At Clare Beckwith Weddings, we’ve had a busy Summer 2010 wedding season and we’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing musicians this year. We’ve heard everything from opera singers, string duos, string quartets, saxophonists, harpists, live bands... the list goes on. If you are new to booking musicians though (as most brides are), it can be a minefield if you don’t know what to look out for. So we spoke to expert Susan Heaton-Wright of NSN Productions to see if she had any helpful hints for our brides...
Susan told us...
“When I attend meetings and tell people what I do, I am often greeted with “I wish we’d known about you” – and then they tell me about a wedding disaster involving musicians. In some cases the disaster occurred a number of years ago, and still upsets the bridal couple; yet these problems could have been easily avoided. Here are my top tips for choosing and booking a band; what questions to ask; what to avoid and what to include in any agreement:
1. Be clear about what type of music you want for the reception. You’d be amazed at what a journey of discovery this can be for a couple when you realise your fiancé loves heavy metal and you prefer jazz! Ask bands for their play lists. Do they arrange ‘requests’? Is there a charge for this? How much notice do you need for requests?
2. Ask for references and if it is possible go to meet the band and listen to their sound samples.
3. When receiving a quote, check what it includes. Are there any hidden extras – including sound systems, travel, VAT, lighting etc. Make sure you receive a fee which includes everything before making a booking.
4. The band should have Public Liability Insurance certificates as well as having all electrical equipment PAT tested. The former is a requirement by many venues; the latter is mandatory.
5. Confirm everything that you agree in writing or write up a contract.
6. Some bridal couples engage friends of friends who play in bands to play at their weddings. Make sure everything is agreed in writing with clear cancellation clauses. It is not unknown for friends of friends’ bands to suddenly get a paid engagement, leaving the bridal couple in the lurch at the last minute.
7. Most bands will request a deposit to confirm a booking. Remember to ask for a receipt for this deposit and to ask the conditions of the deposit before parting with your money.
8. A band will normally be setting up early; performing and packing away – making a long evening’s work. They will get hungry and will perform better if they’ve been fed. They don’t need the meal you are serving your guests. Most venues will offer a ‘suppliers’ meal – either a pasta dish or substantial sandwiches which costs less. We recommend you also offer soft drinks but not alcohol.
9. Be clear about when they should set up and do their sound checks. You need to avoid them walking through the wedding breakfast with their equipment or doing “One, Two – Hello O2” whilst your speeches are in full flow. The venue will normally be able to advise you on a practical solution – including a discreet entrance for the band to use to set up. Likewise, consider how they will pack up after they have played, to avoid any disruption to the wedding.
10. Dress code; it is important to specify how you would like the band to dress – and put it in the contract. Some bands will coordinate their clothing to match your theme, others will not. It is also important to request that they are smartly dressed when they arrive and set up. There is nothing worse than scruffy jeans and t shirts being seen; they can wear smart t shirts and trousers to move equipment.
11. Noise levels. When we set up our company, we conducted a survey of 500 people of all ages. 97% said their biggest complaint about live music – and bands in particular were that they were too loud. There is a time and place for very loud music, and weddings, where there are usually a wide range of ages, and people that want to talk to each other – and be heard, isn’t one of them. If it is possible, have another room for people who want to talk. However we recommend you have someone in the wedding party (probably the Best Man) who liaises with the band; is involved in setting the sound levels and asks them to reduce the volume if necessary. Ensure it’s in the contract that the band should adjust volume levels if necessary.
12. We recommend you book a band via a music company or agency. As a professional third party, they can often resolve problematic situations, without causing the bride unnecessary anxiety.”
Our special thanks to Susan for her great advice. http://www.nsn-productions.com/