Blog

Let’s get this party started!

One of the big elements of a wedding day, both decision-wise and budget-wise, is the evening entertainment.

And therein lies the £64 million question…Band or DJ?

Here are some things to think about when making this important decision!

It’s hard to beat the atmosphere generated by great live music, therefore a band is the obvious choice. Having said this, booking a DJ means that you get to hear the original versions of the songs everyone loves to dance to.

If you and your partner have very different musical tastes, you will find it hard to find one band who can play both styles convincingly. Opting for a DJ means you can hear all the songs you both love (or hate!) as you can have a much greater input into the playlist for the evening.

You should consider the number of guests you’re expecting - if your party is relatively small, a DJ could well be a better option for you.

If you have a long evening of dancing planned, you might consider a band and a DJ, as a band will charge pro rata for performing longer than their standard set time, so hiring both might actually be more cost-effective for a long playing time.

If the performance area available isn’t huge, DJs are normally pretty compact, whereas bands can take up rather more space, and can get a little upset when asked to shoe-horn themselves into a corner.

Finally, of course, there’s the cost. A good DJ will cost about as much as a very mediocre band and a good band will cost three to four times as much as a good DJ. In our experience, there’s no such thing as a good, cheap DJ or band: they’re either good OR cheap: never both.

Choosing the hymns for a Church Ceremony

If you’re having a church wedding, you will almost certainly need to choose some hymns for your wedding. But which to choose? Your favourite hymn from school? The one your Mum really wants you to have? That hymn your fiancé knows from the rugby? Relax – it’s not that difficult really! Here are our top six tips:

  1. • The hymns are the only part of the day when absolutely everyone is involved, so choose well-known hymns. It’s not the time to educate
  2. • Although every hymn book contains hundreds of hymns, in practice, 99% of hymns chosen for weddings come from a list of about 15 favourites
  3. • Make sure the hymns are balanced within the service – one popular formula is to start and finish your service with “big” hymns, with a gentler hymn in the middle
  4. • “Jerusalem” is the “biggest” hymn there is, so if you’ve chosen it, it really needs to be the final hymn
  5. • Uncertainty makes British congregations nervous, so avoid irregular hymns like “Lord of the dance” or “I watch the sunrise”
  6. • Beware of looking up hymn words on the internet - it’s a minefield out there. Click here for the correct words to all the most popular hymns

And don’t forget that a first-class choir and organist will give the congregation a great lead in the hymn-singing, and can also sing/play at other times in the service. Email us for a costing!

Top 5 pieces for the Entrance of the Bride
at church weddings

This week, we thought we’d carry on looking at popular music for the Entrance of the Bride, but this time, for church weddings.

You may (or may not!) be surprised to hear that Pachelbel’s Canon in D is the top choice for both civil and church weddings – here it is played on the organ, followed by the rest of the top five:

  1. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Canon in D – J Pachelbel
  2. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists The Prince of Denmark’s March – J Clarke
  3. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Bridal March, from Lohengrin – R Wagner
  4. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Trumpet Voluntary – J Stanley
  5. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Trumpet Tune in D - H Purcell

All these pieces are perfect played by solo organ, but many bridal couples add a trumpet if they’ve chosen the Clarke, Stanley or Purcell.

We are increasingly being asked for “something different”, and given our Director David’s background in choral music, these pieces are always at the top of our list, and the good news is, there’s a choral version of Canon in D!

  1. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Canon in D – J Pachelbel
  2. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists I was glad – CHH Parry
  3. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Ave verum corpus – E Elgar
  4. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists If ye love me – T Tallis
  5. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Eternal source of light divine – GF Handel

Our colleague, Emma would like to point out that she chose ‘I was glad’ for her wedding well before Prince William and Kate Middleton even got engaged, and you might recognise ‘Eternal source of light divine’ from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. Elgar’s beautiful ‘Ave verum corpus’ was famously used at the theme tune for ‘Brideshead Revisited’ but we think it makes a beautifully elegant bridal entrance.

Which would you choose?!

Wedding music fails…and how to avoid them!

