I think you’ll agree that finding a band for your wedding is one of the hardest parts of wedding planning.
Well, fear not – as we’ve put together the complete guide on how to hire a wedding band. It’s full of useful tips and suggestions, as well as 29 frequently asked questions that we’ve gathered from speaking with hundreds of bands and real couples searching for their wedding music.
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’ve recently become engaged. If so, congratulations! As the excitement sinks in, your mind will soon start to focus on getting some of the main suppliers and items for your wedding booked.
So why do I need to read this guide?
Hiring a wedding band is often one of the trickier aspects of wedding planning: there are so many great musicians in the UK to choose from and picking the style of band to suit your big day can be a defining decision for the feel of the wedding.
At FixTheMusic, we supply bands for thousands of weddings each year in the UK and across Europe. From speaking with wedding couples each day, we’ve got a good sense of the frustrations and difficulties that they face when they begin their search for the band of their dreams.
Here's one of our most popular bands performing in 2018…
In this post, we’ll cover:
(A) Tips on topics such as how to find a wedding band and what to look out for
(B) Frequently asked questions covering every aspect of hiring a wedding band
(C) Our personal recommendations for the UK’s best wedding bands
If you have any questions that aren’t covered in this guide, send an email to [email protected] and we'll do our best to help!
(A) Tips on how to hire a wedding band
The following assumes you’ve got your date set and venue booked – or at least a rough idea of where in the UK your wedding will take place.
So what should you think about first?
Tip #1: Think about the style of wedding band you’d like
You’ll probably want the style of band you book to be in keeping with the style of your wedding as a whole.
For example, if you’re having a rustic festival-style wedding in a countryside barn, you might look to hire a folky Mumford-style band – one that includes instruments like a cajon and banjo.
If your wedding is going to be an intimate affair with fewer than 50 guests, you probably won’t want a large soul or funk band. You might instead look for a smaller duo or trio.
We’ve noticed more a more themed weddings recently – such as an 80s- or 90s-themed wedding, or a Disney theme for example. If you’re having a wedding full of 90s throwbacks (complete with 90s games for guests to play of course), then you’d probably want to book a 90s wedding band. Their repertoire would feature all the 90s classics, UK garage tunes, old school hip hop and RnB music.
Tip #2: Decide on your budget for the band
Choosing the budget you want to spend on the wedding band can be one of the hardest parts of wedding planning.
The costs of hiring a wedding band can vary a lot depending on numerous factors. The main factors include the number of musicians in the band, how far they have to travel to get to your venue, how late you want them to perform until and the band’s level of experience.
As a general rule, for a professional wedding band, you should expect to pay between £250 - £350 per musician. That means an acoustic duo would be around £600 - £700 and a standard 4-piece band pop and rock band would be between £1,000 - £1,400.
Many bands will charge much less than this. However, it’s possible they will not meet the requirements of UK wedding venues, which usually require bands to have public liability insurance and PAT certified electrical equipment.
At the top of the scale, there are other large showbands that charge anywhere between £5,000 - £20,000 for luxury weddings in the UK. These groups are usually made up of highly in-demand session musicians and singers who have toured with the likes of Adele and Coldplay.
So once you’ve decided how much to spend on your wedding band, the next thing you’ll want to do is start getting a few prices from bands that are available on your date.
Tip #3: Find local bands that are available on your wedding date
Now that you’ve decided on the style of band and your budget range, you’ll want to start seeing which groups are available on your wedding date.
A lot of wedding entertainment websites list bands but don’t indicate their availability. So you spend hours searching for the perfect band, enquire with them and then find out – much to your disappointment – that they are already booked on your date.
In our experience, it’s better and quicker for couples to head to a website that allows you to list your requirements (the style of band, wedding date, venue, budget) and then available bands get in touch with you with their quotes for your wedding.
This will help you to get a quick and easy overview of which musicians are still available and how much they cost to hire. FixTheMusic can help here – our system does the heavy lifting so you can sit back and enjoy the wedding planning process.
(B) Frequently asked questions covering every aspect of hiring a wedding band
In this next section, we’ll cover an exhaustive list of the most frequently asked questions that we receive at FixTheMusic from our couples who are hiring a band for their wedding.
For most couples, their wedding is the first time they have booked musicians or even organised a party. So it’s only natural that you’ll have a lot of questions about what can seem like a complicated process.
How early should I book the band?
You should aim to book your band as soon as possible. Most of our best wedding bands have bookings at least two years in advance.
If your wedding is on a Saturday in May, June, July, August or September, you should really be looking to book at least a year in advance of your date. This is because most weddings fall on a Saturday during summer so our bands receive the most enquiries for these days.
