So in our first guide, we spoke about what to look for in a wedding band. We think the second most important aspect when planning your wedding entertainment is the venue. How and why you choose it are the biggies. In this article, we’re only going to stick to topics that we at Seventh Second feel we have enough experience to inform you on. Information on venue catering, seating and decoration won’t be covered for example. However, you will find some very, very important information in this article if you are planning on having any kind of entertainment at your wedding so read on!
Even though this article speaks from years of experience, some of our advice may put you off booking with us but we don’t mind, we are happier knowing you have the information and knowledge to make the right decision for you when it comes to booking a venue suitable for entertainment.
Also, we hold our hands up, we do use the way we advertise and run live acts as examples in some of the topics below so you could class that as a bit of shameless plugging. Sorry!
This is obviously the number one consideration as your wedding venue is going to most likely be your biggest, most expensive wedding purchase. Most couples end up going way over budget with their wedding venue and to be honest, this isn’t usually the fault of the couple. Hidden costs, unexpected but necessary add-ons, cheeky unspecified VAT charges and entertainment logistic considerations all turn your dream wedding venue into an expensive dream and this can eat into the overall budget of your wedding. No one wants that! I think most of us would agree that a venue means nothing unless it’s filled with beautiful decorations, happy guests, fantastic food, service and entertainment.
So with this in mind, consider what else you want at your chosen venue and plan and budget accordingly. Compromise on a few little things or pick a cheaper venue or day of the week so you can afford all the venue and entertainment extras you want and we are pretty sure your wedding will be so much better for it.
AVAILABILITY AND OPENING HOURS
So we’re going to start with a bit of a funny moan about English people here. In our experience, most of us Brits only really let loose once we’ve had a few beers so the old embarrassment and reserved attitude disappears. For those of you (usually cool, older people and children) who get right up there on the dance floor, you can ignore the following observation. Basically we’ve noticed over the years that by the time we get close to 12am (the standard end of a wedding and wedding band performance) most people at weddings have only just plucked up the courage to dance and so just as we finish the night’s entertainment, the party for the guests and you has just got started! It always ends with a lot of chanting and pleading for more tunes to be played. With this in mind, we suggest thinking about what kind of guests you have, what kind of wedding atmosphere you want to create and thoroughly checking when venues close and/or can open until. Weddings ending later than 12am almost always turn into amazing parties with lots of hilarious antics happening all over the dance floor. Also, we apologise if this seems obvious but just like wedding bands, venues need to be booked way in advance so plan and scheme way in advance: partying until later is often a booking add-on with bands and venues alike.
SPACE AND LAYOUT
Obviously, you need plenty of space for your guests, the staff, bar, catering, photo booths and huge Jengas etc, but many clients ask us how much space does the band need.
We typically say a minimum of 3×4 metres for a 3 to 4 piece act is best and any act bigger than that just needs more and more space. However, 3 and 4 piece acts are the most common wedding bands by some way so that’s a good starting point. All our acts know what they need for any situation and band size so just ask us and the band when you chat to them. Most wedding acts out there should know what they need if they are professional.
We also get asked about stages, plugs and power requirements. We mentioned stages in our other guide to picking a wedding band and we’ll agree with our own advice there when we say, if the venue has a stage and its free, use it. If you have to rent one in, it will make the whole performance area look better but don’t pay silly money as it’s not that important!
Plugs and power wise, a minimum of 4 standard plug sockets is usually fine but again, check what the venue actually has and then chat to the band. If you are running a generator for all your power, its best to ask the band to speak to the people running the generator just in case. If you want to make a wedding band feel super happy and confident they won’t blow any fuses, the more plug sockets the better is the general rule!
Don’t forget that you want a nice big space for dancing so chat to the venue about that too. Too far away from the band or too smaller a dance floor and it’s going to kill the vibe.
Ok, this is a biggie for live acts and should be for you. If a venue has a sound limiter this can seriously limit a wedding act’s performance. If you want a loud, raucous live act and your venue has a sound limiter, it isn’t going to happen. Book a venue without a limiter! Wedding acts can’t ignore or bypass sound limiters (unless the venue does) so if it’s a particularly harsh sound limiter it’s like asking the act to play their usual top draw live show with one arm tied behind their back.
Ask venues if they have sound limiters and what decibel limit they are set to and if acts HAVE to use them. Some venues are more relaxed and don’t fully run the limiters meaning acts have more volume manoeuvrability. As a guide, any limiter an act has to use that’s under 100 decibels is going to affect their performance a lot and anything under 90 decibels is only advised for acoustic acts. A limiter over 100 decibels is good and most acts will perform comfortably within it. Many venues are not keen to advertise or explain their sound limiters because it can deter possible clients and although their reasons for having a limiter are usually out of their control (grumpy, anti-fun neighbours), many venues that claim to be suitable for live music just aren’t because of their restrictive limiters. Be firm and demand honesty about a venues sound restrictions.
WANT A PACKED DANCEFLOOR?
This is probably one of the most important aspects for you right? Wedding acts perform to their max when they have a packed dance floor and you should get your moneys worth! You want everyone to have a great time and a packed dance floor is a huge part of that. All our topics in this guide are designed to help with this but there are a few other things you can do to help make sure you have a packed dance floor.
1. If you can help it, don’t serve food when a live band is performing. Try and coordinate with the band so their break coincides with your food service. No one dances with a wad of cake in their hand or a freshly filled stomach.
2. If the bride and groom are on the dance floor (i.e. you!!) then your guests will be. Stay there and get your guests comfortable strutting their stuff and they will stay there and you’ll have a packed dance floor.
3. It seems obvious but pick great live wedding entertainment! Guests can tell if a band is awful or not really putting their all into a performance. Read our guide on picking a wedding band or talk to us to get all the advice you need.
4. Not a must but we often notice that the more freely available alcohol there is, the more dancing there is!
5. Most of the time this is out of your control but having bar only service when the bar is in a separate room to the band and dance floor doesn’t help keep a dance floor full. It’s worth thinking about.
LOADING AND UNLOADING OF BAND EQUIPMENT
Not a crucial point but if the wedding band has real difficulty parking and then loading and unpacking their considerable amount of musical equipment it’s going to cause delays and frustrate the band. Having a little mooch around the venue and discovering how your wedding act is going to load and set up can really help streamline and add a rare stress-free element to your wedding.
There are other little things you can do to help your live entertainment on your big day and you’ll find that covered in our how to pick a wedding band guide.
DOES THE VENUE HAVE ITS OWN PA/SOUND SYSTEM AND LIGHTS?
This section naturally follows on from previous topics but if a venue has equipment the wedding band either has to use or can use its worth checking for sound limiters and making sure your wedding band has all the technical details of the venue’s sound and lighting system. Built in sound systems can vary greatly and bands don’t have experience or knowledge of them all. Built in sound systems are becoming common as venues struggle to deal with noise complaints so if a venue has its own PA and lighting system this is probably for the best and any live act should be encouraged to use them. Regardless, all our acts follow a self-contained philosophy so they always have all the sound and light equipment you’d need for a great wedding but check if this rings true for other acts as sound and lights are a must for a good wedding obviously!
DOES PLAYING IN A MARQUEE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
The short answer is no but this wouldn’t be a very good guide if we left it at that!
Marquees and other unique venues can be fantastic for your wedding but just make sure they tick all the boxes we have mentioned in this guide. Over the years we’ve played in amazing marquees where the generator has been useless or the marquee has leaked so much water we’ve almost been electrocuted. We’ve played in marquees that seem to have been placed on the steepest of hills. Needless to say, the dance floor was perilous and the stage area questionable.
Marquees don’t generally hold heat that well (unless they have built in heating) so using one in colder months isn’t great for anybody. However, if you pick carefully and sympathetically towards your guests and wedding entertainment, marquees can be memorable, fantastic venues. When done right, we’ve loved performing in marquees where we’ve experienced some truly memorable weddings.
Anyway, that’s enough from us. We hope you’ve found some of this useful and don’t feel like you’ve just read a load of nonsense! Stay tuned for our next article. Big thanks to The English wedding blog for their help on this article.
Thanks for reading!
The guys and girls at Seventh Second. http://www.seventhsecond.co.uk