Allen’s Party Blog

Top Tips for Hiring the Perfect Wedding Band →

Great wedding bands unify multiple generations by getting all age groups to the dance floor throughout the night. By playing fun, recognizable songs the right band can help you create memories that will last a life time.

I can help you make the search process a fun and easy experience as we find the best band for your celebration. After a quick conversation to learn more about your favorite types of music, party setting, and fun surprises I will put together a short list of great options for you to hear in action.

There are a lot of details for planning a great party and I’m happy to help guide you through the steps to help create a unique and fun celebration for you, your family, and your guests.

Here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about wedding bands:

What makes a great wedding band?

Great wedding bands understand party flow. As your guests arrive, congratulate you, greet friends, meet new people, and settle in for a great party, the right band will play music that is fun and festive, but not so loud that it overwhelms conversations. They pump up the energy as the evening progresses, building toward that point when BAM—everyone is on the dance floor. They read the crowd and do what it takes to kick the party into overdrive.

How long does the band play?

Standard agreements cover a four hour window, such as 7:30 to 11:30 pm, and include breaks. The breaks are as much for the audience as they are for the band.

Can you help us with a timeline for the reception?

Absolutely! I will work with you and the rest of the planning team to help create a fun, organic flow for the party that includes key announcements, special dances, cake cutting, and other traditions while maximizing the time you get to spend dancing the night away. Ideally, we utilize the bands breaks for the non-dancing related activities such as welcome announcements, toasts, group pictures, and other activities.

Will the band serve as MC and make announcements?

Cetainly. I will work with you and the rest of the planning team to coordinate the timing and content of key announcements such as your introduction, toasts, garter and bouquet toss and any other announcements that will help make the party a fun experience for you and your guests.

Can we use the band’s microphone to make announcements?


Can we request songs?

You are welcome to request a few (5-10) of your favorite songs from the band’s current song list. Directions like “we love Motown and disco but don’t want much country music” or “please play instrumentals during dinner and dance favorites after dinner” are also really helpful.

Planning the entire set list, song by song, often backfires by draining all spontaneity and energy from the performance and creating awkward transitions. The bands I represent are professionals who know how to read the audience and pick the song that best fit the moment and the audience’s energy level. If you give them the flexibility to pick the right song for the right moment, you’ll get a great night of music.

Will the band learn a special song for our first dance?

Yes. The bands I work with are happy to learn a song. You will need to provide me with your preferred version (via an mp3 file, CD, or YouTube link) of the song at least 4 weeks before the reception. I’ll check with the band leader to confirm the group can play it.

Please note—if you have your heart set on a song that requires a pipe organ, harp, bagpipes, and a children’s chorus, but want to hire a 3-piece band that does not play any of these instruments, we might want to talk about alternatives. In other words, your choice does need to be run past the band leader to make sure the band can knock it out of the park for you.

When should we have the special dances?

The two most common points in the reception to have the special dances are when the bride and groom enter the reception and after dinner.

You can do your first dance as you enter the party – it makes for a grand entrance, and it opens the dance floor for others from an early point in the night. Many couples like to handle the dance this way, and the band can certainly accommodate that preference.

You can wait until after the meal for these dances, which also creates the opportunity for the entire party to move onto the dance floor with you once your spotlight moment is over.

Consider using the band’s breaks to put the focus on your special dances.

Perhaps the band has played a set during dinner, then taken a break. When the band returns to the stage, they announce your first dance, drawing your guests towards the dance floor. After the first dance, the band will quickly go in to the second dance, typically the father daughter dance.  Combining the father daughter with the mother son dance (after a verse or two) is a great way to showcase the parents over the same song to keep the flow going.  After these dances the band will invite all of the guests to the dance floor a play a super fun dance tune to jump start the fun while packing the dance floor!

I’m happy to work with you on the plan that works best for your tastes.

Can we bring our own music for breaks?

Absolutely.  If creating custom playlists for break music will be FUN for you, you are more than welcome to provide an iPod for the band to play over their sound system.  Here’s a few tips for the playlists:

  • Designate a trusted member of your wedding party or wedding coordinator to drop off your iPod—AND pick it up at the end of the reception.
  • Name the playlists Break 1, Break 2, etc.
  • Program 20 – 30 minutes of music for each play list.
  • Put your favorite songs at the top of the playlist.
  • Play songs that are not on the band’s song list.  If you know you and your guests want to dance to a few country (or any other genre) songs, but don’t want a country band all night, then the playing these songs expands the musical diversity for the party.
  • Since the energy level will build throughout the night, it’s best to build a more mellow playlist for the first break than for the last break.  In  other words, your favorite Frank Sinatra song works better in the first playlist than your favorite Snoop Dog (aka Lion) song!

All of the bands I work with will happily provide great recorded music to keep a festive mood in the room during breaks, so you are not obligated to do this work unless it is FUN for you!

When does the band arrive?
The goal is for the band to be set up, sound-checked and ready to play, before your guests arrive. The time this takes varies with different bands and venues, but in general, groups will arrive 2 to 3 hours before your party begins. A solo guitarist or string quartet will require much less set up time than a big dance band.

If your ceremony and reception are in the same location, the band will aim to complete set up 30 minutes prior to your ceremony, so that the stage is quiet when your guests arrive.

Any advice?

Focus on the fun and prioritize your budget to invest in the things that excite you most, and remember, you can’t dance to an ice sculpture. The weddings I’ve had the privilege to play that have been the most fun and memorable didn’t have extravagant decorations, personalized mints, towers of flowers, wine so expensive that everyone could only have one glass, or monogrammed gifts for each guest at the end of the night. They had the right mix of family and friends talking, dancing, laughing, and celebrating.

Should we tip the band?
Tipping is entirely optional and never expected, but always greatly appreciated.

A good rule of thumb is to tip $50 to $100 per band member rather than a percentage of the performance fee.

You can, if you wish, hand cash to the band leader after the event. It is best to hand it to the band leader directly because he or she takes responsibility for making sure everyone is paid fairly. It is helpful if you have twenties and tens, but the band leader can take care of that, too.

When you are working with me, I’m glad to handle a gratuity for you after the event. Unlike many agents, I pass 100% of a tip straight to the band—after all, their performance earned that tip! You can send me a check and I’ll get it to them.

Does the band allow guest performers?
More often than not, the answer is yes!  Guest stars from the audience can add an extra level of fun to the reception.  The key factors for making cameo performances a big success are simplicity, planning, and fun.  I am happy to help you find the perfect time during the reception for the performance and coordinate musical details such as the song, key, instrument you want to play, and other key details with the band.

A good rule of thumb on guest performers is to make sure this will be a fun experience for the performer.  The guests won’t have an opportunity to rehearse with the band and should bring as little gear as possible.  Experienced performers or big time hams will look forward to their cameo.  If the person you ask to perform is nervous about performing they may have more fun staying on the dance floor all night long.

If you want to play or have a guest play a song with the band, please let me know about this during our earliest conversations about finding the perfect wedding band so I can present this as a requirement for the band that performs for your reception.

Posted by Allen on June 19, 2013

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