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wedding band - To be or not to be


Eric Jx

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We had a gig Friday night. After the 2nd set a woman approaches me and asks me if we do weddings. I told her that we haven't played any weddings and being an 80's tribute band, I don't know if it's a great fit. She told me she was a wedding planner and disagreed with the assessment that our genre wouldn't work for weddings. She also said she had a particular client in mind that would love us. She also pointed out that we would make significantly more money playing a wedding than we would in your typical bar. Basically I spent the entire break talking with her and gave her a stack of our business cards before I got back behind my keys.

 

I've never planned on actively persuing wedding gigs, but what if one fell in my lap? I'd have to decide what to do.

 

My gut tells me to decline. I can imagine how a wedding gig would differ from a bar gig. i.e. the need to be acutely aware of volume levels, handling requests, fitting in seemlessly with the flow of the night, etc...

 

I just don't think my band is up to the task. At least not yet. I could just imagine the reaction we'd get from someone's 80 year old aunt, when my guitarist turns his amp up to 11.

 

Bottom line. If we have a bad night at our pub venues, I'm not even sure the drunk patrons notice. If we have a bad night at a wedding, we run the risk of tarnishing a special day in someone's life.

 

Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing from those who play weddings about how that work differs from bar band work.

 

 

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I may be in the minority, but I enjoy playing wedding receptions. People are there to celebrate and have a good time, so you don't really have to win them over. While you may have to tone down the volume a bit for the first set, the aforementioned 80-year-old aunt (and her friends) will be heading home by 10:00. Regarding requests, you may get one or two, but some folks may not bother once they see the type of band you are. However, you might want to bring along a CD of traditional wedding reception music you can play during your breaks. Again, I find wedding receptions to be fun gigs: you get fed a nice meal, free drinks, flirt with some hot bridesmaids, make some really good cash, home early.

 

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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My new band is all about weddings and private parties. If you play the right dance music it is fun. But if you are a blues band you could be in trouble. Just keep them on the dance floor and don't be afraid to wear a Tux.

Jimmy

 

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I hate playing weddings, but we're in the same boat - people want 80's music at their weddings. We explain that you will get exactly what you get at our other shows - wigs, outfits, all 80's music. No duck dance, hokey pokey. It is what it is. If you are sure that's what you want for your wedding, then you can have us for $5,000.00. The price scares some of them off, but if after all that, they still want to pay it, then what the hell?

 

Of course, you have to be very professional, it takes more time because you have to be done setting up and sound checking BEFORE the reception begins. You usually have to dj some music and handle announcements. And since nobody ever believes me about how long dinner and toasts and all that actually takes (for some reason they believe the caterer, who is always wrong), you never start at the predetermined time, so you'll have to make last minute changes to your set list. But you'll end up playing all of about 1-1/2 hour by the time they are actually finally ready for you to start since they only have the hall until 11pm. Not bad money for one set and a lot of headache.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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W She also pointed out that we would make significantly more money playing a wedding than we would in your typical bar.

 

My niece paid $3500 for the band at her wedding reception. They sucked.

 

Bottom line. If we have a bad night at our pub venues, I'm not even sure the drunk patrons notice. If we have a bad night at a wedding, we run the risk of tarnishing a special day in someone's life.

 

There's a huge difference between a bad night and an unprofessional night. The gig is about 99$ professionalism and 1% music. It's about clean tuxes and shoes, being subservient and all that jazz. If you and your guys can do that, you can bring home some good dough.

 

my guitarist turns his amp up to 11.

 

Yeah, definitely fire him. :laugh:

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My Journey trib band was asked to do a wedding once. It turned out great!! Big pay day, and actually easier than a typical night club gig.

 

They treated us first class. They knew what they were getting, and as Dan mentioned: no duck song, no dollar dance, etc....

 

They got our show. It was nice being setup up and sound checked a few hours before the show. Time to relax, and enjoy down time. We were fresh by the time we went on.

 

We've only done this one. We don't seek out wedding gigs, as it is kind of odd/hard when you cover one band. This couple really wanted us, and their family and friends knew what they were getting and loved it as well.

 

Doing this one wedding did open us up to some good corporate gigs. These corps pay very nice $$$$, and the venues are usually outstanding, clean, and professional. (and on a personal note, I don't smell like an ashtray at the end of the show)

 

 

David

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I don't think the question is whether or not wedding gigs pay - we all know they do.

The OP's question was *should* they play it.

I'd say that, if you're not comfortable with all the MC duties, it can be a disaster. Usually they rely on the band to introduce the wedding party, do the First Dance, Father/Daughter dance, etc. If you're not comfortable with all that, then it can be problematic. Also, the band is usually expected to play some dinner music - not usually "White Wedding!"

