When you’re looking for a bagpiper, you’ll see many bagpipers out there offering their services, via individual websites or agencies offering bagpipers. But if you’re not close to bagpipe world, how do you know if the bagpiper you’re thinking of booking is up to the job?
1. Find a Grade 1 Bagpiper
You’ll want a bagpiper who is of an excellent standard. A simple rule of thumb here, is to find a bagpiper who plays in, or has played, in a Grade 1 competing Pipe Band. Speaking from experience, playing the bagpipes at this level requires a great deal of regular practice. The bagpiper has to be of a very high standard to even get through the door of the practice hall, never mind actually being able to compete with the band.
Bagpipers who play in competing pipe bands of this level are playing their bagpipes all the time. Therefore they will be at the top of their game when it comes to playing at your wedding!
Okay, how do I find a Grade 1 bagpiper?
Most Grade 1 level professional bagpipers are very proud of playing at this level, so will most likely tell you, as I do when telling you why I think you should book me!
2. Listen to recordings and look at photographs
A bagpiper, like any other wedding vendor, shouldn’t be afraid to demonstrate their abilities. Have a quick listen to their recordings. If the bagpiper hasn’t got anything immediately available, such as on a website or on YouTube, then be be sure to ask for some. There’s something wrong if recordings can’t be provided.
Have a look at their photographs to see how they dress. As well as being able to play the bagpipes very well, your bagpiper must look tip-top in your photographs.
Make sure you listen to recordings and look photographs of a few bagpipers, so you can compare their standards.
3. Check Reviews
Perhaps this one is a “no-brainer”, but for any bagpiper that you’re considering having play for your big day, check out reviews from previous couples whom the bagpiper has played for. Make sure that there are recent reviews, so you can be sure that the bagpiper hasn’t been “out of the game” for a long time.
Being highly proficient at playing the bagpipes doesn’t necessarily mean that a bagpiper is also highly proficient at playing at weddings and events. You need to make sure that your bagpiper has experience of playing for many such important occasions like your wedding. A bagpiper experienced in playing for many weddings will be able offer you a lot of insight and guidance in terms of how you can fit the bagpiper into your day, and what music is appropriate.
A bagpiper with lots of experience will be able to arrive at your wedding venue, and instantly know where the best place to play is. Importantly, an experienced Wedding Bagpiper will also sort out the little details, like making sure the catering staff have place the Piper’s Dram at your seat ready for the Piper’s Toast. The experienced bagpiper will be able to engage with your guests and will also be able to deliver a classy Piper’s Toast, should you require this. A bonus is if the bagpiper has already played at your wedding venue. This means that the bagpiper will most likely know the venue and its staff, and how they operate.
A bagpiper with lots of good and recent reviews from other couples will give you confidence that they have the necessary experience.
If the bagpiper has any bad reviews, check how they have responded to any such feedback. Were there extenuating circumstances, or has the bagpiper demonstrated that they’ve learnt from the experience, and has tried to address the issue?
4. Check their Prices
Your bagpiper should have clearly stated prices.
Wedding Bagpiper services are very actually simple to price. You shouldn’t need to go through a whole “Get a quote” routine. Bagpiper Services at a Wedding Ceremony will nearly always fall within the maximum of a two hour time period, from when the bagpiper arrives before your Ceremony to welcome your guests, until piping you both down the aisle as married couple, and perhaps playing during your Confetti Shower and being available for any photographs. Or, if the bagpiper also plays at your Wedding Breakfast, then this would mean the maxiumm time would be five and a half hours.
There is no reason why prices cannot be stated. This makes it easy for you to know straight away if the bagpiper is within your budget or not. The only differences may be if your Wedding Bagpiper will incur travel expenses or if there are any additional costs, such as for wearing the the Piper’s No.1 Full Highland Dress, or playing the Scottish Small Pipes. Again, there is no reason why any such additional costs cannot be clearly stated.
You can view my prices for Wedding Bagpiper services here.
5. Booking via Agencies
Many bagpipers may have their own personal websites, but also advertise themselves on online Entertainment Agencies. The nature of agencies being that they charge commission, means you’ll pay more than going to the bagpiper directly (LastMinuteMusicians.com is an exception to this rule). So if you see a bagpiper on an Agency’s website whom you like the look of , it’s well worth having a quick Google to see if you can reach out to the Bagpiper directly.
If using an Agency, it’s recommended that you use one which is actually run by a bagpiper. This means any bagpiper they provide should have been vetted to an extent, and will meet a required minimum standard in terms of their playing ability and their standard of dress. An agency run by a bagpiper should be able to provide you with photos and recordings of the bagpipers they have “on their books”. In Scotland, The National Piping Centre, Scotia Pipers and Roddy the Piper will all provide bagpipers of a good standard.