Wedding Entertainment That Rocks!

Dale Weeks Photography

March 13, 2020

Looking for unique wedding entertainment inspiration? Here are some hot hacks that will help you make your wedding reception one to remember.

We’ve all bee there – the same cookie cutter wedding reception with a DJ or lacklustre band churning out the same cheesy tracks without tailoring it to the crowd or the couple in the slightest. As you’ve picked up Rock n Roll Bride magazine, I’d imagine that the chances are this is not what you have in mind for your own wedding. So, here are some fun and left-field wedding entertainment suggestions that you might not have thought of.

Book a throwback band

My 5ive-obsessed fiancé put me onto this idea when the boyband reformed as a trio and started performing at some retro festivals across the UK. Traditional wedding bands can be one of the costliest parts of a wedding day and the problem is, you’re likely to hear pretty predictable songs that have been doing the circuit on weddings that summer (and in some instances for the last decade!).

Instead, why not consider booking your favourite ‘past their prime’ pop act, or a lesser-known band that still goes out on tour? Go direct to the management to get the best price. It will still take a sizeable chunk of your budget (but so will a normal band) and the pay-off is something totally unusual, rarely seen at weddings and totally memorable. Follow it up with a set from your DJ that fits the vibe (hello 90s pop!) before leading into your wider playlist.

Mix in a DJ set from your favourite themed club night

Are there any club nights that you and your partner love going to? Consider having a music ‘theme’ for one portion of your DJ set, or look to book a DJ from that night. Whether it’s garage, power ballads or disco, it’s a great way to switch your music up during your reception.

As one of the co-founders of Hungry Heart, an all Bruce Springsteen club night (yes really!) I love it when the couple are really into every song they are hearing and ultimately, if the couple are on the dancefloor shout-singing to their favourite artists, it’s a sure-fire way to keep your dancefloor full and moving.

Tribute performances

Can’t get enough of Beyonce/Britney/Cher/Tina Turner? Me too. OK, so booking the real deal is a multi-million pound affair, but a solo tribute act is a brilliant way to kick off the wedding entertainment, and a real party starter. This can also help alleviate budget stress – ultimately booking a solo act over a band reduces costs as the fee isn’t split between the group. Set aside some budget for some proper lighting for a real spectacle.

Get around venue noise curfews with your own silent disco

Noise curfews can be a big issue at venues, especially at city weddings with residential areas nearby. A great way to dodge the dilemma is with a silent disco; allocate an extra 90 minutes of dancing time by handing over headsets to your guests. The novelty will give them renewed energy after a day full of champagne and prosecco, and will keep them dancing to the early hours. Your DJ should be able to handle the logistics of this easily for you, or there are specific silent disco companies you can hire.

Get your guests to DJ

Important point to note: this definitely doesn’t mean handing over the entire wedding reception music to an amateur DJ. I’ve seen this happen too many times and it can really ruin a reception. Ultimately, wedding suppliers come with specialist skills, knowledge and experience that a rookie simply does not have.

What this does mean is utilising your booked DJ to help your crowd get involved. So, instead of having your guests RSVP with a song they want to hear on the night (which is a fairly regular
occurrence now), instead give your guests the option to DJ for a small portion of the night, with your booked DJ in situ overseeing the process. This does take a lot of management from your DJ’s side (so always ask in advance if this is an option instead of throwing it at them on the night), but it’s a great point of difference from other weddings, and gives some of your guests
the chance to go to town with some awesome song choices. Amazing pictures are guaranteed, too.

Think big with production

You know when you go to see your favourite band or artist perform you’re getting to hear amazing music, but a big part of the show is that you’re also wowed by incredible lighting and
production. Think the same with your wedding. While the music is all-important, so is the atmosphere. So, set aside as much budget as you can for dancefloor lighting and effects. These can range from uplighters which create drama (and colour) around the room to mirror balls for a super cool glittering disco effect and hazers. They will really ramp up the impact of your lighting, and create subtle diffusion effects and they’re a great idea if you haven’t been able to put a huge amount of cash into the lighting budget.

