Your wedding day is perhaps the most important day of your life. A lot of money, energy and emotion is invested in these 24hrs. Live music can really add a spark to the occasion...or alternatively prove to be just an expensive mistake.
I will give you my advice on booking a band and how to make the best use of your wedding venue for live music. I will also cover many other logistics which will help you avoid the many mistakes I have witnessed in my work and ensure that you get the most from any live music you may plan to have on your big day.
I hope you enjoy this information and it proves helpful in creating a perfect, memorable live music experience for your wedding.
When looking for a band for your wedding here are a few things which will help you find the right act.
I’m guessing the age range at your wedding will vary considerably. Ideally you want a band who will cover a lot of well known songs from various styles and eras of music.
For example, although you may not fancy hearing an old crooning number, guaranteed it will make the older members of your wedding party beam with happiness as memories come flooding back and they take to the floor for a slow dance with whoever is within arms reach. This is also why, unless the entire guest list of your wedding is obsessed by Robbie Williams, a tribute act may get tiresome. You want more variety and the flexibility to cater to everyone’s tastes.
Your band should provide you with a repertoire or “set list” which will enable you to check that they have an expansive timeline of popular songs which cover a wide variety of genres.
No matter how many hours you put into slaving over the details, planning the perfect itinerary for your special day, your wedding will not run precisely to schedule. I have yet to perform at one that does. You are organising people who want to socialise, catch up and have a good time with you celebrating your marriage. A lot of the time alcohol will be involved as well and we all know how a bit of drink has a tendency to adjust timekeeping skills.
This does not mean you should worry, it just requires you and your band to be flexible and have options. It may be that after the speeches have run on a little further than planned, there is only time for the band to play for half an hour before the evening buffet is served. Your band should be flexible enough to adjust their sets to accommodate this. If you have hired them for two one hour sets, they should be able to play for 30 minutes before the buffet and 90 minutes afterwards. They should also adapt their song choice accordingly; playing good, medium tempo music in the first set then letting loose with upbeat numbers to fill the dance floor for the entire second performance.
Another great advantage of booking a band for your wedding is the opportunity to have them perform your first dance live, right before your eyes. A good band should provide the option of learning and performing that special song just for you.
It is important to note however that due to the instrumental make-up of your band, or the sampled sounds on your particular first dance, it may not be possible to completely duplicate the recording. So if you are desperate to hear the 26 piece big band swing classic version of your special song, it would be a better idea to simply ask the band to play your iPod through their speakers.
A final note on the first dance. In my career I have witnessed many couples who learn a step-by-step dance routine to their song. This is a wonderful idea and can add to the first dance experience. If you decide to do this and have your band perform the song, it is essential that you inform them of your dance routine. Many times a band will take it on themselves to reduce or extend sections of the songs to cater for the live performance. This could severely jeopardise your routine!
So what happens between sets when your band is taking a short break? Complete silence?! Of course not, your band should provide suitable background music throughout the night. This will keep the party atmosphere alive while the musicians get ready to give their all in the next set.
One thing I have experienced at some weddings which is a really nice touch and well worth considering is a pre-prepared track listing provided by the couple. The bride and groom simply give the band an iPod, laptop, or CD with a playlist designed by them of all their most memorable songs. Imagine the background music at your wedding containing the song you met to, had your first kiss, went on your first holiday together. Your band should provide you with the necessary facilities to accommodate this.
This is a must and most wedding venues insist that the band performing hold Public Liability Insurance and a PAT certificate. The license ensures that if there is any problem during the evening caused by the band, any legal proceedings will be covered fully.
The Musician’s Union offers it’s members Public Liability Insurance up to the cost of £10 million. With this option available there is really no excuse for a band not to have cover.
It would be wise to ask to be emailed a scan of the license and certificate before proceeding with booking a band.
In order to get the most out of your band, certain aspects of the wedding venue need to be considered. In fact most of these aspects are important even if you aren’t trying to accommodate live music.
You may think it rather arrogant for a band to want as much room from the edge of the dancefloor as possible. But the reasons why has little to do with ego.
I have spent years seeing enthusiastic dancers knock the microphone stand and send the mic straight into the teeth of the singer. The dancer is just enjoying themselves as they should, and a reasonable amount of space would allow them to do this without adding to a vocalist’s dental bill.
A good band should offer you various line-up options for your wedding and suggest a suitable choice for the size of room and space you have to accommodate them.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of your guests are going to congregate where the drinks are being served. Primarily this is due to the fact that your wedding is a cause for celebration and everyone needs a glass to raise and the consumption of a drink or two (or three or four) is common at such an occasion. As people mill around the bar they will begin to mingle with others and start conversations. Therefore, like it or not, the bar is likely to be the most attended area of your wedding reception.
I have seen it countless times. The bar is in a room on its own several doors down from where the band are to play. Only the adventurous few are willing to leave the social atmosphere at the bar and move to an entirely different room for a dance.
You want to get the most out of your band. You will if the dancefloor is in the same room as the bar. The queue for drinks will begin to merge with people standing chatting who break off for the occasional dance. The dancefloor will seldom, if ever, be empty.
Here are a couple of other considerations which help you get the most out of your band.
Many weddings which I have had the pleasure of performing at have included a delightful evening buffet or hog roast. Food in the evening is an excellent way to refuel your guests, spurring them on to party late into the night.
A wise wedding planner would allocate the evening meal during a break where the band is playing. I remember an occasion where the band I was part of began playing and the dancefloor filled rapidly. All of a sudden people started leaving the room until we were playing to no-one and wondering if we had made some horrible faux-par. It wasn’t until we finished our first set 20 minutes later and left the room to witness a swarming buffet that we realised what had happened. The guests had stopped dancing in order to sample the food, not through any fault of our own. They knew the band would be on all night whereas the buffet had a more limited lifetime.
In order to get the best value for money from your live music, you want to maximise the time people will be able to enjoy the band. Therefore it is important to organise any evening food to coincide with a break for the musicians.
Obviously your band will need to set up at some point before performing. A good band will bring with them a fair amount of equipment in the form of; instruments, speakers, cables etc. They should be able to set up and do a sound check in 45 minutes to an hour. I would thoroughly recommend that this is not during your wedding meal or the speeches!
If you have the luxury of a separate room (some venues use a false wall which can be folded away) where the meal and speeches are to be held this is not an issue. However, if you only have one room where your wedding is being held, a good band should offer you the option of an early set up. This means that for a small extra fee the band will be sound checked and out of your way before you and your guests arrive. It is worth enquiring as to whether your band will offer this for you.
I hope this information has been of use to you in planning your special day.
I wish you and your future spouse a lifetime of happiness!