Why do wedding entertainers cost so much? Are they just ripping us off?
David Haslett -
Wedding entertainment specialist
The answer is yes...and no!
Every few months I have a conversation which goes something like this
“You charged half this amount when you played at my uncles 50th”
“Bet you don’t charge your regular restaurant gigs this much”
“Back in my day we gigged for a box of beers and a dinner”
"Wedding entertainers cost too much"
The general accusation is that wedding entertainers are ripping them off, and what they’re saying is partly true! Yes, I do charge more for weddings than my regular restaurant gigs, and small birthday parties.
But when I talk to many musicians and DJs who won’t perform at weddings, they say it isn’t worth the money, it’s too much hassle, and other vendors are too difficult to deal with.
What’s going on? How can one side feel as though wedding entertainers are charging too much, and the other feel as though it’s not worth the money!
You and I both hate feeling ripped off, so let’s get to the bottom of this!
Comparing apples to oranges
For the average wedding, I’ll send 10 - 15 emails, you and I will have a couple of coffees to talk through the specifics of the day, I’ll learn 2-3 songs (they take about 2-3hrs to learn each), I’ll touch base with the other vendors, I’ll turn up about midday at the venue to setup and sound check 2-3 sound systems, perform all day and evening, and leave around 1-2am (based on a full day package).
I’m certainly not complaining! I love getting to know a couple, and helping them work through the specifics of their day, but let’s compare that to a small birthday party:
I’ll get a call asking if I can play at an afternoon birthday party, turn up 20 minutes beforehand, play for two hours, have a beer with the guests, be home in time for dinner.
In this case, the two simply can’t be compared in terms of time and energy.
That being said, some entertainers do treat weddings like small, insignificant shows, and simply charge twice as much. My advice is to really ask them what’s included, and how much experience they have before comparing prices with another entertainer. When will you show up on the day? Can we see a setlist? How many weddings do you do a year?
Time, energy and money!
Oh yes! The three things you and I both wish we had more of. Here’s a quick run down of these resources in action as an entertainer:
For a singer like me it’s even more important than usual. I can do around 12-15 hours of singing a week without causing any damage to my vocal cords. At an average wedding I’ll do around 6hrs of singing through the day and night - this means I often cancel my smaller regular shows to play at your wedding.
I see many great entertainers burn themselves out doing weddings. And the simple truth is, weddings require greater energy levels than other types of shows.
Often I’m not just the entertainer but the sound man, the MC and schedule keeper. Quick tip - don’t hug me at the end of the night, I’m usually drenched in sweat!
For an average wedding I bring about $20,000 worth of equipment to ensure your day goes smoothly. New entertainers rarely have the money to invest in great equipment but when you’re a wedding specialist, it’s a necessity.
Could you not do less work for a wedding and charge less?
Personally my favourite compliments are “you were perfect for this couple’s wedding”, and “you made everything so easy”. It shows that I listened and crafted entertainment to their personality and style as well as using my experience to create a stress free day!
To do that effectively, I need to spend a bit of time getting to know you and what you’re after, as well as talking to the venue and other vendors. That’s time that I build into my costs.
Making a wedding a special, unique and a smooth-sailing day also often has other skills involved that the happy couple never see, such as fixing the venue sound system 10 minutes before the bride arrives, eek (I have a few great work stories)!
Cheap entertainers are worth what they charge
Let’s ignore the gear, the experience and time spent. Often I get an upset call from a bride whose band or DJ has pulled out last minute. They’ve either had a better paying gig come in, or the band has split up, or the entertainer has burned themselves out and decided they’re never doing another wedding again.
These are trademark moves of cheap entertainers, and unfortunately most professional entertainers book up 6 months in advance, meaning it’s too late to upgrade to a solid entertainer.
You don’t want that stress. I don’t want you to have that stress!
Sometimes drawing up a contract at the beginning can help put pressure on them to turn up, but do you really want somebody at your wedding who doesn’t want to be there?
I do 30 weddings a year - I’m experienced but I know my limits. It’s important for you and I that I’m excited to be there, and that the excitement flows throughout the day. A healthy lifestyle, a passion for what I’m doing and remembering my own wedding day are all things which help me perform at my best every time.
How you can save money on entertainment???
While good entertainers are worth their money, there are a couple of ways to reduce costs in New Zealand and have great entertainment:
- Choose a local entertainer who doesn’t need to charge travel and accommodation
- Choose a self-employed entertainer rather than a company or agency. Often we’re not GST registered, meaning you’re already paying 15% less for your entertainer, as well as forgoing the agency fee. Agencies can be useful, but if $ is the priority then this is a great place to start
- If your venue doesn’t have a sound system and wireless mics for speeches, make sure you choose an entertainer who can provide these things - it should save you between $300 and $1000 depending on how big your wedding is.
Are wedding entertainers ripping us off?
It depends on the entertainer and what they provide. Take into account their experience, gear, meetings, songs to learn, how long they will be there for, as well as hours of entertainment provided, and also the X factor! Which I can sum up as this - are they humble, fun and passionate about what they do? Are they the type of person who relieves or creates stress?
Always ask for reviews, and expect to pay more than entertainment for a home party, but also check what they actually provide!
Happy wedding planning and drop me a line if you have any questions or comments!