So you want live music for your wedding – 5 essential venue questions to ask first!
I couldn’t get married without live music – it’s just a very personal thing, and if you’re a music lover you will totally get what I mean. Whether you love jazz or pop, indie, swing or soul, you’ll know that the buzz of a live performance is uniquely and beautifully suited to a wedding – so imagine booking your venue, only to be told you can’t have live music… it would be heartbreaking.
Before you book your venue, music lovers, here are 5 essential questions to run through with your band and your wedding venue. This article is a collaboration with the most experienced wedding musicians we know – Down for the Count have performed at well over 600 weddings in the UK and internationally, and at a huge range of venues. They say whilst the vast majority of venues are well suited to live music, they occasionally come across one that isn’t. Here are their 5 essential questions to ask your wedding venue before you book!
1. Does the venue place any restrictions on live music?
This is rare, but some venues do have funny rules – for example, only allowing unamplified music. This means acoustic performers can play, but you won’t be able to have a band who’d usually plug in their instruments – most party bands simply cannot perform acoustically.
You do have options – you could hire a piano, or a piano-vocal duo, who would be able to perform acoustically (albeit at a very low volume). Jazz lovers will enjoy wandering performers like Alexander’s Dixieland Band – a jazz trio with a difference: the trio of clarinet, upright bass and washboard is completely acoustic – giving the musicians the freedom to wander around your venue, performing wherever you’d like them.
Acoustic performers are perfect for quieter moments of your day or for very small, intimate weddings – but generally speaking for the ‘party’ section of your day you’ll need amplified music, so it’s really important to check this is allowed by your venue.
Also check your venue will allow you to have music outside – and make sure your band is happy they have all the equipment and shelter they might need for an al fresco performance!
2. How about the size of the band?
A few venues will set a limit on the number of band members – meaning a four or five piece guitar band could be fine, but a swing band with 6 or more musicians (even though they’d take up less space) could be too many for your venue. It’s a bizarre rule, but worth checking or investigating – Down for the Count’s 9-piece swing band line-ups take up less space than a rock or pop band though, and they’ve been able to persuade several venues to relax the rules in the past.
3. Do you have a noise limiter?
This is a biggie to check with your venue as early as you can. Many venues have been forced to install noise limiters by the local authorities as a condition of their licence, perhaps due to noise complaints from nearby residents – although we know of a few venues who have installed them on their own initiative. They’re devices that cut off electric power above a pre-defined noise limit. So if sound peaks and trips the limiter, it cuts the power to the band and even turns off the band’s stage lighting, plunging your party into a sudden, silent darkness. When this happens, a musician or staff member needs to reset the power, leading to a delay of around 30 seconds during which the band cannot perform. Nightmare or what?
A noise limiter won’t necessarily prevent a band from being able to perform at your venue, but you will need to tell your band there’s a limiter at the time of booking – just in case. It’s crucial you check with your venue – we’ve heard SO many horror stories of venues deliberately hiding the fact that they have a noise limiter until it’s too late!
4. What about a curfew? Can you party into the small hours?
At a recent wedding the bride and groom were surprised and disappointed to be told by their venue – on their wedding day – that live music had to finish by 10pm. It is essential that you check what time the live music curfew is at your venue, especially if you want a party band.
5. Will there be changing facilities available for your band?
A band needs more than just a stage and a plug socket – they’ll need time to set up all their instruments, and for most the way they look is a key part of the performance. A suitable place to get changed and get ready for the performance, as well as somewhere to relax between sets, is really useful. Most bands will expect to be fed, so it’s worth making sure the venue can cater for this.
Bonus 2 questions to ask your band about your wedding venue!
Our venue is in a field in the middle of nowhere / up 5 flights of stairs / at the end of a narrow driveway – can you still perform?
This is worth chatting to your band about. If you think your venue might be awkward to carry equipment to (and remember, bands need amplifiers, not just instruments) you’ll need to pre-warn your band so there are no unexpected problems on the day. They might need to rethink logistics, or perform with less equipment – which it’s important you’re aware of before your wedding.
Our venue has high ceilings / the reception is in a massive room / there are reflective surfaces everywhere – will the acoustics be OK?
This is normally not a problem – bands like Down for the Count have performed in all kinds of venues and with experience comes a knowledge of how to work with challenging acoustics. They know when to use fewer or more microphones, when to change the positioning of the band or speakers and so on. Again though, pre-warning your band is essential – ask them the question as early as you can!