what to charge for violin soloist during wedding ceremony?

Edited: May 26, 2017, 9:54 AM · I don't know anyone who performs professionally, so I have no one to ask this question. What is common practice as far as fees charged to perform during a wedding ceremony?

Replies (44)

May 26, 2017, 10:41 AM · Anything between $150 and $2000. Depending on how long, how special reportoire they want and how professional you are.
May 26, 2017, 10:59 AM · One violinist or a string quartet? Catholic mass or non-Catholic wedding? (masses are a lot longer) Wedding in the city where musician is based or at some quaint country locale a solid 30-minute drive from anywhere? Lots of variables here.
May 26, 2017, 9:39 PM · New York or Memphis?
May 27, 2017, 9:45 AM · It's for my niece in Phoenix and she is looking into having a soloist play traditional wedding music for an hour. She wanted to have an idea what range to expect to pay.
May 27, 2017, 10:27 AM · Whatever fee you charge, free refreshment should come with it on the occasion! Just make sure it's mentioned in the contract.
May 27, 2017, 10:58 AM · I think Trevor is joking but just in case any of the lurkers take that seriously...it's extremely unprofessional to even mention the possibility of eating when playing at a wedding reception. It doesn't matter how delicious the food looks, you're not a guest and the food is not for you. And of course there is no food at the actual ceremony.

I have no idea what the going rate in Phoenix is but my best guess is somewhere in the $200 - $300 range for one violinist for an hour. Possibly higher, almost certainly not lower.

May 27, 2017, 12:00 PM · When I played for a wedding I only played the E-major Gavotte and Gigue on the violin, then switched to viola for 4 movements from the E-flat. Didn't have the effrontery to charge!
Edited: May 27, 2017, 12:09 PM · Mary, if I am the one hosting the wedding and I hire a quartet to play for one hour, I'm totally inviting them to enjoy the food/lunch/dinner/cocktail, unless they are meant to be playing while we eat or have a little cocktail time before the actual dinner, in which case they physically couldn't eat while playing. Anyways I'd never let that happen cause if I hire a quartet I'd expect all my guests to pay attention to them, just like a concert, I'd hate so much if they become background music. Probably my solution would be that I'd divide that part of the ceremony in 2 acts: a concert for those music lovers, and far away a cocktail or something for people not interested in music and kids.

About the question, I don't know, I guess it really depends on how much are you willing to pay, how important and valuable do you think one hour of their playing time is worth it, how famous the soloist is, the curriculum vitae...

Why don't you contact some soloists via email or phone and ask them directly?

It's as simple as asking how much they charge for 1h in a wedding event.

Why guessing about the price instead of knowing the exact fee from the source?

May 27, 2017, 12:25 PM · Mary, well not quite joking! There is a measure of truth in what I wrote, because some years ago I was the cellist in a small dance band that did paid gigs for dances in my region, which included the occasional wedding reception - not the marriage ceremony itself, so there is a clear distinction here. The band leader always insisted on sustenance for the band during the interval, when the dancers refreshed themselves. Of course, at the wedding receptions the food was on a distinctly higher plane!
May 27, 2017, 12:49 PM · Tim, while clients will indeed sometimes invite musicians to have a drink or eat something, it's not something that the musicians should expect (and they should certainly not do it unless explicitly invited to do so).

In general, for wedding players, their CV really doesn't matter, although people who are more experienced may charge more. It's more the variables previously mentioned. (I'd add one more, which is whether or not the musician needs to bring any equipment, i.e., do they need amplification, a sound system, etc.)

May 27, 2017, 1:12 PM · I would say that perhaps one out of 200 clients will invite the musician(s) to partake at the reception. I think I've been invited to do so twice.

Musicians should NEVER initiate a conversation about being invited to share in reception food. Totally, completely unprofessional. It is permissible to ask for a glass of water.

May 27, 2017, 1:36 PM · And even then, you should really expect that the professional thing to do is to bring your own bottled water.
Edited: May 27, 2017, 5:16 PM · Hahaha, wow. May be I think this way because I'm also a musician and I'd feel like "one of them", but even then. I'm hosting a wedding with 120 guests, how wouldn't I invite to join the lunch or dinner 1 or 4 more that played for 40 minutes or so to us?

If they decline because they don't feel like it or have other plans I'd understand, but hey, the offer is there.

Unless it's a "close friends only" wedding and everyone knows each other, and we are only like 30 people, well, in that case I'd understand it because none of us know the musicians personally and it would be a little weird to share a whole lunch or dinner with "strangers". In my personal case I'd probably still invite them to join because I could talk about music and instruments all night long. Wait, forget that, I could talk all night long about what they just played for us, hahaha.

