I got chatting with a well known female singer friend of mine recently who also caters to the wedding industry in ireland and we got discussing those ‘difficult nights' ie when you as a band are doing your absolute best to whip up a party atmosphere and it's not going as you'd like.
We just happened to be discussing certain wedding venues (some absolutely stunning, high end venues) that we've both done over the years where the mood (on each occasion we've performed there!) has been very difficult to first of all create and then maintain.
It was like a revelation when we realised that we had virtually the same list of wedding venues where we've had those difficulties – and we concluded almost immediately that it was how the room was utilised in these venues that just didn't work in helping to maintain a party atmosphere.
While we both agreed that yes, absolutely, it's the job of the band to keep the guests entertained we also agreed that a good atmosphere is decided upon by many variables, and the band, whilst the major variable, is only one of them. Sometimes there are some things outside of the bands control that will contribute to a less than sparkling atmosphere and 2 words simply sum it up for me – PROXIMITY and DANCEFLOOR.
Regardless of what way you look at it, people will always congregate at the bar and in the smoking area – therefore the proximity of BOTH the bar and ‘smoking area' to the dancefloor is extremely important. Ideally the bar should be in the same room, I personally wouldn't be happy having the bar in a room where there is a clear divide between it and the function room. There must also be easy access to the smoking area from the dancefloor. Smokers will definitely head to the smoking area – if it's a distance from the dance-floor it can be hard to get them back onto it! I know this may sound silly but you'd be surprised at how much these factors actually impact the atmosphere.
Another proximity issue I see is that the guest tables are often completely separated from the dancefloor – again creating a divide. While this may be perfect for dinner, it doesn't, in my opinion create any ‘flow' when the after-party starts. People are much less likely to get up to dance if they have a distance to walk or are forced to walk up or down stairs to get to the dancefloor. On a quiet night you can see that some guests may really want to dance but it can be intimidating for them to walk through a roomful of people to get to a dancefloor – so the trick is make the seating conducive to dancing! I'd suggest to the hotel that where possible, after the meal the tables are moved so that they circle the edge of the dancefloor. The best wedding atmospheres I've encountered have definitely been where the guest tables surround the dancefloor.
Another area of major consideration is size of dancefloor: – while anybody throwing a party or wedding would love to see 100% of their guests dancing all night this is just not going to be a reality (people need their dancing downtime!). A lot of the time however perception is everything. A very large dancefloor with 75 guests (out of your 150) dancing on it can look empty and lacking in energy compared to a smaller dancefloor with the same number of people dancing. The smaller (perceived busier!) dancefloor just looks more fun and encourages people to get up to dance. That IS just my own view on a dancefloor but it's a view I've developed from what I've seen & experienced over the years. If it was me getting married I'd want that floor stuffed (seriously) so, while ensuring that it's not a postage stamp of a dancefloor (obviously) personally I'd go for a smaller rather than larger dancefloor to cater for the number of guests I'm inviting.
If you're looking to book a wedding venue, just keep the above factors in mind. Try to see the venue you're thinking of in action at a similar sized live wedding – see how the room is laid out – is it conducive to a good atmosphere – you might get ideas for how you would like the room structured yourself.
If you've already booked your venue and you realise that there might be some obstacles as highlighted above – don't panic (the point of this article is not to panic anyone!). Just speak with the venue to see what they can do to ensure that they tackle what they can, where they can. Obviously they can't move the bar or smoking area, but some can change the position of dancefloor….and of course seating can always be re-arranged!. Then sit back, relax and most importantly dance – by letting your wedding band do the rest of the work!!