by Mary Giannone, Event Specialist, Philadelphia String QuartetOriginally appearing in the Huffington Post on December 11, 2012
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." -Victor Hugo.
The musicians you and your partner choose for your wedding will provide the soundtrack to your distinctive love story, so it is important to consider all aspects before signing the dotted line.
Value Before you begin your search, take a moment to reflect upon the concept of value. The proper balance of high quality and fair price gives you the most bang for your buck. No matter if your wedding budget is higher or lower than average, it is important to shop for value and not just the price. Spending money on excellent music for your wedding is well worth it, and having professional musicians with experience and passion will create memories for you and your guests for years to come. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. So be sure when choosing your musicians you find the right fit for both your wallet and your style.
Quick tip: if you find a group that you love, but their price range is a little more than you can afford, talk to them about ways to customize their services without having to sacrifice the overall quality and experience -- such as hiring a string trio instead of a quartet, or having a DJ play the first half of the reception before the full band takes over for the dancing.
Professionalism From string quartets to DJs to wedding bands -- finding musicians with professional talent and skill is essential. Good musicians book up more than a year in advance, so start your research early.
First, ask your friends and family for referrals or check well-established wedding websites like Wedding Wire, The Knot, and Martha Stewart Weddings for reviews of musicians in your area. Secondly, check the musician's website. If the audio and video clips are not professionally produced, or if the website seems dated, move on. Thirdly, inquire about a time to hear the musicians play live. If they balk at the idea, this is a red flag. Professional wedding musicians should have regularly scheduled events for prospective clients to attend. Lastly, ask about their flexibility for your particular needs. Good wedding musicians will be gracious and helpful when discussing your ideas, and they will be able to make recommendations.
Quick tip: Make sure the musicians demonstrate a working knowledge of how loud or soft to play depending on the crowd size, the combination of instruments, and the energy of the event. A good sound system is just as important as good instruments and good players.
Rapport Talent and skill are important, of course, but good communication and chemistry make all the difference. Take notice of how quickly your prospective wedding musicians respond to your questions, and how helpful they are. Do they take a genuine interest in your wedding? Do they treat you like you are their most important client? Do they show you how passionate they are about their work? Many musicians will take a few special requests, but the personalization stops there. Tired and unprofessional musicians adopt the attitude that all weddings and events are the same, and they don't take the time to get to know what makes you special. Look for musicians that prove that you matter, and that every wedding is important. These details translate into wonderful memories for you and your guests.
Quick tip: When shopping around, ask potential musicians for example of how they have made events memorable for their previous clients and their guests.
Style The music you choose is a reflection of your personalities as individuals and as a couple. Find versatile musicians who will work with you as guides in selecting the perfect songs to tell your story. Ask yourself what is most important to you during each part of your celebration and then convey these ideas to your musicians. For example, you may want the ceremony to feel romantic, the cocktail hour to feel relaxed, the dinner hour to feel nostalgic, and the dance music to be exciting and trendy! A good group of musicians will let you be involved as little or as much as you like. They will take as many special requests as you want, and if you need some guidance, they can suggest songs that will complement your vision.
As a music coordinator I've seen it all, from a groom who walked down the aisle to strings playing Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", to a bridal party fashion show backed by Lady Gaga's greatest hits on electric violin, to a rave-like Hindi-pop-music dance party breaking out in the middle of the reception, to playing an old Jewish love song that the couple only knew how to hum but didn't have any sheet music for. Good wedding musicians will adapt and thrive, and help find the music that best suits YOU- all with a smile.
Quick tip: Many brides and grooms ask if it is appropriate to tip their wedding musicians. The answer is yes, and you can designate an appropriate amount (10-15 percent) and whether you wish to tip each individual musician (such as for a string quartet) or just the band leader who will then disburse the tips at his discretion (such as for a 12-piece wedding band).