Being a working musician in a band in the Cornwall/Devon area i often notice on forums such as these the question of hiring entertainment.
I would like to offer some advice from the point of view of a band who is expected to play at a wedding as well as offering some tips to take away some of the worry.
Please note, i will not mention the name of the band i play for, i am not here to advertise/tout for business.. the advice may help with your planning phase with regard to your evenings entertainment.
ok.. here we go.
1. Firstly, you must find the band you want. It sounds easy, but you will be surprised just how many you approach only to find they are booked already... book early, especially for spring and summer weddings, but not to early!!.. Bands do break up, get offered six month residencies or change personnel, and don't forget that that singer with the great voice might be the proud mother of week-old triplets by your wedding day! If you start booking a year in advance, you'll still have a very wide selection of bands from which to choose.
2. Do you want to deal with an agency who will supply a band or deal directly with those who are going to entertain you at your reception?
Both have their pros and cons. Should you choose an agency then the Agency advertising the "Act" will be your point of contact, you should expect quick responses and a written contract signed by both the agency and yourselves.... on the night some one in the band will be the ‘leader’, they will be you point of contact. Working through an agency of course gives you the added security if anything should go wrong or you find you need to raise a complaint. Please make sure you read fully the terms and conditions, the contract can be very "deep and wordy" and normally point out expenses that you would otherwise have not thought about e.g: 25% of the total balance per 30 minutes extended (or 25% of total time), payable by the ‘engager’ in cash on the day of the event , as you can see if you want the band to play for an extra 1/2 hour and you have paid £1000.00 for their services then things can start to get v.expensive!!. Usually the agencies T&C can be found on their website. Be aware that usually the prices are "Fixed" and not usually open to negotiation.
If you choose to deal directly with a band then don't be affraid to do so. Prices can be worked out between yourselves and the band until a mutual agreement is met. It's a good idea to ask the musicians to send you two signed contracts, one for you to keep and the other to sign and return to them. Alternatively, you may like to send contracts or letters of engagement to the musicians, asking them to sign and return one to you. The letter/contract should specify at least the venue (with directions), date and time, what the parties are providing (size of band? lighting? food? PA? electricity? etc), repertoire, contact names and numbers, fees and payment terms, and cancellation procedure and charges.
3. Once you have found a band you may consider, go and see them if you can.... recordings on websites can be completley different to how a band sound live. You don't need to announce that you are going to watch them, remember, this should be done before you book them if you can.....it will give you a chance to see how they behave as well as how they sound, as well as how much space they may require at your chosen venue. if you don't like 'em then don't book 'em, find someone else.
4. So you have agreed a price, lisened to them and filled in the paper work. Things need to be considered further still even before your first dance.
it is advisable to check a number of points with the venue.
1. Does the venue have enough space for the band or act ? Some venues specify the maximum numbers in the band they can accommodate. A typical 5 to 6 piece set up will require around a 10' x 15' area, this will depend on the type of instruments, amps etc.
2. Do they have sufficient mains power points. Marquees and temporary structures can prove particularly problematic. 3 x 13A mains sockets should be sufficient for most set ups.
3. Have you provided enough time for the band to set up? Most bands will require approx 60 to 90 minutes to set up and sound check. This ensures the highest levels of sounds quality for your event, also remember, if you are to eat in the same space you plan to dance in later on when do they set up?.. back to T&Cs again, an actual section from an agencies T&Cs.. "If the ‘leader’ and their musicians are required to arrive
at the venue earlier than this, possibly due to venue limitations or logistical issues, an additional early set-up fee will be charged.
The following fees are applicable unless otherwise stated:
£12 per person per hour (or part hour). This fee is agreed to be payable by the ‘engager’ in addition to the total cost of the event." more money!!
4. Does the venue have a sound limiter? It is very difficult for a band to perform with a sound limiter. Vocals in particular will trip the sound limiter and this causes the electricity to the stage area to cut out.
5. Please consider that many bands will have travelled quite some distance to play at your event. We ask that they are treated with courtesy and are provided with refreshments during the evening.
6. Most bridal couples have a good idea of what they consider to be "good" music, and quite rightly want to have considerable input into the music that their band or DJ plays. But an experienced band or DJ will have a good idea what will or won't work at a wedding, and the sensible bridal couple, rather than specifying a definite and restrictive playlist, will seek to work with the band or DJ to agree on a broad format for the evening's entertainment, will agree a few specific requests with the band/DJ, but will leave the band/DJ to fill in the gaps. If you want to specify lots of specific tracks, book a DJ, not a band!
The whole point is that you and your party have a fun and enjoyable experience. You shouldn't have to worry about what is happening on the stage, that's the bands job. The key is communication....and it is a two way thing.. ask the band as many questions as you like, for example, ask them if they will learn a song for your first dance. Will they let you use their P.A. to plug your Ipod or CD player in during the breaks when they are not playing so that you can play some of your own music.
I certanly haven't covered everything... but hopefully given you a few pointers in the right direction, remember, it's just advice so please dont sue me or hold me responsible if everything isn't to the letter! :-)
Remember, you have had a long day, you have worried for months, now it's time to let your hair down and have a good time.
Enjoy your day.