How Not to Ruin Your Wedding Reception; 12 Essential Do's & Don'ts.
I’m guessing this is probably the first time you’ve ever considered booking a band and indeed the first time you’ve ever got married? If that’s the case, the following tips could make all the difference to your wedding day.
As the Managing Director of Scotland’s busiest wedding entertainment agency, I spend a lot of time talking to the most popular bands in the country. Musicians love a gossip and one of our favourite things to talk about is our experience playing at weddings.
So why does it matter what your wedding band thinks of you as a couple? Surely they should just do what they’re told? They’re getting paid after all.
It’s worth remembering that experienced wedding bands will have performed at hundreds, if not thousands of weddings over the years and, as a former wedding musician with 25 years of wedding band experience myself, I guarantee you we’ve seen it all, from couples who ruin their own weddings to those (thankfully the majority) who have an absolute blast and quite simply the best night out of their lives.
In fact most of these opinions would be echoed by any other wedding reception supplier but I’m going to talk from my own actual experience as a wedding musician and for the last 22 years, as a wedding band agent.
- Micromanage your big day. We call these control freak couples ‘Clipboards,’ – everything is timed with military precision and when things (inevitably) overrun or don’t go to plan, couples can get so irritated and panicked that they forget what the day is all about. Don’t be that couple.
- Related to the last point, don’t give your band a fixed list of the songs you want them to play and worse, tell them when to play them. A good band will read the room and play music appropriate for everyone. By all means let them know what your favourite songs are, after all you’ve probably seen the band’s set list so you’ll know they do a lot of your favourites, but leave the details to them. It’s one of the things you pay them for. If you’re asking the band to learn more than three new tunes, you’ve picked the wrong band.
- If you’ve practiced a routine for your first dance, don’t ask the band to play it live. Instead, ask them to play the actual track you’ve practiced to. The slightest change in the arrangement or even the tempo from what you’ve learned will throw you – and musicians are human, not machines. It won’t be exactly the same and it won’t be their fault.
- After the first dance, don’t disappear to the bar for the rest of the night. You must lead by example; if you’re dancing so will your guests. This is particularly important for the first part of the evening when people are sober and shy. Get your bridesmaids and groomsmen to circulate and ask people up to dance – it’s the perfect way to create a great atmosphere and set the tone for the entire evening.
- Don’t ask the band to play right to the death. If you’re coaches are arriving at 1am – ask the band to finish half an hour before so that your guests can get themselves organised and say their goodbyes. There’s nothing worse than being rushed out the door without a chance to wind down and mingle for the last half hour or so. This is also usually where your uncle will start singing Sweet Caroline and it’s only fair that everyone gets the chance to join in (it entertains the bands too).
- Tolerate drunk friends and family getting on the stage uninvited; they’re a risk to themselves, the musicians and to your entire event. It’s just embarrassing and unnecessary. Get your best man to keep an eye out for things like this and if it’s likely to be him crashing the stage, choose another best man.
- Hassle the band if your reception is running late by asking them to set up in half the normal time. In their haste there will inevitably be something missed leading to a technical issue that can be hard to track down (and will take a while to trace resulting in less live music). If a band needs 40 minutes to set up, that will still be the case even if they don’t get access to the room after they were supposed to. Good bands will be aware of the time and push themselves to get ready faster, but let them get on with it. Interrupting them will only slow things down.
- By all means be aware of the time, but please relax and enjoy your day. No other day of your life will go by so quickly so don’t fret over things you can’t control, like the weather, your cousins screaming kids or that big spot on your nose.
- Treat your entertainers with respect and politeness. You’d be amazed at some of the stories (and my own experience backs this up) of being treated like the hired help. This can make the difference between a band just playing ‘at’ you and playing ‘for’ you – doing everything they can to make sure you and your guests have a ball.
- Let the band know if it’s OK to have some food during the buffet. It’s nice to be invited but it’s a dying courtesy. Good bands won’t go daft, but if you cater for the band numbers when planning your buffet – the musicians will appreciate it and will return the favour by working even harder to make your night a success. While on the subject, it used to be tradition that the Best Man would offer to buy the band a drink. It’s rare now and in fact a lot of musicians don’t drink alcohol at gigs, but a glass of coke or a cold beer is always welcome as it’s hot work. If you want the band to think you’re lovely, do this one thing. It’ll be worth it.
- Agree in advance how long a break your band will take. It shouldn’t exceed 30 minutes and if it does, you’re within your rights to ask them to get back on the stage. Good bands won’t need to be asked.
- Thank them at the end of the night. They’ve still got to strip down all their equipment and load it into cars and vans. Then they’ve got to drive all the way home and probably get up for work the next day – so if you want them to have fond memories of playing at your wedding, this goes a long way. The karma from this will repay you.
So there you have it, a dozen insider tips on how to make your wedding memorable for all the right reasons. I’d be interested in hearing your comments about this. Am I right, am I wrong, do you have any tips yourselves. Fire away, I’m all ears.
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