That said, there are more and more weddings taking place on Sundays and mid-week (especially on Thursdays and Fridays) so it’s best not to wait too long before locking down your band.
Can I see the band perform live before I book?
Usually it’s not possible to see the band live. Most professional bands perform at private events only, such as weddings and corporate events. It’s not usually possible for the bands to allow potential clients into these venues to watch them perform.
That said, it is occasionally possible so there’s no harm in asking. And sometimes wedding bands will do the odd gig at a pub or festival that’s open to the public.
How long do most wedding bands perform for?
Most bands play 2 x 45 minute or 2 x 1 hour live sets at weddings.
What happens between and after their live sets?
Most bands provide a “laptop DJ” service. This isn’t the same as providing the service of a professional DJ who reads the room and adapts to the feel on the night. Instead, they will have a playlist (usually on something like Spotify or iTunes) that they play out of their PA system.
Can I choose the music they play in between and after their live sets?
Yes, usually you can send the band a list of requests before the wedding and the band will download them onto their laptop or device, ready to play on the night.
Alternatively, you can compile a playlist and bring your own device to plug into the band’s PA system.
What songs will the band play?
Most bands have a repertoire of songs that they perform regularly at weddings. This will be a tried-and-tested playlist that they know works well at weddings: it appeals to guests of all ages and keeps people on the dance floor.
Will the band learn my first dance song?
Yes! Most bands will be delighted to learn your first dance song and perform it live for you on your wedding night.
If it doesn’t fit the band’s style (e.g. if your first dance song is a jazz song, but you’ve booked an indie-rock band), then they might suggest you use the recorded version of the song and the band will play this out of their PA system.
Can I give a list of songs to the band to play at my wedding?
Most bands will usually learn one song for your wedding that isn’t already in their setlist.
Some bands will offer to learn 2 or 3 new songs, but in our experience they are rarely able to learn more than this. It can be very time consuming for the band to learn and rehearse new songs, and especially so for singers to learn all the new lyrics.
Can I indicate my song preferences to the band?
Yes. Most bands will be happy for you to indicate which songs from their set list you dislike and don’t want them to play, and songs that you like and absolutely want them to play on the night. The band will usually then build their setlist around these preferences.
What time will the band arrive?
Most bands aim to arrive at around 5pm to be ready to play by 7pm. During this time they will set up their equipment and carry out a sound check, essential to making sure the volume of the band is appropriate to your venue and that any sound / noise limiters are taken into account.
Can the band turn up earlier than that?
Yes, most bands will be happy to turn up earlier than 5pm, but you should expect to pay them for the extra time.
A lot of wedding couples worry about the band setting up while guests are at the venue. Bands with lots of experience of weddings should be able to set up discreetly and without making too much noise and mess. The noisiest part is when they have to carry out the sound check, but this should only last about 15 - 30 minutes.
What time will the band finish?
Most bands expect to finish by midnight. This suits most weddings as the majority of UK venues require live music to stop by this time.
Can the band stay later than midnight?
Usually, yes. But bands will normally charge a slightly higher fee for this later finish.
Can I use the band’s PA system after midnight?
Usually, yes. Though this will also attract a slightly higher fee, as it means that at least one band member has to wait until the end of the party to pack up the PA system and head home.
Some band members might be a couple of hours’ drive away from your venue, so finishing at 1am means they won’t arrive him until 3am or 4am.
Will the band bring their own equipment?
Yes. Professional wedding bands will bring their own equipment. This includes a PA system, mixing desk, some basic lighting for the dance floor and their own instruments.
If you are planning a particularly large wedding with hundreds of guests, you might consider hiring in a larger PA system and more lighting.
Does the band need a stage?
No. Most bands are happy to perform without a stage, though it can look special if you can offer them a stage to perform on.
If I do provide a stage, how much space will the band need?
This will depend on the size of the band of course, but to give you a rough idea, a 4-piece band would usually need at least 5m x 4m. This is to provide room for not only the band members themselves, but also their instruments (keyboards and drum kits take up quite a bit of space) and other things like speakers and a mixing desk.
Can I or my guests play with the band?
If you ask the band in advance, most will be happy to allow you or one of your guests to sing or play along with them for one or two songs. We always advise checking this with your band first.
Do I need to hire a DJ as well as a band?
Most bands will provide pre-recorded playlists between and after their live sets, so your entire evening will be covered. However, if you want a professional DJ who will adapt his music choices on the night and interact with guests, then it’s better to hire a DJ as well.
If I do hire a separate DJ, can the band and DJ share equipment?
Bands and DJs will often share the same PA system, as it can look cluttered to have two sets of speakers around the dance floor.
However, you’ll need to discuss this with both the DJ and band before the event to check the equipment suits everyone’s requirements and that everyone is happy to share.
