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Wedding DJ, Bands, and Entertainment

Topic: Bands, DJ's, etc. Music for the Reception
Timeframe: ASAP
Pittsburgh Wedding DJ and Band Business Listings
While things like food and flowers enjoy a universal appeal, the choice of entertainment for your wedding reception often must satisfy diverse tastes. Weddings typically involve a mixed audience of young and old, and so you may want entertainment that will cater to both.


Reception entertainment options include DJs, bands, orchestras, violinists, and polka bands. Many couples will use a combination of entertainers at their reception. Cocktail hours require livelier background music, while dinner calls for quieter selections. Dance music should be a mixture that calls everyone from their seats at one time or another. You may start with a strolling violinist, pianist or string quartet for cocktail hour, followed by a band or DJ for dinner and the remainder of the evening. The band may play recorded music during break times. If you are having your ceremony and reception at the same facility, many entertainers can supply the music for both events.

Booking Entertainment

You should begin looking for entertainment as soon as you have your reception facility booked. Many bands and DJs book more than one year in advance. Start by asking friends for references. Another source of entertainers is a booking agency. They will be able to show you hundreds of acts on videotape. This is very convenient and can save you a lot of time. Most booking agencies do not charge a commission; they earn their fee directly from the musicians they represent.

Live Band

If you are considering live entertainment, think about the style of music you and your guests will enjoy. Aside from delivering a great deal of energy and elegance to an event, live music is also visually stimulating.

When considering a band, review its play list. Look for a band that can play a variety of music that will fit into your style of reception. Many bands will play a mixture of Top 40, rock, oldies, polkas, etc. Others may play big band selections, show tunes, waltzes, fox trots, Latin rhythms and ballads. Inquire about their policy on learning new songs at your request. Live bands have the ability to alter songs to suit the flow of the event and create medleys of songs to build excitement on the dance floor.

When selecting a band, success of your event depends on the following:

• Proper event planning by your entertainment consultant

• Talent and experience of both the producer and key members of the band

• Skill of the bandleader–Your band leader wil be the Master of Ceremonies and will need to be an expert at song selection, volume management, and pacing of events

• Extensive repertoire–The band will need to be prepared to entertain all of your guests

Bands may have anywhere from 3 to 12 members. A large area may need more musicians for the music to be heard by everyone, but this will depend on the acoustics, the individual band, and the area available for them to set up.

Professional musician’s rates will vary. Most bands book for a 4 hour minumum, which will include 2 -3 breaks in that time period. Overtime can be purchased in advance or on site, according to your contract. Be certain that you understand what the band’s price includes as far as playing time verses break time, and what an overtime rate would be.

When signing a contract with a band or booking agent, follow the guidelines as listed in Contract Information.


A DJ is an ideal solution for people who want to hear original artist’s recordings. The DJ can also act as an emcee and coordinator—either by addressing the reception directly, or more subtly by pacing the activities through the selection of music. The job of emcee requires a strong personality and some homework.

Etiquette Tip:

Assign a friend or relative to make the DJ aware of any last minute changes in the wedding party due to illness or other emergency. Also, provide a pronunciation guide for all names, first and last, no matter how obvious they may seem.

A DJ should provide his/her own sound system. Be sure that it is adequate but not overpowering for the space at your reception. When selecting a DJ listen for clarity and consistency of sound—big speakers do not always mean quality.

Requests and Play Lists

Most DJs will not allow you to see them in action at an actual wedding (not fair to the couple and not a good time to talk). But do ask for references and/or videotapes.

Ask to see sample play lists. Ask whether the DJ will acquire requested music for your reception and if there is an extra charge. If you provide the DJ with recordings, assign someone to retrieve these the night of the reception.

Requests can be a big issue with DJs and couples. Try not to micromanage the entire play list—find a balance between your requests and the DJ’s experience and sense of timing. Guests look forward to hearing particular songs at weddings, even though they may not be your favorites. Try to be flexible and think about your guests, and what type of music they would enjoy. With a wide range of ages and personalities at the reception, consider a variety that will appeal to most instead of a few. Ask about allowing a friend or relative to sing a special song.

Questions for Your Entertainers

1. How many years have you been in the wedding business?

You will want to have an established professional in charge of your reception. A professional DJ or band leader will know the normal order of events for a wedding, will be able to work with the photographer, videographer, and caterer, and will be able to act as the master of ceremonies, if you so desire. If your facility has a director, have your entertainers contact them prior to the wedding to coordinate roles.

2. What kind of equipment do you use?

Your DJ or band should have professional audio equipment. Inquire about their equipment in advance, regardless of the size of your reception, because professional sound equipment will make a big difference in your wedding music. Be sure to discuss appropriate volume and speaker placement. And speak up if there are certain styles, songs or artists you do not want played.

3. What is your fee, and how long do you play?

Always ask your entertainers about their fee and the length of time they will play. Find out how many, if any breaks will be taken. Most bands require a (10-15 minute) break each hour for each member. These breaks can be staggered or all members may break at the same time. Some bands will provide recorded music during their breaks so there is not a lull in the reception. If you’re hiring a band, ask if they can learn any of your special requests that may not be in their repertoire. Discuss set-up times, procedures and overtime policies.

4. What will the band or DJ wear?

Be sure to ask about a dress code, as musicians may have a different idea of what is appropriate at a wedding.

Choosing Your Entertainers

For all reception entertainers you should provide a list of songs you want played for specific parts of the reception such as the first dance, your parents’ dance, the bride’s dance with her father, the groom’s dance with his mother, cutting the cake, tossing the bouquet and garter, departure, etc. A general timetable of events should be worked out in advance between you, the caterer, photographer and musicians.

Your DJ or bandleader should have a very pleasing personality. They will help to hold the reception together, making sure everything goes as planned. Be sure that he/she is flexible, patient, and very understanding about the tone and type of reception that you desire. Be sure to check out the Entertainment Worksheet under: For Brides: My Bridal Suite

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