Lucky you! You’re planning your wedding in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, the bounce music capital of the world and perennial home to a bunch of Grammy-nominated musicians.
So of course you want to make live music a big part of your Big Day — but how do you make sure you hit all the right notes along the way?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you. We talked to the pros and compiled this list of do’s and don’ts that will guarantee your grand-mère is feeling nostalgic at the start of the evening and your bridesmaids are line-dancing (or, definitely not, if that’s your preference) at midnight.
Do: Make requests … but only to a point
You should tell your band your favorite styles of music or if you absolutely do or don’t want to hear “Uptown Funk” or “Old Town Road.” You should also say whether or not you want to do any line dances.
It’s important, however, to let the experts do their job.
“If you tell us, ‘Don’t play “Sweet Caroline” because my grandma was named Caroline and she just died,’ then, OK, we’ll make note of that,” says Jason Bourgeois, whose band The Boogie Men has performed at thousands of weddings over the last three decades. “But don’t try to orchestrate the whole thing yourself. Get a band you know can entertain a varied audience. You have several generations in the room and they all think the band is there for them … and they’re right. That’s a challenge and not every group is up to that.”
Bourgeois says the best groups are able to adapt to the crowd. A perfect example is when, early in the night, during the “roast beef set,” a band will play quieter background music and then turn up the energy later on.
Do: Watch the band perform ahead of time
Watch prospective bands perform live if possible because listening to a recording of their music won’t tell you the whole story. Some bands might have a flashy website but a lackluster live show … or vice-versa.
“There’s really no way to tell without seeing a band in person,” says Emily Fredrickson of the Nola Dukes Band, another popular choice for weddings in the area. “Demos can either oversell or under-sell a band. Obviously you can’t crash a wedding — unless you have a friend there — but most bands do a showcase.”
Don’t: Create obstacles for the musicians
One New Orleans player described a recent wedding that was so dull that guests began to leave early. One big reason? There were tables directly in between the musicians and the dance floor so there was literally a disconnect between the performers and the audience.
Another big mistake: setting up the DJ or band in a different space than the food and drinks. Worst of all, perhaps, is setting up a TV down the hall so guests can keep up with the LSU game. All of these make it harder for the performers to build a connection with the audience.
Don’t: Hire the wrong size band
Fredrickson says a five-piece band is the smallest size that could entertain a wedding of about 150 guests. Additional players will increase the entertainment options.
“When you add more people, it doesn’t necessarily mean we play louder,” she says. “It means we can play different types of music. More vocalists mean you can sing different types of songs and adding horns means you can play Motown stuff.”
Do: Try to book your favorite musician
You may want to hire an established “big name” artist to perform on your big night. This will certainly add celebrity sizzle to the proceedings but just know that those folks may not have as much experience with the challenges of working weddings. In the hometown of Trombone Shorty and Tank and the Bangas, that’s a tempting option, though, so make the calls and check their availability and interest.
Do: Hire a DJ if it’s right for you
Nothing can match the experience of seeing a live band, but if you have a long list of songs that you absolutely have to hear then hiring a DJ might be the way to go.