Poll Your Peers
Ask friends and family members for recommendations on ceremony musicians
and reception DJs and bands
from weddings they've recently attended. There's nothing like a wedding guest to give you an unbiased point of view -- find out who was on the dance floor and who wasn't.
Analyze the Acoustics
Whom you hire depends on where you'll marry. You can't really have string instruments on the beach or your violinist might be drowned out by the crashing waves. Similarly, a classic formal event will lend itself to big-band sounds, which you would have a tough time fitting under a small tent for 100 people in your backyard. If you're marrying in a public place (say, a park), noise restrictions may apply (also true for at-home weddings).
Hear Them First
It's absolutely necessary to see and hear your musicians before you book them: Prior to signing any papers be sure to ask for a videotape and/or sample, or if you can, see them perform live. If you've been given a demo CD, make sure you find out who exactly is on the recording -- which singers, how many instruments. If they're showcasing the all-star 12-piece band, and you're interested in the 9-piece ensemble, the sound may not be an accurate sample.
Think About Overtime
Bands and DJs are typically hired for four hours, but if you think your reception might last longer, consider booking them for five hours. If you spontaneously decide to have them stay longer, you could incur steep overtime fees.
get everything in writing! This includes the names and contact information of your performers; the wedding date and location; and the hours the musicians should play. Agree on a total price (minus any deposit you may have already submitted) and costs for overtime. Document requests for the number (and length) of breaks.
Pick With Personality
Sure, you've got your first-dance song settled; and you've always wanted to dance with your dad to "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder. But what about other custom tunes of the night? One for the cake-cutting, one for the bouquet toss, one for your exit dance? Have a little fun with it -- playing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" while you slice into your wedding cake will be a sweet treat.
The Do-Not-Play List
Probably more important than your "play" list -- make your DJ or band swear up and down that they will follow it no matter how much cash Aunt Milly is waving.
While you're dancing, whisper soothing things to each other and keep each other grounded, because your adrenaline is going to be going so fast. Also, make sure videographers and photographers stay off of the dance floor -- if they get too close, it can be a major distraction and catch you off guard.
Burn, Baby, Burn
If you're using a prerecorded CD for your first-dance song, write down the name of the song and track number for the person in charge of hitting play. Or, better yet, make everyone's life easier and copy the song on a blank CD so there's no mistake. Just bring a back-up CD in case there's a problem with the cue.
Don't forget to talk to your DJ or bandleader about what he (and/or the group) plans on wearing for your event. Divas in mini skirts may worry your grandma.
See More: Wedding Music + Dancing