Having your favorite musician perform a live rendition of your first dance song, or else dancing to a selection of their greatest hits during the reception, sounds like a dream to most brides and grooms, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, turning that fantasy a reality could actually be possible, especially if you have Rachel Dalton—who helps couples secure star talent, like musicians, for their events—in your corner. Recently, she's helped clients secure Jason Derulo, James Taylor, Ne-Yo, and Austin Mahone for their receptions and events. How does it work? The bride and groom send her their A-list performance wish list and she'll check availability and cost, then use her lawyer background to handle all contracts and insurance. Her production partner helps tackle the rider and travel needs, meaning that the couple (and their planner) get to sit back and enjoy.
From a planning perspective, Dalton notes that having a few months to sort things out is ideal, but that going the last-minute route sometimes yields the best deal. "It gives more leverage to negotiate if the artist is available," Dalton says of tight timing. Regardless of the time frame, budget is most likely the key factor in determining whether or not a famous musical guest is an option. Dalton has worked with artists who charge anywhere from several thousand dollars up to those in the seven-figure range, so part of her job is to also help couples evaluate the bigger entertainment picture. By helping them select amazing but well-priced bands and DJs, they are able to free up more of the budget for a notable performer.
Once you know you can pull it off financially, you'll want to talk to your planner to discuss logistics and to make a plan. Some planners are used to handling star talent on their own, too. Kimberly Curtis of Toast Santa Barbara recently had John Legend play the processional song during a ceremony. She suggests having a dedicated staff member for any star talent, to focus solely on logistics (like travel and sound production) and needs (such as a meal).
Kate Steele of H Three Events in Nashville helped get her bride's favorite band, Earth Wind & Fire, to play at the reception. Her suggestion for other couples looking to hire their own celebrity performers is to start the process as soon as possible. "They affected almost every aspect: the tent, the stage, the air conditioning, the lights," she says, so keep their needs in mind when plotting your floor plan and finalizing decisions with the other vendors involved.
When Lionel Richie played a wedding at the Greenbrier, it was a surprise from the father-of-the-bride to his newly-married daughter. That meant that the resort and production company needed to create a faux backdrop at the reception for the big reveal, and the evening's timeline needed some adjustments, too. As the bride and her father share a love of the musician (she chose a Lionel Richie song for the father-daughter dance not knowing the performer would be there in person), their dance was purposely scheduled for later in the night than normal so that after he sang "She's A Lady," the rest of his set would get everyone on the dance floor. If you're going the surprise route, make sure to consider the flow of the night—and think about how you'll the musician hidden from guests and staff to keep things under wraps.
One final thing to keep in mind is that while most bands and DJ's require a meal and a place to take a break, celebrity talent can have more demanding requests, and those could make or break your budget. Marcy Blum of Marcy Blum Associates says, "The rider is the tricky part, because it could add an enormous amount to the original price of the artist," she explains. "It's common for a rider to dictate that the star has an entourage that needs to be flown in first class and put up in a five star hotel as well."