Bros Before Hos: Tales From The Wedding-Band Front Lines

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Courtesy Allen Hill Entertainment
Allen Hill (left) would rather not play "Take a Letter, Maria" at weddings, but he will.

Sting once stated in an interview about The Police's trademark song "Every Breath You Take" that he was bewildered by the tune's popularity at weddings. It is, after all, a song about stalking, and not the exactly the sweetest sentiment to start off a committed relationship.

Rocks Off wondered what other inappropriate songs people have played at their wedding, and furthermore, what it's like to be a wedding singer, so we called up Allen Hill of Allen Hill Entertainment and numerous party bands including the El Orbits, Allen Oldies Band, Banana Blender Surprise and more. He gave us pointers on how to make sure all aspects of the wedding reception - from the band to the budget - turn out right, and shared some of his favorite wedding horror stories.

Hill has more than 20 years' experience as a party performer. But he started out in a bar band.

"Our fans started getting married and wanted us to play," he said. "We quickly figured out that playing a wedding is quite a bit different than playing a bar. In a bar, the band is the star. At a wedding, you're in a support role for the first half of the party. Only after folks have what I call 'nourishment' and 'hydration' do people wanna party."

Hill compared playing a wedding to "boiling water for crawfish." You've got to let the water heat up before things really start rolling, he said.

As for hiring a band for your own wedding, Hill said having an idea of what you want to hear helps. It's a good idea to do some research, but don't be too restrictive with the band either - let them do their own thing.

"Bridal magazines don't help with that. They all say 'tell the band what you don't want to hear.' But any more than 10 songs on the 'play' list or 'do not play' list -- there are too many limits," he said.

The Allen Oldies Band is also willing to play special requests, within reason.

"Given enough time, we're happy to learn any songs the bride and groom want," Hill said. "We've played Nick Lowe, the MC5, The Kinks' 'She's Got Everything.'"

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Hill said "At Last" is probably his most requested first dance song. "'Can't Help Falling in Love'" is also a frequent request.

"Any song with 'love' in the title, though not all those songs are appropriate," he said, offering this advice - it helps to pay attention to the lyrics, and know what the song is really about.

"The wedding where the Oldies Band played the MC5 song was kind of awkward," he said. Hill couldn't remember the specific song, but pointed to its explicitly sexual lyrics.

"Since I started working as an agent, I'm now kinda seeing weddings from all sides," Hill said. He said many brides stress over the music at their weddings, when often it's other professionals who screw things up.

"All the people I work with are good entertainers and people who show up on time. But I've been at several weddings where the cakes didn't show up."

He's got other horror stories.


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