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Couples' FAQ, Song Selections, Weddings

Top 10 First Dance Songs – September 2016

September 28, 2016

photo // Anna Schmidt Photography

Before I begin, let me say this. I don’t think you can go wrong picking your wedding song. Whether it’s old or new, upbeat or slow, it’s really all about what the song means to you. The song will take on special meaning for you as you dance to it, as well as your guests as they watch. I’m often surprised by the songs our couples choose as their first dance (“How are we going to make this one work?!”), but the rule seems to be: the more interesting or unique the song choice, the more special the moment. So, get creative! And even better…if you have a band play your wedding instead of a DJ, you can ask them to adjust the song to fit the mood you want to set. They can slow the song down, add instrumentation, take out percussion, or create a nice build of energy as the song goes along (my favorite technique).

Here are some cool songs we’ve done in the last 12 months.

1. Slide // Goo Goo Dolls (slow version) – We did this one for Jess & Brad at Oak Canyon Ranch on 5.21.16. This is a 90’s throwback if I’ve ever heard one, and definitely a unique choice for a first dance. To be honest, I had never really listened to the words until I learned it for them, and it turned out to be a very touching first dance. Brad and Jess choreographed a dance to it and had us play it a little bit slower than the original recording. It was pure magic.

2. These Arms Of Mine // Otis Redding – You can never go wrong with a little Otis Redding. This particular tune has just the right mix of soul and 50’s doo-wop, which made this moment meaningful yet light. Georges & Nicole planned their wedding to have an intimate and welcoming feel; with a guest count of under 40, they wanted each of their guests to feel part of what was happening. This song made it easy for us to invite all the other guests onto the floor with them before transitioning into our dance set.

3. When I Get My Hands On You // The New Basement Tapes – So sexy. So smooth. This song is really slow and simple, so it’s great for couples that want an intimate moment they’ll never forget. For Johnny and Emily’s first dance, this was an opportunity for us to back off and let the bass guitar do all the talking. We didn’t try to speed it up or complicate it with extra instrumentation, and the empty space really allowed guests’ attention to rest on the couple.

4. Thinking Out Loud // Ed Sheeran – Don’t shy away from it just because everybody’s heard it a thousand times! We’ve done this for maybe 10 different couples in the past year, and you know what? A good song is a good song! Guests will be able to sing along while they shed a little happy tear for the two of you. Tried and true.

5. Our Love // Gary Clark, Jr. – Another smooth R&B tune that I had never heard before. I thought this one was a really nice tempo – slow but not too slow, with a really classic beat that seemed to fit the sophistication of the occasion. This song also has a nice build of energy, which makes it conducive to invite guests to join you towards the end of the tune. This song is especially great if you have a horn in your band!

6. Your Song // Elton John – A classic, and a great choice no matter which way you spin it. There are many ways to do this song – completely acoustic with a piano, mid-tempo with the band accenting here and there, very soft and gentle with a violin. You can’t go wrong with this one, because the lyrics are timeless and the melody floats beautifully.

7. It Had To Be You // Harry Connick, Jr. – I love this one for ballroom weddings with a real high-end feel. This song keeps the mood light and playful and just a little bit sexy (just listen to the way Harry Connick slides into those notes…) The Sinatra version is great too, but it doesn’t have the sultry swing of Connick, Jr.’s version.

8. The Way I Am // Ingrid Michaelson – Everybody knows this one, but it’s definitely an interesting choice for a first dance. It opts out of the traditional image of romance, charmingly addressing the finer aspects of a life spent together. (“I’ll buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair.”). For the right couple, it’s super charming. Min & Rune danced to this at Beltane Ranch in October, and it fit their unique love story perfectly.

9. Budapest // George Ezra – This song is getting more and more popular with couples, who love it for its simplicity and undeniably happy feel. This is an “all smiles” first dance – for the couple that wants to celebrate their first dance with a bit more joy than traditional selections allow.

10. You Are The Best Thing // Ray LaMontagne – It’s never going to go out of style. This song works so well because it’s an upbeat song you can still slow dance to it. It’s romantic, but it’s not so intense that you’ll make everybody cry. And most importantly, this song is the easiest of all the songs we do to get your guests to join you towards the end of the song. I particularly love the bridge of the song because of the way it builds excitement leading into the last two choruses. I’d highly recommend either having a horn player or a keys player than can play a horn line!

Want more ideas? Want to bounce an idea around? E-mail ben@benmallare.com for more first dance real talk.

Song Selections, Weddings

Top 10 Wedding Reception Party Songs – July 2016

July 13, 2016

Photo: Miki Vargas Photography // @mikivargasphoto

Anybody who has ever attempted an “iPod Wedding” will readily tell you, there’s more to throwing an awesome dance party than just playing whatever songs you like to listen to in your car. It’s not even just playing the most popular songs on radio (imagine if your wedding band or DJ played “Hello” by Adele at your wedding). We play close to 50 weddings a year, and even we are occasionally surprised about the songs that people will or will not dance to at a wedding reception. That said, here are the top 10 songs that we guarantee will get your wedding guests up and dancing this season.

1. Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars) – A top 40 song that sounds retro. What could be better for an all-ages dance party? This song is over a year old, but it’s become ubiquitous and will get all your guests on the dance floor. It’s (more or less) appropriate for all ages, and it’s a great party starter.

