Choosing your wedding music is no longer as simple as just deciding between a band or a DJ. From specialty performances to unique collaborations, Jim Eppolito of West Coast Music shares the biggest trends he’s seeing right now:

1. DJ and Bands Collaborate

The connection between dance bands and DJs has never been stronger in the special event industry. We’ve seen this trend increase so much over the years that we created a Dance-DJ Band hybrid — DJSquared — for guests that wanted to see live instrumentation with recorded vocals. Most recently, we have added a rapper to this ensemble. DJs will often play in 15 or 20 minute intervals as bands take breaks, and then typically remain onsite to do a late-night or post-party after show. This tandem of booking a live dance band and DJ is remarkable value for clients who want to hear a ton of music on their wedding night. The downside to this trend is that some customers might not like the look of having two setups on stage; the band’s and the DJ’s. This is a purely visual aesthetic preference, of course, and candidly, a complaint we have yet to hear.

2. Specialty Performance Acts

The most efficient way we’ve seen our clients distinguish their wedding from those of their friends and colleagues is to contract a specialty performance act — rehearsed, choreographed dance shows that range in length from 20 minutes, like the hip-hop quartet BRUTHA to 35 minutes Jersey Boys set. The specialty performance would be in addition to your reception band and take place during set break. Each vocalist group has the full dance band as their backing band, and the level of energy and tone of the room spikes when these acts hit the stage. We have not seen a downside to this trend so far!

Brutha

3. Upgrading the Audio Service

One trend we have seen is a recent uptick in professional audio service bookings for weddings. Quite simply, the best band in the world won’t sound like the best band in the world without a proper audio amplification system. Running sound through onsite venue systems is not always the most favorable route to embark. As a result, clients have begun to explore upgraded or “pro” audio services to ensure the maximum value for their dance band. Consequently, for some clients this extra expense can be viewed as a con.

4. Protocol Dances No Longer a Mandate

Consequently, protocol dances (and speeches) are no longer a wedding night mandate. West Coast Music just serviced two consecutive travel events, one in San Simeon, CA and the other in Las Vegas, where the bride did not have a father-daughter dance. Nobody in the audience batted an eye! It’s been our experience most recently that millennial wedding functions tend to be a bit more communal than perhaps throwback formal. This is not to say — at all — that weddings are losing their luster; on the contrary, there is literally more time in the evening now for guests to just dance! For some guests, though, seeing these vintage wedding elements become less frequent is perhaps disheartening.

5. Bride & Groom Take True Center Stage

The classic — virtually historic — wedding model of the bride’s parents as hosts and masters of ceremonies has given way recently to the bride and groom themselves taking center stage. Be it the millennial generation or merely the natural evolution of live events, we’ve seen how involved and detailed the bride and groom can now be in nearly every facet of wedding planning and execution. This is a particular boon for us, where the couple getting married is often the couple determining the band, and we now have direct access to their preferred playlist, do not playlist, and any special dance requests. One drawback to this increased symmetry in planning is that it becomes more difficult to surprise the bride and groom on their actual day because they’re more involved in the logistic, planning, and pacing of their party than perhaps in years or decades past.

—Kristen Klein