Items to consider when hiring a wedding pianist

A piano accompaniment provides an evocative backdrop for your guests as they gather for the main event, and is the ideal soundtrack for any wedding breakfast. We’ve put together what we hope are helpful pointers for you to browse before the main event.

Before you start looking

There are four basic things to think about before you settle on your wedding pianist. The first is what style of music and atmosphere you’d like to create at the various stages of your wedding. Remember it is not only the ceremony you need to consider, there's the reception and wedding breakfast too.  In conjunction with this, consider your own musical tastes but also think about the age range of your guests – you want everyone to have the best time possible. Secondly, think about is the suitability of the venue for a piano – is there enough space for a piano? Thirdly, are you planning parts of the wedding that will be held outside? If so, cover would need to be provided for the pianist and piano – neither mix well with rain!  The final and fourth point to consider in the pre-planning stage is to make sure the chosen wedding pianist is prepared to be flexible on timings as, by the nature of a wedding, things seldom run to an exact plan!

Where and when should a pianist play?

If the wedding is to take place in a church, then the music for the ceremony is probably best played upon the church’s own organ, for which you would need an organist rather than pianist. For a civil ceremony, a pianist could play for the guests, typically for around 20 minutes before the bride arrives and then continue for the bride’s entrance. 

Then there is the signing of the register and two pieces should be selected, though maybe only one will be played - depends on how speedy the registrar is! After the signing of the register you’ll also need music for the bride’s exit too.

Next up, the drinks reception, the pianist could play right though, and maybe change the style of the music so that it forms a pleasant backdrop to the conversations between the guests. The music can be continued through to the wedding breakfast, up to dessert and speeches.  The reception might be an hour and the meal 1-2 hours, depending on the number of guests and style of food served i.e. a sit-down meal will typically take longer than a buffet meal.  It’s worth noting though that a pianist would need to take a couple of comfort breaks during these times!

How and when do the bride and groom make songs requests?

Professional musicians will always be happy to work with requests, so start looking at your favourite artists and thinking about specific songs you like, particularly tunes that provide happy memories. Think about the atmosphere and then the pianist will work with you to select music to match.

The piano is so versatile, compared to other instruments; it can be up or down tempo, loud or gentle. So for the service it might be classical pieces, for the reception maybe some jazz or swing, then through the wedding breakfast or dinner, a gentle start, building the tempo as the buzz of the guests grows. The music can easily move from Hollywood to Bollywood. Let the pianist know a few weeks in advance about what you have chosen so they can find the appropriate piano arrangements and rehearse.

What if the wedding venue doesn’t have a piano?

These days a portable electric piano can give almost as good a sound as the real thing or a professional quality stage piano can be hired, including a luscious looking grand piano.

Another consideration, particularly for a civil ceremony wedding, is that you may need to think about moving the piano, or having two, as the ceremony and reception are often in different rooms within the same venue.

What should you be looking for in a wedding pianist?

Someone who has a wide range of styles and a large repertoire is ideal. Also, choose a pianist who is sympathetic to the occasion and will adjust their style and respond according to what’s working best for the guests. A good pianist will know when the music should be soft and gentle and when it needs to be more robust and louder.

Picture by Salvatore Vuono