Even when you hire waiters to serve food I can't help it, I feel a little bad about them for not joining. May be I'm weird. In that particular case though I can see why they shouldn't eat, it would look kind of bad that a waiter that is there to serve the food starts eating some food.

Finally, yeah, of course musicians should never ask if they can join, now that's out of place. It's a thing the host must mention first, if he's willing to do so.

Ms. Leong, if one comes from Juilliard and has attended to Master Classes by Vengerov and Perlman, I'm pretty sure he will charge substantially more than a violinist that is self taught.

May 27, 2017, 5:23 PM · It looks like it could just be different customs in different parts of the world.
May 27, 2017, 9:08 PM · "Ms. Leong, if one comes from Juilliard and has attended to Master Classes by Vengerov and Perlman, I'm pretty sure he will charge substantially more than a violinist that is self taught."

Brides don't care about CVs and neither do wedding coordinators. There will be a local going rate in any city. Experienced wedding professionals with a good reputation will charge on the high end of that; students may charge slightly less although not always. High school students do charge less. A self-taught violinist is not likely to sound good enough to get any gigs at all, or at least not any gigs after the first one.

Seriously, nobody in the wedding market cares about Juilliard. I have Oberlin and Indiana on my resume but that's not why I get gigs; the bar for sounding "good enough" for wedding gigs is surprisingly low. What matters far more, once one can play "well enough" (which rules out the self-taught) is reliability and professional behavior. I get plenty of gigs but so do my UTSA students.

When a reception is $50 or more a plate, I guarantee you that "just four more" matters a lot. Weddings are very expensive and receptions are priced by the head. Wedding vendors--photographers, videographers, caterers, and musicians--are not guests.

May 27, 2017, 9:49 PM · It also depends on how that hour of playing is split up. Is part of it for the service and part for the reception or dinner? If so it will require the musician to be around for more than an hour. Around here you can get good musicians to leave home for $100 if they don't have to travel far. $100 an hour is fair - or it least it was 12 years ago, the last time I did it. IN ADDITION I WAS GIVEN A 20% TIP.

I hired a string quartet for a library function for $200 - all professionals.

Edited: May 28, 2017, 7:49 AM · 1/10th of the divorce lawyer's charges.
May 28, 2017, 9:02 AM · Hahahahaha, SPOT ON!
Edited: May 28, 2017, 10:31 AM · 30 years ago when I was in the wedding gig market in suburban Maryland, I, as a high school student, was paid $30 a gig. We normally read through string quartet arrangements of Pachelbel Canon and the like. I hope kids can make more now!
May 28, 2017, 10:32 AM · $200 is very low for a string quartett. Mine does not play for less than 400, unless we want to participate and do it for free. And thats really the entry level, we are also only two professionals (not me).
Edited: May 28, 2017, 2:53 PM · $200 for a solo violinist, not a string quartet.
May 28, 2017, 4:39 PM · "Anything between $150 and $2000. "

I wouldn't charge $2000 for an hour wedding ceremony. Probably $100-$150. I would NEVER help myself to food or drink unless invited to.
Make sure you know what to do and when, who will be marching (number of bridesmaids, etc). It's easy to get it wrong and look like a beginner.

May 28, 2017, 10:52 PM · Confirm first that the cake will be gluten free and the champagne real (I.e., imported from France)
May 28, 2017, 11:24 PM · Mary Ellen, that 200 were on Victors quartett he booked.
2000 is of course way too much for the context asked here, unless you wish a complete solo concerto performance of Tchaikowsky maybe. In my region 200 would be fine, no drinks and food of course. I did get offered drinks before, but its not all to common and I never agreed to it. During playing I cant eat and drink anyways.
May 29, 2017, 8:28 AM · "... if I hire a quartet I'd expect all my guests to pay attention to them, just like a concert, I'd hate so much if they become background music.'

That's very nice, but also very unrealistic. People don't go to weddings to watch (usually) mediocre quartets reading through their gig books. They want to drink and socialize. Personally, if I knew the whole wedding party and guests were going to watch us like it were a concert, I'd stay home. NO quartet I know would want that. We just want to stay in the background, thank you very much.

Edited: May 29, 2017, 11:19 AM · I've never had a solo violin gig, but I would guess that a reasonable fee for a soloist at a wedding for one hour of playing is $200-300 in most US localities. An accompanist costs extra but I would expect $150 an hour for them -- their job is not nearly as hard unless you are playing sonatas, which you're not.

You have to think about something -- what did they pay for the flowers? What did the bride pay for her dress? Skilled musicians should expect comparable fees for their services. For goodness sake we certainly shouldn't charge less than singers who typically have less than 10% of the formal training that many of us have had, even those of us who are hobbyists and amateurs.

