Dear PoP – Wedding Bands/DJs?

Photo by PoPville flickr user christopher.poole

“Dear PoP,

We are thinking that a celebration of life is overdue. To do that right, I think we might need a band. I personally would prefer to trade the expense of food for a band, I at least want to explore the idea of a band. Do any local bands come to mind as great? Bringing someone in from out of town is not out of the question either. We’ve also talked about reggae. Alternatively, do you or your readers have any great DJ recommendations?”

Last week we looked at good wedding venues so this seems like a natural follow up. For those who have got married in the DC area – can you recommend a local band or DJ?

And out of curiosity – where do you fall on the food vs. band debate? If you have a limited budget, which would you focus on?

35 Comment

  • Band and booze is always more important. People will rarely remember about the tenderness of a filet.

  • My friend recently hired a bluegrass band to play at her wedding out in Northern Virginia. They were the best wedding band I have ever seen. They played all night and then came to the after party to continue playing. I’m not sure on the name but I think they hired them after hearing them perform at SOVA on H St NE.

    • I was going to mention a blue grass band, Hollertown. They’ve played a couple of weddings around town, but not sure if they played your friends. Check ’em out at .

      • Bluegrass bands are surprisingly fun and not at all corny. Bob Perilla and Big Hillbilly Bluegrass (the regular Wed. night band at Madam’s Organ) played at my friend’s wedding and everyone was dancing all night. They have a huge repertoire.

        Also – after working in catering for 20+ years I can say that a good (and many are NOT good) dj is well worth the money – but the ipod optionis not bad either. People at your wedding are ready for fun – they will dance to old uncle George with his harmonica.

  • The Junkyard Saints. We scraped together every last cent we could to have them and they were worth it. And we spent less on the food; most wedding food is only halfway decent and rarely remembered, but everyone remembers a good party.

  • I’ve used and been to several weddings with both Galaxy and Radio City, both are very good bands… don’t let the 80’s video production on the website throw you off, go check them out live, if you aren’t a believer.

    • I’ve worked with Entertainment Exchange before (Pat Ritchitt and PRP, specifically), and they’re really wonderful. Great musicians, high energy, incredibly professional. Love them.

  • I DJ 10-12 weddings a year and have been featured in the Washington Post, Daily Candy and a few other places. My advice (besides hiring me) is to meet with the DJ more than once beforehand and make sure you’re on the same page as him or her. Also make sure you know what you want – do you want a chatty DJ/MC or one that just plays his music and makes the occasional announcement? Do you want him to play all of your favorite songs or do you want him to rock the party? Sometimes couples get too cute/cool with their playlists. I love Pavement but its gonna clear the dance floor.
    As far as finding a good DJ ask your friends that have gotten married in the last year or two and see what their DJ was like. If you hear a DJ at a club you like ask him if he does weddings.

  • We recently saw this band out – The 19th Street band. Interesting arrangement of songs and wide variety of music. Band is a three piece band with a guitar, standup bass, and a violin/fiddle. They played irish music, country, rock, classic rock, ballads and even brought out the electric guitar at one point.

  • Following up on Neal’s comment, I’d like to mention DJ D-Mac. Daryle has been performing around DC for a decade and puts on a great wedding party that is far from the typical cheesy affair. Check out the website:

    • I can vouch for both Neal and DJ D-Mac. I was actually at a wedding where both of them dj’d together. The dance floor did not rest! I was gross and sweaty but couldn’t get myself to sit down. The wedding was last August and people still talk about what a great party it was. They both have extensive collections and know how to count bpm.

  • I have DJed a bunch of weddings and being in my early 30s have been to more than my fair share in the last 5 years.

    Please if you are going to hire a DJ make sure that they know how to mix. If a DJ can’t tell you the beats per minute of Billie Jean (117) then you don’t want them to DJ your wedding!

    A good time to show people how cool your musical tastes are is during dinner. After dinner let the DJ play stuff that is going to get people dancing. A good DJ can do that without playing super cheesy stuff like YMCA.

    Also, make sure you give the DJ a schedule well ahead of time that lets them know what your first dance/other special dances introductions are.

  • I used DJ Lil’E for my wedding three years ago. She’s awesome and you can catch her style at the Black Cat at least once a month.

  • A couple of friends of mine are in a band that specializes in doing parties and weddings, and they’re great. Check ’em out:

  • They are from the West Coast – Philly’s Phunkestra – but well worth it if you like Funk/Soul/Jazz combos. Great live band – can’t beat a band that has over 3 horns in the lineup. Anyhow I know they’ve traveled before for all kinds of gigs/weddings

  • We used Disc Jockeys on Call – I think they are big wedding DJ company that will tailor your wedding to whatever your tastes are. We weren’t really able to find a DJ whose tastes matched ours exactly but this was the next best thing because they have an online system where you can list song suggestions for different parts of the wedding & reception, and list must-plays and banned songs. Since we got married in a historic house, we needed music for the whole event from the ceremony music to dancing. They were really helpful for thinking through the options, especially with the ceremony where I was totally stuck. In the end I tagged hundreds of songs as likes or dislikes and probably about 50 must-plays…they were great with mixing and keeping the energy up (and helpfully forgetting to respond to requests for the Grateful Dead, sorry!)…they practically had to drag us off the dance floor at the end of the night 🙂

  • ruthie and the wranglers.

