Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cathy is Late to the Altar

Cathy and her mother met me at a February bridal fair. Cathy decided right then and there that she wanted to have me perform for her wedding. Her mother paid my deposit, and I thought, “These folks are getting everything in line.”

But an interesting thing can happen as the wedding day approaches: Nervousness and overwhelm can lead to disorganization.

About a month before the wedding day, I spoke with Cathy about her music selections. In that conversation, she frantically mentioned to me that her minister would be going on vacation on her wedding day and suddenly didn’t have anyone to perform the ceremony for her. (Argh! Without a celebrant, there is no wedding!). So, I recommended she speak with Reverend David Beronio, as I knew that he traveled to Genoa, Nevada to officiate ceremonies.

She booked Reverend Dave after about a week of deciding. He confirmed this fact with me by phone, telling me, “Yes, I’ll be doing Cathy’s 3:30 pm ceremony.” Uh oh. My contract said the ceremony started a half hour later at 4 pm. I phoned Cathy to find out that she had indeed changed the ceremony time to fit into her photographer’s tight schedule. Cathy forgot to tell me. (Argh! I would have shown up with no time to set up before the ceremony began!).

Finally, things seemed to be on the right track. Cathy sent me her music list in time. These were her music choices (for more information on these songs, check out my repertoire list:

Pre-Ceremony Seating Music:
Celtic and Classical Selections
Mother’s Seating Music Plus Processional Music for 3 Bridesmaids and 2 Flower Girls:
“Canon in D”
Bride’s Entrance:
“Here Comes the Bride”
Music played softly behind Ceremony:
“All the Way” (popularized by Frank Sinatra)
“Angelical Hymn”
Post-Ceremony Music Played During Photo Session:
1. “Glory of Love”
2. “Moon River”
3. “Grow Old With Me”
4. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
5. “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”

I arrived at the wedding site on schedule, at the beautiful outside lawn at the Genoa Lakes Golf Club in Genoa, Nevada . I checked in with Marie, the wedding coordinator at the Golf Club, after I had set up. She was inside Antoci’s Restaurant , busy setting up for the reception and told me that no one had arrived yet.

So, I waited and waited outside. Reverend Dave arrived and reviewed his cues with me. Still no one appeared outside, and it was 3:15, my scheduled time to start playing for the seating of the guests. So, I followed Rev. Dave inside to find out when guests would be seated and whether the ceremony was on time. I discovered that the bride was still absent, so the guests were instructed to wait inside so that they would not have to wait in the hot sun.

Soon it was 3:30, then 3:45, and still no guests outside. Finally, the bride arrived at 4 pm, a full 30 minutes late, causing the following potential problems:

1. The minister had another wedding to perform elsewhere at 5 pm.
2. The photographer had another group to photograph at 5 pm.
3. I was booked to perform until 4:15, otherwise, I’d need to ask for overtime pay (I also travel with a “roadie” or an assistant, who was on the clock as well. I’d need to pay him for his overtime, too).

Reverend Dave got things underway quickly. The ceremony ended at 4:25 pm, and Marie quietly warned the bridal party that I might be owed overtime pay. I approached the bride and groom to congratulate them. Cathy apologized profusely for her tardiness and her mother asked me how much extra money she owed. I explained that she didn’t owe me anything, but if she wanted me to play during the photo session, as I was originally planning to do, she would need to pay me for overtime. Cathy and her mother decided to forego that music due to the extra cost.

Unfortunately, the only music Cathy heard was her entrance music, the music during the ceremony, and the recessional tune.

Tips for Brides:

The number one way to insure that your wedding goes smoothly is to be on time—not just being on time for your arrival at your ceremony site, but also being on time with all your pre-wedding plans.