Ultimately, there aren’t many people who feel hugely comfortable cruising around a dancefloor that’s been lit with standard bright ceiling lights or fairy lights. Proper lighting, which a professional DJ company can supply, will create atmosphere, drama and add to the awesomeness of pictures.

Speaking of awesomeness: confetti cannons. Confetti shouldn’t be limited to that ‘walk out of the ceremony’ moment. Your DJ can set them off during certain ‘big moments’ in key songs, giving you another amazing photo opp beyond your first dance.

Make the most of your DJ throughout the day

Yes, it’s a bit boring to talk cabling, speakers and subs, but there’s no point piling money into one part of your music setup and neglecting the rest. While in theory you can look to use some Bose or equivalent speakers to play a setlist through the earlier parts of the day, ultimately DJs come with the skills and equipment to smooth over any sound glitches you might encounter, and not have predicted.

For example, an outdoor ceremony will require good speakers and microphones, as opposed to a small speaker that’s normally in your kitchen and soon becomes redundant at the slightest breeze or mooing cow in the distance. Consider the added value that a DJ and their expertise and equipment can add to your day – it often doesn’t cost a huge amount more to have them on site from earlier in the day to look after all of this stuff for you, so that you and your friends and family can focus on the most important bit – partying and having an amazing time!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jon Beck, founder of Redline DJs & Entertainment, is a self-confessed music nerd. As lead singer in an electro-pop band he has supported acts including Erasure and the Human League on their worldwide tours, while also playing at Bestival and Secret Garden Party. Jon is also lead DJ for the world’s only Bruce Springsteen-dedicated club night, Hungry Heart. Give him a call or drop him a line via redlinedjs.com.

This article originally appeared in issue 29 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine, a back issue of which can be purchased here. The current issue is now available on the high street or to order via rocknrollbride.com/shop.

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100 comments

  1. I have photographed 500+ weddings so would class myself as experienced.
    When i started in the early 80’s i spent £2000 on medium format equipment, which was the best camera for the job at that time. Amateurs would not pay that amount for the camera, and as a result you images were far superior to “guests” images. If these so called photographers could not look at any of the images they had taken until they were processed(like us pro’s in the 80’s) I don’t think they would have the confidence,We had the expertise to expose the film and pose the pictures correctly, and we only took about 60 pictures the whole wedding!!

  2. Great wedding photography is also about people skills and organisation. After years in the business I still went to seminars and always came back with a little more I learned.
    I have been brought images taken by “a friend” and asked if I can sort them out as they are crap. I won’t tell you my answer.

  3. I’m going to bookmark this blog and send it to every bride that tells me that our services are too expensive. You get what you pay for…

  4. It should be obvious that you get what you pay for, but I think the pricing for good photography can feel steep to some people. It is an odd business, as it is (on the high end) a luxury business that revolves around having relatively few clients per year and just putting a lot of work into each client to make sure they are supremely satisfied with both the service and the images. The issue is that when you do it right photos really look effortless. That said I don’t think that people should break the bank on their photographer. Having the best should not be your priority if it’s going to really affect financially.

  5. David Jones

    Honestly most women complained about their photographer regardless of how much they pay I have friends that paid 3,000 and their wives complained and I also have friends that paid 8,000 and there wives still complained.. This is the most important day of your life granted, however i dont think people invest in cheap photography because they dont want they exclusive 8-10k photographer. Its like do you think the people driving in a honda civic wouldn’t prefer to drive the ferrari, ofcourse they would. Women guilt their husbands to spending way to much money on an event that lasts 5 hours. And photographers charge you way more money just because they can, taking the same poses/combinateions for a sweet sixteen is half the price. There are amazing photographers out there who take spectacular wedding photos for under $1,000 i know because i searched forever and found one. Make your decision based on their portfolio and what you can afford. dont shy away from an amazing photographer just because she is less expensive.

