Much of the time my clients know what they want, the rest decide after I talk them through the options.
I'm typically asked for one or more from the following list:
During the Service - I am quite often asked to play all or a portion of the bridal processional, which can include playing for the parents, flower girl(s), ring-bearer and bridesmaids, as well as for the bride herself. If I'm playing for everyone, or most everyone in the procession, I usually suggest to the client a change in tunes for the entrance of the bride herself. If other music is available such as one might find in a church setting, the bagpiper's processional can be shared with, for example, that of an organist, pianist, or harpist. I have also played my pipes many times ensemble with a church's pipe-organ; this combination is quite outstanding in effect. The piper can either lead the processional(s) by playing himself up the aisle, where he will end up standing off to one side of the church or ceremonial site (often to the far right of the groomsmen), or he can stand near the back of the aisle while playing. Using the piper to march-in the groom and his attendents is quite effective if the more usual organ bridal processional is prefered.
The Recessional comes at the end of the ceremony when the piper will either lead the couple and attendants back down the aisle, or play them down the aisle from the back of the church or ceremonial site.
After the Ceremony - The bagpiper can continue to play outside of the church or ceremonial site as the guests are exiting. The playing can go on for approximately 15-20 minutes while waiting for the receiving line to complete, or while photos inside the church are being taken. The piper usually doesn't play while photos of the newlyweds and family are being taken outside the church. However, once the photos are completed and the rice is thrown, the bagpiper can now begin to play a fast and lively tune while the couple enters the limosine. If the reception is being held in a different location, the piper can also play as the guests are leaving for the reception. If however, the piper is asked to play for the arrival of the guests at the reception, he will need to leave soon after the ceremony to arrive at the reception location prior to the guests.
At the Reception - There are other prime moments during the reception for a bagpiper or accordionist to play. The most common and appropriate use of a piper at the reception is to announce the arrival of the wedding party and pipe them all in. A quick musical florish before the speeches, or just prior to the cake-cutting can also be a great attention getter. If the piper or accordionist is sharing the entertainment with another band or a D.J., he can play for a few minutes just prior to the change-over. He can also play during the other band's or D.J.'s breaks (usually a customary 15 minutes).
Usually I will ask (or be told) if there is a particular style or genre of music that is prefered, such as traditional Scottish or Irish. In such cases, I will already have several sets of tunes of each style that I know well and intend to play. But if you have special tunes that you would like played, or would like me to accompany another musician, such as an organist or harpist, it is best to contact me well in advance of the event to make such requests. If I don't know the tune(s), or I am to play with an accompanist, sheet music and/or recordings will need to be provided at least thirty days prior to the event - a special "learning" and/or "rehearsal" fee may also be applied to the original quote. You can view a list of the more well-known tunes that Alan plays on his Scottish HIghland pipes and accordion by clicking on this link - Alan's European & American Music Repertoire Page.
Often my participation in the wedding ceremony is meant to be a surprise. In such cases, I need to be able to arrive unseen and to tune my pipes unheard (by the wedding party and their guests). Even in the case where there is no surprise element, an area or facility away from the ceremonial site is often needed for tuning. The tuning area ideally should have the same climate (temperature and humidity) as the ceremony site. In a church setting for example, this can be facilitated by having a "warm-up" room available in another building away from the main chapel. Please note: The piper certainly needs to tune before the first performance. If possible, he should be able to retune any time there is a break longer than 5 minutes before subsequent playing; the bagpipe being somewhat unstable, goes out of tune rather quickly when not being played.
It is most helpful to provide the piper with a "runner" or assistant if possible - someone (ie., a wedding coordinator) who knows the order of events, and can notify the piper in advance of his 'cue' to play. (Nowadays, this can be usually accomplished by cell phone.) This enables the piper to fine-tune his instrument within a few minutes of his performance(s). It's not essential, but most pipers appreciate this assistance, and has the added benefit of a better-sounding performance.
On hot days, it is essential that there be water or other liquid refreshment avaiable to the piper. (I try to remember to bring water with me, but sometimes in the rush of leaving for the event I forget.) Providing liquid refreshment insures that the client will get a better and certainly more continuous performance. Shade on warm-to-hot sunny days, and shelter on inclimate days is a must for any performance lasting more than a few minutes. Extremes in temperature (hot or cold) may necessitate more 'breaks' and/or a shorter performance with the possibility of no adjustment in the musician's fee.
When in doubt about any of the above, or in the event of unforseen conditions and/or situations, the client's sensitivity to the musician's comfort and needs, will nearly always insure a cheerful demeanor and best possible performance.
The fee charged for a performance at your wedding will depend on a number of factors, such as:
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