If you’re in the midst of planning a wedding and you’re making a decision about the type of music you’d like to have during the celebration, you probably have a few questions. Should you hire a band, a DJ, or both? What about solo musicians? Do you need insurance? What happens if your band or DJ cancels at the last minute? Fret not: We've got the complete guide to understanding music packages and what you're agreeing to when you sign the contract.
Waverly Coleman, a wedding expert with over a decade of industry experience, breaks down everything you need to know about music packages, from pricing and equipment to venue requirements and contractual agreements.
Meet the Expert
Waverly Coleman is a wedding planner with over a decade of industry experience, and the owner of Waverly Coleman Events.
What Is a Music Package?
A wedding music package includes everything you get when you hire a wedding band, DJ, or any professional musician(s) to perform at the wedding. You'll make an agreement and sign a contract, which is similar to the types of contracts you'll sign with other vendors—this legal document outlines details like the overall cost you're expected to pay and the services you'll receive in return, the requirements for equipment like mics and amps (and whether the performers provide this or expect you to rent it); the space requirements (which may require coordination with your venue), cancellation terms, and insurance details.
The nice thing about music packages is that they often make more sense financially than hiring a different musician/vendor for each part of the night. If you want a string quartet for the ceremony, a vocalist for cocktail hour, a band for the reception, and a DJ for the after-party, you should consider working with a company that offers packages encompassing multiple musicians for one price. It will be way less stressful for you and/or your planner in the long run!
What to Know About Pricing
There are many things that might impact the total package cost of a wedding band, DJ, or individual musician. Keep the following in mind as you consider what type of package is right for your wedding and your budget:
- Timing: The day of the week and time of the year (for example, a weekday in the winter will be less expensive than a Saturday at the end of the summer).
- Size: The size of the band (a five-piece band will likely have a higher hourly rate than a single singer).
- Location: Depending on where you're getting married, there will be differences in price based on your city, state, region, or country. For example, a music package in Manhattan will likely be much higher than one in a rural area.
If you're hoping to hire both a band and a DJ, consider finding a musician who is part of a band but also performs solo as a DJ to help bring the overall cost down a bit.
Another thing to keep in mind with the cost of musicians is gratuity. The hired band, DJ, or performers may want to include gratuity in your contract, so that makes things fairly straightforward. However, if they do not, plan to tip between $25 and $50 per musician. DJs should be tipped between $200 and $500.
Understanding the Fine Print in Your Music Package Contract
There's a lot that goes into a contract for a music package. It can be overwhelming, so here, we detail some of the fine print you might come across.
The Performance Schedule
A critical piece of information in your contract with musicians is how much time they spend performing and when they perform. "When considering what type of musical performers you want at your wedding think about first impressions and the tone you want to set for the day," says Coleman.
"Most of my clients hire live musicians for guest arrival, the bride's entrance, and cocktail hour." But you might decide you'd like your hired musicians to perform throughout the event. Make sure that there are specific details in the contract about when and for how long you expect them to perform, how many breaks will be worked into the set, and how much time they'll need for soundcheck.
The contact will also likely specify vendor meal requirements and break times—these may seem like nitty-gritty elements, but knowing exactly how many additional vendor meals you need to account for in the budget and what your plan for music will be during break times is key. The last thing you (or your musicians!) want is to accidentally schedule their break at the same time as your first dance.
Cancellations, Refund Policies, Insurance, and Unforeseen Circumstances
Before you sign anything, Coleman advises that there are a few things you need to ask the musicians. "Before signing a contract with any vendor, make sure you review their cancellation a refund policies and ask if they're able to provide insurance," she says. You'll also want to chat through unforeseen circumstances. If you're having an outdoor wedding, and it rains, do you have the ability to set the band up indoors or under a tent? You can also expect some legal terms to be included in the contract, like a Force Majeure clause, which will relieve the musicians from their obligations if there are circumstances outside their control.
Equipment Rentals and Technical Requirements
DJs will definitely require equipment, but whether or not they bring it themselves will vary. "I have worked with DJs that do not supply equipment but that's if the couple has hired a friend or we're planning a destination wedding and bringing our DJ with us. I recommend hiring a DJ that includes equipment or secure a venue with an in-house system so your DJ can just plug in," says Coleman. Similarly, with bands, each musician will most likely bring their instrument, but you want to double check—especially if they're traveling from far away. And when it comes to mics, amps, lighting, and electrical hookups, you need to make sure you understand what their expectations are. Some bands will provide these, but some will not.
Coordinating With the Venue
Another important tip? Do not simply assume that your venue allows live music! "You'd be surprised but some venues do not allow live music due to residential neighbors and curfew. Before you start contacting DJs or live musicians, make sure your venue allows live music. Second, make sure your bar and dance floor aren't too far apart. Finally, some musicians or live acts need more time for set up and sound check. Please make sure your wedding venue can accommodate their needs," says Coleman.