As a professional musician and band leader in Jackson Hole for more than two decades, I’ve accumulated a lot of experience in the area of providing music for both wedding receptions and ceremonies. I can honestly say that the Snake River Band has always felt it to be a privilege to be a part of the festivities for a wedding party. At times I’ve felt honored and moved to witness the eloquence and heartfelt sentiments of family members and friends. There have been countless wonderful wedding receptions and parties in my experience where everyone went away happy, if not ecstatic.
To start with, you’ll need to hire a band that meets your needs. No band can be all things to all people, but I think one of the most important ingredients is to hire a band that can do a wide range of things well. Many club bands only have experience playing one type of music for one age demographic and may be stymied in a situation where a rocking dance tune needs to be followed by a pretty waltz for Grandma. Not to mention a band that can speak to the unique character of the Jackson Hole area with a four part vocal rendition of a traditional western tune. I have seen the evening become a completely memorable experience due to the fact that the band followed a favorite Motown tune with an excellent version of (for instance) the classic “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”
Sometimes a group will want only a reggae band or only a swing band, but those are rare occasions and I believe that they are only catering to a subset of their guests. When you have a mix of age groups and people coming from various parts of the country (or globe), it’s a much smarter call to hire diversity. A broad band has something for everyone, yet can work a musical vein for hours if that’s what the situation calls for.
You need to work with a band that will send you a contract. This is extremely important. Planning for these events is a big deal and both you and the band need the protection (and the communication!) that a contract provides. I get several desperate calls every year from parties who thought they had a band booked, only to find at the last minute that the communication wasn’t what they thought it was. Often I can’t do anything for them if it’s a couple of days before the event. Remember, it’s just as important for you to have a binding contract as it is for the band.
Personal references from people who have worked with a particular band are always a great place to begin. Any experienced band ought to be able to provide you with those. References from local wedding planners, service providers or the manager of the venue where the event will take place can also be helpful. However, in a resort town it might be wise to ask how long they’ve been on the job as turn over rates are high. You could get an opinion that is woefully uninformed that amounts to “hearsay”.
We always work diligently behind the scenes with the venue manager and staff to take care of all the physical work and technical aspects of setting up the stage, sound and lights for the event prior to the first guests arriving on site. We work closely with tent contractors in outdoor situations to make sure that everything is up to specifications. It’s important that a band or sound company has enough experience (and equipment redundancy) that problems, should they crop up, can be dealt with efficiently. Short of some dire emergency, the show must go on, and, in my experience, always has.
There should never be a need to micromanage the musicians. Conversations prior to the event should give you peace of mind that the band knows what you want. Trust that a professional will assess the situation and choose appropriate material that they do well from their repertoire. Song suggestions from you ahead of the event are appreciated, but not a constant stream of them at the event. Specific songs that you want should be discussed and agreed upon at the time that the contract is negotiated. Not all the songs in the group’s repertoire need to be scrutinized by a client. The nature of a live performance is that the energy that develops between the musicians and the audience is something that cannot be planned or orchestrated. You must have faith in whomever you hire and trust that things will develop in a positive way, even if it is not the exact scenario that you might have envisioned. You never know, it could turn out even better than that!