Before booking any music whatsoever, see if your venue has any restrictions regarding live music. In particular ask them the following questions
“Is amplified music allowed out of doors?”
Patios and gardens are obvious choices for drinks receptions during the summer, but some venues are not allowed to have amplified music of any kind played out of doors. This is because of the way some local authorities interpret entertainment licensing laws. If in doubt, ask!
“What time must the music stop?”
This varies from venue to venue and may even depend on the day of the week! You need to know this because if you book a band to play for three hours from 9.00pm and the venue has a “stop playing” time of 11.30pm, you could lose half an hour of music you have paid for.
“What space is available for a band?”
The venue will be able to give you details of the available space and perhaps a floor plan as well If there is doubt about whether your chosen ensemble may fit the space, they might be willing to visit the venue beforehand to check out the space available. They should know exactly how much space they need!
“Will the band have to plug into a sound limiter?”
Some venues have sound limiters which will cut off the electricity to the group’s amplifiers if the music becomes too loud. Beware if you come across a band that refuses to plug into one of these … it will probably mean that you and your guests will need ear protection!
Ceilidhs and Barn Dances are a great option if you are looking to get all your guests on their feet and getting involved in the reception. With a caller, no one will have to worry about where to go in the dance, and it is a chance for all the guests to mingle and get to meet each other. Ceilidhs and Barn Dances are a fantastic way to start the dancing in the evening, and if you follow it by a disco, you can be sure that everyone will stay on the dance floor all night!
The chances are that your live musicians will need to plug in to venue’s electricity supply, and it is correct for venues to take various precautions to protect themselves.
PAT testing is required for any electrical appliances, and the venue is likely to ask to band for a copy of their PAT testing certificate in advance, and will check all appliances for the PAT sticker to demonstrate that each one has been tested.
Public laibility insurance is needed by all suppliers, not least by live bands who may have trailing leads and heavy equipment, and typically the cover required would be around £5,000,000.
Book in plenty of time!
Start looking at potential groups as soon as possible, as some will get booked a year or more in advance. To ensure you have plenty of choice, give yourself at least 6-8 months before your wedding day.
Gather together demo CDs, information and quotes
Ask bands and ensembles to send you written information, demo CDs and quotes for you to evaluate. Then consider all the options of music you could have.
Listen to the CDs, read through all the information and review the play lists carefully to see if they can play the type of music you want. Some bands will have set play lists (probably playing a standard set of numbers for most of their performances), whilst others are more flexible and you’ll be able to choose specific tunes from their play list.
If you want a particular piece of music (for example during your wedding ceremony), then don’t automatically assume that the group will be able to play it. Most professional bands play from printed music, which is arranged for that type of ensemble (e.g. a string quartet’s music is arranged in 4 parts, one for each instrument). If the piece of music you want is available in print for the ensemble you have chosen, then you shouldn’t have a problem. However, if you want a piece of music that isn’t available in print or isn’t arranged for the type of group you want to book, then this will have to be arranged especially for you. Ask if the group can do this for you (for examples of this type of service, see the “Designer” music feature).
Ensure you have a written quotation, covering everything – the band’s fees, travelling expenses etc… Some bands may charge extra for PA equipment or lighting, so make sure you have a quote that includes everything you need, so you don’t get a surprise later on.
The most important rule of all – if you want a professional performance and service, then book professionals!
Although it may be fine to book an amateur or semi-professional band, some brides have done this only to be let down near the big day because the band has broken up, or they have taken on a more lucrative engagement. Performance levels amongst professional musicians are generally higher because they will have received far greater training and have had more experience. Unlike amateurs, professionals do not perform as a pastime – it is their living and consequently they will give you the attention, quality and peace of mind you deserve!
The band should issue you with a written contract. Also check that any electrical equipment is fully tested and that they have public liability insurance. Some venues may also ask for the group’s Health and Safety statement.
Once the paperwork is in place, it’s a case of fine tuning what the musicians will play for you. If you are having background music during a drinks reception or dining, then the choice of individual tunes probably isn’t so vital, but you’ll definitely want to choose the music for the ceremony or first dance. You’ll probably have plenty of ideas in mind, and your band leader should also be able to offer advice if needed.
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