Wedding gig questions

July 15, 2009 at 12:54 AM ·

Hello all,

I've researched the boards and blogs and still have a few questions about wedding gigs.  I've always been one of the hired quartet guns, but never the interface between musicians and bride.  I was contacted by a bride whose friend referred me (I played at the friend's wedding).

I have presented her with a repertoire list and price for the agreed-upon service.  I'm not charging her for driving 1.5 hours rt.

Now she says she wants to hear me play in person (I don't have a classical demo cd but she has heard me on folk/pop on myspace). And she wants me to come to the rehearsal.  On top of that she is requesting special music that I will either need to purchase or transcribe.

So - how would you deal with the request to go to her apt and play? And, the rehearsal (extra 1.5 hrs of travel). 

Thanks for your advice (even if it includes running away!!).





Replies (27)

July 15, 2009 at 01:06 AM ·

I think you should plan out all these possible expenses and make them clear to the bride plenty of time in advance. I've never heard of a bride having an 'audition' for wedding music, but here's what I have on my website regarding other expenses:

"Standard charge is $100 per musician for the first hour, and $50 for each additional hour. There is a minimum $100 charge per person for any given engagement. If you would like a member of the ensemble to attend a rehearsal, an additional fee of $50 per hour will be applied. Transportation/travel costs may be charged in addition to hourly fees, depending on the location of the event. Special music may also involve a small additional fee.

I would be happy to provide an estimate prior to your event. Please email or call me if you would like more information about performances. When you book an engagement, I will provide a contract to sign stating the date and time of the performance, policy on cancellation, etc."


I would say for the special music, tell them they'll have to compensate you for the cost of sheet music. As far as the rehearsal goes, I think that especially given the distance, you should be paid for attending. And as far as the audition goes . . . that's a little weird, but I'd say if she'll agree to the other fees, a short audition is probably worth the money you'll be making. You're just going to have to negotiate pricing with the bride. And having a contract with all this laid out is definitely a good idea.




July 15, 2009 at 02:59 AM · My personal opinion - unless you really need the money, I'd stay far away. That's among the most extreme stories of a demanding bride that I've heard (but yes, I've heard worse ones). I and others I do gigs with have found that brides like that are ultimately difficult to satisfy, often, and thus it's less likely that she'll recommend you to friends, etc. Just my two cents. If you do want to go ahead and do it, I would consider charging for the time spent auditioning for her. Do you have sound clips on your website or a cd you can offer her instead?

July 15, 2009 at 04:05 AM ·

First, if she wants to hear you play then she should come to you.  Period.  You're not a show pony to be paraded around her living room.  I just find the whole thing offensive.  If the bride were hiring a band to play at the reception...would they be required to set up all their equipment and audition in her livingroom?  I don't think so.  Just because your instrument is more portable does not mean you should be treated with any less respect.

If the bride is not willing to drive to your house then I would tell her sorry, it's very inconvienent for you to drive that far for an audition.  And why aren't you charging for your travel time on the wedding day?  Don't be a doormat.  If you are trying to start a professional service then act like a professional and get paid for your time and talent.

The wedding business can be lucrative but you have to use your head when dealing with emotional brides and their families.  The musicians are always the last ones to be thought about and paid.  All the other wedding trades either request a down payment or full payment in advance so there's no reason why musicians don't do the same. 

July 15, 2009 at 04:08 AM ·


yes, follow the advice from Tess.   Maybe also time to really get a watertight contract down of exactly what you are and aren@t willing to do. Check older threads on this.  Be tough as well as professional.   You are worth it. We all are.



July 15, 2009 at 05:08 AM ·

In a past life, I did a pass at bookings for small town bands; my experience is that if someone asks for a substantive change after the agreement, RUN!!!!


This is just the first volley; once you agree, then there will be more and more, not ending until they ask you to stay for the after after party and keep playing.....because it would be a shame to..... (fill in the  blank with whatever emotive plea they think they can manipulate you with).

