An Expert’s Guide To Getting Wedding Music & Entertainment Right
An Expert’s Guide To Getting Wedding Music & Entertainment Right

An Expert’s Guide To Getting Wedding Music & Entertainment Right

From the ceremony through to the after-party, your choice of wedding music and entertainment has the power to set the tone for the entire day – so it pays to know where to put your money and why. To help you navigate the planning and process and secure the right musicians, bands and DJs for your big day, we spoke to owner of international events behemoth ALR Music, Alex Le Roux.

Let’s start with the ceremony – how does music play a role in the more serious part of the day?

People tend to see this as the only part of the wedding that’s predominantly classical. Lots of couples like using vocalists with strings – we often recommend a 12-piece string band or small orchestra to get the best sound. This is the part where you really want the right music to evoke the right emotion. Many couples want to walk down the aisle to a piece of music that’s meaningful to them – sometimes that can be something very traditional like Canon in D, and other times it's something more personal. 

In a Christian ceremony, there are the three parts that can probably include music. The first is the cross sectional, when the bride comes in. Then there's usually something in the middle – perhaps a special recital of something. I always say it’s worth finding out if there’s a brother or sister of the bride or groom who's an amazing singer. Or maybe the best man is a great vocalist. If the answer is yes, he could sing something while the couple sign the register.  Then there’s the recessional, when the bride and groom leave the blessing or ceremony. More and more, that’s becoming more informal, something like ‘This Will Be’ or ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ – something a bit more irreverent. Remember, you can have strings played over recorded music to save the budget for later on the night when everybody really wants to have a dance.

What kind of music would you recommend for cocktail hour?

It's a really fun part of the day but it's important the band you choose to use doesn’t dominate the moment either. It’s a mode that we call background. Your guests want to be able to have a conversation and get to know the other people at your wedding. We have an amazing acoustic roaming band called The Juke Joints who play all the hits but in a really lovely French Riviera style. We also have a great Cuban band – nothing compares to Cuban music in the sunshine – who were actually used in the last James Bond movie. Otherwise, you could go as simple as a nice jazz trio: double bass, saxophone and keyboard or piano.

How do you ensure the right transition from ceremony to drinks to reception?

By this time, you've gone from your strings and vocalist in the church or ceremony area – which has all been very serious – to a jazz band or a group of people who look like a unit. It’s really as simple as making sure the music company you're using have got the guys ready and playing something fun like ‘L. O. V. E.’ as the guests take their first glass of champagne. You want to make sure the mood has been set.


How do you get everyone in a party mood – is it worth entertaining during dinner, for example?

During dinner, you can absolutely have some background music, although it’s worth remembering that this is the only moment during the whole evening when you’re going to be sat with one person either side of you who you can really talk to. When couples spend so money on the food and on the drink, it can be a little bit of a waste to really go all out on dinnertime entertainment. Different cultures have different traditions – you could always ask the vocalist to sing while people eat – but I’d personally save it until the speeches if you're short on budget. That’s when things become more exciting and the band comes on, which can be the catalyst for getting everybody on the dance floor. 

A big debate for couples is band or DJ – is there a way to get the best of both?

First, you need to find the right band for you. You need to go online and work out who's the best band for your musical taste and then you need to get on the phone with the music company and work out whether that’s somebody you can trust. You want people to wake up the next day thinking they had the most amazing night. The trick here is to get the band to play for around two hours and then find a DJ who’s happy to play with some of the musicians from the band. That’s something we offer and it's becoming more popular because people don't want to go from a ten-piece band to just a DJ. It feels too different or harsh. If you can, having a sax, a trumpet and a trombone – in other words a horn section who already play together in the band – who are happy to swap the blazers and white shirts for black jeans and black t-shirts and come back with the DJ, is the best of both worlds. It becomes more of a club vibe – and there’s often a lot of interaction with guests, too.

How do you find a DJ whose style you like but who’s willing to incorporate the music you want?

I know a lot of couples who are very keen to personalise playlists – to put in their requests and make sure the DJ stays aligned with what they will like and that their guests will like too. But you’ve got to remember these guys are professionals. The last thing you want to do is nit-pick every single song. We recommend starting with a Spotify playlist and sending that to your DJ so they get the vibe. If there are maybe three songs you think are non-negotiable, then say. A quick call to run through never goes amiss. But once you've sent your 50 songs or so, it’s best to leave it to them. As long as you’ve found a person whose taste you love, then you’ll know they aren’t going to play R&B and hip hop if they’re into house. There needs to be a level of trust.

Any tips for nailing the first dance?

My best piece of advice with first dances – unless you love dancing with your partner or are professional dancers – is to keep the moment to 30 seconds or less. At my own wedding, I chose ‘Everywhere’ by Fleetwood Mac because it's got the shortest verse ever – probably only 17 seconds. As soon as you get to the chorus, everyone else can join in. So it’s best if that isn’t a minute and 30 seconds. If you don't have a special song, go online. Just beware of anything too cheesy. There was a point three years ago where you couldn’t escape Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’. Now that’s tapered off and a lot of people are going for more traditional Motown or something like that. My only other piece of advice would be to give the band as much notice as you can to learn it – funnily enough, the only thing bands really don’t like is people chucking songs at them last minute.



