Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Cheap music for your wedding

Nearly $4,500 gets spent on music at the average wedding and reception. Have you considered a virtual DJ?

By Donna_Freedman May 18, 2012 3:36PM

Image: Wedding ring (© Jamie Grill/Photolibrary/Photolibrary)According to the Real Weddings survey by, music for the average wedding costs $4,484. That's $503 for the ceremony and $3,981 for the reception ($3,081 for the band and $900 for the DJ).

A band and a DJ? That's one nonstop reception.

But there are alternatives for those whose budgets don't stretch that far or who would rather spend that kind of money somewhere else.

Start by asking what you and your intended want versus what you think weddings are supposed to have. Do you really need a vocalist at the ceremony? Does your reception need wall-to-wall dance tunes or just some nice background music?

The wedding singer?
For what it's worth, I've been to exactly one wedding with a featured vocalist -- and because it was the groom's sister, she didn't cost anything. No one appeared to suffer the lack of a diva at the other ceremonies I've attended.

Suppose you do want someone to sing "Oh Promise Me" and no one in your family wants to sing it? Talk with the church music director -- maybe a chorister freelances at weddings -- or contact the music department at an area college or high school.

Schools are a good bet for the ceremony music, too. Marjorie Asturias hired a couple of student violinists to play her wedding, paying $75 for processional and recessional music. That was the 2003 price, so expect to pay a little more these days. But it will still be affordable, and you'll help young artists defray college expenses.

My daughter used an iPod and borrowed speakers instead of a DJ or live musicians. She made her bridely entrance to Pachelbel's Canon in D, which seems to be replacing the traditional wedding march by Mendelssohn.


Virtual DJs
A live band can be great fun at the reception, but, as noted earlier, they're not cheap. The iPod played on at my daughter's reception -- music she and her husband enjoyed plus some tunes designed to appeal to a broader audience.


Lauren Rathvon used the "WeddingDJ" iPhone app for her January 2012 nuptials in Sarasota, Fla. The $4.99 app let her organize music for both the ceremony and the reception, including the option to fade the end of one song into the beginning of another, as a live DJ would -- "a nice touch," Rathvon says.

Using a virtual disc jockey was one of several ways Rathvon kept costs low, which meant the guest list could be long. Total expenditure for 113 people for a seven-hour event was $2,100, including outfits for the wedding couple.

Being creative let them have the wedding they wanted. Being frugal meant they didn't go into debt to achieve it. That's a song worth singing.

Tell us about your wedding music. Live or recorded? DJ or iPod?

More on MSN Money:

May 20, 2012 9:46AM
Married in 1996. Total cost was about $1,300. The venue was a small local art gallery where my husband worked, so the use of it was a gift from his employer. Piano for ceremony (Pachebel!) was provided by the boss's wife who happened to be a piano teacher- free as her gift to us. The beautiful food and flowers were made by my family, and a friend took the photos. I did hire a lady to make the cake though.  A CD player provided music for the reception, which was a cocktail hour type of thing. Very, very cheap. But I have to say, none of it would have been possible without the hard work of the family. It really is hard to have a wedding that is mostly do-it-yourself.
May 18, 2012 11:57PM
My daughter-in-law is an accomplished pianist and her cousin is a professional concert pianist. The cousin played at the ceremony and reception and and the bride also sat down and played for a little while at the reception, as a sort of gift to her guests. It was all well-rehearsed classical music and just beautiful.

For our own wedding ceremony decades ago we had the choir that is traditional in our faith, and a simple reception without music.

May 21, 2012 2:17PM
Most costs for a wedding are uber-ridiculous.

The venue we used had a plug in speaker system, and We made playlists for different parts of the reception and had a relative who likes the microphone (every family has one) to do the MC'ing duties. Once the bridal dance, etc were over, I told the teenagers coming to bring their ipods and play whatever they wanted. Ended up with a lot of inappropriate music and everybody danced.

My bride to be was horrified at the money being dumped to flowers, so we had someone make our bouquets, and we made the boutineers that morning.  I think they looked much better than what you usually buy.

We found poodle candy molds online, and had relatives making the table treats.

there are many many opportunities to save money planning a wedding, and they end up nicer than a paid version because your relatives will put a little extra ooomph into it for you.

Oh, and we planned and executed the entire thing in less than 6 weeks. You don't need a 2 year planner. That just gives you 2 years to figure out ways to spend money. Figure out the couple things that are REALLY REALLY important to you, spend money on those, and have fun with the rest.

May 19, 2012 11:32AM

I swear Donna...wish you would have started this series on weddings 6-7 years ago...would have saved me a ton. Tell you what ,,,"the Knot" IMHO is the biggest budget buster out there for weddings as my DD would say well "the Knot" says we SHOULD spend this much on cake...or a limo...etc. For my DD's special day we had to have a three piece string group for the ceremony at the church AND then a "special DJ" for the reception. Funny thing was the three piece string leader approached me just before the ceremony and said she needed to be paid ....right then OR they wouldn't perform. I explained I had already paid in advance by CC at which point she asked to see a receipt....which as crazy as it sounds.... I retrieved from the "wedding folder" in my car. Ya don't want to know what this cost......

May 21, 2012 7:32AM
At my wedding reception, there was no music. Unbelievable! People could actually talk to each other! No one had to shout! Gasp!
May 19, 2012 10:49PM
My sister used her Sirius radio for her reception.  She picked a station and the dancing ensued!
May 26, 2012 7:33PM
Donna, there's frugal and then there's just cheap.  An iPod can't replace a human being with a brain.  If people want to have friends play/sing, and they also want to, that's fine and very understandable, but when you hire a professional you usually *do* get what you pay for, and if you're paying for a florist or photographer it's a little unfair to cheap out on the musicians.  We need to eat and pay bills, too.
May 29, 2012 1:25PM
As a professional musician,  I can honestly say this is a bit silly..  You really DO get what you pay for.  There is nothing better than a pro band for a wedding reception. There is also nothing WORSE than letting your amateur cousin do it for free,  it MIGHT be passable,  but more than likely it will be awful.

  Suggesting that a $5 app can replace a great band is ridiculous.   You might be able to replace a bad DJ.  BUT a professional DJ or band that doesn't weddings full time is going to know what music to pick to reach a large multi-generational audience BETTER than the bridge and groom.  Yes,  believe it or not,  Musicians and DJ's generally know what you and the audience want to hear better than you.  That's worth real money.  You can cheap out on other stuff on a wedding, but entertainment is where you get the best bang for your buck, because everyone remembers it.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.