Stick to the original agreement, or do nothing. Keep a part of the deposit for your trouble.
Keep twice as much as you think you deserve, then when they complain, as they will, and scgripe that you are taking the money for nothing ant say you'll never work in that town again, you can give them 1/2 back, and still have what you originally expected. 

July 15, 2009 at 08:16 AM ·

I agree with Tess's response.  Whether you're teaching or performing, most of a musician's best advertisement comes from word of mouth.  If you're willing to make all these exceptions for a person now (like not charging for the music, driving all over creation for them, etc...), expect future clients to have similar expectations becuase that's what they'll hear from their friend.

You need to sit down and figure out where you draw your line now.   Every musician is different so you need to figure out what you're willing to put up with.  Would you be ok driving to every bride's house?  I don't think an audition is an especially unusual request (usually they just want to make sure you can play) but you need to tell them how much your time is worth.  Maybe offer sound clips for free but charge in person?

If you set the bar, clients will usually raise themselves up to it.  If they don't, you're probably better off without them.

July 15, 2009 at 09:07 AM ·

Excellent advice and suggestions here - this does sound a bit like a brooding Bridezilla to me...

Anyway, can you imagine a wedding florist being told - come to my apartment to show me what you can do?  No way, you'd be expected to go to the shop to see examples of arrangements.  Also, I doubt very much if a florist would do extra displays "for free" above what had already been contracted.

Musicians shouldn't be seen as easy bait by brides to save money...

July 15, 2009 at 01:58 PM ·


This is a

Lots of excellent advice! I'll add my 2 cents as follows:

Definitely don't lower yourself to audition. I'm probably somewhat further along in my career. I have a website with clips from my current CD, and now I have a YouTube performance out there. Even if it's not wedding repertoire, as long has they get an idea of what you sound like. In any case, if I were you, I wouldn't audition for anything that wasn't offering full-time employment with benifets, etc. The few times I've been asked, I've said, "sorry, you're not the New York Philharmonic". A rehearsal is a separate, additional service, and should be charged accordingly. I don't have a formal yardstick for travel costs, but I do factor it in for the total.

"Bridezillas" are a real phenomenon, but there are "groomzillas" out there, too! Recently, after all seemed to be setlted with one, he asked if he could sit in at any upcoming wedding that I might have, before making his final decision. I said, among other things: "most people wouldn't want strangers at their wedding just to hear the music - would you? If everything on my website hasn't convinced you yet, I don't know how much else would." He capitulated! Another "groom zilla" wanted to make sure that my website photos were current. I asked what difference that made. (Current or not, I'm no Quazimoto!) He said "well we are filming it you know." I told him to get another fiddler.

Finally, make sure that you deal directly with either the bride or groom. Once, I dealt with the bride's mother, who wanted to give them my music as a gift. We signed a contract, but then both the bride and groom got on my case, saying that this was her mother's idea, and mine was not the kind of music they wanted. They demanded my non-refundable deposit back, and threatened to sue me if I didn't comply. I probably would have won, but it was a friend of a friend (with friends like that...), so I returned the deposit. All this goes to show that there may not be such a thing as a water-tight contract - BUT, I think that over the years, I've evolved one that comes pretty darn close! I share it with all of you:



This is an agreement between Raphael Klayman and __________________________, henceforth called 'client'. Client warrants that by signing below, he/she is fully responsible and empowered to honor this agreement.

 1. Name and address of place of engagement:         __________________________



 2. Client will send clear directions to Mr. Klayman along with signed contract.

3. Date of engagement: ______________________

4. Starting and finishing times of engagement: ______________________

5. Type of engagement (including number of performers):   _________________________________

6. Total fee to be paid to Mr. Klayman: ________

7. Non-refundable deposit of _______ to be sent to Mr. Klayman with signed contract.

8. Balance of _____ due upon Mr. Klayman's (or his empowered representative's) arrival to engagement, and not after the engagement is over. The balance must be paid in cash.

9. If the engagement lasts more than one hour, the performer(s) will break for 10 minutes after every fifty minutes of playing.