One problem can arise when the DJ is booked to provide music into the small hours, but the band is to finish at 11pm. In this case, it would make more sense for the band to use the DJ’s equipment to save the band having to wait until the DJ had finished his set.
Do I need to provide anything for the band?
Professional wedding bands will bring all their own technical equipment and instruments. However, most will expect to be provided with a hot meal each and soft drinks.
The musicians will probably have left their homes around lunchtime to arrive at your venue in good time to set up and soundcheck. It can be a long day for them and they will be much more energetic on stage if they’ve had a good meal and refreshments before performing for you.
The bands won’t expect to be given the same meal as you provide for your guests. Most wedding venues have an option you can purchase in advance for your suppliers or you can give the musicians access to your buffet if you’re having one.
Will the band members be the same as the ones I’ve seen in their videos?
Not always. Most professional bands will have a core group that plays at the majority of weddings they are booked for.
However, they will also have a group of deputies (or “deps” as they are known in the industry) that they call upon frequently to cover for band members. This is a standard and essential practice in the music industry. Most musicians work as freelancers, meaning they might work for different function bands or tour with famous pop groups for example. Being able to draw upon a deputy musician to cover a band member who is unavailable (or ill) means the rest of the band can still work.
What will the band wear?
You should get a good idea of what the band wears from their videos online. Most will opt for a smart shirt, but if you have a particular theme or any requests, let them know well in advance. For example, if you’re having an 80s style wedding, you might want to check if the band could wear appropriate clothing to match!
Will the band need parking spaces?
Most bands will arrive by car as it’s the easiest way for them to bring their equipment and instruments. Having 1 or 2 parking spaces available for them to use that are close to the venue will be appreciated by the musicians. In certain cities such as London, you might also need to cover the costs of parking.
My venue has a sound limiter. Is that a problem?
Some wedding venues have what’s known as a sound or noise limiter installed. This is particularly the case with venues in built-up areas in cities or towns or where the owners have to be careful not to damage the building (e.g. a National Trust or English Heritage property).
Most professional wedding bands are experienced at adapting their performance to the sound limit in place. You should make your band aware of this in good time before your event, as it might mean they need to bring an electric drum kit. Some bands might even refuse to play at venues with sound limiters in place.
What is Public Liability Insurance?
Most wedding venues in the UK require bands performing there to hold valid Public Liability Insurance (PLI). PLI provides protection from the financial consequences of legal action and compensation claims if anyone is injured or any property is damaged during the wedding.
Your wedding venue will often ask the band to provide a certificate to show they hold up-to-date public liability insurance in advance of the wedding.
Membership of organisations such as the Musicians Union usually comes with PLI included.
Does the band need PAT certified equipment?
PAT stands for portable appliance testing. Most wedding venues will require your band to produce evidence that their equipment has been PAT-certified. This means that it has been tested to ensure it is safe to use.
If your band can’t produce valid PLI and PAT certificates, you might question whether they are a professional band, as all full-time bands will have these documents ready to send to venues.
Why do the same bands have different names on different websites?
Many bands appear on the same websites and booking platforms. Some prefer to use different names on each website in order to track where the enquiry has come from.
Can the band play outside?
If you’re getting married in the UK, it’s a good idea to make the most of the summer months and have as much of your wedding outside if possible. That said, the British weather isn’t the most reliable – so whilst many bands will be happy to play outside in principle, they will always require access to a shelter from the elements, whether that’s strong sunlight or rain. Musicians’ instruments can be worth thousands of pounds and a small amount of water damage can have a devastating impact on the instrument.
Do I need a contract with my wedding band?
The most secure way to book a band is to do so via FixTheMusic. All bookings are governed by the agreement on our website, which is based on the UK Musicians Union standard contract and amended by the particular details that you agree with your band by email (date, venue etc.). The contract provides protection to both parties.
3) Our best wedding bands for UK weddings
At FixTheMusic, we hand-pick the UK’s best wedding bands available for hire. We’re incredibly proud to work with the country’s best musicians who consistently receive superb feedback from couples and their guests alike.
You’ll find a diverse range of groups: from classic rock, pop and indie bands, large soul and funk bands, as well as bands riding current trends, such as DJ, sax and percussion groups and 90s-style, hip-hop and UK garage covers bands.
Here are a few of our favourites:
So if you’re now ready to receive offers from highly recommended wedding bands, just tell us about your wedding and you’ll have musicians sending you their offers in a few hours.
And if you're planning your own wedding, what are your plans for the live music or entertainment? Tell us in the comments section below!
— Ed is a recovering lawyer, having worked at international firm Hogan Lovells in London and Hong Kong before moving to a specialist practice in Mayfair. He left law to return to one of his earliest passions — music.