The 29 Questions You Need to Ask Your Wedding Band

Don't hire your reception music without doing a little due diligence.
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Sep 28, 2021

Music can make or break a party—so if you've opted to hire a band for your big day, it's crucial to choose a group that'll make your celebration one to remember. In fact, entertainment is often one of the most engaging elements of a wedding reception, so it's important to find pros who understand (and can execute) your vision. To do so, we recommend preparing a specific list of questions to ask your wedding band during the hiring process.

When you're ready to start searching for pros, use The Knot Marketplace to find local musicians. Then, set up a few interviews with your favorites to get to know them as a group. Here, we've rounded up 29 important questions to ask potential bands for your wedding. These thought-starters will help you facilitate the discussion to learn more about their services and their style, thus helping you find the perfect performers for your big day.

1. How would you describe your style?

First, you need to figure out if the band members' type of music will work with the vibe you're going for. If you want a low-key cocktail party with lots of casual conversation, a band that specializes in hard rock may be a music mismatch. Get to know the group's style by chatting about their favorite wedding songs to see if they'll be a fit for you.

2. Can we listen to you perform?

Seeing your potential band perform live will give you a taste of what your wedding entertainment would actually sound and feel like. And, luckily, plenty of bands host frequent showcases that are open to the public. "We encourage our clients to get to know a potential band before the wedding day," explains Kurt Titchenell, founder and owner of Philadelphia-based live music company BVTLive! "For example, every two weeks bands our bands perform at venues, and couples can come and see them live and meet the band leaders."

3. Do you know our reception space and its acoustics, as well as its power and amplification requirements? If not, will you check it out beforehand?

Your musicians may need an extension cord, a backup generator or additional supplies, which is necessary to know beforehand. If your potential band is experienced, they may be familiar with the wedding venue—which is great! If it'll be their first time performing there, though, ask if they're willing to check out the space or connect with the venue's staff to confirm if they'll need backup equipment.

4. Can you play the songs that are most important to us?

Consider this one of the most important questions to ask your wedding band. Your pros should be able to play your favorite music, so ask if they can perform your dream first dance song or the tune you've always wanted for the father-daughter dance. Band members will often talk to you about your musical preferences to get to know you and your S.O. to curate a playlist that feels personalized. "Connecting on a personal level with clients is always the best approach," explains George Loreto, president of California-based music company Undercover Live Entertainment. "I like to know what they listen to when they're driving together on road trips, for example. This lets us know what their favorite songs are as we discuss their wedding vision."

5. How many musicians are in the band? How many vocalists? Do you ever substitute performers? Are there different options as far as how many musicians/instruments we can hire?

Understanding the makeup of a band is key for hiring a group that'll keep your guests entertained all night long. In your interview process, ask if the band ever makes substitutes, and how often, as this may indicate their style as a unit. "A band that performs more often together will inherently be tighter musically as opposed to a band that substitutes musicians on a regular basis," Titchenell explains. "We recommend that couples take this into consideration when looking for pros."

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6. Would we need to rent any instruments (a piano, for example) or equipment (extra speakers or a stage)?

Find out exactly what equipment the band needs to perform, along with what you need to rent or borrow from the venue. It'll also be helpful to know if you'll have to hide equipment that's particularly unsightly.

7. Do you plan to use lighting or any other special effects?

Beyond music, some pros may bring special lighting or effects, like a fog machine, while others will stick to the tunes. If your pros do amp up their performance with specific effects, they may come with additional costs. We recommend asking about this ahead of time to properly budget for all add-ons.

8. Who will do the setup?

Someone will have to set up the sound system on the actual wedding date. While this is usually a person from the company supplying the music, you'll need to confirm this in order to coordinate setup time and the soundcheck with your venue. Plus, you'll want to ask the band what's required if your wedding ceremony or reception will be outside. "Any outdoor performance needs a cover," says Loreto. "The sound equipment is very expensive and can be damaged in sunlight or inclement weather."

9. How do you ensure a comfortable sound level for all the guests?

It won't hurt to have a plan for dealing with volume control and sound-sensitive guests. Because, when it comes down to it, what your 14-year-old cousin thinks is the perfect volume is different from what your 89-year-old grandma is willing to put up with. If you have a fun dance-off going, you don't want people who aren't participating to have to shout like they're at a crowded bar.

