Weddings can be long, and while your guests will have a lovely time whatever it's always worth coming up with some wedding entertainment ideas to make sure that everyone has an awesome day. I've spent the day at hundreds of weddings and know there are a few moments of downtime. These are - before the ceremony, between the ceremony and meal, and then after the meal before the band / DJ is ready. So to help you find inspiration for your big day I've come up with a list of wedding entertainment ideas that'll hopefully keep your guests happy. And don't worry it's not all super expensive 10-piece party bands.
There are a few key points in the day where you can include entertainment to really make your wedding memorable. Let’s have a talk through each one.
Entertainment to welcome your guests before the wedding ceremony
I would usually recommend something musical and a little more gentle for pre-ceremony.
Lots opt to have a guitarist, harpist or pianist playing when your guests enter your venue. These are all great options for a classic and classy wedding but you could also think outside the box and have something a bit different like a bluegrass or wandering band if you want to go for something a bit more fun and unexpected!
Check out this acoustic trio Highness - who also do an awesome evening band.
Wedding ceremony music
Next up we have ceremony music. It is traditional to have an organ player during the ceremony, particularly in a church, but this can be a little old fashioned, so what many do (and what I did at my wedding) is have the evening band play acoustically. This always warms the guests up for the evening entertainment, and could also save you a bit of cash. It is usually more expensive to hire a separate act to travel to your venue.
Again I'd recommend something musical (don't worry it's not all going to be music). Most acts for ceremonies will be able to play 3 requests - one to walk the bride up the aisle, one for the signing of the register, and one (usually more upbeat) to get the newly married couple back down the aisle.
MK3 are a great option who do their own spin on current and classic tunes either upbeat or relaxing...
...probably not the most fitting song for a wedding ceremony but you get the idea...
During The Photos
The section of the day that can drag the most is that bit of downtime between your ceremony and the wedding breakfast. The bride and groom are off getting photos with selected family and friends and the main meal is still an hour or two away. It is this time where I regularly see people start to flag and maybe do the dreaded watch glance and yawn...
But this is where you can really have some fun!!
Laura and I are big retro games fans (we even spent one wedding anniversary here - neeeerds!) and so I thought I'd start with this little treat...
Retro games have made a come back in the last couple of years - think Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Mario, Pacman, pinball, joust. There are plenty of companies out there who hire awesome retro games machines to entertain at your wedding and if you love an arcade these can also act as a focal point or basis for your decoration. Why not set up a Street Fighter 2 tournament with a black board on the wall to keep places and scores? I can't think of anything more fun (but then I did used to spend most of my summer holidays dug in at a friend's house playing Goldeneye)! And you can hire them the whole day.
Food / Drink Trikes
We met these guys serving ice cream at a wedding we played last year - Chilly Whites - but it turns out they have so many different options. Tacos, craft beer, pancakes, coffee, so why not indulge and get a trike or two down so your guests can fill up a little. Especially if there's a big gap between breakfast and the evening meal.
Awesome Photo Booth
I've bumped into this awesome silver trailer photo booth several times at weddings over the last few years. The owners are lovely and it looks amazing. Photo booths provide your guests with something to do but also give you loads of memories for afterwards. They can also help people meet each other and loosen up a bit while they get silly with props. If you want to know what makes for a good photo booth the best ones always have a lobster... here's our house band Mister Kanish enjoying a booth.
We also have lots of great bands who are more than happy to play an hour's more relaxed music during the day. We always recommend using the same band in the afternoon as the evening as this can be a great way to warm your guests to the band and can usually come out a bit cheaper than hiring two separate acts.
The best place to start if you're just looking for music for your day is here - Acoustic Entertainment
Wedding breakfast music
Entertainment during the wedding breakfast can add a fun touch. Something not too invasive or loud so that guests are still able to talk is always good at this point. Have you considered a jazz band or an acoustic guitarist? Maybe a table magician? Another option is to have something fun and engaging just before the meal, like singing waiters or a mariachi band. An act that surprises your guests will keep the conversation going throughout dinner!
Here's one of our wandering fully acoustic bands - Roaming Quarter - they would be perfect at moving from table to table to get your guests warmed up for the evening.
