Some time ago I posted a tip about how to determine the going rate to charge for a GB (general business) gig, such as a wedding, party, etc. But there is more to being a successful GB musician than setting a price. Here are some questions to ask and elements to consider when requested to perform for a wedding or other ceremony – this is based on my reply to a recent wedding inquiry, but much of it is applicable to other events:
Are you requesting me for the ceremony only, or also for post-ceremony reception/cocktail/etc? What time of day? What is the expected duration?
You want to know the scope of playing involved, as well as the type. Remember that their idea of “duration” may not be yours – for instance, they may think “only 3 songs”, but if you need to arrive 30 minutes before a wedding and the 3 songs are at the beginning, middle, and end of an hour-long ceremony that is 90+ minutes of your time.
Do you want me as a solo performer, or will there be an organist or other accompanist with whom I’m expected to play? If the latter, will there be any pre-ceremony rehearsal time?
If you are expected to perform with an accompanist unknown to you, make sure you will be given their contact information ahead of time to send them the music, and include time to at least review it face-to-face before the ceremony begins.
Do you want only ceremony pieces (processional, recessional, something in the middle perhaps) or also general music while the guests arrive?
Again, make sure you know the scope of your playing time, and how much music you will need to be prepared to perform.
Is this indoors or outside?
If outside, you will want to include requirements in your contract to ensure your comfort and your instrument’s safety, such as being in the shade, cover for weather, a temperature clause (i.e., you won’t perform if the wind chill is below 60F).
Acoustic performance, or will sound reinforcement be needed?
If outdoors in an open area using a small amplifier is usually advisable. Will there be power available if you do not own a battery-powered amp/PA?
Will this be standard pieces only (e.g., Mendelssohn Wedding March, Ave Maria, etc) – which ones? Any requests for non-standard pop pieces? Any request for someone in the wedding party to sing along with something?
If you need to purchase additional music or arrange it yourself, that should be an additional charge. And you may be surprised to find that the bride or groom want to sing along to a “special” song – they will probably not know what key they need and may wander through several, so be prepared to make them look good however you can if this is a request.
Will I be requested to attend any other non-ceremony event, such as a wedding rehearsal?
Be very clear about what your quote includes and does not – if you are expected to show up the evening prior for a rehearsal, that is additional billable time. If you will be performing during any other related event, remember to include hourly breaks as part of the billable time, and availability of water. Being served food as part of a party is nice, especially if playing for long periods, but is NOT a substitute for payment (unless you are a hard-drinking Irish band!).