Planning your event
Over the years I have played at birthday parties, weddings, corporate nights, festivals, pubs, hotels, public parks, holiday camp sites and even a funeral. Add to that my own family parties & weddings, I'd say that I am pretty experienced in the field of putting on a bit of a do. I'm going list a few things that I think are essential for planning a great night.
So you're planning a party.. A large gathering of family & friends to celebrate a special day or a corporate function to show off to your employees, clients and prospects. Whatever the purpose for your event, the ultimate ambition of any party is to give your guests a night to remember and provide them with great memories that will last many a year. In my experience, the key to throwing a good party is all about creating a great atmosphere.
THE PARTY ROOM
If I can offer one nugget of advice, my biggest tip for creating a great atmosphere is to match the room size with the number of guests. If in doubt, go for the smallest room you can get away with. One of the best wedding receptions I have ever attended was a small room above a pub. It was definitely too small, but that also meant that the guests were packed in tightly, it was July 1999, hot & sweaty, but my goodness it was a great night. It was the one of cheapest weddings I have ever been to and definitely one of the most memorable in terms of a great atmosphere. It took a very long time for me to understand what had made that evening so good - Not until I had been to some bigger parties with multiple rooms/outside seating/massive halls - basically anything that helped to disperse the guests and make it appear like there were not enough people in the room to create that killer party atmosphere. This is my number one tip - when planning a party, book a room that you know you're going to fill. Make sure every chair is filled and don't be scared to leave a few standing. I have since tested this theory by booking my daughters 18th birthday party in a small room only to be continually congratulated throughout the night on throwing a great party.
PLAN YOUR TIMETABLE & FLOOR PLAN
This one may sound obvious but we often get clients/venues booking the band who then expect us to turn up, unload, setup, soundcheck, tidy up, get changed into our costumes get a drink then perform in 1 hour.. This is unrealistic in my opinion. Any shortcuts here can affect the whole night, one misplaced cable or control dial can cause headaches for the band all night if not dealt with or set correctly. Give your band/DJ sufficient time to setup, carry out a soundcheck and be happy with their sound before expecting them to perform and make all of your dreams come true. Setting up and soundcheck is probably where the band/crew are under the most pressure, they have to get it right. Any cockups here and the first song or two is gonna be compromised.
Another thing is to make sure that the band have enough space to perform - we recently played a hotel for a wedding reception. We arrived at the agreed time but the venue was not ready to let us in as they were running late with the wedding breakfast. When they finally let us in, the hotel staff had already laid the temporary dance floor. They had put it right where the band needed to go. When we pointed out that they had seemingly forgotten that the band needed somewhere to perform, they got the hump with the band!! Eventually we got them to realise that shoving the band up the corner was not the best idea considering the bride & groom had spent so much money booking a band. We suggested that perhaps they should move the dance floor back a few yards. Reluctantly they agreed - but by this time we had lost half of our setup time, which in turn transformed the whole setting up process into a pressure cooker situation through no fault of the band. Needless to say we had to rush through the soundcheck and the first song of the night was not as good as it could have been. However, we still had a great night and so did the wedding guests. I counted 2 encores that night.
We have found that the best time for a band to start their show is around 9pm. This is a good time because by this point all of your guests should have been fed, speeches made and the beer/wine is flowing in order for your guests to feel brave enough to strut their stuff on the dance floor.
Try not to fall into the trap of telling your band/DJ what songs they shouldn't play. In the early days this band and many other bands like this one may have been guilty of playing songs that they liked instead of songs that everyone likes. I will agree that some party songs are just cheese but hey, this is a party night and we're making memories here. What could be better than to see your sisters jumping up and down to the chorus on Bryan Adams "Summer Of 69" or watching your gran shouting all the words to Kings Of Leon "Sex On Fire".
Trust your band/DJ to play the songs that will get your guests on the dance floor and keep them on it. Check out their set list before you book them for a flavour of what they're about. Deckchair Circus band get rave reviews wherever we play - simply because we play the songs that will make all your guests "feel good".
Mood / Ambient Lighting
For me, one of the best things you can do to transform a room and help create a party atmosphere is to try some lighting around the room. Most people don't consider this but trust me when I say it will enhance the mood and most people wont even realise it. Don't just take my word for it, just do a quick google image search for uplighting and see for yourself how simple lighting fixtures can be put to good use. We use this to great effect when the band are playing. We do use our main lighting rig to illuminate the band but the uplighters just add that touch of sparkle that really help to finish off the clients room decoration. I know some wedding DJ's and venues charge a small fortune for providing this service, this is understandable because good quality led lighting does not come cheap.
Deckchair Circus band have around 6 of these uplights which we use to great effect around the band stage area. Check out the image below taken from one of our recent shows at a 50th wedding anniversary night. The pink glow on the front wall was provided by our just 2 LED uplighters, we also used a halogen lamp as seen on the far left of the photo. We used this to light up the ceiling. This works well as the light bounces down and gives the whole room a slight red glow - as the guests were arriving for the evening we heard plenty of comments about how good the party room and stage had turned out.... Job well done I'd say.