How to Book a Wedding Band or DJ for Your Wedding

A wedding band or DJ can make or break your wedding reception. It's very important to choose a wedding band or DJ that will play the music that you and your guests enjoy, and be able to keep the party going all night long. When searching for the right wedding band or DJ for your wedding, keep these six tips in mind, excerpted from The Groom's Instruction Manual.

Match the Mood
If the wedding is formal and you're dressed in tails, you'll find a good match with jazz, swing, or even chamber music--but the "Electric Slide" might come off a little tacky. For any other kind of ceremony, the sky's the limit--traditional wedding bands, country-western jugbands, alt-rock DJs, whatever you like. As a general rule, the less formal your wedding, the less formal your music can and should be.

Don't Sneer at Wedding Bands
Sure, they're cheesy. They play the same venues every Friday and Saturday night, playing "Hot! Hot! Hot!" and "All Night Long" over and over again. But here's the thing: You want the cheese. Nay, you need the cheese. Because your old college roommate's alt-rock band is no substitute for a professional wedding band. Your reception is not Friday night at the local live music club; it's an artificial event with artificial needs. Wedding bands know this, and they've honed there acts to fit the bill. That doesn't mean you need to pick the cheesiest wedding band you can find, just don't discount them just because of how they make a living.

Don't Sneer at Cover Bands
Those of you who take your music seriously may never, ever consider employing a cover band for your wedding. But you should. Weddings are gatherings of your past, like family and high school reunions, as much as they're celebrations of your future. Having familiar songs on the soundtrack while you and your bride dance the night away can bring out the memories and help to unite a very eclectic guest list (give me a little old lady and a limbo stick, and I will show you a very happy crowd). Plus, good taste be damned, a wedding just isn't a wedding unless you get a little bit louder now with "Shout!"

Don't Sneer at DJs
"If I'm going to have all old songs playing," you might think to yourself, "why not save some cash and pay someone to spin records?" The logic makes sense--but unless your DJ is extremely creative and well established, he won't be able to bring the house down with the same energy as a live band. Plus, good bands who know weddings (see above) are fronted by engaging frontmen who keep the festivities on track between songs. DJ's can also serve this role, but sometimes they're less willing to do so.

Weigh in on the Playlist
Most wedding bands make a living by knowing a wide array of "standards"--jazz and pop songs that are familiar and fun. So if you have any special requests that aren't too idiosyncratic, you'll want to quiz your potential bands on them before you do any hiring. Most will actually tell you to build your own playlist so that you're sure to deliver what you want. If your band balks at that, you might want to consider another choice.

Leave the iPod at Home
The beauty of portable music players is that they can hold hours and hours of music that you have personally picked and organized. It's so easy that you may think you can save yourself musical costs altogether and be your own DJ. We advise you to save your body-rockin' for another occasion. For starters, you'll be up the creek if your musical device goes on the fritz. But more importantly, this is just one more responsibility that you just don't want to deal with on your wedding day. If you're on a limited budget (and don't plan to have a lot of dancing at your wedding) consider this option as a last resort, put a responsible friend in charge of it, and make sure you have a second portable music player as a backup.

Excerpted from The Groom's Instruction Manual by Shandon Fowler. © 2008 Quirk Books.

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