Weddings are beautiful. Period! Some are extravagant, others DIY and everything in between. But each is memorable for different reasons – including the choice of wedding performers.
Many couples plan to use their choice of music or wedding band as a memorable part of their day, and spend hours researching options without really having all the ‘must-consider’ information at hand. You couldn’t be expected to know all about wedding band pricing or what influences the costs when there are so many variables, but not knowing any of them can be even more costly.
Not knowing can also lead to stress when considering questions like – how much does a band charge or what should I be paying a string ensemble? Can they learn or play a specific song for me? Will they provide equipment? Do I have to feed them? What information do they need from me?
You simply need answers in order to make an informed choice when you’re comparing your entertainment options.
To help, here’s a little background information on the world of wedding performers.
All artists charge different amounts for performing at weddings, so it’s almost impossible to narrow down an average cost, especially given all the variables that go into a live act.
A good rule of the thumb is this: Playing during the ceremony is the cheapest, cocktail time is a little pricier, and a full reception set is the most expensive. If you’d like the act to perform at your ceremony and reception, it’s going to be a very long day and the price is likely to reflect it. It’s also pretty obvious that a solo act will always be cheaper than a full band.
The following factors can dramatically influence the pricing structure of wedding entertainment:
- Entertainer location: Unless you absolutely have your heart set on an entertainer from another State or Territory, it makes sense to hire an act close to your wedding venue. Entertainers will often ask for their travel time, petrol and accommodation expenses to be covered if they need to travel (usually) more than 2 hours from home. Please note: Entertainer travel expenses are very reasonable so don’t let this deter you from hiring a band that might be further afield if you absolutely love their sound!
- Number of entertainers: It’s obvious, but the more people you have performing, the greater the cost. That’s not to say you should only consider a solo or duo for your wedding because the atmosphere a 4 or 5 piece band (or more) can create is truly amazing and worth every cent! Some instruments can however, sound very ‘sad’ in solo mode such as a violin for a ceremony – it can just be too sombre for such a joyous occasion.
- Performance duration: The longer the musicians play the more you pay. A self-explanatory point but it’s good to know that even though your entertainer won’t be playing during your speeches, this time is still included in their performance duration. Some couples unfortunately believe the entertainers will reduce their fee “because we’re having 30 minutes of speeches” which simply just isn’t the case and which leads us to…
- On-site duration: Entertainers need to set up their PA and equipment before your guests arrive. No one wants a band carrying their gear through your canapé service or hearing them checking their microphones during the middle of your ceremony! For couples who have their ceremony and reception in the same venue, you’ll need to advise your entertainer of the time your guests are arriving so they can set up prior, ensuring you aren’t disturbed. There may be an additional cost for an earlier set-up time and this is something you should definitely discuss with the entertainer.
- Agent fees: Agents can be an invaluable tool when organising your wedding band and will charge a percentage or fee for their services. They’ll do all the legwork for you and often provide you with a number of options suited exactly to your needs. To make sure you’re receiving the best deal, ask them to itemise the fee you’re paying, so you know exactly what portion is exclusively for the band. Often the fee you pay an agent is well worth the saving of your sanity and time. They will also have an enormous database of entertainers at their fingertips they can choose from.
- Song requests: If it’s not already part of an entertainer’s repertoire, most are very willing to learn a new song for you – given enough time. This may incur an additional cost so it’s best to ask during your initial contact with the band. Professional wedding bands and entertainers will usually have a vast repertoire so no additional fees may be necessary. Others may also be able to write you an original song for a fee.
For the most part, artists will provide their own equipment. This includes amplifiers, speakers, a mixing desk (that funny looking thing with all the knobs and slides on it), instruments, lights, microphones, etc. How much equipment they provide will depend on how many performers (i.e. a solo acoustic act or full band) as well as the size of your venue and the number of guests.
Once you’ve booked your wedding venue, it’s very helpful to let an artist know if any equipment is available and if they have the venue’s permission to use it. Some venues are very particular about entertainers providing their own equipment and will insist the band uses the in-house system only. Also, don’t be surprised if an acoustic act also mentions using a PA; this is standard practice as it can be difficult to hear a solo artist without amplification.
Quality vs. Quantity
Quality – it’s subjective and greatly influenced by one’s own values and what’s considered important. The general belief is that the more expensive the artist the better they’ll sound. And whilst this is certainly true, in some instances – the opposite is also the case.
Consider this for one minute. One of the best solo wedding singers/guitarists that I know also happens to have one of the most reasonable wedding prices around! This isn’t to say he doesn’t have years of experience – far from it. This guitarist has around 20 years of live performance experience and some 4,500 songs in his repertoire and has a brilliant vocal range. Now that’s pretty impressive!
So how does the ‘pay peanuts get monkeys’ adage ring true? It all comes down to what you value. E.g. if you value live entertainment and can appreciate the positive impact it will have on your wedding day and your future memories, you’ll pay a reasonable fee for the best musician’s you can afford.
If live entertainment isn’t high on your list of the important wedding aspects (and it’s ok if it’s not), then you’ll consider paying less; and this is where ‘pay peanuts’ comes in.
As an example, if you’re being offered a large band for a ridiculously small fee – your alarm bells should be ringing. Sometimes those “it’s too good to be true” instances are exactly that.
There’s never a shortage of amazingly talented wedding bands and singers of all budgets and styles. It’s simply a matter of knowing how or where to find the best one to suit your plans and budget, and being armed with the right information and questions to ask to ensure you receive the best price. Being flexible in your entertainment budget and willing to compromise a little will also ensure you find the perfect wedding entertainer for your big day.
Ms Gingham says: Heaps to consider but an amazing amount of useful information. This is a great starting point.
About Music For My Wedding: I’ve worked in the Australian music industry for nearly 15 years; carrying more guitar amps and drums kits than I care to remember and rolled more leads than I could count I’ve managed artists’ careers, tour managed, created and project managed large events of all descriptions and helped some of the most gorgeous couples create memories with entertainers they simply fell in love with (the latter definitely being my favourites!). I know a great band when I hear one and I’ll gladly share my wealth of knowledge to help couples avoid some of the most common entertainment pitfalls.
Music For My Wedding was born from the desire to help people find their perfect wedding entertainer more effectively. The rest as they say… is history.