  6. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had couples come to me & say they want to book a great photographer because they know a bride & groom that had a bad experience hiring someone cheap & inexperienced.
    As you say, not a good idea to overspend, but to budget for the best photographer you can afford…in my opinion (but then I would say this as I’m a photographer myself) even if that’s at the expense of the cake or car you’ll have for the day rather than for life

  7. THANK YOU for saying what so many of us photographers have been saying for a long time. While there are wedding photographers all across the board to hit every budget, brides just need to remember that if they do choose the “cheaper” option they themselves have no one else to blame if something goes wrong.

  8. Stop booking cheap anything and then complaining about it.
    You get exactly what you pay for. Be it your godmothers flowers, your friends free dj skills, or your sisters day of planning.

    Hire professionals and stop mixing in the crap.

  9. Like every one else I read the headline and jumped to the conclusions that everyone else did – cheap photographer etc etc. However after reading the photographers very personal and public response on FB I felt awful for believing everything I read. The pictures she shared were great for a £500 photographer but of course the paper didn’t show those ones? 45 mins late – yet she captured the bride getting ready and her arrival at the church?

    But I completely agree with the point Kat is making – when doing your research you cannot expect to go for the cheapest price and get the most expensive product – life doesn’t work that way x

  10. Lynn

    I experienced this as the photographer around 15 years ago. Back before digital and people were still using film. I was a student and photography wasn’t my major, it was a hobby. But a friend of friend was getting married and asked if I would take pictures for her wedding. I hesitated accepting the job because, I wasn’t a professional and this was a memory she was supposed to have for the rest of her life. She insisted that it wasn’t that important to her and that she just wanted someone there to take pictures on the day. I charged $150 for the job. $100 of that went towards film and processing. I used two cameras so that when I ran out of film on one I could just switch to the other. Well something was wrong with one of the cameras and the pictures taken with it had a black bar on the bottom of it. The bride was livid and wanted her money back. I apologized and said this was why I didn’t want to do the job in the first place because something could go wrong. I also said I didn’t have her money since most of it paid for film and processing and as a student that $50 was long gone. I never advertised as a photographer or even offered my services, I was basically badgered into taking the job then accused of ruining someone’s wedding.

  11. The money we spent on our wonderful photographers (McKinley Rodgers) was worth every penny. They were so lovely on the day and created the most beautiful images – even though I spent my wedding day with food poisoning (argh!) they did such a skilled job of making me look healthy and happy – I wouldn’t have changed them for the world. Best thing we spent money on! X

  12. Yes,i can’t agree with this more! And the same about our gowns.The cheap thing you are happy when you see the price and pay for it but unhappy when you see the real things in hand.

  13. Andy

    Whilst we’re on the subject, wedding magazines, blogs & venues are also culpable. They publicise, recommend & persuade couples to hire sub-standard photographers purely because those photographers either pay a commission to be recommended or they’re advertising clients. Couples are ‘duped’ as often by these (often rather expensive) one-hit-wonders & part with sometimes substantial amounts of cash based on nothing more than their 5 minutes of fame online. Some of the work that’s routinely churned out by many so-called ‘pros’ is nothing short of embarrassing.

    I personally think it’s worse when someone charging a great deal, falls way short of expectation.

  14. Absolutely!

    You choose to spend only £500 on a student photographer to document your wedding and frankly you should have no expectations whatsoever.

    That said, if one is charging for one’s services one should act prfessioally regardless of the amount invoved

  15. Really interesting article. I have read people saying “it doesn’t matter that the photographer cost £500… she charged so the pictures should have been professional.”. But no they shouldn’t. You get what you pay for. The fact the girl was cheap means you are getting someone who can’t charge the going rate… for a reason. A lesson to potential brides and people who think they are “professional” photographers. And before I get a million responses saying that this is not the case and that there are great photographers out there charging £500… yes there may well be, but for every great £500 photographer out there, there are 999 absolutely awful ones who should be saying they are a photographer let alone a professional photographer.

