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Let's Hear It From the Band

For the wild and the wacky, the funny and the foolish, there's no wedding perspective quite like that from the bandstand.

STAN WIEST, STAN WIEST MUSIC
“We were playing at a high-society wedding where the bride’s mother was very, very proper and so concerned that everything be perfect because, well, ‘it’s my daughter’s wedding.’ The reception was at the Old Field Club in Stony Brook, which is right on the shore, and there was somebody who was waterskiing around the area. During the first course—after we did the first dance, the toast, the blessing—the best man flagged down the boat. He had a little conference with them, and suddenly the skier was taking off his skis. The best man took off his pants, and before we knew it, he was just whooping it up, waterskiing in polka-dot boxer shorts and a tuxedo top in full view of this incredibly proper blue-blood crowd.

“I had another bride who wanted her dog as the maid of honor, so she had a designer dress made for the dog to match her bridesmaids’ outfits. She spent $5,000 or $6,000 on this little dress. The only problem was that she wanted to have a wedding in the church. She told the priest about the dog, and he said, ‘Absolutely no way.’ So she had to move the ceremony to a private party space.

“At the Old Westbury Golf & Country Club, we did a very elegant Korean wedding, and they had a special wedding cake baked by one of their baker friends. It was absolutely gorgeous. But I guess the baker was worried the cake would fall and used something extra to hold it together. Whatever he used, it solidified the icing—it was like cement. The bride and groom are standing there with a regular knife. It doesn’t work. The maître d’ goes into the kitchen and gets a sharper knife. Even he can’t cut the cake. So then he brings out a serrated knife. That doesn’t work either. He goes back into the kitchen, and now he comes out with a coping saw—what you use to cut metal with—and, struggling very hard, gets a single slice out of the thing. After they dug into it for a while, all the bride and groom could get was a tiny bit in the middle to feed each other. The rest was totally inedible.

“Then there are the people who say, ‘Gee, my cousin sings great. Can she sing with your band?’ Once, at the North Hempstead Country Club, the bride requested that her cousin sing ‘All I Ask of You,’ the lead song from The Phantom of the Opera. It ends up at a very high note. As soon as we began playing it, we knew that when this girl got to that part, she wouldn’t be able to make it. She just didn’t have the voice. I can see it now, all in slow motion: The girl comes to the end of the song, totally oblivious to everything; one of the waiters has just finished clearing a table and is walking across the bandstand. He’s got a tray of dirty dishes—roast-beef scraps, wineglasses. At the moment she hits the high note from the song, he’s crossing the dance floor. The girl cracks it, and this huge screech comes through the sound system. The waiter trips, and everything he’s carrying goes crashing across the dance floor.”



BUD MALTIN, THE BUD MALTIN ORCHESTRA
“We were scheduled to play at a wedding in a tent in the backyard of the bride’s brother’s house. It wasn’t a rainy day, but there was this one massive storm, and it poured for 30 minutes—torrential. Nobody noticed that the backyard was at the bottom of a steep slope. Well, the entire tent almost immediately filled with two feet of water. When I pulled up, the waiters and waitresses were walking into it with their pants rolled up, carrying their stuff out of there. Meanwhile, everybody’s coming from church, arriving at this house—there were maybe 200 people. There was no way to use the tent, so our orchestra and the catering staff moved a significant amount of furniture out of the house and set up a ten-piece orchestra around the pool table. When the people sent thank-you cards to everyone, they said, ‘Thank you for joining us at the Wetting of the Year.’”


TREVOR DAVISON, THE TREVOR DAVISON ORCHESTRA
“Shelter Island can have a huge line of cars to get on the ferry. For a June wedding, our band arrived in four different vehicles: one maybe ten minutes away from the front of the line, and the last was probably an hour and a half away. We were never going to make it, so the last vehicle sent out a scouting party and somehow managed to locate the other cars. We did one of those Marx Brothers routines where we were running tuxedos and band equipment from one car to the next, forward, forward, forward, and getting it into the first vehicle. We made it to the wedding just in time. I would liken it to that circus routine that clowns do where they get 25 guys into a Volkswagen. That’s what we looked like in the ferry line.

