How Location Plays a Role in Your Wedding Music

When it comes to wedding music, many couples overlook the importance of the location of their wedding and how it affects the music.

Whether it’s the ceremony music or the reception music, location plays a big factor and can either make or break your wedding day.

Matthew Lister Wedding Guitarist

So many couples focus on the specific songs and types of music they want at their wedding, yet very few of them consider whether that music can even be played at their venue and, if it can, how it will sound.

The most beautiful music in the world is going to sound awful if it’s lost in the echo of a big hall, drowned out by noisy neighbors, inaudible due to a lack of electrical outlets for mics and instruments or if it’s not even an option because the venue doesn’t allow that type of music.

Knowing what the challenges and pitfalls are for venues will help you plan ahead and avoid such disasters. Here’s a list of some of the most common restrictions and challenges for wedding music:

How location plays a role in your wedding musicReligious Restrictions
Some religious venues, such as churches or synagogues, don’t allow modern music or nonsecular music to be played in their venue. If you’re getting married in one of these places and plan on walking down the aisle to a Beatles tune, find out ahead of time if the venue will allow this. If they don’t, ask what types of music they do allow and see if you can make a compromise.

Often times a religious venue will have a musician that plays for the venue, so you will most likely have to go with that person. In some cases you can hire someone independently, but always let the people you hire know what they’re in for.

One time I was hired and wasn’t informed that I was supposed to play a Catholic mass in a church until the day before the ceremony. I was given a stack of music for piano and voice. I play guitar, silly! So there I was, up all night arranging piano music for guitar. The next day I was exhausted, but thanks to 1.) my arranging skills 2.) my improvisational skills and 3.) the fact that I went through 8 years of parochial school, I miraculously survived.

That being said, I don’t ever want to do that again. Always inform your musician or musicians as to what you expect them to play and where.

The Elements
I do so hate getting sand in my guitar! That’s why I have an inexpensive guitar and ukulele that I keep around solely for beach weddings. Also, do I have to perform on the rocks? But high tide is coming in! Yep, that has happened to me before too. Not fun.

That’s why I try to keep my equipment for beach ceremonies light and portable in case I make a run for it. Also, this is why I bought that cheap guitar. It could probably survive being water logged as it is practically made out of plywood.

Do you want to put your poor musician in direct sun? Don’t. Chances are my contract said not to do that, but you did it anyway. Now the metal on my guitar strings are heating up and they’re singeing my fingers. Also, I’m sweating like a maniac.

At times, I’ve had to do everything in my power to keep it together and not pass out during the ceremony. If you think this hasn’t happened to me more than once then you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes during wedding season. Don’t be a sadist, keep your musicians cool so they can do the job you hired them for.

Many outdoor ceremony sites or the reception sites don’t have any electrical outlets to plug in microphones, instruments or etc. This is a common problem at beach weddings, garden weddings or any venue that is outdoors and far from a building with electricity. A simple solution to this problem is to hire acoustic musicians and singers or a musician with a portable amp.

My Fender Amp Can has served me well over the years! I bought it for this very reason. If you have a musician like a trumpet player or a violinist their instrument is loud enough to go without amplification, but I play classical guitar. Nobody’s hearing me unless electricity is involved. A good musician will always check with you or the venue if there is an outlet available, but in case they don’t, let them know.

Venue Acoustics
Be wary of venues with lots of hard surfaces such as glass, stone, wood or other surfaces without adequate carpeting or draping to absorb sound and balance noise.

Sound bounces right off of these types of surfaces and causes echoing that will decrease the sound quality of any music you are playing. These types of surfaces also raise the general noise level of the room. Also, is there an air conditioner or loud fans? If any of that stuff is running, try not to put the musicians next to it.

Hours of Use
Since receptions tend to go late into the night, it’s important to ask the reception venue about any time restrictions on noise levels. If the reception is in a residential neighborhood, there may be a strict cutoff at a specific hour, forcing you to end your wedding reception early.

Local noise
One concern about the ceremony music is the possibility of getting drowned out by local noise, such as traffic, neighbors, passersby, etc. If you are planning a quiet outdoor ceremony, make sure it is actually in a quiet, out of the way place or you’re going to be dealing with interruptions that will ruin the magic of the big moment.

Are you planning a beach wedding? Make sure it’s a secluded beach because I’ve had to fight the noise of motor boats and jet skis many times. Man are those things loud! You’d think that people would be courteous but I just haven’t seen that to be the case.

One another occasion, at a wedding in a public park, some people passing by yelled in the middle of the vows: “Better think twice! You don’t have to do this!” The bride laughed it off but I was horrified. It’s enough to make you rethink the whole park thing, unless you can secure your section.

Here’s another park story: One time I had to play a wedding in a park that had, at the same time, booked a Big Band festival. A Big Band festival! No one heard me, no one heard the Justice of the Peace, all anyone heard was Pennsylvania 6-5000 at a decibel level that guaranteed the song would be heard the next town over.

And last, but not least, is your venue next to a road? Do you know who drives down that road? Is the road private? Is it summertime? Well, I once had the pleasure of playing a ceremony next to a very public road during the summer.

The road wasn’t heavily trafficked, but it might as well have been. The Ice Cream truck was out, and man was that dude hungry for business. Suddenly my classical guitar version of “Here Comes the Sun” was competing with the Ice Cream truck’s rousing renditions of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and the immortal children’s classic “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” I could have died of embarrassment but I’m pretty sure the couple and guests beat me, hands down, in the “This Can’t Actually Be Happening Right Now” department. Always know your traffic, people. Always.

So as long as you keep these factors in mind when you begin planning your wedding music, you should be able to avoid any problems on your big day.

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