wedding thumb Choosing a Jazz / Swing band for your Wedding Reception 
how they will fit in, and what to expect in the day and evening…

We thought we would like to share some of our experiences of the big day with you, wedding rings transparentfrom an active Wedding Jazz Swing bands perspective. We realise that (hopefully) most people only ever organise one wedding in their lives and it can be difficult to cover all aspects of such a big and important task. We have performed at quite a few day and evening receptions, so we are pleased to give you the heads up on what to expect with regards to the live music part of the proceedings, should you choose that option, for the day and/or evening.


arrowRightMusic Type  arrowRightFinding the band  arrowRightBooking  arrowRightFlexibility  arrowRightPlaying & Timing  arrowRightDaytime & Evening receptions  arrowRightFirst Dance  arrowRightDisco & Interval music

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Which Music?

This article has been written based on the assumption that you have a certain preference for Jazz and Swing Music for your wedding. In our case, this would be mainly the great standards as written by Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Hoagie Carmichael. Plus a few more modern classics ranging from Van Morrison and Sting to Stevie Wonder. Regarding the actual style of music that you choose for your Wedding day or evening, it will always be difficult to please everyone. But a small 4 or 5 piece Jazz Swing band will certainly have the best chance of general appeal across the various age groups that are found at Weddings, with every generation of families and friends present. These types of bands can play to suit the required mood. Quietly, allowing conversation, which is necessary at Weddings when people are often meeting up for the first time in years and need to catch up. But these bands can also turn things up a little as the night progresses and get folks up dancing, or at least tapping their feet.  Timeless, classic jazz and swing tunes will help to create the perfect atmosphere, giving a mixture of sophistication, fun and romance to help give the perfect day. To illustrate the popularity of Jazz and Swing, its amazing how many Weddings we have played on a Saturday night, and seeing guests looking at their Wi Fi enabled tablets trying to catch the Strictly come Dancing results... mostly danced to the great Jazz / Swing tunes and songs!

Having said all that, much of this article can also apply and possibly help you to plan the Live music element of your big day, no matter which type of band you go for at your wedding, even Heavy Metal … (as long as they behave themselves. Just beware of Black Sabbath tribute bands and Live bats and chickens… you have been warned)

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Finding the right band:

Referrals and personal experience…

Search Engines can be effective, but are not the be all and end all. Why not start your search by drawing upon your own personal experience and / or referrals from family and friends. You may have been to Weddings, Christenings or parties in the past and enjoyed the band. And yes, the amount of kind folk that have come up to us during Gigs and said "how much they enjoyed us and when it is their turn they will contact us" This is always a pleasure to hear. But we know that things get lost, things get forgotten, so if you have experienced a great band at any function, write it down and try to track them down when its your turn. Bands will love you to find them in this way and are usually searchable online and through social media. Also, an added bonus is they are more likely to give you the best rate, even though you may think the opposite.

old hall buxton 1Ask your chosen wedding Venue …

No need to reinvent the wheel. Many of the busy Wedding venues will be able to suggest a good band or two that have played in the past. This can often be a "safe" route to explore, not always the best route, but it can be for some.

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Search Engines …

Google, Bing and some of the other search engines will give scores of results for Wedding Jazz bands or similar search terms. Just remember that one of the main problems with sourcing a band from this kind of search is that you cannot often see them playing before booking them. The reason being is that most bands that you search for on the internet to play at your wedding, do just that – They play at Weddings and other private functions and very rarely will they be found playing in a local pub or other venue. But, if you can't see them perform, you can make sure you at least hear them, so make sure there are some good quality representative MP3 / music tracks of the kind of music that you seek on their website, or maybe on their Facebook or other social media site. Any decent band will always be able to give you access to their music samples to listen to or download.