10. What do you typically wear?

A potential band will usually have several attire choices for you to pick from, such as a tuxedo or simple coordinated outfits, like black shirts and slacks.

11. How many hours are included in the package?

The amount of time your live wedding band spends performing will affect the cost, so ask about what kind of packages they offer.

12. Does your contract include an overtime clause?

As an extension of the question above, inquire about overtime charges in case you and your S.O. don't want the party to end right away. "Most contracts include an overtime clause," Titchenell explains. "This is often portioned by 30-minute additional slots." And though it's important to ask your wedding band about this, reach out to your venue too. While Titchenell notes that most wedding bands would be happy to keep playing, some venues have strict time limits. If you think you may want to extend the party, ask about all of your options before the day arrives.

13. How many breaks would you plan to take during the reception?

It's helpful to know how many breaks your band will need, how long they'll last, and what the backup plan is for those breaks (like playing approved filler music, or having one musician step away while the others continue).

14. How do you handle song requests?

Check what the protocol will be for making sure your guests hear their favorite tunes. (That is, if you even want them to have that creative control.) Some pros may prefer to receive a list of songs before the big day, while others could be open to receiving requests throughout the duration of the event.

15. Can you act as the master of ceremonies?

It isn't guaranteed that your band leader will act as the emcee by introducing the toasts, announcing your first dance or telling people when dinner is served. This role can also fall on your planner, coordinator or even a member of your wedding party. Clarify if they can take on this role before you hire them.

16. How many weddings do you typically do in a year?

Through these questions to ask your wedding band, you're trying to determine how experienced they are. It's important to know how long they've been doing weddings, but also how often. Both are key to understanding how well they can handle your dance floor.

17. Do you have another wedding gig before or after ours?

If they don't have anything after, ask what the overtime fees are if the party is still cranking past the end of the time on your contract. And if they have one before, ask what will happen if the other event runs over.

18. What's your sick day policy?

If a key member of your music team is unable to perform for your wedding, they should have a reliable replacement (and have you meet them too).

19. Do you have liability insurance?

You need to esnure that you, your venue and guests are protected in case of an accident. A true pro will offer to show you their certificate.

20. What's your backup plan if there's an equipment malfunction?

Most wedding bands will prepare for an unexpected event—for instance, an amp that blows out. To be on the safe side, it's best to double-check that they have a backup plan.

21. What's your cancellation policy?

If you change your date or change your mind on the music, what are the repercussions?

22. How do you motivate a shy crowd to dance?

Some wedding bands will teach the latest viral dance or verbally encourage guests to step onto the dance floor, while others will just select songs that naturally get people moving. Either way, it'll be helpful for you to get a feel for how a potential band will interact with the crowd. "Keeping the dance floor full is something that becomes second nature after years of doing it," Titchenell explains. "This mostly comes down to the selection of songs, as well as keeping an eye on the energy levels of the audience." Ask about their go-to method for keeping the energy levels high will help you make a decision.

23. Do you have a specialty?

This is a great question for a live wedding band. Is their style what you want to hear at your reception? Asking a really awesome rock band to play jazz standards may not be the best fit, so chat through both of your musical preferences ahead of time.

24. Is the recording on your website live or produced in a studio? Is the sound technically enhanced?

See if what you hear is what you get. If a band's clips are tweaked, ask if they can send untouched performance videos, or if you can see them live in-person.

25. Does your band perform live or to tracks?

Some bands may supplement their performances with pre-recorded tracks, while others perform everything live. Ask ahead of time so you know what to expect on the wedding date.

26. Do you use pre-determined setlists, or do you take requests (or read the crowd)?

When it comes to a wedding band, you (and your guests) will probably prefer the latter. Your friends and family will love to have the opportunity to request songs, and there's nothing like a band feeding off the energy in a crowd.

27. Can you supply your master playlist in advance?

Every good band has a diverse and deep song list. Ask to review the current rotation and indicate your favorite selections so you can help them curate a crowd-pleasing playlist.

28. Can we give you a do-not-play list?

There are some songs you just don't want to hear at your wedding—and that's okay. Ask your wedding vendors if they'll avoid certain tracks on the playlist.

29. Can you design an itinerary for the night?

This question is what separates veteran bands from rookies. There are tons of ways to make sure everything "flows" at a wedding, and couples should collaborate with the band to bring that vision to life.

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