If you're considering making cultural dancing a focal point of your reception, it's wise to find a band that specializes in the corresponding genre of music. "Ethnic music is very specialized, so you will need to hire musicians who can keep the excitement level high," says Greg Wall, an expert in traditional Jewish dance music and the leader of several Jewish bands. "Recorded music can't give you the same level of energy."
You might start your search for a specialty band at ethnic festivals in your area, by contacting local cultural organizations, or by looking online. If possible, watch the group perform to ensure that their music is what you're looking for. Remember, for example, that not all Irish or Bavarian folk music is upbeat. Make sure the bandleader knows, and can play, the kind of music you want. It's equally important to find out how adept the band is at mainstream fare, as you'll probably want to intersperse more popular songs with the cultural music.
"Not all great ethnic bands translate well to receptions," says Wall, "so look for a group that has experience playing weddings." Bands that are accustomed to playing at large outdoor venues and dance clubs can overpower a wedding, and they may not be familiar with the pacing a reception requires, with lulls for such things as cake-cutting, he says. Ask the band whether it performs at weddings regularly and get a list of brides who've used them recently for references.
Once you've chosen your band, discuss the ratio of ethnic to mainstream music you expect and when each kind will be played. The band should be able to monitor guests' responses and modify its playlist accordingly. Couples who do not want to hire a specialty band can find CDs of the music and have it played by a deejay or during the band's breaks.