To view more expert advice on a different topic, please select one from the list below.
Al fresco romance
Q. We would love to have a harpist at our outdoor wedding. Is there anything we should consider before booking?
A. Helen Barley says: Having a harp for an outdoor wedding is an excellent choice, but you need to check with the harpist that they can cope with the problems which may arise in a garden or woodland setting. If they have a harp which is suitable for the terrain at your chosen venue, consider the following: Will the harp be damaged by the rain or sun?
Will the venue provide shelter for the harpist? I have often played at venues where there is cover for the wedding party and the guests, but the musicians and photographer are left in the rain. My solution is to have a carbon-fibre harp with gold plated levers, so none of it is damaged by the weather.
If your supplier has a full-sized concert harp, is there reasonable access on a level path for pushing a heavy harp on a trolley? Will there be a level and firm base for the harp to stand on?
There may not be any power points available, so a good wireless amplifier will be very helpful, especially with a gut-strung soft-toned harp playing for large numbers. A wireless amplifier, with a wireless transmitter, can be hidden discreetly behind bushes and not seen. A carbon-fibre harp is also a great option as it has nylon strings with a very bright sound, which carries really well outdoors.
Will they use digital music or paper music? If the latter, the wind can be a real problem.
These are the logistical considerations that I have discovered over recent years, with far more outdoor weddings now than there used to be. However, the main consideration must be that you enjoy the music that your harpist plays and have a good rapport with them. I would highly recommend meeting your harpist in person and hearing them play before booking.
Helen Barley, Helen Barley Harpist
Strings of love
Q. What should we ask a harpist before booking?
A. Helen Barley says: Begin by asking if the supplier charges by the hour or by part of the day? Weddings rarely run on time, so it's a good idea to check that the harpist won't suddenly stop and depart after two hours!
Are they willing to play the kind of music that you like? Can they provide you with sample clips or videos of them performing and are they willing to learn a piece of music of your choice?
You will need to discuss whether or not you will need amplification. Most harpists can provide their own, but some venues can help with this if not. Be aware that marquees tend to absorb sound, so amplification is recommended.
Can they play outdoors? This should be discussed at your first consultation if you're planning an outdoor wedding, so that they have time to plan logistics, transportation and protection for the harp. Most harpists require a flat, stable surface and shelter from the sun and rain, so you would need to ensure that the venue is aware of this before you book.
Would the supplier allow you to visit his/her home to see and hear the harps before booking? Also, find out if a home consultation to assist in music choices is included in the price quoted.
Helen Barley, Helen Barley Harpist
Dance the night away
Q. We have guests of all ages coming to our wedding, and we want a band that will keep them all entertained. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Charlotte Robertson says: Live music is an essential component to your wedding. The atmosphere generated by a live band is incomparable and is a sure-fire way of getting everyone onto the dancefloor. Choosing a wedding band who'll keep everyone entertained can be tricky, so we suggest you hire a pop and rock band. These versatile groups will likely play everything from 50s rock 'n' roll, to soul classics and indie anthems as well as modern chart hits, so there's something for everyone to enjoy.
Alternatively, an acoustic folk band would also work really well. They tend to have similar repertoires to pop and rock bands but add a folky twist to each song. They'll turn up in rustic attire, making them perfect for barn-style weddings.
Before you choose a band, search through their repertoire or sample set list to get a feel for what they are likely to play. If you're struggling to decide, then by all means phone an agency to ask for suggestions – they'll be more than happy to help!
Charlotte Robertson, Entertainment Nation
Music to my ears
Q. My wife-to-be and I are thinking of booking our entertainment, but we're a bit worried about hiring someone that we've never met. What are the benefits of going through an agency?
A. Steven Robertson says: Finding your dream wedding entertainment can be a tough job, especially if you're feeling anxious about booking an act you've never heard live. It's perfectly natural to feel like this, and it's something that many couples experience. Booking though a reputable agency is one of the best decisions you'll make throughout the entire wedding planning process. The musicians are top quality, whether you choose to book a rustic acoustic folk band, a modern dance band or a captivating classical musician, you can rest assured they'll be of the highest calibre. At Entertainment Nation, all our acts have been vetted by industry experts and we only work with bands who have experience and talent in abundance, so you're guaranteed a fabulous performance and a full dancefloor.
