Cost of Hiring a Wedding String Quartet – And What It Costs Us
By vaughan • 24th July 2009 • Posted in: Wedding String Quartet Useful Info
A quick half hour spent on the internet will turn up hundreds of different wedding string quartets, all charging a wide variety of prices – from just a few hundred pounds to over a thousand to hire a string quartet through an entertainment agency, seemingly for providing the same service.
But as a general guideline, the average cost of hiring a decent, professional string quartet (booking directly with them rather than through a third party) will be somewhere between £500 and £650 for about two hours playing, with extra hours charged at a greatly reduced rate. It’s usually far more economical to hire a string quartet for 3 or even 4 hours as the average cost per hour reduces dramatically the longer they are there for as once the group are booked for your occasion, they usually can’t take on any further work that day. . .
In the same way, wedding venues can also be hired for varying prices – exclusively booking a grand stately home will cost more than a function room in a hotel and a handmade wedding dress will naturally come with a higher price tag than something off the peg…..so the same goes on for just about every wedding supplier and exactly like string quartets, you pay for what you get.
When considering the varying price of string quartets, as a rule of thumb, the price charged will depend on both the quality of playing and what it costs them to perform at a wedding.
So let’s look at some of the costs involved:
It might surprise some people to discover that the cost of just one professional grade stringed instrument will be a minimum of £10,000 – and often players work with instruments costing many times that. A set of strings (which need replacing every few weeks to sound good) will start at about £40 and go up much higher still for the ‘cello. Compared to equipment needed by a toastmaster, singer, magician or even a DJ, the cost of all four instruments needed by a string quartet would astronomical.
A full time, classical musician will have usually begun learning their instrument at an early age and had weekly private lessons, spend thousands of hours practicing before attending music college for three years, then often a post graduate course and sometimes further overseas study. In terms of the time spent training, getting to a high enough standard to work professionally in the UK is probably even more demanding than studying to be an architect, solicitor or accountant – so professional musicians do charge professional fees.
When it comes to availability of a string quartet, the classical musicians who are really at the top of their profession will have full diaries most days. One of the players in our group realised (to her slight horror) that she hadn’t had a free day off in over 4 months, simply because she was in such demand for orchestral and recording work. Good players will be understandably very busy – not just with orchestral playing but with West End shows, teaching at the music colleges, chamber music performances, recording film soundtracks or overseas tours. For an ‘in demand’ musician to give up a days work to play at a wedding, they will need to earn an equivalent fee to make it viable.
Secondly, professional string quartets will have invested thousands of pounds into buying in sheet music so they’re able to offer a large wedding string quartet repertoire– or they may have spent hundreds of hours arranging so that the music they offer has enough to hold peoples interest.
Travel costs need to be factored in – performing at a wedding may well involve several hours of driving, an hour of rehearsal to get any special requests or new repertoire for the ceremony sounding gorgeous, not to mention arriving an hour early to set up. The wedding itself will involve 3 or 4 hours of continually focussed playing – in short, four highly trained professionals with a lifetime of training and priceless instruments are often putting in an 8-10 hour day.
With the top groups, the wedding performance will be of a consistently high standard, they’ll spend time putting together a programme of music that caters to the tastes of each client and will try to accommodate special requests where possible. Good string quartets are made up of strong players who are used to projecting their sound across the whole room without forcing because they’ve played at hundreds of weddings and concerts. Like all experienced wedding suppliers, they are very used to dealing with every aspect of playing at a ceremony or reception – from ending the processional piece in just the right place so the bride isn’t kept waiting, to engaging the guests and lifting everyone’s spirits with upbeat music if rain means the drinks reception has to be held indoors.
With full time string quartets there’ll also be a secure network of backup – if a player gets suddenly ill on the morning of the wedding, there will be a list of equally accomplished musicians, ready rehearsed – who can be called upon to replace them at short notice, so no client should ever get let down.
Although many quartets may be open to negotiating on price for less ‘in demand’ dates such as a Tuesday afternoon in February, really good musicians will be booked most days for other orchestral or recording work anyway (aside from the quartet), so any discount they are able to offer is likely to be quite small.
To compare the price of a string quartet with other wedding service providers, a single toastmaster can cost anything between £200 – £450 for a wedding, so it’s hard to understand how even the cheapest string quartets (obviously with four people, not just one) can provide a day of music for around the same fee whilst maintaining quality and a professional standard. The simple answer to this is they probably can’t.
After listening to lots of samples of string quartets, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a wide range of different standards out there. Listen out for a ‘tight’ sound, perfectly in tune, playing pieces at a good speed – in short, high quality musicianship should shine through even via website samples and computer speakers. Even when a couple are only looking for a string quartet to supply background music for a wedding reception, it’s true that guests do notice when the standard is high and the group can become a real feature of the day, creating just the right atmosphere and playing music that everyone will actually enjoy hearing, particularly modern string quartet songs.
A good wedding string quartet can often make an occasion memorable. When price shopping and comparing different string quartets, clients should be aware of what standard they’ll be getting on the day. Firstly listen carefully to any samples, look at whether the groups repertoire has enough to hold your guests interest, consider how experienced they are, whether they have other musicians to call on in an emergency, whether they will give you a proper contract protecting both parties, whether they have public liability insurance (some venues insist on this), if they reply to you quickly (always a good sign!) and how helpful the group are to deal with from the very first enquiry.
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