My advice is to really think about this: if your strength is to play bars and such, then you'd probably be great at the dancing segment of the evening.

If you're getting paid well, maybe you could find a front person to do MC duties for the introductions, announcements, schmoozing, etc. and have a recorded sound track to play in the back ground for the introductions and dinner music.

In this way, you could start playing weddings NOW, rather than 6 months from now when the wedding season is all but over.

My band is made up of jazz/funk musicians so we play jazz for the dinner set and Motown/requests for the dance portion. My bandleader absolutely refuses to play The Electric Slide, Chicken Dance, etc., so we have all that stuff on CD to play during the breaks. I think people would rather hear the original on those organized dance tunes anyway.

There are times (Jewish weddings, etc.) where we have to learn some specialized or ethnic music. That's OK - they're usually pretty easy, require not a lot of time, and show some versatility in your band.

 

Last fall we played for a wedding down in Brookline MA. I played for the ceremony ($200), I played for the cocktail hour on a beautiful grand piano in the foyer of a very nice hotel ($200 [45 minutes]) and then the band played for the reception; ($600 to me). Total for 7 hours' work (and not a lot of playing): $1000. That's a good Saturday in my book. Should you play for a wedding? HELL YES!

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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Thanks for the input. It seems that everybody is on the same page...that we shouldn't turn down wedding gigs.

 

I think our lead singer would feel comfortable handling the MC duties. Besides our band, she's in another band which exclusively does weddings. However in that band, she has a minor role. She sings backup, and is given maybe one token lead vocal a night. Still, her experience in her other group should give her some familiarity with the expectations and process.

 

My main concern professionism-wise is our guitarist. Let me give you an idea of who we're dealing with....Friday night he left the stage in the middle of an Erasure song to order a drink at the bar. I'd definitely have to lay down some ground rules. You can't assume common sense will guide him.

 

 

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My main concern professionism-wise is our guitarist.

 

 

I'm guessing it's not a concern, you know that he is unable to do it already. You'll have to get a new one. You could have two bands with differing personnel, he is in the bar band only. You already know the guy is unprofessional. You can't "tame" someone like that or "lay down the ground rules", it won't work. Get someone else. From your original post:

 

My gut tells me to decline

 

 

I think you're instinct is correct. The mother of the bride is going to ask your guitarist to turn it down or play the hokey pokey, he'll throw a fit, and then you all look bad.

 

 

 

 

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You'll have to get a new one. You could have two bands with differing personnel, he is in the bar band only. You already know the guy is unprofessional. You can't "tame" someone like that or "lay down the ground rules", it won't work. Get someone else.

 

The truth is the rest of us have already discussed replacing him. He's always at the center of any drama with the band. However there never seems to be a right time to bite the bullet and can him. For instance, the band just purchased a PA system on credit. We're using the proceeds from our gigs to pay it off. If we embark on a long search/auditioning process now, no money will be coming in to pay off the debt.

 

We do have 2 guitarists who came by referrals who are interested in playing with us. We're trying to quietly arrange an audition to see if either are a good fit.

 

Even if we don't line up his replacement, I think we're at the point where the next incident with him will be the last, debt be damned.

 

 

 

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Simple solution - you have two bands - the bar band and the wedding/corporate band. Could even have very similar names, share a web site - they just don't share all the same people in the band. Get a new guitarist for the wedding/corporate band - if the gitardist don't shape up - ship him out.

 

I do think now is the right time to make a decision on this. Don't know how it is in your part of the world, but here in NC, summer is by far the peak time for big weddings, the kind that hire catering, wedding staff, musicians, location, etc - and that type of scene plans things out early (even if the plans do have a habit of changing some at the last minute).

 

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Good musicians can make even some poorly written or overplayed music satisfying. I used to play 50 wedding a year. As mentioned above, private parties, weddings, cocktail hours are the place for huge bucks. I passed on the bar gigs long ago. I like 1-3 hours 100 bucks minimum per hour, play no later than about 9:00 pm. The days of starting the gig at 10:00 and playing to 1:00 0r 2:00 (the next day) are for the youngsters. I saw something in the NY times recently, a high demand wedding band in NY City was getting like 15K for a job. I like the idea of a hybrid gig, bring some typical wedding stuff on a CD and kind of do a live/DJ show at the wedding. This sounds like a new business model.

 

Regards,

 

Musicale

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It sounds like you are at one of the forks in the road, keep the guitarist and limit yourself to bar gigs, or ditch him for more opportunities. Any musician who leaves the stage during a song (in which there is, granted, probably no guitar) to order a drink, and is the center of drama, is not a long term BUSINESS partner, nor an asset.