10. Overtime: in the event that the starting or finishing time of the engagement is later than stipulated above, client will pay each player an additional fee of ______ per half- hour, or any portion thereof.

11. In the absence of mutually agreed-upon written requests, Mr. Klayman will decide upon appropriate repertoire and dress.

12. Client or his/her designate will help with such particulars as a suitable location to set up and perform, adequate lighting, or, if outdoors, adequate shade; if relevant, cuing during the event, if particular pieces are to be played at a particular time. Client will provide suitable chairs. (Basic folding chairs are fine.) In warm weather at an indoor engagement, client is responsible for providing air-conditioning, beginning one hour before the start of the event. If this is not done, client is liable for one unit of overtime for each performer (v. #10.). In cold weather, client is similarly responsible for providing adequate heating and pre-heating. If conditions are such that Mr. Klayman, and/or his colleagues determine(s)  that it is dangerous to take out his/their instrument(s)  and play, he reserves the right to refuse to play until or unless such conditions are remedied. In this event, the agreed-upon starting and finishing times and the balance of payment remain in effect.

13. If a piano, organ, or other such instrument belonging to or rented to the place of engagement is to be used along with Mr. Klayman and/or his colleagues and his/their instruments, it is client's responsibility to have the instrument tuned, and in good working order. If Mr. Klayman finds that this is not the case, he reserves the right not to play in ensemble with that instrument, and to make other repertoire/performance choices as best he can.

14.  Mr. Klayman will be responsible to provide services as noted above and/or below, subject to sickness, accidents, or emergencies beyond his control. He will, in such cases, make every effort to provide services as similar as possible to the services agreed-upon.

15. This contract shall be considered null and void, whether or not signed by one or both parties, if it is not received by Mr. Klayman, signed by client along with the non-refundable deposit check as indicated above by_____________.

16. Pertinent aspects not covered above:




In agreement to the above terms:


_________________________________                ____________________________  

Raphael Klayman                             Date                  Client                                     Date


______________________                         ___________________________

______________________                         ___________________________

______________________                         ___________________________

Address                                                                   Address


_____________________                         ___________________________

Phone                                                                    Phone


Please sign on the line above Client and return one copy along with the deposit and the directions.



 Sorry I can't get it to completely fit, but hopefully you get the idea.


July 15, 2009 at 01:47 PM ·

Thanks to everyone for your sage advice.   It confirms my intuition.





July 16, 2009 at 06:24 PM ·

To be fair, some people are honestly clueless about what makes a musician unique from other businesses and what makes them the same.  That is why you have to educate them about it, usually via the terms of your contract. 

Beyond that, it's simply dishonest to try to add services without renegotiating the contract (which you're allowed to do in a situation like this!).   

Demo clips would definitely be a good idea to skirt the "audition" issue in the future.  I'm amazed she wanted to do this after hiring you.

July 16, 2009 at 06:43 PM ·

Here's another angle on it.

You might explain to the bride that you don't mind doing a little bit of playing for/auditioning/discussion/etc.

That's the cost of doing business. And it could separate you from the people who aren't willing to do that, if you're looking for "repeat business" or a positive reference. That's good marketing. 70% of your business comes from repeat customers - or in this case, someone who will give you a good reference. That's exactly how this person found out about you in the first place. :)

That said, you can also explain that the amount of playing for/auditioning/discussion/etc needs to reasonably match the amount of fee you will be expecting.

If she wanted you to play for an entire week, than maybe you say to yourself - OK, I have this potentially big gig. If I go visit her I should win the gig over anyone else - especially over those who won't visit her. Face to face time is huge in winning work in corporate business and is no different in the music business.

You could explain if you had an orchestral audition with the NY Phil you would be willing to fly. But this is not an orchestral audition for the NY Phil.

In your case, the amount of effort that you would expend to satisfy this person with no guarantee of being paid for it, doesn't match what you would expect to earn for the gig itself.

July 16, 2009 at 11:11 PM ·

You guys are a tough bunch!

