For a wedding ceremony, musicians would ensure they are set-up and ready to start at least half an hour before your guests arrive and typically perform between 20 and 30 minutes as your guests take their seats. They would then perform to accompany the Bride’s grand entrance as she makes her way up the aisle. The next time they play would be during the signing of the register (usually requiring two songs) and then finally for the exit of the bridal party. All our musicians are happy to learn requests and we’re happy to advise on your choice of songs but remember civil ceremonies must not contain music with religious content.
Usually a drinks reception would be held after the wedding ceremony and prior to being called though for the wedding breakfast (the meal). From experience most musicians consider a drinks reception to be anything between 1-2 hours so a perfect opportunity for musical enhancement. Sometimes ceremony musicians are able to relocate to continue throughout the drinks reception or you could opt for something different to play for the drinks reception and then continue through the wedding breakfast.
Any venue will tell you that as a rough rule of thumb a three-course wedding breakfast takes approximately 2 hours from start to finish plus half an hour for the speeches. Traditionally the speeches would follow dining although there is a growing trend to get the speeches (and nerves) out of the way prior to starting the wedding breakfast. Whatever you decide, this two-hour window is another perfect opportunity to have music. Many bands and discos are happy to set-up prior to any of your guests arriving allowing them to play live background music or leave an iPod running throughout the meal. This is ideal for bands that need longer to set-up. You can then use their microphones for speeches should you wish.
While evening guests arrive
After sitting for two and a half hours guests naturally like to stretch their legs and get a drink etc and sometimes there can be ‘lull’ between the end of the formalities and the evening party. Some venues may invite guests to have coffee in another room so tables can be cleared ready for the evening reception. If everyone has to go to another room this is another opportunity where either the DJ can play some music or is a great opportunity for some live music. The most popular choice for this section of the day is something like a Rat-Pack singer as he can welcome the evening guests, invite people to grab a drink and even sing the first dance before handing over to a disco or band.
If guests are requested to leave the dining room for tables to be cleared then this is the perfect time for a band or disco to arrive and set-up especially if the dance area is used for tables during the day. If the wedding breakfast and evening party are held in two separate rooms then it makes sense for the band/disco to set-up quietly while everyone is dining. If the band have set-up before your wedding breakfast then they would immediately put some low-key music on after the speeches so there is no lull. If the band area is required for tables during the day then they would be waiting in the wings ready to set-up the moment the speeches have finished and can have background music running quickly.
How would the evening timings run?
Although we appreciate every wedding is unique and bespoke, it's common for many venues to have a midnight finish. Most live bands tend to perform either three sets of 40-45 minutes or two sets of an hour then keep the party going with disco music in-between. We believe three sets work better if you are having an evening buffet. A DJ would play music continuously in keeping with the stage of the evening.
Example evening schedule which works well:-
From end of wedding breakfast/speeches until approx 8:15pm - Guests stretch their legs, make the most of the (hopefully) warm evening, evening guests arrive, bar opens. Band/DJ would set up in venues where their space is required for tables during the day. If the band or DJ has already set-up they would provide mid tempo music and make announcements if required. Most importantly they would liase with the bride and groom, venue/toastmaster and photographers to ensure everyone is ready for the first dance.
8:30pm – 9:15pm – Live set 1 Starting with the first dance, which can be learnt if requested (if you choreograph a dance we suggest sticking with the original version that you are familiar with to avoid any possible changes of arrangement).
9:15pm – 10pm - Disco (The 45 minute band break ties in perfectly with an evening buffet plus we like to think that if you have paid for live music you don’t want to miss it while having the buffet.
10pm - 10:45pm Live set 2
10:45pm – 11:15pm Disco (Shorter half hour band break)
11:15pm – 12am Live set 3
If there are lots of children present then after a long day you may find your guests thin out after about 10pm as they take them off to bed. If this is the case we advise the band take shorter breaks so as to complete the live sets earlier. You would still have exactly the same amount of live music but the evening would finish with disco music.
If you have an extension until 1am then not everyone tends to stay right until the end so we suggest bands start at 9pm and finish at 12:30 then continue until the end with disco music.
Don’t forget, at Essence Music we’re wedding musicians ourselves with first hand performance experience of virtually every venue in the South East of England so we’re happy to advise on what works best and liase directly with your wedding coordinator.