Suck up the debt, ditch the guy and get a new guitarist and some paying gigs, now, rather than later, waiting on bad news does not make it any better.

 

Good luck, and enjoy the bridesmaids.

"Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.'-Hamlet

 

Guitar solos last 30 seconds, the bass line lasts for the whole song.

 

 

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Simple solution - you have two bands - the bar band and the wedding/corporate band.

 

I agree, except the guitarist isnt going to go for it. There's only one solution: you'll have to kill him! :laugh: OK, that might be extreme. Seriously, before you even consider going the wedding route, he'll have to be outta the picture completely.

 

Whatever you do, don't breathe a word of this to anyone in real life until the guitarist is out. He'll try to sabotage your new venture any way he can.

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My gut tells me to decline. I can imagine how a wedding gig would differ from a bar gig. i.e. the need to be acutely aware of volume levels, handling requests, fitting in seemlessly with the flow of the night, etc...

 

 

Is there a reason besides your guitar player that you think you aren't up to the task? What makes you think you can't do all of the stuff you just laid out in that quote?

 

You sound like you're a little hesitant because you haven't done one before, and that's legit, but no reason not to do it! It really isn't that hard at all. Obviously this event coordinator chick thinks you can do it. You are not responsible for the wedding day being a perfect day, you are responsible for providing some entertainment. People are there to boogie and have a good time, so you'll go over provided you play the tunes well. Don't worry about 'going with the flow' of the night. You will need to take direction of course, but these receptions are usually quite planned out, and as long as you are in good communication with whoever is planning the thing, then you'll all be on the same page and the night will come off well. You'll go home with some good $$ in your pocket. I say do it.

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My gut tells me to decline. I can imagine how a wedding gig would differ from a bar gig. i.e. the need to be acutely aware of volume levels, handling requests, fitting in seemlessly with the flow of the night, etc...

 

 

Is there a reason besides your guitar player that you think you aren't up to the task? What makes you think you can't do all of the stuff you just laid out in that quote?

 

You sound like you're a little hesitant because you haven't done one before, and that's legit, but no reason not to do it! It really isn't that hard at all. Obviously this event coordinator chick thinks you can do it. You are not responsible for the wedding day being a perfect day, you are responsible for providing some entertainment. People are there to boogie and have a good time, so you'll go over provided you play the tunes well. Don't worry about 'going with the flow' of the night. You will need to take direction of course, but these receptions are usually quite planned out, and as long as you are in good communication with whoever is planning the thing, then you'll all be on the same page and the night will come off well. You'll go home with some good $$ in your pocket. I say do it.

 

Mostly I'm a little hesitant because we've never done one before and don't know how much responsibility the band takes for the flow of the evening. Honestly, I haven't even been to a wedding with a band in over 10 years. It's seems everbody goes for DJs nowadays. It's a shame really.

 

 

 

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Wedding gigs are few and far between anymore with DJs getting most of the gigs. If a planner tells you you're good wedding band material, take it!

 

With all the positives brought up so far, you do get the occasional mother of the bride or bride that is a demanding perfectionist. This is their "day". They want it to be perfect and they can be overbearing. Just don't let them ruin your gig, and don't ruin their day.

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Do your best to make sure you get as much information as possible beforehand. A contract isn't a bad idea either (understatement). I'm sure there are some here who can provide some sample agreements, and there may be good ones online.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Mostly I'm a little hesitant because we've never done one before and don't know how much responsibility the band takes for the flow of the evening. Honestly, I haven't even been to a wedding with a band in over 10 years. It's seems everbody goes for DJs nowadays. It's a shame really.

 

That can depend on the wedding. I always try to meet with the bride and groom a month or so beforehand to layout the details and make sure there aren't going to be any surprises. Find out what they expect in terms of announcements, etc. Get a tentative schedule for the evening, if you're going to do things like announce the wedding party, get their names with correct pronunciations.

 

A lot of time, this meeting forces them to think about things they hadn't thought about, and work out the details. Things end up being much more smooth, and everybody is on the same page as far as what is expected.

 

Also, regarding dinner music, etc. We usually DJ the whole evening when we are not playing - including dinner music that is usully Sinatra, Bennett, etc. If there are any non-80's songs that they want to hear for some reason or another, we DJ that while on break. Often the first dance or father daughter dance, etc will be DJ'd because we don't really do slow songs, although we have learned slow songs for that purpose in the past if they give us enough notice to learn them.

