Wedding Music Chat with Pat Richitt and Mike Ostrow, Thursday at 11 AM

Ask all your wedding music-related questions.

Arlington, VA

Do the majority of weddings today reserve more bands or DJs?


Good morning all from Entertainment Exchange.  My business partner Mike Ostrow and I are happy to speak with you today.  We will both answer each of the questions that follow.

Pat: Yes.  More weddings use DJs than bands for three reasons: 1) weddings are held everywhere (the park, your house, gardens, rooftops, etc.).  DJs are comparatively smaller and therefore can fit in some places that bands cannot, 2) DJs have been traditionally less expensive, although less so these days; and 3) DJs can play some songs that bands can't play on the spot (e.g., club remixes, certain current selections).

The experience of a DJ is different than a band however.  A live performance will always be somehow more exciting than dancing to a CD, assuming the band is comprised of professional musicians with lots of experience.  Brides tend to want to steer away from typical "wedding band" groups.


Mike: I think if you consider all weddings then you certainly can say that the majority of brides and grooms opt for DJ's.  However, in my experience, you can divide weddings up into different categories.  Those categories can be based upon location of the wedding, number of guests, budget, etc. — really the sky is the limit.  For certain weddings only a band will do.  For example, I am the leader of a popular local band, Free Spirit, and we play more than 50 weddings each and every year since 1976.  We have not noticed a dramatic drop in the number of weddings that we play simply because we tend to play at the high budget "hotel" weddings at four and five star venues.  We don't usually see those types of weddings hiring DJs.  In fact, at the weddings at which we perform, we sometimes work side by side with DJs so that the clients can get all the musical selections that they would like to hear while the band is on break and/or the DJ provides unique cultural selections.  We recently played at a hotel for an Indonesian couple who had a DJ for the cocktail hour and on our breaks where he played great selections to accompany the traditional folk dances.  It was a terrific success.  If the budget allows and there's enough space, I think having a band in combination with some pre-recorded music is a dynamite combination.  Certainly, a competent DJ/Emcee can put on a great show as well on his or her own.



Washington, DC
Can you give a few of the major pros and cons of having a band vs. a DJ. Obviously, a DJ costs less, but in what circumstances is it better to have a DJ even if money is not a factor?

Pat: DJs are definitely smaller in their production vales and can play anything.  Bands are a live performance and can be a lot more exciting to watch, dance or just listen to.  There are cons with both however. Bad or inexperienced DJs are cheesy in their selections and what they say on the microphone.  And, bands that are not good simply don't sound sound anything like the records they are performing.  Overall, while there are differences in both, bands and DJs typically play the same music most of the time.  I think the experience of both is what distinguishes them the most.


Mike: While it is true that DJs cost less than bands in general the gap between the two is clearly closing.  Many DJs have low introductory base packages but with add-ons the prices can approach what bands charge.  I know of a local DJ who is quite busy at $3,000 per show while we have bands at our agency that start at $3,500.  That being said, I think it's better to have a DJ if your musical requirements are such that a band cannot provide what you want to hear.  For example if you need to hear what's playing on your favorite radio station today, then you should go with a DJ.  Typically a band will not learn songs to add to their permanent repertoire unless the songs have been around long enough to become a certified hit on the music charts.  Also, if you have a large number of special requests then you might consider a DJ.  Because of the difficulty of learning songs, bands typically learn only about 2 or 3 new songs for each event (it's typical to learn a first dance, father/daughter dance and mother/son dance).  Finally, a DJ is better for you if you are having an ethnic/culturally specific wedding that requires music to be played that a band cannot easily play for you.  One solution that bands have employed to overcome some of the musical selection issues is to work closely with the clients to create custom CD's for breaks or even playing a bride's iPod playlist over the band PA while the band is on a break.

Dupont Circle
I'm want a cool, non-cliche song for the father-daughter dance. Any ideas?