We’re often asked about the worst wedding fails we have encountered, and we’re proud to say that, in terms of the music and musicians, we have never had a fail (the trains, planes and motorways are another matter…). So the music-related fails we’ve come across have been from clients or friends telling us “I went to a wedding and…”.

High on the list of no-nos has to be involving children of family and friends. No matter how accomplished they are, they are children, and probably have very little experience of performing in front of an audience.

Tears, whether induced by wrong notes or the pressure of the day, are all too common, and even though no one will blame them for a wrong note, or for bottling out entirely, they will feel a huge amount of pressure. As musicians ourselves, we know how the memory of a bad experience can shape our attitude to performing in later life.

In a similar vein, hiring the musician friend-of-a-friend, or someone you’ve been told is good, without doing some research can be deadly! We’ve heard of organists who sound like they’re wearing boxing gloves, and trumpeters who don’t know which end to blow down!

Of course, we want to support students (we were all there ourselves!), but if you’re hiring them, make sure that your agreement is iron-clad. We have heard too many stories of students pulling out of engagements at the last minute, due to a more lucrative offer (if they are booked through their college, there’s less likelihood of this happening). So whilst we wouldn’t want to dissuade you from giving students the opportunity for paid work, make sure everything’s in writing!

We’ve had many clients say that they have been to weddings at which no one danced to the DJ because s/he was playing purely thrash metal / club anthems / garage music (take your pick!). A good DJ will take the bridal couple’s likes and dislikes into account, whilst taking requests and reading the floor during the evening. Check that your DJ doesn’t specialise in one type of music and will tailor the evening to you and your guests. Tell him / her the likely age range of the guests and provide a list of a dozen or so ‘must-plays’, along with styles and artists that you like (and dislike!). And if s/he won’t accept a list…

Just last week, we were able to help a bridal couple whose DJ had cancelled, five days before the wedding. If you’re hiring a DJ who runs their own solo show, check what the fall-back plan is; a string quartet, then check they have suitable replacement players for if the worst does happen.

We’re rather keen on detail, and David, in particular, has a very sharp eye for proof reading Orders of Service. Some of the most common mistakes are simply down to auto correct or neighbouring letters on the keyboard making different, but real, words. A couple of our favourites are: Angela help us to adore him (rather than Angels help us to adore him) and We'll supply thy sons and daughters (instead of Well supply thy sons and daughters). So check and double-check. Ask someone else to do so too, and don’t rely on the printers to do it!

In top spot, and our favourite, happened in the mid 1990’s when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a recent box office hit, with Bryan Adams spending a record number of weeks at Number 1 with “Everything I do (I do it for you)”. A bride decided it would be a lovely song to walk up the aisle to, so the local organist - an elderly gentleman - was asked to play the ‘theme song from Robin Hood’. He is reported to have been a little surprised but said that he was sure it would be fine, and he’d get working on it right away.

Sadly, the bride didn’t walk up the aisle to the strains of a romantic love song, but instead to the rousing theme tune of the popular 1950’s tv show The Adventures of Robin Hood! The moral of this story? Check that you and the musician(s) are talking about the same piece of music!

Top 5 pieces for the Entrance of the Bride
at civil / humanist weddings

Fashions change: meringue skirts come and go; one year flowers are bold and bright, the next pretty pastels.

But music is timeless, and since our business began in 1990, the top five choices for entrance music amongst our brides each year have been:

  1. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Canon in D – J Pachelbel
  2. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Air on the G String - JS Bach
  3. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Wedding March from 'Lohengrin’ (“Here comes the bride”) – R Wagner
  4. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Air from The Water Music – GF Handel
  5. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Wedding March, from ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ – WA Mozart

All of these pieces are fabulous played by ‘classic’ ensembles and instruments such as a string quartet, pianist or harpist.

