Congratulations, you got the gig – a couple getting married wants your music to accompany their special day! You and your colleagues get to earn a nice chunk of change (and maybe a catered meal or two) to do what you love doing. Before you load up your gear to head to the venue, you'll want to make sure you avoid these mistakes. If you don't, your reputation, friendships and financial well-being are at stake.
Not Having a Contract with the Client
Arguably the biggest mistake musicians make when booking weddings (and other gigs for that matter) is not setting the performance terms in writing. A contract is the best way to prevent all disputes (e.g. "we never agreed you would be getting paid") and make sure both you and your client (the couple) are on the exact same page about every detail.
Some items that should go in your contract are:
- The name and contact information of both you and your client
- The name of your group
- The type of group (e.g. Jazz Quartet)
- The name and address of the venue
- The performance space within the venue (e.g. Grand Ballroom 2)
- The date and time(s) of the performance
- The payment terms (including required deposit and payment due dates)
- Additional terms (anything from weather requirements, hospitality, load-in, etc.)
- Technical riders, etc.
Both you and your client need to sign and date this contract. This protects both of you from a legal dispute in case anything goes awry during the performance.
Not Researching the Venue Beforehand
Every single venue is completely unique. Some venues are super easy to perform at, while others are a nightmare. It is your job to research the venue beforehand so that you can get an accurate estimate of how long it will take to load-in/out, and if you need to bring any additional equipment.
Things to research:
- Load-in/out pathway (elevators, stairs, etc.)
- The performance terrain (stage, grass, etc.)
- The lighting in the performance area
- The electrical situation in the performance area
- Staff members who can assist you
- Insurance requirements
- Etiquette and other rules about interactions with guests (a country club will have different rules than a church)
Not Having Insurance
You can't plan for every possible mishap. If you are performing consistently, bad things are bound to happen. Instruments can break, injuries can happen. Your group can even be sued if you damage the venue or injure any of the guests.
Having general liability insurance is a necessity to protect yourself and your colleagues, and some venues will not let you perform without it.
Not Planning and Communicating your Setlist
Weddings are never a time to just "wing it." The couple hired you because they trust your ability to plan and execute the perfect musical game plan for them. Of course, there will be some flexibility (for example if you're playing their prelude music, or are reading the reception room to keep people on the dance floor), but that flexibility should be baked in as part of the plan.
Communicating your setlist with the client beforehand gets them on board with your choices, and provides a paper trail in case they aren't happy with the way the performance went. It also makes the job of your colleagues much easier – it's always easier to follow a plan.
Not Testing Your Gear Beforehand
Gear unfortunately isn't always as reliable as we need it to be. Cables go bad, strings break, mixers short circuit, valves get stuck. The day before the gig, it's a good idea to do a test-run with the complete setup to make sure all your equipment is performance-ready. Don't forget to pack backups if you can!
Not Checking the Weather
The weather is not your friend, even if the gig is indoors. Load-in/out can be very unpleasant (and even damaging to your equipment) if you're not prepared for the elements.
For outdoor performances, hot and cold temperatures, precipitation, and exposure to direct sunlight can be harmful to you, your colleagues, and your equipment. You can put terms into your contract to eliminate these risks, but make sure to have a plan in place to communicate with the couple if the weather affects your ability to perform – nobody likes surprises!
Not Using Wind Clips
If you are playing outdoor weddings, wind can destroy a performance. The worst that can happen is your sheet music getting knocked off your stand during the bride's procession.
To prevent this, you can use wind clips to hold your music in place. Just be aware that turning pages takes a bit of time as you have to take the clips off the page, turn, then place the clips back on. But it beats having to chase your music across a field!
Not Collaborating with the other Wedding Vendors
Weddings are an incredible feat of collaboration. Musicians, venue staff, florists, officiants, caterers, photographers, videographers, photo booth operators and more all work together to make the day happen. The musicians that are sent referral business by these other vendors are the ones who do an excellent job performing AND play nicely with the vendors.
This doesn't mean you need to do their jobs for them, but if you see a florist struggling to finish their setup, feel free to offer a hand. Talk to the photographer and let them know when you're planning on doing something they might want to capture. These small gestures go a long way towards building goodwill, and a referral from a vendor the couple hires has a much higher booking rate.
Not Enjoying Yourself
Weddings are supposed to be fun! Of course, you are there to do a job (and do it well), but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself. Your job as an entertainer is to be entertaining. So smile, interact with the guests and vendors, and enjoy getting to perform at this very special once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully!) event for a newly married couple!