Today’s insightful guest post comes from Steven Robertson of UK-based wedding entertainment agency Entertainment Nation. Enjoy!

Booking the right entertainment is more than just another box to be ticked on the wedding planning checklist. Choosing the perfect entertainment for each stage of your wedding day is crucial for setting your desired mood, keeping your guests entertained during slower parts of the day and, of course, for getting everyone up on the dance floor during your evening reception.

We know a thing or two about planning live entertainment, so we thought we’d share our tips on the best live wedding bands, musicians and performers to use for each part of your wedding day. If you want to hire a wedding band and don’t know where to start, or you’re in need of a little illumination on the multitude of options available to you, read on to discover more.

Wedding Ceremony

This is it. The big moment you’ve always dreamed on. You want to choose musicians who’ll help to make this momentous milestone perfect. The type of performers you choose will all depend upon the effect you’re trying to create. For a formal church affair, a string quartet, a gospel choir or classical singer are all romantic choices that’ll melt even the stoniest of hearts when they see you (or your bride) walking down the aisle. The tender strains of a string quartet or the purity of a classical singer reverberating around the eaves of a church are a beautiful backdrop to a bridal march.

If you want the sophisticated sound of a string quartet, but don’t know your Mahler from your Mozart, then why not ask your quartet to perform a classical arrangement of a contemporary song? Another option, if you want your ceremony to be a more modern affair, is to go for an acoustic guitar and vocal duo, who can play a live-lounge-style, stripped-back version of your entrance song. Your musicians will keep your guests occupied during the signing of the register, and can give you a joyful recession theme too. The entertainers you use during your ceremony can also stick around to provide some background music during your drinks reception… more on which next.

Afternoon Drinks Reception

Now you get to bask in your newly married status – and spend an hour or two with your official photographer getting your official shots done. Your afternoon drinks reception is the quiet interlude between the romance and excitement of the ceremony and the whirlwind of speeches and drinking and dancing that follow your wedding breakfast. The entertainment you choose here will depend on your personal tastes, the theme of your wedding and your venue.

Relaxed music tends to be popular as it doesn’t overpower the chatter of your guests as they mingle and catch up with one another (and compete to get an instant of your time to congratulate and compliment you!). If you used a string quartet or acoustic duo for your ceremony, they will be ideal to provide a chilled-out vibe. If your drinks reception is an outdoor summer affair, then an uplifting choice is a folk band in the vein of Mumford and Sons. These upbeat entertainers often offer a roaming option where they stroll amongst your guests, giving personal performances to selected throngs of family and friends.

Another outdoor option that guarantees a sunny atmosphere (if not actual sunny weather) is a steel pan band. The perfect complement to a wedding day cocktail, steel pan bands lend your afternoon drinks reception a taste of Caribbean joviality. If you can’t rely on the weather or are planning a winter wedding, a pianist beautifully accentuates the mood, especially in front of a roaring log fire in a stately home. Wedding pianists are impressively versatile performers, able to switch effortlessly between classical masterpieces, popular modern tunes and even the odd TV or movie theme (Game of Thrones is the most requested by far right now, unsurprisingly).

There’s no need to limit yourself to musicians during your afternoon drinks reception either; other performers such as caricaturists, jugglers and magicians will keep your guests entertained and set your wedding apart from the norm. Caricaturists usually end up being hugely popular – we’ve seen guests ignore the bar in favour of joining the queue to get themselves drawn. Unerringly accurate, and usually hilarious, these speedily sketched portraits are great fun and a whimsical memento of your wedding for your guests to treasure. Wedding magicians provide a great talking point. These entertainers astound with their tricks, but also get guests laughing with their witty repartee. Your guest will be puzzling over “how did he do that”? long into the wedding breakfast.

The Wedding Dinner

Dinner time! The focus here is on relaxing and recharging after the emotion of your ceremony… unless you’re the best man, in which case you’ll be spending a queasy hour picking at your food in nervous anticipation of giving your speech! If you are planning on live music during your wedding dinner, something light that doesn’t intrude on the proceedings works best. You want to set a mood that supports the congenial chatter and laughter in the room, rather than giving your guests a show. You can make your pianist really earn his or her money or opt for some subtle strings or a harpist. Another option is to make use of your venue’s sound system and put together a playlist of your favourite laid-back tunes, so that the focus of the wedding breakfast is on the company, the conversation and the food!

The Evening Wedding Reception

It’s time to let loose and have a dance to celebrate your new lives together. There’s a whole array of types of live band to choose from, and the style of band you choose depends upon which music you think will work best to get your guests into the party spirit. Choosing the right wedding band can be a little tricky: while it is your big day and therefore your choice, you also need to think about your friends and family. Will your wedding band play something for everyone to enjoy? If not you could end up feeling a little isolated on the dance floor!

Many wedding bands have a broad repertoire that includes a bit of pop, a bit of rock and a bit of soul, which is perfect for pleasing guests of all ages. Other bands are more specific in the genres of music they perform, so make sure to be thorough in your research. As well as the traditional rock and pop wedding bands, you can opt for something a little different – a vintage styled band perhaps. Vintage themed acts are hugely popular right now. Performing in a swing style but also offering vintage reinterpretations of current chart hits for a totally unique experience. Other alternative acts include beatboxers, modern dance, hip hop and R’n’B crossover bands, and mash up tributes to the nineties and two-thousands.

Most wedding bands (and all of them if you are booking through an agency) will have their repertoire of songs posted online so you can make an informed decision on whether they are the band for you. Make sure to watch and listen to the promo material of as many bands as possible, as selecting a band that fits your theme and personality is vital. When assessing potential bands, you’ll want to make sure they are not only great musicians, but also that they’re engaging and charismatic performers, with the ability to charm your guests and encourage them to loosen up on the dance floor. Also, be sure you read as many reviews as possible – you want to be working with professionals who know exactly what they are doing, arrive on time and set up with as little fuss as possible. Something to remember is that a lot of wedding reception bands also offer an acoustic duo set, as well as a complimentary DJ service, allowing you to arrange your entire day’s entertainment in a single booking. We hope we’ve helped open your eyes to the huge amount of options out there when it comes to wedding entertainment.

Thanks Steven! For more information about Entertainment Nation, please visit their WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or you can go directly to their website. Do you have any questions or comments for Steven? Add them to the comments below!