The Art Of The Party

Expert Advice For Wedding And Party Planning

One of our directors Rhys Owen has written a short guide book based on his knowledge and experience working at well over 500 events over the last 12 years. As part of the Articulate Music team he has worked all over the world from Singapore to Abu Dhabi, London to Cornwall, Cannes to Oman. He has performed for Royalty, Celebrities and Sporting Stars as well as at countless small weddings and parties.

The first 5 chapters are previewed below. The complete guide containing 30 chapters is available for purchase from Amazon kindle through the following link or given free when you book with Articulate Music.

Location Location Location

Thinking about having your party in a stunning exotic location abroad or perhaps a 7 hour drive from your home town? Some people may do this and have great success. If it works for them, wonderful!

However in my experience booking your event in a location any more than a 2 hour drive from your home town (wherever the majority of your friends and family live) or abroad, might not be the best idea.

If you make it a long drive away or a flight is required, immediately the attendance of your friends and family may be considerably diminished. The proud optimist in you might be


thinking ‘I know its more effort and money but for me they will do it.’ Unfortunately the reality is that some will inevitably forget to book their flights and accommodation, keep putting it off and when they finally get round to it, it will be too expensive or everything will be booked up. Or they may genuinely not be able to afford the cost of flights or overnight accommodation. If it’s abroad or a long drive away then it means that the next day is probably a write-off too so if they have children or other responsibilities they may pull out at the last minute, even if they had insisted they would be there.

I’ve talked to a couple of clients on destination weddings who have said they deliberately had their event abroad to whittle off all the people that they didn’t actually want to come. If this is your goal then it’s a cunning technique; go for it!

However if you want to maximise ‘bums on seats’ then I strongly recommend having your event no more than a two hour drive from your hometown.

An important further point is that having your event a long drive from a major city or abroad, makes the logistics for your suppliers much more complicated and potentially a nightmare.

For example you may happen to find a band that you really like who are based in the middle of nowhere near your venue. However the chances are you will want to book a band from a big city where the majority of musicians are based. Bands charge more if they have to drive for 7 hours to get there and stay over night. Or more likely they will want to take another booking closer to home. This is the same for caterers, magicians and anything else you may want to hire.

Some people make it work and the pros out weigh the cons. If it suits you then go for it! My advice however would be to keep it simple and prioritise getting the people you want there by picking a venue nearby.

Not A Key Date

Don’t book your wedding or party on the date of any other notable occasion. This could be a sporting event such as the World Cup Final, a musical event such as Live Aid or a political / religious event or the marriage of a monarch. No matter how popular you are with your friends, if you book your wedding day for the same date that England are playing in the World Cup quarter finals, then half the guests will be watching it in the other room or more likely on their phones (I experienced this recently). If you book it for the same weekend as Glastonbury certain friends may make the less honourable choice. Make sure there are no big local events on the same date that could disrupt your guests travel to your venue i.e. a local fair, farmers


market, rally etc. If there is one then it may not completely disrupt your event but you may want to suggest alternative travel routes to avoid delays.

Try to avoid going for key dates of the year that are most popular for parties as you may face exceptional competition for peoples attendance, venues and even more critically, services and suppliers. Some services and suppliers charge a premium rate for these dates as they know they will get offers of bookings many times over. Which dates are these? Well in the UK the most popular dates are as follows:

• The last Saturday in July.

• The first Saturday in September.

• The Saturday and Sunday before the bank holiday Monday at the end of May.

These are the most popular dates that every professional musician I know will have countless offers of work.

Furthermore Saturday night is by far the most popular night of the week and whilst I’m not advising that you avoid a Saturday, I am saying that if you book your event for any Saturday night over the busy summer months then you will need to lock in every reservation well in advance (ideally a year or more for weddings). As an entertainment agency my company sometimes take bookings as far as 2 years in advance for these key dates. Not only do you need to book in your services and suppliers well in advance, but also your friends and family members by sending out ‘save the date’ cards as early as possible. I’m well aware of arguments that have arisen because of friends competing over the same date.

A close friend of mine was slightly miffed when her cousin decided to get married the weekend before her. Knowing that they would share many of the same guests, one couldn’t help but feel there was competition between them. Perhaps she was worried that guests would compare the two events. This was of course unfortunate but in the end it did not turn out to be an issue. Both events were exceptionally successful and fantastic in their own ways (our company were honoured to provide the entertainment for both).

The antidote to this pickle is to communicate with as many of your guests as possible to check the date doesn’t clash and lock in every service and supplier as far in advance as you can. If possible save yourself the stress and expense by choosing a less popular date.

Have The Bar In The Same Room As The Entertainment

If I could only give you only one piece of advice for your event it would be this. The number of times I’ve performed at weddings or parties where, to get a drink, the guests have to go into the next room to queue at the bar. Even worse, is if they have to hike down a long corridor, through a maze to get there. This kills and dilutes the energy of the room and more importantly the dance floor. Having the bar in close proximity keeps the fire burning, the cogs turning and most importantly people dancing. It encourages the band to perform to the best of their ability knowing that all eyes are on them, constantly.

Yes some venues won’t have a permanent bar in


the room you’ve hired, however it is very easy to set up a makeshift bar if necessary (as simple as a trestle table and a table cloth). You can even arrange fancy portable bars for your event if you have the budget (I’m a personal fan of the light-up pseudo icy ones).

Don’t entertain the idea of paying thousands of pounds for a band or DJ if there is not a bar in the same room.

Have the bar in the same room as the entertainment.

Lower The Lighting

Often the top priority of my clients is to make people dance. Many people are embarrassed to dance in public and definitely don’t want to be the first to get up. To help nurture their courage there is one very simple thing you can do which so often gets forgotten. Turn the lights down, or off if necessary. So many times after the first few songs of a set I’ve needed to ask that the lighting is turned down and have witnessed it immediately make a huge difference to the number of people dancing. Better to have a nearly pitch black room, with only the band or DJ visible, than bright lights keeping everyone in their chairs.

Often a venue will say we can’t make it any


dimmer, to which I politely say “please turn the lights off altogether then”. Occasionally you will get a venue manager who will insist “we can’t make it darker because of health and safety” when there is no real danger to anyone. It is so important to get and keep as many people dancing as possible; it makes or breaks the evening.

This is particularly important for work or corporate events when people may have had less to drink (at weddings it may be easier but the change of lighting is still a must). In rooms of 200 or more people including many staff I’m always amazed when no-one has thought of it. It so often gets forgotten; don’t let it be at your event.

Start Later

Many times I have worked with a client who is a super keen bean to get the band on at 7pm to get their money’s worth and to kick the entertainment off without delay. Unless there are extenuating circumstances as to why your event isn’t able to go on to the usual 12 curfew (or later) then I strongly recommend delaying the band (or whatever the main part of your entertainment is) until at least 8.30pm, ideally 9.00pm or later. Approximately 9.00pm is the prime point in the evening to start for many reasons.

Firstly it gives your guests a chance to warm up, have a few more drinks, mingle and chat before they are required to dance. It means when you


do finally start they will be more up for getting involved.

Secondly if you start too early or peak too soon you risk being unable to keep the momentum going and the energy in the room could fade out before the end of the night.

Furthermore if you schedule the start time of the main entertainment later, it gives you insurance if the day’s proceedings run late, which they almost always do (particularly if it’s a wedding). More on this last point later, but for now, trust me on this one; schedule the band (or whatever you main entertainment is) to start at 9.00pm. Have a DJ warm people up before this from approximately 7.00pm.