The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Music


Photo: Austin Gros

The only way you're going to get (and keep!) your guests on the dance floor is with great wedding music. Whether you're going for a DJ or a band, we've got your ultimate guide to the best dance tunes, so you and your friends and family will be on your feet all evening long.

Step 1: Book Your Venue
The site has a huge impact on your dance party's overall feel, so book it before you lock down your musicians. If you must have a certain DJ or band, pick a venue that you know can accommodate it. Either way, as yourself these key questions as you set your music strategy.

How big is the space?
A DJ can set up almost anywhere, but a big band requires more room and equipment than some sites can handle. Show potential musicians a floor plan, especially if they've never worked there before.

Do we have neighbors?
For an outdoor wedding, consider the noise. Make sure your venue has a tent that can swallow the volume your band or DJ will generate because if neighbors complain, the police could fine you or even shut down your party.

Will we have enough power?
Share your site's electricity specs with bands or DJs; they should know what kind of juice they'll need. If your venue can't support a huge act, find a group with fewer musicians or go for a DJ, since generator rentals start at $800.

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

Step 2: Band or DJ?
Book a band if...
— You've got a big music budget. (Bands usually run $3,000 and up, while DJs cost around a grand.)
— You love wedding classics. (Nothing gets everyone on their feet like a live rendition of "Shout.")
— Your parents invited all their friends. (A wedding band is used to entertaining three generations and won't leave the 50+ set hanging while Tiesto brings down the house.)

Book a DJ if...
— You're a purist. (A brand brings its own sound to every song, so its version will never be exactly like the original track. If you need to hear the electronic mashup ruling your Spotify playlists, a band may not be the way to go.)
— You want an emcee. (DJs are more likely than bandleaders to coordinate toasts and direct guests to the dessert table.)
— You're in a small space. (A drum kit alone gobbles up as much space as a DJ's entire station.)

Skip the DJ and make a DIY playlist if...
— You'd rather spend your money on the flowers. (The only cost is renting a kickass sound system. If your venue has once you can use, you can it for $250.)
— You've got mainstream tastes. (You and your groom may live and die for death metal, but if your guests don't recognize the music, they won't dance to it.)
— A talented friend is willing to man the iPhone. (You'll need someone who can read the room and switch up the playlist without an awkward break in the action.)

See More: Ready to Party Like It's 1985? Listen to Our Ultimate '80's Wedding Playlist

Step 3: Plan the Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Soundtrack
Do your own thing, even at a religious ceremony.
Some churches ask you to use their in-house organist and music director. Buy them out for around $250 and use your own.

Don't feel obligated to go classical.
A quartet playing an acoustic version of your favorite song can be pretty and totally appropriate.

Book all your predancing music at once.
Ceremony musicians often charge for two-hour blocks, so they can stay through the cocktail hour at no extra cost.

Or choose a special cocktail-hour group.
Crowd-friendly options we love: reggae guitarists, a cappella groups, and dueling pianists.

Or make a playlist.
Love Belle and Sebastian and the Shins? Cocktail hour is your chance to cue up any slow-tempo must-hears.

But definitely fly your freak flag before the reception.
If you're in love with a not-so-mainstream band, hire it for cocktails — and stick to a party band or DJ for dancing.

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