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Nine essential questions to ask before hiring live musicians

Robert & Cindy with their best ceremony music award
Robert & Cindy with their best ceremony music award

You’ve made the wise choice to include live music for your ceremony and cocktail hour. Here are nine vital questions to consider before hiring live musicians:

For yourself:

1.     Do you want instrumental or vocal music? We’re admittedly biased toward instrumental music, which lets each listener bring their own meaning to the song. It floats nicely in the air, avoiding any intrusion on your guests’ conversations. It creates a beautiful ambience.

2.     What instruments do you prefer? You’ll find multiple options for solo violin (usually with a recorded backing track), solo guitar, string duos, trios or quartets, and pianists. You’ll find no one else pairing cello with guitar or mandolin. Do you want something familiar that your guests have experienced many times before? Or do you want to give them something fresh and new that will have them sit up and take notice?

For the musicians:

3.     What is their musical experience? How long have they been playing? Where did they learn? Do they play with other groups? Our answer: Cindy picked up the cello when she was in middle school and has played it ever since, including in three orchestras and multiple chamber groups. Robert picked up the guitar in high school and the mandolin a few years later. He played in church guitar groups for decades.

4.     How much experience do they have with weddings? It’s not unusual for something to disrupt the timeline at a wedding. A flower girl trips and refuses to move until she picks up every flower petal. A treasured relative is stuck in traffic. Motorcycles roar by the venue just as the bride is set to enter, so the coordinator delays her walk down the aisle. Over 14 years, we’ve seen this and much more and adjusted seamlessly. You want experienced musicians who can roll with it.

5.     Will they learn new music for you? Almost everyone we know does. If you run into a musician who won’t, walk away. You have better choices.

6.     Are they responsive? We didn’t play for our son when he got married, for obvious reasons. But because we know how much it adds, we offered to pay for live music for the ceremony and cocktail hour. We found two duos with the sound we wanted, but emails went unreturned and basic questions unanswered. If that’s their approach when you’re trying to hire them, it isn’t going to get any better after you pay the deposit. (This advice goes for any wedding vendor.)

7.     How will they plan your music? Everyone does this their own way. Some ask you to fill out a form. We offer every client a personal, face-to-face session to talk about the music they like. We make suggestions. We play snippets of the music under consideration so they can decide what song best describes their love.

8.     Do they have a website? A branded email address (not Yahoo or Gmail)? Does their website or social media include audio and video clips of them playing? These are clues as to whether the musicians are professionals or hobbyists. For a day in which there are no do-overs, you want professionals.

9.     Will they play Every Breath She Takes for your walk down the aisle? This a trick question. Anyone who says yes to a song Sting described as “about jealousy and surveillance and ownership” isn’t looking out for your best interests! You have better choices – for songs and for musicians!

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