Encore Blog

Harpist Booking Guide – How to Hire

Anna Lapwood, Encore harpist
Katya Herman, Encore harpist
Katya Herman, Encore harpist

Have you had visions of walking down the aisle or sipping champagne delicately to the shimmering sound of a harp but you aren’t sure how to go about finding one? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about finding and booking the perfect harpist for your event. If you would like to discuss booking a harpist, please email Alexandra at [email protected].

  1. The Basics
  2. Equipment & Setup
  3. Repertoire
  4. Booking

The Basics of hiring a Harpist

What kind of harps are there?

There are three main kinds of harps: full size concert harps, smaller Celtic harps, and electric harps in a range of sizes. The different harps each suit different styles (classical, pop, folk, jazz etc), so check with your harpist that the music you want will work on their harp. Celtic harps work well for traditional music but for jazz/classical, a concert harp is generally required.

What do the harps look like?

A full-size concert harp looks more grand and ornate than a Celtic harp, so if the client is going for a fairy-tale look, a concert harp is more likely to fit the bill. You can ask the harpist to send a picture of their particular harp, as there is a lot of visual variation even between concert harps.

Which parts of the wedding ceremony will the harpist play at?

Harpists will usually play at the following parts of the ceremony: seating of the guests, entrance of the bride, signing of the registry, and the walk out. Some couples also like having a small musical performance as part of the wedding, with the harpist accompanying a singer or instrumentalist. Harpists often play at the reception as well, but make sure to discuss this well in advance to make sure they can move the harp between the venues.

Anna Lapwood, Encore harpist

“I saw a little girl who had been watching intently, and as I was packing up she looked disappointed, so I invited her over. She sat down and I showed her how to pick out some basic tunes. She was so excited, and all the wedding guests loved it!” -Encore artist Anna Lapwood

Harp Equipment & Setup

How much space does the harp need?

Concert harps need an area of 2m x 3m and Celtic harps need an area of 2 square metres.

What equipment does the client need to provide?

Most harpists will bring a music stand and a stool with them, however occasionally they may need you to provide a chair. There should also be good lighting in the space where they are playing.

Do I need to provide food?

Harpists will appreciate bottled water and tea/coffee/biscuits upon arrival. Meals are always welcome, though not required.

Encore Harpist, Eleanor Dunsdon

Encore harpist, Eleanor Dunsdon

Can the harpist play outside?

It is possible, but protection against rain/sun must be provided. This isn’t just as simple as holding an umbrella over a harp if it starts to rain!

The ground must be dry otherwise it damages the instrument, and most harpists aren’t comfortable playing on grass for the same reason. As a general rule, if there is a flat, firm, dry surface then your harpist should be happy.

What dress code can I expect?

The harp is as much of a visual feature as a musical one, so feel free to discuss this with your harpist, who may be able to coordinate with your colour scheme. For weddings, female harpists will tend to wear a cocktail dress whilst men may wear a suit. Alternatively, you can request that they wear standard concert dress, i.e. all black.

Do harps need a PA system?

Generally not, unless you will have a very large crowd. Some harpists will be able to provide their own PA – check with them.

Harp under cover

Encore harpist Catrin Meek demonstrates the harp’s space and weather protection needs

How long will the harpist play for?

Sets are usually 45-60 minutes long with a 15 minute break between sets.

How much setup time does a harp need?

Harps require approximately an hour to set up (including carrying the harp from the car to the venue, re-parking if necessary, stowing the cover, tuning all 47 strings, and setting up the bench/stand).


Harpists require parking, ideally as close as possible to the entrance. If there is no parking immediately by the door, then they should be able to unload by the door and then move the car. The client should reimburse the harpist for any parking costs incurred.

Can harps move from one area to another?

Yes, but they are moved on trolleys, which can be difficult to negotiate over winding staircases. Assistance may need to be provided from staff at the venue. Definitely discuss any moving requirements with the harpist!

Encore artist Katya Herman performs a medley of harp music.

Harp Repertoire

What are the most popular wedding pieces for harps?

Canon in D – Pachelbel
Ave Maria – Gounod
Bridal March from ‘Lohengrin’ – Wagner
Wedding March – Mendelssohn
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach
Air on a G String – J.S. Bach
Air and Hornpipe from Water Music – Handel
The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba – Handel
Meditation from Thaïs – Massenet

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion
Can you Feel the Love Tonight – Elton John
Come Away with Me – Norah Jones
Misty – Eroll Garner
Fly Me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra

Alice Kirwan is an Encore harpist.

What is popular event/background music for harps?

A lot of the music on the above list works just as well as background music for events. Most of the time a harpist will have a specific set of repertoire which they use for events, and you should be able to trust their judgement! However if you have a special request, then a lot of harpists will make every effort to include it in their set.

Can the harpist play my favourite song?

Absolutely! Harpists love adding new pieces to their repertoire, and if they can’t find an arrangement, will often tailor one themselves for your event. This may add an additional fee to your booking, but is well worth the extra expense to hear your favourite song played in a new and exciting way.

“I love the intimacy and magic of the harp. It’s a joy to be able to share my passion for this beautiful instrument with others.” -Encore artist Milo Harper

Booking a Harpist

How far in advance should I book?

We advise booking as soon as possible, especially if you have special musical requests, but we handle last-minute bookings all the time at Encore and can easily find a harpist at short notice.

What’s the typical price for a harp?

Each harpist will set their own price, but approximately £200 an hour is a good estimate for weddings and events. Harpists will often charge most for the first hour and discount any subsequent hours as most of the work is travel and setup.

Do I have to pay travel fees/porterage?

Many harpists have a set radius and any travel outside of this area will be added to the price. Harps are very large and difficult to transport (harpists will have to have a large car!), so there is usually extra cost, known as porterage, included in the price. We have harpists all over the country, so we can usually find an available harpist close to your venue.

How do I handle contracts and payment?

The easiest way to handle contracts and payment is to book through Encore. Our bookings process is extremely straightforward, and once you have confirmed a booking with your chosen quartet, contracts and payments will be handled painlessly and effortlessly by our secure payments system. To discuss booking a harpist, please email [email protected].

Catherine Derrick, Encore harpist

“My favourite part of playing at events is always the people that I meet.” -Encore harpist Catherine Derrick
Hopefully this guide answers all of your questions! If you have more questions about harpists, email us at [email protected] and we’d be more than happy to help.

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James McAulay

Encore Co-Founder & CEO. Cellist, pianist, singer and aspiring guitarist.

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