Real life wedding stories… through downpours and near-disasters, the show WILL go on!
Rain on your wedding day will always mean you have the best stories to tell, and a collection of very memorable moments of your day. I love today’s real wedding story, which tells the tale of one of our favourite wedding bands, booked to play two sets on an English summer’s day for an outdoor wedding. It’s about near-disaster, sheer professionalism, and that famous ‘the show must go on’ attitude… Grab a cuppa and enjoy the ride! Oh, and do spare a thought for your musicians (and their gear) if you’re having an outdoor ceremony!
Words: lovely Ben from Goosebumps. Images: Kristian Leven Photography
Teetering on the brink of disaster. That’s not a phrase that anyone wants to hear, especially when it’s being used to describe one of the most important days of your life. As a wedding band we are hired for our professionalism and being able to deliver high-quality entertainment to really make your wedding reception a night to remember. But what if something disastrous happens? What if that is then followed by something else equally as catastrophic? Twice. All at the same wedding. How could it seem that the whole day was plummeting into the abyss of doom?
As a wedding swing band that has performed for ten years, we are confident that whatever the type of venue – a grand room within a 16th century manor house, the 30th floor of a swanky London high-riser, a quirky teepee or even a cosy yurt – we know how to adapt to our surroundings. There was one wedding last year, however, that would test our chameleon-like skills to the limits, mostly thanks to the forces of Mother Nature.
The wedding was being held at a venue in Hampshire – a few hours drive for us in our band van coming up from Kent and on this particular occasion the bride and groom had hired us to play an alfresco background jazz set immediately after their ceremony and subsequently re-locate inside the marquee for the evening reception. You would assume that it is pretty safe in June to have both ceremony and proceeding drinks reception outside and certainly at midday, while we were taking our equipment out of the van and setting up, there was nothing but the unassuming sporadic clouds scattered about the sky and the lightest of breezes. No problem then.
We set up our instruments, speakers, amplifiers and other assorted equipment under a gazebo that was positioned off to one side of where the wedding ceremony was taking place. At this point our drummer Nick had the horrible realisation that he had left his drum stool at the venue we had played at the night before, of which was all the way back in Kent. After the rest of of the band kindly graced him with a combination of ‘supportive’ laughing and sarcastic compliments for being so clever, he had to resort to sitting on one of our equipment flight cases that was sort-of the correct height but not nearly as comfortable as his nice padded drum stool.
We finished all of our setting-up, rounded off with our standard protocol of doing a brief sound check just to make sure that all of our volume levels were perfect. The bride and groom had pre-arranged with us that we were to play their pre-recorded music for their ceremony through our PA speakers and so we cued it up ready so that all we needed to do was simply press play at the exact point that the bride was ready to walk down the aisle.
As the wedding guests started to find their seats, we noticed that the wind had started to pick up a little bit more, causing one of the guys in the band to point out the looming dark grey cloud hanging ominously on the horizon. “No, I think the wind will blow all of that right past us…” said one of the other guys optimistically. Famous last words.
After about another 10 minutes had passed and most of the wedding guests were now seated, our gazebo started to flap furiously as the wind started to gust heavier while the ever-more insistent dark clouds drifted closer. At this stage we all looked at each other nervously and re-position all of our equipment further inside the gazebo. Nick the drummer also moved his make-shift flight case-cum-seat further underneath to avoid getting a wet back if the rain did start while we were playing.
Then, almost as immediate as flicking a light switch on, the rain suddenly plummeted down onto us and the wedding guests – some of whom screamed out in shock while most started to huddle under umbrellas. The ground became very wet, very quickly and, like penguins in an Antarctic winter, we gathered further underneath the gazebo and just watched all around us as the rain belted down. I then felt several drips of water on my head and looking directly above – I could see that the roof of this venue-supplied gazebo had tiny holes in various areas.
Not only was water now dripping onto us but little pools of water were finding their way onto our equipment. In our panic of knowing that water and electrical equipment tend not to get on well with each other, we had to find whatever we could to try and stop it from getting worse. Gaffa tape over the roof holes only seemed to temporarily reduce the flow but somehow more water was getting through and dripping down onto our mixing desk, of which I was furiously wiping down with the end of my tie. The sound of rumbling thunder only seemed to exemplify the situation.
And then, almost as quick as it had started, the rain suddenly eased off to almost nothing. There was a sigh of relief between all of us in the band but it had left all of the ground around us very water-logged and some rather soggy bits of equipment. The ceremony was delayed while a decision was made as the best way to proceed but one of the ushers approached us after about 10 minutes to say that, with blue skies now reappearing, it was decided that the bride and groom were determined to proceed as planned and continue with the ceremony outdoors.
