Live music is what sets an extraordinary day apart from an ordinary one so why not consider hiring a band for your wedding? There’s just something magical about having a string quartet playing romantic music before the ceremony, making the guests feel lovey-dovey just before the bride walks down the aisle. Or, perhaps getting everyone pumped up and in the mood for a party during the drinks reception. And of course, nothing makes people get their groove on on the dance floor better than a percussionist with the right beats and awesome energy.

The question now is, how do you find the right musician for your big day? For many couples, this is a difficult task especially if neither person in the couple has experienced hiring a live performer before. Not to mention along with choosing a musician, you have a gazillion other decisions to make! Formidable as it may seem, you and your partner should not take this one decision lightly — remember: the music on your wedding day is a huge factor in making it unforgettable and enjoyable.

So, to take away a bit of the stress you are feeling right now, we will simplify it for you. Here is a list of things you should be thoughtful about in your search.

What kind of music do you want to have played on specific parts of your big day?
Typically, you’d want something mellow before the ceremony, just as everyone is settling in their seats, a livelier tune during the drinks reception, and something to make everyone’s booty shake after dinner. That said, it’s best to find a band that can play all the kinds of music you have in mind.

On your initial interview of the band or musician, bring a list of songs you hope to be played on different parts of the wedding so you can show it to them. What if I don’t know what kind of music is best for my big day? What if I have very few songs in mind? In this case, as the band what the usual requests are and listen to them later. These days though, Brazilian music with lots of drumming is big on wedding receptions. Its beat and energy just gets everybody going!

Band size
Bands can be big or small — some may even have up to 16 players including the vocalist! So your decision on this will be largely influenced by your budget and your venue. While you might have the budget for a big band with all the works, you still have to consider if they will fit in the venue or if the venue has the acoustics suited for the band. Larger bands can of course play a wide variety of music but a jazz quartet can accomplish just as much!

Separate bands?
Of course it is possible for you to hire two different sets of musicians for your big day especially if the type of music you want for the ceremony is something the band for your reception cannot play. Bear in mind though that this is extra work (and cost) on your part. Separate auditions, meetings, billing, set ups… If you find dealing with one band already complicated, then expect  it to be more difficult for two.

How about getting a separate vocalist? Maybe you know an excellent singer that you want to croon your guests on your big day, however he/she does not have his/her own band. Is it a good idea to your singer perform with another band? Yes, this might work… if they have ample of time to practice. And we don’t mean a night of practice. Bands that play so well together practice for months, if not years, to deliver a solid performance. That’s why it’s risky to hire a separate vocalist and band. Your best bet? Go with a band that has been together for quite a while.

Ask for samples
Whether you plan to go big or small with your group of musicians, do not forget to ask for sample music. Ask if you can see a video of them performing at a wedding so you can get a better sense of their sound and style. Better yet, go see them at a gig if your schedule permits.

Entertainment agencies
Another way you can make choosing a band for your wedding easier is by going to an entertainment agency. They will take care of everything, from the band itself right down to the set-up (stage decor, sound system, instruments) for a fee. Plus they usually have a Plan B for emergencies since these guys have seen it all before. Nevertheless, don’t forget to consider the points above when talking to the agency; they remain just as important.

While it feels like an agency can alleviate some of the stress of planning your day but it will take too big of a chunk off your budget, you can opt for professional bands outside an agency. Musicians and bands that have been in the game for years also have established routines for weddings and have an action plan should something not go according to the original plan.

Read the fine print
Professional bands usually already have a contract drawn up. If the one you decide to go with one that does not have, then it’s probably a bad idea. It is also possible that you create the contract.

A good contract should be comprehensive. It should entail all the details of the employment including all the names of the members of the band, the kind of music that they will play (even the songs, if you like), the logistics, the arrival, the set-up, the break times, their food, the departure time, attire, transportation, possibility of overtime play, and of course, the cost of everything.