Looking for advice on how to source your wedding entertainment? Our guide will help you strike the right notes
Words by Emma Langman
Whether you’re a music buff or not, deciding on the tunes to accompany your big day is a task that needs to be given time and effort. The atmosphere of your ceremony and reception will be dictated by the music, with uplifting songs to accompany your walk down the aisle and ceremony; more relaxing, upbeat tunes keeping guests in high spirits while they enjoy some delicious canapes and then, later in the night, a ceilidh or hits to get them on their feet and dancing into the wee hours.
No-one wants to see an empty dancefloor at a wedding, but with a multitude of options, starting the search for your wedding entertainment can seem overwhelming. To give you a handy head start, we’ve spoken to some of the country’s leading entertainment suppliers. Their advice will certainly be music to your ears…
CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE
Music can be incorporated into every part of your celebration, so consider what sort of ambiance you want to create for each section of the day, and this will narrow down your options. If you like the idea of a traditional, classic feeling for your ceremony, then you probably shouldn’t hire a rock ‘n’ roll band to see you down the aisle. Del Cotton of entertainment agency Hireaband (hireaband.com) explains, “Consider the image in your head of the ‘feel’ you want to achieve for your wedding – so if you want a great party then hire a band or DJ, but if you want a low-key, more subtle wedding go for jazz or classical music. Just don’t expect much dancing!”
In addition to traditional wedding choices such as classical string quartets, contemporary wedding bands, ceilidh groups and pipers, there are lots of other, unusual music suppliers to consider. “Some interesting entertainment options might include world music acts such as Mariachi bands or other type of Latin bands who often command high-energy up-tempo performances. Why not try a swing band and go retro? Or add a sprinkling of uniqueness to your day by adding in a few surprise elements such as singing waiters or tribal drum and piping groups like Clanadonia,” suggests Jay Feeney of entertainment agency Freak Music (freakmusic.co.uk).
THINK ABOUT ACOUSTICS
Before you set your heart on a particular solo singer, ten-piece brass band or piping group to perform at your reception, don’t forget to consider the space in which they’ll be playing. You don’t want to spend a large portion of your budget on a group whose sound will get lost in the venue. Singer for Ayrshire-based wedding band Hollywood (hollywoodband.co.uk), David Murray, agrees, “We find that couples pick a venue for a variety of reasons and occasionally they overlook the function hall suitability. Some hotels are also conference centres and can be sectioned off, whereas some don’t have a bar in the hall or waitress service. If guests are leaving the hall all night to get drinks, it can really make or break a reception. For evening guests, this is the only part of the wedding they get to see, so it really matters that you get it right.”
KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY
You want your guests to be blown away by your showstopping musical acts, but think about everyone in the crowd. Will your Great Auntie Brenda really enjoy a whole evening of tub-thumping rock tunes or will your cool cousin Johnny bust out his moves on the dancefloor to mellow jazz tunes? Keeping everyone happy doesn’t mean that you have to opt for the cheese-factor though, as Jay explains. “Unless you have a specific theme or style in mind, we advise to keep your entertainment accessible – but that doesn’t mean booking a clichéd, cheesy band. Consider music that most people have heard of, but be aware that there are many acts that play songs that people know in a totally unique style. For example, bands like the Riviera play modern songs in retro 1920’s feel! Entertainment agencies like Freak Music are a great resource for sourcing different styles of accessible but unique wedding acts,” he says.
Del Cotton agrees, “We recommend that your own tastes are put to one side for your wedding as much as possible. You’ll be so busy being the bride and groom that you probably won’t notice too much of what your entertainer is playing. If you have unusual tastes in music, by all means have a little performed here and there but don’t force Iron Maiden or 50 Cent on your guests all night. Don’t use music to make a statement, use it to make a great party.”
BOOK AN ALTERNATIVE ACT
As well as the variety of musical impressarios who can wow your guests, lots of couples are choosing quirkier forms of entertainment to keep their nearest and dearest captivated throughout the celebration. Singing waiters, for example, are a lively surprise during the meal, while a children’s entertainer will keep the wee ones occupied so their parents don’t have to worry. “At Hireaband, we’re seeing a big rise in the more unusual entertainment options being booked as people strive to make their weddings unique. Tribute acts are now very popular, usually making an appearance at some point in the evening during the band’s break. We book Paolo Nutini, Freddie Mercury, Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra and Elvis tributes on a weekly basis for weddings. Don’t forget there’s non-musical entertainment as well. Magicians, caricaturists and even pickpockets and mind readers are all popular options,” he advises.
DO IT YOURSELF
If you’ve got a long list of tunes that you love, there’s also the option of hiring a DJ who can play out your favourite hits. If money’s very tight, you could ask your venue if they’ve got a sound system available where you can plug in your iPod and simply press play. This may save some of your budget, but it won’t create the same party atmosphere as a live band.
One good compromise is to use a DJ or playlist as a break halfway through or for the last hour of your celebration. This will cut down on costs but still give you and your guests that true party experience. “A live band is better sounding and it’s interactive, but you can have DJ mixing backing tracks too. We recently had a bride bring her own DJ for her and her friends to dance to during the buffet break,” explains David Murray.
LISTEN TO EXAMPLES
Once you’ve narrowed down your options use the internet, wedding magazines and entertainment agencies to help you source the best act(s) for your day. Asking around is a great way of finding out which suppliers were hits, so get some word-of-mouth recommendations to help you too. Before you book anyone, listen to examples of their work. Most singers and bands will have songs you can give a quick listen to on their website. Ask about showcases, too – you’ll be able to see first hand if the act can create the right atmosphere for you.
Most importantly, don’t rush into booking the first band you see. The music and entertainment can really make or break the party, so take your time to ensure you’ve chosen the right act. “A good band can make your day and a bad band can ruin it. Don’t treat the music as an afterthought,” advises Del Cotton.
Music streaming service Spotify has revealed the top tracks featuring in the UK’s wedding playlists, with some surprising results. When nearly 78,000 wedding playlists were analysed, it was discovered that newlyweds are ditching cheesy tunes in favour of hip hop and rock tracks. Classic crooners like Mariah Carey and Celine Dion are being dropped, with current bands like The Killers and Kings of Leon hogging the top spots. There’s no sign of novelty songs like Agadoo at all! Here are the top 20 tracks on the Spotify wedding hit parade…
1. The Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling
2. Kings of Leon – Sex On Fire
3. The Killers – Mr Brightside
4. Stevie Wonder – Superstition
5. Abba – Dancing Queen
6. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
7. Beyoncé – Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
8. Billy Idol – White Wedding
9. OutKast – Hey Ya! – Radio Mix/Club Mix
10. Adele – Make You Feel My Love
11. Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
12. Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)
13. Jackson 5 – Blame It On The Boogie
14. Beyoncé – Crazy In Love feat. Jay-Z
15. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together
16. Take That – Greatest Day
17. The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
18. Barry White – You’re The First, The Last, My Everything
19. Dolly Parton – 9 to 5
20. Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes – (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life
– Don’t use music to make a statement, use it to make a great party
– A contemporary singer accompanying your drinks reception with hit tunes is an increasingly popular option
– Choose a piper to play you into the reception for a traditional Scottish celebration