You're planning a wedding and want to have the best musicians there, but how do you choose? How do you find the one?
Photo courtesy of Love Sunday Photo at Latitude 41, Mystic, CT
There aren't a lot of resources out there, at least that aren't super sales pitches, but I like this helpful article from The Knot called "Questions to Ask Your Wedding Ceremony Musicians" To save you time, I'm answering all their questions (in green) for you right here!
We've been so lucky to have so many of our couples have taken the time to review us on The Knot and we've won The Knot Best of Weddings Award enough times to be in the Hall of Fame!
1. Do you have a set ceremony repertoire or will we work with you to choose one?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: You should have a solid idea of how you'll come up with a song list for the ceremony before you book. Some musicians may be more hands on, while others will ask you to drive the selections."
For the ceremony... You can have it either way! Most couples come to us and want to personalize their ceremony from start to finish, and we can certainly do that. I utilize easy questionnaires to help organize your thoughts and make sure you're totally covered. Occasionally, couples ask us to surprise them, so we play our tried-and-true crowd favorites.
For cocktail hour... You can have it either way! I've created a menu of cocktail hour set lists to make your planning easier. That way, you aren't tasked with hand selecting every song, which takes ages! Then, I incorporate your "Must Plays" and "Do Not Plays". We can also take guest requests (if you'd like) on the day. Some couples ask us to surprise them and follow the crowd, too. Some couples want a totally custom cocktail hour list and we're happy to accommodate.
2. Can you play the nontraditional songs we've chosen?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: If you have your mind set on a particular tune, you want to make sure your musician is able to play it or learn it. Some musicians or vocalists may charge an extra fee to learn it in time for your wedding. It's better if you know ahead of time if they'll be able to perform your songs."
Yes, absolutely! We don't usually charge for rehearsals or practice time, but we do charge for the acquisition of the sheet music and custom arrangements. Sheet music orders are usually anywhere from $30-50. Custom arrangements are usually $75-200, depending on the resources available (For example, if the arranger has to transcribe the entire song by ear. That's tough stuff!)
3. Have you performed at a wedding before?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: Playing a wedding ceremony requires a specific set of skills. Your musicians should know when to change the volume to set the right mood as well as help transition guests from their arrival, to the ceremony and then to a celebratory vibe. It's also a good idea if there's a defined leader (if you're working with a music group) who will be your main point of contact for communication and to make any changes during the ceremony."
Over the last 12 years, we have performed for 575 weddings! We have a very particular set of skills (I couldn't help myself! 😆). We perform for about 75 weddings a year together, so we not only have experience with weddings, but we also know Connecticut's wedding venues, planners, and officiants very well. We know exactly what it takes to help you plan and make your day go smoothly.
4. Will you need sound amplification? What's the alternative if my ceremony space doesn't allow amplified sound?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: It's a good idea to have a sense of what equipment your ceremony musicians will need in order to have the best sound quality. But if you're getting married outdoors without access to power, or your ceremony venue doesn't allow amplified sound, you want to be certain they have a plan to give you great sound even without speakers. You'll also want to know if getting the sound you need will require extra instruments or vocalists, which could end up adding on to the price tag."
We offer both amplified and acoustic ensembles. Like couples, no wedding is the same. I will help you by making a recommendation based on your venue, the layout, your guest count, and your overall vision for the event. We can amplify all of our ensembles, so we can easily perform for very large events.
Some of our ensembles come with with amplification automatically, like the violin and guitar duet. This group needs it for balance between the instruments. In that case, we use battery-operated equipment (with a power source for back-up, just in case.)
Most ceremonies don't need amplification, but cocktail hours often do. After all, that's when we the party started and compete with guests' voices. We have battery-powered and plug-in options and will work with you to make sure you're paired with the best AS ensemble and setup for your big day.
We have so many options, so reach out with questions and I'll be happy to answer them.
5. What combination of instruments would you recommend for my ceremony space and vibe?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: You may have always imagined a string quartet, but you'll want to know what the right instruments are to play the songs you have in mind. While you may like the sound of a certain instrument, including it isn't as easy as just adding it to your ensemble. A musician will have a good idea of the right combination you'll need so one instrument doesn't stand out awkwardly above the rest."
We have 11 different ensembles and grow every year: Everything from solo instrumentalists to a string orchestra. I always learn about my couples' wedding day music requests, vision, and then help pair them with the perfect Ariana Strings ensemble.
