Thinking of a ceilidh for your wedding – Top tips for hiring a wedding band

The Scream

The Scream

Firstly, congratulations on your engagement! The planning has commenced and is going well until a friend says…


Are you having a ceilidh?


It’s at this point that those horrific memories of school dances appear from the darkest recesses of your mind – the sweaty hands, the warts, girls one side, boys the other ….


Fortunately, things have moved on from then – well for starters, there’s alcohol involved so that always helps. Ceilidhs are far more informal that they used to be thankfully.
So … should you have a ceilidh and if so, what should I do to have a successful one?
Here’s the Borland Ceilidh Band’s quick guide to whether you should have a ceilidh and, if so, how you should go about it…


I don’t know the dances!

Most people don’t know the dances so that’s fine. The Borland Ceilidh Band have a full time dance instructor that remains on the floor throughout the night, taking people through the dances and ensuring that everyone knows what’s going on. Other bands will have someone within the band describing the dances at the start – either way, there will always be someone to take you all through the dances.


Top tip: If the band has a dedicated dance caller on the floor then EVERYONE at the ceilidh will be able to participate no matter their dancing experience. If enough people at the ceilidh know the dances then this isn’t as crucial. We generally find that about 70% of people at a ceilidh don’t know the dances so we will always tailor the dances to suit the audience. Other decent bands will do the same. Ask the band when you are getting quotes.


We have a lot of non-Scottish guests at the wedding


Visitors to Scotland love a ceilidh – they can get a disco anywhere so a ceilidh is a wonderful experience for long distance travellers to your wedding. Usually, non-Scottish guests are far better at the dances – you have been warned 🙂
Maybe I just want part of the night to be a ceilidh…


Most bands can do this. Some people want a full night of ceilidh dancing, some would like some songs interspersed, some people like a disco for the final hour. Decide on what suits you – the cost shouldn’t really differ because you’re paying for the band’s time to be honest. If you are doing a disco at the end, have a think about whether you’d like the band to play the last song (such as Auld Lang Syne) or have a track played as you don’t want the band to pack away their instruments prematurely.


How much will it cost?


Show me the money!

Show me the money!

Ok, here’s the killer question – this is the one that all bands are wary of answering. The price is basically dependent on a few things: –


  • The amount of time that the band has to be there.
  • The size of the venue
  • The distance of travel
  • Tax
  • The number of band members


A ceilidh band for a wedding should probably cost somewhere between £700 – £1500.
Some bands add a fair whack for travelling, others will only add petrol money. The venue is important because a larger venue means more volume, which in turn means more amplification etc. A small intimate venue can allow the band to sometimes take less equipment and so the cost is reduced. A top ceilidh band will almost certainly be VAT registered and so they have overheads that others may not have. Bands with more musicians need to charge larger amounts.


Top tip: The band are basically looking at the overall time (and that includes setup and dismantle time) so if you can have your band setting up and sound-checking whilst your guests are having dinner in another room then the band doesn’t need to set-up before dinner, resulting in less overall time and a cheaper ceilidh price. It’s therefore important that you state these factors if you want the best price. Ask the venue if they could recommend a ceilidh band as they’ll see a lot of bands. Ask the bands how many musicians will be in the band on your night – you don’t want to pay for a band, thinking it has 7 members and only 3 turn up on the night. Google for ceilidh bands in your area (for example: “ceilidh band Ayrshire”) because a local one will have less travelling and therefore potentially cheaper.


How should I ask for a quote?


To ask a band for a quote you want to ensure that there are no hidden costs. Here’s an example email to use as a template: –
I am looking for a quote for a wedding at the Park Hotel on 1 August 2018 (19:00 – 01:00). I would like a ceilidh for most of the night and possibly a disco for the last hour. There will be about 120 evening guests. Are there any additional costs involved?
You want to be as specific as possible in your quote request so that there’s absolutely no room for confusion. It also makes it easier to send the quote to several bands (don’t take the first band that you ask – find out what the other bands say and make them aware that you are just compiling possible quotes as they’ll be more inclined to offer extras for free).
Top tip: Don’t give away any indication of how much you are prepared to pay or what other bands have quoted – bands will alter their quote to reflect this (well ahem.. we won’t because we put our prices on our web site). Additionally, don’t tell the band that the parents are paying for the band as the price will instantly increase.


What if the disco is rubbish?


So you’ve decided on half ceilidh/half disco …
The key to a good disco is to remember that you’re paying a lot of money for this band and so you’re the boss …. You want lights, you maybe want a smoke machine (if the venue permits it) and you want the night to be based round the music that you and your friends love.


