How much does a wedding harpist cost?
It’s not every day that you hire a live musician to play for an event, so many couples are unsure of how much they should budget for entertainment at their upcoming wedding. In order to keep this post as up-to-date as possible, I won’t be including any standard figures as it can vary greatly depending on the location and harpist, however let’s talk about everything that goes into that musician’s price that you see when you request more information. Never fear, most harpists’ rates are well in line with other live music choices for your wedding day such as violinists, pianists, cellists, and other musicians (although our instruments are much harder to carry around!).
Included: Ceremony musician fee
First things first, your wedding musician’s fee will include the time they’re spending at your event and actively playing music. My ceremony package includes up to 90 minutes of ceremony time, which is split between a 20-30 minute prelude as guests are arriving, the songs you and your partner walk down the aisle to, any mid-ceremony traditions like a hand-fasting ritual or wedding license signing, and the song walking you back down the aisle as you celebrate becoming spouses.
Included/Extra: Travel fee
Your travel fee will either be included in your harpist’s base price, or as a separate travel fee. I include up to an hour from my home as part of my included travel fee, and a rate per kilometre outside of that radius. Many musicians especially in Canada may charge a winter travel fee – this covers the additional time required to drive carefully to your event, and extra precautions taken in order to not damage the instrument during cold temperatures.
Included: Repertoire rehearsal time
Your musician likely practices for multiple hours each day to ensure their repertoire is ready to go for any event they book. This time isn’t directly billed to any one client (unless it’s a special request!), and so part of the fee at your event goes to covering the rehearsal time it takes to have enough music ready to play for your entire event. In some cases, your musician will have 4-5 hours of music practiced and rehearsed.
Included: Instrument maintenance and care
Did you know that for most professional harpists, they replace their strings at least annually? Strings can break on a whim, and old strings won’t resonate the same way new ones will. In order to keep their harp sounding as sparkly and magical as possible, your harpist will be replacing “dead” strings as needed (some of which cost over $40 Canadian each). Annual maintenance (called a “regulation”) is also recommended for instruments that are moved around by professionals, where a specialized regulator will go and make sure every single tiny piece of the harp is free from buzzes and works harmoniously to ensure the string is at the right pitch, no matter whether the pedal is in flat, natural, or sharp. Harpists also need expensive transport covers and a customized dolly to move their harp around (concert grand pedal harps weigh anywhere from 75 to almost 100 pounds, and are over 6 feet tall!), not to mention a car large enough to fit their instrument.
Included: Attire and beauty
Just like you, your bridal party, and your guests, many of your “front-line” vendors will also be dressing up for your big day. Your harpist’s event clothes as well as their hair and beauty products, as well as their prep time, isn’t directly charged to you, but is still a part of the equipment needed to look put together and professional at your event, even if they’re in slacks and a blouse!
Extra: Fees for additional time at your event
Whether it’s adding a cocktail hour to your party or just an extra 15 minutes, your wedding musician will either have package-based or hourly pricing to add extra time to your initial engagement. Depending on if they have a commitment after your event, they may be able to stay later on the day, however many will charge a premium for on-site changes to your initial plan.
I always recommend for couples that if they know their guests are early to events or late leaving to always book some extra time beforehand. It helps your musicians (and all your other vendors!) plan their time accordingly, and ensures no one has to listen to me while I tune all of the strings of the harp when I get to your venue.
If you have a gap between your ceremony and dinner where your musician isn’t playing, they are likely to charge you for that time regardless. When a vendor is at your wedding, it’s time that they can’t spend at another event or with another client.
Extra: Special request rehearsal fees
Want to walk down the aisle to your favourite obscure song? Your wedding musician can probably make it happen, however it may cost you a small additional fee for their rehearsal time. At any given moment, I have about 2-3+ hours of cocktail hour music ready to go and practiced every week, however any special songs I haven’t learnt before need to get added to the rehearsal list so they’re prepped, cleaned, and ready for you on your big day. Many musicians will also charge for the purchase of any sheet music or custom arranging if sheet music can’t be found.
Weddings, for the most part, are not cheap events. No matter what vendor you’re looking for, I encourage you to look not just at the price of the vendor, but also their expertise, professionalism, and personality to ensure they’ll be a good fit for your day. Seek recommendations from trusted vendors you’ve booked already, and be ready to make the commitment if you find someone your wedding day wouldn’t be the same without. I always encourage my couples to take care of their investment in their wedding day – one poorly-prepared vendor can have larger effects than just what they were hired to do, and on a day as important and expensive as your wedding day, it’s too risky to not hire professionals. (Believe me, I’ve been there myself and I’ve seen the difference between couples who hired and trusted professionals and those who did not.)
Want to get exact pricing for your wedding?
Looking to hire a harpist for your wedding? Reach out today to receive more information on my packages and a customized no-obligations quote based on your event’s needs!