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Weddings used to be simple affairs; registry office in the High Street, a few pals as witnesses, bowling club for some egg sandwiches. After a few dances one of your cousins has too much to drink, starts a fight then all the pre-ordered cabs show up at 1am. Job done. Oh, how things have changed. Today’s bride expects a proposal in a gondola, the ceremony must be at the base of Victoria Falls and catered by Gordon Ramsay and that’s before you’ve even thought about the entertainment.
Ask ten people what’s the most important part of a typical wedding and you’ll likely get ten different answers. Ask the same people what type of music goes down best at weddings and you’ll get another ten.
According to a recent survey conducted by Bride & Groom magazine, when couples were asked what were their priorities, during the wedding planning, the staple answers were their attire, the actual venue and the catering. The wedding entertainment is almost an afterthought. But, in the same survey they also found that 72% of brides said they’d have spent more time on choosing the entertainment and even more surprising, they found almost 100% of couples, questioned after the event, would have spent more than they did on the entertainment. I’m no statistician but I think that’s quite a high percentage.
One of the least thought about aspects of a modern wedding is the background music for the daytime events whether that’s the pre-ceremony drinks, the arrival of the bride and registry signing among other things. Low key is the key here. The two most popular types of act booked for the earlier events are string acts of various sizes and harpists. Providing they don’t have to come too far, these can work out fairly reasonable cost wise. As I’m typing this north of Hadrian’s wall, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that bagpipers are the most common type of act to be hired for the arrival of the bride. That said, this is not just a Scottish thing. A few years ago I was at a wedding in the Languedoc region in the South of France and they’d hired a piper. I got talking to him, he was originally from Glasgow but lived about 10 miles away from the Chateau. Nice work.
The daytime events, not just the music, tend to set the tone for the rest of the day; get that right and you’re on the right track. The evening’s entertainment is a different kettle of worms entirely.
First things first, if you’re looking to save some cash, and let’s face it who isn’t these days, and are considering getting “the guy who does the office parties to do it for fifty quid” immediately remove yourself from the planning party and think yourself lucky to get invited to the wedding at all, even if you’re the mother of the bride. This scenario is, without exception, a big mistake. It’s a wedding not a school disco. If the budget is tight, there’s no need to book a ten piece party band, there are plenty smaller and cheaper options.
A two piece guitar duo or even solo, often with backing tracks can keep a smaller set of guests bopping and a smaller budget in the black too. Again, casting a slightly Scottish eye over things, a Ceilidh and covers band never fails to get the place jumping, literally. These also don’t have to be budget breakers, there’s a good few two or three piece ceilidh/covers bands available. Obviously the beauty of this option is that it appeals those who don’t fancy pure Ceilidh. The night can be split with the traditional party music in between the Celtic madness. And speaking of which, don’t worry about not knowing where to put your feet, they all come with what’s called in these parts a “caller”, who will walk and talk the dancers through the steps. One thing to remember if you’re going down the ceilidh road, advise your guests on footwear. Kitten heels are a big no-no. Especially for the guys.
If you fancy something a little left of field in the evening music department, we’ve started to notice tribute acts getting a few bookings. This does seem to be a younger generation thing, perhaps getting a Grease tribute act to play or for a more general set list, an 80s cover band we have on the roster has had a few wedding gigs. My favourite wedding tribute act of late has to be the band in Manchester, (where else?) who were asked to learn an entire set of Smiths songs for a friend’s reception. It took them three months to learn a set’s worth but they did it. I spoke to one of them about this recently and speculated that playing such songs as “Heaven knows I’m miserable now” and “There is a light that never goes out” at a couples happy day might be a bit of a downer. “Not really,” he told me, “we played both of them and they went mental.” Shows what I know. I didn’t ask what the first dance was although ‘Panic’ would’ve been a laugh.
Now, if you have the budget and performance space to go mad the options are many and varied but don’t think throwing a load of cash about is the way to success. That never works, look at Carlos Tevez. The type of band you want is the first thing to think about. General rock and pop covers bands are, broadly speaking the most popular mainly because they will almost without exception play music from the ‘50s up to last week’s chart so everyone from Granny to surly teenage cousin will be happy but there are other ways to entertain. Jazz, blues and swing acts may sound like an odd choice but the bands who offer their services at weddings are smart enough to know this, and will tailor the set accordingly. It’s not unknown for a jazz act to offer the likes of Lady Gaga and even White Stripes songs during a wedding set. These are very top end wedding acts, and are usually many in number and £s but always hugely popular with wedding crowds. They tend also to be able to read an audience rather well and can be left to their own devices, which is one less thing you have to worry about on the day.
One thing to remember about booking any sort of act for a wedding is this; always remember who’s paying and who’s playing.
With thanks to Chris Mackinnon for the guest blog post — I hope it’s helped some of you with choosing your wedding music or band. Do check out www.freakmusic.co.uk for more ideas and advice.
This is a sponsored English Wedding blog post. (Click the link to see what this means.)