Weddings are just about the only events where it is still traditional to hire a band. Sure, you can get by with a DJ or even a digital playlist, but live music is still classier - they’ll wear tuxedos for you - and this may be the only opportunity for your nephew to come face-to-face with a living, breathing, member of the ancient fraternity of professional musicians.
So if you’ve hired a string quartet, jazz combo, or Top-40 band for your wedding, congratulations, you’re carrying on a thousand-year tradition.
You’ve probably never hired a band before, though. But I’ve played hundreds of wedding gigs, good and bad, so let me give you some tips:
Get the style you really want: Country bands don’t typically do jazz very well and vice versa. For a reception band, see if they can handle doing both soft dinner music and then loud dance music. Tell them they’re welcome to eat and drink, because if not, you’ll have hungry musicians awkwardly watching your guests eat. And have them schedule their breaks during toasts and speeches — these always go longer than planned. Manage your expectations. They aren’t going to sound exactly like Ed Sheeran, sorry. Above all, tell your sister she’s not allowed to ask the band if she can sit in.
And here’s a secret: Every musician hates Pachelbel’s Canon in D; it’s been done to death. Instead, ask for music that’s unique and personal to the bride and groom; get weird. That’s what will make the wedding memorable.
For the processional, instead of Wagner’s “Here Comes the Bride," try Velvet Underground, “Here She Comes Now.” (If you’re using a DJ, this would be a great way to make your wedding seem like a Wes Anderson film.)
Or try Sturgill Simpson, “The Promise,” Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014). Your in-laws want country, so make it a good one like this.
For the recessional, instead of Mendelssohn's Wedding March, or Signed, Sealed, Delivered, by Stevie Wonder (a good offbeat choice), how about Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't no Mountain High Enough" (Ashford & Simpson, 1966):
For bouquet toss, everybody will want Beyonce's “All The Single Ladies.” Instead, how about LCD Soundsystem, “Throw,” This Is Happening (2010)? An obscure deluxe edition bonus track - only the true fan would know this tune.
Or Chuck Berry, “You Never Can Tell” (1964)