(1)    Never book an act based SOLELY on recommendations from other people.


This is a common mistake often made. Even though referrals are definitely a good starting point, one must always remember that musical knowledge and tastes can vary. You must at least hear or better still, go and see the band perform live before making that final important decision. 


(2) Never leave booking your entertainment 'til the last minute. 


In fact as soon as you have a date set, this decision is as important as booking the venue for your special night. The best acts are usually booked well in advance, and it would be extremely lucky to find a band available with only a few months notice, unless perhaps it's in the off peak months. Most top performers are booked between 6 -12 months and up to two years prior to the reception. The best advice is to place a tentative booking with one or up to three bands you have narrowed down to ensure the date you want is available. Most acts will do this for you, and its one way of ensuring you are not disappointed. Make sure you confirm or cancel as soon as possible.
Also be aware of venues which offer or insist on you booking their RESIDENT band. (not to be confused with venues recommending bands) Although RESIDENT bands are usually cheaper, they are quite often sub-standard and the venue only pushes them because they actually make a commission from the booking. This deal is often struck with bands because it offers them regular work they may not otherwise get based on their own merits.....see them first before committing to a booking.......and remember.......the key is to shop around!


(3)    Professionals versus the hobby performer.


Ask yourself four simple questions.
(a) How often do they perform, and where?
(b) Is their booking fee hundreds of dollars cheaper than other acts? Why?
(c) Have you heard better at a Karaoke venue?
(d) Is their most up to date/hip song 'oh what a night'?
Remember true experience and talent is obvious and cannot be replaced by the sheer facade of confidence. The ultimate rule.............   
     


YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR


That reminds me of a 'bride-to-be' huffing and puffing and actually being quite rude  over the phone when I gave her a quote......practically screaming......"You must be kidding!!!!"....followed by..... " I can get a 6 piece band for $350 " .......
monkeys.....did I hear someone say monkeys????.......
Now keep in mind that our fee is quite standard when it comes to quality acts. Most people certainly expect the ball park. Anyway, I had to hold back my initial reaction of a quiet chuckle, all the while thinking I was ever so grateful I wouldn't have to endure the misery of it all as her guests would have to at her reception. I'm sure the staff would also have appreciated the howling! Well, I was very polite, and didn't even dream of telling her how naive I thought she was, even after she told me she hadn't even heard them perform yet.......hmmmm............yeah I'm sold on the $350 idea too.....I mean........ who cares whether they can sing or play their instruments or not right??!! ....YOU JUST CAN'T BEAT 350 PEANUTS.....I MEAN.....DOLLARS CAN YOU???............ Sorry for my sarcasm........but you would be better off tuning the trannie into 3AK for the evening.......Anyway, I told her if she was happy she should book them and wished her luck.....(all the while knowing she would need it)
now........where are those nuts?????  

   
            
(4) Size DOESN'T matter.....


Well not in this case anyway.
Once upon a time duo's and trios were seen as a cheap alternative...not any more. In fact the benefits of a smaller compact band in many if not most cases makes them the better alternative. (unless you have a budget in the vicinity of someone like Mr Kerry Packer who can also afford the venue and type of sound system and sound engineers Mr Farnham uses at his concerts ...if you do....go for it!!) .

The main reason for this belief is that most "wedding" venues are not designed with acoustics in mind. Big Wedding Bands with drums and the works, often tend to be too loud, and unbalanced in the overall sound. That is why when you go out to a hotel or band venue you will see the lengthy process of a 'sound check' taking place. And then throughout the bands performance, a sound engineer will 'mix' all the different instruments and vocals to ensure a well rounded sound, and eliminate problems with frequencies (feedback etc). Wedding bands just don't have that kind of budget, unless its coming out of your pocket. 

The true nature of partially or totally sequenced music eliminates this problem. For this reason, smaller, sequence based bands are more likely to sound more like the 'original' than any other act, and produce the 'big band' sound most people are after (not to be confused with eardrum perforating volume!!) without the negatives associated with a larger line up.

