Should you have a ceilidh at your wedding?

empire ceilidh scotland

It’s another question we’ve been asked lots of times over the years, so we thought we’d offer up some advice to help you decide what to do, so should you have a ceilidh at your wedding or not?


Ceilidhs are great fun, I love a ceilidh but they’re not everyones cup of tea. I imagine some people could be worried about not knowing the dances, getting the moves wrong, stepping on peoples toes or maybe you simply don’t like the music that much. For me, it all about fun. A ceilidh can really get that dance floor filled and give your wedding a real buzz of energy and excitement, they’re also a great way to kick off the dancing but there are some things you should probably consider before hitting that “book now” button for a ceilidh.


1. How much ceilidh do you want?


  • Do you want only ceilidh?

There are some awesome ceilidh bands out there that will offer up a full evening of ceilidh. You should consider if this is what you want. I’ve been to lots of ceilidh only evenings and they can be exhausting, especially for the guests that have been at your wedding for the full day. On the other hand, i’ve see some full evening ceilidhs sustain for the full evening. Ask yourself how much energy you and your guests might have for a full evening of jigs and reels.

  • Do you want mostly ceilidh?

Another option is to find a band that does mostly ceilidh with a little bit of cover songs here and there, i’ll explain about the different types of bands available a little later in this post but with this option, you’re likely to get a band that will do a few cover songs but it won’t be their focus. Most likely, their repertoire for cover songs will not be very extensive (though there will be exceptions).

  • Do you want a reasonable mix of ceilidh and cover songs?

If you’d like a 50/50 mix of ceilidh and covers, your options for hiring a band will likely be more limited. At this time, there are more bands that sit in either the “lots of ceilidh with a bit of covers” or “lots of covers with a bit of ceilidh”. That’s not to say there aren’t bands in that 50/50 split category, they exist and if you look hard enough you’ll find them.

  • Do you want a little bit of ceilidh?

I’d say this is where the majority of bands these days sit, lots of cover songs but they’ll be able to provide anywhere from 3 to 8 ceilidh dances. Generally those dances include The Gay Gordons, Strip The Willow, The Dashing With Sergeant and a Canadian Barn Dance.


strip the willow

Taking a strip the willow break


2. Ask the band these questions


Once you’ve decided on how much ceilidh you want, you’ll want to make a shortlist of bands and then ask the following questions

  • How long do you play ceilidh for?

Important to ensure the band can play enough music to keep your dance floor filled all evening.

  • How many dances do you do?

You don’t want the same dance over and over again right? Ask how many different dances they can provide.

  • Do you call (teach) the dances?

Do your guest know the dances, I bet some won’t. Be sure to ask if the band can teach your guests the moves or you could have an empty dance floor.

  • Does the band play live of with backing tracks?

Maybe not an issue for some but others will want a 100% live band. This means everything you hear is being played by a musician, not a backing track or MP3. For some, this might not be an issue but be sure to ask the band how they perform their ceilidh.


3. Venue & dance floor considerations


Be sure to ask the venue, or check it out for yourself to make sure there’s enough room to have a ceilidh. Consider the shape of the dance floor and where the tables are likely to be located. Your venue coordinator should be able to help you with this and make sure to ask them if they’ve held ceilidhs in the past. If there has never been a ceilidh at the venue you’re considering, you need to ask why.



4. Bands that do all ceilidh vs those that do some


The major difference with bands that do lots of ceilidh compared to those who do a bit will most likely be instruments. A band that does mostly ceilidh will likely consist of a combination of fiddles, accordion, piano, acoustic or electric guitar, percussion and possibly lead vocals. The ceilidh will sound super authentic and they’ll likely do some nice arrangements of popular covers. A cover band that does a little ceilidh will likely consist of guitar, lead vocals, bass guitar, piano and percussion. The cover songs will be covered very well with this type of band having arrangements for ceilidh.


empire ceilidh action

Here’s some more people enjoying the ceilidh action


5. What time should the ceilidh kick off


Now the setlist order is something we’d always advise you leave up to the band but we thought we’d share this golden piece of advice, have ceilidh for your second dance. Yip, you read that right, ceilidh for your second dance. We find that running one or two songs right at the beginning of the night just sets things off on the right direction and puts everyone in the right mood, enough said.


Rounding things up

Having said all of this, you can’t tar every band with the same brush. Speak to the band, find out what they offer and what they can’t do and you’ll soon make up your mind.

So hopefully we’ve answered some of the considerations for “should you have a ceilidh at your wedding?” but the most important thing to remember here is that the decision is yours. We hope this little bit of advice helps you make the decision that is right for your wedding..!!


If you’re looking for more advice, take a look at our blog post on how to choose the right band for your wedding day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>