While I have admitted to a preference for live music at the ceremony, I do love working with professional DJs. It is always a treat when they provide the mic and run my voice through their sound system so I do not have to set up my own equipment. We have a number of great DJs in my area with whom it is a dream to coordinate the ceremony. I definitely prefer professional DJs to a boom box when it comes to processional and recessional music - any day of the week.
I have enjoyed lives bands at wedding receptions, but encounter DJs far more often and actually prefer them as entertainment. The few bands I have seen at weddings were accomplished musicians, but not terribly adept at being Masters of Ceremony. They didn’t have anything to suitably fill the gaps during their necessary breaks and were limited to their own style of music.
I have seen live music put to its best use when musicians perform a set for the cocktail hour and then a DJ takes over for the formalities of the reception. Similarly, I attended a reception this spring where a band played a single set in the middle of the reception. The DJ was able to grab a bite to eat and relax for a little bit while the guests were essentially treated to a mini-concert.
Although DJs are frequently the primary entertainment at many receptions, couples can fail to appreciate how much the quality of the DJ impacts the overall experience. DJs have an amazing degree of influence over the flow and atmosphere of your festivities. I have seen DJs create incredibly awkward moments by mispronouncing names or badgering someone to dance who really does not want to be out on the floor. On the other hand, I have seen DJs transform a sluggish mass of people merely enduring the cocktail hour into a laughter-filled crowd enjoying a fun and engaging cocktail party.
Take note though, this is a wedding vendor category particularly prone to “weekend warriors.” There are plenty of folks who think because they can push a button on an iPod they are qualified to DJ a wedding. Please believe me when I tell you the DJ does much more than this. This individual is your Master of Ceremonies and should have the unique personality necessary to pull it off without being either boring or obnoxious. They have to be able to “read a crowd” and know when to switch to a different style of music at a particular point in time to rev things up or tone it down. I have attended enough receptions where this was not the case and it can make the occasion rather tedious for guests.
A good DJ will have an extensive music library, high quality sound equipment and an engaging personality. Many of these entertainment companies can also do wonderful things with lighting to achieve just the right festive atmosphere.
While you should definitely be permitted to select key songs, I highly recommend you share your tastes with the DJ and then leave it in his or her capable hands with respect to music selection. Your desired play list may not be the best choices for pacing a celebration attended by a diverse group of guests. Trust me on this and trust your DJ. We are talking about professionals who have experienced hundreds of events and consequently have learned what works and what does not. I know you have the best taste in music ever, but dictating the play list to the DJ is a guaranteed way to ruin your reception. Do not be tempted to do it.
If this is not an aspect of your wedding that is all that important to you, enlisting a friend or opting for the lowest quote might be perfectly fine. But if you want an awesome party with entertainment rather than just background music, take your time and hire a reputable professional DJ. The price difference is well worth a place in your budget.