(Article written by Marcus Ford)
Apart from being guitarist with the hugely successful Ritz Trio Marcus Ford has many years experience both on and off stage. For over ten years he was Theatre Manager at major Theatres in Scotland and has successfully managed high profile events including concerts, royal visits, corporate events and product launches. On stage he has performed at major venues, arts centres, on ships, trains and even on Concorde! He has played at just about every major hotel in Scotland including Gleneagles, Hopetoun House,The Balmoral, Balbirnie House and One Devonshire Gardens. During 2009 he performed at over 90 weddings and numerous private parties and corporate events.This vast bank of experience has given a unique insight into event management and working with wedding parties and corporate clients.
Where to Look
So you are probably thinking about plans for your own wedding which is why I assume you are reading this article.With internet access finding information has never been easier however the overwhelming number of choices, opinions and products can make it a daunting task. A first search for “wedding music Scotland” in Google will present you with over 850,000 results. Ok, don’t panic most of these will not be relevant however you will see that they can be split into a few categories, Wedding Agents supplying bands, Bands own sites and general directories listing wedding suppliers.Wedding Band Agents will be able to provide you with recommendations of bands and DJs that they work with and can provide you with a one stop solution for finding all your music needs. These Agencies range from well established companies to people just dabbling in providing music. Have a read through their testimonials and speak to a few of them to get a feel of how they are to deal with. For their services and expertise you will probably pay an Agency fee of anything from 15% to 30%. Using Agencies can take away some of the risk of booking a poor band as they tend not to keep people on their books who have let them down or have a reputation for spoiling weddings! Many agents will display band testimonials next to the band they are recommending. If you decide to book a band direct then much of the above applies. Call them and speak to them. How easy are they to get hold of, do they return your calls or emails promptly? Look at the quality of the information they are providing and ask to hear sample tracks if these are not available on their website. Again up- to- date testimonials are important. You may be able to speak to your venue wedding co-ordinator and ask them what they know of the band. Look on some of the many forums dedicated to weddings and see what other brides are saying about their experiences. Ask your other suppliers i.e. florists,photographers and caterers if they know of any good (or bad) bands. Both Agents and Bands should provide you with a Booking Confirmation/Contract detailing exactly what is required from both parties.Who is the contract with? What is their address and phone number? Importantly, what is the date of your wedding? It seems strange to mention the obvious but last year the Ritz Trio turned up to an event to find that along the way the date had been changed to the following week and nobody had told the Agent/band. Double check your dates! The time you require the band for should also be clearly detailed on the contract including breaks.The contract should detail the fee and what this includes.Will there be any extra charges for travel and accommodation? Band/Agent’s contracts will also detail cancellation policies for both parties. You will be expected to pay a deposit to secure your booking and this amount varies. Some bands will include an overtime rate often in 30 min increments. It is best to discuss this before-hand rather starting to negotiate on the night should things need to run on. It may not be possible for a band to play after the booked time for various reasons; so again, it’s definitely worth discussing this in advance. As with most things you will be able to find cheap options however quality should be your main concern when sourcing a wedding band.
Music during the ceremony can add greatly to the atmosphere of this very special time. In recent years the Ritz Trio have performed increasingly for the wedding ceremony itself as well as for the drinks reception. This early part of the day is quite often when all concerned can be more than a little anxious. Music while guests arrive for the ceremonies can help to alleviate some of this tension and can offer a pleasant surprise for guests.This music can be either meditative or upbeat the choice is yours.The music should not over power the mood and setting and should complement the budding excitement. If you are getting married in a church and using a church organist\keyboard player, listen to them before hand as the standard can vary greatly. If you are having a traditional wedding there are a few pieces of music for the prelude, processional,bride’s entrance and recessional that you might want to listen to. The Ritz Trio have a number of “jazzy” pieces they will be able to suggest for the bride wanting something a little different but also keeping within the mood of the ceremony. Other groups worth considering for the ceremony include classical string quartets, piano and vocal duos and solo guitarists. Harpists are very often used during the ceremonies and the acoustics of traditional church Halls lend themselves to this instrument. For a larger wedding you may find using a harp during the reception not such a good idea as it can be drowned out by the general noise of your happy guests. Ensuring that the harpist is on raised platform really helps, remember the guests will be probably standing!