  • I got married about a year ago. We used an iPod after we couldn’t find any interesting options where our reception was held, and I have to say that it was the right move. If you’re at all particular about music, and you don’t want the stupid traditional BS that comes with a DJ (i.e. the Chicken Dance, YMCA, etc.), then I’d definitely suggest it. The best part is when, at the end of an awesome night of partying, you realize you didn’t shell out $1000 for an obnoxious stranger to yell over a mike and play shitty music.

  • If you shelled out $1000 for an obnoxious stranger playing YMCA and yelling over a mic then you didn’t do your homework and you deserve everything you get. I am a DJ so I’m biased but I would strongly discourage an ipod wedding if you really want to have a memorable party and music is important to you. You will save some money though…

    • We didn’t go the ipod route because neither of us wanted to be cueing up the music and didn’t have a friend we wanted to give that job to (since we had ceremony music, dinner, music, dancing figured they would be busy all night and miss out on the fun). A DJ was a happy medium between not spending money but maybe being stressed out vs. hiring a band, which we couldn’t afford.

    • +1

      If you want people to dance there is a reason why clubs have DJs and not ipods.

    • Didn’t mean to malign the entire DJing industry. I’m just pretty particular about music in general, and in planning the reception, I pretty quickly realized that my ideal DJ would simply play the exact songs I wanted in the order I specified, and stay out of the proceedings otherwise. I’d also note that our venue wasn’t set up for dancing.

      Anyway, of the weddings I’ve been to, the DJ always seemed superfluous at best and intrusive at worst. Classic example: playing the Paper Planes Remix at the early afternoon reception for a traditional Catholic wedding. That being said, I can see the appeal of a DJ who can assist the planners in filling out their musical preference, and in monitoring the vibe of the party and responding with the right songs. I just don’t imagine that comes cheap.

      • Our DJ was $1200. It definitely helped to have them for dancing and they did help with planning the order of the songs and the flow from one song to the next. For the ceremony they were crucial to cue up the right song at the right time. Dinner was pretty much on autoplay, but it was also nice to have someone else to keep the timeline for cutting the cake and making toasts…at your own wedding you’re in a time warp and need someone to tell you what to do at the right time. If you don’t have an extroverted friend friend or family member to play the master of ceremonies role the DJ can really help there.

  • We had a full band at our wedding 2 years ago, and it was great. Absolutely no regrets about what they brought to the party. But the expense was significant, and we were fully prepared to go with a DJ (about $6000 less) had my in-laws not decided that the band was what they really wanted out of the whole deal and agreed to pay the entire marginal cost of the band over the amount they previously had committed to contribute (we never, ever would have paid that much, but we graciously accepted it as a very generous gift). I would say that this marginal difference was the single biggest expense we chose to take on over a perfectly acceptable alternative.

    To my mind, it’s not really a choice between band and food, because the difference between band over DJ is so great (prob. $5-6k) and the difference between steak and chicken shouldn’t even be in play when you’re concerned about the bottom line. If money matters, you’ll be just fine with the rubber chicken and a DJ; no one will care about either if they’re otherwise having a good time. But if you must choose, band over food.

    What you absolutely can’t skimp on (at least with friends like mine) is booze: good bar service is worth every penny. A wedding is just a big party. Whatever you would economize on for your backyard July 4 BBQ is exactly what you should economize on for your wedding.

  • There are tons of local DC artists who can deliver great sets (both cover tunes or original songs) and make for a great party and atmosphere – while still being affordable!

    Depending on your style, Broadsound, is a great band. I’ve worked with them several times and know the artists personally and they sound great and are a lot of fun. They have a great vibe and get the party going. They are made up of crazy talented musicians from DC and have the ability play the standard wedding stuff, but can go to town on other types of music too.

    If you want a DJ there is a lot of local talent in DC that gets overlooked, so think outside of the box and check out some of the clubs.

    Also, a quick rec. on food vs entertainment – if you get creative there are tons of options. For example, you could do a dessert reception with full bar so it’s still a fun party atmosphere OR focus on a cocktail reception – seated dinners are overrated and take forever. If your friends and family like to socialize and dance – create an event that will let them do that. Bottom line is, its your day so have fun and let is be a reflection of the two of you! Good luck!

  • We sprung for a great jazz/swing band, The Joker’s Wild, and was really glad we did. Guests remember our wedding and 5 years on still comment on much fun the band was. They’re an energetic outfit that comes off ‘wild, cool and swingin’ not at all ‘schmultzy and dated.’ They got pretty much everyone on the dance floor throughout the evening. You can find them at

  • Hollertown is playing my wedding this weekend!! They rock!

  • Local favorites Poor But Sexy did our wedding, and they were fantastic. They learned some wedding standards specifically for the gig. And they’re not very expensive.

  • those fatback guys are fun, assume they would do weddings n stuff.

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