The Wedding Gig: 4 Tips for Singers

Recently, my mother and I played for a wedding, myself on cello, her on piano. The gig was set up by one of my former teachers – the bride was her best friend, and when she was looking for a musician for her wedding, my teacher recommended me. I’ve played for several weddings before, in duos and trios, but it had been a while since my last gig, and as I was preparing for it, I realized how many things I had forgotten about the process.

While I’ve never sung for a wedding before, as many musical theatre performers either have or will, the layout remains the same. Below are my guidelines for doing the “wedding gig” – an easy way to share your talents and make some money while waiting for your next theatre gig to appear.

1. Remember who you’re playing (or singing) for.

You’ve been invited into the most special day of someone’s life. Although this kind of gig can feel like something small, it is actually something huge and it’s important to remember that. That means including the happy couple on all musical decisions– even if they have no idea where to start (like my bride did). Feel free to offer suggestions, a list of songs that are common for weddings, or a list of your repertoire, but at the end of the day, the decisions need to be made by the couple.

Those decisions include the instrumental music – make sure to ask their opinion on the pieces you’ve selected for before and after the ceremony (or during the reception). It’s their special day – you’re simply there to enhance it.

2. Meet the people you’re performing for beforehand.

There are many ways this can go. I’ve played weddings before where my trio/duet has been one of many considered, and therefore we had to meet the couple before accepting the job; I’ve played weddings for family friends where I’ve simply been asked; and I’ve played weddings where I’ve been recommended but it was ultimately up to me whether or not I accepted the job. No matter how the gig materializes, it’s important to meet the people you’re playing for, whether that be over Skype or in person (but in person is always better). This way, you can start to build the important musician-client relationship, which makes guideline #1 a lot easier to follow!

3. You’re there to blend in, not stand out.

The first time I ever played for a wedding, my trio and I finished a gorgeous song… and the congregation kept on talking. I was floored. We had just played our hearts out, and all these people could do was talk? What about the recognition, the applause?

Ridiculous, right?

That first wedding was a huge learning experience for me. After a “career” of solo work, not being noticed, playing in the background, was something new. But that’s exactly what playing a wedding is all about – you add a touch of beauty and elegance to someone else’s special day, and you do that quietly, in the background. Remembering that fact means that your performance will be much better because you can focus on making the music beautiful for the couple, rather than thinking of it as a chance to showcase yourself.

“Blend in, don’t stand out” applies to clothing too. Black is always the safest bet, but other darker colours, like navy, work as well. Avoid wearing anything bright or heavily patterned (stripes and dots are okay, but nothing too crazy) unless you’ve checked with the bride and groom to make sure it doesn’t clash with bridesmaids’ dresses, flowers, or any other colour scheme. At the end of the day, you are there to celebrate them, and deliberately drawing attention to yourself is not appropriate.

4. Be prepared.

This rule is the universal one for any job you do. Know the music you’re performing, know the venue you’re supposed to be at, the times you are supposed to arrive and be performing. Double and triple check this information with your client. At the end of the day, a prepared performer is a happy one – and with weddings, a happy performer means an even happier couple once the big day comes.

Wedding gigs are a lot of fun, and they give you a chance to bear witness to a special love on a special day. If you follow the guidelines I’ve laid out – and create a few of your own as you perform at more and more – you’ll find that these fun, easy gigs will be overflowing your schedule. Prepare well and sing from your heart, and you’ll help ensure that the wedding day is one the couple never forgets.

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