Getting out of my car, I thought to myself, "This is going to be one hot wedding." And not for the reason you might be thinking, either. This bright August day, the sky was clear, the sun was directly overhead, and I was headed to an outdoor wedding. In retrospect, I was much more fortunate than the groom and his entourage who were decked out in the 87 layers of rental clothing that come with wearing tuxedos.
It's not that I'm against outdoor weddings. Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding turning water into wine. Ten bucks says it wasn't Beringer White Zin, either. Heck, I'd bet the first outdoor wedding would have been between Adam and Eve had only they been able to find a reception hall with a disco ball. But that's not why I'm telling you all of this.
Sitting in the amphitheater, hoping my sweat wouldn't soon change the color of my shirt, I eyed the sound system. It was a portable Fender unit with a few line inputs and outputs and speakers on pedestals – just right for the small venue. The sound guy was the brother of the bride and currently had the job of controlling the wedding music. Let's call it an iPod wedding and just get that out of the way.
The wedding was nice, and everything went smoothly – no feedback issues that I've seen in the outdoor environments. I remember one wedding where the microphone was directly in line with both loudspeakers – feedback wasn't a problem at that wedding, it was part of the wedding.
I've writing all this as a build up to write this; technical know-how and art must come together when it comes to weddings absent of any musicians and where it's up to the sound operator to provide the music.
Great music performances flow from one song to the next. There are even albums with little-to-no delay between songs. I'm not saying silent space can't occur between songs but there is a time and a place for everything. Running sound for an event like a wedding might mean we are charged with playing music before, during, and/or after the wedding. I submit to you that we are responsible for more than just playing the music but blending it and playing it so it flows.
A perfect example is switching from one song to the next. There are a few ways it can happen that sounds bad;
- The song ends and the audience hears the CD player open, close and then the next song starts – because the music is from a stack of CD's.
- The song starts to fade out and then suddenly stops and the next song plays.
- The song fades but the time between when it fades out of the audience’s ability to hear it and when the next song starts is greater than five seconds.
Just because we aren't mixing a band, it doesn't mean we can't mix recorded wedding music. There are a few options available.
- Using CD's, use two CD decks to cue up and blend the music. That's basically a DJ setup. Use the faders to fade in out songs as appropriate.
- Get the music way before the wedding and create a mix CD (or computer file if you can play that way). This way, you can create a mix with the proper timing between songs.
- Whatever you do, don't just kill a song – fade it out if you have to.
Remember, wedding music carries emotion. When the time between songs is too long or songs end suddenly, listeners can tune out of the mood which the music is trying to set. I want the father-of-the-bride to be thinking about the beauty of the wedding. I don't want to give him the opportunity to think about what he has to do tomorrow.
Question(s): What Bad Wedding Audio Experiences Have You Witnessed? What Wedding Audio Advice Can You Share?