Friday, June 28, 2013

Budget Wedding Finale- Music!

Last but not least, I want to cover some different options for saving money on the music at your ceremony.  There are really two routes to go depending on your budget and how formal you plan for the ceremony to be.  The first route, which I would recommend for a ceremony music budget of a few hundred dollars, would be to contact the music department of any nearby colleges or universities and see if any students would be interested in playing at your wedding for a small fee.  By hiring music students, you can be assured that they will be competent and professional, because I think nearly every (if not ALL) college music programs require auditions and several performances each semester.

Many music programs even have requisite small groups that perform together all semester and you could possibly hire the entire group if it was in your budget.   As long as your wedding doesn't fall on the same day as any university performances, it should be fairly easy to find a music student to hire. I mean, really, what college student isn't looking to make extra money?  You could hire a student of virtually whatever instrument or vocal range you desired  It would most likely be cheaper to hire soloists, though, because I would assume that most students want to be paid individually instead of splitting a lump sum; because of this I think it would be best to hire a pianist or cellist or violinist instead of say, a trumpet player. After asking a few of my friends who were music performance majors in college, I came to the general conclusion that most would be happy being paid anywhere from $50-$150 per person to play at your ceremony.  I paid over $500 for a professional pianist, so you can see that hiring a student is significantly less expensive.

There are, of course, a few drawbacks to hiring a student musician. First of all, college students aren't always 100% the most dependable people so make sure that you thoroughly and completely explain all of your expectations about their responsibilities. Remember, besides the ceremony, most musicians need to be at the rehearsal as well. Have a legal contract drawn up if you have any doubts whatsoever about your musician.  Secondly, a student musician may have a more limited repertoire than a seasoned professional.  They should be able to handle any wedding standards and several classical pieces as long as you let them know many months in advance what pieces you want played, but don't expect them to be able to transpose and arrange a Ke$ha song.   Also remember that these young musicians are working very hard to succeed in their field, so please treat them with courtesy and respect. Don't be too much of a cheapskate when deciding on a price with them, because it does take a lot of time and effort to prepare for a performance, even if it is only a handful of pieces for a wedding ceremony.  And PLEASE don't forget to tip them if they go above and beyond everything you expected!

The second option, which is definitely the cheapest and what I would recommend for a less formal wedding, is to play recorded music from a cd or mp3 player. You can find a good wedding cd online for less than
The Knot Collection of Wedding Music
$20, and it will sound perfect every time (as long as you have a good working sound system).  Another advantage to this option is that you usually have greater variety and individuality than with hiring a musician.  You can literally find a string or piano version of every popular wedding song.  If you want Taylor Swift performed by a string quartet, you can find that! You can also mix up the instrumentation of your ceremony if you want to.  Personally, I think the flow is better if the instrumentation is the same all the way through, but if you want to go from piano to string quartet to guitar, you can do that.  Also, thanks to the wonderful internet age and mp3 downloads, you can pick exactly what songs you want and in what order you want them played instead of being stuck to the track listing on a cd.
 
VSQ Modern Wedding Vol. II



Classical Wedding Music on Amazon.com
Now, the drawbacks to using recorded music are pretty straightforward. You have to make sure your venue has a compatible sound system, and that you will be allowed to use it.  Most churches and indoor event spaces have sound systems that you can play a cd through or hook up to an mp3 player, so this shouldn't be a problem if you're having an indoor wedding.  However, if your wedding is outdoors you may have to rent a sound system, and that could end up costing more than it would to hire live musicians.  Of course, if your wedding ceremony is in the same space as your reception and you hired a DJ for the reception, they may be
able to handle the ceremony for an additional small fee. That brings me to another possible problem with using recorded music: you need to have someone you trust to play the right piece at the right time and who is technologically competent enough to work the sound system.  Also, it wouldn't hurt to have an emergency back-up sound system or other plan in case the one you are using fails (as technology and electronics frequently do).


One last thing: the reception music. I know some people try to save money by just hooking up an ipod to the venue's speakers, but that is really quite tacky and should only be done if you have an absolute shoestring budget and literally can't find the money anywhere to hire a DJ or band.  Of course, if you are going for a casual party feel for your reception, this may be acceptable, but I do recommend at least attempting to find a low cost DJ to hire.  And... if your wedding is in or close to a city/town with a college or university (notice a theme here?) you may be lucky enough to find a talented student DJ who will work for much less than a professional DJ company.  I know I went to a mid-size university (~16000 undergrad) and there were several well known student DJs who often played the local dance clubs.

This post brings me to the end of my planned series of tips, but soon I will be starting a weekly wedding series where I plan a new and unique mock wedding each week and post my ideas and rough estimate of prices!