Other than figuring out the food, seating arrangements, and whether or not you’re going to have an open bar, one of the most important aspects of the wedding reception is the music (and, of course, the dancing that will happen because of it). If you feel conflicted about your wedding music, don't worry—the debate between live entertainment and a wedding deejay is one almost every couple has to work through in the wedding planning process.
While deejays and their perfectly curated playlists are great, there’s something special about live music. Having a live band is like stepping into your own real-life romantic comedy where everything is perfect and nothing else matters. But this magical moment comes with a rather hefty price tag.
While it’s hard to determine exactly how much a live wedding band will set you back, the price is determined by a couple of factors, including:
Bands are cheaper during the wedding off-season and on weekdays. (Saturday is typically the most expensive day.) And as with most vendors, the earlier you book the better.
Another component is the number of band members. The larger the band size, the more you’ll pay (the average number of band members is around six). You also might have to dole out extra money for lighting, effects, and any sound and speaker additions.
The location is another factor. If you can’t find a group you like locally, you’ll likely have to pay for travel and accommodations. Additionally, if your wedding is taking place in a large metropolitan city, the bands in that area will charge more than one based in a more rural area.
Most bands charge depending on how long you want them to play. The average time is around four hours, but if the performance goes beyond the reception and bleeds into the cocktail hour and/or after-party, then it will probably cost more. Similarly, if the party goes beyond the time that you agreed to, you’ll likely be expected to pay overtime.
This is probably pretty obvious, but the more popular and experienced the band is, the more expensive they’re likely to be. Rookies or those starting out won’t be as pricey.
Unlike a deejay, live bands won’t be able to play every and any requested song. With that said, if you do have specific tracks you absolutely want to hear on your wedding day that aren’t already on their roster, just keep in mind that it might cost extra for them to learn the tune in advance of the party.
Now, when it comes to the actual price, according to an internal study done at The Knot, the average cost of a live wedding band for 2019 was $3,700 (compared to $1,200 for a deejay). Some charge a flat fee, while others charge by the hour (which, in that case, can range from $100/hour to $300-$500).
Though booking a live performance seems to be the less popular option of the two (15 percent to 71 percent), there are a lot of pros to going with a wedding band. One of which is the palpable energy a concert gives off that you can’t quite duplicate with a song recording. Another is the spontaneity and personal nature of having a live band playing music distinctly for your night. Whether you're booking a wedding band from Chicago or Los Angeles, a live band is a fun, unique touch for your wedding day.
Of course, the choice is ultimately up to you and your partner. And, just like choosing flowers, a dress, and a venue, you’ll have to decide which band is the best match for you and your wedding. Before booking, make sure to ask questions, like what kind of music they specialize in and what their typical song list looks like. You should also work out logistics, like how many breaks they require, how long it takes them to set up and break down their equipment, and what they plan on wearing the day of your wedding (if you care).
If you have certain expectations, like having the band leader double as an emcee and as someone who helps encourage wedding guests to get on the dance floor, let those wishes be known ahead of time. Watch a bunch of demos and speak to the band members directly to get a true sense of how they operate and to feel out their vibe. At the end of the day, you want this decision to be worth every penny you spend—within budget, of course. Ready to book your reception entertainment? Explore Zola's wedding directory to connect with local wedding bands from New York to Los Angeles.