A good sound system, and musicians who know how to get the best out of it will ensure a great sound, so preferably they will have their own system, or at least one they hire regularly and are familiar with. Now this rule does not always apply.....so the rule once again is ..."see and hear for yourself". If the wedding band only plays at weddings, pop in and sneak a listen at a reception centre if they allow..

It must be noted that you are not paying for the size of the band. You may find the best duos and trios are around the same price as some other five or six piece bands. Remember you are paying for the quality of the act, rather than quantity. This is where Experience, talent and the work that goes on behind the scenes must be taken into consideration. A large, up to date, versatile repertoire for instance takes time. Programming songs can often take up to 8 hours per song, then there's rehearsal time. Another thing to remember is the time factor on the day of your function. Travel, set up and performance time and then set down and returning home may mean 10 hours for the band, not just the 4to5 hours you initially consider.

(5) Dodgy Demo's!        

Yes, Demo's can be dodgy, so take the time to see a band perform live when possible. I cannot stress how important this is. If a demo sounds bad, don't even bother....believe you me, they will only be worse live.  Sometimes a band is so good, it's obvious on CD and if they also come highly recommended by reputable reception venues who work with them on a regular basis you can't go wrong. However even when a demo sounds impressive, find out where the band is performing and take the time to get there, and spend a good amount of time listening to various songs. Remember Demo's can be recorded under very different circumstances than a live performance, and we all know even some of the worst singers can be made to sound much better with a little studio magic. Live CD's on the other hand, certainly offer a true representation of what to expect, but I still advise you to go and see the act perform live before you make the final decision! 


(6) Bands versus DJ's

     YEP !  YEP ! YUK!

I could just say 'yuk' but I shall enlighten you as to why.......(and I will try not to upset my DJ friends...although I know I won't because 'Professional' Dj's DON'T DO WEDDINGS!
A DJ should only be hired for a wedding when......
*   You really believe spending $2000 or so on a wedding dress, $500-$800 on a cake, $3-$5,000 for photos and video combined, $1500 for hire cars, and $250 dollars on entertainment is 'well balanced'.

*  You don't believe that music is very important for the overall success of the evening.

*  You have left it to the last minute and all the best bands which play most of your favourite songs are already booked

*   When the only band left available is a 6 piece act which charges just $350.
     
* You're having a 'techno' themed wedding and your best friend is non other than SASH

*  You wish to re enact a really bad wedding you once attended......just for fun 

*  Your father is a DJ and he refuses to pay for the wedding unless you let him SPIN!

Seriously though, you cannot beat the atmosphere, and visual impact that live music, and great vocals can offer to your special night .... compared to a part time DJ who fantasizes he's down at the Dockyards spinning for thousands of "part E goers"! Sorry guys! You just can't compare the two.
The 'Melbourne Bride' magazine, Melbourne's biggest and best for Bridal Wear, Venues, Photographers, Jewellery and advice, says you should expect to pay between $1200 to $2000 for your wedding entertainment (march edition 2001). Some acts are cheaper, but remember the old monkey's and peanuts proverb. (you know the one!) It may or may not always apply, but keep it in mind!


(7) How much music should you get for your money?         

This is always a hard question to answer, as reception formats vary, and venues and people quite often run behind schedule at weddings, and this inevitably effects the amount of 'dance floor time'.
If a band charges so much, and then tells you they will only play 3 half hour or 40 minute sets..(like... no exceptions) be a little concerned. Past clients have mentioned this to me in the past regarding other acts. The rule should be this. As much music and partying as time will allow. That may very well end up being three 40 minute sets, but if there is time for more, you should get more for no extra cost. Remember at the same time, it is not the bands fault if their second or third set is only 20 minutes long because the speeches dragged on for an hour and a half. (don't laugh....that happened once!) Singers do need a break, so unless time has really run short, it is more than reasonable to expect a band to take a break after a 45-1 hour set. The breaks however shouldn't be any longer than 20 minutes, usually less, unless its during speeches or main course, and cd background music should be provided when appropriate during their breaks. I never advise live music during the first part of the evening (ie entrée) Guests wish to talk catch up with relatives or friends they may not have seen for some time, perhaps discuss the ceremony, and how beautiful the bride looks without shouting. They wish to relax a little before the music begins (remember for the rest of the night its party, party) . Soft live dinner music is appropriate, (i.e. main course) obviously being considerate of tables particularly close to speakers. (put the teenagers and younger couples here if possible or any rellies your not particularly fond of!). The band is there to play, not hover outside chain smoking for hours on end!
Some venues are not always considerate of the entertainers. Always insist the band is looked after in regards to food and drinks by the venue...its a long stint for them too...... and a happy band usually means the best performance...although I'd refrain from supplying a bottle of scotch per performer!

