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How to Book a Band for a Wedding or Party

Party planning

Party planning

Our A-Z guide to booking a band for a wedding, private party or corporate event, from essential venue checks through to signing contracts.

Mike Ausden | Director | Function Central
How to Book a Band for a Wedding or Party

For most events, a live band is a must to get your guests or clients dancing through night. But what type of band should you get, where can you find one, and what questions should you ask them?

We'll walk you through the process, from the early planning stages to signing the contract.

Check your venue is suitable

This might seem like an obvious one, but before even starting to look for a live band, you'll need to be certain your venue is suitable.

1. Is your venue licensed for music beyond 11pm?

By law, any public venue requires an entertainment license for playing amplified live music later than 11pm. So if you're planning a midnight finish, check this is the case.

If you're hosting a party at home or in a marquee on your garden, you won't need an entertainment licence unless you're charging guests with a view to making a profit (which you most likely won't be).

But be aware that noise after 11pm may still be considered a nuisance by neighbours under Noise Abatement Legislation, and will ultimately depend on how loud the band are and the proximity to your venue of any neighbours.

2. Does the venue have a sound limiter installed?

Sound limiters with thresholds set below approximately 92dB can cause problems for function bands playing popular music for dancing. These bands typically perform in the range of 100db - 110db; restricting them to 92dB or lower will compromise sound quality. What's more, some sound limiters are fitted with an automatic tripping system, cutting power to the band when the threshold is exceeded. This risks damage to expensive musical gear.

One solution is to book a band who can replace a real drum kit (the biggest sound source) with an electric version. Alternatively, consider choosing an acoustic act – these often use drummers using lighter sticks or cajon drums.

3. Is the room right for the number of guests?

Booking a venue with just the right amount of space is crucial. If it's to small, your guests may feel cramped on the dancefloor and the band may appear much louder than they actually are. If the venue is too large, the dancefloor will feel empty, dulling the party vibe.

If some of your friends and family are dancefloor-shy, a large, open room will make them feel even more exposed. We recommend asking your venue for their advice on optimum numbers for the space you're booking, then exceed this slightly.

4. Where is the bar in relation to the dance-floor?

The British do love to drink, and if there’s one thing that’s going to keep guests away from the dancefloor, it’s the bar.

So it's very important to make sure the bar isn't too far away from the music or entertainment or worse still, in a different room. There's only so much a band can contribute to a party if all your guests are hitting the tequila in the next room.

It's best to have the whole reception contained in one room to keep everyone together and create a fantastic atmosphere for all. This also ensures no one misses any special moments, such as cutting the cake or the first dance.

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How to Book a Band for a Wedding or Party

What type of band do you want?

Decide on a genre and vocal type

Do you want rock and indie, modern pop or soul? Perhaps you want something which ties in with your vintage theme, like a jazz band, or even bandeoke for something interactive?

A lot of clients make the mistake of thinking they need to work out exactly which songs they want to hear, but a good party band will do all this for you. The first thing you really want to establish is your taste in music and the sort of atmosphere you want to create. Would you prefer a male or female singer – or both?

Think about your audience

Do you want your favourite songs all night or songs which will cater to everyone’s tastes and get them on the dancefloor? These aren’t always the same thing. Too many Radiohead requests and you might see everyone at the bar by 10 o’clock.

At weddings, and many other private events, you will likely be bringing three or four generations of two families together, and many of them will be meeting for the first time.

So if you want to fill the dance floor, think about the sort of music that will appeal to most tastes to get people dancing – ideally the band would have a broad repertoire mixing in well-known songs from each decade, as well as recent chart hits.

    Match the band to your theme

    Many parties and corporate events are based on a specific theme which you might like to match to. This can be superheroes, or vintage, or 1930s or James Bond or the swinging sixties. Your live band’s musical style doesn’t always have to fit exactly into the theme – but it’s a great place to start if you’re working out the look and outfits.

    For weddings, you might also like to match the style with the venue type. A festival style band matches a rustic, barn wedding, whereas the formal surrounds of a stately country house for a premium function band.

    Think about what you can afford

    Think about what size of band you can afford, and whether your venue will have the space for this. As a guide, a 3- or 4-piece band will likely cost between £750 and £1250 and can fit into most venues.

    If you’ve got acres of space and a budget to match, make use of a larger band with extra backing vocalists, brass section to fill the stage and create a bigger sound.

    Work with your venue manager to see how much stage space you have and how big a band you can accommodate.

    Featured act: Party Up 9-piece band, featuring brass and three vocalists.

    Sound, lighting and programme

    Who is doing your sound and lighting?

    Typically, function bands come fully self-contained with their own lighting and sound equipment. This is suitable for almost all wedding function rooms or marquees, and guests numbers up to approximately 250 people.

    For larger audiences, larger venues or outdoor events, you’ll probably want your own sound and lighting engineer. Consider hiring an AV company to cover all your sound and lighting requirements, with equipment that’s perfectly suited to the venue. They'll also provide at least one engineer to mix the band on the fly, enhancing the sound and overall performance.

    Make sure you connect a band or their live music agent with the AV team before the event, so they can make sure everything runs smoothly.

    Do you need more than one live music act?

    Depending on your budget it can be a good idea to have a warmup act for the main stage and maybe music even earlier for the drinks reception. This could be a string quartet, steel band or a more traditional jazz singer or pianist. Then you might want something more novelty for a warmup act – a soloist or a funky guitar and vocal duo, before the main act.

    If you have the budget, you might even consider having two bands, a support and headline act.

    Start your search

    Most people find a band in one of four ways:

    • a recommendation from a friend
    • a friend or relative offers up their own band
    • a google search
    • a band booking agency

    When checking out a band, make sure you view all their promo videos, repertoire and testimonials thoroughly to get a good sense of their live performance skills. If possible, try and find videos using raw audio, rather than just video mimes.

