Wedding forum answers: Band vs DJ

For my sins, I read bridal forums.

No, it’s nothing kinky. For me, it’s a way of trying to understand some of the concerns that people might have when they’re thinking about hiring a band (or not hiring one). For musicians like me, it can be easy to forget that many people have no experience whatsoever with our business. We’ve played for hundreds of weddings, but for a bride and groom, we’re likely to be the first band they’ve ever hired. There may be all sorts of questions and concerns running through their mind which I wouldn’t otherwise think to address, and which they might be too shy to ask. So, enter the bridal forums.

I thought I’d choose a forum post now and then, and post my answer here for other people to read. So here’s today’s question, and it’s a pretty basic one. On the Australian Bridal Directory forum, Julie asks:

I was wondering what would be better?
A Band or a DJ?

Here are a few responses. First from repgirl04:

My way of thinking is that a band may not play the songs the way they are meant to be, whereas if you get a DJ they are basically playing the song off a track.

From Jill:

from our experiences, good live band is better than dj that plays all your wedding favourites.we went to a few band on open days and won’t sway live band for dj, having said that, live of course is more expensive than dj.

From Stacey:

The upside to a DJ is that they can play absolutely anything you want. A live band can only play what they know.

And from Rosa:

I think a band gives more Atmosphere

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I think a wedding should have live music, of some kind. Generally, I think a great reception deserves a great band of some kind, bearing in mind that live music comes in lots of different formats to suit the size of the venue, and to fit within the budget of the wedding. Ok, but why?

Firstly, because live music is unique and distinctive. A wedding is often the biggest day in a person’s life, and I think it deserves to be marked with music that is out of the ordinary. When a DJ plays music for you, he or she is (usually) playing the music off the same CD that you have at home or on your iPod. It will sound much the same. From the point of view of repgirl04 and Stacey above, of course, that’s a good thing. To me, though, it represents a wasted opportunity. Hearing a recording for the hundredth time, no matter much you love the song, is never going to have the impact of hearing the song interpreted just for you, by a living breathing musician standing right in front of you. That performance becomes a unique and special part of your celebration in a way that a recording never could. If it’s done right, you should hear it as if for the first time. Nothing could be more romantic.

Secondly, because a band symbolises the importance of the occasion. You might really love pot and parma night at the local pub (and rightly so), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what you should be eating and drinking at your wedding. You can hear a DJ spinning hit songs from the last 30 years on any night of the week. You hear it every time you turn on your radio. Like the pot and parma, it’s easy and familiar and safe and cheap, but it’s not very special. To walk into a room, the music swelling to greet you as the crowd rises to its feet and cheers: that’s an experience that you’ll probably never have again, unless you win an Oscar. You should make it count.

In a related point to that, Rosa is right. Live music provides an energy that recorded music can’t. There’s a reason why people still go to the theatre even when a play is available on Blu-Ray. Being entertained by humans is fundamentally different to being entertained by machines. It’s hard to put your finger on, but something about being in the same space, breathing the same air, connects you with the performers. It puts you in an emotionally heightened state that makes you feel everything more intensely. At a wedding, where you and your guests are hopefully going to be happy and excited to begin with, that’s a good thing.

Fourthly, live music is easier than you think. Big wedding, small wedding, big budget, small budget, big venue, small venue, there’s always a way that you can use live music to make the occasion something extraordinary. Maybe not a big band, maybe not for the whole night, maybe just for the ceremony, or between the ceremony and reception. There is no template that you have to adhere to. There are lots of possibilities, some of which you probably haven’t thought of. If you’re in doubt, just call me, and we’ll talk about it. Seriously, right now, call me.

And lastly, you don’t have to choose between having a live band or hearing your favourite recordings. I’ve played at lots of weddings which have both a band and a DJ. Dancing to your recorded music with your friends can be quite a sweet way to finish off the night, when everyone’s tired and merry and a little disinhibited. In fact, if you want to do that, you don’t even have to hire a DJ. If you hire The Mood Merchants, you can pay a small extra fee, give me a list of your favourite dance tunes, and I will mix a good, continuous, level-adjusted, mood-appropriate track for your last hour or so, to be played autonomously through our PA system. If you can live without a guy in a baseball cap and sunglasses, twiddling knobs behind a comically oversized subwoofer, it works remarkably well.

Have I left anything out?

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