The perfect wedding soundtrack

  • 2 min to read

You’ve just said the most important words of your life. Now it’s time to party.

A wedding reception is more than a celebration of a new bond — it’s the reward for months of tireless planning and stressful decisions. It’s a time to knock back some champagne, kick off your shoes and hit the dance floor.

Setting the right tone for the biggest party you’ll ever throw is crucial.

“I always advise a client to get a really high-energy band that really gets the crowd going, gets the dance floor hopping,” says Janet Dunnington of Destination Weddings, a wedding planning company in Manchester.

Cost, content and the setting all factor into picking a band or disc jockey to pump up the pulse of a wedding reception. Getting it just right can go a long way toward making your wedding truly memorable.

It’s not easy to pick a soundtrack that satisfies Grandma, your 17-year-old sister and your 5-year-old niece, but with some careful planning, you can hit the right groove.

What to pay

What’s the first thing to consider when picking a band or DJ?

“Budget, budget, budget,” says Carrie MacMillan-Lane of Storied Events, a wedding planner in Stowe.

These days, a typical DJ will run you $1,800 or so, while a band could go from $4,500 to as high as $15,000, depending on size, says Dunnington.

Typically, if the band/DJ is from out of town, room and board are part of the contract, MacMillan-Lane says.

Note to band members: Leave the tip jar at home.

“It’s very bad etiquette,” Dunnington says. “It’s like putting a tip jar at the bar. It’s tacky and it’s asking your guests to pay for something they shouldn’t have to.”

A gratuity at the end is in order if the band or DJ really lights up the night, she says, but it shouldn’t be done out in the open.

What to know

As for keeping everybody happy, it’s important to know who’s going to be dancing, Dunnington says.

“If you’ve got 80- to 90-year-old grandparents, they’re going to be sitting down anyway, and the little kids will get up and dance to anything, so you’re not really playing to them,” she says. 

“There are bands out there that are really great at reading a crowd; they know what they’re playing toward.”

MacMillan-Lane says it’s a good idea to pick a band that “really mixes things up.”

“It’s good to start with some older-generation tunes — Frank Sinatra, some old jazz tunes — so people can enjoy it and then leave the real dancing stuff for later,” she says.

Checking the set list for songs you find offensive, or simply hate, is another good idea, she says.

DJ or band?

A DJ is typically cheaper than a band, and has more tunes to draw on.

Also, “if you hire a really great DJ, they can switch things up through the night, MacMillan-Lane says.

Of course, there’s nothing quite like live music, but if you’re going with a band, size matters. That 15-piece Afro-Cuban fusion band with seven horns isn’t going to play well to a room of 20.

“Don’t pick a band that’s bigger than you are,” says Dunnington, “You want to pick a band that meets the size of your wedding list.”

A DJ offers another advantage, MacMillan-Lane says — he or she takes up less space than a band, and can move from one room to another if needed. 

Or, you can mix it up — hire a band, and have a DJ keep the music going during set breaks. But that will cost you.

Whatever you go with, picking a mix that’s just right can go a long way toward getting those foot-tappers out of their seats and onto the dance floor.

“I’ve seen Grandma get up and dance,” Dunnington says.

We use a Facebook Comments Plugin for commenting. No personal harassment, abuse or hate speech is permitted. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer. We moderate every comment. Please go to our Terms of Use/Privacy Policy "Posting Rules and Interactivity" for more information.

Reliable news and information is vitally important. Local advertising has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis but the Vermont Community Newspaper Group remains committed to its responsibility to serve its communities. Your communities. With some assistance from loyal readers, community organizations, foundations and other funders, we hope to keep reporters on the job keeping you informed. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our local journalism fund. Thank you for your support.