A quick update to the gig diary – my performances at Smoke & Mirrors on 19th June and 18th July will not be taking place, due to wedding bookings. Just in case anyone was planning on coming to watch me play – I won’t be there! I’ll be very ably covered by pianist Steve Williams on the 18th and guitarist Ryan Inglis on the 19th.
As a follow-on from my last blog piece about live wedding music, I’ve also put together a few thoughts on what tends to work less effectively, in my experience:
- Too much music! I’ve had plenty of emails in the past along the lines of “we’d like you to play at the church, then the drinks reception for a couple of hours, then we want you to play background music during the meal, then if you could do a couple of hours before the DJ starts”. When you’re booking a musician, you want value for money for sure – but as a solo performer, this is physically impossible! It would amount to 5 or 6 hours of almost constant singing/playing – and if I had any voice left by that point, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to feel my fingers!
- Beware of a tight schedule. Now this affects the live music for sure, but also applies to the whole day. If you’re the control freak type who wants your day planned to the minute, unfortunately you do have to prepare yourself for unexpected situations which could delay the day. Try not to cram too much into a short space of time. You may have to look really closely at your timings, and allow for some leeway, especially if your ceremony is starting later in the day. Speeches usually take longer than you expect… the bride is often not on time for the ceremony… the photographs invariably take longer than you’d imagine. Your venue or wedding co-ordinator, if you have one, will usually guide you. If they take a sharp intake of breath and say “ooh, it’s a bit tight”, they’re probably right. It only takes one of the waiting staff to go off sick, or a problem in the kitchen, and all of a sudden you’re behind schedule, which can be a huge problem if you’ve left no wiggle room. I’d say at least 80% of the weddings I play at run behind schedule! One wedding I played at ran 3 hours behind schedule due to one thing and another – yikes!
- Try to avoid live music playing while food is served in the evening. This follows on from the last point, in a way. If the schedule is very tight and something runs late, this may be unavoidable. However, this is something I always try to advise people when booking for the evening. If you have a buffet, hog roast, pizza oven – whatever – arriving in the evening, try to make sure the band or live musician isn’t playing because of course, the dance floor will empty as soon as food arrives. If I’m booked for an evening, I’ll usually play my 2 x 1 hour sets after the evening food is done – or, I’ll play one set before the food arrives, have a break during, and then resume after people have eaten. There’s nothing worse for the bride & groom than booking a band (or someone like me) and having them play to an empty room!
- Does the layout of your venue lend itself to live music? The wedding couple book their dream venue, and fork out on their choice of band or musician, then find that they end up having a largely empty dance floor in the evening. Fortunately this doesn’t happen often, but there have been times where I’ve felt so sorry for the wedding couple because people are just not up on the dance floor in the evening. This is rarely the fault of the band or musician, so how can you avoid this happening? Often the layout of the venue can be a factor. Is the bar in a separate room, away from the area where the musician or band is performing? Often people will gravitate towards the bar (especially the men – come on men – up your game, get on that dance floor!!) and in some cases that’s where they’ll stay all night. If your venue has multiple rooms or large grounds, that can also be a factor. Just something to bear in mind that I think is often overlooked.
- It’s too loud!! In some ways this is part of the previous point. If your venue is on the smaller side, a band may not be suitable. As soon as you introduce live drums and electric guitars, things start getting LOUD. Bear in mind that this may be overwhelming, especially if you have more elderly guests. Of course, at this point I’m going to say that a singer and guitarist like myself is a fantastic alternative! Some venues have sound limiters which will cut the electric supply when the music reaches a certain volume level.
- In the evening, try to pick songs that will appeal to all. As a wedding musician, my repertoire is large and varied because at a wedding you have all tastes and ages. I always let my wedding couples choose the songs they want played, but it’s always worth throwing in as many songs as possible that are well-known and will appeal to the majority. It’s your day, and of course you should definitely have the final say on what is played, but also have a think about who will be attending. You won’t ever be able to please everyone, but as long as the majority are having a good time, you’re onto a winner!
It’s mid-April and things are starting to hot up here in Bristol… and I’m not just talking about the weather. Us folks in the wedding industry are readying ourselves for the Summer season. I’ve had a few beautiful Spring weddings already, but the real fun starts next month!
With a couple of weeks before my next wedding, I was doing a bit of admin and chatting with brides-to-be, and it occurred to me that many of the same questions come up time and time again. So I thought I’d put together a little blog post about booking a live musician such as myself. I’m getting married myself next year, so I can completely sympathise with brides and grooms-to-be who are planning their big day! If there’s one thing I can definitely help with, it’s music… so, from my personal experiences, here’s my hints & tips – and things to avoid – when booking a live musician for your wedding.
