Wedding horror stories abound. They remain in the memory of the bride and groom. Those memories might be of anger, frustration, or anxiety. When something goes wrong in a regular church service, you fix the problem and move on. People might remember, but it’s usually no big deal. The difference is a wedding is a one time event.
I have been asked to run sound for weddings in two different ways. The first is when a friend says "I’m getting married, can you run sound at the wedding?" The second is when I’m asked by someone in the wedding party or via the church secretary if I am available on a certain date to run sound for a wedding. No matter what the case, I know it’s time to get to work.
Running sound for a wedding can be much different than for a church service. A videographer might want to tie into your mixer so he has a better audio track for his video. You might have to mic an instrumental quartet. Not only might you do things you normally don’t do, you are dealing with new people, not to mention a new order of events that will keep you on your toes.
Where the Work Begins…
The most important detail you need, as soon as possible, is the name and phone number for the person in charge of the wedding service. This might be a hired wedding coordinator or the bride’s mother. What’s important is that you know who they are, how to contact them, and that you are kept in the loop as to what is needed in the wedding and what is expected from you. Meet with them well before the wedding rehearsal so you have all the information you need. Make sure you are available if they have questions.
Once you know who is in charge of the wedding, meet with them to line up the event order and the requirements. This helps you get all your equipment in order, rent any equipment if necessary, and get copies of all pre-recorded audio. If they have hired a videographer, contact that person and find out what requirements they might have that impacts your work. Ideally, after meeting with all of these people, you will know what you need, and have an order of events so you can plan your work.
An event schedule (order of events) is important because, just like your regular church service, you need to have everything cued up at the right time. I did a wedding once at a far away church I’d never seen. The CD player was a portable boom box that was patched into the mixer. While I made it work, cuing up accompaniment songs during the wedding was a pain. Bottom line, when you know what’s coming, you know how to prepare.
Before I forget, you might be handed a few iterations of the event schedule until a final version is secured the night of the rehearsal. It happens. Each iteration is usually a slight modification of the previous.
The night of the rehearsal, you must be present. The rehearsal time not only is good for the people in the wedding but it’s a great time for you. You are about to run sound for a one-of-a-kind wedding. A rehearsal gives you a chance to practice. If you are handed any last minute audio such as a tape or CD, you should play it through completely so you know it works. You can also set your channel levels, do your eq’ing, and deal with the biggest problem I hear in weddings…"I do."
The phrase "I do" might be the only phrase the bride and groom ever say but it’s the one that is said the most sincerely, the most heart-felt, and the darn quietest!
You have to decide how to mic the bride and groom. There are several options. First, wireless microphones can be a simple solution. Just make sure you have them turned off when you hear the phrase "you may kiss the bride." I’m just not a fan of amplified smooching. (of course the two wirelesss mics that close together would cause problems but where is the humor in that?)
Second, place a corded microphone between them. I don’t like this idea because they have to stand in the right place, it stands out on stage, and it can get in the way.
The last option is a handheld wireless microphone. The best man or the pastor can hand it to the couple or hold it in front of them as they speak. If individual wireless isn’t an option, use the last method.
The rehearsal time also gives you a chance to talk with the wedding coordinator if you have questions. Also, it gives you a chance to give a short instruction session on "how to hold a microphone" if required.
Before the Wedding
The day of the wedding, run through a sound check with your microphones and input devices such as a CD player. Make sure the lapel microphones have been clipped on the people at the right location on their shirt; a fist below their lowered chin. Also do a video-audio test with the videographer. When the wedding coordinator shows up, meet with them in case anything has been changed. Show them your copy of the event schedule and have them verify it’s correct. You don’t want to be running off an older version.
After the Wedding
After the wedding, I wait until all the visitors have left the sanctuary before I start putting up any stage equipment. I also take down typical onstage equipment such as microphone stands and music stands because that’s where the wedding party will have photographs taken.
Once everything is put away, I hand the wedding coordinator an audio copy of the wedding. If they have a videographer, I hand it to them instead. Even if the videographer had an audio patch into the system, a separate audio copy might be helpful. They have their own horror stories.
Finally, I check in with the wedding coordinator. This usually is a simple "I’m done and I’ve put away all the equipment. Do you need anything else?" I’ve never been needed further but it’s best to ask.
But Wait, There’s More
Weddings are ripe for problems of any nature. I don’t know why, it’s just like that. Therefore, you need to plan for emergencies during the wedding. This can include
- A spare wireless microphone behind the pulpit
- A spare XLR cable hidden on the stage
- A baseball bat to stop any ringing cell phones
- And a plan if the power goes out
The last one is very important. The wedding coordinator helps with the wedding. You help with the audio. If something happens with the electricity, who is in charge? We’ve all been to a beautiful summer wedding but storms happen and tornados can pop up out of nowhere. Establish who will be in charge. If the power goes out, does the service go on from the light of the exit lamps? If so, do you have a backup system that powers the sound system? Usually the pastor for the wedding is the pastor of the church, so they take charge when emergencies occur. However, that’s not always the case, so by knowing who is in charge, emergencies can be managed properly.
In the End
In the end, remember a wedding service is a unique experience between two people. You want the service to be flawless. You don’t get a second chance.