The Drinks Reception
Following on from the ceremony and before the wedding breakfast it is usual to have a drinks reception. Live music during this time, which can be up to two and a half hours long, can really enhance your wedding and something like a jazz group or a classical quartet for example can really add a touch of class and help to create a relaxed and happy atmosphere. A number of classical bands have been able to add a modern edge into their repertoire which you may favour. Think about the likely musical tastes of your friends and family when deciding what type of music to have and the atmosphere you want to create. In the case of the Ritz Trio for example although the band could be classed as a “Jazz band” they have compiled a repertoire of tunes likely to appeal to most tastes. Indeed some of the tunes played could equally be found in a pop set. Many of the well known jazz tunes did indeed make their way into the charts at some point in their history.
Both classical and jazz bands performing at weddings are usually able to move between venues without too much fuss and delay.
If the band is required to play outside, time can be saved by arranging for seating and a power supply. Some jazz combo’s are able to perform totally acoustic such as “Traditional Jazz” bands, which may even be able to wander about the venue!
You should then decide if you want live or recorded music for the evening reception. Much of this decision will be dictated by your budget, venue space and personal preferences. Before booking a band, again, make sure you liaise with your venue. The venue
may have a restricted licence or sounds limits. Find out about loading and parking arrangements for the band.What time will they need their equipment and sound check complete by? This should form part of your agreement with them. Most venues will require that all electrical equipment has been PAT Tested (Portable Appliance Test).The venue may require a copy of the band’s Public Liability Insurance Certificate do they have one? Most professional musicians will have a PLI certificate, amateur and pub\hobby band probably will not but again check.Probably the most common type of group hired for this part of the wedding is a “variety” band. As the name implies these musicians will play a broad spectrum of music, and be able to entertain the largest number of your guests.They will be able to gauge the response of your guests to what they are playing and alter it accordingly. You may want the band to play your first dance or this may be recorded. If you want the band to do it, give them plenty of notice as it may not be a tune they normally play. Most bands will accommodate your request, although some may make a charge to learn something specific. You may also want to ask the band for their suggestions with first dance choices they have done.
How long do you want the band to play for? Quite normal timings are 3 x
40min sets or 2 x 60min sets. Have a think about what you want to happen during this break. Are you happy for background or other recorded music to be played? During the drinks reception perhaps fifteen minutes without music will be ideal. I would suggest for bands performing during the evening slot, you should try and keep the atmosphere from going flat or changing the feel too much by having some music playing either live or recorded. Some bands are able to stagger breaks so that some band members remain on stage to play. Some bands will be happy to play recorded music through their system for you with prior notice.
An option in Scotland I have seen work very well during the evening is to have a DJ and a live ceilidh band covering the evening. In Scotland a ceilidh band is really a good opportunity for getting all ages groups up and dancing! Try a get a band with a good “caller” who is able to talk people through the dances. In Scotland many people are familiar with the standard dances such as The Dashing White Sergeant and The Gay Gordon’s. The good news is most of the dances are easy to learn!
When the Scottish dancing set has finished it’s time for the DJ to play his/her selection. Let the DJ have a list of any favourites you would like played prior to your wedding. A DJ can also be used to play alongside a “variety band” You do need to ensure that there is not too much duplication of tunes, so best to get the DJ and band to liaise regarding this. If there are any delicate family politics involved with your big day, it may be worth briefing both band leader and DJs beforehand to stop anything being done, said or played which might cause an upset.
Other types of bands worth considering are Tribute Bands and Jazz and Swing Bands. Tribute bands cover the music of a particular artist or band such as Status Quo, Abba and Queen etc. Jazz bands can be very versatile and cover a number of types of music including Scottish and pop covers.Their main strength will be in being a good Tribute Band or Jazz Band.Think about your guests and what they would appreciate. If you really fancy one of the above types of band consider putting a DJ on afterwards and that will cover all bases.
I do hope this guide will give you some things to think about when booking entertainment for your wedding.
This is the first draft of this Guide which I will be updating over the coming months.
We wish you every success in finding and booking your perfect wedding band, and do hope that you will consider either Marcus Ford Solo guitarist or The Ritz Trio (www.ritztrio.com)
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