Agencies are there to help you choose your band and help you throughout the entire booking process. There are no silly questions so ask away!
One of the best reasons to book with a respected agency is that your booking is safe. You will receive a secure contract and a backup plan for any unforeseen circumstances, such as a band member being sick. An agency booking protects against these types of mishap, meaning you can relax and focus on enjoying your day.
The videos of each act are a true reflection of their performance and will give you a great idea of how the band will look and sound on your wedding day.
If you're still not convinced, read verified reviews from real couples on sites like Trustpilot, Facebook, and Google for an insight into what to expect.
Steven Robertson, Entertainment Nation
The sounds of love
Q. We'd love some live music at our drinks reception, but don't want anything too intrusive as guests will want to chat and catch up. We're considering a harpist, but what are the benefits?
A. Helen Barley says: Having live background music at a drinks reception can really help set the atmosphere and put people at ease, so that they can feel relaxed while chatting to family and friends.
Something non-intrusive and not too loud would allow for conversations to be enjoyed without having to raise voices. I have played the harp at many drinks receptions and found it to be the perfect instrument for setting the scene, while not drowning out normal exchanges between the guests.
Amplification can be useful in some circumstances, and all of my harps have electric pick-ups, but unless the number of guests is above 100, I have seldom found it necessary.
It's worth considering the space you're using and how many musicians can be accommodated. Obviously, a harp takes up less room than a group of instruments and can generally fit in a corner quite well.
Outside drinks receptions can be really spectacular in the right setting, and once again the harp comes into its own. I have a lightweight carbon-fibre harp which I can carry in one hand, making it ideal to easily pick up and move into whichever part of the garden you are using. It also has the advantage of being impervious to sun or rain, so there will be no panics to run inside if a shower should appear. It's sound is easily equal to that of my larger concert harps and carries well in an outdoor space.
Repertoire on the harp and many instruments can be varied and tailored to the genre of music you desire. A wide selection of styles will ensure that every guest will hear music to suit their tastes at some point.
When choosing an instrument, it's worth considering access, drop off points and parking before booking to assist your proposed entertainer in deciding the logistics.
Helen Barley, Helen Barley Harpist
Q. Like many couples, our wedding has been postponed due to the pandemic, and we're having to re-book our entertainment. What should we take into consideration before booking?
A. Mark Tolliss says: Make sure you have complete clarity over the what-ifs. Due to the circumstances, your deposit or booking fee should be fully returnable.
You'll need to discuss the availability of your wedding and the dates they have available, as so many events and weddings have been postponed to 2021 and 2022 those dates will be getting very full already. Finally, your deposit or booking fee that you paid for on the initial date should hold for the re-booked date. If you're booking completely new entertainment for your wedding, you need to find a supplier that reflects your personalities and brings out the fun side in you. Make sure you click with your entertainer before booking or paying any money. I always say to my clients that if they don't feel comfortable around someone, don't use them! That one person will give a different feel to your day, so it's not worth taking the risk.
Make sure the entertainment you book will be flexible enough to offer what you want from your big day. Take their advice, but you need to be involved in the decisions as well, so you must find a balance.
Mark Tolliss, Mark Tolliss Entertainments
Dance the night away
Q. My hubby-to-be and I are looking for fun entertainment that will appeal to everyone. Do you have any ideas?
A. Alice Winstone says: There are so many options available to keep your guests entertained, whatever they're interests are. Don't forget, while it's important that your friends and family have a great time, make it about you too!
It doesn't matter how old you are, nobody is immune to the wonder of a magician. There's something mesmerising about them that you just can't beat. Plus, it's entertainment that everyone can join in with.
Look for pop and rock bands. They usually feature contemporary chart hits alongside golden oldies from the 50s and 60s and everything in between. There's something to keep everyone superglued to the dancefloor. Don't compromise your diverse music taste, pick a band that can do it all.
Brighten up your evening reception with summery vibes from a folk-style band. They inject their feel-good energy into just about any song you can think of including modern and soul favourites to indie-rock classics. Their happy-go-lucky attitude and sound can create the best night ever.
Alice Winstone, Entertainment Nation