Pat: Brides often tell me that they don't want their receptions to be cheesy or cliche.  I always ask that the bride set that evaluation aside and just try to pick a song that is meaningful to you, and not the rest of the world.  So I always answer this question with a question.  What songs do you remember as a little girl about your dad?  What song did he use to sing to you?  What song speaks to your relationship about your dad.  Whatever song you come up with is perfect. 

Songs range from very old to very new.  The requests we receive are as different as the clothes that we wear.  We are all different and that's what will be perfect about your wedding.


Mike: I like this question.  I know that my brides are tired of always hearing "Daddy's Little Girl" or "Sunrise Sunset."  I would recommend that you think about your relationship with your father and try to find something that's special to the two of you that will remind you of good times that you had together.  Also, if there's a particular song that your dad sang to you, or a nickname that he used for you then that would be a great place to start.  There are some new songs out that are just starting to get popular but are not yet over played.  Take a listen to "My Little Girl", or "I Loved Her First."  Both are country songs but have a really nice contemporary sound to them.  Feel free to get in touch offline and I'd be happy to offer some more selections. 


Washington, DC
A lot of brides have opted to work out the music/entertainment themselves by creating a playlist on their iPods and hooking it up to speakers. What are your feelings on this?

Pat:  Bands and DJs can change and evolve the music and night progresses.  They can also handle specific situations as they occur.  If you handle you own music, you will likely be more concerned about it at your affair, rather than letting your professional DJ or band handle things for you.  

Mike: Actually, I don't think this is a terrific idea unless you are not planning on having a lot of dancing at your reception.  I think it's generally fine for ambient or atmosphere music.  But in order to have dancing, you really need someone with a lot of experience "reading" a crowd and determining what song to play after the one that's already being performed.  Each party is very different and how the music is transitioning from one genre to the next, the mix of fast versus slow, etc. is crucial to motivating the crowd.  You just don't know in advance what songs will work in any predetermined order.  Only someone with a lot of experience will know how to mix the music and announcements appropriately.  I know it's an appealing thought to bring your iPod and be done with it — but I think that's risky.

What's one of the most interesting stories about some of the weddings you've worked?

Mike and I have played together for many years and have encountered just about every situation you can imagine.  Although there is no time to go into any more detail here, when we talkk to you off-line, we'll be glad to share some interesting and funny stories.   

Arlington, Va
How necessary are father-daughter and mother-son dances? Are they still done? Can you do them at the same time or cut down the time of the dance? Thanks!
If you and your dad don't want a father/daughter dance then you shouldn't be pressured into doing one.  Same goes for the mother/son dance.  Most people still do them, but there is a trend towards making them shorter.  Here's how it's done most of the time — we start with the father/daughter dance and then about halfway through the song we ask the mother/son to join in the dancing.  Then we finish up the song by asking the rest of the crowd to join in as well.  So, within one song we've combined the father/daughter and mother/son dance and started off another great dance set in the process.  it serves as a catalyst to moving the party ahead, rather than slowing it down for ceremonial purposes.
I'm not sure about the rules on tipping a band or a DJ at the end of the night. Is a tip expected? If so, how much should I aim for? 10%, 20%? Help!
Pat & Mike: Tipping is very subjective.  Also, we understand that spending 10-20% on the ticket price of a band is much different than that of a DJ.  Although tips are not usually required, we have found that they tend to average  about $20 to $100 per person in the band or for your DJ.
Washington, DC
Help! My fiance and I have an 8 year age difference, which has been perfectly fine until it came time to create our DJ's playlist for the wedding! We have totally different tastes in music! He wants 80's music I have never heard of and I want today's dance hits. How can we meet in the middle?

Ah the first challenge in sharing your worlds together.  What matters most is not who gets what songs, but in that you both value each other's wants.  I know for myself, my wife is 7 years younger than me, so I learned early that making her happy was my highest concern.  If he does not know that yet, he will soon enough.


Thanks for listening and we hope you have an awesome wedding celebration. If we did not get to your question or you would like to ask us further questions about entertainment for your wedding, please email us at or call 1-888-986.4640.  We look forward to helping you.