 

It's definitely a lot more work up front if you want to make sure things go smoothly. I'm sure there are wedding bands out there who do not put that much effort into it. But I'm like you, if I'm doing somebody's wedding, I'm going to make sure I do everything I possibly can to make sure they are happy - most people only have one wedding (well, maybe that's not true any more these days).

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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But I'm like you, if I'm doing somebody's wedding, I'm going to make sure I do everything I possibly can to make sure they are happy - most people only have one wedding (well, maybe that's not true any more these days).
Well, if the marriage is screwed up, at least you did what you could so it wasn't your fault! :)

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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I've never been in a specific wedding band, but practically every band I've been in does a few of them a year.

 

It's never for fun. It's always for the money, or because the band knows the couple enough to grit our teeth and agree to it.

 

That's because playing for weddings isn't nearly as much fun as playing in clubs. And that's what you need to run by the rest of the band. Make sure that they are on board.

 

Dan from the 80s band gave you a pretty good rundown on what's involved. There's prep, there's moving your gear, there's looking good and playing at acceptable levels, there's watching only a fraction of the wedding party respond to your music, and there's the interminable waiting around for the dinner, speeches, and toasts to end.

 

You have an experienced MC in the band already, but it really isn't that hard to do. I've done it. You are handed an itinerary and you go down the list usually on cue from someone. Anyone with any kind of mic experience can pull it off. So don't let that scare you into not trying it.

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That's because playing for weddings isn't nearly as much fun as playing in clubs.
Is that because of what you wrote below this or because of things like song selection? If it's the latter, I think in the cases of these 80s tribute bands, they have it going on, because there's not really an issue for that. It's similar to hiring a known act for your private party. If I could hire say, Delbert McClinton or Little Feat for my wedding or a private party (ha!), they could play what they want, just like their own show. At most, we'd request some of their songs. I would think hiring That 80s Band or Eric's would be a similar situation.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Be careful here; most times the band is responsible for MC duties for the entire reception. If this wedding coordinator wants you, then fine, but make sure she knows you're only doing the music for the reception. All the other MC duties are on her.

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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I've now been playing weddings for a little over 10 years after spending the prior 10+ years in more of a touring "rock star" original act. So the wedding/private party "general business" gig was a little bit odd to me at first. I did not like it too much compared to raging nights on large stages with a mass of people jumping around singing your songs, but I've gotten past that and actually enjoy playing weddings for the most part.

 

It helps to have a nice tight band with a good setlist and some sense of good crowd communication skills. As someone else mentioned, weddings are happy events where people go to have fun. One of my band mates says this about weddings: "Bettah food. Bettah hours. Bettah money." Usually a wedding gig loads in about 4:30-5:00 and the show is about 7-11 and pays a pretty handsome paycheck. We have riders that include a lot of details and we get pretty royal treatment at most of the gigs. Typically in upscale places like country clubs, plantations, nice hotels, etc. the venues are good and there is some good "green room time" for band bonding and so forth.

 

It is a jump to go from being a bar band directly into playing weddings without a little bit of prep to at least figure out some of the emcee type responsibilities (e.g. announcing the wedding party, the first dance, cake cutting, etc.). Even though most weddings have decent plans in place, it often becomes the de facto responsibility of the band to keep the evening flowing and this sometimes requires ad hoc decisions (e.g. let's play dinner jazz music a little bit longer until they finish the main course or looks like time for a slow dance).

 

It can be fun and is a good weekend gig when you're like me and only doing the weekend warrior music thing as a nice escape from the day job.

 

Regards,

Eric

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One thing I'll add that's a big pet peave of mine - especially because I'm diabetic and have certain dietary needs. By the time I start a bar gig, I've taken my insulin, eaten dinner, everything's pretty stable - I got a snack sitting on my rack just in case. As mentioned, you gotta set up for a wedding in the afternoon and folks are showing up during what WOULD be dinner time for me. I'm the BL, so I'm pretty much in charge of the announcements, DJ music etc.

 

Normally, it's worked out with the wedding party in advance that the band will have a table and food and all that during dinner time. i can keep an ear on the music and everything's cool. But some places, as it turns out - no, the band get's special "band sandwiches" and you get to eat them out by the dumpster, and only after everybody else has been served. Problem is, after everybody else has been served, it's time to start playing. Being diabetic, I can't skip a meal. I just can't. Unless you want to call the paramedics to scoop me up off the floor and give me an IV.

 

I don't know how it EVER works with ANY band to eat AFTER everybody else is served, because that's ALWAYS when the band is going to need to be playing. I never understood that. So make sure you get all that worked out ahead of time.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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