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Book a Band for a Different Kind of Wedding Sound

For many couples, family and tradition means everything. Having a band that helps reflect those can be a great way to pay tribute to your heritage, while getting your guests on the dance floor.

Photos by Matt Gaydos Photography

After the traditional wedding march, what comes to mind when you think about wedding music? Is a DJ the best choice for your reception? Or would your guests prefer the nostalgia of a band? One aspect people may not think of is how music can help tie cultural aspects into your wedding.

When Christine Tate married Josh Pribanic, she wanted both of their families to enjoy music that would send them back to their roots, so she got a few of her friends together to form a traditional Croatian and Serbian band for the day. 

The choice of music was inspired by Christine and her husband’s passion for Croatian cultural events. When the couple were students at Duquesne University, they were members of the Duquesne University Tamburitzans (now known as The Tamburitzans). The group is known to play folk dance and international cultural music.

Their band consisted of family friends, all of whom the couple grew up with. They played music for their first dance, and for the Kolo, a traditional circle dance.

Combining the band with a playlist of popular hits in the United States, the wedding and reception was the perfect mix of traditions.

“Music was involved throughout the day, even before the ceremony,” Christine says. “We had a newer tumbata band [which typically plays traditional, soft music with acoustic instruments] during the cocktail hour, and for the reception, we had still traditional Croatian music, but instead we added a keyboard and an accordion to give it more liveliness.”

Photos by Dawn Derbyshire Photography

Estelle Tran, a first-generation American whose parents are from Vietnam, and her husband Haris ​Fetahagic, whose family is Bosnian, liked the cultural aspect a band could provide as well. After considering several options, they decided to go with Gypsy Stringz, a popular Pittsburgh band that mainly plays Eastern European music and frequently performs at Huszar, a Hungarian bar and restaurant on the North Side.

“I feel like they’re most known in Pittsburgh for playing Hungarian music and just general Eastern European music. But they do know a few Bosnian songs that my in-laws are nostalgic for,” Estelle says.

The music hit close to home for both Estelle and her new husband’s family. Estelle played the violin in school, and her mother-in-law plays the accordian, which made the Gypsy Stringz and their similar sound even more special to them.

“I think that [my family] appreciated that we chose to do something nice for Haris’ family,” Estelle says. “The music made it unique and personal. During dinner, we saw people singing and swaying, so it was nice… Having them play helped to share the Old World roots in a light way.”

Photos by Melanie Rae Photography

Abby Kirstein was at Stage AE for an OU Children’s Home gala when she first heard John Gresh’s Gris-Gris play his New Orleans-themed music.

“My entire family went to that gala,” Abby says. “They played a lot of voodoo and New Orleans music and played music I grew up [listening to]. These guys were totally amazing and totally our style.”

John Gresh’s Gris-Gris, sometimes with the help of Pittsburgh legend Jimmy Adler, often plays at NOLA in Market Square. Their music is inspired by what John Gresh, the lead vocalist, grew up listening to, and is performed to get everyone in the crowd moving.

With the encouragement of her family, Abby asked the band to play at her wedding to Zac Blake. The band was a bit reluctant at first, but Abby would not take no for an answer.

“We’ve only played, like, three weddings in the past two years,” Gresh says. “We don’t consider ourselves to be a wedding band. We won’t play the chicken dance, or, you know, YMCA, or whatever.”

Despite this, Gresh and his band will play a few special requests, such as the father-daughter dance and the first dance between the newlyweds. The band says that most of the time they pass on playing at a reception.

“The weddings we have played, everyone’s had a good time,” Gresh says. “It’s such an emotional event, you know? A lot of times, it has to be the perfect day and for the most part, I say, ‘okay, we really don’t want that pressure.’ But for the right type of people, we say, ‘Okay, we can do that.’”

Abby’s guests were a bit shocked when they heard the first few songs, but by the end of the night, everyone was on the dance floor. The music was something that her family could appreciate, having also grown up with the music.

“The dance floor was filled the entire time, even though probably no one knew the words!” Abby says with a laugh.

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