do you have anything in your contracts about events that start late and thusly end late?
I hear stories all the time from harpists who have to deal with “late” weddings. Sometimes we’re talking about 1 hour, 2 hours or more late! If you have booked several weddings in one day, as many harpists do during the wedding season, it’s imperative that you have an absolute stop time in your contract. This is more important than any charge for overtime due to a late start to the wedding. I would certainly put into the contract the period of time that you are allowing, and they are paying for. If your services are to start for example at 10AM, and everything is supposed to be done by 11AM, I would have written into the contract that your absolute stop time, when you have to pack up and leave, is 11:30 or 12:00. And your contract should clearly state that if they are in the middle of the wedding when your stop time arrives, then you will pack up during the service. That happened to a friend of mine when the wedding she was booked to play started 2 hours late.
Since I collect my final payment for all weddings 30-days in advance of the event, I think Carl’s suggestion of a firm and clear STOP time in your contract would be easier to enforce than trying to collect an overtime payment or late fee on the day of the wedding.
Having a stop time is really important as has been said. The other thing is that you know brides are late. It’s bad that they’re late but it’s your problem if you’re late to something else. Most harpists I know allow two to four hours between gigs just in case something runs late or there is traffic. I have practiced this policy for years and have really seen it work well.
While I think it’s ridiculous when brides are excessively late many weddings do start later that they plan and again it’s your reputation that’s on
I know I’m treading on thin ice here. But there are a number of ethnic minorities who are notorious for being late to everything. One harpist I know told me about getting hired to play a wedding that was scheduled for 2PM on Saturday. When she heard the name of the people involved she thought “Oh boy! I wonder what time this thing is actually going to happen?” On the appointed day, she held up her end of the bargain and started playing at 1:40. To her enormous surprise, everyone was seated and the ceremony started right at 2! She later found out that the bride had said on the wedding invitations that the wedding was at 1, knowing that everyone would get there around 1:30 or 1:45. Even she knew the reputation her particular ethnic group had.
As we progress through life we all become experts at what we do. And what is an expert? It’s someone who has made every mistake imaginable and learned from each one. So for anyone who has been playing professionally for 10 or 20 years or longer, they should have contracts that cover every possible problem, because they have first hand experience as to what can happen when it’s not written down.
I just finished writing a harp rental contract. I have a basic contract form. But I tweak it for each situation and often state the conditions twice just to make sure that I’m covered. With 20 pedal harps and 5 lever harps rented, I can’t take any risks by leaving anything to chance or the good intentions of the renter. And I’ve go a horror story for each of the terms written into my contract.
Yes, David, that was a great story, and you write so well. Thanks also for giving that sweet little dog a good home.
I’ve had to leave two weddings because they were so late getting started that, had I stayed, I would have been late to the next wedding. I try not to book them close together for safety’s sake. In both cases there fortunately was someone else who could play organ or piano and who covered the rest of the ceremony after I’d already played an hour or more of prelude. Whenever something unusual happens and I imagine there could be any chance of the bride contacting me later to ask what happened or why I left, I make extensive notes on the contract and keep it in a file forever, just in case, for my own protection.
On a couple other occasions where I didn’t have to leave, I did have to take a break because the prelude was going more than an hour. I don’t know how the guests could bear sitting on those hard pews so long.
I do have starting and ending times in my contract and a clause which states I may have to leave at a specific time for another job. That doesn’t seem to matter to anyone but me. I did add an overtime clause but so far haven’t had to enforce it. I put that in because of a bride whose wedding was more than an hour late because she’d forgotten her shoes and she went home to get them herself which delayed her finishing make-up, etc. Why she didn’t send someone else I’ll never know. I haven’t charged overtime for other brides whose delay was beyond their control, i.e., officiant became ill and they had to find another, guests ignored public announcements of scheduled construction traffic snarls, etc.
I do address the issue at consultation when it seems advisable; that, too, has made little impression on them. The worst are the brides with no director or consultant so there’s no one watching the clock. Have you noticed how many young people today use their cellphones in lieu of a wristwatch? I always worry when I see the wedding director doing that. Seems unprofessional and asking for trouble to me.
My charge for a ceremony is already about what I’d charge for a non-ceremony job of two-three hours. My concern is that, when the ceremony is over, the client would expect me to stay and play the remaining time (while they’re taking pictures or whatever) because they’d think the time was paid for. I charge a flat rate whether it’s a 10 minute civil ceremony or a 45 minute Catholic mass. It’s about the same amount of work for me. But when it’s over, I want to be free to leave, not feel like I have to hang around to fill in the time remaining until their two (or three) hours is up.
cathy- I’m with you on this one. I would just tell the client that there is a minimum fee for moving the harp out of the house and to the event. They don’t even have to be told that that minimum fee is the same as the cost of playing for 2 hours. But I still think that the contract should have a stop time, so that no matter what happens, you have an exit strategy if you need it. If there was some horrendous delay that was no fault of the wedding party and you don’t have another event to play afterwards, you can stay if you want to. But at least you have a contractual license to leave at a certain time if you have to.
- The forum ‘Professional Harpists’ is closed to new topics and replies.