Finding the perfect band for your wedding reception can take research, thinking, and creativity. But it doesn’t have to be difficult and can even be–dare we say it–fun.
The initial decisions about your event
The first things to decide about your wedding reception is what sort of event you want to have. The standard “way it’s done” is with high-energy dance music, maybe including a few line dances or traditional wedding dance songs (“Chicken Dance”, anyone?). But plenty of people have great receptions that are lower-key, cocktail-hour sort of affairs, with live background music. Depending on your background, you might need a mariachi band, or one that can handle the “Hava Nagilah“.
These decisions will inform how you search for musicians, where you’ll find them, and what to expect out of the evening. For purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you’re going to do the dance party reception, and you’re looking for a band for your wedding that can deliver that.
A wedding band is a particular kind of band
If you walk up to a guy busking on the street and say, “Hey! You’re good! Do you play weddings?”, his answer is going to be “Heck yeah I do!”. But that answer doesn’t really tell you everything you need to know.
Is the band or musician experienced with weddings? They’re a pretty unique sort of gig, with demands that are very different from a bar or club (or street corner). Do they understand how to MC the evening? Do they know what “introducing the wedding party” means? What sort of music to play for a First Dance? Can they take requests? Professional wedding bands know these things, and are all set to handle them.
Finding a band
There are typically three ways that people find bands. One is to go to events where there are great bands. This exposes you to lots of musicians who might be perfect–and it’s a great time!
The second way is searching online. Google is, as always, your friend. Recently there are “booking platform” websites springing up, like Thumbtack and Gig Salad. My band, The Clanky Lincolns, has had some success booking events on both of these.
The third way is through an entertainment agency or booking agent. Again, finding one in your area is best done with Google. Often their websites have videos and samples from the bands they represent. Some of them even do “showcases”, where you can go see several wedding bands perform short sets, and booking agents are on hand to help with the details.
What should you spend on a band for your wedding?
Many factors go into the pricing for a band. It can be anywhere from $1000 to $30,000 depending on how many people are in the band, how big a name they are, even the time of year. The first quarter of the year is slow in the wedding business, and all wedding-related services are cheaper then.
The Clanky Lincolns, a four-piece funk/rock dance party band, usually starts around $1600 for a three hour show, and we add on from there for special circumstances. For instance, if the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, the band has to be there many hours early to set up. This makes for a very long day, and so we charge an extra fee for that.
Knowing what you want from a wedding band
You know the saying “the customer is always right”? That saying is basically nonsense. Many, many times in life, we happily rely on expert judgement and opinion. That’s why there are experts–to help us decide things we don’t already know. So bear in mind that your band has done this before.
We know you probably wouldn’t sit down and listen to “Brick House” or “Play That Funky Music”. It’s cheesy stuff, we get it. But when a crowd is dancing to a live band at a wedding reception, those sorts of songs are exactly what they want to hear. Trust us–when the opening notes of “Funky Music” go out to a crowd that’s already hopping, it’s an all-access ticket to the dance floor.
A wedding band might offer you a song list to pick from, and you shouldn’t hesitate to cross out songs with bad associations (the groom’s “song” with his ex-girlfriend has to go). But let the fun cheesy ones through; you’ll be glad when you see your grandma bumping her way across the dance floor.
Finding a band for your wedding doesn’t have to be overwhelming, even if you’re somebody who’s not already connected to a live music scene. Hopefully with this guidance you’re empowered to know what you want and go find it!