Spring not only brings competitions for pipers, but is also peak wedding gig season! Here are the three keys to success at bagpiping for weddings.
Proactive Bagpipe Maintenance
If you are bagpiping for weddings, the last thing you want is instrument failure on the day of a gig. First, ensure that your instrument is properly set up. Begin with testing your bag for air tightness by corking off the chanter and drone stocks. Listen closely for the sound of any escaping air and retie the stocks or replace the entire bag if necessary. Leather pipe bags may simply require re-seasoning while synthetic bags periodically need the moisture control systems replaced. Also important is to break in new reeds that blend well with your pipe chanter and drone reed combination. You should always have backup chanter reeds that are ready to play. Don’t leave home without them!
All of the hemped joints on your bagpipe should be changed at least once a year. To prevent cracking by not over-hemping joints, start with a small amount and test the fit as you go. The hemp on your tuning slides should allow you to tune the drones comfortably so that they will not move while you are playing.
Keeping everything organized in your pipe case prevents forgetting critical items. A short checklist of some of the basic supplies listed above is a good reminder before departing to perform. Other helpful items to bring along would be water, breath mints, and a snack or two!
Once the basic details of maintenance are completed, it’s time to market your skills!
Market Your Bagpiping Style and Looks
When bagpiping for weddings, you must present your piping services in a unique, attractive and professional manner. Consider constructing a website or social media page with your contact information and performance history. A brief video with several tunes is a great resource to present to potential clients. Print up good quality business cards with all your contact information.
As for your uniform, it’s a good idea to have several Celtic looks in your wardrobe and displayed on your website. Try to present different degrees of formality. An Argyll set (we highly recommend the Piper Flex!) or Prince Charlie jacket and vest with a crisp dress sporran is certainly appropriate for most weddings. However, couples with casual or rustic ceremonies may appreciate a Tweed Vest or even a Highland Shirt and Chieftain’s Vest as alternatives.
Show off multiple kilts to give your clients a choice in color that will tone well with the wedding colors or what wedding party members are wearing. Here’s an easy upgrade: If your drone cords have faded to an unrecognizable color, select a new set that will match the kilts you will be performing in. Cords aren’t expensive and can be a fun way to change up your look. For example, red for Scottish, green for Irish.
No matter what you wear, it MUST be clean, tidy and worn with attention to detail. Your tie should be straight, your Ghillie Brogues polished, etc. Weddings are like Competitions — but with money on the line. A slovenly piper looks like he doesn’t care and he does not get referrals.
Communicate Clearly with the Wedding Client
When communicating with your potential bagpipe wedding clients, clarity and timeliness are essential. Communicating via email will give you a written record of all the details being discussed. Consider writing a basic contract that includes a 25% – 50% deposit to hold the date on your calendar. If possible, be acquainted with the theme and details of the wedding. If there is a wedding planner, have their contact info handy — even their cell number in your phone — to help avoid problems the day of the ceremony. For examples of what a couple may expect, read our article on hiring a wedding bagpiper. If your client has not seen it, share it with them to help set expectations. For example, where can you put your gear? Where can you warm up? One more quick tip — showing up early to the ceremony and bringing a small gift or card for the newlyweds always makes a great first impression. Remember that a good performance can lead to referrals for more gigs.
Practice Practice Practice!
As pipers, we have a tremendous responsibility to present our traditional music to the public – whether we are bagpiping for weddings, marching in a parade or performing elsewhere. Daily practice on your pipes and practice chanter will ultimately increase your abilities and confidence for every performance. You will feel proud to be a focal point, and your playing will become a fond memory for your clients. Prepare accordingly to present this noble instrument in a professional manner that all will enjoy!