When it comes to booking a live band for your wedding sometimes it’s impossible to even know where to start, luckily Susan Heaton Wright director of NSN Productions limited – ‘Live Music Solutions’ is here to share her wisdom…
When I attend business meetings and tell people what I do, I am often greeted with “I wish we’d known about you” – and then tell me a story of a ‘wedding disaster’ involving the musicians. In some cases this occurred a number of years ago, and still upsets the bridal couple; yet these problems could have been easily avoided. Here are my top tips for choosing and booking a band; what questions to ask; what to avoid and what to include in any agreement.
1. Be clear about what type of music you want for the reception. You would be amazed at what a journey of discovery this can be for a couple when you realise your fiancé likes heavy metal and you prefer jazz! Ask bands for their play lists. Do they arrange ‘requests’? Is there a charge for this? How much notice do you need for requests?
2. Ask for references and if it is possible go to see the band and listen to their sound samples.
3. When receiving a quote, check what this includes. Are there any hidden extras – including sound systems, travel, VAT, lighting etc. Make sure you receive a fee which includes EVERYTHING before booking them.
4. The band should have Public Liability Insurance certificates available for you to see as well as having all electrical equipment PAT tested. The former is a requirement by many venues; the latter is mandatory.
5. We recommend you confirm everything agreed in writing or write up a contract.
6. Some bridal couples engage friends of friends who play in bands to play at their weddings. Make sure everything is agreed in writing with clear cancellation clauses. It is not unknown for “friends of friends bands” to suddenly get a paid engagement, leaving the bridal couple in the lurch at the last moment.
7. Most bands will request a deposit to confirm a booking. Remember to ask for a receipt for this deposit and to ask the conditions of the deposit before parting with your money.
8. A band will normally be setting up early; performing and packing away – making a long evening’s work. They will get hungry and will perform better if they’ve been fed. They DO NOT need the meal you are serving your guests. Most venues will offer a ‘suppliers’ meal – either a pasta dish or substantial sandwiches which costs substantially less. We recommend you also offer soft drinks but not alcohol.
9. Be clear about when they should set up and do their sound checks. You wish to avoid them walking through the wedding breakfast with their equipment or doing “One, Two – Hello O2” whilst the wedding speeches are going on. The venue will normally be able to advise you on a practical solution – including a possible other entrance for the band to use to set up. Likewise, consider how they will pack up after they have played, to avoid any disruption to the wedding.
10. Dress code; it is important to specify how you would like the band to dress – and put it on the contract. Some bands will colour theme their clothing to match your theme, others not. It is also important to request that they are smartly dressed when they arrive and are setting up. There is nothing worse than scruffy jeans and tee shirts being seen; they can wear smart t shirts and trousers to move equipment.
11. Noise levels. When we set up our company, we conducted a survey of 500 people of all ages. 97% said their biggest hate about live music – and bands in particular were that they were too loud. There is a time and place for very loud music, and weddings, where there are usually a wide range of ages, and people that want to talk to each other – and be heard, isn’t one of them. If it is possible, have another room for people that want to talk. However we recommend you have someone in the party (best man) that liaises with the band; is involved in setting the sound levels and asks them to reduce the volume if necessary. Ensure it is in the contract that the band should adjust volume levels if necessary.
12. We recommend you book a band via a music company or agency. Of course the cynics would say “Yes – but you’re pushing your own services!” However, I’ve had to deal with a number of situations that as a third party, I was able to solve – with the bride being none the wiser. Had she had to deal with these directly, it would have caused a lot of anxiety and stress. Likewise if she has any concerns, she can come directly to me and I can resolve any situation without ruffling the feathers of the musicians – and offer experienced advice, to avoid any misunderstanding.
To find out more about NSN Productions Limited – Live Music Solutions visit www.nsn-productions.com