I spent my 20s working on weddings every weekend, where I managed 10 piece wedding rings and booked smaller jazz bands. I’ve seen it all, from a drunk uncle trying to steal a musician’s guitar so he could play “Mustang Sally”, to a MOH who got so emotional that she stopped the band to give a 20-minute speech. minutes to compare the bride to a “beautiful gazelle.”
On wedding days, I was responsible for making sure the groups started on time and followed the timeline of the event – in turn, making sure the bride and groom were happy. It sounds simple, but at this point in planning your wedding you may be starting to realize that emotions are on the alert, not just with the bride and groom. When you’re trying to juggle parents and budgets and everything in between, the last thing you want to worry about is if your group sucks.
While I can’t help you with your future in-laws, I can give my expert tips and advice to keep in mind when choosing a wedding ring.
Ask your friends for recommendations
Word of mouth from trusted sources is invaluable when it comes to wedding vendors, and groups are no different. Post it to your social accounts, text your friends, and keep an ear open when attending other people’s weddings. If you liked your group of friends, ask for their contact details. Be resourceful and leverage your network.
Don’t totally rely on the internet
Overall the internet is great. How awesome is it to be able to research your suppliers from your couch? But the Internet can also be misleading. A beautiful site with studio recordings does not means a band sounds great live. Just because they don’t have an Instagram account does not means they are not worth your time. Definitely take a look at the reviews, but be sure to see the bands in person as well.
Go see a live show
Now that you have a list of potential groups, you need to go see them in person. The only way to know if a group is right for you is to grab your partner, have a date, and hit the dance floor.
Discover their presence on stage. Do they interact with the crowd and maintain energy? Or are they robots that just make movements? You don’t rent an iPod playlist for the night, make sure the band sets the mood you want for your big day. Also, keep an attentive ear for the follow-up. Smaller groups tend to play along with pieces of music as this replaces missing instruments and cuts costs. In my opinion, the tracks are a bad idea. Live bands don’t come cheap, so if that’s what you’ve booked, that’s what should be delivered. Period. For example, if you like Motown music and the band has a cheaper deal as a 4-piece band with follow-up, don’t! Motown music needs a line of horns and keyboards to do it justice. Without them you will be very disappointed.
Request a Set List
Great job, your band list is shrinking now. It’s time to ask for a fixed list, it can give you an idea of how they punctuate the night. A beautiful setlist follows the energy of the evening. Your group will likely divide their game into three hour-long sets with small breaks between sets. The first set usually falls during dinner, so the music should reflect that vibe – jazz standards or Frank Sinatra are great options. Once the plates are cleared and your guests are ready to dance, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint; start slowly with classic flashbacks that guests of all ages will enjoy. Think Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Journey or even Garth Brooks, anything that has solid vocals. The last hour of music usually hits when people get their buzz and the kids and older guests have returned home, so that’s when you can get on with the Cardi B (or your own version of the climb).
Do not dictate the Set List
Asking for a set list and dictating the set list are two very different things. Trust the flow of group sets, because the group knows things that you don’t know. For example, I worked with a group that developed custom medleys paired with simple choreography. They were so much fun to watch, but if we removed or added songs to the medley, the performance would suffer. Now if you really don’t like the set list but still like the band, you should ask for their overall song list. Their song list will be huge – the band should be open to you by highlighting the songs you love and the songs you hate. It’s reasonable for them to then pop in some of your favorites and kill a song or two that you absolutely hate. Maybe this song reminds you of an ex or just has bad juju, don’t be afraid to tell the band. You have to be collaborative.
Trust your group
You like their atmosphere, you like their music and they are available for your date! Now sign the contract and let them do their job. You pay to have them organize the music and take care of the serious stuff. If you liked them live you can be sure people will dance and have a good time. Plus, trusting your band allows them to protect you from your drunken uncle who yells “Free Bird” and your cousin plus one who keeps asking for “that-song-with-the-guitar-solo”. We love our guests but no one has asked them for their Spotify playlists.
And finally, read the Rider
Yes, there’s a good chance your party has a jumper and, yes, you have to read it. There won’t be anything crazy about it like “please, no red M&M”, but they will need water on stage and little breaks. A happy group is a happy event, believe me. Making sure the group stays hydrated and rested will ensure that your dance floor explodes.
Your passenger will also confirm the start and end times with a note indicating whether extensions are allowed. Ideally, you don’t mess with the end times on your wedding night, but let’s say everyone is having fun and your venue has no problem extending for 30 minutes. Please ask your group to extend BEFORE the last set. There is nothing worse than the group putting all of their energy into the last set only to find that they need to play 30 more minutes. At this point, they’re exhausted and will likely tell you no. It doesn’t mean the band doesn’t love you and your wedding, it just means they do it every weekend and want to go home to their families. Have you ever seen a musician play a show they don’t want to play? It kills the whole atmosphere.