“Another time, we played a wedding where the groom and all the groomsmen were Scottish and wore kilts. Later in the evening, feeling no pain, one of the groomsmen fell down on the dance floor. He wasn’t down for long, but we now know what a Scot wears under his kilt.”


JOE BONACCI, MANHATTAN SWING ORCHESTRA

“The bride hadn’t mentioned having a father-daughter dance. When the time came, as usual, I announced that the bride would dance with her father. A hush fell over the room. I had no idea he was in a wheelchair! I felt awful. No one knew what was going to happen, but he came out and he held out his hand to his daughter and rocked his chair back and forth with the other. It was such a wonderful moment—something they thought they could probably never do. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place by the end of it.”


VALERIE ROMANOFF, STARLIGHT ORCHESTRAS AND PRODUCTIONS:
“On this big tour boat that shall remain nameless, we’re playing in a glass room, and we see the boat heading toward the banks and everyone on the dance floor is completely oblivious. It was just like in Titanic. We’re thinking, Oh, my God, this boat is going to crash. But we have to keep on playing; we have to create calm. Somehow, the boat miraculously stops before it crashes into Queens. Then it starts drifting. At this point, we’d been playing for about an hour and a half, and normally we’d take a break, but the crew didn’t want the guests to look out the window. So now we realize we’re drifting all the way to La Guardia. Then the boat starts going round in circles: It’s stuck in a whirlpool. So not only are we getting exhausted, we’re getting nauseous. At last, the Coast Guard comes and throws a line and tows us back. It took this enormous boat showing up right next to us for people to finally figure it out.”



CHARLOTTE SANDERS, CHARLOTTE RUSSE MUSIC
“The best toast I ever heard was one where the father began comparing his daughter’s life to a beautiful novel. ‘And this wedding,’ he said, ‘is my entrance to Chapter 11.’ ”



JESSICA MEYER, VENUS ENSEMBLES

“The string quartet and I were going to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. We’re walking toward the rock garden, and we see the bridal party. Every member was dressed like a different animal. There was a peacock and a lizard made of green and gold lamé. When the bride was coming down, she was in a big huge swan outfit. The groom was a penguin or something. It turned out they were theater majors, so they wanted everyone to be in costume. Most outfits were basically tuxedos and dresses with all these accoutrements. I have no idea how they danced, though.”


ALAN SIMON, ALAN SIMON MUSIC

“You’d be surprised who wants to sing with the band. We’ve had dignitaries, politicians, a prince of Cambodia. There was one Japanese billionaire who thought he was Frank Sinatra. He had no right to sing anywhere but in the shower—no sense of rhythm and no pitch control whatsoever. We didn’t have a vocalist that night because the clients wanted only instrumental jazz, and I guess he thought we were a live karaoke machine, because he kept singing song after song and wouldn’t stop. We were cringing and trying to keep from laughing, but none of us said anything because he was handing out $100 bills left and right. For every song, he gave us another round. Our pockets were bulging. We just indulged him. I think I made about $1,000 in tips, when the gig only paid $800 total.”


CAL JAMES, THE CAL JAMES ORCHESTRA
“Once, a groom got cold feet the morning of the wedding and left. By the time we showed up, the bride had switched her wedding dress for a party dress. The groom had paid for the wedding, and she went ahead with this big party for all of her friends so he couldn’t get any of his money back. She bought the party dress on his credit card.”


JOHN RAGUSA, JOHN RAGUSA MUSIC
“I was playing with my blues trio, Mulebone UK, in a tented wedding on Nantucket Island. We started playing bluegrass. Virtually everyone in the tent, 150 or 200 people, was dancing—old, young, everybody. We were pounding this beat, and they’re all keeping up with us, slamming their feet on the floor. And the sides of the tent start to shake. My drummer, who is so smart, jumped up and yelled, ‘Stop!’ See, the tent was on a hill. He’d just read something about how when soldiers cross a bridge, they break step because when you have massive numbers of people stepping in regular rhythm, it can destroy a foundation. He knew the tent was coming down and, in the middle of this incredible, frenetic, completely wild dance, just stopped on a dime."

From the 2003 New York Wedding Guide

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