Choosing the tunes that set the mood

The music at your wedding can make the difference between your guests staying on the dance floor all night long or sneaking out early before the bar gives last call. The three most popular options—hiring a DJ, booking a live band or plugging in an iPod—each have pros and cons.

Booking a band

Pros

The energy a band can give is hard to replicate. From interacting with the crowd to pulling guests on stage to sing a song, the spontaneity of live music is contagious. A band's personality can add a lot to the atmosphere of the reception, regardless of what type of music it is performing.

“Most weddings have at least three generations in attendance, and it's important to play music that everyone can enjoy and relate to,” says Louis Tsamous, director of affiliate musicians for the Jazz Arts Group, which recommends and books musicians for weddings and other events.

Cons

Bands are generally the most expensive option, so don't get your hopes up about cutting costs in this area. Variety typically isn't a strong suit among live bands, either.

“A band is usually going to be better at one genre, or if they're a cover band, great, but you can't have them play absolutely anything,” says Jamie Rapavy, owner of Columbus Bride & Groom. Musicians also need breaks, so you'll have to work with your band to decide on how downtime will be handled to avoid a lull in the reception. Some acts aren't as comfortable doing announcements for the night; in those cases, it's up to the couple to figure out how they'll inform guests when certain events are happening throughout the evening.

Hiring a DJ

Pros

The DJ can act as the master of ceremonies, or MC, for the night, letting guests know what activity is happening next, from the grand entrance to the last dance.

“The DJ is very important to make sure all of the vendors come together, like the photographer, videographer and the hall coordinators,” says Todd Jones, owner of T.E.A.M. DJ. “They're all working together on the day to make sure the guests and the couple have a great time.” With a DJ, you won't have to worry about guests missing your cake cutting or bouquet toss.

DJs can play virtually any song from any genre, and they read the room to play what the crowd is responding to. Also, DJs often are the most cost-effective option.

Cons

If you're looking for a fresh spin on your favorite songs, you will probably be disappointed. Those who love the energy of live music might be left wanting more by the end of the night. And be wary of certain unedited songs that the DJ could play that might be inappropriate for the wide variety of guests you will likely have at your wedding.

Making a playlist

Pros

Make a playlist, plug in an iPod and press play. Minimal work and no additional vendors to hire make this a popular option among budget-conscious couples. You'll know exactly what songs are coming (and which ones have no chance of making an appearance), and you can easily task someone with pausing or starting the music as needed.

Cons

Unless your venue has a full-service, easily accessible sound system, you may have to shell out extra bucks to rent one of your own. And with no music vendor, any mistakes that happen are your responsibility to figure out.

“If anything goes wrong, the bride and groom are so into their event they're not going to realize it until it's too late,” says Rapavy. “Something could happen and there's no one there to deal with it.” A playlist might not match the mood of the crowd, or you could have technology troubles.

Ultimately, the choice between the three options all comes down to what matters most to the couple. There's no “best” option—only a “best for you.”