The Wedding Musician Booking Guide (For Brides!)
An important step in the planning process is deciding exactly when to have your live music. In general, there are four key points of the day to look at, but there are no set rules by any means.
Guest Arrival and Ceremony Music
• Guest Arrival – 15-20 minutes of background music before the ceremony
• The Wedding Procession – One song for the entrance of the bridal party
• Signing of the Register – Two songs as the register is signed
• The Recessional – One song as the bride and groom exit followed by guests
A great option for ceremony music is something instrumental, such as a harpist, guitarist or string quartet. All will often have large repertoires and are diverse enough to be able to cover classical and modern pieces.
Drinks Reception Music
Once the ceremony concludes, it’s time to let your hair down and get the party atmosphere underway. Whatever your musical preferences may be, something middle of the road, jazzy or acoustic is usually the way to go. Most acts will offer 2 x 45 minute sets, which should comfortably cover the majority of your daytime reception.
Whilst the ceremony and drinks reception are often seen as the key times for daytime entertainment, something light during the wedding breakfast is always a nice touch. A pianist, solo guitarist or something classical to set the mood are all worth considering. Evening wedding bands will occasionally offer extras, such as a solo dinnertime set, when booking the main band – and this will undoubtedly save you money.
Set times can vary, but most solo musicians should give the options of two and three hours sets – whatever suits your budget.
Evening Wedding Reception Band or DJ
For many couples, evening reception entertainment is one of the big highlights of the day and is often where the majority of the budget is allocated. Although the evening may span across five hours or so, most bands will either play 2 x 60 or 3 x 40 minute sets, which, alongside the buffet and DJ playlists, is usually sufficient to keep your guests dancing throughout the evening.
Having previously played in a band myself, my biggest recommendation is to fight the urge to start the band too early. Whilst it can be tempting to get things underway at 7pm, you’ll find starting slightly later will create the best atmosphere and prevent the night from peaking too early.
Below is a rough guide on set times, but, of course, every wedding is different – plus your venue may well have their own idea about what works for them.
Wedding Musician Requirements
When making a booking, always be sure to look over the contract carefully before signing, just to ensure that you’re happy with the requirements and that there’s nothing in there that your venue isn’t able to accommodate. As a general rule, these will include the following:
Sufficient set-up time
Set-up times vary significantly depending on your act; an unplugged solo artist might literally just need to set up their instrument, whereas a full band could need anywhere up to 2 hours.
As a general rule, we suggest 30-45 minutes for a solo act, an hour for an acoustic duo and 60-90 minutes for a full band. Larger bands featuring brass and a sound team will often need 90 minutes to 2 hours.
Most performers will require a power source for their PA system or individual amplifiers. Unless specifically booked as a roaming acoustic band, even acoustic acts will tend to go through a small PA in order to be heard amongst the chatter.
We recommend 1 x 13 amp socket for a solo act, 2 x 13 amp sockets for duos and bands and 3 x 13 amp sockets for larger bands. It’s best to ensure that power sources are located in the performance area as well.
Food and Refreshments
Meals and refreshments are common requirements for bands and musicians in the wedding industry, often to the dismay of caterers if not advised before hand! Musicians aren’t fussy eaters though, a simple bar meal or re-heated lasagne always goes down a treat!
As you might expect, the majority of musicians will drive to the venue – so if parking isn’t available at the venue, you may well be required to cover any parking expenses that are incurred by the band on the day.
Sufficient Set-up Space
Musicians are more than used to squeezing into small spaces, but it’s always best to double check requirements before making your booking. As a rough guide, we recommend a meter width for every member of the band, 2 metres depth for acts without drums and 3 metres depth for bands with a drummer.
Gazebo / Cover
With the somewhat unpredictable English weather, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in place for your outside ceremony, just in case things take a turn for the worst. For musicians, there’s huge potential for damaged equipment, so many will insist on cover regardless of the weather.
Finally, do let your venue know before you make your booking, as they may well have their own terms and conditions for the band, these could include details on sound limitations, sound limiters and even in-house PA systems.
If in doubt, just ask your band or agent, don’t forget they’ve done this a thousands times before and will be happy to guide you every step of the way.
Thank you to Adam from Bands for Hire for writing this blog. Bands for Hire are a music agency providing live bands for your wedding and other occasions.
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