6. What's the minimum amount of time we can hire you for?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: A two- to four-hour minimum is typical, so whether or not they'll require you to book them for a set amount of time that's longer than your ceremony may be something you want to consider when deciding whether to use the same musicians for your cocktail hour."
Our minimum booking is 1 hour for off-peak dates and 2 hours for peak dates (i.e. Saturdays through wedding season and holiday weekends). Our 1-hour booking is perfect for most 20-30 minute wedding ceremonies, but again, all weddings are different. I'll always ask about your wedding plans and recommend based on your specific needs. That way, you don't have to worry about any timeline issues!
7. Can you also play during cocktail hour?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: Most importantly, you'll want to be sure they're available for the cocktail hour if you're thinking of hiring them for both wedding events. This likely won't apply if you're hiring an organist for the ceremony, but a string quartet is perfect for both the ceremony and cocktails (if they're available)."
Absolutely! We love performing for cocktail hours. It's such a unique opportunity to add more of your favorite music to the wedding day and guests love it. Guests especially love making requests and testing the limits of our huge 2000+ song library.
8. Do you have experience performing in a ceremony venue like mine?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: You want to be sure your musicians will have no problem troubleshooting some of the issues that come with your venue. Things like acoustics and volume can change drastically if you're in a space with super-high ceilings or on the beach."
We've performed everywhere: churches, rustic barns, mansions, beaches, gardens, fields, private homes, you name it! Of course, I'll be happy to tell you more about our experience at your venue and which ensembles we'd recommend for you.
9. What songs would you recommend we play during my ceremony traditions (lighting of the unity candle, ketubah signing, jumping the broom)?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: Your musicians can play the traditional songs that accompany your cultural or religious tradition or they may have suggestions for what to play if there's not a set song to use."
I have a huge library for every ensemble with plenty of options for every portion of your ceremony and have created special guides to help you narrow it all down. I'll always offer suggestions based on your specific needs and style.
10. Can we hear you perform, either privately or at a public performance? Can we get a sample of your work?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: Hearing musicians live will give you the best idea of what they'll actually sound and feel like."
Since we perform for private events, we do not currently have a live public performance option. We have had some clients hire us for a private meeting prior to booking (like a trial). Though this is pricey (because you're essentially hiring us twice), you're always welcome to do so as well.
11. How much setup time do you need and who will do the setup?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: If it’s just one or a few musicians with instruments, they’ll probably be able to manage setup themselves, but ask about the plan just in case."
We arrive on site about 1 hour prior to the ceremony (for acoustic ensembles) and 1.5-2 hours prior (for amplified ensembles). We do all our setup, but ask for a few things in place: chairs for the musicians, plenty of space (I'll send your ensemble's space requirements), and access to power (if amplifying the group).
12. What's your sick-day policy?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: If a key member of the ensemble comes down with the flu the morning of your wedding, they should have a reliable replacement (and have you meet them too)."
We have a great core team of players and a huge network. If one of our players is unable to play, we'll go straight to another one of our team members and they'll gladly step in and save the day.
13. What's your cancellation policy?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: What are the repercussions if you change your date or change your mind on your music?"
Your first payment is a non-refundable date booking fee and then pay in installments. There is a grace period for cancellation. Since the pandemic, I created a Covid-19-specific policy for postponements as well.
14. What's your fee for a wedding ceremony (probably about two hours of work)? Do we need to pay travel expenses too?
The Knot says, "Why you want to know: Get a sense of the all the costs up front—cost per hour, travel expenses, overtime fees, cancellation fees and so on."
Please inquire for our starting rates and packages. We have a dozen different ensembles and so many packages to choose from.
When I was a bride, I was so overwhelmed with budget and had no idea what I would need for my wedding. I was always grateful for every vendor who took the time to explain what I was most likely to need and all the details. As a business owner, I aim to be like the vendors who gave me a great experience: Everything is customized, so you're never paying for anything extra that you don't want or need. The only extra cost you may come across are fees for sheet music and arrangements. Our sheet music library is listed online for your reference and I will gladly price out arrangements prior to your booking, so you always have the full cost up front. Regarding travel, it's based on the distance to the venue and most times the fee is waived, as we're so close to many of Connecticut's most popular venues.
Are there any questions that I missed? Comment below!
Happy wedding planning!