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20-40-60 Etiquette: Face the music

Don't forget to budget for the singer or musicians at your wedding. 

Don't forget to budget for the singer or musicians at your wedding. 

QUESTION: Would you please address the subject of paying wedding musicians? I am one, and it knocks out two nights or a night and a day of my time and effort. I think that just as the minister is paid, so should the organist, pianist or guitarist. Minimum should be $50.

If I am acquainted with the bride and/or groom, I don't mind doing it gratis. That is my gift to them. But if I don't know you, please expect to pay for this service just as you would any other. A small gift doesn't cover it.

CALLIE'S ANSWER: When planning our wedding, we were told upfront who we needed to pay. The musician was absolutely on the list. That being said, there is a lot of moving parts to a wedding. Letting the bride and groom know upfront is not uncommon or impolite.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Of course you should get paid for your services as a musician! Maybe there's a communication breakdown somewhere. How are you getting hired for the job? Through a third party, like the church? If so, then talk to the church contact about a fee and let that person communicate that to the bride and groom. If the couple is contacting you directly, then don't worry about being up front about your fees, or, if they are a friend, tell them that you will play during their ceremony as a wedding gift for them. Music is a gift, but it's also work and a key part of most ceremonies. Your time has value. It is OK to charge for your service, whether by the hour or a flat rate. Just let the couple know at the time they approach you what your estimated fee is so they can budget for that cost.

HELEN'S ANSWER: What a blessing it is to have musical talent and to be able to share that talent with others at such a special event as a wedding. You are a professional and definitely should be paid. For a wedding ceremony, there are several meetings with the bride and family, including the consultation to choose the wedding music, the rehearsal and the wedding. Your time should be compensated.

The fee should be included in a church package as they are providing the organ. Low-end cost could be $25-$50 an hour. You might charge an overall fee, including all of your time, for about $150-$250.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Jane Jayroe Gamble, former Miss America and television news anchor: This is a question near and dear to my heart because I have a degree in music and have sung at many weddings.

It's an honor and privilege to provide music for others at their major life events. I have never sung for anyone's wedding that wasn't a close friend so it was always a gift and I treasured being the singer. But being a musician is also a profession. Would you give up your weekend evenings, take time during the week to prepare and offer years of expensive training for free?

More than the money, it's the attitude that artists are not professionals that is so off the mark. Musicians and ministers should be a part of the wedding budget just like the other services being provided. Can the florists provide flower arranging at no cost? Can caterers bring food but not charge for their expertise and preparation? If the musician wants to give their services to the bride and groom, that is a lovely and generous gift, but musicians who are invited to play or sing for any event should be compensated.

To expect otherwise means you have never paid for music lessons or college tuition at a great performing arts school like Oklahoma City University. Considering that the musician must be available for the rehearsal and wedding, a minimum of $100 is what I think is fair, plus sincere appreciation.

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email