Sour wedding ceremony for musicians

The exchange of the e-mails below (I have omitted the groom’s name for privacy), is an example of how some issues during weddings can affect musicians in a negative way, regardless of our efforts to make everything clear. The wedding mentioned took place at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA, place with many gardens, indoor and outdoor facilities for wedding ceremonies. The red e-mail is my question to the client, followed by his response in blue.  

 —–Original Message—–
From: tatyana swanson []
Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2012 7:52 AM
To: ——–
Subject: wedding musician
One thing that  we never confirmed – where at Phipps the wedding is? Conservatory is pretty big, and has many places. What room are we in, so I can tell other musicians? Thanks! Tatyana.

The ceremony and reception is in the Tropical forest reception hall, which is the large area in the back of Phipps. Once you enter the main entrance of Phipps, you will go up the staircase and head straight back to the Tropical Forest.  I would imagine that it is marked as well for all the guests.
From his e-mail it is very clear that the wedding ceremony is to take place inside, since the phrase “reception hall” implies indoor venue.  On a side note: you may notice from the date of the e-mail – October wedding with unpredictable weather.

A couple of issues happened as soon as musicians arrived for the wedding ceremony. We found out that the location for the wedding ceremony was changed to a different spot at the venue, quiet a walk away, especially if you have instruments, music, cumbersome cello case, stands. However, we are flexible with such a change, mild inconvenience at best.
Second issue, however, was more serious.  After walking to a new site for the ceremony, we found out it is to be outside,not inside. At that point I have politely confronted the groom, asking him why the location has changed from indoors to outdoors. Sadly, he got upset, stating that the ceremony was ORIGINALLY planned to be outdoors if it didn’t rain, that it was NEVER to be indoors! Again, refer to the e-mail above – “reception hall” means indoors. I made an attempt to remind him of the e-mail, but it didn’t help the situation, it only brought more aggravation. As a result, we were “stuck” playing outdoors. It was an evening ceremony with a 6:30pm start, getting cold, dark. At 6:30 the temperature was 61 degrees – NOT good for musicians or for instruments, and it was getting colder as time went by. If the musicians were notified about the change ahead of time – we would have been prepared for playing outdoors: warmer clothes, bringing outdoor instruments which are a little bit more “rugged” and not as fragile as our “indoor”, more expensive and delicate, sturdier music stands, winds clips. Basically, items that musicians need to have for outdoor wedding that clients are not aware of – which is why we ask for the location of the ceremony.  
It is not often that our needs are not considered by our clients, but this was an example of a blatant mistake on a groom’s part and the musicians did not get an apology, but just the opposite. The result? Confrontation minutes before the wedding ceremony, bad moods, frustration on our part and a desire to finish our job ASAP so we can leave fast after an embarrassing performance due to cold fingers and cold instruments.
I believe the incident affected us, the groom, even some guests who witnessed the aggravated exchange between us and the groom and it set a somewhat negative tone to the entire ceremony. There seemed to be other minor things that did not go well:the person administering the ceremony was stumbling every other word, forgot to tell the guests to be seated after the bride walked in. Guests remained standing for the duration of the entire thirty minute ceremony! The musicians observed quite a few rolled eyes from guests, head shakes, and confused looks. The microphone was in and out. People were cold. It is possible that some of them, just like us, were told that the wedding ceremony was to be inside – many women were wearing dresses that implied so. 
Bottom line – as musicians we try to communicate very clearly with our clients.  We hope that the same courtesy can be achieved by the clients towards musicians, even if we get paid.

Musicians’ choices of wedding prelude music

How do our wedding musicians choose prelude music for wedding ceremonies?

When we work with wedding clients, the primary concern is to put together music for the wedding ceremony, while not much thought goes into prelude music.  Most of the time musicians play their own choices of wedding music selections, depending on the setting of a ceremony.  If a wedding ceremony is outdoors – the musicians will play music that is on the bright side volume wise, making sure it is heard by wedding guests as they arrive.  The absence of good acoustics during outdoor venues is to blame. If a wedding ceremony is to take place indoors, the prelude music choices might be on the softer side, more mellow, especially for church weddings: traditionally, prelude music is played quietly for these.  

In summary, here is the list of some of the factors that our wedding musicians consider when making choices for prelude music.

  • The location of the wedding ceremony
  • The style of the wedding ceremony
  • For indoor wedding ceremonies – acoustical qualities of the room/hall where musicians are to play
  • The number of wedding musicians playing
  • The amount of time reserved by the client for prelude music
  • Client’s requests for prelude music should match the rest of the music selected by the musicians
  • The prelude music should not be more “exposed” than the first piece for the wedding ceremony