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Planning Ideas
By Don Campbell, band leader, Estelle - Elegance in Music

We would like to help you make the most of music to enhance parties, special events weddings, galas, and any gathering that might benefit from the elegance of Live Music!

With years of experience, we see how music is used well and might be used better to support and make valuable contributions to the success of your event.  

This page will feature new ideas and suggestions regularly.

Bandleader and bassist Don Campbell
Photo by Anna


What should services cost?  

The reasonable answer to that question is another question - what do you expect for your money?  

A wedding is a very important day in your life, and you certainly want it to be special.  What that means to each of us is unique to us, which means the starting point is to decide what you must have, what you would really like to have and what would be great if its price was within reach.  Once you have a list of all the elements necessary and desired (there are some terrific lists on many sites, easily found by typing into your search engine "wedding planning"), you are ready for an important step many brides skip.  Evaluate the contribution each element makes, and which are more important than others.  

As you can see from my points further along, I have seen to many brides disappointed by disk jockeys to recommend them, but if you know of a good one who creates the atmosphere you want, you should consider that option.  Of course be wary of what you read on the internet, including my opinions.  I did a search for wedding planning just now and came across what appeared to be a blog but turned out to be a high pressure sales pitch.  What was unfortunate about it was that in selling the need to "save money" it created such a negative atmosphere, describing vendors as scam artists, that it might make you want to elope!  The first and last thing to remember is that this special day is your wedding, and your wishes are the only ones to be met.  Advice is great and should be welcomed, but only as advice, never decisions.

Often people will serve wine at their reception, both at the cocktail hour and at dinner.  A good measure of other things you provide is to measure them against the cost of a glass of wine.  Depending on the venue, it can range enormously from $5.50 to $12. and more.  The average is around $8.50.  When you know the cost of wine, you now have an index against which you can measure the cost and value of other services.  The average consumption of wine at cocktails and dinner is about 2.5 glasses per person.  If a photographer is charging $5,000. for a package, and you are inviting 125 guests, that works out to (this may seem irrelevant, but please stay with me) $40. per guest, and most guests will never see the photographs.  You will, and if you have a great photographer, that's a very good price, and it is less than the cost of the meal per guest.

Once you have determined the cost of a service, determined how important it is to your wedding, then for balance, compared it to the cost of a glass of wine per person, you should have a better sense of its value.  Remember, no matter what kind of deal it seems to be, if it does not contribute in a significant way to the success of your wedding celebration, you may want to give it a hard look. 


What to expect when you hire a band:

Behavior:  You should, first of all, expect all the musicians to be professionals, and members of the Musicians' Association in your city.  The Association represents your interests as well as those of musicians.  Without a good relationship with employers, musicians will not be working long.  The musicians and the Association will make their prime focus the success of your event.

It is reasonable to expect musicians will not drink on the job.  It is your party, not theirs.  It is appropriate to ask the leader of the band you are considering hiring if the players will have a drink while working.  A few decades ago some musicians earned for all of us a reputation which most of us are now working hard to change.  

Assistance:  You might look for input from the leader of the band, tapping her or his experience on a number of issues such as the best time to start and finish; ideas on good places to set up for reasons of acoustics, to minimize disruption if they arrive or leave during a longer event, or to minimize impact on food service or guest traffic.  You should also be able to get recommendations for special music you may require.  Most leaders will be happy to add something special to their repertoire to satisfy a request for something they don't have.  A couple of such requests are reasonable, but don't expect something that will take a lot of un-billable time.  (see Realistic Expectations below)

Volume:  A band leader should ensure your guests can converse comfortably, and not turn a social event into something else by performing too loud.  Be sure to let the leader know your expectations before the event begins.  Lots of energy does not necessarily mean too much volume.

Payment:  A Leader will collect payment and is responsible for hiring and paying musicians.  You should expect to pay a deposit when you sign the agreement.  Some bands ask for 1/3 in advance, some 1/2.  1/3 is usually adequate.  Estelle asks for two cheques at the time of signing; the second is for the balance, post-dated to the event date, and included the GST.  

Providing a post-dated cheque for the balance leaves one less thing for you to attend to on what will be a hectic day, and because we pay all musicians on the day of performance, it ensures that if the cheque is forgotten we don't have to activate our line of credit, then bother you after your honeymoon.  

Additional needs:  The fees charged by most bands do not cover extra costs such as parking.  When parking costs are incurred, they will likely be added to the fee in the agreement. Other things like travel, accommodation, and meals, when necessary on some out-of-town engagements, will be addressed in the agreement. 

Some bands like ours offer a full range of musical services, and some musicians are often on the job for more than 4 hours.  If this is the case, it is a good idea to offer a meal to the musicians working long hours.  Remember, with travel, setup and striking time, a leader working 4 hours is often away from home for seven hours, and other musicians six hours.  As the time of engagement increases, so does the time between meals.

You should expect a band leader to provide something not in the band's repertoire if it is easily obtainable.  If it is not, it is a good idea for you to offer to assist in the cost of obtaining it.  You should not expect two or more new arrangements to be written without paying a reasonable arranging fee.  One should never be an issue.


