Reception Music: Conducting a Search and Budgeting for Music

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2002

Conducting a Search
Once you've decided on a type of music supplier and a style of music, start your search for candidates by soliciting recommendations from friends, colleagues, and wedding professionals such as your caterer or site manager. Arrange to meet with each bandleader or deejay to determine whether your personality and musical tastes mesh with theirs. Consider only people with whom you sense a rapport -- those who seem congenial and open to your ideas. Be wary of anyone who clings to a rigid playlist or ignores your input, insisting that he knows best what your guests will want to hear.

Once you have narrowed the field to a few serious candidates, arrange to see them perform at other events, if possible. Cassettes and videotapes are often available as samples of a band's work, as well. In any case, remember that the performance you are seeing may have been tailored to another couple's tastes and doesn't necessarily indicate the sole style the musicians can provide. Also, bear in mind that recordings can be altered and that demos show only the performances the group considers its very best. So ask for references, and be sure to call them to help vet a band or deejay's level of expertise and professionalism.

As you watch either a live show or a recording, pay attention not only to the musical lineup but also to the performers' sense of timing and stage presence. How do they interact with the crowd? Do they seem genuinely enthusiastic about their work? Are they responding to cues from the audience? Or are they, instead, turning up the volume and urging guests to do the twist when guests would clearly rather continue mingling?

Budgeting for Music
You will also need to consider the issue of cost. Deejays are still the most cost-effective choice, charging between $500 and $2,500 on average for a standard four-hour reception. By contrast, bands' rates range from about $1,200 to $5,000 for the same time frame, and these rates generally do not include the cocktail hour. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay roughly $400 per musician per four-hour event. Both deejays and bands charge for overtime, usually priced by the half hour. If you anticipate that the reception will run long, you may want to inquire about five-hour packages. Because talented music providers' schedules fill up far in advance, it's wise to book at least six months before your wedding.

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