I'm thinking a little more along the lines of Terry Hsu. On second thought, I'm more extreme. Here it is from a consumer's perspective (not that I'm a typical consumer... maybe I'm a groomzilla). :-)

I wouldn't dream of hiring someone for my wedding who I hadn't heard play, and heard play repertoire similar to what would be used at the wedding. A tape or CD would do, or I'd travel a little bit to hear something live. Expecting the musician(s) to travel to audition is a bit much. Expecting an audition in my living room is a bit much, particularly if the musician is an organist. ;-)

For my own wedding, I had to have a pipe organ. Nothing else would do. A pipe organ has nuances which can't be produced any other way. My mother was an organist, and this ceremony was partly a tribute to her life. The other instrument was to be a trumpet. Not just any trumpet or had to be high trumpet, and a player who had his chops up. Sorry, but I'm an unapologetic musical snob.

The organist happened to have a pipe organ in his house (actually, the house was kind of built around the organ, and that will give an idea of what a freak he was) so that's where I went to hear him play. After scouring around a bit, I heard about a  high trumpet player (supposedly major symphony caliber) who was willing to do a wedding. I still needed to confirm this with my own ears, so he sent a very recently recorded demo CD. Since the two musicians had never played together, part of the deal included a dress rehearsal. I asked each to name a flat fee which would include all services, and that's what I paid. No contracts of any kind were signed, although we all kind of knew of each other by reputation, so that may not have been the way they normally did things.

Was all this care overkill? I don't think so. The wedding was very simple in every way, except for the quality of the music. No fancy getups for the bride and groom, or anyone else involved. No fancy flowers. No carriage drawn by white horses. However, numerous people, including several who had no classical music background or interest whatsoever, told me afterwards that it was the best wedding they had ever been to.

It was the music.

So my recommendation would be to not waste money on whatever some clueless "wedding advisor" says is important. Put the money into the music.

July 16, 2009 at 10:49 PM ·

Maybe the real issue here is that you're really too far away to do the gig, make all the rehearsals, etc.

After further discussion with her, you could see if you know someone closer to where she lives that could do all of the things she really wants. Possibly she'll remember you as the person who was considerate enough to truly help her out - and maybe she'll still refer you to other people - people who need a violinist where the circumstances are what you consider a good gig.

If you just go running away, you risk the chance of developing a reputation of being flaky. That's not going to help you get more gigs.

As others have suggested, getting an agreement in writing may not be a bad idea. Alternatively, if you have developed enough trust with her, you could go without a contract and do it on a handshake. Sometimes these contracts, as helpful as they can be in the case of a conflict, are more trouble than you really want to deal with. In my opinion, I wouldn't really want a gig where I needed a contract because I didn't trust the person. But then, music is not my day job.

Probably way more information that you were originally asking for!! Not straightforward and really depends on your situation. Good luck!

July 17, 2009 at 02:30 AM ·

The actor, Charlton Heston used to say something like "the trouble with acting as an art is that it's a business. And the trouble with acting as a business is that it's an art." Obviously this applies to music-making as well as violin making, and other creative endeavors. We all want to do well and please our clients. At the same time, we have to protect ourselves. I'm telling you, a lot of brides and grooms out there really are crazy! And a lot of musicians have gotten sc****d

 Everyone has a slightly different philosophy even among those who do a lot of weddings. Everything I said above comes from having done about a gajilion weddings. But I lead with concert work. If it were the opposite, I probably would put together a little demo of wedding repertoire. But that can be tricky as to format: do you do say the Canon as a solo? duo? quartet? You nver know what the next client will want. From my perspective, experience, main focus, age, career rung (blah, blah) I will get on my high-horse to the extent of suggesting to a client that if they are pleased with say my Thais, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine that I can handel the Canon.

The details of how every professional works things out should vary. But as the old song goes, "the fundamnetal things apply."

July 17, 2009 at 12:02 AM ·

Raphael, granted that people getting married are often in an unnatural (pshycohotic?)  state, and musicians may need to take steps to protect themselves.

