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Wedding entertainment is a big thing when it comes to a wedding, I always tell my couples it is one of the first things you need to book and it is really important that you get it right. A bad wedding band of bad wedding DJ can be the death of any wedding, no matter how great everything else is. But with so many bands to choose from how do you decide? One of my jobs as a planner is to find the perfect band for people, to use my contacts and my experience to find the right sort of entertainment and sound for each specific couple. BUT if you haven’t got a planner to help you with these things then what sort of thing should you be asking?
To help me with todays advice piece I have enlisted Sophie Garner, who is a professional singer/songwriter/vocal coach and who heads up The New Breed Band. She has years of experience in the wedding world so is the perfect person to help with today topic.
So I’ll hand the Blog over to Sophie………
There is so much to think about when planning a wedding. I know from experience that one of the main things that bride, groom and guests remember is the entertainment, in particular the evening reception. Strangely though it is often the very last thing to get booked and sometimes not given the careful thought required to get the best result.
There are a multitude of bands you can book now from the classic all round party band like mine through to a ceilidh band, salsa band etc. Whatever you decide to book for your evening reception I would advise that you choose something that will offer you a variety of music to cater for all age groups so no one feels left out. A party function band has always been, and still is, the most popular choice simply because it can offer such a wide variety of music.
There are some key points to bear in mind when booking a band:
1) Can you make choices from the band play list?
Many bands won’t give you this option and despite having a play list as long as your arm on their website, they will stick to their own choice of material and dictate the play list. Make sure you ask how much involvement you get to have in the play list selection before booking. I have what’s called a traffic light system. I ask all my clients to highlight their favourite songs in green and any they don’t like in red and orange naturally is for neutral. I then create a bespoke play list based on the green and orange selected songs. A good idea when thinking about your choices would be to email the bands set list to a cross section of your wedding party and ask them what they like. It’s too easy to focus in on your own personal tastes are which can sometimes alienate your wedding guests.
2) Does the band provide music between sets?
We provide incidental music free as part of our service. This helps to keep the costs down and avoids having to pay for a DJ which can really ramp up the cost of your evening entertainment. A DJ can sometimes end up costing almost as much as a band. Be very choosy about your choice of a DJ, as quality can be very variable. Cheap will normally mean poor quality.
If you do decide to just book a band some bands may charge extra for supplying Cd/Ipod music in between, so ask if it is included in the overall fee. You can also offer to provide your own Ipod and make up a special set list of your choice. This is becoming a popular choice with the clients I work with and it makes it so much more personal for you.
3) Do you have a special first dance song?
The first dance….. if you do decide to kick off the evening with the tradition of a first dance then think carefully about what you want. Fast or slow? I speak to many clients who don’t have a` special song and they ask me to choose for them. I also get asked if we can learn a special song for a client. This is a service we can provide free of charge.
A popular option is having dance lessons before the big day to learn a specific dance routine. This is fine if you don’t have two left feet, if so I would steer well clear of this option! Most couples do not look or feel like Fred and Ginger going round the dance floor as they clumsily step on each others toes while whispering to each other “Turn left now. No, no I mean right! Spin around!”
Before you know it your 3 minute song has become a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons. I’ve seen it happen believe me!
The best first dances are the ones where you can be yourselves, hug, kiss and laugh. It makes for a much better experience for you AND the photographer who wants to get natural and happy shots of you both. Inviting other guests up to join in half way through is always a good move. It also helps kick into the first live band set as the dance floor is full instead of people gradually disappearing to the bar!
4) Does the band meet the requirements of the venue?
One really important thing to consider at the venue booking stage (and I cannot stress this enough) is to check with the venue if they have a sound limiter and if so what is it set at. Sound limiters are the bane of a band’s life. They are fitted in some venues where there is history of noise problems with neighbours i.e. in a residential area. For many of the country house hotels this isn’t an issue, but for hotels in built up areas and towns it can be a problem. In our experience venues are sometimes less than honest about the limitations imposed upon them by sound restriction.
Put simply, a sound limiter controls the supply of electricity to the bands equipment through designated sockets. If the decibel level in the room exceeds the set level, the power supply to the band is cut for a few seconds and then resets itself. In venues where the sound limiter is set very low it can obviously interrupt the flow of the music. Always question the venue on the sound limiter setting, if they have one, and then check with the band you are booking. A night of disruption during every song can quite literally ruin your wedding night and leave a band feeling totally frustrated!
Almost every band as a standard part of their contract requires them to be fed and watered during their time with you. This important point is often overlooked during the arrangements for the wedding but please be aware that unless the band is local, they have often travelled a considerable distance to get to you so a well looked after band is a happy band! Sometime clients offer alcohol as well as soft drinks. Never feel pressured to make this part of the food and drink as it really is at your discretion. Also remember as professional musicians we cover a huge mileage every year, in our own case sometimes in excess of 30,000 and we do not drink and drive like most professionals.
Most venues now will ask if your band has Public Liability Insurance (PLI) and Portable Appliance Test certificates (PAT) All professional bands should have these and they are increasingly being requested by venues. Venues are also now asking for a band risk assessment. Make sure your band is able and willing to provide one if required. This responsibility lies solely with the band so there should never be any cost to you whatsoever. If a band doesn’t have these readily available I would question their professionalism. Please make sure you ask the band this before booking.
Give some thought as to how you would like to close the evening. Most bands will advise on this from their own experience but you should talk through any ideas you have. Do you want the band to finish or the DJ or an IPod? Sometimes the temptation is to carry on until 1am/2am. We have found that due to what is often a long day, by midnight most guests have flaked out. Some clients have made elaborate arrangements to carry on later and this can sometimes be an anti climax as guests gradually drift off to their hotel rooms!
5) How long does a band play for?
Band performance times can vary according to individual needs but most bands provide either two or three sets for the evening performance. A typical evening normally begins with the first dance at around 8.15pm followed by 3x 40 minute sets, finishing at midnight. This equates to two hours of performance time. Other bands may offer 2 x 45 minute sets or 2 x hour sets, it varies from band to band.
So I hope you have found that useful? Do remember that every band is different and they will all have a set list fo requirements, so it is always a good idea to have a standard list of questions ready to ask so you can get a good comparison between each fo them.
If there are any other topics you would like me to cover in the Wedding Planning Wednesday feature then do let me know. Either email [email protected] or leave a comment in the box below.
My name is Sophie Garner. I am a professional singer/songwriter and vocal coach. I am also the leader of The New Breed band. We can provide live music at every part of the wedding from the ceremony itself through to wedding breakfast and evening reception. We have performed at over 1,300 weddings ranging from small budget village halls through to lavish no expense spared luxury stately homes and venues across the UK and beyond.
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