by Robbin Montero

            Swing or rock? Country or jazz? The entertainment at your reception has to hit all the right notes with your guests. You’ll choose between hiring a deejay or a live band, a decision that will affect the cost and the tone of your special day.

            Deejays typically act as “masters of ceremonies” and usually cost a fraction the price of a band. They generally offer a very wide variety of music on CDs from which they will pre-select music suited to your tastes and requests. Experienced deejays easily respond to the activity in the room with appropriate on-the-spot selections, if you are comfortable with the deejay’s judgment.

            Many couples prefer the energizing effect created by a variety, swing or jazz band. Any band accustomed to playing at wedding receptions will have appropriate selections to accompany special reception activities.


Background work

            Before you begin making telephone calls, have necessary information about the site related to entertainment. If the event is outside, know the noise ordinance restrictions and types of music acceptable to the site owners. Ensure there is adequate space and staging for the size band you want and check the availability of electrical outlets.

            Now, let the telephoning begin! Whether the band self-books or uses an agency, request tapes or CDs. Inquire as to upcoming public engagements for the opportunity to see them perform. An appealing stage presence is as important as a great sound. References are another important part of the selection process. If possible, referrals from an acquaintance and/or three recent booking references (ideally weddings) should be sufficient. The site management may also have recommendations.


Playing your song

            Depending on your budget and preferences, you can have more than one entertainment during the reception. Consider having a background harp, pianist or string quartet during the meal and a rocking band afterward. Or the band can perform quiet ballads during the meal and change tempo afterward.

            Use the band’s repertoire to steer them toward the music you prefer and request a song list so you can select numbers for your first dance as husband and wife, the father-daughter dance, your last dance at the reception and others  you have in mind. It’s a sweet touch to dedicate their favorite songs to the grandparents and parents, but ask the band about additional fees for learning a new song. By the same token, a deejay may require that you supply a CD if  requested music is not in his library.


Avoiding sour notes

            In this business relationship there are numerous details to include in the contract. Most bands require beverages, a meal and access to a changing room. Others require that bridal couples arrange staging equipment and lighting at their own cost. Whether you hire a band or deejay, be aware of any travel, “load-in”or early set-up charges and ask about availability and overtime charges, should you choose to extend the reception.

            Get everything in writing and review your contract carefully before signing, including the exact time the entertainers are to arrive for set-up. Provide a contact (often the  coordinator) telephone number so the entertainers have someone to call in the event of a question or problem. I can’t stress enough the importance of reading the entertainment contract carefully.

            Finally, phone your deejay or band contact one week prior to the wedding to confirm and answer questions. Even if they think they know where the site is, provide a map. You certainly don’t want your band driving up and down Fifth Street, while you’re waiting on Fifth Avenue! With all the details covered, look forward to kicking up your heels and dancing the night away.


“Stress Free, Leave the Details to Me,” is the tried and true philosophy of Robbin Montero, California Wine Country wedding planning expert and owner of A Dream Wedding.  Robbin is the premier wedding planner in the Northern California Wine Country, transforming any vision into the perfectly designed wedding creation. Robbin and her weddings have been featured in The Knot, Brides, Elite Magazine, Your Wedding Day and Vine Napa/Sonoma magazines, and Travel & Leisure magazine calls Robbin, “The expert wedding planner in the California Wine Country.”

Robbin Montero is a wedding coordinator and special events planner in Northern California.

©2006 Robbin Montero

This article cannot be reprinted without Robbin Montero’s expressed written permission.