The Ceilidh Band Booking Guide: Tips, Costs and FAQs

The Ceilidh Band Booking Guide: Tips, Costs and FAQs

Planning the perfect wedding day? Adding the unmistakable sound of a Ceilidh band is sure to make your entertainment a hit.

Weddings offer a unique opportunity to emphasise traditional celebrations while honouring a new union, making a live Ceilidh band the ideal way to celebrate with friends and family.

If this is the first time you've booked a Ceilidh band, you're bound to have questions. Whether Ceilidh music is a longstanding family tradition or has only recently hit your radar, our booking guide aims to bring your Ceilidh knowledge up to speed.

History of Ceilidh

Let's start with the origins of Cèilidh. Cèilidh (pronounced as 'Kay-lee') is a Scottish-Gaelic word. In Irish, the word for Cèilidh is Céilí. The word Cèilidh was originally used to describe a social gathering, although, in modern times, a Cèilidh usually involves dancing and Gaelic folk music.

It's possible that the term "Cèilidh" developed as a codeword. Studies of Cèilidh often reference a time in Scotland when playing traditional Scottish music and wearing traditional Scottish clothing was forbidden. The theory is that Cèilidh may have been a phrase used to avoid rousing suspicion!

A Cèilidh in previous generations may have involved more relaxed activities. You might have been treated to a night of storytelling unaided by music, or it may have just been a casual social gathering with friends. The idea of a Cèilidh can sometimes feel grand, but it wasn't always this way. You may have gone to a Cèilidh and heard tales regarding legends and ancient myths. Nowadays, those same tales might be disguised in a song.

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Ceilidh Today

Nowadays, the image of Cèilidh most people have includes music and dance. The more informal Cèilidh events in past generations may have included this type of entertainment from time to time, but it wasn't considered necessary. As time went by, the term became closely associated with traditional entertainment, especially music.

Most Ceilidh bands today provide a "dance caller" who helps guide dances for guests, allowing everyone to participate, including less experienced party members.

As for the style of dance, Cèilidh dancing is viewed as a more relaxed form of Scottish country dancing. This is because Cèilidh dancing is much more informal. Cèilidh is about relaxation and entertainment, so the primary purpose of the dance is not to put on an expert performance.

More about the Dancing!

Some people may relate Cèilidh to "barn dancing". If you're familiar with the terms "do-si-do" and "swing your partners", then you may already be more aware of the pattern of Cèilidh dancing than you realise. Cèilidh dances can also be conducted with a partner or in a larger group which is why it's become increasingly popular for weddings.

If you're caught up with formal dance names, then here are some dances you can expect to enjoy at a Cèilidh:

  • Virginia Reel
  • Cumberland Reel
  • Canadian Barn Dance
  • St. Bernard's Waltz
  • Flying Scotsman
  • And many more!

What does a Ceilidh Band do?

Modern Cèilidh bands typically perform a combination of Scottish, Irish, and English Folk music.

The lineup will usually consist of at least two or three members to include a fiddle player, accordionist and a Dance Caller.

These will be the three core members, but bands often add additional instrumentation to allow for a bigger sound and a broader range of music. 

Dance Callers 

On top of incredible live music, the Cèilidh dance caller is a big reason to hire a Cèilidh band. For a wedding, you want to get the party up and active. The more entertainment you can provide, the better, and while you have many live music options, few come with an interactive dance caller!

The Caller's goal is to get everyone to participate and enjoy the fun. With the dance caller guiding the activities, a Ceilidh can provide the perfect entertainment for guests of all ages.

The best part? You can expect experienced callers to teach a dance to your party in under 5 minutes!

When will a Cèilidh band typically play?

While a Cèilidh band can work around your schedule, the most popular performance time is during the evening wedding reception. A ceilidh band can be the opening act to warm your guests up or your main evening wedding band. Many Ceilidh bands integrate contemporary music into their set lists, making them ideal for every generation.

What instruments do they use?

The instrumentation of a Ceilidh band can vary depending on your band's style. Traditional bands might include:

  • Concertina
  • Melodeon
  • Banjo's
  • Mandolins
  • Fiddles
  • Acoustic Guitars

These days, modern Cèilidh bands also incorporate contemporary instrumentation into their performance, such as:

  • Keyboards
  • Drums
  • Electric violin
  • Electric guitars
  • Stompboxes

How long does Ceilidh band need to set up?

The setup time for a Ceilidh band is usually about an hour, but this can vary depending on the lineup and the number of band members. 

Be sure to speak to your band or entertainment agency ahead of time so that the band have sufficient time and space to set up and soundcheck.

Can a Cèilidh band play outside?

The short answer: if you can provide electricity, then yes!

This is another area where communication with the band is crucial. If you're planning to host a band outside in any capacity, you'll need to provide some basic amenities, such as cover from rain and the elements.

How much does a Cèilidh band cost to hire?

No matter your enthusiasm, one of the biggest factors in your decision will be the cost. So how much does it cost to hire a Cèilidh band? A Ceilidh band typically charges around £200-£300 per member, but this can vary with travel, expenses and other factors such as early arrivals and late finishes.

As mentioned, Cèilidh bands come in many shapes, forms and sizes. At a minimum, you'll need a dance caller and two instrumentalists. This means you can expect to spend £600-£900 for a trio, going up to £1000-£1500 for a 5-piece.

How long will a Cèilidh band perform?

A Cèilidh band will typically split their performance into two 60 minute sets or 3 sets of 40 minutes. Bands are usually very accommodating, so consider your entertainment needs in advance and communicate with your bandleader to find the right option for you.

Can we request specific songs and covers?

With many Ceilidh bands offering a fusion of traditional Ceilidh and contemporary music, there's often scope to learn a new song for your special day. If you have a particular song request in mind, it's always worth running it past your band at least 6-8 weeks before your event.

Remember that some Cèilidh bands focus on creating an immersive traditional experience, meaning song requests are limited to the genre. 

Do I need to provide any equipment?

Cèilidh bands usually come fully self-contained, providing their own instruments and a small PA system suitable for most occasions.

If you're organising a particularly large event of a few hundred people, you may need to check with the band to see if their sound system is suitable. 

How much space will a Cèilidh band need?

Ceilidh bands are relatively compact compared to some other types of bands. However, this will depend on the number of band members. You'll also need to consider the dance floor size for your guests. Cèilidh dances can often take up more space than your typical disco setup, so you need to look for a venue that can provide a large open area.

We usually recommend that the band set up after the wedding breakfast while venue staff turn the room around, perhaps removing surplus tables and chairs to increase dance floor space.

Hiring your own Cèilidh band

Ready to find the perfect Ceilidh band for your wedding? Head on over to our Cèilidh bands page to find your perfect band.