Should You Have a Band or DJ? | Elegant Music Group

Should You Have a Band or DJ?

by Mike Carleo & Michael Saulpaugh

Okay, so you’ve got the venue locked up, and it’s time to select your entertainment, but now you don’t know if you want a Band or DJ. What should you do?

It’s a very common question that we get a lot. And though there might not be a definitive answer, we can comfortably say talent is abundant in both the wedding band and DJ categories today.

We’ll cover all the essential things to consider as well as tips and tricks to look for and use when shopping for wedding entertainment.


Very often, couples make a decision based on budget. Most professional wedding bands in the Tri-State area range anywhere between $6,000 to as much as $25,000. For DJs, the range typically starts at $1,500 but can go north to $5,000 in some places. Budget is SUPER important. But remember this, according to our friends over at TheKnot: within one week after their reception, 78% of couples say they would have made the entertainment their highest priority. TIP: View your entertainment budget as an investment into making sure you have a great party rather than as an expense. 


What to consider: Experience. You want someone who has it. Anyone can press play on a song, but it is crucial to hire someone who has been in this industry and has the know-how to run a seamless and fun party. TIP: Ask what their planning process is like. You’ll want someone who listens and has a thorough and detailed process. For the great Event Hosts/DJs, the music is the easiest part. It’s the other things that count. For instance, on the day of, you’ll want their experience in how to properly work closely with your matire’d, banquet coordinator, venue staff, photographers, wedding planners, and other vendors throughout the night.

Another word that is important: timeline. Tip: The timeline is what makes or breaks your wedding, so get an Event Host who knows how to run one. Go check out our other blog on timelines to see why.


As millennials, we grew up with DJs at weddings, bars, clubs, etc., but our parents had live bands. This generational difference often leads to the misinformed belief that bands—and especially wedding bands—are stale and boring. We say: Wrong! New wedding bands can be quite energetic and sophisticated. Technology and market demand have allowed today’s groups to better provide you with the higher quality sound and production you’re accustomed to hearing. It’s important to know a few things when shopping around:

– How large is their playlist?

– Will they learn songs for me? (most bands cap it around 2-4 tunes, and others do not have a cap at all)

– Who MC’s the party? (some bands have their singers do it, but others might provide an Event Host, who is likely the bandleader)

– Are the bands set units, or do I get random players on the day of my wedding and CAN I SEE THEM LIVE PRIOR TO BOOKING? TIP: Ask if the performers you see will be the ones guaranteed at your event. Out of respect to clients, most companies won’t let you drop into a wedding to hear a band. However, some companies hide behind this to utilize a bait and switch between what you see and hear in a video and what actually shows up at your wedding. If you can’t hear them live, buyer beware.

– Are there examples online that I can see if I live out of town? Are the bands playing live in the videos or were they pre-recorded? Here’s an example of what live audio in a promo video sounds like:

These are all important questions to ask to make sure you’re getting full transparency and gaining a comfort level with the company you are considering.

Band/DJ Combination

Some companies offer live elements to their DJ services. Most couples go with either a saxophonist, percussionist, or electric violinist. TIP: Package a saxophonist and percussionist together with a DJ to provide a live and interactive experience for guests. Imagine your guests’ excitement when the DJ has the dance floor packed, a live saxophonist is in the back of the room playing to some guests, and the percussionist is upfront and just grabbed your mom and Maid of Honor to join in on the drums. Pretty cool, right? You can check out an example here:

Okay, one more thing. Let’s say you have the budget for a full dance band, but you still want to incorporate a DJ. This is the perfect time to pair the two for a dynamic Band/DJ Combo. Most companies that offer this have the Band and DJ work independently of each other and utilize simple transitions. We provide something different and that’s why we call it the Band/DJ Experience. In this format, the DJ becomes a full band member and works with the other musicians to embellish their sound throughout the night. The band and DJ will take turns passing the dance music back and forth. This really brings a unique and immersive experience to your event that usually only happens at music festivals. You can check out a short example here:

To Wrap It Up…

As you can see, there are a ton of things to consider. However, once you iron out all the details, you can look at it simply. It’s always best to go into an investment with the best information and preparation possible. TIP: Whether you choose Band or DJ, make it immersive and fun. You’re getting married…It should be an incredible celebration for everyone to remember!

Mike Carleo is EMG’s Musical Director and holds a degree in music & Michael Saulpaugh is an EMG Executive Event Host & Band Leader for CityScape & The Park Avenue Horns


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