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Booking the Band …

Most function bands these days have good informative well laid out websites. There is often a song list, samples of music played by the band, images, bios, recommendations from satisfied clients and a clear contact page with a means to email and / or phone the band. Once you have settled on the band you like, hopefully they will be available for your chosen date and you can book them. Most bands will request a small deposit. It is in everyones interest to pay and receive a deposit of around 10%. This is a modest amount, but enough to gain solid commitment. Any further contract beyond this can be optional, depending on your level of involvement and your own judgement of the Band manager or leader during your initial and ensuing discussions prior to booking. The balance can be payable on the day or night, via cash or cheque, or via Bank transfer prior to the big day or within a few days afterwards. But these things are all usually negotiated amicably. 

At this point you can agree the approximate time required, but this is mainly just a case of stating either afternoon or evening. Most bands will just need this basic information at this stage as it is worth pointing out that they may sometimes have another wedding nearby in the day or evening. This is also a good time to start thinking about choosing your favourite songs from their reportoire and ask for them to be included during the sets. You can also request a first dance tune and if they dont know it, most bands will do their best to learn it.

This leads us on to a very important subject that can severely affect your enjoyment of the planning of the day and most importantly the wedding day itself...

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If, as a "Wedding music booker", for want of a better phrase, you feel that things are becoming too rigid and inflexible, then it may be questionable that you are talking to the right band for you. One thing that we have found, is that a really good relationship is always formed naturally between the Band spokesman and the future Bride or Groom very early in the proceedings and heavy formality is rarely required. When things are right, it just feels it and you will know. Flexibility from the band you are booking and mutual trust are the most important factors that you should look for. This flexibility should encompass, but not be limited to, accepting various payment methods, ability to set up at requested times, ability to totally change said time on arrival, ability to play quietly when necessary or all the time, willingness to learn a new song or tune for a first dance, willingness to re-set up in more than one location of the venue, willingness to wait for the performance time to suit other key things that may be happening.

Here is a prime example of this last point, it happens very often, and is especially true of evening wedding functions:
When the band turns up to set up, the room or Marquee etc. that they will be playing in, is often still being used for the Wedding breakfast. Very often desserts are still being enjoyed and the speeches yet to begin, even as late as 7PM. Or the speeches have begun, but often the time needed for these is underestimated and they have overun. This situation is really common and we often hear Brides and Grooms apologising to us for the delay in us being able to set up. But this apology should never be necessary. Firstly, we never mind waiting. The last thing that we will ever do is disturb the Wedding breakfast or speeches and start setting up clunky PA equipment! We are booked for the night and will play when needed and fit in. Timings never go to plan at weddings, That is one thing that they all have in common. Secondly, the happy couple should never have to worry about these things on their big day. So make sure you get a flexible band who will never mind and who will always fit in with the proceedings, both leading up to the wedding during the weeks and months before and especially the big day itself. Work with someone that you are sure will help to make your Wedding goes well.

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singerPlaying, Timing, etc.

Setting up

Good experienced bands will always arrive in plenty of time to set up, usually before your guests arrive, wherever possible, as this makes things easier all round in getting equipment in and with soundchecks.

All bands are usually self contained. This means that they will have all their own instruments, microphones, amplification, and where relevant lighting and any other props needed. The only thing that the venue needs to supply is mains electric and a performance area. This is rarely a stage, as most Wedding venues are often old buildings, stately halls, hotels etc. The area needed is usually in a corner, and around 4 x 3 Metres.

The band should always try to set up quickly, quietly, safely and unobtrusively.
This usually takes 40 to 50 minutes.

( We always aim for total safety, but we do have full Public Liability insurance. Always make sure your chosen Band has this type of cover. Often this will be a condition of the venue.)

Most Weddings have a daytime reception and an evening reception, often with additional guests attending the evening.
Most bands will perform at either reception and sometimes the same band is asked to play at both. (We have played functions in the past where our Pianist has played solo during the Wedding Breakfast and then joining the full band for the evening part of the celebration.)

