The wedding ceremony has just ended and all you and your guests can think of is making your way to the reception site and getting the party started. And while a great themed decor and carefully selected food are key components of a memorable reception, music can make or break your festivities and is the essential heart and soul of your wedding celebration.
There are many options for couples looking to establish the “soundtrack” to their reception, everything from jazz, funk and rockabilly, to whether you should book a string quartet, DJ or band. Lori Seto of The Knot offers the following eight tips in ensuring you have one rockin’ reception:
1. Vibe. The type of music you choose can set the tone of your wedding and solidify a theme. And remember, it’s the thing people most often remember. Think about what musical genre best reflects your personalities and inspires the ambience you want to create: Groovy funk or subdued string quartet? Swanky swing or kick-off-your-shoes-and-sweat zydeco? The way the music is delivered – by live band or DJ – also affects the ambience. The type of music you choose may dictate the choice too – big band sounds are generally best live, for example.
2. Variety. Are you a little bit country, while he’s a little bit rock and roll? Regardless of whether you choose a band or DJ, be sure they play slow and fast songs, and old and new tunes to encourage different sets of guests to hit the dance floor. Try to see a DJ or band in action before you commit so that you can gauge first-hand the way they dress, deadpan and work the crowd.
3. Budget. In the price war, DJs generally cost less, and prices vary depending on equipment requests and whether it’s a weekday or a weekend. A 12-piece band, for example, will generally be more expensive than a DJ, since there are more people to pay. (There are always exceptions; celebrity DJs can be just as expensive as live bands.) Band prices vary by the number of musicians, the amount of time you want them to play for, day of the week, and what time of year it is.
4. Space. Don’t get your heart set on an 8-piece salsa band before you check whether the reception site 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 reception site may not allow you to use large speakers. Ask these questions before you start scouting bands.
5. Band? or…There’s nothing like a live wedding band to get a crowd stoked and create a sense of sophistication. Music groups can synergize with the tone of your wedding and almost any niche theme, offering everything from accordion to klezmer ditties. A good bandleader will play the master of ceremonies at your reception if you want him to interact with folks on the dance floor, pay attention to the “feel” of the room and select music accordingly.
- Pros: Live music is, well, live. You and your guests will experience the pleasure of a performance. Anything can happen to raise the excitement level, from an infectious horn-section interlude to a moving solo.
- Cons: Bands can be more expensive than DJs. Also, no matter how great the band, they can’t have the repertoire of a standard DJ, who can keep a huge variety of music on hand.
6. …DJ?. Don’t fear the DJ: The days of disco fever and flashing lights are gone. Today’s disc jockeys are artists in their own right, offering balanced and eclectic mixes of musical styles for all ages. Plus, the songs played will sound exactly as you remember them, encouraging sing-alongs and improvisation. And, depending on the amount of equipment a DJ brings, she’ll take up less dance floor real estate and can be relocated with relative ease.
- Pros: If there are a dozen songs you’re dying to hear at your wedding, it likely won’t be a problem for your DJ to find each track. Also, DJs are generally less expensive than bands. A DJ with a charismatic stage presence and excellent emcee skills can really set the mood and keep the party going.
- Cons: On the opposite end of the spectrum, a DJ with a less-than stellar personality can be a party-killer. Also, improvisation is tough if, say, your dad is dragging behind tempo on the father-daughter dance or your nieces and nephews decide to crash the chicken dance.
These are some Wedding Mafia and Bridal-Rama DJ picks:
- Center Stage Creative Events
- Maize Music
- McFadden Music
- Hey! Mr. DJ Entertainment
- Party Pleasers
- Storm Bennett’s Quality Sounds DJ’s
- DJ Your Way
- Agency Entertainment, Inc
- DropZone DJ Service
- Mr. DJ Music & Events
- Steve Bender Productions
- Tri-State Entertainment
- Classic CelebrationZ
- And my personal favorite (from attending numerous friends’ weddings) is the “Music By Request” DJ Butlers
7. You Must Remember This…Ideally, you will want to see a DJ or band in action before you commit so that you can gauge firsthand the way they dress, deadpan, and work the crowd. (Ask to see a taped public performance or attend a dress rehearsal, but you should never crash another couple’s reception.) If that’s not a possibility, ask for a playlist and look for songs you know and love. If a band gives you a CD, cassette, or video, be sure that 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.
8. Before You Sign. Know that all professionals should be open to your likes and dislikes. Give them your personal request list, songs they must, and, perhaps more importantly, a do-not-play list. Worried that you’ll hear the “Macarena” at your once-in-a-lifetime event? Specifically prohibit the playing of a song you feel strongly about in your contract.
Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography