How is the cost of live wedding music worked out?
Wedding bands charge a basic fee for performing, and to make it worth their while they need to make sure they make a profit. First of all, they need to cover their expenses for running the band: the cost of rehearsals, maintaining their cars or vans, keeping their equipment in good repair and replacing it when necessary, advertising and promotion, clothes and shoes (and dry cleaning!), public liability insurance and equipment safety checks, plus many other day-to-day expenses.
Then they need to cover the costs for playing at your specific wedding: this will include travel to and from the venue, a hotel or B&B if they’re travelling a long way, and extra rehearsals if you’ve asked them to learn a new song.
Most bands separate the second set of expenses from the first – so the first is covered by their performance fee, and the second depends on factors such as how far they have to travel and whether they’ll need to stay overnight, and many hours you’ll require them to play. This cost can easily add up and means it’s worth trying to save money by finding a band based in your area.
So how much do I actually have to pay?
For a world-class function band consisting of backing vocalists and a brass section, or other extra instrumentalists alongside basic guitar, bass, drums and vocals – you can expect to pay upwards of £1500, excluding travel expenses. For this, you’ll get a phenomenal sound that can fill even the biggest venue and a reception to remember!
If you can live without the luxury of backing singers and a brass section, you can hire a four or five-piece function band for between £1000 – £1500 plus travel expenses. You’ll still get a full sound and plenty of your favourite songs, but you’ll save on the extra instrumentalists.
If that’s still a bit steep, you could lose one or two musicians (eg. a lead guitarist) without compromising too much on sound, and hire a wedding band with three members for between £750 – £1000.
To cut the budget further – or for a small venue with noise restrictions – you could hire a soloist or a duo for between £250 and £750. An increasingly popular line-up is an acoustic guitar/vocal and cajon drum duo – small and compact yet with enough of a rhythmic element for light dancing in the evening. Many duos or soloists with backing tracks is easier to control the volume and while it isn’t quite the same as the full live experience, you’ll still get a fantastic selection of music and something great to dance to!
Whoah! That’s expensive! Is it worth it? Why not just get a DJ?
Actually, when you consider that the average wedding now costs £18,000, the cost of a live wedding band for your evening reception is actually a very small fraction of your total spend, and in exchange you’ll get a spectacular show and some priceless memories – not just for yourself, but for all your guests. And you’re not just hiring a wedding band: many bands can keep your guests entertained throughout the entire day, for example by providing a DJ service after their sets, as well as soloists or duos for background music earlier on in the day, during your drinks reception or meal.
Why not just get my mate’s band or a local pub band?
Specialist wedding bands and party bands are very different to the bands you’ll find playing in your local pub. They’ll have years of experience of playing at weddings and parties, and a huge repertoire of songs. This means that they will know how to get your guests dancing, choosing exactly the right songs at the right moment to create a wonderful atmosphere. They’ll also use high quality equipment and state of the art lighting and PA systems, with the appropriate certifications (PAT ensuring safety and PLI covering liability).
You also need to make sure that nothing goes wrong. As well as knowing how to keep your guests dancing and handle anyone who gets a bit rowdy, professional wedding bands are far more reliable than your local pub band. If a member of the band is sick or can’t make it to the gig for some other reason, they’ll be able to draft in a replacement band member straight away and your show will still be great– but your local pub band may need to cancel, leaving you without a wedding band for your reception!
If you’re still not sure which costs are worth paying, try and think about how you’ll remember your wedding in ten years’ time. What will be the highlights? The monogrammed napkins and matching chair covers, or the excitement and “wow” factor of an amazing live band, with all your friends dancing and singing along to your favourite song…?