HOW TO RUN A CEILIDH
This page contains some information that we hope will be useful for anyone running a ceilidh or planning an event that involves a ceilidh. If you have any questions not covered here, please feel free to contact us.
It's not essential to follow this, but we've tried to give some guidance on what we've found works well. We're happy to offer advice even if you're not ready to book a band for your event yet or are just considering the idea of having a ceilidh.
how long should the dancing last?
It varies! Ceilidh dancing is an energetic activity, but it can be addictive! Whatever length works best for the event. As a guide, when the ceilidh is the main event, it might commonly last about three hours including a break.
For weddings, where the ceilidh is only part of the entertainment we find that the guests tend to enjoy an hour or two of dancing. Sometimes for weddings we play for the first part of the evening, then a DJ takes over later.
Don't expect everyone to dance all the time. A good band will give the dancers time to recover as well as keeping the momentum going. However, all this is just a guide to give you an idea of what commonly happens at ceilidhs - we're happy to fit in with your event.
REquests, first dances etc
We will choose dances to suit the experience and mood of the guests so that everybody can get involved. If you have any particular requests let us know either in advance or on the night and we'll do our best.
The caller will run the dancing part of the evening, so on the night come over and say "hello" and discuss any last-minute arrangements.
At some weddings, the couple like the first dance to be a special song. We'd be happy to play your iPod or similar through our PA for this but please let us know before the day. Please get it to the band whilst we are setting up, so we check it can play through our PA.
It's a good idea to nominate someone - often the best man at a wedding - to be the main point of contact for the band for the evening and to cover practicalities such as payment, last minute changes etc.
Ceilidhs can be as formal or informal as you like; there's no official dress code.
However, to avoid twisted ankles high heels are best avoided!! For weddings in particular, it's worth letting your guests know that there will be ceilidh dancing as ladies may wish to bring a change of shoes.
Ceilidh dancing is often energetic and your guests (and the band!) will appreciate a break, usually in the middle of the ceilidh. Your guests may appreciate a light buffet, particularly if there are evening-only guests at a wedding. Dancing can be thirsty work. If there's a bar, it's best if it's in the same room as the dancing. You could ask the venue to provide jugs of water as well.
When promoting your event, why not include the name of the band?
Space for the band
If there's a stage available, that's great as the guests will have a good view of the band. It's not essential though, and an area of floor space is fine.
In marquees or outdoors, the band will need covering underneath them to protect equipment and musical instruments from dirt, dust or other potentially damaging surfaces. Also, the band will need to be under cover to protect the instruments and equipment from the weather.
Ideally, the band would be at one end of the room and where the dances have a clear view of the band. Our caller uses a radio microphone so he is free to walk amongst the dancers, so it doesn't matter if the band isn't visible to all your guests. It's important that he can see most of the dancers so he can spot if anybody needs any help with the steps.
We will usually bring our own amplifiers and speakers of a size suitable for the venue.
Don't forget that the band will need access to a reliable and safe power supply, usually a wall electricity socket; we carry extension leads just in case there's not one immediately next to us. If the event is to be held in a marquee powered by a generator, please ensure there is an adequate power supply and let us know in advance.
The space the band needs depends upon the size and line-up of the band that night. For a three-piece band, we'd ideally have a minimum of 5m long x 3m deep but we've fitted in smaller! We will also have PA speakers on tripod stands, somewhere near the stage.
Not too bright, not too dark! It's good to dim the lights to create some atmosphere, but with enough light for the dancers to see what they're doing (and for those sitting out to watch the dancers). A ceilidh will typically be better lit than a disco.
Consider putting some seats around the edge of the room. Whilst hopefully most people will be dancing, some might prefer to sit out some of the dances and enjoy watching. Maybe arrange to have some of the tables moved after the meal to create more space. Also, if the bar's in a separate room, some of your guests won't be able to see the fun on the dance floor and may be less likely to take part.
Many hotels and public venues require the band to hold Public Liability insurance. Lochnagar carries insurance at a level required by most venues, but please check their specific requirements; we can provide a copy of the certificate if the venue needs this. We can also provide an equipment list, method statement or risk assessment if required by the venue.
Our "portable appliances" are regularly electrically safety tested; this is also required by some venues. Check the venue is allowed to have 'live' music and that it is licensed to the time you want to finish! For some unlicenced venues, you may need to ask them to obtain a Temporary Events Notice from the local council.
Some venues have a strict time when the band must stop playing. It is possible that this time is earlier than you can book the venue until, so it's worthwhile checking. Also, check that the finish time is the time when guests are to leave not the band. We take about 30 minutes to pack up at the end of the night.
Sometimes, ceilidhs are held outdoors in a marquee. Marquees often are good acoustically, as you don't get the echo and reverberation that you can sometimes get in larger indoor spaces. There are just a couple of things to bear in mind.
Firstly, there will need to be a sufficient power supply for the band's PA system. If the marquee is near a building, you may be able to feed power directly by extending a cable from the building to the marquee.
Another common option is to feed power from a generator, and usually this can be provided by the marquee company; they'd normally need power for lights in any case. Lochnagar uses around 4kW of power so the generator will need to be able to keep up, especially if there will be caterers using ovens at the same time. An undersized generator can cause power surges, which can damage PA equipment. We'd recommend you highlight our requirements to the generator supplier, so you get the right size. We'd need a minimum of one 13A, 240V socket (like you have at home) near the stage area and we'll extend from there.
The second thing to think about is flooring and perhaps a stage. Most marquees are set up on a reasonably flat surface so a stage isn't always required. However, you will need to make sure that you have some sort of secure flooring for the band's PA system and instruments.
Access and Parking
We would need parking spaces close to the entrance to unload the heavy PA equipment and musical instruments. If the access route from the parking to the hall is awkward we may need to allow a little extra time to set up; please let us know in advance. Please ensure that the venue knows we're coming and knows to direct us to the reserved parking spaces for unloading and access to the building. If possible, please let us know the contact number of the duty manager in advance.
We usually require around 1 hour to set up, and we are accustomed to doing this discretely, say when your guests are eating their meal. However, it's often easier if there's an opportunity for the guests to congregate elsewhere when the band's setting up. If things are running late, we'll do our best to set up as quickly as possible.
Once we've carried in and set up the equipment, we perform a quick sound-check to get the sound balance right. This only takes a few minutes, although the more time we have the better we'll sound!. Please contact us should you wish to discuss our setting up earlier in the day; although often not possible, this can sometimes be arranged for an additional charge.
Videos and photos
We'd be happy for you and your guests to take photos or video footage of Lochnagar for personal use and we'd love you to share them with us.
Drinks and refreshments for the band are always appreciated!
When to pay
To secure the bookings, we will ask you to pay a deposit in advance. Please ensure that the band receives the full balance in cash at the start of the night.