This is my best advice: think about the entertainment before you get a venue.
I have performed as a musician at more than 500 weddings and I have booked other bands for many more of the big events, and still I love them. I come to this topic with a bias; I really love live music and I sincerely believe it ads a tremendous amount to the overall event. One of the most memorable parts of your event will be the entertainment. You and your guests will still be remembering the fun that was had, long after guests have misplaced (or eaten) the chatchke or chocolate at their place setting.
For most events, music will play a role; how big a role and whether you decide to use live or prerecorded music are the big questions. I will make the case that live music ads visual stimulation as well as listening pleasure. Even non-dancing guests will enjoy watching a good band, along with watching others dance. Sometimes you can arrange that the PA stay up an hour after the band stops, to play CDs or your ipod. Whatever material you wanted, that the band doesn’t cover can be provided that way. Also CDs/ipods are played on band breaks.
Decisions about music should be made before you sign on to a venue. There are certain venues that have very few restrictions about music. There are others that are music friendly, but have terrible acoustics; this problem can be nuanced, if you choose event professionals. There are venues that do not allow any amplification. If you have your heart set on a vocalist, such a venue would make vocals impossible. Examine your priorities and expect to compromise to get an overall best result.
Outdoor venues pose a different set of problems. If the weather changes, you will have real humans who want to stay dry and warm – if you can do it for your guests, you should be able to do it for the band as well.
- Is there a dry, hard, level surface for the band to set up on?
- Is there electricity; are the outlets close and available?
Some consideration when choosing a band:
- Do you have people of different ages and tastes to please?
- Do you want music at the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and party? Most professional, events bands have a musician (or two or three) that can play for your ceremony; some can do classical music, some might suggest jazz standards or pop ballads. The most cost effective way to get live music for your entire event is to find such a band and have them start as a solo or trio and then add to the group. Generally the full band is booked for four hours (dinner, then dance sets). The additional couple of hours (ceremony and cocktails) are done with one, two or three players.
Today, more than ever entertainment choices are affected by budgetary considerations. There are excellent bands that have worked for years, but perhaps don’t have major name recognition. Many bands work in different sizes; a six-piece may work as a five-piece, and cost less. Though prices vary around the country, I will posit that professional bands run between $1500 on up to $10,000 – with the bulk of pro-events bands between $2500 and $5000.
Because most couples don’t come into the process with a band in mind, I recommend a reputable booking company; many mistakes can be avoided with their help. Such a company should be licensed, have insurance, and have a good reputation with their former clients, with venues and with musicians. Musicians often charge booking companies less (because they get consistent work). A better deal can often be made with a booking company’s help.
Paula Helene is employed by Swing Fever Entertainment, www.band-booking.com, Northern California live music providers for 26 years. Owned and operated by Swing Fever’s Bandleader, Bryan Gould, who has played at more than 1500 weddings www.swingfever.com