Hiring a band for a wedding? Top tips.

Undercover in Entertainment by StarTurn

Things to think about for your wedding day entertainment

How do you make your wedding band memorable for you and your guests, and keep them talking about it for months afterwards? StarTurn talks to the experienced, and multi-talented, Heidi McCaffrey where she reveals her top tips when choosing a wedding band and gives an insight into her band’s success.

What advice do you have for couples thinking about hiring a wedding band?

“Always make sure you choose an experienced band.  By nature, weddings are usually a bit stressful, especially for the bride. An experienced band can lessen the stress. They will be sympathetic to the timings (which often change on the day), play the right songs and know what works for the audience.”

wedding band singer

Heidi McCaffrey wedding band singer

How long does a wedding band play for, and at which parts of the wedding would you recommend a band?

“Usually bands will play two one hour sets, taking a short break, 15-30 minutes, in between.  The band should offer background music for in between sets, otherwise the atmosphere goes completely flat. I’d also recommend that the bride and groom’s first dance  happens after the evening guests have arrived, otherwise the evening guests miss this important element.  It’s good to give the evening guests a chance to meet, chat and catch up with all the other guests – make them feel part of your special day too.

If you want entertainment at the drinks reception I’d recommend music in a different style – a pianist or instrumental music is best here so when the vocalist comes on its something different – you need some light and shade for the proceedings. Also people are usually keen to chat at the reception, having sat through the ceremony,  so instrumental music provides the prefect background.

Bringing on a band with a vocalist, male or female, then lifts the evening  and a good time to start the band is around 9 -9.30pm when everyone is warmed up.”

Higher Ground wedding and party function band

Higher Ground wedding and party function band

Do the bride and groom need to provide a list of songs?  

“Not necessarily, though it’s a good idea to give the band a list of your favourites. However, your favourites may not be the right songs to get people up dancing.   The weddings we’ve done which lacked a good atmosphere were those where the bride and groom insisted we played their exact list and nobody danced! I really do think it is best to leave the full song choice to the band – they can then weave in the bride and groom’s favourites at the right time.

If  the bride and groom do have special requests then it’s best to give the band a list of these about a month in advance so the band can learn and rehearse the songs if they don’t already know them.”

Higher Ground Wedding and Function Band

Higher Ground wowing them at an awards ceremony

How would you advise the bride and groom when choosing a band if they are not too sure of what style of music they’d like?

“Leave it to the band! The things guests tend to remember most about a wedding are the food and the entertainment, they don’t tend to remember the service or the dress, apart from Aunty Mabel! Wedding entertainment needs variety, cleverly woven together – there are old and young guests and lots of different tastes to cater for.

I once went to a wedding where the bride and groom insisted it was jazz all the way through – it really didn’t work!”

Higher Ground wedding and function band

Higher Ground wedding and function band

Are there any special considerations about the wedding venue and entertainment?

“Number one tip – have the bar in the same room as the entertainment otherwise it is very difficult to get the party going. Once the speeches are over guests usually want a drink and if the bar is in a different room it is then very difficult to bring everyone back together.

Also, some venues will have sound level limitations but experienced bands can cater for this. A good band should know what level is right – too low and people won’t dance because they think it just for background and likewise if too loud that’s not much fun either! Check to see if the band you are hiring has its own sound engineer – Higher Ground has the delightful Charlie – he wanders around during the sets, suitably attired in his best bib and tucker, listening from various points in the function room and then tweaks the sound system accordingly.”

Higher Ground wedding and function band

Heidi getting the guests going

What makes a good wedding band?

“Variety and a band that cares. One that is focused on entertaining the guests, not themselves!  Also a band who has a large repertoire and are flexible on timings – weddings seldom stick to the planned timings. Good bands won’t work from a rigid set list either – they’ll have more songs than they need so they can gauge the audience reaction and adapt the set as they go.”

Higher Ground wedding and function band

Higher Ground wowing the audience at the Richmond May Fair Ball

What’s your funniest wedding moment?

“A rude one:  a bride got rather ‘tiddly’ and excited; to the extent she came and mooned the boys in the band with her bare bottom! Another, less rude, was when we’d just started our set, the bar was in another room.  As we were playing the run up to Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ a young man of about 19 came flying through the doors on his knees, in spectacular fashion, straight onto the dance floor and started to fling himself around with abandon – he knew all the words – having earlier professed his disdain for Abba!”

Higher Ground wedding and function band

Higher Ground wedding and function band

What is your favourite song for a wedding first dance?

“Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’, probably better known these days as a cover by Michael Buble. See this fab version by my friend, the luscious Gary Priestly and The Prime Time Orchestra.

Name three things you can’t live without?

My Macbook Pro and iPad for lyrics; my downtime – when I rest and recharge my batteries – I am very energetic in performance and give it my all – it is important to rest my voice as well as my body – its my livelihood so I cannot afford to lose it! Bailey’s – I never drink whilst I am working, apart from water, but always have a Bailey’s afterwards as a treat!”

MacBook pro

Heidi's number one 'can't live without'!

A fact about yourself that may surprise people?

“Whilst I am boisterous and extrovert during a performance I really do value my peace and quiet and a bit of solitude and silence from time to time.”


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