Realistic Expectations are more likely to be met or exceeded:

Band leaders are often asked to perform special requests, and are always happy to do so.  Sometimes the requests require far more time to prepare than is covered by the agreement.  For example, our wedding ceremony duo or trio, which usually performs light classics, is frequently asked to perform a top 40's piece for the processional.  It's often a stretch, but we usually pull it off.  Sometimes we're asked for three processionals (groomsmen and mothers, bridesmaids and then the bridal procession) another for the signing of the registry, and a barn-burner rock song for the recessional.  

The reality is that the band leader, hired to play for an hour and fifteen minutes, is being asked to spend up to three hours per song in additional non-billable time to transcribe and arrange parts for the players so that it will meet the bride's expectations. If these pieces are all outside our normal repertoire (its extensive; Estelle has been building our wedding library for twelve years) then the extra work required can take up to two extra days.  Musicians, like many others, are not good at saying no, and become stressed with a work load that infringes on their time to practice, market, schedule, and all of the other things necessary to be a successful working musician.  Like most musicians, we work very hard to ensure the success of your event, and will do everything necessary to make it special for you.  Your favorite song for your processional or first dance is an automatic "yes!"  More than one needs discussion.  Ask and you will likely be pleasantly surprised at the modest cost to cover time and talent.  Please help us with that by making requests that can be reasonably met.


Six points to consider before you hire a DJ for your wedding celebration:

  • Is this a very special occasion for you, your family and friends?
  • Will music make a special contribution to your ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dance?
  • Will the Disk Jockey you hire dress appropriately for your special day? (most musicians wear tuxedos)
  • Will you pay a Wedding DJ between five and eight times what each musician would make?
  • Do you want to hear .mp3 (lo-fi) files of music you can hear every day on the radio, at a volume that makes conversation difficult?
  • During and after the event, would you like your guests to compliment you on the great music?

Your wedding is an expensive, once in a lifetime event. You will want to make sure every aspect of such a special event is unique, distinctive and reflects your taste. Its possible a DJ will effectively reproduce Saturday night at the bar. You may want more than that for your wedding celebration.

Consider the contribution live music can make to the atmosphere of your very special day..

For often about 1/3 the price of dinner and wine you can have the elegance of live music from ½ hour prior to the ceremony until your last guest leaves. Full music service is usually less than cost of a photographer.  Both make valuable contributions. Considering the value added in creating an ideal atmosphere and capturing it, both are quite a bargain!


Guest Articles


Why Do I Need a Wedding Day  Coordinator?

By Ciara Daykin of Firefly Occasions


As a bride who’s planned her own wedding you’ve spent a lot of time on all the details. But on the wedding day who is going to make sure all of those details come to life? The answer is a wedding day coordinator. Here are 3 reasons to hire a wedding day coordinator:


1) You’re the Star- As the star of the wedding you want to be focused on greeting your guests and enjoying each moment of the day. You may have had time to focus on wedding planning leading up to your wedding day but in the weeks beforehand you’ll start to get busy with all the out of town guests, beauty appointments, and preparing your vows and your speech. Time really takes off in the weeks leading up to your wedding day so it’s great to have a wedding day coordinator preparing an itinerary for your wedding day, confirming all your vendors, organizing your ceremony rehearsal and orchestrating all the details on your wedding day. They are armed with all the information so all the questions on the wedding day go to your coordinator instead of interrupting you.  


2) So It Goes Your Way- It’s always quite surprising the number of people who “think” they know what the bride wants but in fact have no clue at all. I’ve stopped many a Mother switching around place settings and girlfriends of the bride trying to fiddle with the centerpieces. I even once stopped a guest from trying to tell the photographer how to take pictures. Everyone has the best intentions but the truth is that without a wedding day coordinator you can walk into a wedding that has been taken over by family with your details no where to be seen.

3) Peace of Mind for Everyone- Not only does a wedding day coordinator help the bride and groom by taking care of all the little details for them, a coordinator also majorly helps all the vendors involved. First by providing them with a wedding day itinerary and then by being the person to make sure the event runs on time, pointing out details that are important to the couple (especially to the photographer) and answering any questions on the fly. I’ve talked to so many vendors who highly recommend that a couple use a wedding day coordinator because it means a smoother day for all involved.



Now for our Wedding Commercial!

Estelle - Elegance in Music offers:

  • a violin/cello/bass trio playing light recognizable classics for your ceremony
  • smooth background jazz for cocktails and dinner
  • fanfare trumpets to announce your arrival at the reception, or seating of the head table
  • your choice of our quintet, sextet or our nine-piece Estelle's Choice swing orchestra for dancing

Estelle is comprised of Calgary's top musicians, performing the best songs of the big band swing era. We suggest you book early so you won't be disappointed. Although we often book a year or more in advance, we usually have some short-term available dates. If you are planning an event in the Calgary area or in Banff or Kananaskis in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, click here for contact information and availability, or dial

      Calgary area: 403 239 7607

      Toll Free North America:  1 877 239 3777


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