“Check with local colleges’ music departments to find student musicians who need the credits and additional live experience, and may not charge anything,” says Hammons. (Do give them a nice gratuity after the show.) Some students do charge, but far less. Mark Kingsdorf, director of The Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants in Philadelphia agrees, saying that music school student entertainment can cost one-third less than pro musicians.
Hammons also suggests checking with your church’s musical director, who can suggest excellent pianists and other musicians they use during services, who you can hire for 30 to 40 percent less than the prevailing professional rates.
Professional entertainment companies keep a roster of specialty musicians and dancers, who you may be able to add onto your music package for a 10 percent discount.
Look to venues like Irish pubs or Indian restaurants for specialty entertainment options such as fiddlers, step- or belly dancers. Hammons says she has found stellar entertainers through local restaurant owners, saving her clients 40 to 60 percent.
Contact local cultural associations to book singers, musicians and dance troupes for 25 to 50 percent less than the going professional rates. This is a great way to add global flair to your reception. If you hear a great musician at a local club or coffee shop, always ask if he or she does weddings. These artists often charge a low per-hour rate that can save you hundreds of dollars. Bonus: you already know their sound, which may be perfect for your cocktail-hour music, if not your ceremony.
Hot Tip: Many DJs and bands offer specialty lighting effects as part of their package; often their basic lighting accents are gratis, with customized lighting for an added fee. Ask if you can use non-custom effects such as light projected in a snowflake pattern on your dance floor at no charge—rather than commission lighting effects with your names.