Let’s talk about technicalities – are there any need-to-knows that couples should be aware of?

The most important consideration is whether there are any sound restrictions at the venue or even full-on curfews. I can't tell you how many people sign the contract with their music company and then find out they have a restriction. Second, you can’t rely on venues for production value. Fair warning, this is one of the least sexy parts of wedding planning – but AV production (anything to do with lighting and sound) is something venues often don’t specialise in. So it ends up with couples often having to rent equipment quite last minute. Alternatively, the band might be able to bring their own equipment or have a sound company they use. But it’s definitely worth checking with all parties before you catch yourself short-handed. It can be quite a nasty financial surprise. With our clients, we tell them the cost of the band and the AV on top. We normally give them around three different companies or details of people that we work with on a regular basis and quotes. For example, some people want the whole thing white, including a white carpet for the band and white speakers. Some people don't mind and want to reserve as much budget as possible. It can be cost effective, but it’s all about how you want it to look and sound.

In terms of timing, how far out should you book a band or DJ?

There are only 20 Saturdays in the average summer, so if you want your venue, your photographer, your videographer, your band, your caterer – all those suppliers – to line up on your date, you need to book these people in as early as you can. Once we get past September in any year, people start inquiring for the next year and the year after. I always say give it 12 months if you really want a specific band. For example, we have a band called The Soul Jets, and they're now pretty well-known on the scene after playing at Princess Eugenie's wedding. People love them and we often get enquiries from people asking what Saturday the band is free before they even confirm the date for their event. So, it does depend on whether you're trying to go for a more well-known band. That said, things change and schedules switch, so it’s always worth a call.

And what about budget – is there such a thing as a ballpark figure?

Not really – but what I would say is thanks to the evolution of the DJ/live band option, the price points have become much more reasonable. We have an amazing DJ/live band on our books who often kick off with tracks by James Brown and Aretha Franklin before moving into house or Calvin Harris and Sigma. It’s a real mash-up – the great thing about a good DJ is they can go through all the genres. It's maximum impact and lower budget than a ten-piece band for the entire night. Just bear in mind that if you're getting married abroad, it’s the client's expense to get the musicians out to wherever they're going. But a decent music company should make that really clear.




Here’s Alex’s ideal wedding day music & entertainment package

For the ceremony:

ALR Strings

These four classically trained string players have a repertoire that ranges from the usual classical fare to George Gershwin and classical re-workings of modern classics from the likes of Taylor Swift and Cyndi Lauper. Classically elegant but with a contemporary twist, recent appearances for the quartet include a British Vogue x Cartier launch party held in the flagship store on Bond Street.

See them play At Last & Came Here For Love

For the cocktail party or drinks reception:

The Legends

Experience the playful and vibrant sound of 1950s Cuba with a quintet of Santiago de Cuba’s finest. Having toured the world with Cuban music legends Septeto Santiaguero and Sur Caribe and now resident in London, these five musicians have curated a repertoire of the smoothest and most evocative pieces from the traditional Cuban songbook. This year they’ve performed at brand launches at Fenwick, Facebook and the AA Gill Awards at The River Café in London.

See them play Oye

The Gents 

The Gents’ setlist of stripped-back, acoustic arrangements covers everything from The Temptations to the Jonas Brother. Thanks to their cool and laidback vibe, The Gents always deliver a fresh show. Their unmatched style and talent have also led them to perform for lots of exclusive brands, such as De Grisogono, Syco and Live Nation.

See them play Let’s Get It On

For the main party:

The Soul Jets

The Soul Jets began life as the first-ever house band at the prestigious Arts Club in Mayfair, and quickly established themselves as one of the hottest bands in London. Their unrivalled energy and musicianship have led to a strong international presence, with the band regularly flown around the world for exclusive weddings and world-class events. Their original sound covers a wide-ranging setlist from Aretha Franklin and Lionel Richie through to Ariana Grande and Calvin Harris. They’ve also played with Robbie Williams and other world-class artists.

See them play here

For the after party:


BEAT brings together five gifted musicians – a DJ on the decks, two soulful singers with powerhouse vocals, sax solos and percussion – for a set of ingenious mashups. Effortlessly cool and brimming with energy, BEAT are masters at filling a dance floor, skipping deftly from old school Stevie Wonder and David Bowie to Coldplay and Rihanna.

See them play here

For the day-after event:

The Juke Joints

The Juke Joints are the ideal band for a day-after brunch or BBQ. Their vast repertoire, energy and creative flair have helped them gain them an impressive client list – including Christian Louboutin, Ralph Lauren and Jo Malone. They were also the house band for ITV’s Tonight at The London Palladium.

See them play here

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