6 Wedding Bands Your Guests Will Actually Like
Ditch the DJ, kick the cover band, and plan for some music your guests will actually remember
Caprice Rouge plays old-world folk
Photography by Val Shaff
More than anything else, music sets the mood for the reception. Are you looking for an elegant affair, a rustic reception, or an eclectic event? Many couples are trying to steer away from typical DJs or rock cover bands in favor of putting a more personal stamp on their day. (After all, who needs another dance to “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang?) If you’re looking for a unique band to perform at your wedding, here are some unusual groups based in the Hudson Valley.
Just because Mama Tried is a bluegrass band doesn’t mean you’ll have to serve moonshine instead of Champagne and have your first dance to “Dueling Banjos.” Instead, expect refreshingly different arrangements of tunes you probably know well. “We’re able to stick with wedding-appropriate tunes, arranged in our own way,” says singer and banjo player Gary DiGiovanni. A Beatles cover, for instance, may be “more bluegrass-oriented, and have a different tempo than the original.”
Caprice Rouge’s sound is a marriage between Balkan, Roma-gypsy, and Klezmer music, and the old-world folk band brings lost traditions back into weddings. “Traditionally, wedding ceremonies from the Old Country included a lot of processing from one place to the other — the bride’s family to the groom’s house, the wedding party to the altar, the in-laws back to their home, and so on, and always with a band!” says accordionist Elena Erber. “At many of the weddings we play, this becomes part of the event. The most memorable was leading the entire wedding, guests and all, on a mile-long walk from the celebration site down to the banks of the Hudson River, where the couple took their vows. It was beautiful.”
The Saints of Swing
This jazz and swing band strives to adhere to their slogan: “We’re really not a wedding band... but we play fabulous weddings.” The ensemble consists of a three-piece rhythm section, three horn players, and the lead female vocalist, Renee Bailey, whom bandleader David Winograd says is “a spiritual presence on stage.” The Saints of Swing have been playing together for more than 20 years, and play renditions of old-time classics such as “I’ve Got the World on a String” or “Mack the Knife.”
845-389-9158; saintsofswing.com. Pricing covers the entire day, which starts one hour before the ceremony and includes the ceremony, cocktail hour, and four hours of dancing. Prices range from $2,500 to $5,000, depending on the month and day, season, and how many musicians are needed.
The Bernstein Bard Trio
The sound of the mandolin, guitar, and bass, as played by The Bernstein Bard Trio, puts an unusual spin on classic favorites. “When we play the prelude before the wedding, people really listen and notice,” says guitarist and vocalist Mark Bernstein. “We have gotten applause before, which is rare.” The band features brothers Mark and Steve Bernstein and their longtime friend Robert Bard; they can also add a percussionist or clarinetist and perform as a quartet. “The band offers unique sounds and arrangements on real, non-electrical instruments,” Bernstein says. Whether you’re looking for a quiet band that allows people to talk over the music or a band that will have people jumping on the dance floor, the trio can accommodate.
845-853-3503; bernsteinbardtrio.com. Price varies per event and depends on the location, month, and how many musicians are needed.
McLean Avenue Band
This Irish folk band masterfully combines traditional Irish songs with elements of rock, pop, and R&B. “We can take a great Irish song, ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma,’ combine it with ‘Cotton Eye Joe,’ and end up with pop classic ‘Wake Me Up’ from Avicii,” says bandleader Padraig Allen. “People just love it.” If you’re looking for more traditional Irish music, you can check out the Mclean Avenue Band’s sister band, the Bainbridge Avenue Band.
914-434-0923; mcleanavenueband.com. Price varies depending on time of year, location, and band size, with different packages according to budget, starting at $2,500 for off-season weddings and $5,000 during the high season.
Performing in tropical shirts, Calypso Express plays calypso and reggae music with a soulful twist that works well for any laid-back or beach-themed wedding. “It’s different, and the island music can be both soothing and fun,” says Jill Prince, co-owner of Hal Prince Music and Entertainment, which books the band. “Calypso Express has been told by audiences that their music puts them in a happy mood, ready to party, making them feel as though they have been transported to the Caribbean for a night.” With steel-drum players and singers from Trinidad and Antigua, Calypso prides itself on its authentic island sound.
Hal Prince Music and Entertainment, Mount Kisco. 914-241-3300; halprince.com. Prices upon request.