Booking a great live wedding band plus your personal music can be very cool. But when creating the ultimate playlist for your wedding disco there are a few important things to consider. For those going with no DJ, here are a few key points to keep in mind…
Do you have a band playing?
If you’re booking a live party band for your wedding, find out what they’re likely to play and avoid duplicating those songs unless you really want to hear them twice.
If you book a wedding band you’ll most likely be able to use their PA system to play the music through – at least until the band’s contracted finish time. Make sure their system is high quality and that they bring a sub or two for the bass. Underpowered systems without subs might be ok for the band (they have amps and drum kits to make noise too) but for a full disco it’ll sound ‘shouty’ and it can become an uncomfortable racket rather than big, fat and funky.
The band may well be happy to provide disco music in between their live band sets. You can either add a few of your favourites to the band’s ‘between sets’ playlist, or take care of the playlist all by yourself. If you just have a few songs that you’d like played, let them know ahead of the event so they can add your songs to their playlists. With a bit of luck, they’ll slot them in at a suitable time and when any relevant people are around to enjoy them too.
Do you know what people want to hear?
Actually, does anyone know what they want to hear? What we think are our favourite songs on a Tuesday lunchtime are not actually what we’re going to go nuts to at 11pm on a Saturday night, with all our friends around us. Are you up to speed with what’s killing it on dancefloors around the country?
It can be surprising how many songs we know the words to, recognise the melodies and beats of, and are totally up for dancing like mad to, without knowing who the artist is, or even what the song is called. There are some absolutely banging tunes that can take the roof off a dancefloor at a wedding, and that skilful DJ and live bands will play, whose artist and title you may well not even know. We get it from time to time – a special request that you don’t know, but that has 50 million hits on YouTube.
Your wedding playlist doesn’t have to be full of this month’s chart topping singles but it’s definitely worth being up with what’s been smashing it over the last 18 months as well as the all-time classics.
Band choice can be important here. Traditional male-fronted 3-4-piece guitar bands generally find indie and rock easy to pull off, so that is what they tend to play, perhaps with a few novelty versions of modern pop songs thrown in too. If you’re after a wider range of music, consider booking a modern female-fronted wedding band that includes keyboards and samplers (a lot of modern pop is pretty high to sing, even the guy songs! See: Sam Smith/One Direction!)
Cover the age groups
EDM*-based pop music is great and, with a crowd of <35 year-olds, can be an essential part of the night. But parents, aunts and uncles and some grandparents will want to dance just as much, and don’t assume they’ll quit come 10pm! We’ve seen a it a number of times where the bride and groom have decided that the last hour of the evening is going to be their music playlist consisting of some really cool music but that isn’t right for the situation. When a tune comes on and people head to the bar? It’s that. When they come back ten minutes later and take a seat? Wrong tunes. You can’t please all the people all of the time, and when your grandparents are requesting the Charleston at 10.30pm – actually no, if that’s on the cards it really ought to happen! But you get the idea.
Similarly, with a room full of 20-somethings, a bunch of cheesy 70s disco is usually the last thing you need. This is more something to watch out for when booking a live band. When you see sequinned dresses, tuxedos, disco-centric setlists and anything that looks remotely like cabaret, make sure that however professional they are (there are some great bands that do this and it can be great for some events) they’re going to play the sort of music that you think is going to work for YOUR event.
* Electronic Dance Music – used to just be called ‘dance’ but now applies to increasingly commercial electronic modern pop music.
No dodgy MP3s
If you’re providing the songs, make sure they’re high quality recordings. iTunes downloads are fine. While lo-fi YouTube rips might sound ok on your mobile, they sound flat and rubbish through a full PA system.
Also, bear in mind it might not be acceptable or safe to have guests DJing on their phone from the band area. Guests + drinks + equipment / cables = trouble. Hand the device over to the band to deal with and let it roll!
Ensure uninterrupted playback
What we want is for the evening to flow and for the music to lift the guests throughout the night, building up to a big climax. Here’s a useful checklist:
- Devices with passwords and passcodes need to have them disabled.
- Your playback device needs to have sufficient battery life for the night, or a charger provided.
- Screensavers and lock screens are a no-no, as are notification sounds for emails and texts. Your favourite wedding party dancefloor filler being interrupted by the best man’s ringtone won’t really add anything to the vibe.
- Airplane mode is best – we don’t want ‘ba-badaba ba-badaba’ coming through the PA system.
- Don’t assume the band will provide a CD player or CDR drive. USB sticks can work, but with CDs going out of favour with laptop manufacturers – particularly Apple, a favourite for musicians – you might find your carefully crafted three-hour wedding playlist can’t be played. Arrange to sort the music with the band in advance, they’ll be happy to help.
Timing is everything
This stuff isn’t a dark art but there are limitations to be aware of when planning a playlist. First up – you don’t know who’s going to dance, to what, when. That 8-minute Grease medley might be a real laugh at the right time, but if it drops while half the people who know the moves are chatting at the bar to someone they haven’t seen in ten years, it’ll flop. Meanwhile the hip young things that were populating dancefloor will be burning up the quarter mile to the nearest bar…
It’s a good idea to make up a few different 30-minute playlists. That way, if you have the rents and outlaws demanding some classics to dance to, you can pop on the “Oldies” playlist for half an hour. That’ll probably tire most of them out. Later, when the hardcore party animals have woken up you can choose from your range of ‘Largin’ it’, ‘Rock gods’, ‘Ultimate cheese’ or “Up in the club’ playlists, selecting what will work best for the atmosphere and who’s around.
Preparing the perfect wedding playlist isn’t easy. It’s a bit like doing your own catering – lots of preparation and responsibility on the night when you’d probably like to be relaxing, and very little credit afterwards!
Booking a great wedding band, of course, gets around most of this. The best wedding bands are full-time professionals, constantly learning from requests and seeing first hand the songs that do and don’t work with a wide range of audiences. They’ll have their live repertoire which are hopefully regularly tuned up (and are the basis of which you book them) but their ‘DJ’ sets ought to be easily customisable for your wedding and guests – so ask them.
The best compromise may be to provide your favourite songs and some loose general preferences to your band, and leave it to them. In general, the better bands are very happy to take your guidance so why not use their expertise to make the reception fun for everyone, and stress-free for you.
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