Andy Kushner, an outside-the-box bandleader based near Washington, DC, plays regularly at high-profile parties (for Charlie Gibson, Donald Trump). Here, his tips for wedding music to wow your guests.
What's the best way to find your ideal band or DJ?
Ask your wedding planner or other vendors which ones they recommend. They work with musicians every weekend, so they're by far the best judges. If you're looking for a band, let them know you want a high-energy one with singers who move around the stage. Typical bands stand in place and sing, but movement really adds excitement.
What are some strategies for narrowing your options?
Ask to see the band's or DJ's song list, and make sure it includes current Top 40 tunes. Also ask how they entertain a crowd at a wedding. Do they involve the guests? It's often awkward for strangers to stop by someone's party to hear the music, so I recommend basing your decision on referrals and the pros' opinions, aside from watching demo tapes. If you must see the entertainment in person, the band or DJ should get permission from the couple. Dress appropriately and be discreet. (No helping yourselves to food and drinks!)
What wedding music trends are you seeing?
Technology has improved, so some performers are now using in-ear monitors, which means a cleaner stage and better control of the stage volume. With this equipment, the band doesn't need speakers to hear themselves with, or cables or instrument amplifiers. There's also a lot more personalization going on. The style of the party can dictate everything, from the way your musicians dress to the material that's played. Even the colors of the room can be incorporated into the musicians' or DJ's attire. This was rarely taken into consideration before.
How can the ceremony be customized?
Choose a different instrument combination than the usual string trio or solo piano, such as an acoustic guitar with a flute player or a jazz harpist with an acoustic bass player and cellist. And consider instrumental versions of your rock favorites.
Is there a musical mistake couples sometimes make?
The biggest one is putting too many popular songs on their do-not-play list. You may not like “September,” “I Will Survive,” “We are Family” and “YMCA,” but you know what? They pack the dance floor. Allow some of them!
Do you have any final advice for brides and grooms?
Be sure to express to your band or DJ your vision for the party, as well as the type of crowd. The more information we have, the more we can personalize your party. On the wedding day, try to let go of the details and trust the pros you've hired. Free yourself up to enjoy it all.
KUSHNER'S TOP TIPS
Listen to lyrics. Your first-dance song should express how you feel about each other or strike a memory. Beware of love songs that are actually about a former flame or an affair.
Be fluid. People walk away as a song ends, so request little or no break between tunes.
Set the pace. Plan your cake cutting exactly between the end of the entrée and the end of the party, creating two evenly spaced dance sets.