This week’s blog explores the world of ‘pre-dinner music’ at weddings. For those of you who are on the fence about whether or not you would like music during your drinks reception, this may help you make a more informed decision. As always we don’t write these blogs purely out of the goodness of our hearts, we will give you an idea of what we offer in the way of pre-dinner music. Shameless self-promotion, I know, but even us musicians have bills to pay!
So you have booked the venue for your big day and even have a band organised, who offer a convenient D.J package too. Sorted. Picture the scene… it’s roughly 6 months away from your big day and you’re at Janine from your office’s summer wedding. Out of the corner of your eye you spot that they have booked a small jazz trio to perform. While everyone is filling up on day old scones and coffee that’s strong enough to tar roads, the smooth jazz sends you into a sort of trance. You quickly snap out of it and think ‘F**K, I haven’t booked any Pre-Dinner music!’ The phone quickly comes out and you frantically start looking for music suggestions. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. No need to worry though, pre-dinner music is generally sorted last so you can even leave it until a couple weeks before if you like to live life on the edge.
Our advised time-table for booking wedding music is as follows (this is just our take on it, don’t shoot the messenger if you have done the opposite way).
- Book your band. Bands can have weddings booked almost two years in advance so as soon as you have a venue, or even before, I would advise contacting your preferred band. This is to avoid the disappointment of your dream band being booked.
- Book your D.J. Ask your band if they have a D.J option first. 4Till6 works closely with a D.J company called Digital D.J’s, which allows us to offer our wedding couples the best D.J’s in the business at a slightly discounted rate. Other bands may have one member of the band who will act as D.J after the band have finished which is usually cheaper than having a separate D.J. If neither of these options are possible, do your own research and find a D.J who is suitable for you.
- Ceremony Music. Not everyone will want to book ceremony music. For some people this can be hugely important but for others, not so much. If it’s high on your priority list and you know who you want, book them. Like bands, ceremony performers can have dates booked 18 months to two years in advance.
- Pre-Dinner. Similar to the Band and D.J packages, the musicians you book for your ceremony will often do ceremony and drinks reception packages. This can save a lot of hassle as it’s one less supplier and one less envelop of cash to carry around on the day. It should also work out cheaper to have the same person/ duo perform both parts of the day. We do quite a few of these packages. They’re lovely gigs and it allows us the opportunity to do some work during the day which is awesome.
Now in case you’re still wondering why you should bother with Pre-Dinner music, here’s some insight into the pro’s and con’s. Often at drinks receptions, the music serves to provide some background noise. People will occasionally listen in when they hear a song they like, but quite often your guests will sit and have a chat without paying too much attention . This is the norm and is to be expected. Irish people in particular love nothing more than to talk at a wedding. Another thing to consider is the time of year you’re having your big day. With summer weddings the guests tend to wander, especially if the venue has nice grounds or if they are trying to avoid awkward small talk. With winter weddings however, all of your guests will be congregated in the one room due to the weather. This can make the volume in the room almost deafening and id this is the case, your guests may struggle to hear the musicians. I must emphasise that there is very little the musicians can do to fight this. If they turn up their P.A equipment so that the people at the back of the room can hear them over aunt Susan’s cackling, it could cause serious hearing damage to those who are sat directly in front of the speakers. The examples above are extreme ends of the spectrum. Regardless, there will usually some older guests who will sit and listen to the music for the duration and you will even find some of the very young guests having a boogie… *cue the phones being taken out to video toddlers dancing in suits!*
So let’s get down to business. Here’s what we offer for drinks receptions/ pre-dinner music. We operate under the name ‘The Lovely Strangers’ for this sort of gig and this act consists of Heather, our singer and Gavin accompanying on acoustic guitar. We take bookings for Pre-Dinner separately or as part of a full day package with ‘4Till6’. In these packages, we cover your whole day, from ceremony to pre-dinner to after dinner and we also organise a D.J. These days are very long and tiring but hugely rewarding as we get to be a part of a couple’s big day from start to finish. Below is a clip form one of our recent Drink’s Receptions in the Angler’s Rest, Dublin. A lovely little venue.
We always try to personalise our music to suit a couple’s musical taste. To start with, once they have confirmed their booking with a deposit, we will send them a master list featuring between 80 and 100 songs. We get through about 35 in 2 hours so they can choose the songs they like from that list, or more importantly, pick out the sings they 100% do not want to hear. We also take requests and ordinarily learn 3-5 songs for a couple. If there are more requests than this we will charge a little bit more as we need to spend extra time learning songs. In one instance, a bride requested a number of 90’s throwback songs along the lines of ‘Freed From Desire’ and ‘Rhythm Is a Dancer’ – not your standard choices for a drinks reception with your elderly relatives. However, we did them and it was great craic! The bride, who we hope is reading this post as her wedding was one of our favourites to date, really appreciated the effort we put into learning her requests. This sort of thing gives us all the warm tingly feelings!
So what do we get out of these days? As the title suggests, we don’t do it for the snacks. These jobs pay quite well. Our general pricing will be between 300 and 400 euro for a drinks reception in which we will play for up to two hours. These are just general rates for what we do. There will always be some variances in price, depending on travel expenses and specific music requests. So the jobs pay quite well. Not extremely well but certainly a fair rate for the work and not extortion when compared to some other wedding suppliers. It’s also great for us to be able to do gigs during the day as if we finish a drinks reception at around 5 or 6, we can head off and do another gig that night – if we are not booked for the evening too, of course. When compared to ceremonies, pre-dinner gig’s involve far less prep. 9 times out of 10, couples are happy for us to choose the songs as they trust our judgement. We also don’t have to haul much equipment into the venue for the pre-dinner… if only the same was true for the afters… my back hurts just thinking about that load in!
Now for a note to our fellow musicians. We haven’t yet discussed the downside to these gigs that’s because really, there’s very little to complain. Though, if we had to, we’d say we don’t get too much back off the crowd while we’re playing. The odd clap here and there but that’s the job, background noise… nothing more, nothing less. This can be a bit draining when compares to other gigs as usually you get the energy to perform from interaction with the crowd. So yes if you are new to this sort of gig then it can be discouraging and you may feel like you didn’t have a good gig. In reality however, you may have done great and more importantly, exactly what the job required.
As usual, this is just our take on Pre-Dinner Music and in the greater scheme of things what do we know? About anything? Well, whatever we do know we are happy to share! Feel free to drop us a line if you’d like us to shed some light on any of the issues raised in our blog. firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook at 4Till6. Till next time…!