Marquee weddings are wonderful. You can pretty much start from scratch and personalise your design right down to the last detail. But don't get caught out when it comes to your music. If you don't plan everything carefully you could really upset your neighbours. We asked Susan Heaton-Wright from Viva Live Music how to avoid the pitfalls of live music in a marquee. Here is what she said...
“Last week I attended an event in a beautiful marquee. The venue and the catering was wonderful. There was also an excellent duo of musicians, but guests struggled to speak to each other despite the music being ‘background’. It was a shame because the musicians were great and it was a fabulous event.
Marquees are particularly challenging for sound. The ‘walls’ don’t allow sound to bounce off them, and most marquees are quite large, so in order for guests to hear and enjoy the music, amplification and sound levels need to be higher.
In addition to this, the sound does not remain in the marquee and neighbours can be disturbed by any entertainment: whether it be a DJ, band or just the sound of guests talking. Therefore noise levels need to be managed carefully, to ensure guests’ enjoyment and neighbours expectation is met.
We heard that Paul McCartney’s wedding caused angry neighbours to contact Environmental Health in the early hours, and for them to visit the venue to have the music stopped. We don’t want this to happen at another wedding!
Initially, I would seek advice from Environmental Health at your local authority. They have the power, ultimately, to have music stopped if an event is disturbing neighbours and no one wants this to happen at a wedding. They would be able to advise you on what time the music should be stopped (whether it be a live band or a disco) and also the sound volume (decibels). Local authorities vary with their systems, but it could be that you could register the event and agree on timings and sound levels (and remember to have a decibel meter), so if there are any complaints from neighbours, you will be able to prove you have permission.
There are other tips regarding sound levels;
- Make sure the musicians set up and sound check in plenty of time. Give them a deadline when they can do this BEFORE the event – don’t tell them on the day.
- Delegate someone in your party: a best man, father of the bride etc. who will monitor the sound levels.
- Choose musicians or a DJ that will respond to requests for sound levels to be managed. We always have a clause saying that musicians respond to requests for music volume to be altered by clients – I would recommend this is put in any contract.
- Be clear about whether you want the musicians or music to be ‘background’ or a ‘feature’ – eg After dinner cabaret or a band.
- As I mentioned earlier, marquees are particularly difficult to supply sound to; so often musicians only have two speaks at the front, and will put the volume of those high, so it is too loud in front of them, but the other side of the marquee can’t hear the music. A better solution is to have four speakers, one in each corner. The volume can be kept lower and more guests can hear it.
- It is worthwhile using the services of a sound engineer who will mix the sound levels correctly. A common mistake for DJs and musicians is to put the treble too loud, which in a marquee is particularly difficult for guests to hear each other speak as the sound cuts through the atmosphere.
In the end, it is about being informed; for the musicians or DJ working with the client to ensure the event goes well; listening to the client and also the client being prepared with timings for the supplier to ensure the event is a great success.”