July 17, 2009 at 01:58 AM ·

When I got married ages ago, we had a Flute & Harpsichord. Of course we wanted to hear them play, so I asked where they were playing. Unfortunately, not too many clubs or events require that combination, most wanted a 4 or 5 piece rock or C/W band. So, I settled for a demo tape they recorded with the songs I preferred.
This saved them setting up and transporting to a different location, and allowed me to hear how they sounded.
The music was excellent, no suprises, and the wedding stuck; took a nice cruise a few years ago for our 25th, so the music couldn't have been too bad...

July 17, 2009 at 07:51 AM ·

I've been doing weddings since the early 90's.  So I've seen many different kinds of brides! lol ... I find that in recent years, brides (note: I'm not trying to single out brides, but from my experience, they do the majority of the wedding planning, including music!) have become more picky and have been bargaining a lot more than before.  Not sure if it's because of the economy or there's more competition from students who charge less.

With regards to the question of audition, I usually offer a free, no-obligation consultation, where I'd play excerpts of the music that I would play at the ceremony.  I find that once they've heard you live, there's a 98% chance that they would book you (unless there's a complete mismatch of styles - but that would've been avoided with proper communication before the meeting.)  This consultation also gives us a chance to select all the music needed for the various parts of the ceremony (especially important for religious weddings), so there's no surprises on the day.  It kills two birds with one stone.  However, I do request that the consultation be held at my place, especially when there's no guarantee of a sale.

Regarding travelling costs, if it requires 1.5 hrs travel, you should definitely charge that.  It's a fair demand.  As well, the wedding rehearsal and music arrangement for special requests, it involves your time too so I would add that to the contract.  If the couple tries to get out of paying for this and paying for that at an early stage, even if it's a reasonable demand from you, then it's a good sign you should walk away from that deal! 

We always try to offer the best service we can and be professional, but we have to be fair at the same time - i.e. if a cost is warranted, then charge it.  The thing is, if you start offering freebies or special deals for this couple, word gets out and if their friends who heard you at the wedding want to book you for theirs, they will then ask for the same deal.  Then you're stuck! 



July 17, 2009 at 12:53 PM ·

"...if you have developed enough trust with her, you could go without a contract and do it on a handshake. Sometimes these contracts, as helpful as they can be in the case of a conflict, are more trouble than you really want to deal with. In my opinion, I wouldn't really want a gig where I needed a contract because I didn't trust the person. But then, music is not my day job."

Here's where the trouble lies:  It would be "nice" to do it without a contract and in fact I have played hundreds of weddings without contracts, most of which turned out to be rather pleasant, and a few of which the hosts were so pleased with our playing they paid us more money or asked us to stay longer into the evening for additional money.  That's all fine and good. 

But there have been plenty of times where I felt so jipped, treated like a servant, not getting paid when we agreed, having to chase down somebody to pay us (suddenly the Father of the bride doesn't have his checkbook on him).  Most often than not the wedding starts late and here we are having to play an extra 30 minutes of prelude music to save THEIR butts.  Or the ceremony lasts 2 hours instead of the 1 hour we were originally told.  That's a lot of time and energy to rely purely on handshakes and niceties.  Here I am, a professional, with a conservatory degree, having studied with a legendary teacher, holding an instrument that costs more money than their entire wedding expense, with years of experience under my belt, that has come highly recommended from their own acquaintance and they're going to ask me to audition in their living room?  She ain't the Queen of England my dear and it would not happen.

Contracts are not only important for you but for them as well.  It protects the both of you, not just the musicians.  The contract should always include what you are doing for them as well.  As soon as you send it out to them they will automatically take you seriously like they do the florists and caterers. 

Another thing you could do is if you have a good relationship with the hosts (or even the music director at the church) is to ask them for a recommendation note - it might end up being a thank you card, or even a formal letter, whatever they decide is best.  A collection of these might prove to be very helpful in building relationships with future clients.