    Lots of bands promote themselves on Facebook and Instagram – try and get a sense of their personalities and performances from their posts.

    Should I use an agency?

    One thing to consider when searching online is that a standard search will return bands which have the most web expertise or can afford paid ads, not necessarily the ones that deliver a great show.

    This is where an agency can be useful. A good agency website has already done the quality control for you and should be able to recommend bands in your local area, or to suit your budget and tastes, saving you trawling through hundreds of separate act websites.

    They may have access to a wider selection of acts – many of the best bands appearing on agency websites have exclusive agreements with the agency, so may not appear online elsewhere.

    The agency will handle all the admin for you – the organisation, paperwork, insurance certificates and portable appliance testing (PAT) certificates. All you need to do is choose the band.

    Lastly, if there is a problem with your wedding band or party band on the day of your event – for example, sickness, a family emergency, a broken down van – you’ll still get your band, as most agencies will have instant access to replacement band options.

    Won't I save money by booking a band direct?

    On the face of it, you may think you'll save money on your wedding band by booking a band directly, but is it really as simple as that?

    Not always. Agencies such as Function Central offer competitive rates in return for exclusivity and a high volume of work, meaning that, after adding their service charge, their prices are roughly the same as booking an act direct.

    Of course if you’re asking friends or relatives to play at your wedding, they might even do it for free. Just approach with caution!

    Questions for the band

    So you've found the band you want and they’re available for your date. What next?

    Here are 10 questions you might want to ask before booking. We've covered these questions more thoroughly here.

    1. How much space do you need?
    2. Can you offer smaller or larger line-ups than advertised
    3. How much input on song choice can we have?
    4. Can you play our first dance live?
    5. Will you bring all your own equipment?

    6. Can I borrow your microphone for our speeches?
    7. How loud will you be?
    8. How long will you play for?
    9. What happens when you aren't playing?
    10. Can you offer acoustic background sets for my drinks reception?

    Lock in the band

    If you're happy with the band's response to your questions, move fast and secure them for the date.

    Ask your agent (or the band if booking direct) to send you a booking contract to review – check everything carefully including the cancellation terms – you should be entitled to a full refund of all fees paid if the band cancels. If you cancel, this can vary from loss of deposit to loss of the full fee, depending on the notice provided.

    Typically a deposit will be payable upon confirmation of the booking, to secure the band for your date, with the rest usually payable shortly beforehand.

    Before your event

    Make contact with the band (or agency) again a good few weeks before your event date, to finalise the details.

    Good communication between the venue and your band will help you avoid unnecessary pitfalls. If you've booked through an agency, they can do this for you.

    Here's our to-do list in the run-up to your event:

    1. Venue access and loading

    Find out everything you can from your venue about the flights of stairs, quickest routes to the stage and how many parking spaces there are and pass on to the band. If the performance area is more than approx 50m from the nearest loading bay and there are stairs to navigate, setting up can take much longer than the recommended one and a half hours – not to mention tiring the musicians out before they’ve even started!

      2. Power

      Find out how many power outlets your band will need, and make sure the venue has these handy near the performance area. Most bands will have extension leads, but not all will have 30m extension reels, so make sure to find out so they can make necessary arrangements. This is especially important if your evening party is in a marquee running off a generator or indoor power sockets.

      3. On-the-day contact

      Pass on an on-the-day contact (if a wedding, this is typically the best man) as well as directions and instructions for arrival.

      4. Re-confirm arrival, set-up and sound-check times.

      Most bands need an hour to an hour and a half to unload their equipment, set it up and do a sound-check (which means playing through a couple of songs to check the volume is right for each instrument).

      If the band has to set up during drinks or dinner, it is best if they can use a side or back entrance close to the stage, so that they don’t have to carry equipment through the reception or dining area. Even if your guests arrive before the band, the band will still need 10-15 minutes to sound check. At a wedding, they can usually do this between the speeches and the first dance, when there are fewer guests in the room. They will never make any noise during speeches.

      If you would like to avoid the noise of a sound check altogether, the band might be able to do a ‘line-check’, which is a simple test to make sure all their equipment is working. However, for the best possible sound, we always recommend a full sound-check.

      5. First dance

      Re-confirm the plan for the first dance. What song are you having? Are they playing it live, or manning a device for you? What time will you have it?

      That's it. The only thing to do now is look forward to a night of fun, laughter and terrible dancing with your loved ones. Enjoy!

      Book a band with Function Central

      Planning an event means managing lots of moving parts, and trawling through bands online is an unnecessary hassle.

      Whether you’re booking a party band for a corporate event, birthday or wedding, you want more than just talent. You need to know your acts have the right insurance, are professional, will fit in with your schedule and adapt to any changes.

      By booking with Function Central, you get the assurance not only that the band will be up to the job, but that you’re covered in case anything should happen on the day

      We'll also be on hand to provide you with support and assistance right up to and including the performance. We make sure all our bands ring you three weeks beforehand to confirm details. On the day, you’ll have a 24/7 support line for any last-minute emergencies, so you’ve got one less thing to worry about.

      Our site is simple to use and you can request multiple quotes at once. Search by style, location and price or browse over 600 of the country’s best live music acts. Each band page features lots of information about the act, including reviews, repertoire and any extras they offer - and of course there are plenty of photos, and demos, so you can be assured of their quality and experience.

      So get in touch, tell us which bands you're interested in, and we’ll tell you whether they're available on that date, how much their performance will cost, and exactly what is included in the price – no hidden extras.

      Have a wonderful event!

      The Function Central team

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