  16. I agree. Anyone who hires a jackleg needs to accept their share of the responsibility for that risky decision and realize you get what you pay for. Hard lesson.

  17. alex

    If you read the all story, there are 2 versions of this story. She sent more then 250 photos to the clients and not 15, and much of the photos the press is showning on that wedding are in fact photos taken by FRIENDS of the bride at the wedding and not the photograph (thus, the poor quality).
    Seems to me some journalist made a total invention to gain notoriety. Trash tabloids. nothing more.
    You should read the real version of the story as explained by the photograph and not this weird married couple… They had their nice wedding photos…300 of theme… what are they after ? fame ? money from press magazines ? Maybe.

  18. The issue is that there is NO barrier of entry into professional photography. Like other readers have said – I spent thousands of thousands of dollars on “pro” equipment back in the day that is now replaced by cameras 10x as good and 1/4 of the price. Add to that the sheer amount of average/poor images we see on a daily basis thanks to the phones, and peoples ability to judge a great photo has declined rapidly. It’s very sad. And whats worse is that there are some talented shooters out there who want to work for cheap, thus driving down the rates for the entire industry. What I’ve seen is that those photographers, who once worked for cheap, now want to get paid more but they cant because they shot themselves in the foot. We, as an industry, have shot ourselves in the foot.

  19. Wedding pro

    So right. It’s your wedding, your money, your consequences. It’s too often we see champagne dreams on a beer budget. If you don’t have a lot of money, do some diligent research on your vendors. Ask questions, look at reviews, look at past work. It’s great to find people who are newer in the industry who are truly dedicated to provide great service and who will work for less to build their experience. However, hiring inexperienced vendors does not guarantee all will go flawlessly. The true pros that charge professional rates are the ones that bring that to the table. You can’t compare the two. Order a burger from McDonald’s and it will feed you. It may be sloppily thrown together, may be missing the lettuce because someone new is training on the line. But it’s a $4 burger. So you know what to expect. Eat it. Now if you order a $18 burger from a steakhouse, it better be cooked and presented perfectly, accompanied by great service. If there’s an issue you have a legitimate complaint. Same goes with wedding vendors. We are not all the same exact burger and experience.

  20. Claire

    It’s not just the photos, it’s the experience on the day. My Uncle is doing our photos as our wedding gift, and he’s not a professional photographer (Shock horror! You’ll regret that, most important day of your life, don’t cry when it all goes horrifically wrong etc etc). However, he did the same for my brother a few years ago, and it was so lovely having him do the photos. He’s been the photographer at loads of weddings of friends and family, not because he’s the best photographer in the world (he’s certainly not terrible though) but because he’s amazing at putting large groups of people at ease (he’s a policeman by day) and he’s fun! There’s no uncomfortable smiles or fakery, because everyone knows him and he’s a laugh. That’s worth more to me than a few arty shots of my shoes or someone who knows their way round Photoshop.

  21. Stephanie McKenna

    Package price is not always indicative of quality work. There are some photographers that charge way too much, in my opinion, for photographs that are not technically great. They charge for their artistic “talents.” I know that I will be underpaid for 2016, but I’m taking the hit so I can have a well-rounded portfolio with a constant flow of weddings throughout the year, so that for 2017 and beyond my pricing structure is grounded. I know “newbies” can have awful work, but on the same note so can the “pros.”

  22. Such a brilliant and important article – every bride and groom need to read this!! Not to show them that they should hire a professional wedding photographer (because I totally understand that not everyone can afford one) but just so that they are aware what the possible consequences of getting your friend or someone “who is just starting out” to shoot your wedding are!! Would love to use this as a guest blog post on my blog 🙂 xx

  23. I can say the title is straight to the point! Having read the post, I am not sure I agree with everything you have said. Cheap does not always mean bad standard. However, in reality it probably does. You have many brilliant photographers trying to break into the market and in order to achieve this they undercut many of the professional ones. Would it be correct to say we all had to start somewhere? The answer is yes. In balance not everyone can spend £2000 on a wedding photographer as you have brides and grooms who might only have this budget for the entire wedding. To conclude I think the market is open to variety of different price points and it’s down to the bride and groom to make the choice which is most suited to them. On the flip side you are correct to say if you go for a cheap photographer then risk is much higher. For this reason you should not be too surprised if the images don’t turn out the way you had wished for.

