send someone who can actually do the job well. A great MC can really help with the flow and energy of an event, and should be an excellent partner to the planner throughout the evening as he/she introduces the wedding party and toast givers, and eloquently let guests know what is coming their way. If the band does not have a professional MC to offer you, please consider hiring a DJ to take on this role!

Hiring a DJ is a simpler process, but in my opinion, it's much more challenging to find an extraordinary DJ than it is to find a fantastic band. There is only a handful of DJs that I recommend here in the San Francisco Bay Area, based on their excellent track record of consistently great work for my clients and I. Contrary to what many people think, a DJ's role expands way beyond setting up a sound system and playing music from a pre-selected list provided by the clients.

First and foremost, a DJ's role is to play music. However, the well-experienced ones know that the key is to play the right music at the right time, and that would differ for each wedding based on a number of factors such as the venue, type of dinner, demographics of the guests, etc. So, playing the bride and groom's favorite music may not necessarily do the job well. It is the DJ's responsibility to help guide their clients in choosing the right music that would appeal to their guests at their specific wedding, and this requires more in depth pre-planning than just a song list submission request. For example, careful thought should be put into selecting the right song to welcome guests into the reception, the series of background music appropriate for dinner conversations, and the special songs throughout the evening for events like the first dance, cake cutting, etc.

A DJ also provides MC services, and a good DJ does not necessarily equate to a good MC. An MC should be eloquent and presentable, as he/she would be making the introductions and announcements throughout the evening. He/she should not try to continually entertain guests throughout the evening and make it a comedy show spotlighting themselves. A good MC knows how to capture the guests' attention when needed, while remaining in the background during the appropriate times.

One of the benefits in hiring a DJ vs. a band is the wide variety of songs that would be available. You can pretty much have any version of any song from any genre, and some DJs can even help you mix unique pieces. Their set up is also more unobtrusive, so if space is an issue at your venue, hiring a DJ may make more sense than a band.

Some tips for you while interviewing DJs for your wedding:

1. Pay attention to the way he/she speaks, if the DJ will be your MC as well. Are they articulate and eloquent? Do they present themselves well? 

2. The charisma of a DJ can be important too. After all, the more your guests like your DJ, the more likely they'd be dancing up a storm on the dance floor! 

3. Ask about their set up on the wedding day. Do they have big, bulky speakers that would look and feel intrusive to your wedding decor? Is their set up simple and clean? The DJs we recommend are either self sufficient with their own custom podiums, or they require a simple 6' table + linen for their setup, which makes for a cleaner look at the wedding. This is especially important if the aesthetic is important to you!

4. Assess how interested they are in your specific wedding. A good DJ should know that there is no "one size fits all" formula, so telling you what they "usually" play at a wedding won't cut it. They should be genuinely interested in your wedding, and your guests, in order for them to do the best job for you.
DJs can play music that appeals to a wide range of audiences | Photo by Gertrude and Mabel Photography
Any first dance song is possible when you have a DJ! | Photo by Lisa Lefkowitz

Lastly, I just want to end with a note that it's certainly possible to consider hiring both a band and a DJ. We've done that at many of our previous weddings, and it has been fantastic! The DJ would act as the MC, and step in with his pre-recorded music during the band's breaks. It really helps maintain the energy, which tends to simmer a bit whenever the band takes a break and music is played from an ipod.

Best of luck to you!

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