Ever wondered what it’s like to be in a busy Scottish wedding band?
Del Cotton, ex-wedding band singer and now managing director at Hireaband, Scotland’s biggest wedding entertainment agency, gives us exclusive access to a typical wedding day for a band or musician.
Hireaband’s Del Cotton
“We’ve all been at weddings where the band were absolutely killing it; dance floor full all night and the band looking as if they’re also having a brilliant time. All that attention, all that glamour and they get paid for it as well! What a life – how do I get in a wedding band?
This isn’t going to be one of those articles where someone like me moans about how hard musicians in this industry work and how much they’re taken for granted. Infact, at the end of this article, I’m going to make you a surprising offer.
I loved pretty much every minute of my performing career and I made a good living from it too. I was a full-time wedding musician for more than 20 years. At first, I was the same age as the couples getting married, but when I started to have more in common with their mums and dads, I knew the time was fast approaching to hang up my microphone.
Most Scottish wedding bands will perform between 8pm and midnight with a half hour break. You may be interested to know that as soon as you cross the border into England, bands down there play two one hour spots as standard, but for the same fee as their harder-working Scottish cousins.
So what does a day in the life of a wedding band musician look like? Here’s a typical schedule:
9am | Start work. That’s right, the vast majority of wedding band performers have day jobs just like you. If the wedding is on a Saturday, they may get a bit of a lie-in, but that’s because they probably got home no earlier than 2am on Friday night having played at a Friday wedding.
5pm | Finish work and travel home.
6pm | If the wedding is within an hour of home, most musicians will be leaving home now to get to your venue having first made sure their performing clothes, instruments and the PA (public address system) is packed carefully into their car or van. If you’ve ever struggled into a wetsuit, you’ll get the idea.
7pm | Arrive at the venue and immediately start unloading around a ton and a half of equipment from their vehicles. There may be stairs or access may be difficult. The tradesman’s entrance to wedding venues is never as glamorous (or well-lit or accessible) as the front.
Getting to the stage with their equipment is highly dependent on the wedding running on time. If your Best Man is still in the middle of his speech, the band can’t get in the room.
Once the speeches are over and the room is being turned around, they’ll get their equipment set up, tune up their instruments and then do a quick sound check to make sure everything is working properly (skipping this bit more often than not leads to technical issues which will affect you, so don’t rush them).
They’ll then have to go and get changed into performance clothes. Some lucky musicians are provided with a secure, warm and dry area for this, but the vast majority of the time they get changed in a toilet (there’s nothing worse than performing all night with wet socks by the way … don’t ask!)
Assuming the band has access to the performance area at 7pm, they’ll be ready, looking the part for 8pm. You most likely won’t be ready (most first dances take place around 8:30pm no matter how hard you try to stick to the schedule), but they’ll be standing there waiting to perform your special first dance having spent several hours learning and rehearsing it.
9:30pm | Buffet time! This is almost always when a band will take their break. Traditionally the band is then invited to enjoy some of your buffet and enjoy a cuppa.
It’s also their chance to get to the loo before they’re back on at 10pm.
10pm | Back on stage to perform for two hours under hot lights while trying to entertain guests ranging from eight to 80. If you want to know what it’s like to sing for two hours, try shouting for two hours non stop – it’s essentially the same thing. They just do it in tune and have to remember the words.
Playing an instrument for two hours has the same effect on your hands as peeling spuds very quickly in cold water for the same length of time.
12am | Unless you’ve agreed with the band for them to play later, they’ll be playing their last song around now. They’ll be soaked through, so after putting valuable personal instruments out of harm’s way they’ll go and get changed, meeting back at the stage area around 12.20am to begin dismantling their gear while being asked for one more song by your mad uncle Tam.
If they’re lucky they’ll now move the ton and a half of PA, lights, personal instruments and bags of sweaty clothing out of the venue to their cars or vans. There is an unwritten law that states guests leaving the venue at the same time as the band will congregate in doorways and stairs at exactly the same time as the band members are trying to get past with the aforementioned ton and a half of gear.
1am | The band will now go their separate ways back to their homes where they’ll get in around 2am but, being too hyper to sleep, will nod off on the couch with a Pot Noodle while attempting to watch Game of Thrones re-runs on the telly.
That, ladies and gentlemen, would be considered a straightforward day in the life of a wedding band musician.
Here are a couple of essential facts that you may not have considered. If you’re getting married at 2pm and your wedding day ends at midnight, the success of your big day will be very much in the hands of your band for 40% of that time.
That’s a massive responsibility but one these dedicated men and women rise to at least twice a week pretty much every week of the year.
Also, according to Scottish Wedding Directory, the true average cost of a wedding in Scotland is £29,904*. If the average cost of a band is £1500, that’s just over 5% of the total cost of your wedding!
So, 40% of your big day takes up a very small part of the average budget. If you have a five-piece band, that highly talented musician will have cost you 1% of your wedding budget!
Glamorous? No. Well paid? Sometimes. Being an essential part of the biggest day of people’s lives – priceless.
Still want to be in a wedding band? Seriously, if you do, get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll have a chat. Maybe, just maybe you’ll have the talent, skill and stamina to make it as a wedding band musician!
*stats from the 2017 Scottish Wedding Census.
Let Hireaband UK find your wedding band for you!
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