The Dos and Don’ts of Asking Friends to Perform at Your Wedding

A microphone at a wedding with lights in the background.

Let’s say you’ve got a friend or family member with tremendous musical talent. Maybe they’re in a band or maybe they sing at karaoke every Thursday night. Or, maybe you’ve only ever heard them sing along with the radio! Either way, you think they’re great. Asking them to perform at your wedding seems like a great idea, but when you search the internet for advice on how to ask, you find only one tip: don’t do it.

Asking loved ones to perform at your wedding is a dangerous game. If they agree and all goes well, you’ll have a lovely memory of your friend being a special part on your special day. However, if you aren’t careful, you could spoil your wedding and (more importantly) damage your relationship with your friend! I don’t believe you should avoid asking entirely, but I do think you need to ask with reasonable expectations. Here are a few dos and don’ts to guide you in asking your musical friends to perform on your wedding day.

Do Know What You’re Asking (and Make Sure They Do, Too)

When you ask your friend to perform at your wedding, you’re asking for a lot more than a simple song. There’s a lot that goes into a perfect show (just like a wedding), and it’s important that both you and your friend know exactly what is being asked of them.

For instance, does your friend need to provide sound equipment or will the venue have some on site they can use? Will there be time for a sound check or does the reception immediately follow the ceremony? Is your friend only performing one song, or acting as the evening’s entertainment—complete with emceeing duties? These details need to be hammered out before you and your friend agree to anything.

Of course, if your friend is a professional musician, they may already be aware of what “playing a wedding” really means. If this is the case, great! But it is still critically important that you establish expectations and understand how much time, effort, and money will go into this gig. If not, you’re almost certainly in for a world of stress and strained relationships.

Do Offer to Pay Them!

A young woman singing with a band at a wedding.

When you hired your caterer, you agreed to pay them. When you bought your wedding dress, you paid the bridal shop proprietor. When you booked your venue, you definitely promised payment (and probably put down a deposit). But when it comes to “friendors”—friends we ask to be vendors, like musicians or photographers—we sometimes forget to pony up the dough. Let me say it loud for the people in the back: do not do that!

If you want your friend to perform at your wedding, you have to offer to pay them. It doesn’t matter if your friend is a working musician with years of shows under their belt or simply someone who can carry a tune— they always deserve payment for their time and talent.

Of course, there’s always a chance that your friend won’t accept payment. Maybe they’ll consider the performance their wedding gift to you, or maybe they just won’t take it to be nice. If that’s the agreement you come to, great! But offering to pay them proves that you respect their time and consider them a true artist, and every artist will appreciate that.

Don’t Pressure Them Into Performing

A guitar player at a wedding.

I have a cousin with an excellent singing voice. How do I know this? Because he was asked to sing at every wedding, first Communion, graduation party, and Christmas get-together my family ever had while we were growing up (not to mention the countless performances he’s done for his friends)!

Over the years, my cousin started turning down requests to sing. For him, attending a family event was no longer fun; he felt put-upon and annoyed by the pressure to perform. And guess what? My cousin is not alone. Sometimes, musicians just want to kick back with their friends and enjoy a wedding without standing in the spotlight.

If you ask your friend to perform at your wedding and they refuse, let it go. There are a million different reasons why someone may turn down a chance to play the music they love, and no amount of “Please, please, please” and “But you’re sooo good” will change their minds—or if they do finally agree, they may feel resentful.

Don’t Micromanage the Music

So, your friend has agreed to play music at your wedding. You both know what that entails, and you’ve agreed on a fair price for the gig. Good work, but you’re not out of the woods, yet. Now your job is to toe the line between creative suggestions and creativity killer.

You probably booked your friend because you think they’re talented and you like their musical style. But as it is your wedding day, you definitely have special requests for their set: specific songs you want them to play, a general ambiance you want to create–that sort of thing. It’s perfectly reasonable to want these things (it is your day, after all), but it’s important to give these suggestions sparingly, so your friend doesn’t feel stifled in their performance.

Having a loved one perform at your wedding can be a beautiful way to include more people on your special day. And if you respect your musical friends and follow these tips, you’ll certainly get through the show with your friendship intact.

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