Ever been to a wedding reception where the band took more breaks than a Kit Kat bar? Was the musical style limited because the bride hired her brother’s goth band to save money? Or maybe the disc jockey spent more time smoking than spinning tunes.
Finding wedding reception entertainment that will please all of the people all of the time can be a challenge. But somewhere between Amadeus and ZZ Top, a talented wedding professional knows how to get the party started — and keep it going.
The 10 Least Wanted
1) “The Macarena” by Los Del Rio
2) “The Chicken Dance”
3) “Feelings” by Morris Albert
4) “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand
5) “The Lady Is a Tramp” by Tony Bennett
6) “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”by Diana Ross
7) “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
8) “1999”by Prince
9) “YMCA” by The Village People
10) “Electric Slide”by Marcia Griffiths
The 10 Most Wanted
1) “In The Mood” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
2) “September” by Earth Wind and Fire
3) “Oh What a Night ... December ’63” by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
4) “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra
5) “My Girl” by The Temptations
6) “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” by The Four Tops
7) “From This Moment On” by Shania Twain
8) “Shout” by The Isley Brothers
9) “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang
10) “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
You can pay anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for your wedding entertainment, depending on whether you hire a band or DJ, the number of people in the band and the length of your reception. But there are more things to calculate than the budget when hiring your reception entertainment. “Grandma’s there. You want her to at least enjoy and relate to the music,” says Marsha Newman, vocalist for the Art Company Orchestra in Aurora, a 10-piece band that plays everything from swing to Motown to rock. “If dancing is key, you want things to appeal to different age groups.”
So what gets people out of their chairs?
“Cleveland loves classic rock ’n’ roll,” advises Newman. “They love Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ from the most elite wedding to the most down-to-earth group.
“Frank Sinatra-type tunes are popular for early in the evening and James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’ is big,” she continues. “The Cleveland audience — they want it popping all night. They want people dancing right up until the end.”
When it comes to weddings, the oldies truly are the goodies, says John Kruer, president of A Solid Gold Sound, a DJ service in Independence. “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang is a classic example. “A lot of our brides weren’t even born when that song came out,” Kruer says, adding that most of the songs reception guests respond to are at least 15 years old.
Both Kruer and Newman say Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” is a favorite oldie and agree that Pink’s “Get the Party Started” will be performed, spun or karaoked at wedding receptions everywhere for years to come.
While there’s plenty of good new music out there, it’s advisable to play such songs sparingly as many of your guests won’t be familiar with them yet.
Remember, too, that whatever songs you choose, they must be good for dancing. “Creed is a hot band,” says Kruer. “But there’s not a whole lot to dance to there.”
The Right Music for You
Can’t decide whether to hire a band or DJ? DJ services tend to cost less than live bands. They’re also able to load up as many songs as their vehicle can haul. But live bands offer visual excitement. Some bands will compose a song about the couple just for the occasion.
It’s also an option to hire both live music and a DJ. “What’s popular now is to have a string quartet play [during dinner] and later have a DJ or live band,” says Jennifer Kuczek, a wedding consultant for Wedding Etc. in Boardman.
Also, consider the size of the guest list and of the reception venue. A 10-piece band could potentially overwhelm a small wedding party. And a DJ might not be appropriate for an afternoon tea reception held in a rose garden.
Many couples want more from their evening entertainment than just music. Good DJs and bandleaders also function as the master of ceremonies, which means they introduce the wedding party, cue the toasts and announce the first dance. “Being a master of ceremonies is an important job,” says Jerry Bruno of the Jerry Bruno Orchestra. Bruno’s company, the North Olmsted-based Jerry Bruno Productions, represents more than a dozen local bands.
A good master of ceremonies helps the evening run smoothly, transitioning from the cocktail hour to dinner to dancing. “It’s a talent,” Bruno says. “Certain people do it well. I don’t think it should be assumed that any bandleader will be a good master of ceremonies.”
To see for yourself, Bruno suggests watching your band or DJ in action before booking any services. After seeking the permission of the bride and groom, most entertainers can arrange for you to stop by a reception for a half-hour or so to check things out for yourself.
If you like what you see and they fit your budget, it may be time to make a deal. Just remember to negotiate the little things, such as how long the band plays, how many breaks the DJ takes and what the entertainers wear. A trumpeter in jeans and a baseball hat may not be the look you’re going for.
How You Can Help
Many brides and grooms think they can guarantee a night of good music by coming up with a list of every song they want played at their reception — and in what order.
Local DJs and bandleaders say that’s not a good idea. While it’s fine for couples to provide a list of songs they like, they should give their bandleader or DJ the freedom to choose songs that seem appropriate for the moment. For example, if the dance floor begins to empty at about 10:30 p.m., it may not be the right time to play a sleepy ballad. “Let the DJ read the crowd,” says Kruer, who suggests the couple dictate no more than a third of the music.
Worried that if you give up control, your guests will end up doing the “Macarena”? If your entertainers are professionals, they should take the time to meet with you and go over your concerns. While you don’t want to control every song that’s played, it’s fine to give your band or DJ a list of songs that you absolutely do not want played under any circumstances. Most bands provide lists of the songs in their repertoire, making it easy for you to simply scratch off the songs that you hate, circle a few songs that you love and leave the rest up to the professionals you’ve hired.
One last word of advice: You may love Snoop Dogg or Marilyn Manson, but it’s a safe bet that not all your guests will feel the same way. If your goal is to get people on the dance floor, keep your personal favorites to a minimum, especially if they’re extreme.
“A wedding misses the mark when the couple only picks songs they and their friends like,” says Newman. “It’s nice if you can create a good atmosphere for everybody.”