How to Pick the Right Entertainer for Your Wedding Reception

Tips for Picking the Right Reception Music

Photo: Robert Fairer

It's no secret that music hugely influences the overall vibe of your wedding — pick the right band or DJ and your guests will be on the dance floor all night long, but with the wrong choice, and you can bet your party will die down instantly. To help you get the right entertainer for your bash, keep these tips in mind when meeting with talent and creating your contracts.

Vet the talent.
Whether you're looking for a string quartet of a nine-piece band, sample online demos before you set up meetings, and check out DJs' pages on You can also seek out music by asking your venue for recs, going to a live gig, or searching YouTube for videos of potential groups. And when you're interviewing acts, don't forget to ask these questions.

Do you do this full-time? If not, you might get your bandleader's voice mail 10 times the Friday before your wedding because of an all-day meeting at his "real job."
Have you played our venue before? A veteran will make the day go way more smoothly, since he or she already knows the site's set-up and unloading procedures.
Do you have references? Former brides can tell you if the band kept everyone dancing for hours — or misread the crowd and killed the vibe by 10 p.m.
Can you learn new songs? Musicians should be able to pick up a few special requests with four to six weeks' notice at no extra cost.

See More: The Perfect Playlist for Your Wedding's Last Song

Get it all in writing.
Once you're ready to book, negotiate an airtight contract, then check it against your venue's contract. It should include:

• Start and end times including loading and unloading times.
• A "key man" stipulation. This means the singer (a.k.a. the reason you chose the group) can't be swapped out with no notice.
• Rough must-play and do-not-play lists. You can finalized them later, but give the group something to start with.
• The cancellation and refund policy. If you cancel and your band or DJ rebooks your date, you could get your deposited back.
• The total fee and overtime rate, plus extra charges. Duh.
• Food-and-drink policy. Most venues will offer vendors a buffet dinner at half the price of a guest's meal.

Read the fine print.
Bands and DJs have been known to charge extra for these. Avoid surprises by making sure they're covered in your contract:
• Wireless microphones for the officiant and toasts
• Emcee services
• Additional equipment or speakers
• Taxes and gratuities

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