Let’s be honest here: The music can make or break a party, which means the band or DJ is one of the most important factors of your reception. And you definitely don’t want to hire someone without thoroughly vetting them first. Ask the below questions when you meet with any potential musicians to find the right fit for you.
1. How would you describe your style?
You need to figure out if their style will work with the vibe you’re going for. If you want an elegant cocktail party with lots of casual conversation, a band that describes itself as “rock and roll with a whole lotta edge” is a music mismatch. (And if you’re having trouble determining what kind of band or DJ you want, do some research on The Knot Marketplace or GigMasters—both can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.)
2. Can we come listen to you perform?
Seeing them perform live will give you the best idea about what your wedding entertainment would actually sound and feel like. While most musicians and the couples that hire them mutually agree in advance that the wedding is closed to prospective clients, some will have mini “concerts” for the public to attend and see whether they’re a good fit or not.
3. Do you know our reception space and its acoustic, power and amplification requirements? If not, will you check it out beforehand?
Your musicians may need an extension cord, backup generator or other supplies, and it’s important to know this beforehand. If they don’t want to check out your venue, cross them off your list.
4. Can you play the songs that are important to us (such as a traditional Jewish hora tune or a favorite pop hit)?
The band or DJ should be able to play, learn or download any tune you’d like. If a band says “yes,” but they’ll need to learn and/or arrange it, ask them if they’ll charge for that.
5. How many musicians are in the band, and available? How many vocalists? Are there different options as far as how many musicians/instruments we can hire?
If you’re interviewing a DJ, you want to know if they work with a partner, and if it’s a band, who exactly would be there on the day of. Note: Hiring only a portion of an amazing band is a smart way to stick to a strict budget.
6. Would we need to rent any instruments (a piano, for example) or equipment (extra speakers or a stage)?
Find out exactly what equipment they bring, and what you need to rent (or borrow from the venue). You’ll also want to know if you’ll have to hide equipment if it’s particularly unsightly (with draping, for instance). You want your wedding to be a beautiful event, not look like an electronics store.
7. Do you plan to use lighting or any other special effects?
Beyond music, some pros may bring special lighting and/or effects, like a fog machine, while others will stick to the tunes. If your pro does amp up his performance with specific effects, they may be standard or they may cost extra, so ask and get all prices written into your contract.
8. Who will do the setup?
The day of the wedding, someone needs to set up the sound system—usually a person from the company supplying the music. You’ll need to give the name of the person to the venue coordinator and arrange a time that works for everyone.
9. How do you ensure a comfortable sound level for all the guests?
You want to have a plan for dealing with volume control and sound-sensitive guests. Here’s the deal: What your 14-year-old cousin thinks is the perfect volume is different from what your 89-year-old grandma is willing to put up with. If you have a fun dance-off going, you don’t want people who aren’t participating to have to shout like they’re at a crowded bar.
10. What do you typically wear?
A potential band or DJ will usually have several professional choices for you to pick from, such as a tuxedo or simple coordinated outfits, like black shirts and slacks.
11. How many hours are included in the package?
Some musicians and DJs will have a minimum amount of time they’ll play. But beyond that, you’ll also want to know how many breaks they’ll need (and how long they’ll be), and the backup plan for those breaks (such as approved filler music). Tip: Build in these breaks and offer food to your musicians—you don’t want their energy to drag before the last dance.
12. How do you handle song requests?
Check what the protocol will be for making sure your guests hear their favorite tunes—if you even want them to have that creative control. A particular pro may prefer to get requests in certain ways (probably not shouted at them while they’re working).
13. Can you act as the master of ceremonies?
It isn’t guaranteed that your bandleader or DJ will introduce the speech givers, announce your first dance or tell people when dinner is served. Sometimes, a planner will do that or even the best man or maid of honor. Clarify this before you hire them.
14. How many weddings do you typically do in a year?
You’re trying to determine how experienced they are—not only how long they’ve been doing weddings, but also how often. Both are important to understanding how well they can handle your dance floor. Ask to speak to some previous couples. Online reviews tell some of the story, but being able to chat directly with couples who used this band or DJ can give you a clearer picture of what they’re like to work with.
15. Do you have another wedding gig before or after ours?
If they don’t have anything after, ask what the overtime fees are if the party is still cranking past the end of the time on your contract. And if they have one before, ask what will happen if the other event runs over.
16. What’s your sick day policy?
If a key member of your music team comes down with the flu the morning of your wedding, they should have a reliable replacement (and have you meet them too).
17. Do you have liability insurance?
You need to be sure you, your venue and guests are protected in case of an accident. A true pro will offer to show you their certificate.
18. What’s your backup plan if there’s an equipment malfunction?
Most DJs and bands will prepare for an unexpected event—for instance, an amp that blows out. But it’s best to double-check they have a backup plan. If the plan B equipment isn’t in the band’s van or DJ’s car, you’ll have a lot of silence at your wedding—and it won’t be golden.
19. What’s your cancellation policy?
If you change your date or change your mind on your music (it happens), what are the repercussions?
20. How do you motivate a shy crowd to dance?
Some DJs will teach the latest dance or verbally encourage guests to step onto the dance floor, while others will just select songs that will naturally get people moving. Choose someone who uses a technique that you like (for instance, if you want minimal conversation from a DJ or band, one who uses the mic to amp up the energy isn’t going to be a good fit).
21. Do you have a specialty?
This is a good question for a band. Is what they love to play what you want to dance to at your reception? Asking a really awesome rock band to play jazz standards isn’t going to work well.
22. Is the recording on your website live or produced in a studio? Is the sound technically enhanced?
See if what you hear is what you get (because anyone can sound like Adele with enough auto-tuning). If a band’s clips are tweaked, they should offer to send you some live, untouched ones.
23. Does your band perform live or to tracks?
Lots of bands today supplement their performances with pre-recorded tracks, and there’s nothing wrong with that—but you might prefer one that performs everything live.
24. Do you use pre-determined set lists, or do you take requests (or read the crowd)?
When it comes to a wedding band, you (and your guests) will probably prefer the latter. Your friends and family will love to have the opportunity to request songs, and there’s nothing like a band feeding off the energy in a crowd.
25. Can you supply your master playlist in advance?
Every good band has a diverse and deep song list. Ask to review the current rotation and indicate your favorite selections so you can help them curate a crowd-pleasing playlist.
26. Can you design an itinerary for the night?
This is what separates veteran bands from rookie ones. There are tons of ways to make sure everything “flows” at a wedding, and couples should collaborate with the band to brings that vision to life.
Blog Credit: The Knot
Of course, another critical consideration is your wedding venue.