Today I’m delighted to continue the Bride Blog series with an incredibly lovely interview with one of our friends, Craig Skene. ‘Skeeno’ has been involved in the wedding industry for a little while now (you’ll see how below) and was one of the first people to give me sound, reasonable and hopeful advice about weddings when we had just got engaged. Scroll down for some more of his wisdom, helpful thoughts about weddings (and marriage!) and a wee sneak peek at his work.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your part in the wedding industry?
My name is Craig Skene. I’m married to Catherine and we have a baby due in September. I’ve been a musician for years but it’s been over the last few years that I decided to give full-time music a go. I’d seen a lot of wedding bands on my travels and it had always occurred to me that it could be done so much better. Wedding music can sometimes bring the worst out of musicians. They see it as unimportant and easy and so they tend to get lazy and a bit unimaginative. My wedding band, The Gents, was born out of a desire to not only do wedding music better than everyone else, but to impose such a high standard that all the lazy, cheesy wedding bands would be forced to up their game in order to survive. A bit of a grandiose statement, but that was what we were, and still are, going for.
The Gents was built on three principles and I’m constantly measuring what we do against them:
1. Treat musicians with respect and pay them well.
2. Treat every wedding like it’s your own.
3. Make sure every detail of ‘the product’ is carefully considered.
I love the idea that maybe my musicians could be proud to play for The Gents and I really love that they get paid substantially more than most wedding bands in this country. I make it my personal responsibility to make sure that my guys are happy and motivated and don’t feel like too much has been asked of them. They give so much to what I’m trying to do and so it’s vital that I respect them and honour them in return. Musicians sometime are seen as commodities but when I prioritise their needs and understand that they have wives, children and busy lives, everything just works so much better. This approach personally costs me time and money, but I honestly can’t imagine running a business any other way.
The principle of treating every wedding like my own protects me from a lazy, impersonal attitude. I love connecting personally with our Brides/Grooms and getting excited about the things that they’re excited about. That really makes the job so much more fun and rewarding.
I’m a bit of a ‘details freak.’ I love when our stage is looking perfect, our musicians are dressed better than the guests and our music is note-perfect. Brides and grooms put so much effort into the details of their day. Why shouldn’t we?
What should couples bear in mind when choosing musicians for the wedding ceremony?
This is such a personal thing. It really varies from couple to couple. Some of the best weddings I’ve played at have just involved a single piano and a cello, but my all time favourite wedding (my own) had 34 musicians in the ceremony! It was amazing! We had an orchestra, a choir and a band. I tried to have my friends playing as much as possible and filled in the gaps with all the best musicians I could find. It wasn’t perfect, but it was so fun and so memorable. My advice is, decide on a budget and stick to it. When I organise ceremony music, I find out the couples budget and give them some options that work within that. Find a good arranger/composer and they can put it all together for you and it won’t cost as much as you’d think. In my opinion, the ceremony is by far the most important part of the day. It’s worth investing time and thought into. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but why not make it beautiful?
Is ‘too cheesy’ part of your vocabulary when it comes to processionals, signing of the register songs, and outros?
Song choice for processionals, solos and outros can be as tricky as picking a first dance because it’s such a personal choice. My advice has always been to not stress too much about it. Most couples don’t really have a song that they would describe as ‘their song’ and sometime you just need to find some music that you both like and that has lyrics that reflect your thoughts on love, faith and marriage. Writing/arranging processional music is really fun. I love tailoring it to make it work seamlessly with the length of the aisle, number of bridesmaids etc. I’ve found myself, the week before weddings, walking down many aisles with a stop watch to get the timings just right! I’m all about the details!
Top tips for choosing congregational songs?
My advice is to have the majority of the songs well-known. You can let the soloists deal with the more obscure songs. It’s nice for your guests to be able to participate in the worship and there’s nothing lovelier than hearing your friends and family belting out a hymn at the top of their lungs!
What should we look for in a band for evening entertainment?
Quality is always the priority but, again, you have to stick to budget. Your evening entertainment can account for between four and six hours of your day. That’s up to half of your day. It’s worth doing right. Making the effort to go and see a band is a great idea. Any band can pay to have a fancy website with lovely photos and auto-tuned demos. Seeing them in action is the only way to really know what they’re like. The real live product is what you’re paying for.
Which is your favourite song to perform at a wedding (ceremony or evening do)? Why?
Hmmm..tough one. I can’t really narrow down a favourite ceremony song but I always love when I get asked to write a new arrangement of an old hymn. ‘Come thou fount’ or ‘How great thou art.’ My favourite song that The Gents play is currently ‘We built this city on rock and roll’! It’s so random but for some reason people love it!
What makes your life easier?
Constant communication of thoughts and ideas makes my life easier. I love hearing the different ideas and dreams that my brides/grooms come up with and I love trying to make them work. A massive budget is also lovely! 😉
Finally…best part of your own wedding?
The truth is, you could spend a million pounds on your wedding; hire the best of everything and have every minuscule detail catered to your exact dream-come-true taste, but I PROMISE it won’t even come close to how amazing the marriage itself will be. Marriage is honestly my favourite thing ever. It’s the best thing about me, it’s my favourite topic of conversation and it’s the thing I’m most proud of. When I put my wedding ring on every morning it still blows me away that I have a wee team-mate who loves me and thinks about me and knows me. My wife is the best person I know. She’s the kindest, most thoughtful, most insightful person. She’s an amazing wife, great daughter, a brilliant sister and in a few short months she’s going to be a mummy and I can’t wait to see her completely nail that role.
Weddings are beautiful, and important, but marriage is huge and difficult and life-changing and brilliant.
You can email Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about booking The Gents for your wedding (or other event!) I have heard them a few times and thoroughly recommend them. I also recommend just having a chat with Craig about marriage – I’m sure you can now see why!
Catch up on previous Bride Blog posts here.