Mary Ellen is right about the number of variables -- you really have to figure in your travel time, how much time you have to just sit there and listen to the service, etc., you have to dress professionally, etc. That's why I don't think anyone should get off their butt for this kind of gig for under $200 even if it's only for one song.

Someone wrote, "I didn't have the effrontery to charge!" If these are personal friends and you're giving them your time and talent as a wedding present, fine. Otherwise are you being a scab? You can support the local pros in your area by always charging at least what your AFM local has established as a minimum rate. Just say, "It's not fair to local pros if I don't charge scale."

I'm uncomfortable eating on gigs, even when it's offered. I can't imagine going through the buffet at a gig where I am being paid a professional wage as a soloist. Generally food is offered by venues that are paying fees that are barely above scale. I have have one such regular gig where the band is fed dinner during the break, but not in the main dining room, and I've played gigs in venues where we are allowed a take-out meal at the end. For the pro musician playing $100 gigs to make ends meet, the extras add up, especially when the guarantee is barely above scale. Bringing your own water to gigs is a good idea too, but I've had the occasional manager, only half-jokingly, ask me what was really in the bottle.

May 29, 2017, 5:46 PM · "That's very nice, but also very unrealistic. People don't go to weddings to watch (usually) mediocre quartets reading through their gig books. They want to drink and socialize. Personally, if I knew the whole wedding party and guests were going to watch us like it were a concert, I'd stay home. NO quartet I know would want that. We just want to stay in the background, thank you very much.”

It's not that people go to weddings to watch quartets play music, don't put it that way. It's that in the day there will be several different activities, one of them a little concert. I'm telling you, if I ever host a wedding and I happen to invite a quartet to play music, I guarantee I won't let any chattering occur near the concert. That's why I'd think of an alternative activity for those that don't want to enjoy music, which is totally fine. I will be one of the most enthused there to listen to the music, so I wouldn't want a constant 50dB background noise of chattering and kids running and screaming. No way.

If I know most of the people there don't care about a quartet and they want to socialize and drink, then I'm not hiring a quartet at all, it's that easy.

Edited: May 29, 2017, 8:22 PM · If you ever host a wedding reception, believe me, you're going to have a lot more to think about than whether the guests are chattering nearby the string quartet. Like whether your daughter is going to be truly happy with that penniless violinist she's marrying! LOL!! What are you doing to do? Scold the folks close-by? Withhold their drink tickets? One of the reasons people hire string quartets for weddings is because they seem "classy" and unlikely to offend anyone (for starters, no lyrics), and they're quiet enough to talk over (no sax, no drums). In other words, ideal background. If a violinist plays a solo as part of the actual wedding ceremony, that's a different matter, of course.
May 29, 2017, 9:43 PM · Also, a quartet playing any kind of reception gig (or in a restaurant, etc.) is not giving a "concert". They are playing background music, and that's normally expected to be light classical, showtunes, and other music that's easily sight-read. Most quartets maintain a gig book for this purpose.

Hiring a quartet to give an actual concert is a lot more expensive.

Edited: May 30, 2017, 5:05 AM · Well, I don't like background music, at least when talking about classical music. If I want background music, I will put some ambient music through speakers.

I know and I hate it, that people hire string quartets because they "fit" well, they look classy and glamorous. They treat them as an accessory of the wedding. They don't care about the music, they probably don't even listen to classical music at all. It's that kind of people that think that classical music is something "rich"/stylish people are supposed to like, so they buy 2-3 classical concert tickets per year.

May 30, 2017, 5:38 AM · Well, Tim, there's a flip side to that argument. One of the reasons classical music is considered "snobby" is because you can't just enjoy it while you're doing something else -- you have to be actively listening and silently polite while you absorb its intellectual content, etc. My suggestion, respectfully, is that if you ever do host a wedding reception, that you consider foremost what the couple and their guests would enjoy instead of using the happy occasion to assuage your own sensibilities.
May 30, 2017, 7:29 AM · In "another life" that ended 25 years ago, my piano trio (of that era) played annually for the graduation fete of the local community college (of which our pianist was Dean of Students). We would start out with what we called "garbarge" music and as the conservation of the diners got so loud as to almost overwhelm use we would launch into the Mendelssohn piano trios - playing them loudly enough to hear ourselves. The last time we actually played the two Mendelssohn trios was for actual recitals and we really had to work at containing our dynamics to Felix's intentions.
May 30, 2017, 9:08 AM · Paul, by "host" I mean that I'm the boss of the event, in other words, I'm the one getting married. Of course I wouldn't hire a string quartet if I'm the host (organizer) of someone else's wedding, unless asked to do so.

