Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Plan to be the Stress-Free Wedding Musician

You've signed the contract. Details have been discussed. You and the Bride have decided on the music for all the significant parts of the ceremony. You've been paid in advance. You've practiced. The big day approaches. Count down to performance time!

Getting Ready
There's a lot more to being a wedding musician than simply preparing and practicing a list of lovely tunes. Minimize the stress of the day with a little advance planning. Complete some tasks in the days leading up to the event.

Directions and Instructions
Find and print out directions to the venue. Pack them safely into your gig bag. Alternatively, program the address into your GPS. Determine how long it will take to travel to the wedding site. Allow plenty of time for an empty gas tank, unexpected traffic tie-ups, and other little surprises. Make a list of special instructions for the day, i.e. where you are to set up, how many mothers will be seated, who's the last one in before the Bride, what's the last thing the clergy says before the recessional, etc. Include emergency phone numbers for important contacts, such as the wedding director or other persons "in charge" ... preferably NOT the Bride!

Play List 
I typically work with the Bride well in advance to make tune selections for the seating of Mothers, Grandmothers, and Special Guests; the Wedding Party Processional; the Bridal Processional; optional Special Ceremonial music; and the Recessional. These are important tunes that may require extra practice time. I've always worked with Brides who trust me to develop a list of beautiful and happy tunes to play for the 45 minutes prior to the ceremony while guests are being seated. I do work out a play list for this period of time, paying attention to varying tempo and key signature to keep it interesting. I suppose you could "wing" it, play what you feel like playing, but I personally don't like to have to think of tunes while I'm under the pressure of a performance situation.  Make a point of playing through your list and timing it. It's not much fun to get to the end of your tune list and still have 20 minutes left to play!

Equipment  Will you be providing amplification or contributing any part to amplification of your instrument? Be sure everything's in proper working order. Gather cables, cords, adapters, mics, pre-amps, etc and stash them in your gig bag. Get your amp ready. Settings look good? Battery charged? Are you sure there's power available if you need it? Better throw an extension cord into the gig bag while you're at it.
When's the last time you changed the battery in your pickup? Yeah ... that's what I thought! If it's been awhile, you may want to splurge on a fresh battery AND figure out how to remove the old one in order to install the new one. At the very least, be sure to have an extra battery in your gig bag just in case the juice runs out as the first guests arrive.

The Big Day

The Lovely and Handsome Musician

You should look good, and by that I mean "professional." Unless the Bride has asked you to wear something specific to match the theme of the day, such as lime green or psychedelic florals, it's best to choose conservative attire. You certainly can not go wrong with a neutral pallet. Black and white are safe standards. Cover up your tattoos, leave your red high-top converse tennis shoes in the closet, and make sure you're not showing anywhere near as much skin as the Bride!

While the Bride and her attendants are primping and preening, so are you! Allow the time you need to complete your beauty routine. After all, you might appear in the wedding album, a wedding video, or somebody's FaceBook post. It could happen. Let's hope none of us end up on "America's Funniest Home Videos"!

Keep up your Energy  Eat a little something before you leave the house. It would be bad form to pass out in the front of the congregation. Take a snack and a bottle of water, just in case. I personally don't like to eat too much before a gig, so I'm usually starving afterwards! I toss some nuts into my gig bag, and consider chocolate always a good idea.

The Unique and Stunning Instrument
Be prepared for a few questions, especially if you'll be set up in an area where guests walk past you. Someone is sure to ask, "What is that?" Be polite, but remember your job is to play music. While you will certainly not be center stage - that's the Bride's place - be sure that you're set up in a location that allows you to see what's going on with the wedding party, the officiant, and/or the wedding director. I had a lovely place behind a big fern at the last wedding I played. It actually was the perfect spot in that particular setting.

Tune It  Follow your own routine, but I like to do the big tuning at home. Playing outdoors? I put the dulcimer on the porch a few hours before tuning time and let it soak up the natural air. Expecting to play in heated or air conditioned space? I attempt to mimic that at home. Since I usually play solo for weddings I don't have the additional stress of being perfectly in tune with other instruments. I allow at least 30 minutes to tune. There's always a string or two that will not cooperate! Then I allow time to fine tune after set-up at the venue.

Pack it Up  Keep the essential check list in mind ...
  • Instrument √
  • Hammers √
  • Stand √ (+ preferred chair or stool if you sit)
  • Tuner and Tuning Wrench√
... PLUS your gig bag with all that stuff you've been collecting!

Leave on Time It's better to be a few minutes early than a few minutes late. You do not want to contribute one moment of stress to the Bride's special day.

Last Minute On-Site Considerations
  • Turn off your phone.
  • Breathe.
  • Do not rush.
  • Play beautifully.
  • Say, "Thank you," when guests compliment your playing.
  • Pack up and leave promptly. Your job is done!

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