Nearly every telephone call from a potential client begins with the following: “I want really good music for my wedding but I have no idea how to find it, much less figure out if they’re really good”. These people are generally calling from an ad that they’ve seen in the Hampton Roads Wedding Guide or preferred vendors lists from the venue where their wedding will take place. Preferred vendors lists are really helpful because they won’t put a vendor on it if they haven’t seen said vendor in action and are not willing to stake their reputation on that vendor’s performance.
If you don’t have access to a preferred vendors list or you just want more options, there are some things that you can do when interviewing a music coordinator to mitigate the potential risk of bad service or performance. I’m going to walk you through the hiring process here so that you know what questions to ask, what to expect, and what not to expect so that you can be confident as you develop your vision for your wedding day and seek out the perfect musicians to set the mood and provide your soundtrack.
Once you’ve seen an ad or been given a referral, call or email.
You should expect a return call or email within 24 hours. The reason for this is that if the music coordinator can’t get back to you quickly before she’s made the sale, how will she treat you after the contract is signed?
There are exceptions of course, including vacation and illness. I know that with internet phones and call forwarding, a person can be reachable 24/7 anywhere in the world, but it’s not really fair to expect people to never be disconnected from work. If you don’t get a response, keep looking, but if the music coordinator gets back to you and says that she’s been on vacation or ill and you’re still looking for music, give her a break and listen to what she has to say.
Pay close attention to the response that you get.
Email: Does it feel like a “form” letter, or does the response reflect any initial questions that you posed in your inquiry? How is the tone of the message? Is it warm and friendly, or cold and all-business? Some brides prefer a totally practical approach to wedding planning, but most like to work with vendors who are taking a personal interest in their intensely personal day.
How is the music coordinator’s tone of voice? Does she seem happy to hear from you? Congratulatory? Again, most brides prefer a warm, personal approach. Does she seem to be in a hurry, or does she give you all the time you need to have your questions answered?
Fair questions to ask:
Do you actually play in your groups or are you a booking agent?
You can get quality music from either an active musician or a booking agent, but their level of involvement is generally different. Booking agents line up the musicians (who you may or may not be able to talk with personally before your wedding) and pass along information to the musicians, but are usually working with a large number of clients at once. An active musician with her own groups is generally working with a smaller number of clients and since she will be present at all of the weddings, is more personally involved in the details.
How long have you been playing weddings?
You can decide on how much experience you require, but more importantly you can tell a lot about a vendor based on the confidence with which she answers this question.
How many weddings per year do you generally play?
You really want to find someone with a relatively high number because if she says a number fewer than 25 or so, then she’s probably a “hobby wedding musician” and is that really what you want for your wedding?
Can you do custom arrangements if I want to personalize my ceremony?
The days of having to have certain pieces of music are gone, thank goodness, so if you want to personalize your ceremony, make sure that your musicians can do it, and do it well. If she says that she can do it, but but seems hesitant or lacking in confidence, you might want to re-think either your music choices or your music coordinator.
What will you wear to my wedding?
Tux for men and formal black for women is standard. If you want something else, ask and see what they can do for you.
Do I have a choice of instrumentation?
If you have a very specific group in mind (i.e. string quartet), make sure your musicians can do that. If you’re not sure, be open to other possibilities and look for a company that offers you some choices for personalizing your group.
Can you also play my cocktail reception, and if so, can you change musical styles?
If you want something more fun, like jazz, for your cocktail reception, make sure your group can do it and do it well.
Given my specific wedding, what are your prices for your various groups?
Granted, prices vary depending on the size of the group and whether or not out of area travel expenses apply, but once you have given this information, your vendor should be able to give you and exact quote with no hidden fees or surprises.
One question for which you should accept “no” for an answer.
Brides and grooms often ask if they can come to one of my weddings to “see me in action”. My answer is always “no”, not because I don’t want them to see us, but because I don’t want to shortchange the bride and groom for whom I’m working. I need to concentrate totally on the wedding of the moment and don’t have time for a sales meeting during a wedding. Even if I don’t talk to the prospective clients, I know that they’re there, and will be distracted by their presence. Besides, who wants strangers at their wedding? I tell them that by helping me preserve the sanctity of someone else’s wedding, they are also guaranteeing that there won’t be any uninvited gawkers at their ceremony. They’re usually very happy about this and hadn’t thought of it that way.
Personally, I truly love playing weddings and I think that my enthusiasm for the bride and groom comes through in every phase of the planning process. You really want someone who is willing to give you as much time and information as you need to make an informed decision about the music for your wedding and how it will enhance your overall vision. Once you’ve chosen the perfect music coordinator to work with you, you move on to the contracting process, and then the fun stuff: actually choosing your music!
Stay tuned for Parts II and III…