Wedding Music

When Your Fam Wants To Jam at the Reception

Photo by Jake Holt

Chances are you will have spent between $2,000- $3,000 to hire a band for your wedding reception. You may have put a lot of thought into the set list. You now have just one thing to worry about. Your guest list will inevitably include several people who consider themselves musicians. Some of them may want to get onstage. With rare exceptions, you should not let them.

Here’s four types of guests who may want to add get on stage, and how to deal with each:

 1.  The Pros You Know

It is entirely possible that within your circle of friends, you may have some legitimately amazing musicians. These “cats” (we’re pretty sure that’s what they call them in the music business) may, in fact, be much more skilled than the players in the wedding band.

This is a no brainer, right? If there’s an opportunity for your 88-year-old grandfather—who happened to have taught Jimi Hendrix—to burn the house down with an epic guitar solo, then it’s all to the good, yes?

Not really. There are two problems. 1) After this octogenarian virtuoso leaves the stage, the band may feel deflated, and that might reflect poorly in the rest of their performance. 2) Even if the band is happy and carries on like pros, the rest of their set may sound lackluster in comparison. Let grandpa play at some other point—during the ceremony say, or as a toast at the rehearsal dinner. At the reception, keep the focus on you and the bride.

2.  Singers Who Can’t Sing

If you came of age after the premieres of American Idol or The Voice, you might be under the impression that amateurs can sing pretty well. The truth is that most people have horrible voices. In a karaoke bar, that’s OK, because everyone is there to make a fool of themselves. But when your cousin Hillary insists, after three too many wine spritzers, that she’s going to get up and sing “Lady Marmalade,” it is best to gently persuade her not to.

For starters, she’s your cousin and nobody wants to hear her sing (and mispronounce) “voulez-vous choucher avec moi, ce soir?” More importantly, the elegance factor of your wedding gets flushed down the toilet once some amateur starts drunkenly braying off-key along with the band. You may notice some of your guests getting up to leave. Those who remain will feel awkward and sad. This is not an open mic, it’s your special day. You should not let Hillary sing.

4.  The Band Reunion

It’s possible that your guest list will include the members of a band—either one currently active, or that was together when all of you were kids, five years ago. On these rare occasions—usually when the bride and or the groom are musicians—it’s permissible to ask the wedding band to step aside and let this group take over for a song or two.

This can be great fun for the entire wedding, provided you limit it to a few songs. Remember, these players are still your guests, and they should be there to celebrate, not supply entertainment. Also, you’ll probably be using the other band’s equipment, which is something that musicians can get weird over. Tread carefully.

4.  Your Dad

This is one of the happiest days of his life, and he wants to show it. And what better way to show it then to hop up on stage and bust a few rhymes from Eric B and Rakim’s 1988 classic “Microphone Fiend?”

Look, we all wish our parents would display dignity and restraint during this happy event, but sometimes it’s just not in the cards. Our advice is to enlist your mother or an uncle to head him off at the pass, because even if he pulls it off, it will be embarrassing. And he’s not going to pull it off (there’s a reason Rakim is remembered: he made really hard rhyming look easy.)

5. The Wanna-Be Rockstar Douchebag

There is one guest who will inevitably be the most difficult to say no to when he declares his intent to grab the mic. He is someone you love very much, and he’s had a stressful few months. He will want to blow off steam. He has every right to be the life of the party.

The problem is, he is you.

So the night before your wedding, you need to take a good long look in the mirror, and ask yourself this question: Are you Faces-era Rod Stewart? Are you post-Maroon 5 Adam Levine? Are you at least Ed Sheeran? If the answer to these three questions is “no,” you need to pause. Think about how your bride will feel if you get up on stage and start bellowing your way through “Sexual Healing.” And will your guests enjoy it? That’s another question you should ponder.

Then you should go for it.  Sing your heart out. It’s your wedding after all.

Bottom Line

Leave the music-making to the professionals, and save the family sing-a-longs for the afterparty.

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