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One thing I knew from the start of my engagement? We wanted to dance to the tunes of a swing band at our reception. I’m an old soul, and I just knew we’d never be able to create our desired vibe without a horn section!

However, as certain as I was about wanting a band, I was entirely uncertain about which band I wanted. Few things affect your reception’s mood more than the band or DJ, and a band is such an unknown! Will they sound good? Will they play the right songs? Will they be cheesy? Will they be able to read and adjust to the crowd? Ahh!

If you’ve struggled with the same questions, you’re in the right place. To help set your fears at ease, we invited our friends Sol Fusion, winners of the inaugural Best of the South Wedding Awards’ Best Band (!!), to offer some advice on booking a band for your wedding.

Hopefully, your story will turn out much like mine: with a rocking band that’s the highlight of your reception :)

From Sol Fusion: Booking your wedding band can be a lot like online dating. You search through endless websites and profiles hoping to find a match that catches your eye. At the same time, you hope your new prospect is actually available, will fit in with your group of friends, and will be pleasing to your parents and grandparents. Here are four tips to help you find true love! :)

1. Identify your parameters. Ask yourself a few questions as you get started: What sort of vibe do you envision for your reception? Does your venue have space constraints that would limit the size of the band it can accommodate? What is your wedding date? Your entertainment budget?

2. Make it personal. How can your potential entertainment options add to the personalization of your wedding day? If there’s a must-have first dance song for sentimental reasons, do they know it or can they learn it? Same goes for mother/son and father/daughter dances!

3. Ask questions. A good band should be ready and willing to answer them! Don’t hesitate to ask them:

— How long will they play?
— Will they take breaks, and if so, how are they handled?
— How is the set list put together and can you veto or add in songs?
— Have they performed in your venue before and are they familiar with its acoustic, power, and amplification requirements?
— Do they offer ceremony and cocktail hour packages or upgrades?
— Are certain band members guaranteed? What happens if a band member falls ill on the day of the event? If the band dissolves prior to your event date?

4. Use an agency. Using a reputable agency can streamline your search for finding fitting entertainment (and when wedding planning, streamlining is always a good thing!). Because agencies represent multiple artists, they have the resources to connect you with artists who fit your criteria regardless of your budget or how eclectic your tastes might be. There are also fewer hurt feelings or cringe-worthy moments along the way — if you just don’t think a certain band will be a good fit, the agency will simply provide additional options!

An agency also acts as an insurance policy, ensuring that the band you book is reputable and will show up as contracted. If something unforeseen should happen, the agency has the resources to pull equitable or better talent to fill in – whew!

I’d love to hear: Will you have a band at your wedding? Or is your vibe more DJ? :)

Voted Best Band in the 2017 Best of the South awards by Southern Weddings, Sol Fusion is one of the nation’s premiere private events bands. Based in Charlotte, NC, the 11-piece musical powerhouse has performed at high-profile wedding and corporate functions throughout the United States and beyond.

Sol Fusion is exclusively represented by ECE (formally East Coast Entertainment), a long-time Blue Ribbon Vendor and the largest full-service entertainment agency in the country arranging unforgettable entertainment and producing custom events from coast-to-coast and around the world.

All wedding photos by Caroline Lima. This post is brought to you by ECE and Sol Fusion, two vendors we know and love. Thanks for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar CJOHN reply

    Very helpful…Thank you!

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Hey, y’all! Welcome back to Emily Plans a Wedding! After my last post, which was quite long, I’ve got a bit of a simpler one to share with you today. Let’s talk about music!

I’m going to leave the ceremony for another day, and just concentrate on what we’ll be listening to at the reception in this post.

Right. So there are a few things you should probably know going into this discussion:

1. My taste in music is embarrassing. As in, it doesn’t embarrass me, but it probably should. One way to figure out if I’ll like a song? If your Grandma danced to it, it’s probably my groove. For real. I love big band and swing, and almost every song that was produced in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, The Young Rascals, The Marvelows, The Contours, The Pointer Sisters, The Supremes, Glenn Miller… yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, please.

2. John does not enjoy dancing. Actually, that’s not true — he does enjoy dancing, and he is a good dancer, but he’s also kind of shy, and prefers to bust a move in the kitchen while cooking dinner instead of in the middle of a crowd on the dance floor.

3. I firmly believe that the number one factor that determines whether or not a dance floor is full is not the quality of the band, but whether or not the bride and groom are cutting a rug. And since we want a dance floor as full as this one below, we needed to figure out the best way to get John to shake his tail feather.

A Bryan Photo

Luckily, I was armed with the one memory I have of him actually pulling me onto the dance floor: our college senior formal. A live big band/swing band played that night, and we both loved it. We weren’t the only ones, either: all of our classmates were on the dance floor, too, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t all share my particular taste in music. There’s just something about those tunes that make people want to dance, regardless of their normal musical preferences or age! Ever since that night, I knew we needed to have a band at our wedding.

Can’t you just picture us cutting a rug like this? Photos by Brooke Schwab and Brooke Courtney.

We’ve requested info and demo CDs from a few bands, and are close to making a decision. The other day, though, I had a bit of a revelation: as much as I LOVE me some oldies, I also have a weakness for, umm, Rihanna. I was totally fine with not hearing her at our reception, but then, as John and I were car-dancing to “We Found Love” the other day (come on, you know you do it, too!), he said, “Why aren’t we going to play this at our wedding?” Excuse me?

Now that we are both at least tentatively interested in hearing Rihanna at our reception, we’ve come up with a possible new plan: the band plays for all but the last hour of the reception. With an hour to go, we switch over to an iPod playlist (piped through the band’s system, which will already have been set up to cover their breaks) and some more contemporary tunes. Creating a playlist ahead of time will allow us to pick songs that have a similar vibe as the band, so I’m hoping the transition wouldn’t be too harsh.

