Ballpark Estimate: Between $200 and $1,200
Your wedding music will be in important element at the very heart of your wedding ceremony. In fact, your selection will set the tone of your wedding and tell your guests what to expect for the rest of your day. For instance, a slow overture or waltz can be an elegant backdrop as you walk down the aisle, while bagpipes playing a gig can add a more festive feel to your event.
Select Your Preferences
The type of instrument or instruments you select can also make a difference. Do you want a live harpist or chorus? Or are you satisfied with playing recorded music? Would an organist provide just the right note? These details may sound very small but in fact, they can make a significant difference in the impression your wedding sets for your guests.
A Range of Options
There are many different options to explore when you select your ceremony music. Any one of these, or a combination of them, can help make your big day extra special.
If you’re getting married in a church or other formal place of worship, the organ is the most common choice for ceremony music. You may opt for the organ to be played alone, or you might prefer to bring in some other musicians for accompaniment, which can be quite impressive. But even if you decide to go with the organ alone, remember that this instrument is quite versatile, ranging from soft and soothing to loud and joyful, or something in the middle.
You can also decide to go with a piano, which can add a more romantic feel to your ceremony. This can often be a good choice if you are having a smaller, or more informal, service. Another, similar instrument is the Harpsichord, which looks like a small baby grand piano but has a softer sound. While this option is relatively rare for weddings, for people with a deep appreciation for baroque music, this may be worth considering.
Including vocalists can also be a nice touch to complement the piano or organ music. You may go with a soloist or you could prefer to hire a duet or even a choir. The singers might lend their voices periodically throughout the ceremony, such as after the guests are seated and during the lighting of a unity candle. You might select a local adult choir, or could look into a children’s group, which can add a touch of sweetness to your event.
Selecting a violinist to play at your ceremony can be a very good choice for many of the favorite classical wedding songs. A cello and viola can also be played along with a violin for a well-rounded sound that will be very moving for your guests. Some couples have string instruments play alone throughout the ceremony, while others add them in along with a piano or organ.
The bagpipe can be one of the most dramatic forms of wedding music. This is most often selected when the bride or groom comes from a Scottish background and wants to incorporate some meaningful traditions into the ceremony. The look and sound of a bagpipe can really set the tone of your wedding day, taking a common event and transforming it into something extraordinary. Some bagpipers may also lead the bridal party into, and out of, the ceremony venue, either on their own or accompanied by an organ.
One of the most romantic choices you can make for your ceremony music is to include a harp. This instrument can be beautiful to look at and also to listen to, as well. Each note played on a harp will have a very pure and magical quality that is sure to please your guests.
This instrument has a clear, delicate pitch that can also set your ceremony apart from so many others. This is often accompanied by other instruments to create a beautiful medley.
Once you’ve decided on the instrument or instruments you want for your ceremony, you’ll need to work with the musicians to determine what type of music will work best. To help guide your preferences, it can help to understand the following four basic components of a typical wedding ceremony. This will help you to decide you want to hear and when:
This is the music played while your guests arrive and are seated. It usually lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to about 30. Some musicians will present classic music, while others opt for popular love tunes or soft romantic ballads.
This is when your honored guests enter, such as grandparents, followed by the bridal party’s walk down the aisle. Once all of the attendants have taken their place, the music often changes and becomes more dramatic to announce the appearance of the bride and will continue as she walks down the aisle.
The ceremony itself is the section where the officiant talks and you and your partner will exchange your vows. Often a song or two will be played during this part.
This is the final section, where you and your new spouse will walk back up the aisle together for the very first time as husband and wife, followed by the rest of your bridal party. An upbeat musical selection often accompanies this special part. Often a second number is chosen as well to play while the guests exit.
When planning your music in advance, it can also be important to know some of the logistics of your ceremony, such as how many attendants you will have, how long each section of the ceremony will last, and any special prayers or other elements that will be incorporated. All of this information can help your musician(s) to plan ahead.
You and your musicians should also take a first-hand look at your ceremony location beforehand and determine how the instruments will fit and how they will sound in the space. This can be important to be sure that what you are planning will be appropriate for your specific set-up and will be easy to hear without overwhelming your guests. For instance, if you have multiple musicians playing very loud music in a very small space, this may not achieve the effect you expect. On the flip side, very soft music played in a large venue with high ceilings and lots of echo may not work either. These considerations need to be weighed up front so there’s no disappointment once it’s too late to change things up.
How to Find
When you’re looking for wedding ceremony musicians, you can ask family and friends to give you references to people they know and recommend. You can also ask your officiant for suggestions. Other ways to find musicians include through online wedding planning resources and guides including The Knot, All Time Favorites, WeddingWire.com, Wedding Music Usa and Gigmaster. Or, visit other wedding planning websites and either browse their wedding vendor directories or use their message boards to ask other brides and grooms in your area for recommendations. Finally you can check with the American Federation of Musicians and contact members in your area who might be available to play for your event.
It’s interesting to note that many of these and other websites also provide suggestions for wedding songs that will work for different moods and instruments. This can be helpful in guiding your musicians on what you would like. If you don’t have specific preferences, though, remember that your vendors can probably make their own suggestions as to what will work best.
What It Costs
What you will spend on your ceremony music can span a wide range. Do you want one musician, or multiple? And what type of instruments? These details will impact the price a great deal. Where you live and the level of expertise you select can also make a big difference. Therefore, these prices are just a very general idea of what to expect. The prices often include a consultation either in person or by phone to talk about your music preferences, but ask up front because sometimes this can be charged as an extra expense.
Here are some ideas of what to expect:
- A church organist can be about $200 to $300.
- A flute may start in the same price range and go on up from there.
- A professional pianist might be more expensive, starting at $300 to $400, depending on his or her experience.
- If you want to hire a group, such as a string quartet, this starts at $200 to $300 a person in many areas of the country, so for four people this will be between $800 and $1,200.
- A harpist can cost anywhere from $400 to about $800.
- Bagpipes can start at about $300 for a one-hour ceremony and can go on up.
Often when you hire a musician to perform at your ceremony, you can ask them to stay and play at your cocktail hour as well, so you can negotiate the fee for both aspects up front. Keep in mind that along with the actual playing time you are paying for, the cost also includes set-up and breakdown time. This can be extensive for some of the instruments.
So you can spend anywhere from $200 for a church organist on up to $1,200 for a string quartet to play at your event.
Some musicians may also charge you a travel fee if they are coming from out of your area. When they will be playing at both your ceremony and reception, if there is a substantial distance between the two venues, they may also ask you to compensate this extra travel time and to reimburse them for mileage. If they will be playing at your event, for an extended period of time, you should also plan to feed them. If you would like your musicians to play at your wedding rehearsal, this will also be charged at an additional fee. This can be well worth the money, though, particularly if you’re combining multiple musicians who have never collaborated before.
Word of Warning
Note that some churches and other houses of worship may have limits on what type of instruments and music may be allowed on site. It’s important to always find this out up front before you sign any contracts with your musicians.