As you hire your wedding vendors, they will tell you when they will need specific information. Write down these due dates and tasks in a wedding calendar and refer to it on a regular basis as your wedding day approaches. Here are examples of information to include in your calendar:

1. Due dates and amounts of final payments for each of your wedding services.
2. Wedding license particulars
3. Final date to get your music list to your musicians (so they’ll have time to practice).
4. Date to have all RSVPs back from guests (so that you’ll have a final guest count)
5. Date to get your final guest count to the banquet manager (so that they will know how much food to prepare)

And there are more dates and tasks to include, depending upon what services you have hired for your wedding.

Keep a record of the email addresses and phone numbers for all your wedding vendors. This way, if you need to change your wedding date or time, or if your ceremony location has suddenly changed due to unexpected weather, you won’t leave anyone out. (I once performed at a wedding where the bride decided to have the ceremony time start a full hour earlier. She informed everyone of this fact except the minister! Needless to say, the ceremony did not start earlier, as she had planned).

On your wedding day, avoid being “fashionably late” to your ceremony. I am speaking about not planning to be on time. I’m not talking about true emergencies that are certainly unplanned, such as a flat tire on the way to the ceremony—These are excuses usually forgiven by guests and vendors.

A ceremony that begins late or runs much longer than you anticipated can have great repercussions for the rest of your wedding:

1. Your fiancĂ© can have second thoughts about tying the knot and it’s not the best way to start your relationship with his family.
2. Guests may be unhappy that they were made to sit in the hot sun or freezing temperatures before the ceremony began.
3. Your wedding vendors may have other commitments after their contracted time to perform their services for you. Your celebrant, your musicians, your photographer, and your videographer may need to leave for another wedding and cannot work overtime for you.
4. If your wedding vendors can stay and do not have other commitments to be elsewhere, you will likely owe them overtime pay (and this can be quite expensive, when you multiply this by all the vendors involved).
5. If your ceremony ends late, this can also adversely affect your reception--Your food may be cold or overcooked, and you may owe your reception vendors overtime pay as well.

Being organized and on time with your wedding details, and being on time to your wedding, will keep your budget intact.

If you prefer to hand these details over to someone else, look into hiring your own wedding coordinator. In the long run, they can save you time and money, allowing you to relax on and before your big day. Check out the Association of Bridal Consultants.

Tips for Musicians:

Brides have a lot on their minds. Understandably, balancing their own dreams for their wedding day with the wishes of the their family members and future in-laws make some brides feel nervous and overwhelmed. And sometimes, the demands of a job or schoolwork make it difficult to keep up with wedding agendas.

There is one sure-fire way to make sure you have all the information you need prior to the wedding:
Phone the bride one week before her wedding day and review all your contracted details with her, including the date, time, location, song selections, details about set-up, parking permits, loading zones, and more. The most important bit of info to review is when final payment is due, if you are still owed a balance. And if you are contracted to perform for another wedding after the bride’s wedding, inform her that her wedding cannot run late because you cannot offer overtime.

I would estimate that for me, about 20% of the time, the bride neglects to tell me some important bit of information until this conversation. That important bit has included anything from a time or location change to having 130 guests arriving instead of 30 (suddenly necessitating amplification from me).

Yes, some plans change on the day of the wedding. If the wedding is outdoors and the weather is inclement, you’ll want to be in touch with someone in the wedding party to determine if the location has moved. Of course, checking in with the celebrant, the wedding coordinator, and the banquet manager upon arrival will keep you informed of any changes that might have been decided during the wedding rehearsal.

And if the bride arrives late, you may go into overtime (or sometimes, it’s the celebrant or a close family member who is late). If you are due overtime pay according to your contract, then ask for it. Asking for overtime pay is a bummer, because you are putting a damper on the couple’s happy day, but you have every right to ask for it. Your hired roadies and other ensemble members will be expecting the extra pay for the extra time, too. If you don’t mention your overtime rate in your performance contract, then it’s time to add it.

Many more tips are available from my book “The Musician’s Guide to Brides” available wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers including,, and of course, at my website at

I’m looking forward to reading your stories, comments, and feedback.

Anne :-)

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