Ok, so you just looked through a dozen articles each titled “100’ entertainment ideas to try at your wedding. So now you’ve got 1,200 ideas. Awesome. So you have plenty of ideas. So let me explain why instead of comparing hundreds of ideas, you should just consider one. The ultimate wedding entertainment idea is based off of:
Space needed to set up
What is the best overall choice for wedding entertainment?
Out of all the possible combinations and entertainment options for your wedding, the ultimate choice for wedding day entertainment is a solo musician for the first part and a DJ for the later part.
Why is this the ultimate choice?
The early part of your big day will need something lower volume, something mood setting and familiar that people can engage with if they want, but also catch up with friends and family at the same time. A solo musician is perfect for this part of the day. Later on, people will drink a little or will have loosed up after saying hi to everyone and many of them will want to dance, this is where the DJ comes in.
Why not just a DJ?
Because there is a very specific and beautiful quality of live music that cannot be replicated by pre-recorded tracks. There is a reason why millions and millions of weddings have live music; it’s a time tested and beautiful way of expressing the thoughts and emotions that are in the air on that day.
Why not just a solo musician?
You will have a lot of people that may want to get their dance on after the ceremony and the cocktail hour. Some solo musicians can switch things up and play upbeat cover songs after the ceremony, but when people are in “I wanna dance” mode, something loud and thumping is best and a good DJ can read your crowd and get them jumping and singing along quickly.
What about hiring a pianist?
A pianist is also an excellent choice, but it’s not that easy to lug an 800 pound piano around. The venue would not only have to have a piano, but have one close enough to the ceremony, cocktail hour and/or reception where you want it to be heard. If that’s the case, then by all means, do it, but it’s not always the case.
Why not a string quartet?
That’s also a great choice, but requires a little more logistical planning, preparing extra meals, and space consideration.
Why not just get a live band for later in the night?
A DJ can basically build a custom playlist prior to the big day and have every song ready. A band will have to learn any songs that they don’t already know and this takes time and effort. If you want a wedding band that is not amateur, you are looking at a starting point of around $3000 - $4000. Some wedding bands cost $10,000 or more and most of them are worth it, so if you have the budget, then I’d actually advise you to go all out on the entertainment and get a really expensive and really good wedding band. But if you’re looking for the ultimate balance of the factors mentioned above, you can get truly professional entertainment for a lower price with a solo musician and a DJ.
Why not get a celebrity impersonator or a magician?
They are both great choices, but not the best fit for weddings. Two people are publicly making a sacred vow to love one another for the rest of their lives; magic tricks and jokes aren’t really going to set the mood for most people. Emotion, nostalgia, connectedness, love and memories are the things this day is about and that is best captured with music.
What about a solo musician that sings?
This is another great deal where you get another feature for proportionally much less money that what an extra vocalist would charge. If you can find an instrumentalist who can play and sing, you have another bonus for your wedding.
Who’s going to MC my wedding?
Your DJ should have that as part of their services. If they don’t offer it, find another DJ.
The solo musician/DJ combo involves the least amount of people to coordinate, the least amount extra meals you’ll need to have ready, an easier to control volume level than a band, little to no risk (some wedding entertainers use fire, swords or acrobatics believe it or not and they are excellent but just a tad on the risky side), a very cost efficient option, a relatively small space for both to set up with an enormous energy level difference that will fit the quiet first half of the day and party-esque second half of the day. So when you are booking your solo musician and DJ keep this in mind - you can save a lot of money going this route but don’t try the bargain entertainers.
What should you expect to pay in 2018?
$300 - $600 for the first hour
$100 - $200 for each additional hour
$300 - $800 for first hour
$150 - $250 for each additional hour
$350 - $800 for the first hour
$150 - $250 for each additional hour
$700 - $2,500 for the evening
(Keep in mind these are average going rates and that some performers offer packages and discounts in certain situations.)
So before you think that you will get the lowest rate guitarist for $300 and lowest rate for a DJ for $700 and only spending $1000 on music, you have to factor in a few other things. The lowest rates will pay for one hour or service, not a full evening and not MC services by the DJ or special song requests from the musician, travel, lodging, etc. Realistically you are looking at $1500 - 2000, which is a rate significantly lower than most professional wedding bands and/or band/DJ combinations. This is a bare minimum number, though. This is your red flag amount. By trying to pay less than this, you put yourself into hack territory. Any musician who charges less than $250 and any DJ who charges less than $600 to play a wedding is very likely to not be professional. You can head to a trusted wedding entertainment site like Wedding Wire right now and scan some prices to get some figures if you need some evidence. Just keep in mind, if you’re bargain hunting for your wedding entertainment, you risk a train wreck at your wedding.
A Word of Serious Caution:
There are some people that have weaseled their way into the market as hobbyists with full time incomes aside from music, so price isn’t really that important to them. They can play or DJ without needing to consider business expenses but generally are significantly lower quality than full-time performers, since they do this for fun and not a profession. BE WEARY OF THESE PERFORMERS! There have been many infuriated brides and disappointed families members as a result of trying to pinch every penny and get their big day entertainment to a bare-bones minimum. Don’t hire an entertainer that doesn’t have a website, videos, audio, client testimonials and lots of experience. Keep these in mind when searching and happy hunting!