How Do You Get a Famous Musician or Band to Play at Your Wedding? It Can Be Done.

You don't have to be a famous person to have a well-known music group play at your wedding ceremony or reception, but you do have to realize it's going to be a big chunk of your budget and it won't be without some restrictions.
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When you see a famous music group has played a song at a regular person's wedding, have you ever wondered if that was something you might be able to do? Most of my clients are happy booking local bands and performers, and for destination weddings, we sometimes import better groups from bigger islands to smaller ones to fill the gap. But not everybody is ambitious enough (or has the budget) to try to book a music group with a popular song to play at their hometown or destination wedding.

Some bands just won't do it -- they don't play weddings at all (thank you Adam Sandler for ruining that for us with the movie "The Wedding Singer") unless you have a Grammy or an Oscar yourself. Some will perform at any private event, but it costs a prohibitive amount of money for most brides and grooms. I'm not talking about booking Beyoncé or Kenny G, but I am talking about well-known musical artists with popular songs.

Most of the professional singers who have performed at my weddings have been close friends with the bride and groom. I'll never cease to be amazed when I see the group New Life Crisis who played one of my early weddings pop up on the TV show "Royal Pains" on a regular basis.

It's not impossible, and sometimes it's not as expensive as you may think, but you need to ask the following questions and actually have the answers before you move forward:

  1. How "big" is the group? Are they with a major label? If they're just getting started, your chances are better. But famous doesn't necessarily mean unreachable. If you have any connection to them, now is the time to ask for a favor.

  • Is the group touring when you're getting married? If you're entirely serious about booking them, check that detail out before you lock down your wedding date. They won't be able to play your wedding when they're committed to playing concerts.
  • How much do you want from the group? Do you want an entire band to play what is basically a private concert at your wedding reception? Or do you simply want the singer to perform as you go down the aisle. There's a big difference in cost, and also in what the artist may be willing to do. NOBODY wants to be labeled a "wedding singer" if they're trying to make it on the hit charts. But for enough money, they may be willing to do a cameo performance for a fee.
  • There are a lot of steps involved in booking a well-known music group for your wedding. First, you have to get in touch with their manager or agent. Frequently, it's easier to get a returned call from the manager, so you start there. If it's something the group would be willing to do, the manager will make sure the agent responds to you.

    Be prepared to negotiate when you talk to the agent. Have a top number that you cannot exceed, and find out about all the "extras" that will be required. You'll likely be responsible for their travel and accommodations, in addition to the actual fee for the performance. If they require "first class" tickets and posh suites, the additional cost will not be nominal. Understand how many days they'll need to be there and set a cap on those expenses when you're negotiating with the agent.

    If they're traveling to perform at your wedding, you'll likely need to bring in a local audio team to take care of their sound. Or you'll be paying them to hire somebody to do it, likely with a markup. Do as much yourself as possible to help keep the costs down. When you're spending a lot on your wedding music, every dollar you save will make a difference.

    You should also ask the manager or agent if the artist/group has special requests over and above the normal and customary things you would supply to any group performing at a wedding. Some want a designated "dressing room" with snacks and drinks at the venue. This can be tricky for you if your wedding is at a private villa or home. In more remote destinations, they may want hair and makeup services provided, or to bring their own stylist. If any of this additional expense is going to be the wedding couple's responsibility, you need to know about it at the outset.

    Be prepared for the agent to want full payment to the musicians for the performance in advance. And while they'll probably want an open-ended deal for the travel and accommodations, try to negotiate doing it yourself. For them, it's like having a travel agent take care of everything as long as you listen to their preferences and don't screw it up. While they might be willing to fly coach, they likely won't be willing to fly a bargain basement airline who is going to charge them for their carry-ons.

    Reality Check: Don't expect an established group to learn any new songs for you. Between in-studio work, performances, and traveling to tour, they don't have time. Plus, you want them to play your wedding because you loved THEIR music, right? If they don't have the songs you like in their own repertoire, you might be spending a lot of money just to tell people that band played your wedding. And there will be band breaks or they're not actually playing the entire reception, so you should have plenty of time to hear all your other favorites later on.

    Give it some thought and do your homework and research before you share your idea with anyone other than your fiancé. You don't want to end up embarrassed if, at the end of the day, you decide your ideal performer is just a bit too expensive. Even after you've booked them, it's not a great idea to advertise that they're playing your wedding before it actually happens. Plus, some will have restrictions on promotion and social media activity surrounding their performance. Know what you can and cannot share before you blow it and they back out. In the case of some contracts, you might not even get your money back if you did something specifically prohibited in the contract. They don't care if you were just an overly-enthusiastic bride or groom if you violate the agreement.

    You don't have to be a famous person to have a well-known music group play at your wedding ceremony or reception, but you do have to realize it's going to be a big chunk of your budget and it won't be without some restrictions. If you're okay with all of that, do what you have to do to create the most memorable wedding experience for yourselves.

    Until next time, happy wedding planning from Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!

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