Live wedding bands are becoming more and more popular for weddings. As couples focus more on the celebration energy their special day is all about, music becomes essential. Unlike other types of entertainment, a live wedding band can add a special level of excitement and engagement for your guests. But there’s a lot to consider when choosing the right band. For many couples, this will be the first time they’re booking live entertainment of this caliber. And it can be a bit overwhelming.
That’s why we scheduled a call with the director, vocalist and guitarist for one of Los Cabos, Mexico’s most in demand wedding bands, Kilometro. Lucas Barron has played hundreds of weddings. This has given him the experience to answer many of the most asked questions when it comes to hiring a live wedding band. Let’s dive into all that advice.
How do I narrow down my wedding band choices?
Barron says it’s first important to sit down together and decide what kind of band you want. “There are specific bands for different styles like Latin and there’s also bands for certain parts of the wedding. For example, maybe for the cocktail hour, a couple may want to hire a mariachi band for this portion of the wedding.” For the main portion of the wedding, the dancing portion, Barron says cover bands are typically the most popular because they can play a wide variety of music that everyone knows and enjoys.
“If you want a band to get everyone out on the dance floor, to have fun, then it’s those types of bands you want to focus on.” He suggests browsing through a band’s song list to see if they are a good fit. “I always provide a list of songs, which is music for seven or eight hours, so it’s a lot of songs. But then I ask them to mark down their most favorite songs they want to hear that night. I think that’s a good start.”
But what happens if you like the sounds of a band but most of their repertoire is not not what you’re looking for? Barron says to move on to the next option. “Usually a couple will take five or 10 songs out of the list that they don’t really want to listen to. That’s expected. But there’s others that slash out half of the repertoire. I usually ask them, ‘Are you sure you want to hire us? Because you just took out most of what we play.’ So Barron advises that for the best experience, you’ll want to lean into the skills a band already has, rather than trying to make them into something they aren’t.
Will I have control over everything the band plays?
Of course as the client, you should have final say when it comes to what songs get played at your wedding. But Barron advises couples to think beyond just what they normally listen to on your individual playlist to think more about the full experience for all guests. “It’s important to trust the band, you know. It’s understandable to have some songs you don’t like and don’t want to hear. But there are songs that might not be your personal favorite, but these are songs that work great to easily get people to dance. Trust the band. One example is the song ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ The first 30 seconds of that song, people are already shouting the lyrics, there’s just something about that song.”
Barron suggests talking to the band to learn what their most requested songs are, the songs that get people out on the dance floor. “We play many, many weddings a year and we know what songs get people out there dancing. Songs like ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody,’ megahits like that work great.”
Is it okay to ask a band for a specific song that you might not see in their repertoire?
Barron says his band accommodates special requests all the time. Don’t be shy to add in a song that has extra special meaning to you as a couple, even if it’s not the most popular or well-known song out there. “Bands are usually open to learning some requests. We always take around four or five songs as requests, depending on the time before the wedding.” He says it’s important for couples to understand what time goes into those special song requests.
“Learning a song and just rehearsing the song and putting it all together with all the harmonies and all of that. One song could take two weeks to learn. Some other songs could be learned in three days, it just depends on the song.” So, if you’re going to make requests outside of the band’s repertoire, choose three or four songs so the band can really focus on learning those songs and make those requests early on after signing a band so they have the lead time to learn them.
Do bands take breaks?
Yes! That’s why it’s important to figure out what is happening when the band takes a break. “Out of every hour we perform, we take a 10 minute break,” explains Barron. “It’s good for the audience because it gives them a musical change so things don’t become repetitive.” During their breaks, Kilometro has a DJ that comes on to keep the energy flowing. “It’s important to keep the music going because once people get onto the dance floor, you should keep up that energy level. Whether it’s the band or a DJ or background music, because even 30 seconds of silence can empty the dancefloor.”
Can guests give song requests during the wedding reception?
Of course every band is different. This is something you’ll want to ask the bands you interview. For Kilometro, Barron says he follows the couple’s preference. Some couples prefer to keep guest requests out of their playlist so they can make sure all the songs they want get played. Other couples are open to requests. The band can accept requests if they are songs that are already a part of their current repertoire.
Will we choose the wedding reception song order?
It’s only natural to want to make sure all your favorite songs get played at your wedding. However, giving up a bit of control can have amazing, unexpectedly fun results. “I really urge coupleis to rely on the band’s experience with song order,” says Barron. “You may want this song and then that song and then this song. But that doesn’t work in real life. Let the band lead the crowd and respond to the energy of the room. We read the crowd and choose the next song based on what we think they need.”
How far in advance should I book a wedding band?
Barron says his band has been booked as far as two years in advance. He says the majority of bands will want around a year in advance and to be booked no less than nine months before the wedding. “Less than that and it’s going to be hard to find a band that matches your date and the venue.”
What do we need to know about sound and equipment? Are we responsible for providing all of that?
Normally, says Barron, the band will provide a list of what is included in the package. Usually the band will include the stage platform where they will perform, the sound equipment and the lighting for the stage. “Those are the three main things that a band will provide. Make sure when you browse videos, you’re not just listening to their sound, but you’re seeing how the visuals look as well. That’s extremely important.”
Another component a band should supply is a sound engineer. For weddings you usually don’t need a super loud sound system, explains Barron. “You want a sound that is going to be comfortable for everybody to listen to while they’re having dinner, so people can be able to talk. But then, when they get ready to hit the dance floor, the sound has to be a little louder, not super crazy loud though!”
The band and engineer will know what types of speakers are required for the space and the amount of people at the reception. For larger weddings over 100 people, Barron suggests a surround sound system with speakers that surround the area, so the stage area does not need to be extremely loud. “You can ask the band technical details about the sound, you probably won’t understand a thing, but you want to know the band knows what is required to sound good.”
How important is it to connect the band to our wedding planner?
Barron says this is key. He says a wedding planner is essential to making a band experience a success. He actually suggests beginning with a wedding planner when you begin your search. A wedding planner will have a list of live wedding bands that they like and trust. It’s a reassuring way to choose an important component of your special night. Beyond that, your planner will work with the band to ensure the layout and setting is correct for the performance.
Should we go see a band live before committing to them?
Barron says live experiences are best, but with so many videos online, it can make it more convenient to first search this way. He does suggest only using live performance videos as a gauge of a band’s quality, rather than specially produced sizzle reels that may show off more video production than band quality.
When should the live music start?
“In my experience, it’s best to start the live band at the start of dinner time,” says Barron. That might be surprising, but he has good reason for the suggestion. “This gives your audience time to get used to the band. There’s a lot of great instrumental music that can be played during dinner time. That prepares the audience for the second part of the night which is going to be the dancing. Otherwise, they’re having dinner with just probably something very slow like a DJ and then the band shows up and there’s all this burst of energy in one second.” He says that can feel disjointed and leave the first few songs the band plays to be wasted on the audience adjusting to their arrival. “Having the band during dinner time feels more like a natural evolution of the music towards the dancing.”
What should I ask my band before signing with them?
“Understand what additional services are included in the wedding package,” advises Barron. “We include the DJ that plays the background music during the break. We work together and the DJ is not going to play any songs that we are going to play live. Our DJ will play some songs that we do not play because it won’t sound as good as the original sound. We can have our clients make a list of the songs they want our DJ to play on the break. We also include a wireless microphone for speeches and toasts. This makes it one less thing to worry about.”