How To Budget For Wedding Music
Written by Liz Craig, Pianist
Published: January 31st, 2022
One of the biggest questions in a newlyweds' mind once they start looking for vendors is "how much?" It's all well and good to dream but everything that you are wanting for your wedding has a price tag, and usually a pretty hefty one. You may end up feeling snowed under with all the wedding expenses piling up...
So I thought I'd give a few different options and price points at least for the music. As a professional musician in the industry for the past 9 years, I'll mix in a bit of my knowledge and experience with some hard data collected from sources like WeddingWire. When you have the facts, you can be confident in your choices and move forward with locking down the best vendors before they get booked up!
This great post from wedding wire states that you should plan to spend 5% of your total wedding budget on wedding music. For a $50,000 budget that comes out to a clean $2500.
I also found an interesting post by GTA venue Chateau Le Jardin which says that the average Toronto budget is about $44,200 for 135 guests and that a ceremony musician is about $1000 on average... I think that figure is a little high for a soloist, but for an ensemble yes you can expect to pay that much.
This post is the newest I found and it substantiates that the average budget for a Toronto wedding is around $50,000 with music coming in around 5%, ceremony music being around $1000.
Lastly, this article on slice.ca suggests that $40,000-$50,000 is a reasonable budget and that the average ceremony music price in Canada is around $600 (taking into account multiple markets). They also interviewed Jodi Gagné here! She was a mentor to me when I first started my business so I very much appreciate and trust her point of view.
Without further ado, here are some options to consider when booking the music for your wedding...
Option 1: "Hire" a friend or family member. Cost = Free?
On occasion I hear that a prospective client of mine has decided to go with a friend or family member who plays the piano. Great! Power to you! You just saved some money... maybe. If they are a professional musician, I say go for it! I happily played at my sister-in-law's wedding a few years back. If however they are dusting off their guitar that's been sitting in the garage... I would hesitate to go with this option. Even if they are a great player and you have that personal connection with them, there are a whole host of other considerations when playing for a wedding. Will they know what equipment to bring for the room? Will they have to go rent that equipment (hello new costs)? Will they have the means to transport said equipment?
Even if they can get to your venue with the right equipment, will they have enough songs to play or be able to take your requests? Will they be respectful of the fact that the spotlight is on the couple and not their "gig" or solo? Will they be early enough to set up so that the schedule stays on time?
What if they test positive for COVID-19 in the week leading up to the wedding - will they be able to arrange another musician to take their place with short notice?
In the end this "free" option might end up costing more in expenses and stress.
Option 2: Go with a DJ Company. Cost = $1200 - $5000
Photo from Maximum Music.
In preparation for this blog post, I reached out to 3 different DJ companies that I work with a lot and here's what they had to say:
Rod from Maximum Music says that "In Toronto, the range for a wedding DJ goes from $1200 to $5000. We believe the sweet spot is around $2000 depending on what you want. With straightforward, upfront pricing our weddings are less than $2000 + HST for everything you need and none of the stuff you don’t!" He also gave me a handy link which breaks down the pricing and what that includes.
Jeff from Impact DJ says that their most popular packages range from $1875 and $2175. So again we have that sweet spot around $2000.
Dave from Kool Tempo offers both DJ services and a photo booth for around the $1800 mark.
When you book with these companies they usually offer packages that cover the whole wedding from ceremony through to dancing, however you might want to mix it up a little bit with some live music to give that special and intimate feel. Ask your DJ's what all of their customization options are so that you can get the best value out of your music budget.
Option 3: Live musicians. Cost = $400 to $6000+
How much does it cost to hire a wedding musician? How much does a wedding pianist cost? A string quartet? If you've never booked a musician before, you may not be aware of the costs associated with live music or what is all involved. When I did some research on google keywords, this question kept popping up in relation to wedding music - also why I decided to take some time to do this blog post!
Generally speaking with live music, the less musicians you book the cheaper it will be. A solo pianist like myself will be a lot cheaper than a string quartet or a full band. You can also book us for less time than the standard 8 hours with a DJ which can help reduce costs.
If you are looking for a solo instrument, I would recommend picking one that has a lot of range like the piano or guitar. Solo violinists or players of other melodic instruments (think only playing one note at a time) might bring along a backing track to fill out the sound which will be an extra cost. Singers will also need accompaniment so you'll be actually hiring two musicians if you book a singer.
The cost of these musicians will match their experience level and level of training. In an urban centre like Toronto where there is a ton of demand, the prices will be higher as well. My quotes start at $425+HST. I've seen musicians who charge a lot less, but they probably don't have the experience yet so you'll get what you pay for. When I first started out playing for weddings and events in 2013, I was charging $125 per hour.
Some musicians price out their performance, rehearsal, equipment, travel and time learning new songs separately. Always ask before you sign the contract if there will be any extra costs down the line or if the quote is all inclusive.
I'm biased, but I do think that live music is the best choice for your ceremony in particular. It will help you and your guests be in the moment and have a more special, intimate experience. Don't take my word for it, here are over a hundred past clients who say the same.
Photo credit: @danclementsphoto