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What size band should I get for my wedding?
The number of musicians you hire is going to affect the total price of the band. For this reason, a lot of bands have multiple “packages” with different sizes depending on what your budget is.
First, find out what are you actually paying for. Second, what results do you expect from the entertainment? Do you want a packed dance floor all night or do you want background music so your guests can talk and chat all evening?
Some people think that a 12 piece band is naturally going to be “better” than an 8 piece band. Or that a 5 piece band is always going to outperform a duo. But this is wrong when it comes to music. Who is better for your wedding? A 19 piece band or 3 professional entertainers who can play all your favourite dance songs? Obviously, the 3-piece band isn’t going to sound like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a wicked time dancing your shoes off to a smaller number of professional that know how to entertain.
Better is always going to be a subjective decision that you will have to make, but don’t get pushed into thinking you “cheaped out” if you decide to go with a smaller group of musicians to better fit your idea of the perfect experience. It is the quality of the performers, not the quantity.
How do we decide how big of a band to hire?
I think there should be 5 different considerations:
1. Budget: If the price isn’t an issue, consider a larger band of professionals to fill in the sound. If your budget is a concern, a smaller band of professionals can still get the job done. If the budget is too small, you just won’t be able to get a band of pros, so consider a Single entertainer or duo and/or DJ. Or, increase your budget (see below).
2. Floor Space Considerations: If the hall is tiny and cramped you might not be able to squeeze in that huge band you were thinking about. If your heart is set on it talk to your reception venue about how to accommodate a larger band, they might have experience moving stuff around to make a larger band fit.
3. Guest List Size: If you have a small wedding, a large band might be overkill. In the same way a duo or trio might not be the right fit for a large 300+ guest wedding.
4. Musical Specialty: If you want a very specific style of music played for the majority of the evening (example, Mo-town or Big Band music) then a bigger band will more easily be able to perform all the “specialty songs”. Also, if you want the songs to sound exactly like the recordings, then you’ll need a larger band and more singers to really nail it. However a smaller band of top-notch players can play a large variety of music across different genres and still keep the dance floor packed.
5. WOW Factor: A 9 piece band with trumpets and trombones and all the bells and whistles are impressive (think of the band that plays on David Letterman’s show). But it might be a little too impressive if you only have 60 guests.
To help you begin to make some sense of why bands are priced the way they are we’ve summarized each band price band based on 7 key characteristics and what you can generally expect to receive for your money. Just to make things simple and clear we are talking about your reception dance, not the cocktail hour, ceremony or any other musical events. Almost all professional bands in Toronto and GTA will have “add-ons” where you can also hire them to provide music for other parts of your day.
Key Elements & Characteristics
- Inclusiveness of Fees
- Dress and Behaviour
- Standard of Musicianship / Entertainment
- Adaptability, Flexibility & Experience
- Reliability & Customer Service
- The Xfactor
Wedding Band Prices & Categories
Wedding Band Price Category #1 – $0 – $1500*
Typically a hobby band made up of a group of buddies with a shared interest in music. Likely to play at a local pub or club.
- Inclusiveness of Fee – Fees may include a basic small sound system but with relatively low fees, their gear might not be in good working condition. They also might just show up expecting you to have already rented a sound system (It’s my strong recommendation you do NOT want to get into the PA rental arena on your wedding day).
- Dress and Behaviour– Who knows? I’ve heard many horror stories about T-shirts, ripped jeans and loud obnoxious sound-checks during speeches. At best, you’ll get some guys in mis-matched unfitted shirts and black pants. I would pretty much EXPECT them to take full advantage of the bar and be drunkenly hitting on bridesmaids by the end of the night. Alcohol and music is generally what a bar band is best at putting together.
- Standard of Musicianship and Entertainment – Relatively low. Being amateur musicians they will just not have clocked up the same performance and playing time as their professional full time counter parts. Musicians who aren’t very experienced tend to “stare at their instruments or sheet music” and look bored on stage. This is just because they haven’t yet mastered the ability to play their instrument AND sing AND entertain your guests in an interactive way. It’s a subtle difference, but it can make all the difference on how much ENERGY and FUN gets out to you and your wedding guests.
- Adaptability, Flexibility & Experience – An overall lower number of live performances mean less experience in all eventualities and with that comes less knowledge as to how to deal with inevitable changes in event schedules and unforeseen circumstances. They will definitely forget something because they don’t do this regularly.
- Reliability & Customer Service – As an amateur set up you can generally expect minimal levels of customer service, at least during office hours as band members will likely have day jobs. Contracts will likely be a short email outlining some basics which may or may not cover you should any problems arise.
- Professionalism – As a hobby based band it will unlikely be run like an efficient business. Therefore should issues and problems arise there will unlikely be contingency plans in place to ensure the band are able to play no matter what.
- The Xfactor – It’s unlikely a band in this price band will have exceptional performers or exceptionally gifted lead singer(s). If they did it’s likely they’d be charging a lot more.
My personal recommendation about this category of band:
I would avoid hiring them for the biggest party you’ll ever throw. Even if you’ve seen them perform live at a pub and liked it you’re taking a huge risk by hiring the part-time “weekend warriors”.
No-shows, late-shows, obnoxious “sound-checks” during dinner, getting drunk and puking on your wedding dress are just some of the Horror Stories I’ve heard over the years. As much as I hate to say it, if you’re even thinking of hiring a band for less than $2000, you should seriously consider either a small single entertainer, duo or a DJ. Or, if you can move some of your budget around and focus more of it on entertainment you’ll be happier with what you get.
—> Why hire one or two people when you can get a whole band? Well, you’re not really getting a real band unless you’re paying a professional price, you’re just getting a bunch of guys that occasionally play together for extra money. It would be much better for you, your guests and your dance floor to have one or two professional musicians than to risk 12 amateurs ruin your wedding.
David Fraser is the founder and bandleader of DCF Wedding Music based out of Erin, Ontario. He specializes in live music that’s exciting, entertaining and engaging and has been involved in the wedding industry professionally since 2007.
DCF Wedding Music & DJ Service performs at venues in Toronto, GTA and Southern Ontario. To meet David and learn more about his services book a free consultation at https://meet.dcfweddingmusic.com. Or contact him at 1-866-710-7658 – david@dcfweddingmusic.