When couples think about what they want for their wedding day, it's usually for the guests have a good time. Otherwise, everyone would just elope! The best way to guarantee that attendees will have a great time is by providing excellent entertainment. You're never going to hear anyone complain about that time they danced all night at a wedding.
To find out more about the business of wedding music, we sat down with Editors Circle member Larry King of Larry King Orchestra to get the inside scoop.
Photography by KingenSmith
Inside Weddings: What inspired you to get into the business?
Larry King: I actually had no desire to get into the private event business. I was with Caliber Records (a subsidiary of Warner Brothers) in L.A. with my band “Human Factor” before I moved to Chicago. Both my wife Karen and I are originally from the Northern Suburbs of Chicago (Karen from Deerfield and I hailed from Northbrook). We were at the point in our marriage where we were ready to have children and wanted them to be raised where we grew up. I was ready to stop touring and rekindle my past studio career as a session singer. With help from Jeffrey Morrow (who is now one of LKO’s lead singers) I was able to land a multitude of national jingles as well as many record projects locally, including the international success of Soleil Moon. In 1997, I was approached by wedding consultant Randy Schuster and Linda Alpert who introduced me to the business and helped me launch my career. Fellow band leader Jack Kramer took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. The combination of my aforementioned mentors along with the need for quality entertainment were a few of my sources of inspiration.
IW: What is your full list of services?
LK: My organization consists of:
The Larry King Orchestra, Inc.
Add our DJ / Turntablist to any of the above for the ultimate in modern live performance!
String Quartet & Harp
Piano, Acoustic Guitar & Violin
Piano & Violin
Piano & Flute
Classical / Latin / Americana & Brazilian Guitarists
Silks & Aerial Ring Acts
Show & Stage Production
Staging & Lighting
Booking of AAA Headliners and Backline Fulfillment
MFO Entertainment Group, Inc.
Artist development, record production, commercial voice over production, video syncing, songwriting, original scoring for movies, television, and animation.
MFO also has over 40 alternative entertainment options for the private event industry including our feature bands, The Ron Bedal Orchestra, The Forte Band, and The Opal Staples Orchestra.
The Sound Bank
The Sound Bank recording studio is a fully equipped state of the art digital facility with two isolation booths, live room, and a Yamaha C5 recording acoustic piano. Our head engineer Jeff Breaky has an impressive resume, including works with Lupe Fiasco and Grammy award winner Donald Lawrence.
Providing the best in high-end DJ and MC services as well as state of the art sound, lighting, and staging systems.
Mufaro Publishing, Inc.
The administration and licensing of original musical composition and its associated masters.
Photo courtesy of Larry King Orchestra
IW: How far in advance should couples book their entertainment?
LK: Most of the bands in the Chicago area get booked a year in advance. The popular dates disappear quickly. Holiday weekends are usually the first to go. January and February are not as popular and are usually available within six months of the event. The booking trends over the past 19 years have been fairly consistent. May and June are the most popular months with September and October following close behind. So if you are planning a spring or fall wedding, the race is on.
IW: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced for a wedding?
LK: The toughest challenge for any event is balancing the client’s ideas and desires with the vendor’s knowledge and experience. The need to micro manage – although a valuable skill – tends to frustrate and elongate the process. The vendors that you pick should be proficient at their jobs and have spent years honing their craft. They have seen and experienced all kinds of situations and can provide valuable suggestions on what works and what doesn’t work. You have a vision of what your special day should look like. The most important thing you can do is clearly articulate that vision and let your vendors use their creative know-how to turn your dreams into reality. The most successful parties are a result of this shared process.
IW: Is it better for a couple to have a strict song list, or have very little idea about what music they want?
LK: I am a firm believer in letting the client pick the song list. They are the only ones who know what they like. Notoriously an evening needs about 70 tunes. Not including the formality dances (first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dance, bridal party dance…etc.) the rule of thumb is danceable and recognizable with a nice variety of genres. The obscure listeners, although hip in nature, have a tendency to clear the dance floor. I also don’t like to exclude a generation of dancer for more than 2 or 3 songs. For the family that is not sure what kind of music they want, a creative meeting a month before with some suggestion lists and a quick listen to choices prove to be very helpful. Based on the top picks and special dances, I always create a set list that is in direct correlation with our discussed timing. This makes my night run smoothly and helps to quell the curiosity of the over zealous song-requesting guest that wants to backseat DJ.
IW: In your opinion, is there an ideal genre order that works best with a wedding?
LK: There are no longer any rules that apply to this category. We are in an era of “anything is possible” and the clients are much more progressive. The secret is variety. The timing of the evening will determine order but the days of starting out mellow and moving through the decades are over.
IW: How many staff members do you typically bring with you to a wedding?
LK: I always have at least five staff members at each event – two engineers, a floater, and two technical staff. If there is a tight schedule, I add more technical staff because of the need for a speedy setup. One of the staff members is a dedicated FX engineer who also runs my tracks and is constantly checking to make sure we are never too loud. The floater takes care of the client's or consultant's needs while I am performing, and passes the information along to me.
Photo courtesy of Larry King Orchestra
IW: What are your two major dos and don’ts regarding wedding music?
LK: Two Major Dos:
1. Do - Make sure that you have a comprehensive timing and music selection meeting at least one month prior to your wedding.
2. Do - your homework and decide what your special dances and introduction music should be. There are so many choices and these decisions should not be left up to anyone but you. These songs are for you and your partner alone; make them special and customized.
Two Major Don’ts:
1. Don’t - be a musical snob. You will be missing out on a lot of fun music. Try to pick your songs based on what you think will pack the dance floor.
2. Don’t - worry about every little detail – that is what the meeting is for. At some point, you just need to have fun.
IW: What’s the most common song featured on the “do not play" list?
LK: The “Macarena”, Electric Slide, and the “Chicken Dance”. Although, as I am writing this in my kitchen, my wife and daughters are protesting.
IW: Do you have a funny/interesting story from a wedding you’ve worked that you’d like to share?
LK: There are too many to choose from, so I’ll give you an overview of three of my favorites. The first was a country club wedding next to a pool where the bridal party decided to take an impromptu swim, remove most of their clothing, and come back on the dance floor soaking wet. That proved to be a very slippery party.
The next was not as fun but more interesting. My bride and groom got in a huge fight and the groom screamed out, “I AM OUT OF HERE.” So I did the only thing I could do and played “Stay” by the Dave Matthews Band. Needless to say, it didn’t work.
The last story is one of my favorites. I had a bride and groom that were avid ballroom dancers. They wanted to do a choreographed tango for their first dance which involved a dress change (not during but before the dance). The bride had changed into a gorgeous silk dress with pearl straps. We played “La Cumparsita” and they brilliantly executed a flawless tango. At the end of the dance the groom dipped his partner right in front of me and looked me straight in the eye with an approving wink and a smile and said “how about that”. What he didn’t realize was that his wife’s pearl straps had popped and her silk dress had fallen completely to the floor. Without missing a beat, they held that pose for a count of four, he covered her with his free hand, and gracefully pulled out of the dip. He bowed, she curtsied and picked up her dress, and they sashayed off into the sunset.
IW: Do you have any specific tips for couples regarding booking entertainment?
LK: My advice for couples booking entertainment is simple. This should be the most fun you have during the wedding-planning process. If you are interviewing bands or DJs and you are not having a good time, it’s probably the wrong choice.