Wedding and Private Event Musician
I began doing weddings here in Atlanta and the Southeast over 7 years ago. Each Fall and Spring my schedule gets pretty full playing lots of weddings. I play acoustic guitar and banjo for ceremonies, business dinners, and private events.
I really love it. When I tell people that I play weddings, some other musician’s reactions are “That is a nightmare, blah blah blah.”
Well, I do not EVER recall a “nightmare” but then again I don’t usually play the type of weddings where it gets loud at the reception and lots of drinking. Maybe if you are in a party band, not sure. It could be that the musicians themselves are the problem as well, overall my experience is very positive.
The pluses-You don’t have to worry about a crowd, they are definitely showing up, somebody always compliments what you played, you are there on someone’s day that they’ll always remember.
At the same time, when musicians decide they want to get into doing weddings, they may not be fully prepared. I want to help you prepare. Many things I learned only via experience so here is a brief list:
1)Develop a repertoire of songs appropriate for weddings. For me this includes Jazz (think Frank Sinatra/Duke Ellington), Pop (Beatles/Stevie Wonder), Appalachian String Music (fiddle tunes not played fast), Rock (Led Zeppelin/Journey). This also includes typical Classical songs like Pachabel’s Canon or Prelude from Cello Suite #1. Be sure to understand the different components of a wedding ceremony-processional/recessional/prelude
You must be able to suggest appropriate material to brides for each section of a ceremony. If you are uncertain then google wedding musician in your area and determine what repertoire they use to inform your decisions.
2)Written Contracts-In order to protect yourself and the client you want to have a contract outlining all of the details of the event. This including start and end times, location and financial logistics. Some other things I include in mine are a)if any parking expenses are incurred the client will be responsible for them b)Any remaining balance is due before the event starts-at weddings people get tied up in pictures and have places to be, you don’t want to have to run someone down an hour later to get your money, nor do they want to interrupt their tremendous day in order to talk about money. It’s best for everyone involved. c)A wedding coordinator or someone similar must be onsite to give you instructions about where to set up-if there is no coordinator (professional or not) then there is a chance of miscommunications and you don’t want that.
3)Proper attire-This could be a suit, a pair of black slacks, khakis and a few dress shirts. Don’t ever wear white socks with black dress shoes. My advice is to look the best you can. I typically wear a suit unless told otherwise.
4)Sound Equipment-Extension Cord, Backup Cables. It might even be a good idea to double check to make sure your equipment is still working before the gig. I’ve got a small portable amp with microphone inputs with phantom power that I use on solo gigs, as well as a bigger PA setup for band setups. You are not putting on a concert so do not turn it up too loud. Arrive early and get someone that works there or even a family member to check the sound for you. You want to be heard but not loud.
5)Follow Ups-Always follow up with any client a few days after the event. Let them know how much you appreciate them hiring you. Sometimes clients REALLY like your music, keep them on an email list to inform them of future public gigs, they may come out to see you play.
6)Pay Negotiating-Do not do a wedding for $100.00 and if you do so you are seriously underselling yourself. The least I’ve ever heard of someone doing a wedding for is $150 a musician, normally it’s $200 minimum. In the case that you are experienced, you can actually charge more and depending on the situation MUCH more. You have to take things into consideration such as WHERE is it, how far of a drive is it. What time of year is it to be held? I actually charge more for weddings in April and October, I do this because every year my calendar is completely booked solid in those months and I know I will be hired, I can’t afford to turn down good paying jobs for lesser paying ones, so I quote accordingly. Will you need to bring sound for the event? If so include that in your cost. Remember the wedding cake is making more than you, the photographer is making more than you, basically everyone there is making more than you so don’t feel bad about your quote if you are a professional. Most people are willing to pay you what you think you are worth if you can provide a track record of successful weddings and past clients.
7)Hand out your business card to every single Wedding/Event Coordinator you run into. Even the ones you haven’t worked for send them an email with your information, some are DYING to put you on their list because they don’t want to go searching every time someone asks for a guitar/banjo at their wedding. You can make their job easier.
In summary, playing weddings is a great job but I must say you have to put aside your own musical wants and ego sometimes. As a musician, you may be working on some really great thing you wrote but come wedding day you may be asked to play a Popular song you’ve played a million times. Play it and play it well, your ENTIRE job is to find out what pleases the client, not yourself. Some people do not do well in the private event area because they fail to understand this simple concept.
Here is a brief sample of a song I often play at weddings. Kept melodic and relatively simple: