Windy Day Wedding Ceremonies – To Hold or Not to Hold

This morning I saw a Facebook post from one of my favorite local wedding officiants who was thankful that the wind isn’t as bad today as it was yesterday.

She had to hold a handheld mic during the ceremony, while trying to hold and control all her papers for the ceremony service.

I placed a lighthearted, joking comment, but it really got me thinking.

See, what she needed yesterday wasn’t necessarily less wind, though that might have been awesome as well!

What would have really helped her experience was working with a DJ that provided better tools for the job, and who had the experience to use them.

As her post suggested, wedding officiants often do more with their hands than juggle papers.  Hand binding ceremonies, holding and handing out rings… These are just a couple.

Their hands shouldn’t have to do these things while juggling a microphone.

A stand isn’t a solution either, because that places a physical barrier and obstruction between her and the couple, who are standing fairly close together.  Stand make interaction more difficult and cumbersome.  And a Mic on a stand between the bride and groom in all your wedding photos…?  You get the idea!

A much better solution for this ceremony would be wireless clip on mics, called lavalier mics.  They are small, discrete, and hands free.

Also, the DJ should always use two of these mics during your ceremony.  One on the officiant, and one on the groom.

Two mics allows your guests to hear the couple as they read or repeat their vows.  Two mics also serves as built in backup if something were to happen to the officiant’s Mic.

Now, in all fairness, some might even say that the DJ in question CHOSE to use the handheld instead of a lav Mic because they are more resistant to ambient wind noise.

While this is true generally speaking, the difference is nothing that can’t be accounted for by using adequate windscreens, Mic placement, and eq on lav mics.

High quality lav mics can be more expensive to invest in, and do have a steeper learning curve to use effectively, but your wedding ceremony deserves that extra investment, and is worth the extra time.

To learn more about how I go above and beyond for my clients, and how I put my experience to use for you on your wedding day, please contact me!

We have musicians for our ceremony. Do we still need a DJ?

It’s very common for couples to tell me they are considering hiring live musicians for part or all of their wedding ceremony music, or have a friend or relative that might be performing.

I LOVE IT when I hear this!  While I as a DJ can play literally anything you could possibly dream of for every part of your ceremony, there’s no denying that live performance adds that special something.  And if you can have a friend or relative perform?  Well, that just pushes it over the top!

So if you’re having, or considering live musicians for your ceremony, do you still need a DJ to be present, providing coverage as well?

The short, and obvious answer (obvious because, well, I’m the DJ… DUH!) is:  YES!

For the longer answer, and to learn why, read on!

Music is only one aspect of your wedding ceremony.  Your officiant’s service, and more importantly, your vows to each other, are SO important, and should be heard and experience by all who are present.

Once you get past a couple rows, it becomes exponentially more difficult to hear what is being said at the alter.  This is compounded once we take nerves into the equation.  Generally speaking, people tend to speak softer than they otherwise would when finding themselves in the emotions of the moment.

Your DJ should be providing sound support with multiple microphones for you or your fiance, and your officiant.  This coverage will ensure that everyone, all the way to the back and off to the sides can hear everything clearly.  This is more crucial when your ceremony is outside, and is subject to background noise, be it wind, nearby or passing traffic or other sounds, etc.

In addition to vocal support, what about additional sound support for your musicians?  If you’re hiring a professional musician, duo, or ensemble who is used to performing for weddings, chances are they have their own sound support, but even they might benefit from being plugged into and amplified partially by the DJs high quality sound system, designed for covering larger audiences in larger areas.

Contact me today to talk about the pros and cons of using a DJ for your ceremony.  Of course I’m going to tell you “yes, you NEED your DJ there too!” but after reading this, you’ll understand why!  :)

Courtney & Jeff had Courtney’s two brothers play guitar next to the altar during her ceremony, and it was WONDERFUL!  Looking down from the back of the aisle in this photo tough, do you think you’d be able to hear everything they’re saying down front?

Wedding ceremony with musicians and DJ

Photo by, and courtesy of, Eric Asistin Photography. www.ericasistinphoto.com

 

Wedding Ceremony Microphones Done Right!

Do you want to avoid…

  • Guests not hearing your officiant, and your special vows?
  • Annoying and embarrassing static, feedback, squeals, and noise from the microphones and speakers?

In short, do you want things done RIGHT?

If you’ve visited my site, or read my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I spend a LOT of time talking about wedding ceremonies.  I focus so much on this aspect of what I do because at the end of the day, the wedding ceremony is the most intimate, emotional, and meaningful part of your wedding day, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Unfortunately, many DJs, and even couples, for that matter, can tend to treat certain aspects of their ceremony as an afterthought.  From the standpoint of a “typical” DJ, the ceremony isn’t “that big of a deal” because they’re only thinking about the limited nature of their involvement in it.

For them, it’s “just a small sound system,” “a few songs,” and “maybe a microphone.”  It only lasts half-an-hour or less in most cases, and isn’t a time for the DJ to “show off” their “fancy toys” or “Mad Skillz” on the decks.

I don’t see it that way at ALL!

This is the most important 30 minutes (or however long) of the entire day, and the reason we’re all gathered together!  The type and quality of the equipment used is of utmost importance because its presence should be as transparent as possible, and it absolutely MUST function FLAWLESSLY.

To this end, I continually invest quite a bit more than most DJs in my ceremony system, and have designed it specifically to meet the many and varied demands of wedding ceremonies.

One aspect of wedding DJ equipment that is essential to the success of your ceremony are the microphones (yes, plural – there should ALWAYS be more than one, and NO, you shouldn’t have to pay “extra” for them!) that are used for your ceremony.  Two are necessary to ensure your DJ has the best possible coverage and sound control for you, your fiance, and your officiant.  Having more than one live microphone also means you always have a built-in backup if you need it. 

Remember:  There are no “re-do’s” or second chances for your wedding ceremony!

The mic:  To hold, or not to hold…

Handheld microphones have many disadvantages because your officiant is either forced to hold them in one hand the whole time, making it awkward for them to manipulate their reading materials, facilitate things like ring ceremonies, etc., or the mic itself must be on a stand that will end up being front and center in your ceremony, where it will not only interfere with movement, but will also end up as an eyesore in all of your pictures!

Lavaliere (clip-on) microphones are the best solution for wedding ceremonies because they are discrete, portable, and work well for isolating and enhancing individual speakers at different times during your ceremony.  This allows your DJ to adjust the volume and EQ in real-time as each person is speaking to make sure everyone is heard clearly, and at the same volume.

They can be discretely placed, and even hidden in clothing to make sure they do not distract during your ceremony, or stand out in all of your pictures.

Notice in the photo below that the lavaliere microphone is placed discretely and professionally alongside the tie of the officiant, so that it is barely noticeable, yet is still placed so that it can pick up all three individuals.

You’ll also notice in the embedded photo of the groom that the microphone itself is not visible at ALL, as it is hidden behind his tie, so as to not contrast with the white shirt and vest or distract in photos, etc.

Because both of these microphones are “omni-directional,” they will pick up all three voices in close proximity, which allows me to really fine-tune the balance for whoever is speaking at any given time, and giving the best possible sound quality for your guests!

At the end of the day…

Your professional wedding DJ is investing a lot of time, money, and care into providing you with the most solid performance, and a stress-free and worry-free ceremony service.  It goes without saying, then, that YOU should make a reasonable investment in your professional Sacramento wedding DJ!

Loomis-Flower-Farm-Wedding-Photo-083Venue, The Flower Farm Inn in Loomis, CA.  Photo by, and courtesy of, The Goodness

 

Indie Music Playlist for Cocktail Hour & Dinner

There’s TONS of great music out there that is off-the-beaten-path, and I love mixing it up for each wedding I do!  I LOVE it when my couples are passionate about music, and when they come to the table with inspiration and ideas to personalize their celebration.  The most important thing is that the music we play is what resonates with you, your family, and your friends.

I’ve been mixing it up a lot lately with Indie artists, and below is a sample playlist from a recent wedding that used Indie music for the Prelude before the Ceremony, during the Cocktail Hour and Lawn Games, and on into dinner.

Artists like Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams, Mumford & Suns, Lord Huron, Passion Pit, Band of Horses, The Lumineers, and others do a GREAT job at combining many different styles.  They build off the great, simplistic storytelling approach to songwriting found in the folk tradition, and add it into a more contemporary rock context.  Many of them even combine more eclectic elements like the acoustic instrumentation and stylings of Bluegrass and other rootsy forms that speak to more traditional Americana musics.  The result is awesome, well thought-out, and sophisticated music that is perfect for setting a mood, relaxing, and revisiting old memories while creating new ones!

Obviously there are a couple of tracks shown that are not Indie, but they were favorites, so we threw them in!

There’s over three hours of music here!

If you’re looking for some great Indie songs to use, to fill holes in your wedding playlists, or just to add to your own playlist at home, these selections are great!

Whatever musical elements you would like to have infused into your wedding, be sure your DJ “knows what’s up” and is happy to help you program each and every part of your wedding day celebration according to your inspiration.

It’s your day…  Follow your muse!

Indie 1

Indie 2

Indie 3

Hiring A DJ For Your Wedding Ceremony: Helpful Tips

Ceremony_000.jpg

Just about every DJ service you talk to will provide services for your wedding ceremony, and most will include music and voice amplification.  Be careful though, because all DJ’s aren’t the same.

Many use the bare minimum in equipment just to get by.  As a result, certain parts of your ceremony go un- or under-amplified, so your guests won’t end up hearing all the important and meaningful parts of your ceremony.

Some services won’t include what they consider “extras” simply because they don’t have them.  Others may have them, but will charge you extra to use them or have them available, which may result in unpleasant surprises after you hire them and get closer to your wedding date.

Here are some tips, and things you can look for when hiring a DJ to make sure they are going to be able to handle the needs of your wedding ceremony, and more importantly, do the job right.

  • Be sure your DJ has a separate, discrete sound system for your ceremony.  If the same equipment is being used for your reception and ceremony, there will be an awkward delay in music between your ceremony and reception while your DJ moves around their equipment.  Not to mention, it’s just not cool to be moving around big clunky gear amongst your friends and family.  Your DJ should have two sound systems set up, and ready to go with music in both locations before your first guest even arrives!
  • Be sure they include not one, but at least TWO wireless microphones.  Clip-on lapel (lavalier) microphones are preferred, and they should have one for your minister/officiant, and one for your groom as well so everyone can hear your ceremony AND your vows to each other.  Not only does having two microphones provide better coverage and allow your DJ to dial in all the voices better, but it also serves as backup in case something goes wrong with one of the microphones half-way through your ceremony.  Your DJ should ALWAYS have a backup plan!
  • Lapel mics are preferred because of clarity and sound quality, and because they are hands-free.  This is important because your officiant will already be juggling a binder or tablet, papers, rings, and perhaps other things during your ceremony.  You can use a microphone stand to free up their hands, but this provides both you and them with an awkward obstacle during the ceremony.  Microphone stands are also unsightly clutter in your pictures.  Clip-on lapel microphones are also preferred because they are so small and can easily be hidden in clothing, making them less visible in photos.  Some DJ’s don’t like to use clip-on microphones because they do require a much longer learning curve to operate correctly.  They are much more sensitive (part of what makes them a better choice for ceremonies), which makes them more prone to feedback and distorted sound if not setup and handled correctly.  All this means though is that your DJ should be a professional with the experience to know how to use these types of microphones properly & effectively.  If a DJ only “includes” one microphone, and/or only offers handheld microphones, you may be dealing with a cheaper or less-experienced service that is trying to squeak by with the minimum and/or charge you more to do the job right.

    Sounds To Go Sacramento Wedding Ceremony Sound System

    My sound system is clean, compact, and neat. It provides high-quality, crystal-clear sound for your ceremony, and includes all of the microphones and hookups needed to accommodate the different parts of your ceremony.

  • If your ceremony requires it, be sure to ask about additional handheld microphones for special readings or musical performances during your ceremony as well.  Maybe you would like to have someone read some scripture, or a poem.  Maybe you have some friends who would like to play a musical instrument or sing during part of your ceremony?  Either way, your DJ should be able to “patch them in” so they can be heard by your guests.  Also ask about audio connections for your videographer if you’re hiring one so they can record your ceremony, music, and vows.
  • Ask them how large their ceremony system is, and what it looks like.  The sound system should be small and discrete, and should not detract from the appearance of your ceremony site.  If they seem to be selling or making a big deal about how small or compact their ceremony system is, they may be using the bare-minimum to get by, and may be sacrificing many of the things above for the sake of having the most compact and “easy” setup possible.  These DJs may try to charge you more for for the things we’ve been talking about, or they may not even have them available at all!

I use a ceremony sound system that offers all of the above, and more!  Best of all, I don’t “charge extra” for any of it!  You can see my ceremony sound system above.  It’s clean and attractive, and fits nicely into any setting while falling into the background.  Your DJ should be heard and not seen at your ceremony.  Large, clunky speakers on stands, tons of loose cables, and brightly-colored extension cords can all detract from the beauty, elegance, or rustic charm of your ceremony location.

Of course, it should SOUND good too!  You can see my Bose® sound sound system.  No big, boxy speakers!  Unlike traditional speakers that throw sound in just one direction, the Bose® system I use provides sound across a very wide area because of its 180° dispersion.  What this means to you and your guests is crystal-clear, even sound coverage whether your guests are sitting in the back of your ceremony site, on the sides, etc.

Tools are only one part of ensuring a successful wedding.  When you hire Sounds To Go, I do my best to provide not only quality tools, but the knowledge & experience to use them right!  Remember:  There’s only ONE SHOT at getting the job done right, and you shouldn’t have to “pay extra” for that… should you?

Wedding Ceremony Sound System

Technology is GREAT!  We have all been able to scale down the size of the electronic devices we use for just about everything, even listening to music.  MP3 players are super tiny and have massive storage, and now, most folks (even if you DON’T have a smart phone!) can do away with portable MP3 players altogether by putting music on their phone!

In-sync with this digital evolution, and understandably because we’re all really just geeks who love our cool toys, DJs are notorious for going with a “smaller” or “less” is more type of philosophy when it comes to designing the systems they use to play back music at special events we are paid to perform.

Some have really taken this to heart when it comes to what they use for music and sound at your wedding ceremony itself.  Some have gone so far as to scale down to using consumer-grade electronics – the same types of devices you have – tablets, portable music players, and even their phones to play back music for your ceremony!  There are many reasons why these types of devices are not ideal for the job, but providers who use them obviously don’t consider these reasons, and this lack of consideration can be indicative of the level of priority or care they put into this part of your wedding.

Let’s look at what a wedding ceremony consists of for a DJ – and at first thought for most people in-general.  It’s what… 20-30 minutes of background music, the DJ plays 2 or three songs while people walk down the isle, and then another song while they exit when it’s done.  Oh yeah…. throw a microphone in there for the officiant of your ceremony.

So we have maybe 30-45 minutes worth of work, MAYBE 40 minutes of music tops.  We don’t need much for that do we?

Well, let’s think about this for a minute.  What other types of things can be a part of your wedding ceremony?  What might be needed from your DJ to support these parts of your ceremony?

Let’s start with microphones.

Some DJ’s don’t include them at all unless you specifically ask or pay extra.  I’d like to say most include them, but unfortunately, there are many who don’t.

Even if they do provide a mic, many will simply provide a handheld mic on a stand.  This is not ideal for many reasons.  First, let’s talk about sound.  The “pick-up pattern” on a handheld microphone – in other words the area and distance it can pick up sound within – is almost never sufficient to properly amplify voices if you are not speaking directly into it, let alone three different voices that are some distance from it.

Then, we have the physical presence of the mic itself, on a stand, in front of your officiant, and maybe even right between you and your fiance.  This stand and mic will be in your pictures, and will also be a very real physical obstacle during your ceremony.  This can become especially awkward or obtrusive if you need to move around during your ceremony to do certain things like a sand ceremony, unity candle, etc.

How do we get around these issues?  We use high-quality lavalier type microphones… the kind that you see (or rather DON’T see!) on newscasters, reality show participants, etc.  These mics have a clip-on belt pack that is hidden within your clothing out of sight, and a very small microphone that clips on, usually somewhere around the tie or jacket lapel.  So they are not in your way when you move, and they are very discrete, and hardly noticeable unless you are looking for them.

Best of all, they have omnidirectional pick-up patterns, which means they can pick up sound sources that are not directly in front of them.  This allows a more natural sound in addition to allowing you more mobility while wearing them.

When Sounds To Go provides ceremony services, we always include TWO lapel microphones – one for your officiant, and one for the groom so we can pick up every spoken word.  This is vital to the experience of your family and friends because they can all share in your special ceremony, and in your words and vows to each other.  This is important to make your ceremony feel intimate and make your guests really feel present, and included, despite the size of your audience.

In addition to these lapel mics, we have additional handheld units available for anyone who might be doing special readings during your ceremony.

After microphones, we have to consider the sound options.  Again, we might think that ceremonies require less than the main DJ system used for your reception because ceremonies are so short in length.  The difference though is deceiving, and is really just a matter of scale in volume and physical size.  The reception system of course is going to be many, many times larger (and LOUDER!) than the ceremony system for obvious reasons, but from a sound engineering standpoint, it is actually a lot LESS complicated.

Why?

A proper ceremony sound system, meaning one that is designed to handle the needs of any reasonably conceivable wedding ceremony, involves much more than it’s bass-thumping, reception-shaking counterpart.

While the sound system at the reception needs only inputs (for the most part) for music and a microphone, the sound system for ceremonies handles many more inputs, and even requires outputs as well.  Additional inputs may be needed for additional speakers or readers, and other sound inputs may be required for live musicians, vocal performances, and more.  In addition, outputs are needed to allow your videographer (for example) to get a sound feed right from the source for your finished video.

Integrating additional instruments and multiple microphones – often simultaneously – requires more of a live-sound type setup than a straight/regular DJ system because it requires more inputs and broader mixing capabilities.  These scenarios also demand more expertise from the DJ because it requires them to be more knowledgeable with their equipment, and to have a better ear for mixing and blending different sources.  It also requires them to be better at troubleshooting and problem-solving on-the-spot as well.

Our sound system is set up for all these scenarios, and can handle each one at a moment’s notice.  Not only is this system ready to handle your ceremony with ease, but it is sophisticated enough to rock your party as a backup to our main system as well!

Bottom line:  Make sure your DJ has adequate equipment to meet the needs of your event, and that they understand what it takes to include all of the elements you want to incorporate.  Also, clearly communicate all of your needs to your DJ well before your wedding so they can be sure to plan accordingly and meet your needs.

In addition to music and microphones, we’ve integrated live sound from harps, guitars, keyboard, flutes, vocalists, and more.

Be sure to let us know what you’re thinking about for your ceremony, and we’ll show you how we can accommodate your needs!

Sounds To Go's Wedding Ceremony Sound System

Oak Leigh Wedding Gardens Ceremony Disaster!

Wedding Warning!  Fair warning to anyone who hears of someone getting married at this venue, or to anyone who is interested in reserving this venue for their wedding ceremony in addition to their reception. I’d like to start by saying this: If you have read any other articles here on my blog, posts on my Facebook page, etc., then you know that I do not dwell on negativity or bash vendors & venues. The goal of my posts here and elsewhere is to always provide helpful info to prospective clients, or to anyone reading who might be planning a wedding or other event. So it is in this vein that I am sharing this experience I had working at this venue on Saturday.

Oak Leigh Wedding Gardens in Fair Oaks: If you know someone getting married there, please INSIST that they hire their DJ to provide full sound support for their Ceremony as well as the reception!

When my client hired me for last night’s wedding, he said the venue had a small, but cheap setup for ceremony support that would handle music and a mic for the officiant. He described the system, and I trusted his evaluation because he’s a musician, and actually worked repairing high-end audio and PA equipment like the products DJ’s use. Based on this, and questions he asked me on my setup, I assumed his decision to not hire me for ceremony support was well-founded. Unfortunately though, he hadn’t actually HEARD the system they have in place, and it bit him and his new wife BIG TIME!

It was actually really weird doing this wedding for me because whenever there has been a ceremony on the same grounds as the reception I’m working, I’ve always been providing the music and sound support for it. so it was kind of ethereal to be just standing around as ceremony time approached.

In the moments leading up to the ceremony, prelude music in the form of very faint classical music was playing through small, wall/ceiling-mounted speakers. The kind you see in the walls and ceilings of doctor’s offices or retail stores for muzak and voice announcements. In and of itself, and all things being equal, there is nothing wrong with this type of install for the purpose of ceremony or background music. That’s what these types of systems are made for.

When it came time for their ceremony on the side of the venue opposite the reception area, we found out all-too-late that the sound was ATROCIOUS! The sound was crackled, and the music for both the processional and recessional was HIGHLY distorted – The speaker may even have been blown.

For the mic on the officiant, their solution was a small, portable, no-name single-speaker PA that BARELY made it back to the rear isles of their 200 guests, and the mic was not omnidirectional, so it did not even pick up the B&G’s vows to each other.

As if the sound support wasn’t bad enough, the venue coordinator added insult to injury by playing the WRONG SONGS for both the processionals & recessional! She was using someone else’s CD! The bride didn’t even get to walk down to her special song! She started off the recessional too early, when they were going to light their unity candle, and when she started it at the end, she started it too early, before the officiant was even done with the pronouncement.

I stood there cringing the whole time! The couple is so awesome, the groom stated later that in hindsight, he should have hired me to do the ceremony as well, but they both took it well and he said “if that’s the worst that could happen tonight, then I’m golden.” Well guess what – That WAS the only hitch in the entire evening, and we had a blast!

If you know anyone getting married there, do NOT let them succumb to the pitch of the venue when it comes to ceremony sound support. The coordinator is VERY adamant, and very assertive, but they do NOT have an adequate setup.

I personally, will not play this venue again unless I am hired for ceremony support as well. I can’t watch another awesome couple experience what we experienced last night at this venue!

If you or someone you know is considering this venue, or are just legitimately concerned about wedding ceremony sound support, please contact me and I’ll be happy to let you know what type of solution I would have for this venue, and how I would design a sound solution to avoid these scenarios and pitfalls at any other venue as well.

Oh yeah… and it goes without saying that I would play the RIGHT SONG as you’re going down the isle too!

When it comes to wedding ceremonies, you only have one shot to do it, and to do it RIGHT. As this awesome young couple found all-too-late, saving a couple-hundred dollars just isn’t worth the risk.