I wouldn't be too happy about the idea (I wouldn't say it out loud of course) of a quartet being ignored in the background playing some nice Ravel or Beethoven, while everybody is talking each other with some Metropolitan or Pina Colada in their hands, kids running and screaming, etc...

My head would probably explode if someone suddenly says "Thank you Tim, these are some really nice songs". I'm quite positive that would happen.

Nonetheless, this discussion makes me remember that Titanic scene where the string quartet starts playing to calm down the passengers. Would I say that it was a very bad idea since it was not a concert like scenario? Were those bad musicians that didn't care about music?

Of course not. I guess that what makes me feel uncomfortable is when music is just being ignored, specially live music. By music I mean real musicians, I would be the first to ignore a random street artist that starts to rap. Yeah, "real musician" can be quite confusing and a matter of personal taste, but anyways... I think that when the regular wedding host hires a string quartet, the quartet will be treated like attrezzo, decoration, and that's what I hate.

Kind of going deeply off topic, sorry...

Edited: May 30, 2017, 9:20 AM · But we don't play Ravel or Beethoven in the background while people are talking. We have gig books of enjoyable arrangements of well known classical pieces that we play. Some people do listen to us and compliment us afterwards. We're not there to look snobby; we're there to play music that is pleasant and enjoyable. I do not understand this attitude of "formal concert or nothing" at all.
May 30, 2017, 10:05 AM · On my wedding I played later in the evening a couple of songs with my string quartett myself. A few irish fiddlers and well know medleys(I might have been a bit on the drunken side). It was fun for all.

When playing at weddings I am usually not well prepared. If there would be total silence and people seriously listening I would charge more for preperation time.

May 30, 2017, 10:11 AM · @Mary Ellen Goree I agree about not eating unless invited to do so sometimes the caterers will charge the client extra if it hasn't been worked out in advance.I have played quartet wedding gigs where we've played the prelude, ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner aaaaand dancing and yeah dinner was worked out with the client. That is still rare and when you do get fed it's usually get it down fast and I hate eating in a rush. It's also not always the same food the guests are eating often it's sandwiches. I always have snacks or food in my gig bag and try to eat something just before the gig so I'm not running out of steam halfway through.
As for the original question I think $250 minimum for a hour of solo violin prelude music is reasonable. -M
June 4, 2017, 7:21 AM · Maybe I come from a friendlier part of the USA because out of the loads of weddings I have played, by far the majority of them have offered me or my group dinner. One time they even sent us home with a couple of bottles of champagne each. I have also received some generous tips which were not expected but certainly appreciated. Regarding the original question, just ask. If it seems too high you could negotiate, or if it's below the $200-250 recommended price you could give him or her a tip to bring it up to this if you enjoyed the music, and probably make that person's day.
June 4, 2017, 9:00 AM · Once someone has experience at weddings and in a given market, I would advise against negotiations.
We don't typically negotiate lesson fees, and we don't negotiate when the plumber, electrician, or piano tuner comes to the house.

Gigs often come from word-of-mouth and through wedding and venue planners. Have a fee and stick to it. As someone pointed out, the typical price of a quartet, trio, or solo is usually a fraction of what is being spent on flowers, or photographer or DJ, none of whom are as highly trained as a string player.

June 4, 2017, 9:52 AM · I think also sometimes we are offered things we're not expected to actually accept.
June 4, 2017, 9:20 PM · I agree with Scott 100% about negotiation (as in, don't). I have a fee; it is more than fair given my training and experience. Most people respect that.
June 4, 2017, 9:25 PM · And people who can't afford the fee can generally take the risk of hiring someone who charges less, usually because they're less experienced and/or not as good. (Honestly it doesn't take impressive chops to be able to get through typical wedding music; what you are partially paying for is the "knows what they're doing and won't screw up your wedding" factor.)
Edited: June 4, 2017, 9:49 PM · About tree fiddy.
June 4, 2017, 10:35 PM · "Honestly it doesn't take impressive chops to be able to get through typical wedding music; what you are partially paying for is the "knows what they're doing and won't screw up your wedding" factor."

"Won't screw up your wedding" is almost 100% what you are paying for. A good high school student can cover any of the music required for a typical wedding (though they certainly won't sound like a pro), but what is hard is knowing how to follow signals, how to adapt to the unexpected, how to stop in the middle of the music without sounding bad at exactly the right moment to stop, and so on. Weddings are stressful, and it's important to remember that what might be "just a gig" to the musicians is the most important day in someone else's life.

June 4, 2017, 11:15 PM · I agree, it is a very special day for those people and part of the job is to understand that and react apropriate.
I remember a wedding where the entertainer (who ever hires somebody like that) got completly drunk. A disaster!

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