(8) Music Tips

Always listen carefully to the lyrics of a song you are considering for your bridal waltz. Many times brides choose a song because they like the chorus of the song and focus on that rather than what the song in it's entirety is about......for example if I may ...... 
I will always love you...well maybe...but I'm leaving regardless because I'm not good enough for you, basically I stink.......... I can't live, if living is without you...but you're leaving me anyway you ba#$@d so I may as well slash my wrists!!!............ My heart will go on ....do you really want to jinx your honeymoon cruise?? Leave this one on the bottom of the ocean where it belongs ......... Saving all my love for you......you're a married man but I'll sleep with you anyway, even though your family is waiting at home for you, and all we have is A FEW STOLEN MOMENTS TO SHARE!!..........and one more for good measure.........Throw your arms around me (you know the hunters and collectors song) this is about a one night stand and we're not talking about the wedding night either! Need we say anymore. If you really like a particular song but the lyric content is questionable, there is no problem having it played during the night, just not for the bridal waltz.

Music for everyone......
Don't try and select all the songs yourself for the evening. You may choose songs you love that just don't work at a wedding, or exclude songs because you don't like them, however they may be really popular with your guests. A good bad will know what works. Pre request some of your favourites but leave the bulk of the song selection to the band, they are experienced and should be able to read an 'audience' so to speak. They should also be able to take requests from your guests. The above may not apply if the bands repertoire is mostly made up of inappropriate pub type songs, in which case you may have chosen the wrong band to begin with. A professional wedding band should have a vast array of music and styles to entice most of your guests to the dance floor.  

THE LAST WORD
Weddings are a very special occasion.........like you need to be told! Most people these days want a relaxed, fun, party atmosphere for their celebration. Gone are the days of the over formal, stiff and stuffy affairs. You want to show the world how happy you are that you just tied the knot, and your guests want to show you how happy and honoured they are to be a part of your special day. Lets face it. Most of us have been to a boring wedding where we constantly looked at our watches, wondering how early one could leave without offending the Bride and Groom.
Now if you really think about it, more than likely it wasn't the venue or the food that bored you to tears, but rather the music and the lack of atmosphere. Too many times, people underestimate just how important the right choices for entertainment is to the overall success of the evening. People won't be so rude as to tell you the band really stinks, but you'll soon know if that's the case, especially if half your guests have already disappeared before you throw your bouquet. If they loved the band they will tell you both during and after the evening, make no mistake of that, and the bride and groom certainly always let us know!
Now let me say at this point, that I understand budget restraints. If this is what is dictating or limiting your options then keep this in mind. This is hopefully a once in a life time event. Plan well in advance, and save longer if you have to.....believe me when I say the extra few hundred dollars is better spent on your entertainment than on that extra fancy, four tiered wedding cake that once cut up and parcelled, usually gets sat on and lost in between your guest's car seat upholstery on the way home, only to be found several months later.
Wouldn't you rather dance and party the night away, and for many months if not years to follow have people raving how wonderful and memorable the night was. Perhaps even commending you specifically on your choice of entertainment, because they had so much fun? I think I already know the answer.....

CHOOSE WISELY....HAVE A WONDERFUL WEDDING DAY, AND CELEBRATE IN STYLE!!!
Sue Jones  - HITZONE