Both photos by Bryan Johnson

Since this is SUCH a new plan (literally hatched this week), I’d love to get some feedback. What do y’all think? Should we just stick with the band for the whole night? Should we go ahead and switch over at the T-1 hour mark? Will the transition be too harsh? Will it be weird to have an empty platform after the band leaves? Have any of you tried something similar? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!

P.S. In case you missed a post…
The main characters
Where we’re getting married
I go dress shopping
We choose a photographer
I ponder bridesmaid style
Mini food!

emily Written with love by Emily
16 Comments
  1. avatar uberbrides reply

    Our idea? A combo – The band IS going to take a break or two. That’s just the facts when they are playing 110%. To fill the gaps, work with a Pro DJ that you love to craft a dance playlist that can be run from an iPod.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi uberbrides! We don’t really have a budget for a professional DJ since we’re already spending the money on a band, but we’re hoping a carefully crafted playlist, on a professional sound system, managed by professionals (the band members) will do the trick!

  2. avatar Lindsay reply

    Great thoughts! We had a band and it was a huge sticky point with our parents, but it was worth every single penny. People danced the entire night! I saw people dance that I have never seen dance including my new hubby and his brothers. It was a blast! I still have guest talking about them. I would talk to the band about what they recommend. Ours said that they usually play jazz type music during cocktail hour, light music during dinner, oldies to get the party started and when it was going they switched to more pop music. It was a nice transition and worked out really well. By the last hour everyone is having so much fun, they will want to pep it up a bit. Good luck!

  3. avatar Clair F. reply

    Love that idea! I would like to do a mix of a fun band and then more contemporary music on an iPod. Let us know how that turns out!! I’m curious!

  4. avatar Amanda Noel reply

    We are actualy switching between ipod and band throughout the night since the band we have is a “friendor” and we want to be able to give them long breaks to try the food and join the fun! I think as long as your sound system is good enough and you are enjoying the mix you will be fine! It should really only take you a song or two to transition between any style. And you will probably judge the transitions harsher than anyone else so if you are happy, your guests will be too!!

  5. avatar Katie reply

    Don’t be embarrassed! Oldies, motown, swing…it wouldn’t be a southern wedding without a big band!! I think you may be surprised at how many pop songs must big bands cover, which would eliminate the need to switch over to an ipod (which may be a buzz kill if the crowd thinks the party is over as the band exits and tears down their equipment). My fiance’ and I were at a wedding recently and when the big band lead sister busted out “Party in the USA” the crowd went NUTS! Good luck planning!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hey Katie! The only thing is, if I’m hearing Rihanna (or a country song, or whatever else we’d choose to put on our iPod mix) I think I’d want to hear the original version, not the band’s version. We’re choosing our band based on their repertoire of swing and big band tunes, so I’m not sure if they’d be able to (or I’d want them to!) play all of our current favorites.

      And yes, it would DEFINITELY be a buzz kill if the band starts taking down their equipment, so we’re going to have to figure out a way around that!

  6. avatar Hi-Fi Weddings reply

    I’m a HUGE music buff, and I love seeing what type of music couples choose to be on their Big Day soundtrack. I LOVE the idea of a band and an ipod! It’s the best of both worlds! It’s also a way for you to have the songs you truly adore serenade you on your wedding day (cause uh, someone try to tell me Sam Cooke doesn’t make you weak in the knees).

    As long as the music on the ipod has the same volume as the band, I don’t think it would be a huge deal. As far as the empty platform – you could always make that part of the dance floor one the band is off…maybe?

    Good luck picking out the tunes! I have a whole site dedicated to this if you need any help along the way :)

    PS – If you did go the ipod route I’d LOVE to know what you put on your mix ;)

  7. avatar Madelynne Miller reply

    This is my idea – find the best of both worlds! A lot of good musicians can play contemporary stuff as well as old school and/or original stuff. Our guy plays dave mathews to usher to journey to ray lamontagne! They’re out there and they’re awesome!

  8. avatar Whitney reply

    I love that idea!!

    I feel like there is always one or the other, and generally a band (esp. a big band focused one) let’s you have all the “cutting a rug — partner” moments.. Whereas Top40s let’s you just cut a rug with whoever is around you, which is equally fun.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Exactly! The swing/big band is definitely more geared towards those with a date, and though I think most of our guests will have a date, I think it will be fun to just get everyone together on the dance floor at the end of the night!

  9. avatar Desiree reply

    Hey Emily! I really love reading about your snippets from your wedding planning. It’s an awesome peak into what my brides are going through {love}! I think since you’re getting a live band – ask them if they can incorporate some newer tunes (pick like 5-10 songs that they could learn, maybe?). I know my band leader was stoked bc he hadn’t heard of Zac Brown Band (this was over 2 years ago, btw) and he was so tickled to have learned some of their music for future gigs…all bc we really wanted to dance to Chicken Fried. And…yes, if you’re having a band, they’ll need breaks! So I think its a great plan to have a playlist ready for them to play in between…perfect time for “yellow diamonds in the skyyyy” :) xoxo

  10. avatar Kelly reply

    Go for it!!!! I’ve been to several weddings & dances where they do the more contemporary music at the end {when the older guests leave, usually}, and it’s always a huge hit!

  11. avatar ashley reply

    hi emily! i’m trying to plan my wedding now and had the exact same idea as you with having a live band for most of the night then wrapping up the last hour with a playlist. could you let me know how that turned out? would you recommend doing that or just having the band do more covers of songs we want? any tips/suggestions would be greatly appreciated! thanks!!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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