Finally the evening's entertainment, the piece de resistance of your wedding entertainment! You probably want something dancey and energetic to see the night out.
Here's a great example...
One thing to bear in mind when picking an evening band is that while you and your fiancé should love their music, they also need to be able to keep your guests happy, so if you have them play any songs that may not be well known, just make sure that you also get them to include some more popular songs as well. A really good compromise to keep the oldies happy is either to have a band that play more modern or unusual songs but in a 20’s style or old fashioned songs but in a modern way. Such as these bands ...
Laura and I saw The 45s at a secret cinema event in London and they were absolutely amazing. Everyone was dancing.
We have loads of great acts to choose from including bands in some of the following genres...
Mumford and Sons / Folk - Bands playing modern songs in a folky style with instruments such as double bass, fiddle, banjo and acoustic guitars.
Rock and Pop - Rocking bands with electric guitars playing anything from Bruno Mars to Bruce Springsteen, Arctic Monkeys and Arethra Franklin.
Funk and Soul - Usually bigger bands maybe with the addition of brass playing songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, and James Brown.
Your First Dance
We think that a first dance is really important to set the tone for the rest of the evenings dancing. It’s a great way to gather your guests and get them on the dance floor ready for the music to begin. We have noticed that weddings that avoid a first dance often have less dancing in general as a result. So we’d definitely recommend you have one, and if you’re a bit shy just ask your bridal party to join you up there! No one expects you to have all the moves, a gentle sway will work just as well. Of course, if you do have all the moves feel free to show those off as well!
Aside from the music you choose there are some other things you can do to make sure your wedding entertainment is well received.
- Check if your venue has a volume / sound limiter, and if it does let the band know so they can deal with it
- Keep your band hydrated and well fed! Make sure the bar are instructed to give them free soft drinks. Performing live can be exhausting work, so keeping them looked after so they can give their best performance.
- If you have a choice of where the band performs it is always good to put near the bar. This way the dance floor will stay much more full as people won’t have to wander off to get a drink.
Free or Cheap Wedding Entertainment Ideas
It's all very well spending loads on something to entertain your guests during the day but what about the wedding on a budget. Here are some ideas for free wedding entertainment.
DIY photo booth with props
I'm really lucky because Laura is amazing at crafts. She painted a back drop and collected up a load of props for our photo booth. We already had quite a nice camera (I've seen people use iPads) which we set up on a tripod but you could just as easily ask all of your guests to take photos on their phones and organise a dropbox or instagram hashtag to share them. Give instructions next to the props so people remember to upload there and then.
For a cheap and all inclusive wedding entertainment idea why not spread some games out on the lawns at your venue. Classics include croquet, jenga, or even just stick out a football and a couple of jumpers for goal posts. Ring toss, bean bag toss, lawn bowls, welly hurling? How about space hopper racing?!
Open Mic Session / Karaoke
If you have a friend who plays in a band and has some equipment you can borrow or some musical family why not set up an open mic session! We did this at our wedding and it worked so well. Alternatively rig up a TV and karaoke machine.
Favours and Wedding Breakfast Table Games
Why not come up with some games your guests can play to help break the ice around the table at dinner. I've seen photo games, where people have to capture a photo of something specific (e.g. bride and groom kissing, father of the bride dancing etc), table trivia / Mr and Mrs quiz about the bride and groom, and advice cards, where the guests offer their own ideas for marriage advice.
Great Wedding Bake Off
Want a bit of fun and a cheap dessert? Ask a select few friends who can bake to bring a cake or dessert and serve. Maybe even have a competition to see who wins best cake (this does mean you have to try them all which is not a problem).
Other Wedding Entertainment Ideas
Here comes a quick fire list of other ideas; bouncy castle, fireworks, caricaturists, casino, fancy dress, ceilidh, circus show, fairground rides, face paints and glitter bars, music videography, silent disco, and boat trip all of which I've seen at weddings and have gone down amazingly well.
One thing to note is to not go too nuts. Most people want their friends and family together with them at the finale so bear in mind if you have lots of entertainment your guests might get a bit spread thin.
If you need help finding some musical entertainment for your day then give us a shout - [email protected] - tell us which part of your day you need entertainment for and we'll recommend some options!