We musicians do a lot of events, as in THOUSANDS. Yet too often, clients hire us and tell us they want to have the “best party ever” but then when we offer advice, they put the opinions of others ahead of ours (which is fine, but as the ones who are usually most tasked with getting people engaged, we think our advice should carry just a little weight). So, here are a few points (in no particular order) we’ve been suggesting for many years, (and sometimes your planner won’t even think about them, though most do – we generally love the planners we work with), and I hope they across as positive because the last thing Grooveyard as is a showbiz attitude!
Song Selection – We happily learn new songs all the time, especially if it’s for a special dance or event. However, these days we all program our own playlists and so many clients wonder if they should tell the band all the songs they’d like played, and some give us long and detailed lists of every song we should play. From our end, we’re always playing to a room full of people with varying tastes from different eras. We want to react to what the listeners are reacting to – if they like something and fill the dance floor, we’ll probably go right into a similar kind of song to keep them dancing (which means planning a set or playlist is too restricting). So, better for clients to give us their special songs and make a few requests (and it’s ok to list favourite songs, just remember that it’s better to not try and “program” the night), and then tell us their general likes dislikes (“I love Top 40 but I don’t like reggae” or “I love classic rock and Motown, but I don’t like modern dance music”). We still may play something that they don’t love (because there are 199 other people there too) but we will definitely favour the client’s preferences.
Sweet Table – We would never dissuade anyone from having a table full of treats – we like treats too! However, the TIMING is often something that gets forgotten by clients and planners/caterers. At far too many weddings we do, the sweet table gets announced/put out just as the bride & groom have finished their speech (say around 9:30-10pm), which is typically when all the formalities are done and the party is supposed to get going. So, just at the moment where the client really wants to the band to fill up the dance floor and keep it that way for the rest of the night, a sweet table gets put out and announced, which means the dance floor will not fill up for another half hour because at least half of the guests are lined up to get dessert.
Our suggestions: tell the planner/caterer to put the sweet table out about an hour after dancing starts (i.e. don’t put a time on it, or at least be flexible with the time). Remember that many venues want to rush that sweet table out so they can send staff home (and some planners like to leave after the sweet table is out because it’s the last item on their checklist). And don’t let anyone tell you that guests will leave if you don’t get the sweet table out – it’s the opposite. If the sweet table is out too soon, many people don’t hit the dance floor at all, they eat sweets and then decide it’s time to go. Trust us, we’ve seen it both ways and we groan every time the sweet table comes out just as we’re supposed to get people dancing. Here’s an idea we see happening more often now: instead of a formal sweet table, set up a smaller station or two and have the servers pass sweets to guests on the dance floor. Here’s another: you’ve served your guests dessert with their meal, so why not skip the sweet table and give them some other kind of food after an hour or two of dancing (mini burgers/fries/grilled cheese etc)? That goes better with drinks and dancing in our opinion.
Speeches – Many clients ask us to avoid using recorded music (i.e. they’d like it if we never took breaks and switched to the iPod). We can generally do that if the client has speeches and spreads those around (e.g. a welcome speech, a speech during first course, a couple during second course, etc). However, if a client decides they want to get all of the speeches done at the beginning of the night, then there’s no chance for the band to catch its breath, eat, get a drink etc, and their guests are going to have to sit through A LOT of talking before their meal comes – a lot less fun from what we observe! And have those speeches during the course (once everyone has been served). Some clients insist that a speech can only happen after everyone has eaten, but that inevitably means the speech is competing with people leaving the room to use the washroom, going to the bar, going outside for a cigarette (or maybe that always try to escape the speech)…if you have a speech while guests are seated and finishing up their meal, you’ve got their attention.
Flexibility – If you were having a party at home, you probably wouldn’t schedule every moment of it, even if there were one or two formal moments you had to worry about. Too often we do events where everything is scripted with no allowance for what is happening in the moment. So for example, let’s say that a speech went a bit long during dinner. We fill up the dance floor while the servers are clearing the dishes, and everyone is having a great time. The planner comes up and says “sit everyone down, there’s another speech that was supposed to happen during the entree.” At your home party, you’d probably look at all the people dancing and think “let’s just wait ten minutes more and let everyone have fun” but somehow at too many events, we get asked to stop and tell everyone to sit down, even though it would make no difference to have that speech happen ten minutes later during dessert.