Paying musicians for “in-between” time

This is a topic that  comes up very often for our wedding musicians.  Many times a bride will book our trio or a quartet to play not only for the wedding ceremony but also during a cocktail hour or a wedding dinner.  

As an example, here is an actual job that our string quartet did last summer in Pittsburgh area.  The musicians played for the wedding ceremony from 3pm-4pm, then drove about fifteen miles south of Pittsburgh to a different location, to play for a two-hour dinner reception which started at 5:30 in the evening. In brief, 3pm-4pm – wedding ceremony, 5:30pm-7:30pm – dinner reception at a different location.  

The bride who booked our string quartet for that day was surprised at first that she had to pay us not for three hours of playing time, but for 4.5 hours, which include playing AND traveling time, so-called “in-between” time.  After my fairly reasonable explanation, she did pay us for 4.5 hours and it turned out to be a great job for us – people were very friendly and attentive to our music, we played some songs on requests, and even got fed by the caterers!

The explanation is the following: even though musicians are not playing during the time that they travel between the ceremony and dinner reception sites, they are still on the job, committed to that period of time (in this case from 3pm until 7:30pm), without the ability to go home or anywhere else.  That traveling time becomes part of our job, and part of the fees that musicians will charge, since their time, gas money, wear and tear on the car IS devoted to that job.  

Another short example similar to the above happened when a bride asked us to have a string quartet play for one hour on the boat during her wedding.  However, we were going to be on that boat for six hours total and she refused to pay us for six hours. I suggested that we can also play for dinner on the boat, but she refused the offer.

As a different example: our trio played at a wedding ceremony (also in Pittsburgh) where the wedding dinner took place the following day – the family had unusual circumstances that had to be accommodated. Obviously, in this case we charged for one hour of wedding ceremony music and for three hours of requested dinner music the following evening. We treated that as two different jobs even though it was for the same family, and we charged for the total of four hours of playing – nothing for “in between” time.  

A tip for saving money if your wish to hire musicians for ceremony and dinner is this: hire a string quartet to play for the wedding ceremony, and hire a trio for the reception or dinner.  You will have one less musician for the dinner music without losing the quality of the group, but it will save you a good amount of money.