When arranging your wedding entertainment, finding the right musician is undoubtedly the hardest bit. Everyone’s wedding planning experience is different. Some people will know exactly what they want, some have a rough idea of how the day will pan out, and some don’t know where to start! There’s a bewildering choice of wedding suppliers, and music is no exception.
Yes, it’s a dull and practical place to start, but the first thing you should do is set a limit for how much you can afford on entertainment. I’ve read bridal magazines that suggest you should set by at least £2000 for entertainment – but then I’ve read blogs and articles that put the figure nearer £650. Although us wedding musicians don’t like to admit it, we are usually one of the later considerations when it comes to budget. Essentials such as the dress, the venue, flowers and photography are always going to take priority – so I don’t ever take offence when people say my prices are over their budget, because I know how quickly costs can add up!
I would take advice from magazines and websites with a pinch of salt – your budget is as much as you can afford. Set a figure you’re happy with – if you come in under budget, brilliant, but also be prepared to go a little over budget if you find a band or musician you really love.
What time of day is best for live music?
This is another factor which will affect what type of musician you choose. An obvious time for music is during the evening – I’ll look at this in a moment, but there’s lots of options for the daytime too. I’ll approach this question purely from my position as a singer and guitarist – I get bookings for all parts of the wedding day, so this is just my personal opinion on what works best.
Every wedding schedule is different, but most commonly I’m booked to play at the wedding ceremony and following drinks reception. This always works well in my experience – as guests arrive I’ll play 20 minutes or so of music to set a relaxed atmosphere, then I’ll play during the ceremony and for an hour or so afterwards, before guests head in for the wedding breakfast.
If you hadn’t thought about the time following the ceremony, you may well want to consider booking someone like myself to entertain guests while you’re having photos taken, and people are having refreshments. It can be a great way to fill the gap between the ceremony and wedding breakfast. This is especially true if you’re lucky enough to hold your wedding outdoors with good weather. Something about acoustic guitar and sunshine just works!
Another increasingly popular option which works really well at weddings is afternoon tea. What’s better than sitting outdoors on a warm British Summer day with a cup of Earl Grey and a slice of cake, or a lovely cream tea?! Live acoustic music is a perfect accompaniment for this kind of setup.
Live wedding ceremony music – tips
- most live musicians will take requests, so if you have a particular song in mind for the walk down the aisle, and/or the exit of the married couple, ask if they can play your song. I send the bride and groom an mp3 version of their song at their request, so that they can hear how my acoustic version will sound.
- bear in mind that the walk down the aisle often doesn’t take very long! Most songs are 3-4 minutes long, and the walk is often less than a minute. In this case, I would adapt the length of the song to suit, so that it ends at an appropriate moment.
- the signing of the register is another nice time to have a couple of songs – in my experience this usually takes about 5 minutes, so time to have a couple of songs played. Again, for my weddings I welcome song requests.
I think many people would love to have a great band play at their wedding – but it can be difficult to pick one. The internet is great for finding people, but you really need to see them live to get a flavour of what they do. This can be a bit tricky for dedicated wedding bands – because they’re always at weddings!
One of the best ways of finding a band is by word-of-mouth recommendation. Maybe you saw a band at a friend’s wedding, or people were raving about a band they saw at someone else’s event. If you’ve found someone on the internet, see if they have any public performances you can go to. For a good function band, you should realistically be expecting to pay in the region of £1000-£1500+
DJ’s again are a tricky one – there’s many out there of varying quality (I have a couple of recommendations on my site for DJs) and unfortunately you don’t really have the option of seeing them do their thing before the big day (unless you’ve seen them at a friend’s wedding). So again, word-of-mouth is your friend here, and if you are booking someone you found on the internet, try to meet up with them to get an idea of their personality. You can usually expect to pay around £400 for a good DJ. Make sure they have good quality equipment which is PAT tested yearly, and bear in mind that some venues will require public liability insurance. These two points apply to bands and musicians as well.
*sales pitch* You may not associate an acoustic guitarist with the evening party, but my acoustic guitar/vocal style works really well if you’re after some high quality live evening entertainment which won’t break the bank. I regularly play at a couple of late-night venues in Bristol, so I know which tunes to play to get everyone up on the dance floor! *sales pitch over!*
I hope that some of this blog is helpful if you’re planning your wedding and looking for live music. Good luck with your search for the perfect musician, and of course please do get in touch if you’re considering my acoustic guitar/singing for your wedding day!
Written by Pat McIntyre, guitarist for weddings based in Bristol.