12) How Many Hours Does the Band Play?
The orchestra is hired based upon a minimum 3 hour time period. Of course, we will provide as much music as you require. There are many musical options available, that can include your ceremony, cocktail reception, dinner and dancing.
13) How Large Is the Orchestra?
When you discuss band size with leaders, you will get any number of answers. As an example, there are 5 and 6 piece bands that are only that size. They will tell you that their band is perfect for your wedding reception. The same holds true for any band that consists of a finite number of performers. Then, you will find bands that work with a minimum number of musicians – a core group – and can increase or decrease in size.
What you need to be aware of, is if the band leader is suggesting a size band that is appropriate for your reception, or is he simply trying to sell you his band. What is “appropriate” is very subjective and there are no definite rules to follow. If you are having 80 guests, your reception is probably in a room that will not accommodate a 12 piece band. But, if you have the budget and space, and if you want the sound of a 12 piece band, then hire that band.
Conversely, if you are having 300 guests and you are talking with a 6 piece band, they will say “you don’t need more musicians, we have a big enough sound”. Perhaps they are right and perhaps your budget only allows for a 6 piece band. In that situation, you hire the 6 piece band. Or, if your budget allows, you can consider looking at a larger band. A larger band will have a richer, fuller sound, hopefully more versatility and will more fully complement the size of your reception.
So, when you’re speaking with a band leader, listen very carefully and try to determine what he is attempting to accomplish. Is he just trying to make a sale, or is he describing to you the various musical options that are available and the pros and cons of those options?
The day and month of your wedding also play an important role in a band leader’s suggestions. A Saturday night wedding, in May or June, is very popular. Most bands that maintain a minimum number of musicians will strictly adhere to those minimums, when discussing “popular “dates. But, by having your wedding on a Saturday night in January, February, or March, or if you have an afternoon wedding, or a Sunday wedding, you will probably encounter much more flexibility on the part of the band leader.
The nucleus of Stu Hirsh Entertainment is 10 pieces. This includes our 4 dynamic vocalists, trumpet, saxophone, keyboards (Stu Hirsh), guitar, bass and drums. By augmenting the band with additional horns, violins and percussion, the band can easily expand to 16 or 17 pieces. Depending on your musical requirements, the size of your wedding, the date and your budget, the band can also be reduced in size. Stu will openly and honestly speak with you about wedding music. He will describe our services and the two of you will decide if the orchestra is a good choice for your wedding. And if we are not the perfect match, he will offer suggestions as to whom or what may be a more appropriate option.
14) Can You Perform for Wedding Ceremonies?
Some orchestras and bands have the ability to play for wedding ceremonies, other bands are not as versatile. You will find that the most standard instrumentation for a ceremony is piano and flute. This usually employs the band’s keyboard player and the band’s saxophonist, who also plays flute. Drawing from the band’s personnel, you can also consider using solo trumpet, guitar or a vocal soloist (if one of the band’s vocalists can sing the appropriate music, in the appropriate style).
Many churches and synagogues have a musical director/organist who maintains a specific list of approved musicians, who can perform at that particular house of worship. Check with your priest, minister or rabbi before you hire musicians for your ceremony. Make sure you know what their policy is, in regards to musicians. Of course, if your ceremony is not at a church or synagogue, then this is not an issue.
If you choose to use musicians who are not members of your band or orchestra, then there are even a greater number of musical possibilities available. You can select from:
- solo harp
- solo organ
- vocal soloist
- classical guitar
- violin and piano
- piano trio (violin, flute and piano)
- string trio (two violins and cello)
- flute trio (flute, violin and cello)
- string quartet (two violins, viola and cello)
- flute quartet (flute, violin, viola and cello)
- larger string and flute ensembles
- woodwind and brass ensembles
Well, you get the idea. There are many, many musical possibilities.
The most professional band and orchestra leaders should be able to assist you with every aspect of your ceremony, not just the music. They should have the resources to provide you with the exact music that you want for your ceremony. And, they should be able to offer advice as to the order of the processional, placement of the bridal party during the ceremony and how to organize the recessional.
The styles of music performed at your ceremony can be as varied as your personal musical tastes. The basic music categories are:
- Popular (standards and contemporary songs, music from the last 80 years)
Three categories offer an almost infinite number of musical selections to choose from! The music played at your ceremony is up to you. Your band leader or ceremony musicians should be able to offer you musical suggestions, play them live for you at client meetings, or direct you to recordings of the music. There are no rules to determine what musical styles work well with another. Hearing your selections, played in the sequence of the ceremony, is the best way to make that decision. The band leader can offer advice as to what songs and styles flow well together and in a logical order.
But the final choice is yours. Remember, it’s your wedding. In fact, we have been involved with ceremonies that have included steel drums and mariachi bands. If you want Beethoven and the Beatles, Vivaldi and Van Morrison, or Ave Maria following the Phantom of the Opera then, to quote Nike, JUST DO IT!!!