Top tip: Create a Spotify playlist and share it amongst your friends (It’s FREE). You can populate it with songs that you want played at your wedding. Inform the band of the playlist and get them to use it as the backbone of your disco. You’ll get the music you love!


Make sure you ask the band if they can accept Spotify playlists for examples. Ask what kind of lighting they will provide on the night. Ain’t no D.I.S.C.O without them lighting!


Do I really need to have Celine Dion for my first dance?


Fortunately… no.. Have anything (sorry Celine). We’ve witnessed some bizarre ones but you know what – it’s your big day so have anything you want. Sometimes people would like a waltz as a first dance as it makes it easy for the parents of the bride and groom to appear on the dance floor. If this is what you want – why not ask the band if they’ll write you one?
Top tip: Ask the band this BEFORE you agree on a price as they are far more likely to write a tune for free if you ask them at this stage.


How do I know if a ceilidh band is any good?


Fortunately there are a LOT of decent bands around these days. It’s down to taste really. Most bands will suggest you come and listen to them play however, to be honest, you’ve really better things to do in your life I’m sure. Ask friends who they’ve seen and ask your wedding venue.


Top tip: Look at a bands Facebook page and you can pretty much guess the quality of a band by the photos and videos on it. If there’s nothing – you really have to ask serious questions these days. Don’t judge a band on studio recordings as they’ll never sound like that in general (no band ever does). There are many styles of ceilidh bands – from two guys with accordions to a quartet of fiddlers in stetsons (probably) so have a think about what kind of night you are looking for and search for them on Facebook. To be honest, the images and videos there will give you a good impression of their overall style.


Terms and Conditions


Ask up front how much the deposit is and when they want the final balance. Make sure that the band gives you a document confirming your payment, along with all the Ts & Cs of your event. That will give you comfort in the months ahead that the band know exactly what’s expected of them. If you need to alter anything – ensure that the band gives you new terms and conditions.


Top tip: You want the following in writing: –


How long will the band play for?
How long will the band take a break for?
How many dances will there be roughly in a night?
Do you provide lighting?
Do you supply all backline and electric equipment for the night?
Do you have band liability insurance?
Is your equipment PAT tested?


To be honest, the last two don’t really matter however bands that play exclusive venues usually need to provide this so it’s a good indication of their playing history. The reason you should ask how many dances will roughly be in a night is because some bands are notorious for playing a tune then standing doing nothing for 5 minutes before playing another tune – this is an atmosphere killer and you don’t want that. At least if you’ve asked the question and they then do that then you have it in writing. Expect a band to take a 30 minute break half-way through the night. This is usually when the buffet arrives. Ask them to play background music at this point (maybe you can make a Spotify playlist for this very moment).


Who’s in charge here?


Remember that you’re paying people a significant amount of money and you should receive perfection. Think of it this way – if you paid £700 for a hotel room then you’d expect to be treated like royalty (and quite rightly so)
It’s not unreasonable to expect the band to be presentable, on time and bending over backwards to ensure that your night is absolutely perfect. A decent band be absolutely contactable and will be more than happy to answer any questions or handle any changes to your wedding without any problems. The ceilidh band should liaise with any events manager and/or the venue and ensure that all issues are resolved before the big day. The key to it is to ensure that the band knows exactly what it expected of them. The Borland Ceilidh Band has someone on the floor throughout the night to ensure that the night is going as expected and therefore, we can change the tempo of the night to suit the audience in addition to getting continual feedback from the guests. Other decent bands will do something similar – just ask the band at the time of the quote if someone performs this liaison role as you don’t want to be managing proceedings at your own party – that’s why you’re paying other people.
Will my husband-to-be enjoy a ceilidh?


Guys LOVE ceilidhs. I ain’t gonna lie – and there’s a big reason for it…..


Borland Ceilidh Band - Flying Scotsman demonstration

Borland Ceilidh Band – Flying Scotsman demonstration

Most men feel like absolute tubes dancing. We generally have no idea what we’re doing. The beauty of a ceilidh is that someone shows you EXACTLY how to dance and we just copy the person in front of us. No arty thoughts are required – this is a man’s dancing dream scenario. Guess what … he gets to spin people until they fall and his dancing (he believes) improves with alcohol
… and there concludes the Borland Ceilidh Band’s guide to a ceilidh wedding. Whatever you do – we wish you all the best!


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