There are lots of things to be wary of so that your evening entertainment goes off without a hitch. Read our wedding planning tips on getting an incredible band that plays music that you and your guests will love.
We’ve decided that every couple of months, we’ll offer our best wedding planning tips on our blog. Laura and I have planned our own wedding (Laura even wrote a book on the subject); we’ve helped thousands of couples plan and replan their weddings; and I’ve attended over 600 weddings over the last 12 years — probably more than most wedding planners — so I’ve seen it all!
This is the first of our wedding planning advice blogs, and why not start with the one thing we know most about — wedding entertainment. Today we’re going to talk about the darker side of wedding bands, things to watch out for when booking one and aspects most of our brides and grooms don’t know before booking a band. We’ll also look at how to get the most of the band you book so your evening wedding reception is everything you’ve dreamed of, and more.
Our wedding planning tips regarding evening entertainment and bands start with these basics:
- Book a band that won’t cancel on you.
- Make sure it’s the same people in the videos and, if not, check who might turn up.
- Make the most of the band on the night.
- Take care of your band so they can give you a great performance.
Booking a Wedding Band That Won’t Cancel on You
Let me start by saying The Band Boutique has never had a band cancel. Some clients come to us with the bad news that their band has cancelled, with only a few months or days to go until their big day. The singer is ill; they’ve double-booked; the guitarist is having a baby — these are some of the reasons that brides and grooms give me when a band has pulled out on them.
It’s a real shame, but 9 out of 10 times when this happens, it’s because the band isn’t a professional wedding band. If I’m being really honest, it only ever happens with bands who charge very little.
More often than not, if a wedding band can perform for you for less than £700, it’s because they aren’t doing it full-time. They don’t have the backups in place to cover them if, say, the singer is sick. They haven’t planned for performers who can fill in at the last minute, because most of their gigs are low-key or few and far between. While they may be devastated to cancel, they haven’t had to plan for all eventualities, so they may not have a choice.
Check your wedding band’s contract for their clauses on cancellation and backup performers. If they don’t allow for the use of stand-in performers (known in the business as deps), then chances are they don’t have a backup plan if someone is ill. Their contract should protect you as much as it protects them from cancellation — so make sure you know what’s involved.
One benefit of booking through an agency is that if something drastic does happen with your band, we have around 90 others we can get in touch with on the day to help you find a new one.
So my wedding planning tip for booking a band that won’t cancel is go professional, check their contracts, and make sure you don’t underspend. Usually, around £350 to £500 per musician will get you a great evening’s entertainment. Check out all our wedding bands.
Make Sure the Musicians in the Video Will Perform at Your Wedding
It’s something many brides and grooms take for granted. They see a video of a band online, love the musicians, book them — and on the night, there’s a different singer. While the new singer might be great, it’s not as they expected, and the wedding they’d planned for isn’t as perfect as it otherwise may have been.
If your band had to replace someone last minute due to illness or a family emergency, it’s absolutely understandable, and, really, professional wedding bands have stand-ins who can get involved last minute. But some bands don’t have a set line-up and are a collective of musicians who don’t play regularly together. Instead, they can be drafted in for the gig that’s nearest to them or potentially swap your wedding out if they get a higher-paid booking.
The best way to find out is to ask the band if the musicians in the video will turn up on your day. Do some sleuthing: check their Instagram or Facebook to see if they have regular photos of the same guys. If not, it’s worth asking the question.
We work with a few bands who regularly use different musicians and all feedback so far has been great but, if you’re particularly set on a singer or a great bass player, it’s always worth checking that they’ll definitely be there. If your band can’t promise, ask for a video of the singer who it might be.
Make the Most of the Band at Your Wedding
When planning a wedding, you want to make sure you get to use the band at their best. Here are my top wedding planning tips for making the most of your band.
Tip 1: Make sure they play at the right time.
Don’t rush your evening band on too early. If you’ve got the reception venue between, say, 4 pm and midnight, don’t get the band on any earlier than 8 pm. Most of your guests will have finished a three-course meal and sat through around half an hour of speeches. It’s best to give them a little time to stretch their legs, chat to people they weren’t sitting next to or evening guests, and also have a few more drinks.
Also if it’s still sunny outside, most wedding guests may want to enjoy the weather. Having your first dance too early can mean they either miss it or disappear straight outside once it’s finished (no matter how good the band is). If it’s warm, it’s best to wait until at least 8:30 pm, so it’s darker and people are a bit more ready for entertainment. As well as this, don’t start too late — if a band has 2 x 60 minutes to play, don’t stick them on at 10 pm and expect them to blast all the way through, as they’ll need a break and so will the dancers.
Tip 2: Trust them to pick the music.
If you’ve picked a good band, they will have an idea of what gets people up and dancing. While it’s great for us as musicians to have a steer on your music tastes, ultimately it’s best to leave most of the music choice in the safe hands of your band. Trust me, they want to do a good job for you. They want you and your wedding guests to dance all night.
I usually recommend clients pick five or so songs that they love from the band’s repertoire and two or three songs that are definite nos. This way, the band will have a great idea of your tastes without being locked into a setlist that might not play to their strengths.
Most of our bands don’t plan their wedding setlist ahead of the night. They tend to gauge what your friends and family are dancing to and play more of that whilst working from a list of what usually works well for the weddings they play.
Take some time to check out a band’s repertoire ahead of booking them. Ask them if there are any songs they always play, to see if this works with your plans for the evening music.
Tip 3: Ask them to play your first dance.
Planning for your band to play the first dance is a great way to break the ice at the start of the night, and most bands offer this for free. Check out our unique first dance inspiration and tips on picking a first dance.
Some of our brides and grooms worry that the band won’t do a song justice. Most bands will learn exactly the version you want, but make sure you’re happy if they change the instrumentation slightly— if, for instance, you pick a piano song and they don’t have a piano.
If you’re really worried, have them play your first dance track through their PA. Our top planning wedding tip is to definitely have a first dance as your guests will already be gathered around the dance floor and be more likely to dance from the off. Even the best wedding bands have a little difficulty dragging people up from their comfy chairs in another room.
Take Care of Your Wedding Band
There are only a few things a band needs to make them happy: food, drinks, parking and the time to do a good job! If a band is onsite for over four hours, we always ask that clients provide a hot meal. The musicians will likely be travelling for at least an hour to and from your venue and will be on-site over dinner time.
They’ll also be doing lots of heavy lifting and energetic performance, so keeping them well-fed is important. Don’t worry though, they won’t expect the same food your guests are getting, at £50 a head. Most great wedding caterers can do a supplier meal cheaply, or you could always order a takeaway for the band. More often than not it’s tricky for your band to get away while they’re onsite, and a good hot meal can make all the difference.
All our bands take between one and two hours to be fully set up, which can include up to 30 minutes of noise at the end. Make sure you leave enough time and space in your day for the band to get all their equipment set up and sound-checked. A good sound check makes for a great performance. They’ll be able to hear each other on stage, and they’ll sound great on the dance floor.
If your day runs slightly late (which all weddings do — best men don’t know the meaning of “you’ve got five minutes for your speech”), then your band will do their best to speed through their set-up but will usually need most of their allotted time. When planning your wedding, make sure you bear this in mind if you want a band, and always ask how long they take to set-up before you book.
Wedding Planning Tips
Over the next few months, we’re going to offer more wedding planning tips. If you want to get everything in one go, why not check out Laura’s book, How To Plan a Wedding. It’s got everything we’ve learnt from planning our own wedding and also performing at hundreds of weddings over the years.