Be Realistic when Booking a Musical Act

Unless you’re an influential music industry magnate or the Sultan of Brunei

If The Smiths won’t reunite for a multi-million dollar appearance at California’s Coachella festival, they ain’t going to do it for your bash at a Brewers Fayre in Barnsley.

Take for example Los Angeles resident Superdave and his plan to get Ben Folds to play at his wedding through an internet campaign. A few months on and his efforts haven’t yet paid off, suggesting – as more cynical readers might have noted – that he’s probably aiming a bit too high. Sorry Dave.

Lower expectations don’t mean that live music won’t help your wedding go with a bang. An act provides a focal point for the day’s entertainment (other than, you know, the bit with the rings) and can reflect a little of the couples’ personalities – but not too much. Music is a hugely subjective thing but weddings – like it or not – involve some compromise. While you and the wife to be may be huge fans of death metal, it’s likely that your great aunt Edna isn’t. Best to go for a wedding band then that’s a little like the Radio 2 playlist – blandly populist but with a little something for everyone.

Here are some of your options…

Tribute Acts

A great option if one or both of the couple in question have a serious passion for a particular artist (unless it’s ABBA, in which case, call the wedding off now). You know what you’re going to get with a tribute act, and even if they’re a bit crap, there’s likely to be some comedy value and crowd interaction, like with this guy.

Cost: £500 to £1500

Cover Bands

The no-risk option. Hire a competent band with a good reputation, supply them with a list of songs you’d like to hear and you can’t really go wrong. They’re never going to be on the cover of the NME, but the also won’t turn their noses up when you ask them to play Build Me Up, Buttercup.

Cost: £500 to £1500

Themed Bands

A halfway house between the all-encompassing covers band and the tribute act, you can hire bands to play, for example, the best of Motown, funk or ‘60s rock. A good example of this is Los Colarados who are rumoured to be Russell Brand and Katy Perry’s wedding band of choice (we might have made that up).

Cost: £500 to £1500

Your Mate's Band

Worth thinking about if you have friends in a band, but beware the pitfalls. Are they actually good, or do you like them because you have to? Would they get your mum dancing? And if you’re intent on having a non-professional band, be aware of the extra effort you’ll have to put in: it’s likely you’ll be expected to hire lights, a PA system and sound engineer for their performance, which could easily run into the hundreds of pounds. A professional outfit is more likely to cover that side of things on their own, or at least include arrangements in the price.

Cost: beer

String Quartet

The classy option for daytime background music, and – hint alert – if you want some top talent at knock-down prices, think of contacting your local music college. Music students often do weddings at the weekends to earn money for resin and strings and, I dunno, crack.

Cost: £300-500

Something Altogether Different

A traditional Irish band, steel band, solo vocalist, barbershop quartet or bag piper could add a quirky touch to your wedding, and reflect the cultural background of the bride or groom

Cost: £300-500

Your Favourite Band

There’s nothing to say a real, signed band won’t perform at a wedding for the right price, but be aware that they’d probably be playing at the local Barfly, and the same caveats as ‘your mate’s band’ apply. Check the artist’s website for details of their booking agent.

Cost: national touring acts may expect £5,000 or up. With bigger bands, the sky’s the limit.


1) When it comes to choosing the right band, personal recommendations can’t be beat, so speak to friends about bands they’ve seen at recent weddings. If you’re planning to hit the internet, Alive Network is a good place to start, is another great resource and lets you listen their tribute acts before you enquire.

2) Think about what you’re expecting from the band: do you want them to play all night, or will there be a DJ too? Many wedding bands think nothing of playing for four hours straight.

3) When booking, ask if there’s any way you can see the act perform before you hand over the cash. Make sure you discuss exactly what you expect the act to do: the time of day you want them to play, what you want them to wear, whether they’ll need feeding, whether they expect travel expenses, what kind of stage they require and how long they’ll need to set up at the venue on the day. Agencies will guide you through the process of booking an act and you will sign contracts to ensure neither party is left in the lurch by cancellations.

4) Aim to have the band booked at least six to 12 months before the big day, and also note that there may be some red tape to get through with the venue. Check the room can accommodate a live band before you book as there may be local restrictions on noise levels, and a special licence is required for places offering live music.

Tell us about your own experience of hiring wedding acts in the comments below or over at the forum. And if anyone hires MINIKISS please invite us.