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Cutting costs on wedding music is the worst thing brides and grooms could do – expert

Jonny's band has played for Prince William and Kate Middleton

wedding music
Nichola Murphy
Deputy Lifestyle Editor
July 12, 2022
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Having a band or DJ play at your evening reception is often expected at a wedding, but music shouldn't be left as an afterthought for the first dance and the party.

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Jonny Ross from Jonny Ross Music (who has been in the industry for 12 years and has even played for royalty!) revealed your songs should be carefully chosen for every stage of your big day, from walking down the aisle to your wedding breakfast. Granted, the longer you have musicians at your wedding the more expensive it can get – up to around £6k, in fact – but Jonny spoke to HELLO! about why cost-cutting is actually the worst thing you could do.

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Keep reading to see his top tips for brides and grooms – plus what he would have chosen for a big-budget wedding like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's…

1. What are the biggest wedding music mistakes you've come across? 

Who wouldn't want a mid-meal sing-along? Jonny emphasised the importance of having music during the meal, which he predicts is going to be the next big trend in the wedding industry.

"I think the wedding breakfast is the opportunity for an unexpected party," he said. "My band has just put together a package where we play acoustic-style background music during the meal, and then in between and after courses we play big sing-along anthems, roam around the room, stand on seats and put on a huge party. It's so much fun; when customers book it, it's the day's highlight.

"No one expects it," he added. "I think this concept will be the new wedding music trend by next year."

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2. How do you choose a live band or DJ for your wedding?

Unless you have a specific person or band in mind, it's hard to know where to start when choosing the right musicians, especially since Jonny said, "most bands only play private events."

Jonny Ross

Jonny Ross gave his top tips for choosing your wedding music

In order to prevent couples being disappointed with their choice on the day, he suggests heading to events where you can watch bands perform in advance and get a true taste for their style. For example, his company puts on Music Showcase Evenings which attract around 200 couples and "feature over 8 acts in one night in a Jools Holland format where they play one after one another."

3. How much does a wedding band or DJ cost? 

This is where it gets tricky! Every couple has their own budget, but Jonny suggested that music is one of the most memorable parts of a wedding, and it's therefore worth investing a little more of your budget.

"A 4-5 piece band costs anywhere from £1,500-£1,800. For bands with more extensive lineups and additional singers, you can pay anything within the region of £2,500-£6,000," the music pro explained.

"My advice would not be to cut any costs on entertainment. Whilst it naturally seems very biased, according to a survey from our 4,000 plus previous customers, the three main things couples and their guests remember the most are the music, the food and the ceremony. If you're looking to cut costs, consider what suppliers matter to you and how you will look back on your wedding.

"Think about the best weddings you have been to and why you valued them as 'good weddings,'" he added. "Nine times out of ten, you will remember a wedding fondly because it was a great party!"

4. How far in advance should you book your wedding band?

Once you find your ideal band or DJ, you'll want to secure them as soon as possible, but with the venue, caterers and more all expecting deposits, it's bound to put a financial stress on you and your partner. However, you may not need to pay the money in full upfront. 

couple dancing beach

Music can be a great addition to your wedding ceremony

"We find that our most popular bands get booked up at least 18 months in advance," Jonny said. "If you find a supplier you love, my advice is to secure them immediately. If you're struggling to put several deposits down all at once, most suppliers will allow you to spread payments over a few months, so don't be afraid to ask."

5. Are there certain etiquette rules when it comes to your wedding music?

"The more progressive the industry has got, the fewer rules there are. If you're having a civil ceremony, throw the rule book out and make the ceremony what you want it to be," he said, before explaining that one of his clients recently chose to swap hymns for popular songs such as Hey Jude, Wonderwall and Can't Take My Eyes Off You.

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6. Speaking of rules, how important is it to have a 'must play list' and 'do not play' list?

Jonny's advice? Trust the professionals to do their job. "I don't think it's essential to give them a list. If you hire a good band or DJ, they will know what gets your guests onto the dance floor," he said.

That doesn't mean you can't suggest "songs matter to you as a couple" but he recommended giving them the freedom to play what keeps people on the dancefloor. 

7. What technical problems should you check with the venue?

"If you're looking for a wedding venue, you must ask them if there are any noise restrictions. If it is anything under 90dB it's crucial to let your entertainment know so they can plan around it and bring the best speakers to work around the limitations.

"When you book your entertainment, I would also ask them how much space they need so that the venue can account for them in the room plan," he said.

kate william wedding

Jonny discussed what music he would have chosen for the royal wedding

8. If you had the opportunity to organise the music at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's royal wedding, what would you have chosen?

Jonny and his band, known as The Jonny Ross Band, played for Prince William and Kate Middleton at the Tour de France opening ceremony at Harewood House in 2014, which he described as "a true highlight of my career." So what music would he have put together for the royals in 2011, no expense spared?

"Oooh, that's a difficult one!" he joked. "I actually would book a wedding cover band. Whilst they would have a limitless budget to book touring musicians, a wedding is an entirely different kettle of fish. I would have booked The Marc & Abi Band; they're the best band I've ever seen at a wedding." Jonny described them as "very unique, "fun" and "interactive."

9. Based on your own experience as a groom, do you have any top tips for choosing your wedding songs?

Speaking of his own wedding ceremony with his wife Ellie, Jonny replied: "We picked a song (Holocene by Bon Iver) that was special to us, and some of our musician friends played an arrangement of it with Saxophone, guitar and piano. As cheesy as it sounds, it was one of the most memorable parts of our day and it still makes us soppy when we hear it being played. It set the scene for a ceremony and was personal to us."

He added that first dances don't always have to be to slow, romantic songs. "Whilst that's a lovely idea, don't be afraid to consider having a more upbeat song to set the party's tone. A couple of songs to consider are You Are The Best Thing by Ray La Montagne and Too Late To Turn Back Now by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose. They're great songs and will get your guests involved and ready for a big party!" he concluded.

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