Wedding Sound Systems and Video: Advice from the Experts 15-Jan-2020 Edwards
Wedding season is upon us. We revisit four veteran Auckland celebrants’ insights on wedding audio and video. A must-read for any wedding planner, bride or groom.
Don’t go without a PA System
Kathrine kicks off the discussion by stressing that the single biggest source of audience complaints about ceremonies, especially those held outdoors, is that people can’t hear what is being said, “Background noise is often a contributing factor such as waterfalls, wind, surf, disturbances from other users of public parks and so on. So it’s good to use a PA and mic for the whole ceremony.”
Mel goes a step further, “I would never do a ceremony without a mic and sound system. Celebrants really should encourage couples to pay for a sound system so that their ceremony can be heard. Even some flash venues which are very popular for weddings don’t actually provide a sound system for the ceremony as part of their wedding package. Couples should check when booking a celebrant that they have a sound system of their own, and will bring it to the venue, or else they need to be hiring one for the whole day. Fortunately Edwards hire!”
Kathrine adds an important point, “Check that the hireage includes the rehearsal so you can practice with the sound system that will be used on the day and be sure that the music and mics are all compatible. Edwards for example has always been accommodating, allowing the hire period to cover the rehearsal.”
Hand held mics beat lapel mics “hands down” (excuse the pun)
The four celebrants unanimously favour handheld mics over lapel mics. Mel rejected putting a lapel mic on the groom on a different frequency to the celebrant, “The idea is that the groom can be heard saying his vows and the bride can be heard via him but I think that there is a risk in this approach. All the little comments the groom makes along the way then become public and heard by the guests! It is better, I think, for me to be in control of what the guests hear via just my hand held.”
Mel expands, “I prefer a wireless hand held mic because I can just pass it to the MC, the readers and the couple. My Focus 505 PA and cordless mic has such good range and is so sensitive that it is easy for the bride and groom to be heard when I am holding the mic up to them so that they can keep holding hands.”
Kathrine adds, “Even if the couple want intimate vows, I can speak them line by line into the handheld mic for the audience to hear, and the couple can repeat them just to each other – this tends to satisfy both parties, and fits naturally into the rhythm of the ceremony.”
Camouflaging the equipment
Lecterns and mic stands were completely dismissed by the celebrants because there was no way that these could be hidden in photos. Handheld mics are a different story. Over the years all the celebrants had found ways and means of disguising the sound equipment. Peta shares, “When using a handheld mic, I’ll stash it in the branch of a tree or some foliage, or get the best man to hold the mic so that I can grab it as I require it. Sometimes I use a small table to the side, or I’ll even hook it onto an archway or gazebo.”
Mel advises hiding the speaker too, “Placement of the speaker or amp is important. You don’t want it in all the photos, even though it is small. It needs to be up the front, facing the guests, but preferably at one side, or hidden in a tree, bush or behind a pergola.”
Making the most of the PA
You can really take advantage of having access to a good PA System for the whole ceremony, not just the vows. “Most couples are using pop music these days, anything from Christina Perri, to Bruno Mars, Fleetwood Mac, The Carpenters, things they love and which have meaning to them,” enthuses Mel. Kathrine almost brings on tears by describing a recent wedding, “We used a piece that the groom had played early in the relationship to ‘woo’ his lady. Unbeknown to him it was the same piece of music that, many years before, his father had chosen to woo his mother. As his father was recently deceased, that story was a lovely way to bring Dad into the ceremony.” And Peta is increasingly seeing grooms come down the aisle to their own music. “I’ve had grooms walk down the aisle to ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, ‘Highway to Hell’, the Star Wars theme, the A Team soundtrack or rap music. Grooms don’t get much of a say generally in the choice of wedding music so it is their moment!” Aurora also talks about the PA System being used by violinists, bands and soloists.
Kathrine advises appointing a specific person to operate the sound system and to cue the music and have them at the rehearsal. The celebrant cannot do both roles. Mel suggests a guest if the wedding is at a private residence, beach or park or a member of staff at a venue, “They can run it through the Bluetooth function on my Focus 505 or another Bluetooth-compatible PA System.”
Of course there are horror stories. Mel expands, “When the venue person is in charge of music, sometimes they get it perfectly right, other times, very wrong. I have had couples standing at the front ready to walk out and their exit sometimes doesn’t play, and they just stand there not knowing what to do!” For that reason, Mel is quite partial to live music by a musician, “Recently an acoustic guitar player with his own amp was the music for the ceremony and he was brilliant. He could control his own volume and when he stopped and started. I far prefer this to be honest!”
Another alternative cited by Kathrine is using the DJ if they are attending the ceremony, “Last week DJ Naleen did a perfect job for me. They know what they are doing!”
Aurora, who frequently officiates at multi-lingual events has been involved in weddings where Skype has been used to stream the ceremony (at 3am their time!). Peta advises sitting the person with the device in the front row, “I get them to turn around to the guests when we are waiting for the bride and groom to arrive so that everyone can say hi to Auntie Mabel in London and after the vows the bride and groom might wave at the family overseas. It makes the streaming a feature of the wedding.”
Kathrine and Peta have both also officiated at weddings where the professional videographer has made compilations that can be played at the reception. Peta has seen it frequently play a part in the speeches at weddings where there was only a small ceremony but many additional guests at the evening do.
Aurora has also seen a big screen set up to broadcast messages from overseas family and friends at the reception. Very Oscaresque!
“Both web streaming and videoing are great ways to involve people who can’t be present sharing in the occasion,” extols Kathrine.
With all this talk of technology, Peta adds a word of warning. Increasingly due to the amount of devices at a wedding, couples are politely advising that phones and cameras be put away, that images are not uploaded to social media and that the guests try to be present in the moment. “We call them ‘unplugged weddings’, sometimes it is just for the ceremony but sometimes for the whole day.” This may be something to consider, although note that none of the celebrants advised unplugging the PA System!
Edwards Sound Ltd wishes to thank the four fantastic celebrants who took part in this discussion:
Kathrine Fraser, Life Celebrations www.lifecelebrations.co.nz
Peta Hardley, Ceremony Planning Services, www.ceremonyplanningservices.co.nz
Melanie Stuart, www.melstuartcelebrant.com
Aurora Ward, Celebrant, www.auroraward.co.nz
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