It’s your big day – congratulations! This article offers a few insights and tips to help ensure that the wedding entertainment at your evening reception goes without a hitch.
The last thing you want on your wedding day are any nasty surprises. Even if things run behind schedule (and they nearly always do), with a little forward planning and a clear understanding of what to expect - you can relax, let your hair down and enjoy your night.
Deciding in advance what time the band should arrive and set up
Option 1: set up before your guests arrive
This is a good choice if there is no other place for guests to go after your meal. The wedding band can arrive well before your guests so they can load in their gear, sound check - and tidy up without it effecting anything. If the band are performing in the same room as your meal - then this also means the bands PA system will be close to hand, and most will allow you to use one of their microphones for the speeches.
Most evening function bands take between 60 to 90 minutes to set up and so this could all happen whilst you’re at the church or registry office, or having a drinks reception in a separate area.
What you need to understand: Once set up, the bands equipment won't be able to be moved much, if at all - so you need to be sure that the space they're occupying will not be needed for anything else. The big advantage is that if timings overrun later in the evening, at least the band are all set-up and ready to play. Bear in mind that asking a band to set up well in advance usually costs a bit more for the extra time, and you will need to arrange a room for them to wait in.
Option 2: The band arrive and set up after the meal.
After the wedding breakfast, many venues need to 'turn the room around' in order to accommodate the evening party. Whilst staff are clearing the tables and making space for the dance floor - your guests will usually be invited to go through into a different room.
This is the ideal time for the band to come in and set up the gear and it's the option the majority of customers choose. If you're worried about your guests getting bored during this time, a close-up magician or caricaturist is a great option.
What you need to understand: If the speeches over run the band will still need the same amount of time to set up and sound check and it's not helpful for anyone to pressure them just because things are running late. When planning your day, we advise you to add at least an hour onto the time you expect your wedding breakfast and speeches to have finished by.
Deciding what time the band should perform
Most bands will provide background music through their PA system if you don't also have a DJ. As well as filling in the gaps between their performances, this allows you to delay the bands first performance so your guests can mingle, grab a drink, stretch their legs, and generally unwind enough to want to do some serious dancing. For this reason - we always suggest a band's first performance starts from at least 8.30pm onwards.
Suggested timings option - two 60 minute performances
7.30 to 8.30: background music
8.30 to 9.30: band set 1
9.30 to 10.30: buffet and background music
10.30 to 11.30: band set 2
11.30 to midnight: background music
Suggested timings option - 30 minute plus 90 minute performances
7.30 to 8.45: background music
8.45 to 9.15: band set 30 minutes
9.15 to 10.15: buffet and background music
10.15 to 11.45: band set 90 minutes
11.45 to Midnight: background music
Suggested timings option - three 40 minute performances
7.30 to 8.30: background music
8.30 to 9.10: band set 40 minutes
9.10 to 10.00: buffet and background music
10.00 to 10.40: band set 40 minutes
10.40 to 11.00: background music
11.00 to 11.40: band set 40 minutes
11.40 to midnight: background music
The option of having three 40 minute performances looks appealing on paper as it spreads the entertainment out across the whole evening. However - stopping and starting performances can kill the momentum and it can tire guests out. Most bands think it works better to play two 60 minute sets so that the energy is more focused and the momentum on the dance floor can be maintained.
What ever performance schedule you decide on it is imperative that you don't ask the band to play whilst the buffet is being served.
Food, drinks and a changing room for the band
The band will likely have travelled a great distance to get to your wedding and will on average have worked a 12 hour day by the time they get home afterwards. With no alternative access to proper food, it's really important that they are given a decent meal and drinks. Aside from the general comfort and well-being of your musicians, you need to ensure they have the energy to keep performing all night. It's very tiring!
Because of this it's a standard condition of all bookings that you provide food and drinks to your band. As a general guide, in terms of food - this means a hot meal rather than cold sandwiches. Please try to ensure the meal is substantial. It doesn't need to be an expensive meal - just something of good enough quality you'd want to eat it yourself if it was the only meal you were getting during a 12 hour working day.
In terms of drinks - we ask our musicians not to drink alcohol excessively at gigs - and whilst you may choose to offer them alcoholic drinks (and this is usually very much appreciated) - it is only a condition of your contract that you provide them with soft drinks, water, tea and coffee.
In terms of somewhere to change, you really need your venue to make sure the band have a changing room. This could be an office or meeting room if a dedicated room for the band is not available. The band will want to look good on stage, and after a long day travelling, lugging equipment, sweating etc - YOU will want them to have freshened up before they hit the stage. The ideal room will be big enough for all band members to get changed comfortably at the same time, and be furnished with chairs and if possible a mirror. It is not acceptable to offer the band a toilet to change in unless there really is absolutely no other alternative (and in our experience there is always an alternative if you make the effort to find one).
Please make a note to address the bands requirements with your wedding organiser or the venue manager as on the day - it is they who the band will speak to. Make sure any bar staff know you've agreed a tab for the band (soft drinks) and that food should be served to the band either between set up and their first performance, or else during their first break - ideally in their changing room.
Some bands WILL be happy to accept your evening buffet as their meal, but it really is worth making the effort to provide a proper meal for them as it's so hard to eat properly when you're on the road.
What you need to understand: the one single issue most likely to put the band in a bad mood is getting to a wedding after a 3 hour journey cramped in a van, spending 2 hours loading heavy equipment and sound checking .... then finding out they've got nothing to eat, no where to change, and that a coke will cost them £5 at the bar. If you want to get the best out of your band you really need to look after them and your attention to detail in this department is going to be repaid to you many times over in their energy, enthusiasm and performance quality.
Once the final song has been sung - the band will pack down as quickly as they can so that the venue can close up and everyone involved in making your wedding amazing can get home.
Please make sure the venue know that this can take up to an hour.
Paying the band
It would be ideal if the best-man (or perhaps a more sober candidate such as the father of the bride) is trusted with the task of paying the band.
We think it's best to pay the band at the start of the night, before they play their first set - as you don't need to worry about it later on when everyone is tired and saying their goodbyes to family and friends. It's really nice for the band if you are proactive in approaching them with payment so they're not left tramping around the venue at midnight looking for 'the guy with the cheque'.
Every band would prefer cash but as it's really not very practical, most are paid by cheque. The band should make contact with you 3 weeks before your wedding day to run though all the finer details, so make a note to ask them who the cheque should be payable to.
We make it a requirement of all our bookings that the band gets in touch with you 3 weeks before your wedding day to double check the details, discuss the background music and running order for the night etc. Some bands are more organised than others when it comes to getting in touch so if you don't hear from your band on time - don't panic - just give us a call and we'll give them a nudge.
This pre-event call is the time to make sure the band understands the final timings that have been agreed with your venue, and also to make notes on any background music preferences you have, song requests from their play list etc.
For you it should serve as a reminder to double check with your venue or wedding organiser that all the bands requirements have been taken care of (food, drinks, changing room).
Alive Network is on hand every step of the way to help if you need them to.
Written by Ruthe Graham from Celtica - An exciting, fun and flexible trio performing Celtic, pop, rock, trad and Irish music with a bit of Ceilidh thrown in for good measure!