Booking a band for your UAE wedding 

Hello Lovelies,
Today I’m sharing an awesome blog by Drew, a fantastic singer and member of The Maplejacks. I can highly recommend them because they played at my wedding. So I know exactly how good they are. Somehow we lost touch over the past few years but luckily for you lovely lot, they are back on the blog.
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In the grand scheme of things, the music at your wedding reception should be the least stressful part of the day – the formalities are done, jitters over speeches have long since melted away, and everyone is ready to let their hair down. With a decade of UAE weddings under his belt, The Maplejacks’ singer and guitarist Drew offers some insider tips to help your first day of marriage end on a high note.

  • Get recommendations

There’s no better way to gauge whether a local band will make your night (and make the planning and execution of your special day easy for you) than by going on the thumbs up of someone who has already booked them for their reception. Impressive websites and videos are great, but you need to know the band understands how you envision the evening, that they will be on time and will cooperate with the venue’s rules and regulations (which in the UAE’s hotels are usually extensive and more restrictive than your average pub band will be accustomed to). If you’re struggling for recommendations, the myriad agencies in town (Sole and Josh McCartney are just two of the Dubai-based ones that I’ve had positive experiences with) will be able to suggest a range of options, although they will of course apply their fee on top of what the band charges.

  • Go and see them play

Is this the band that will not only play your favourite songs but keep everyone else dancing too? Hip hop and doom metal might be special to you both, but your Great Aunty Ethel is unlikely to be enticed onto the dance floor by it. A lot of bands have at least one residency night somewhere in town where you could check them out.

  • Meet the band’s rep before making a firm booking

If you think you’ve found your band, agree a date and time to meet the band’s leader at your chosen venue. At this stage you should make sure the band is clear on the time your guests will arrive at the venue so they can plan to finish their setup and soundcheck well in advance of that – you don’t want “Check, 1, 2…” booming out of their speakers over welcome cocktails. A soundcheck, incidentally, is not the band practicing, it’s an essential adjusting of instruments and microphones so the band sounds its best as soon as they start playing in the evening. The band should be able to tell you how long it will take them to setup, and the venue’s F&B Coordinator should advise them on when they can soundcheck on the day of the reception, if there are any restrictions on volume and on how late they can play (for some UAE venues the cutoff for live music outdoors can be as early as 1030pm!).

  • Agree a price and pay a deposit

Naturally, prices for bands in Dubai vary hugely. The number of musicians in the band is perhaps the biggest factor, since each of them rely on work like this to pay their rent! So if the band you like is a seven-piece swing band, don’t expect them to sound the same if you book them as a duo to save on the budget!
A deposit should secure the band for the date and time agreed, and you should get a written receipt. For you, a deposit gets rid of some of the overall expense in advance of the wedding; it should also give an assurance that your band is locked in for your date. For the band, a deposit means that they can decline other work offers for that date, confident that the booking is solid. A cheque or online bank transfer is an ideal way to leave a paper trail between the two parties for your peace of mind.

  • Wired for sound: I

Even if the band has their own sound system (PA), they will probably charge extra to bring it. But this is still likely to be a cost-effective option for you. If they don’t have their own PA (or if theirs isn’t powerful enough for your chosen venue), they will need to hire one. As they know their specific needs and have industry contacts, they should provide quotes for you to consider.

  • Wired for sound: II

The hotel might suggest hiring their PA equipment for the band to use. If this works better for your budget, great, but please liaise with your band – this musician has had some disastrous experiences where the hotel has “taken care of all the sound” for me with awful quality and utterly inappropriate PA equipment, the cost of which was charged to the bride and groom.

  • Wired for sound: III

If you want the band to play in two different locations, they will almost certainly need two PAs – it’s unlikely to be a 10-minute job to drag a band’s entire setup from the hotel’s gardens and into a ballroom.
NB: Consider your seating plan in relation to where the band is to play. Your older guests probably won’t appreciate being sat next to a speaker directed at their heads.

  • Kit and caboodle

Although some musicians might be used to having drums and amplifiers (backline) provided when they play large corporate events, for a wedding that people have saved to pay for it is fair to expect musicians to provide all their own instruments. Experienced musicians shouldn’t be making demands of you (the ‘riders’ of myth and legend), although food and drinks are, of course, always gratefully received.

  • DJ

It’s always a good idea to book a DJ to fill the band’s breaks and for after the band finishes (most venues allow DJs to play later into the night than live bands because it’s easier to control the volume). In most cases it should be possible for band and DJ to share a PA, which saves paying to hire two! Most bands will bring some recorded music for their breaks, or you might put your own playlist together (just check the band has the right cable to connect your device to their PA) but a DJ can read what the crowd is enjoying and take their requests; an iPod can’t!

  • The 4-weeks-to-go checklist

It is common for most bands to play up to three 45-minute sets with breaks in between, but some play more, some less. You might want to ask them to make the first set some gentle tunes over dessert, with a couple of dancefloor-filling sets later on – just make sure the band knows what you have in mind. And if you have a special first dance song you’d like them to play, send them the copy of the exact version you like and give them a few weeks’ notice to learn and rehearse it.
Make sure the band has a responsible groomsman’s or bridemaid’s phone number. Should there be any last-minute things the band needs to check on the day, you don’t want them calling you!
Videographers often like to record the band’s sound for the wedding video. Make sure the videographer has been in contact with the band beforehand to make sure it is possible with the equipment they have between them.
A big cause of delays in bands setting up is the stage (if you’re having one) not being in place or the power supply not being on/hooked up. If the band hasn’t pressed the F&B Coordinator on having these ready at an agreed time, you should.
One of the bridemaids/groomsmen want to sing a special song with the band or play the drums? Ohhhhkaaaay then… if the band doesn’t mind and they actually know the song (please check first!) it can at least provide a nice moment of comedy for the wedding video.
OMG how awesome was that? I just caught myself grooving in my seat while watching my promo in my pjs! Sending out a massive high five to Drew for sharing all your musical knowledge on the blog today. If you’re organising your wedding without a planner this is something you’ll defiantly want to note down. (Oh and don’t judge for wearing my pjs at 10.20am, I have a snotty cold, and a baby. #Justsaying)

To find out more contact Drew at Maplejacks@yahoo.com or call +971 50 429 7975.
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/TheMaplejacks

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