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Outdoor wedding at Priston Mill watermill, with images by Martin Dabek Photography on the English Wedding blog (26)

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!

Images by Bristol wedding photographer Martin Dabek Photography

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!

Outdoor wedding at Priston Mill watermill, with images by Martin Dabek Photography on the English Wedding blog (27)

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!


 

Down for the Count are a collective of professional musicians who perform in a range of different line-ups – meaning they are perfect for any style, and any size of wedding!
The line-ups can booked separately or you can build a whole-day wedding package with live music for each part of your day.
Our top party bands such as the Swing and Soul Band and the Motown Collective are guaranteed to fill your dancefloor; or the Swing Orchestra is great for vintage events.
For daytime entertainment, you can book acts such as a roaming Dixieland Trio or the stylish, vocal-led Lady Gatsby Jazz Band; and for a wedding ceremony, consider a pianist or the stunning Down for the Count Strings.
With options for all budgets Down for the Count are the perfect entertainment for your special day!

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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1 COMMENT
  • Sam Berry
    1 year ago

    Some very helpful advice as, in my experience, venues with sound restrictions in place can ‘gloss over’ these on occasion. It’s so important to make sure your venue can cater for the band you’re interested, especially before paying any deposit or signing any contract with anyone for your special day.

    Most bands nowadays are often equipped and ready to accommodate these sorts of restrictions, as they’re becoming ever more ubiquitous. However, some venues will have some interesting rules (usually enforced by the local council) such as; no amplified music, no sub woofers and no brass instruments etc.

    If a venue is being particularly strict, sometimes it’s best for your agent or band to speak to the venue directly to discuss their concerns etc. even offering compromises for example; a drummer using electric drums, hot rods or brushes in order to better monitor the sound. IEM’s (or In-Ear Monitoring) are a great way for bands to keep track of their levels also.

    Unfortunately, some bands will flatly refuse to play at venues with sound restrictions in place. A music agent should be best able to advise you as to which bands are best to enquire about if your venue has such restrictions in place.

    On the positive side, bands perform at hundreds of events each year, meaning they gain invaluable experience setting up the right sound in all types of different rooms and event spaces. Communication is key and from reading this article, it has all the right questions you need to be asking your venue / band.

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