2. September (Earth Wind & Fire) – You can’t go wrong with this classic. Forty years later, this song will still set off your guests’ party neurons. It’s nostalgic for older generations and fun for the younger ones. Make sure you have a horn player in your band to make this one extra special.

3. Shut Up & Dance (Walk The Moon) – One of the most popular radio songs of 2015, this is another great party starter. Guests love to sing along, and it’s a great one for those attending without a date. For couples with thing for rock & roll, this is a great current top 40 song that still has a rock feel to it.

4. Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) – We often will corral guests into a “dance-off” circle for this MJ classic. Brave souls will show off moves that you never knew they had! Make sure your photographer and videographer are nearby.

5. Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke) – Sorry, everyone. Despite all the controversy this song and its music video caused, it’s still one of the best songs to get guests shaking their tail feathers! We love to throw it in about halfway through the night after guests have had a few drinks. It’s a great way to start a second wave of dancing.

6. One Dance (Drake) – The “Blurred Lines” of 2016. Even though not all of your guests will know this tune yet, they will respond to this smooth and sexy groove only Drake can provide. It’s also a great one for later in the evening.

Photo: Miki Vargas Photography // @mikivargasphoto

Photo: Miki Vargas Photography // @mikivargasphoto

7. Shout (Isley Brothers) – Couples often ask me not to play this one. If you have a DJ, I agree. Skip it. The recording sounds super outdated and cheesy. BUT, a band will make this song the absolute highlight of the evening. We use Shout to trigger some really fun audience participation, and our home-run-of-a-finish always has guests hooting and hollering!

8. Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond) – Some call it lame, but even the most hipster of hipsters can’t resist singing along to this chorus. Seriously, they’ll sing along to it and then shake their heads at themselves for daring to have fun. (Am I getting too personal here?) My point is: it’s a party and people are drinking and having fun. Don’t shy away from playing a song that will have everybody wrapping their arms around each other like a bunch of drunken Irishmen. Trust me, you’ll cherish the memory!

9. Wagon Wheel (Darius Rucker) – I always ask, “Where are my country fans?!” Nobody ever responds, but they DO dance once we start playing this tune. It’s a feel-good rockabilly tune that plays particularly well at barn and winery weddings.

10. Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong) – You’ll want mostly upbeat tunes at your reception, of course, but a couple slow dances thrown in the mix are essential. We love this one because it gets all the couples out on the floor, even if they haven’t danced all night. It’s often a really special moment for the couple to have another special dance with each other or with their parents.

Wanna talk shop? Planning your own wedding and need some advice? We know about wedding music and love to help! E-mail Ben at ben@benmallare.com or check us out on WeddingWire for more information.

Venues, Weddings

Top 5 Most Breathtaking Destinations & Venues in California for 2015

April 22, 2015

At my company, we offer bands and ensembles consisting of between two and five members each. As such, we’re able to travel all to the most remote destinations without hassle. When it comes to beautiful scenery, secluded sanctuaries and breathtaking views, you can’t beat the California coast. Here are some of our favorite destinations and venues to have your wedding here in California.

1. Big Sur // Venue: Wind & Sea Estate (photo above)

An ambiguous location in California, not bound to any one county or municipality, Big Sur sits on the northwest corner of Los Padres National Forest. Only accessible by Hwy 1, it’s noted for its high bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We joined Alex & Natalie for their wedding in May 2014 at Wind & Sea Estate. The ceremony was held down at the bluff, with the cocktail hour dispersing out amongst the grounds. The house includes a wrap-around balcony where dinner was served, and a large living room where we closed out the night with dancing until 1 in the morning!

Sea Ranch Lodge

2. Sea Ranch // Venue: Sea Ranch Lodge

Nestled a couple hours north of San Francisco, also on Hwy 1, Sea Ranch has a definite wilderness factor to it. The lodge is rustic yet fully updated; well-staffed and event-ready. The premises are rather large and allow couples to hold different portions of the evening at different locations, creating a nice arc for the evening. We celebrated with Josh & Tamara in April 2014.

Mar Vista3. Gualala // Venue: Mar Vista Cottages

An absolutely charming ranch-style camp, Mar Vista Cottages has a secret weapon that they would never let me post here. The view from the altar is unparalleled, and they want to keep it exclusive for the couples who have tied the knot there. I had to promise that the picture I took on my phone would be for my eyes only. The setup at this destination is perfect for a wedding of 20-30 guests. Cottages surround the center gathering area, where guests can retreat for the evening. It’s definitely a “gather around the fire” atmosphere up here.

ledson_winery_21

4. Kenwood // Venue: Ledson Winery & Vineyards

Having a wedding at a castle speaks for itself. Add in your own design decisions as you wish, but there’s only accessorizing to do when you have such remarkable architecture as your focal point. Nick and Megan decided to have their ceremony in the front with the fountain and front door as a backdrop. Guests then moved through the castle to the courtyard, where dinner took place.

santabarbarababeachclub

5. Santa Barbara // Venue: Santa Barbara Beach Club

Moving a little further down the coast, our favorite spot in Santa Barbara is the Beach Club, another luxury estate that is perfect for weddings of 75 guests or less. Probably the most modern on our list, this venue still has the right combination of style and soul. Hold your ceremony and cocktail hour out on the deck, and move the party into the living room, where you’ll find there’s just enough space to fit a top-notch acoustic band.

As always, we are your first resource for entertainment at your intimate and secluded venue. Visit www.benmallareacoustic.com or call (410) 980-8370 to let us know what you have in mind.