But what to choose for something a little bit different? There are so many wonderful options! Staying with classical, some of our favourites include:

  1. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Salut d'Amour - E Elgar
  2. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Allegro, from Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G - JS Bach
  3. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists La Rejouissance from 'Music for the Royal Fireworks' – GF Handel
  4. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Waltz of the flowers - P Tchaikovsky
  5. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Minuet - L Boccherini

However, just because you have a string quartet or harpist, for example, doesn’t mean you can’t go for a more contemporary twist for your music choices. So how about:

  1. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Iris - The Goo Goo Dolls
  2. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
  3. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists We found love - Rihanna ft Calvin Harris
  4. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists Marry you - Bruno Mars
  5. The Wedding Music Company - By Guest Artists What makes you beautiful - One Direction

Any of our wonderful musicians can play any piece or song, so if it means a lot to you, it can be done! We have some wonderful arrangers too, so if an arrangement doesn’t exist, we can commission it for you.

What entrance piece are you considering, or do you have no idea where to start? Join in the conversation on Facebook.

Guest Artists does Top Gear!

There are many days in our working calendar that stand out for us as a team. We thought it may be interesting to share with you some of the (sometimes, in retrospect, hilarious) hiccups we encounter, and the lengths we go to, to ensure our clients receive the very best service we can deliver.

Here’s what happened when David, our Director, spent a rather hectic 24 hours running the music for a very elegant wedding in Europe.

The Runaway Priest…

For a start, the priest told me that he didn't like to hang about. He wasn't joking, sounding at times like the auctioneer on Storage Hunters (only with an Irish accent) - but to be fair, omitting the opening hymn altogether and then sending the bridal party out during the final hymn did give him a head start in his record-breaking attempt. The congregation must have wondered what this thing noted on the order of service as "recessional" was all about...

Frankly I'm not convinced he had even read the order of service at all - my suspicions being particularly raised when at one point he announced: "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith in bold type"...

Combining this with a request given just before the service for an extra (unrehearsed, of course...) "special piece" for the bridesmaids to enter to - they were sent down the aisle individually at 5 yard intervals by the wedding coordinator - made for a service more challenging than was strictly necessary.

But that was the easy bit…re-wind to the middle of the night before the wedding…

A flight cancelled late the previous night had led to a merry, early hours game of find-a-flight-going-within-200-miles-of-where-we're-going-before-anyone-else-finds-the-same-flight, to say nothing of a £2.5k bill - and this only once I'd explained to the nice Barclays lady in Newcastle that my desire to spend £2.5k on flights at 2am was entirely genuine. Having done that it was then simply a question of contacting the performers (it’s the early hours of the morning remember), to get them all to change their plans and get to Gatwick rather than City for their early morning flight. Easy peasy.

Even this would have been fine except the replacement flight was then delayed on the tarmac, meaning that there was a fair chance that my esteemed colleagues wouldn't actually make the service at all anyway.

What to do? What would Jeremy Clarkson do? Hire a helicopter to meet the flight, of course. But the helicopter only seated six - and seven needed transporting.

So the day morphed into a "GA does Top Gear". Who would win over a 200-mile trip? A fast Mercedes going straight to the venue or a helicopter flying to its base about 30mins drive from the venue, plus car from there to the gig. (If you're interested, it was the helicopter by about 20 minutes). But all musicians made the service.

All in a day’s (and night’s) work

Once the service ended, all was disappointingly plain sailing!

But none of it would have been possible without the assistance, good grace and forbearance (and, of course, excellent performances) from our amazing musicians! I might perhaps have got a teensy bit shouty at some points, for which I apologise, but you were all stars!

This wedding was under a strict confidentiality agreement, so we’re unable to share much more detail with you – but we wanted to share the logistics of what can happen with some of our client projects. We absolutely love the work we do, are passionate about music, and work with an amazing group of artists – which makes our jobs that much easier.

Guest Artists are on the Blog!

It has been said, many times, that we should start a blog to record the life and times of Guest Artists, and try to pass on our wealth of knowledge after 25 years in the business. As musicians and event managers, we regularly experience situations that just wouldn’t happen to anyone else, and are daily in the privileged position of advising people about the music for their Big Day, organising spectacular entertainment for events large and small, and also giving comfort through music, after the passing of a loved one.

Through this blog we aim to: pass on tips for organising the music and entertainment for your event, be it large or small, private or corporate; take you backstage to show you the build up to some of our bigger events; and of course, share the “you won’t believe what just happened…” moments.

We hope you’ll join us on our journey into the world of blogging, and if there are specific topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know!

Guest Artists x