If you want a high energy reception, nothing is better than a live band. A good band will set the tone for your wedding and get your guests up and moving. Once you’ve decided you want a band over a DJ or a DIY set up, the next step is picking the right band. Check out their social media and interview a few different bands to see who is a good fit for your wedding.
What should you ask your wedding band?
Ask your wedding band about pricing, musical style, and experience. These three questions are the most important when selecting a band. See below for the full list of questions to ask prospective bands.
Is your band available on my wedding date?
Obvious question. You know why to ask this. Some of the most in demand bands will be booked a year or more ahead of time. (Your friend’s sketchy boyfriend is probably free next week though.) Once you’ve confirmed they are available for your wedding date you can move forward with the rest of your questions.
How much do your wedding packages cost?
Bands will charge different rates based on the number of band members, their level of experience, how long they’ll be playing and the location of your wedding. You may be able to score a deal if your wedding is off-season or on a weekday. But be prepared to pay more if you’re asking the band to travel. Some musicians may even require a hotel room if the wedding is several hours away.
The average cost for a wedding band, according to Brides.com, is $4,000 plus tip. That’s significantly more than the average cost for a DJ at $1,200, according to The Knot. So you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
Don’t know if you can afford a band?
You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.
How much is the deposit to secure the wedding band?
The deposit price will vary from band to band. Expect to pay about 15-25% of the total cost to hold your day. Deposits are often non-refundable, so only pay the deposit if you have already booked the wedding venue and you are sure that you want to use this band.
What is the band’s cancellation policy?
Worst case scenario – what happens if there’s a hurricane and your wedding is canceled? Or what happens if the band needs to cancel on you? Find out what’s in the contract if something happens and you need to reschedule (or cancel!) your wedding or the drummer comes down with the flu.
What is the back up plan if one or more musicians cannot make it the day of my wedding?
If you are hiring a band from an entertainment company, they may send an alternative band if your band is unable to attend. Find out how often that occurs and under what circumstances that may happen. If you are hiring a band directly, they may have alternate musicians who can fill in if need be. Worst case scenario: they have the drummer sub in for the lead singer. (Eek!)
Are there any additional costs for the band I should know about?
It’s important to ask if there are any unexpected costs that might pop up. Examples include: overtime costs if you want your band to perform an extended set, equipment rental fees if they need additonal audio equipment for your venue, and travel costs to your wedding location.
What is your band’s policy on drinking and smoking?
Many bands would consider it unprofessional to drink or smoke at a wedding. Just in case, you should ask that drinking and smoking restrictions be included in the contract. You don’t want a situation where a band member becomes intoxicated and cannot perform. If smoking is even allowed at your venue, band members should smoke in an area that isn’t visible to guests.
Will someone in your band also be performing as an Emcee?
You will need someone to serve as an Emcee. The MC announces when it’s time to eat dinner, listen to toasts, and have the first dance. Some bands provide emceeing as part of their package, while others will charge a premium for this service.
Can we use the band’s microphones for speeches?
Your venue might not have audio equipment, so you will rely on your band for microphones. If your ceremony and reception are in the same location, you will need at least one microphone for your officiant, and possibly microphones for you, your partner, and anyone who is performing a reading. You will also need a microphone for anyone giving a toast at the reception.
How long are your sets?
Wedding bands typically play for about two hours during the reception. Depending on the band and your wedding’s specific needs, they may split that up into two 60 minute sets, three 40 minute sets, or four 30 minute sets.
How long are your breaks?
Your band will need breaks in order to rest and recuperate. Some bands will take fifteen minute breaks between sets and then a longer 30 minute break during dinner. Work with the band to schedule breaks that make sense for the flow of your wedding and with their needs.
What music will you set up on your breaks?
The band will probably play music from a playlist during their breaks. Talk to them beforehand to be sure they play music that you like. Nothing worse than a Macklemore marathon to spoil your dinner if you hate pop music.
You might even want to create your own playlist for their breaks if you like the idea of trying your hand as a Spotify DJ. Check out this article for tips on how to play Spotify at your wedding.
What about music during my ceremony and cocktail hour?
Some bands offer packages for your ceremony and cocktail hour, as well as your reception. If you are booking through a company, they can send different musicians for each part of the party. Think: a harpist for the ceremony, a string quartet during the cocktail hour, and a rock band for your reception. If you are booking directly with a musician, they may offer a stripped-back set for your ceremony or cocktail hour. Perhaps one or two acoustic guitars and a vocalist while you walk down the aisle and a keyboardist for your cocktail hour. This will of course be an additional cost, but you will have live music throughout your whole day.
Interested in hiring a violinist for your ceremony? How about a pianist for your cocktail hour? Check out these additional articles with specifics you need to know for hiring individual musicians for your wedding.
How much does it cost to have a violinist at a wedding?
How much does it cost to have a pianist at a wedding?
Do you have a recommendation for a DJ?
Some couples opt to use a DJ after the band leaves to ensure the reception is hopping all night. If you are hiring an entertainment company, they will probably have a mix of DJs and bands you can choose from. If you are booking a band directly, you can ask them for recommendations of DJs they have worked with for the after party.
If you’d decided to hire a DJ, here’s a list of essential questions before hiring one.
Can you play my wedding song?
Ask your wedding band if they are familiar with the song you chose for your first dance, and any other songs you consider “must-plays”. If they do not know that song already, ask if they are willing to learn it. Even if they have a similar style to the original musician, their cover may sound quite different. So keep in mind, you won’t be hearing an exact copy of Ed Sheeran unless you hire Ed Sheeran. (If so, can I come?)
Can I see a video of previous wedding performances?
The best way to know if a wedding band is right for you and your partner is to watch them in action. The band most likely has videos on their website and social media. If they perform events outside of weddings, consider going to one of their shows to see how they are live.
How long do you need to set up your instruments?
It’s important to know how long the band will need to set up. Make sure their arrival time works with your venue’s contract. Otherwise, there will be a long delay in your reception as you wait for them to set up and do sound checks.
How would you describe your musical style?
Find out if the band meshes well with your musical style. Most couples choose a band whose style is pop, rock, country, or R&B. But the bands available range from polka to swing if you’re looking for something more eclectic. A lot of wedding bands are flexible and incorporate different styles into their sound. If your band is a more niche genre, like emo or reggae, keep in mind they might not be everyone’s taste. But if that’s what you want, do you.
Will you play covers, originals, or both?
Wedding songs should be upbeat and get people moving. Meaning – most of the set list should be songs that your guests have heard before. Again, unless you are hiring Ed Sheeran–avoid original songs at your wedding.
What are some of your favorite songs to play at weddings?
This is more than just a fun question to ask. It helps you get an idea of their genre and what kind of music they like to play. You might even get a good recommendation that you hadn’t thought to include!
Has your band ever performed at my venue before?
Different venues have different sound needs. For instance, a historic house may have fewer outlets for their amps and speakers. An outdoor venue needs a louder set up. If the band hasn’t performed at your venue before, ask if they are willing to do a walk through before the wedding so they are prepared.
How long have you been playing together?
Even if the individual musicians are experienced, avoid hiring a newly formed band. It can take a while for bandmates to find their groove and work well together. Also a newly minted band is more likely than an established band to break up before your wedding day.
How many weddings has your band played?
This is another question to gauge the band’s experience level. Weddings require a high level of commitment and professionalism, and have a specific flow to them. I recommend choosing a band who has done a lot of weddings because weddings are so different from other shows.