  24. Wow, I could not agree more! Just last week I was approached at a wedding by a couple with a sob story about how they had been let down by their photographer. I was horrified so asked “who did you book?” They replied “Can’t remember his name but it was a deal on Groupon” My sympathy instantly vanished. Great post as ever

  25. So true and well written Kat. I’m always amazed when I get enquiries and discuss all the lovely things they want from their wedding – vintage bus, gorgeous church and country house, vintage dress – and then say they can’t believe how much photographers cost, budget of £500!!!

  26. Firstly, the Daily Mail loves a story about a nasty photographer ruining a bride’s big day, so a pinch of salt is required when reading such stories. “You get what you pay for” is an absolutely false statement in the area of photography as it assumes that a higher price equals better quality, service etc. Does anyone really think that a high key family portrait taken by Venture Portraits and costing £750 is necessarily better than one taken by another photographer in his studio that costs £400? Venture photographers are employed because of their affability and selling skills, not their skill with a camera. Some wedding photographers are expensive because they are good businessmen and are able to make the maximum amount per wedding. Others charge a lot because of high overheads but that does not mean that their work and service are better than someone who can thrive by charging less. As was said earlier, there are some brides/grooms who will always find fault regardless of what they paid for their photography; some people are just complainers and there’s always a tabloid waiting to publish their pain. It is wrong to assert that a relatively cheap wedding shoot will leave a bride disappointed whereas she’ll be overjoyed if she spent £2000 more. Due diligence, research and clarity about expectations is the key to couples being happy with their wedding photography.

  27. Great article but I think I would have to agree with Anthony Benjamin when he says ‘Due diligence, research and clarity about expectations is the key to couples being happy with their wedding photography.’ I think this is a very good point. There tends to be a certain amount of snobbery in the wedding photography industry in regards to the amount of money charged.
    If you pay a lot for a service there is no cast iron guarantee you will receive the amazing service that was promised.

  28. Sadly it is not going to stop. Digital makes it more and more accessible and FB makes it easier than ever to set up a business, show off a few images of your own (possibly more from the workshop you attended…). However, using the word ‘cheap” is a bit much for me. Everyone is on budget. Some are £££££££££ and others are just £.

  29. Excellent article and as others have said couples must be prepared to do the work necessary in terms of choosing carefully a photographer who provides everything they want at their budget.

  30. I think this is great Kat but all photographers start somewhere. There’s no harm in offering your services on a budget at first but make it very transparent to bride & groom as expectations are set and of course have a contract in place 🙂

  31. I came to this post after reading your tips on getting great wedding photos. Couldn’t agree more that couples should choose their photographer very carefully. After all, the only thing that’s left after the day is finished are the images!

  32. Great post! It seems that here in the UK, we’re well behind countries like the USA in terms of how wedding photography is valued. I see “decent enough” photographers over the pond charging $4,000 – $8,000+ and getting all the work they need. Wedding photography isn’t just about what you do with a camera, it’s who you are as a human being and what you bring to the atmosphere. Sometimes couples need to be gently prised open and encouraged – this is where the real wedding photographers excel. Getting the confidence of a couple and helping them to blossom isn’t anything to do with f stops and ISO!

  33. “You pay peanuts, and you get monkeys”, someone once said! But on a more serious note, there are some great points made in the article above, and in the comments. More than ever, particularly with couples increasingly turning to Instagram to find their photographer, it’s crucial that couples do their due diligence, and ask the right questions of their photographer. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a photographer that happens to be at the start of their journey as a professional, but couples should be clear about what they expect and photographers must be honest about what they can deliver.

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