Choosing A Live Musician For Your Wedding

by John Schneider

Oh, they’re out there all right just waiting to be captured. And finding live wedding musicians are not too difficult to find when you take the time to look for them, but here’s the catch: Start looking for the music first and not for the musician.

Music moves everyone in deep and mysterious ways. It is the harmony of love and life, together. It’s hard to imagine our world, or the special times of our lives, without it.

There’s a melody and a rhythm to everything we do in our lives. Maybe it’s a symphony when we embrace someone we care about. I wonder if everyone hears the jazz of moving through a crowded street. Perhaps it’s a gentle lullaby as we drift off to sleep.

If music is the soundtrack of our lives, why do so many people wait until the last moment to select a musician and the music that will punctuate their memories with the melodies of their emotions?

Whether your affair is grand or intimate, the right live music will be an important ingredient to making it successful. So, here are five suggestions for making it happen.

Don’t start with a budget for music.

Instead, envision the kind of wedding, ceremony and celebration you want to experience — not what your guests or family want, but what you want. Forget about the cost for now. Believe me, if your vision is strong enough and you’re creative enough, you will find a band or orchestra or guitar player or pianist within your budget. The supply of musicians far outweighs the demand for them. But if you wait until the last minute, you won’t have time to shop around.

One size may not fit all

The musician you hire for the ceremony may be different than the musician for the reception. You could save a little money by negotiating with a band that can “break apart” to provide a pianist or acoustic guitar player for the ceremony and then joins back together for the reception and party. Another plus is when the front-person of the band can also be the Master of Ceremonies. If you get really lucky, you may even find a musician willing to write original music just for you. Be careful, however, that you’re not asking one musical group to do too much.

Seek an agreement

Make certain the live musician(s) you select can provide you with a written agreement – even an e-mail message – confirming their price, services and length of performance. It’s also best if the musicians belong to a professional organization which sets forth principles to guide musicians’ behavior during their performance. For example, the Wedding Musician Association publishes Principles of Performance which states musicians should not set up or break down their equipment while guests are still in attendance. Other principles include guidelines about wedding protocol, safety and ethical billing procedures.

Stick to your guns

Even though musicians may have a lot of great ideas for music, you are the one in charge of your own vision. Certainly, they can influence you with their experience and you should listen to their ideas. But this is your time, your life and your vision. Try to figure out — in advance – all of the specific songs you want and then ask for samples so you can hear the music before the big day. Believe it or not, many musicians are happy to plan with you and some will even attend the rehearsal – and you should let them. In fact, don’t forget that many couples have live music for their wedding rehearsal reception.

Ask for help, early

Just as it take some people a very long time to find the right partner to share their life, it could take a little time to select the right musician and the most appropriate music. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Share your vision of music with a friend and turn them loose. However, don’t let them make decisions without you. In the end, you’ll be glad you didn’t wait until the last minute.

Happy hunting!


John Schneider is a musician and musical composer who lives in the wilderness of our nation’s capital and is a leader in the Wedding Musicians Association. When he’s not performing at weddings, receptions, parties, restaurants, corporate events and community festivals, he leads a non-profit organization called Musicians for Charity. To learn more, visit his website.