July 18, 2009 at 06:04 AM ·

I have a process similar to Alex's.  I have the meetings and play the snippets and if they are inclined to use my services, then we pick out music, draw up a contract, and take a non-refundable down payment.  Rehearsal services can be offered too.  Working out a deadline for final payment before the ceremony starts is a good idea.

I have never charged for special request music, whether purchase or arranging.  After awhile, you can get a nice little gig library going.  This is also a tax write off.

For future reference, you might want to set mileage rates.  Google maps is handy for distances.

It's up to you if you want to do the rehearsal for this gig, or the gig at all.  You might want to draw up a whole new contract with the new terms of service, or if you haven't done a contract, now would be the chance to do so.  Good luck! 

July 18, 2009 at 11:19 PM ·

I agree with Marina; few things can sour a relationship faster than money.

July 19, 2009 at 03:36 AM ·

What gets me is the when I speak to someone that is planning a $30,000+ event at a very swank hotel/resort who balks when I tell them the average fee of a professional string quartet in this area for the first hour of music (which usually covers the guest arrival, ceremony, and a bit of reception/cocktails prior to the lunch or dinner).

Granted it's probably a bit higher here in Orange County, CA than in some other regions of the US, but the numbers of people who think it's appropriate to demand a quartet of professional players in tuxes playing all of their requested music (including custom of arrangements of "this great song I heard on the radio") for $100-$200 is just insane.

It's been pretty much 50/50 on my end here. About half the clients I speak to have no issues whatsoever. The other half are insulted when I let them know that for $100-$200 I could get a quartet of very good high school students. Go figure!

Now I just have to get my colleagues who go with the logic that "any work is good right now" and realize that by playing for $5/hour they're hurting the earning ability of everyone in the profession!

July 19, 2009 at 04:06 AM ·

I think the problem is too many people equate the cost of music with the cost of a cover charge or the cost of tickets.
Maybe find some way to mention that if they are your only customer, then they are paying the cover charge or ticket price for all attendees, in which case the cost is verrrrrry reasonable. $10.00 per attendee for an event where 150 people attend should cost $1500!

July 19, 2009 at 04:48 PM ·

Wow, Roland.  That really helps put things in perspective, thanks!  Now, I won't feel badly to charge a "standard" fee!

With that said, I think that we could consider giving a little understanding to the bride in the OP's situation.  For all w know, perhaps there was a misunderstanding, and when she got the original quote, she was still in the "shopping around" phase.  While it may be "just another gig" for you, please remember that this is the most important day of her life!!!  If she has any appreciation for the classical art form, I think it is highly reasonable that she know "what" she is purchasing.  Once it's all said and done, she can't "return" a poor purchase or undo her decision.  For as many wonderful highly skilled musicians out there, there are just as many who you WOULDN'T want at the most important day of your life!  Unless she knows you personally or has an extensive knowledge of the world of classical musicians, how is she supposed to know the difference?  Also, having been deeply involved in the planning a wedding myself, things get expensive and overwhelming quickly.  I do agree, though, that a customer ought to come to hear the performer, rather than vice-versa. 

Let's understand how overwhelming this time in life can be, and be careful to not slap the label of "bridezilla" so quickly, please....

July 19, 2009 at 05:03 PM ·

If you are so emotionally stressed out to make it an excuse, then the marriage is a mistake.

July 19, 2009 at 05:45 PM ·

You're right, but try convincing the bride of that!  ;-)

July 19, 2009 at 11:04 PM ·

What I'm gathering, is that the majority of the violinists here say that most people who hire at weddings are pretty decent, but there are a few that sour the experience.

I think it's also important to make sure that we aren't too quickly painting every bride as a "bridezilla" if, for the sake of discussion, we are saying that say roughly 10% are.

If 10% of the people on were violinzillas, would you say that all violinists are violinzillas? :) 


July 20, 2009 at 07:04 AM ·

Roland, that's a great (and interesting) way of putting it!  I never thought of doing the math that way!  And Jenna, very good perspective. 

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