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daytime weddingDaytime Wedding receptions

Live music, be it a Jazz, ( or Folk or Pop band), string quartet, or even a harpist, is now very common for the daytime wedding proceedings. These performances will always be quieter, at a comfortable volume, to allow guests (who often haven't seen each other for a very long time) to chat. Decide when you want the band, either at drinks before the wedding breakfast, or during or a combination of these. However you play it, you will always want the music to stop at the commencement of the speeches and then only re-continue again at the commencement of the evening part of the ceremony, either with the same band, a different band and genre, or a DJ. One thing worth mentioning, if you need a microphone for the speeches ( and you definitely will, always) most bands will be more than happy to allow the use of one of theirs, especially if they have just finished playing for you prior to the speeches. (Their equipment is not going anywhere until your proceedings have all finished.) Just make sure that you agree this with them first.

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Evening Wedding receptions

As a guide, the Evening reception usually commences somewhere between 7:30 to 8:30 PM.
Going on many wedding timings, this very often works out to be about an hour after the speeches finish,
after the Wedding Breakfast. 
(but this is always "flexible" as mentioned previously)

This hour serves two purposes:
1. It gives the opportunity for the daytime guests to take a natural break, stretch their legs or even have 40 winks before the evening party begins. This requirement is often overlooked. Many guests get really tired; most people are not used to eating a large meal and drinking in the daytime!

2. It allows the Wedding breakfast room to be cleared and reset up, ready for the evening reception.
This is also the time slot that the evening band gets to set up, unless they have also been playing for the daytime reception.

Most bands for the evening Wedding reception will usually play 2 sets, of around 50 minutes each with a short break in between. But note that the second set is often closer to an hour, as we all love to do an encore if asked, so dont be shy. If you like the band, let them know and they will always do a couple more. Usually the second set is a bit livelier music-wise, and about halfway through this set is also when some of the guests are more likely to get up and dance. (This of course is nothing whatsoever to do with anyone needing to have a few wee drinks first…)

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wedding dance transparentThe First Dance

The First Dance tradition "rules" have changed somewhat. The first dance can be the first song of the first set, but for some couples this is often too early in the evening, so the first Dance can be anytime you like, ie. halfway through the first set, or even the first song of the second set.

It's your choice, so make sure your chosen band is flexible on this.

The actual dance is not our department, but many couple get quite nervous about this part of the day and spend hours practising and learning a set piece, often going for lessons beforehand. So we thought we would share our observations with you.

We are no dance experts, but we have experienced many of these occasions and our experience for the first dance is this...
Don't worry about it! It will all seem so different on the night, honestly.

Of course we are not saying don't learn it. But we see a lot of anxiety on a day that should be free of just that.
Your first dance will always be fabulous on the night, warts and all, so don't worry.

(come back and read this again a few weeks after the event and you will realise what we mean…)

As far as the actual First Dance music goes, most bands will always be more than happy to play your favourite song or tune for your first dance.
Speak to them with any special request and if it is within their Genre, they will usually try to learn it if they don't know it. 

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Discos / Interval music / Music at the end of the evening after the band has finished

Many couples have a disco for the evening reception alongside a band, to play before the band, during the break and after the bands final performance.

Most bands will usually have a means to play appropriate music of your choosing, during the intervals if no disco is present. Please bear in mind that most bands will leave soon after their final performance is finished and will not want to intrude further into your celebrations. This will of course leave you withought Music for the rest of the night, unless you have a Disco, or some kind of PA that you may have brought along to enable you to play your own CDs or MP3s etc. Alternatively you could arrange to use the Wedding venues in house PA or sound system, if this exists. The other option is that some bands, (including ours), can also arrange to set up PA equipment for you to use after they finish playing their final set, for you to continue to play your own MP3 music etc until the evening closes. (If on a budget, and many of us are, this alternative can often be very cost effective, and usually less than the cost of booking a band and a seperate Disco)

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Summary ...

What we have found with performing at many weddings over the years is that the day can often seem very controlled by others. This can be very helpfull for most of the time, allowing you to enjoy the day, but there may be occasions where you wish to get more involved. Choosing the right music and the band that will work in the right way for you is an area where you can be in control.

We hope that this article will be of help to you in planning your Jazz / Swing band for your Wedding