With wedding guests re-assembled, we were given the nod by one of the ushers to start the pre-recorded ceremony track and so our lead singer Mark pressed play and….. dead silence. He pressed play again and again for good measure. We checked that the PA was definitely on and that the volume was turned up on both the mixing desk and iPod. Still nothing. The wedding simply could not commence without having this music playing and we felt every single pair of eyes burning into the back of our heads as we all tried to work out what had gone wrong. It worked during sound check so why not now!?
We remained calm but everything we were trying was not working. Finally, I moved the lead that was plugged into the iPod and suddenly the music started to play. The rain had obviously affected the connection and meant that the lead would only work when being held at a certain angle.
Remember playing the musical statues game when you were younger? I stood as still as I possibly could while holding the intermittent lead and I even caught myself holding my breath incase somehow that might interfere with the music connection. Like one of those eerie paintings hung in a haunted house, it was only my eyes that moved as they watched the bride walking down the soggy-carpeted aisle.
The track played right through to the end just as the bride joined the groom and at last the ceremony could commence. Phew.
With the sun now peeping out from behind the dispersing clouds, we started our ‘background jazz’ set while the guests enjoyed canapés and champagne and everything felt like it was getting back on track. However, about halfway through the set, every bit of equipment turned off, plunging us into sudden silence. The power supply provided by the venue had stopped working, probably as a result of the over-exuberant weather that we had an hour before and so Mark followed the power supply up to the main house to see if a member of staff could re-set the trip switch.
Everything came back on again…. apart from my guitar amplifier, which very stubbornly had decided to remain firmly off for the rest of the day, no matter how many times I kept pressing the on/off switch back and forth. “Don’t worry…” I said to the others as I grabbed my back-up system so that I could plug my guitar in and continue with the set. Once again – phew.
We finished the set and it was now time to move the whole band and the equipment into the marquee which took longer than normal because we decided that we really should towel off every bit of equipment and every single cable to make sure that it was dried properly before packing it away for transporting it all over to the marquee.
Once inside, we set up again with the knowledge that at least this time we would be better protected from any further downpours in a much more substantial marquee rather than under a flimsy gazebo. No more than half an hour later, the weather decided to once again ignore the fact that it was June and take another turn for the worse and pour down, only this time the grey clouds didn’t look like they were going anywhere anytime soon and so it seemed that the rain was going to last for the rest of the evening. Fortunately, everyone was now fully ensconced in the marquee and happy to be in the dry.
After all of us in the band ate some food and grabbed ourselves some drinks we returned to our equipment but noticed that a massive puddle of water had started to seep in from outside and was creating a mini-moat all around Nick’s make-shift drum stool / case. With the bride and groom soon-to-be dancing their first dance Nick decided that he would just carry on regardless.
We played the first dance for the happy couple and with everybody taking photos and then joining them on the dance floor for our first set, we instantly felt at home by doing what we do best by creating a great party atmosphere while keeping everyone on the dance floor all night.
That was until towards the end of the set I turned around to find that Nick on drums was not feeling anywhere near as comfortable as the rest of us! The metal case that he was sitting on was now pushing its way through the muddy puddle and moving further and further away from his drum kit, essentially sliding him backwards out of the marquee in slow motion. With his back arched almost horizontally and his arms stretched out as far as he could, he now looked more like a cyclist taking part in the Tour de France rather than a drummer and we were of course finding it more and more hysterical as this went on, especially as his show-must-go-on mentality meant that he was still somehow able to play the drums to the very end.
With so many things going wrong for us during the day, we managed to keep calm and ensure that the wedding couple and their guests were not left disappointed. We were pleased to receive some lovely comments from guests at the end of the night, most of whom were completely oblivious to what had happened to us throughout the day. While we were packing up at the end of the night, we were all laughing at what had happened and just hoped that we would never have to encounter such challenging circumstances ever again.
All we needed to do next was to figure out how we were going to get home – our van, that was parked near the marquee and now fully loaded up with all of our equipment, was stuck in mud….
Goosebumps are a five piece swing band from Kent who perform rare and unique swing, jive, jump blues, rock ‘n’ roll and funk tunes not only around our home county of Kent but also in London, the rest of the UK, Europe and the world! Our lively and entertaining on-stage performances fit perfectly with anyone that wants a unique and entertaining band for their wedding reception. Discover more here:
Images are from Fiona & Tim’s Cadhay Manor wedding with our amazing friend & sponsor Kristian Leven Photography