As couples start planning their upcoming nuptials they usually have some kind of vision as to what wedding receptions should be like, but once they get into actually planning one, they can find that the devil is in the details and oftentimes come to the realization that having to keep a large group of people somewhat entertained for several hours needs to be factored into the equation. So does keeping with certain traditions, like dances, throwing bouquets and cutting the cake.
The prime source for this is usually music. People like to dance and music keeps things lively and festive during the dinner and serves as a ceremonial focal point throughout the affair.
There also needs to be someone who knows the protocol for wedding receptions, keeps things moving and announces special events that happen during the party. The couple needs to be the focus, not the masters of ceremony, so you need to find experienced entertainers who know how to run one of these things to make it successful.
There are basically two options: You can hire a band or a DJ. There are advantages to both, and you need to decide what is the best option for you.
With a live band, you get the excitement of a group of musicians doing a performance just for you. There is a lot more action on stage with a live band and it's not something you see everyday. There are bands that specialize in doing a lot of wedding receptions, and a good one will have a front person who can more or less run the show. They know what music to play, they can take requests, they can play something special for the bride and groom, and are self-contained with lighting and sound systems. Plus they usually dress appropriately for the occasion. Hiring a band also adds a little prestige to your affair.
Using a DJ, on the other hand is somewhat simpler as it usually only involves one person. There is less of the performance excitement that comes with a live band but they offer a larger variety of music available, usually bring a lighting system for the dance floor and are often times less expensive.
But, when you are deciding on one of these options, keep in mind that at most wedding receptions, there is a large age group that will be there and want to participate. Booking the speed metal rock band that plays at the local underground club or the hip hop DJ spinning "gangsta" rap might be fun for you, but will probably leave your grandparents a little grumpy. On the other hand you probably don't want to hire people that had to pull themselves out of the retirement home to make the gig. Ideally you want to find a band or DJ that plays a little something for everyone.
Experienced entertainers who do a lot of wedding receptions know how to guide things through the dinner, toasts, first dances, throwing of the bouquets and garters, cutting the cake and basically keep things on track. They also are familiar with any traditions and cultural requirements that may be needed.