Ceremony music: what options do you have with your budget?

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Hit the right note with music to accompany the key moments of your ceremony

Words by Ann Russell

Music to accompany your ceremony and drinks reception is often over­looked in favour of booking a band for the evening extravaganza, so if daytime entertainment has hit the bottom of your to-do list, you’re not alone. But we’d still like to help you find a ceremony soundtrack that fits your finances. Armed with the advice of four industry experts, we’ve devised a practical guide to suit every budget, from freebies (everyone loves a bargain!) to splashing the cash on tribute acts.

No budget

It’s time to fish for favours. Save pennies and pounds by bargaining with musical friends and family members. “If a friend plays the fiddle – or any string instrument, in fact – and they’re already coming to your wedding, that’s an easy way to get free entertainment,” says Del Cotton, director of Hireaband.

Such favours make a big difference to your bank balance, but if your entourage is lacking in musical talent a simple playlist will do the trick. “My sister created a completely bespoke iPod playlist for her ceremony and drinks reception. It was a really personal touch and a great way to save money,” says Chloe Mullen, client liaison at Freak Music.

Under £300

Good news! Plenty of professional performers offer affordable daytime packages, so if you’ve managed to stash some cash you’re in luck. Booking a solo musician is the best way to include live music in your ceremony without causing financial headaches. “We would recommend a solo performer for this price – a saxophone player or a piper, say – but I’d also warn couples to manage their expectations carefully,” advises Del. “If you’d like a full pipe band at your wedding but have only £300 to spend, it simply won’t work. But rather than asking you for more money, we’d offer a piper and drummer within this price bracket.”

Spending hours searching for cut-price musicians will cause confusion and brain freeze, and with prices varying so widely it can be difficult to work out how musicians arrive at their quotes. “Generally, when quoting for weddings, most musicians consider factors like how far they have to travel and the amount of time they’re required to play for,” says Mary Garrad. “As a solo harpist my prices tend to be much cheaper than that of a band or a quartet who require more equipment.”

Under £500

Even careful couples are likely to spend more on music than originally planned, so if you do stretch the budget, do it for popular musicians that come with a varied repertoire. “Investing in a fuller sound is worth the money,” says Chloe. As the budget increases, there’s a wider variety of options to think about and deals to be done for combined daytime and evening entertainment. “Lots of couples don’t realise that evening bands will offer a condensed set for a discounted price during the day in addition to their evening session,” says Chloe.

“If they’re coming to your wedding anyway, they’ll devote a full day to get ready and travel to your venue,” agrees Del. “Ask if they’ll do a daytime acoustic set. It’s less expensive because they won’t charge you for travel – that’s an insider secret!”

Regardless of budget, challenges arise when it comes to weekday weddings. “Booking daytime entertainment for weekday weddings is more difficult as full-time musicians are typically more expensive,” says Del. “Most musicians in Scotland work full time and perform in their spare time. So solo performers and duos are likely to increase their rate to around £500 to compensate for time off work.”

Under £1000

Cash in your chips and hear Michael Bublé croon at your ceremony for less than £1000. We’re talking about a tribute act, of course – the man himself would cost just a tad more, we think. “Tribute performers, from Rat Pack trios to show-stopping cabaret performances, add a touch of fun and glamour to your day, and it’s a great way to get guests talking,” says Del.

David Laing and the Capella String Quartet give popular pieces the classical treatment

David Laing and the Capella String Quartet give popular pieces the classical treatment

“A full quartet typically costs around £750,” says David. “Don’t forget that you’re paying not just for the music but for the customer experience before, during and after your wedding. Every group is different and has varying levels of expertise, but we only use top-quality musicians with expensive instruments, so we have to factor this cost into our fee.”

Over £1000

Yippee, you’re rich! A higher budget means you can book a very experienced act or ask a band to play for longer. Peace of mind comes from a band that’s proven and popular (though that doesn’t always mean expensive). Nevertheless, if you have cash to spare, you’ll secure a highly personalised service from your musicians who can tailor their set to suit the flow of your day.

“Occasionally we go over £1000 when we play for a full day,” says violinist David. “The quartet comes as a standard three-hour package but some people like us to play through the meal as well so we then charge per hour. We can play for the first dance too and stay later into the evening. If we’ve been at the venue before the ceremony around 1.30pm and play until 8pm our prices can escalate.”

Spending your hard-earned wedding fund on music for the ceremony, drinks reception and wedding breakfast might seem extravagant, but we all know that live music makes those special moment more memorable. “When you hear the sound of musicians playing live, it’s in a different class to what you get from a CD or iPod,” David says. “If the room has good acoustics, it’ll be a lovely, warm and welcoming sound that your guests will remember for years to come.”