Planning the Music for your Wedding Reception

dancing at a wedding

The music at the reception sets the stage for a night of celebration. While the music at the ceremony may be classical or dictated by the venue, the reception gives brides and grooms an opportunity to showcase their personal style and entertain their friends and family. The music at the reception needs to fulfill many functions. It’s the ambiance for the first dance as a couple. It’s the background noise during dinner. To plan the right music, wedding planners must take into account many needs.

Like many projects, finding the right music for your reception is likely to come down to size, cost and timing.


Music options for receptions range from a friend with an iPod and speakers to a 22 piece orchestra. The right choice depends on your needs and wedding style. If you are having a casual wedding with 10 people in your backyard, an iPod playlist may do the trick. If you have 400 people in a fancy venue, it may be time to hire a wedding music band. It’s important to match the size of the music (iPod versus individual DJ versus orchestra) to the size of the rest of the wedding.


If you match the music’s size to the wedding party, it’s likely that the cost will fall into place. A less expensive wedding can be matched to a less expensive music option, like a playlist. If you’re working with a budget, it’s helpful to have numbers to see where the music may fit in. These costs from the knot are averages for a 4-5 hour reception:

  • Wedding Music Band: $1,300 to $10,000
  • DJ: $350 to $3,500
  • iPod playlist: varies depending on speaker setup

For all the options, there is a large range. If you really want a wedding band but have a small budget, there are probably band options on the lower side of the cost range shown. On the other hand, if you want a really good band, it’s possible to spend more for higher quality.


Bands book up quickly, much like venues. It can be difficult to match a band or DJ’s schedule to your wedding date, especially if you are getting married during the spring and summer. I recommend that you begin searching for a band or DJ months before the wedding. You can start looking as soon as you know your date and venue. Also, on the day of the wedding, keep in mind that bands are usually scheduled for 4-5 hours. You may have to pay more if you keep the band later than expected.

Once you have a source for music, you can focus on the fun part – picking out the first dance song, the father daughter┬ádance song, the cake cutting song and the last song of the night. This video provides some great ideas.

Worried about missing an important song choice? See this checklist for help.