Stu Hirsh Entertainment has performed at hundreds of weddings. If we do not directly perform at the ceremony, we have long standing relationships with musicians who specialize in ceremony music. Whether your ceremony is traditional or non-traditional, we have the expertise and experience to assist you with all aspects of your ceremony. We can assist in organizing your processional, the ceremony itself, the recessional and we can easily provide the musical ensemble that best reflects your wedding dreams.
15) Can the Band Provide Music at the Cocktail Reception?
The vast majority of bands should be able to provide music at your cocktail reception. There are several options available when you are considering cocktail music:
A first option is to ask the musicians playing at your ceremony to play at cocktails. Keep in mind that if you are having your wedding at a church or synagogue and your reception is at another location, the musicians have to finish playing at the ceremony (the recessional), pack up there instruments, travel to the reception venue, and then set-up once again. Therefore, your guests will arrive at the venue before the musicians and, at least initially, there will not be any music. If your ceremony is held at the same location as your reception, then the musicians can easily move to the cocktail area.
A second option is to have one type of music at your ceremony and another type of music at cocktails. As an example, you use at a string quartet at your ceremony and then have a jazz trio playing at cocktails. The jazz trio could be members of your band or they could be yet another separate group.
A third option is to have your orchestra provide the music for both the ceremony and cocktails. Your ceremony music could consist of piano and flute. Then, the pianist and flutist (along with saxophone) can play soft jazz, standards and show tunes for cocktails.
Since the ceremony musicians should be able to play a variety of musical styles, the music performed at cocktails can also be a combination of styles. You probably do not want religious selections at cocktails – there is something about drinking a martini while listening to hymns that just does not seem to work.
There are as many combinations of cocktail music groups as there are for a ceremony. You can use any of the ceremony music options listed in #14 and have them play at cocktails and you can also consider these small groups, playing jazz, standards and show tunes:
- solo piano
- solo guitar
- strolling violinists
- piano and sax
- guitar and sax
- piano, sax and bass
- guitar, sax and bass
- piano, violin, sax
- piano, violin, sax and bass
- piano, trumpet and bass
- piano, trumpet, sax and bass
If the cocktail reception is in the same room as your dinner and the musicians are performing from the band’s stage, then you can also consider adding drums to the group. If cocktails are in a separate location from the dinner, then drums are not a good idea. It is much too time consuming to move the drum set from one location to another.
Ethic music and musicians are always a possibility. Bagpipers, sitar and koto players, an accordionist dressed as a gondolier and playing Italian melodies…never hesitate to be creative and use your imagination.
Stu Hirsh Entertainment regularly performs for cocktails. Whether you are interested in classical, jazz, standards, or show tunes, we can provide you with the appropriate background music. We will always discuss the “musical mood” that you would like to establish and then recommend the best combinations of music and musicians to satisfy your musical requirements.
16) What About Dinner Music?
If dancing does not begin with the start of dinner, your approach to dinner music is much the same as it is when selecting cocktail music. But we would probably suggest staying away from having bagpipers perform throughout dinner – sometimes “less is more”!
17) When Should the Full Band Start Playing?
The first option is to have the full band begin playing as soon as the doors open for dinner. If cocktails and dinner are in the same room, then the band starts when your guests are invited to be seated for dinner. This option is very festive and creates a real “party” atmosphere. If you choose this option you would have your band playing up-beat, fun music. You should then strongly consider having your first dance as soon as you are introduced into the room (if you want to be introduced), or have your first dance very early on during dinner. The band then plays a combination of background music and dance music throughout dinner.
The next option is to have background music played as the doors open and guests are seated. The music can is be lively, but it won’t have the same impact as if it were the full band. You can then have the full band start at some point during (your decision) dinner.
The third option is to have background music throughout dinner and start the full band after desert.
You can also consider a fourth option which is to have part of the band start at dinner and have a combination of background and dance music throughout dinner. Let’s say you have a 10 piece band – 3 vocals, 2 horns, keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. You could have piano, bass and drums (the basic trio needed for dancing) playing, and add 1 horn, or 1 vocalist, or guitar to the trio. Four, five, or six pieces will not have the total versatility of the full band, but any of these smaller groups can definitely play danceable music. So, you can have a combination of background and dance music, without having the expense of the entire band performing during dinner.
18) Should I Have Continuous or Non-Continuous Music?
Continuous music makes the musical performance seamless. The music never stops, the band never takes a break and the party always maintains its momentum and energy level. Continuous music can be approached in a couple of ways:
One option to achieve continuous music is to employ a combination of dance and background music throughout the evening. The stage is never empty and you always have musicians performing.
A second option is literal continuous, where the full band stays on stage and plays, without a break.
There is an additional charge for continuous music. We would be happy to discuss continuous music with you and describe the various options, in greater detail.
19) Will the Band Learn New Music?
We learn special requests all of the time. In fact, many songs that are now in our repertoire were initially requests. This is particularly true of first dance selections. Many times a bride and groom have favorite songs that are not in our repertoire and we certainly want to make every effort to insure that the two of you can hear those “special” songs. All we ask is that you make us aware of requests with plenty of advance notice, so that we can prepare musical arrangements and rehearse those selections.