Planning the technical production of your wedding
For many soon to be brides & grooms, planning the technical in's & out's of your big day can be overwhelming. How big should the sound system be? What kind of lighting do I want? How do I make sure everyone hears our ceremony at the beach? Below I have broken up the three main "technical" pillars of the day so to help you make an informed decision. If you are hiring a mobile DJ, they should meet with you in the early days to understand the location of the event, your needs and the logistics. This will give them enough information to tailor a suitable package.
Most of us have been to a wedding ceremony where you could only just make out the vows over the sound of crashing waves at the beach, or the heavy mouth breathing of that strange date your great auntie Betty brought with her. Selecting the right PA systems for the ceremony and reception is the first step to success. Generally speaking they will be held in different areas and in most cases, the ceremony will be in a remote location far from 240v power access, so let's start with that.
Due to the fact that Ceremony's will generally take place in a beautiful natural setting, power usually isn't available and the sound of a generator doesn't really add to my idea of romantic ambience. For this, there is a solution - The portable PA. Available in a range of sizes and power ratings, Portable PA units have built in battery power, wireless microphone receivers and bluetooth capabilities making them the perfect all-in-one solution. Most wedding celebrants actually have one of these already, but it may be worth checking with them on the power rating to make sure it will be adequate for your setting. Having worked at many weddings in the past, I have seen more than a few celebrants bring a small 50w unit to the beach with a roaring sea-breeze and the sound of breaking surf in the distance squashing any attempts to hear the proceedings. For those who do require a portable PA make sure to let the equipment supplier know how many will be in attendance, the environment in which it will be used, how many microphones you will be requiring and how you will be playing the aisle music - Live guitarist, iPod, or grandma jamming out on the Harp?
The reception is where you will usually have an MC roaming around the room, background music for dinner and then louder music and party tunes for the various happenings over the course of the evening. While you could technically use the Portable PA for your wedding reception, it is definitely not recommended - you cannot even begin to compare the difference in sound quality between a 100W portable PA and a standard, entry level 2000W EV ZLX 15P PA system. I could spend hours here rattling off many different systems for your consideration, but due to the large range of variables between every wedding it's generally best to consult your DJ or technical supplier to figure out what will best suit your needs. I also cannot begin to stress enough that you must consult your venue to find out their decibel or "dB" (volume) limits. Some venues have incredibly tight restrictions and enforce them with an iron fist - don't get caught out (I know of many DJ's that will actually refuse to play at some venues for this exact reason). For most, the PA system for a reception will look something like 2 x Speakers, 1 x Subwoofer (don't underestimate the added wow factor of a sub), 1 or 2 Wireless microphones for the MC and speeches, and an audio mixer to tie it all together.
Once you have the sound aspect covered, it's time to move on to lighting. This is much more fun to play with than sound equipment (unless you're a DJ) and can make even the dullest venue look fantastic as the daylight fades. In keeping it simple, I will break it up into two parts - architectural/wash lighting and active "party" lighting.
Theres no easier way to spruce up (or ruin) a venue than with ambient lighting, so good taste in the design and selection process is vital. Beginning with up-lights, these are the lights that will be placed at ground level around the perimeter of the area in which the reception will be taking place. They have the power to change a boring white wall into a gorgeous cascade of colours. I usually recommend alternating colours - white and gold are a safe bet but matching them to your various furnishings and theming of the room is important. Another trick with uplighting is to change the colours as the night progresses - what may start out as a soft pink and white alternating combo could be changed to UV and amber as the dancing starts.
Outdoor uplighting is also available and although used much less frequently than indoor uplighting, is just as effective in delivering visual impact. If your venue is in a regional area with large trees, consider some high powered outdoor pars to light them up - the results are always beautiful! Other fun options for architectural lighting to consider are a pinspot for your cake and a custom gobo with projector to have your names cast in love hearts upon the dance floor - ask me how.
Active "Party" Lighting
Once the official proceedings are out of the way, it will be time to take your crowd to funky town. The key here is to find balance - too many lights and it will end up looking like a kids birthday party, too little and it won't "pop". My personal favourite and go-to will always be moving head lights placed atop of truss towers with white scrim coverings and internal uplighting. Look at most high-end weddings and you will see this exact setup - It's for good reason. They blend elegance and minimalism whilst splashing plenty of movement and colour around the room in time with the music. Other options include Derby's, all-in-one "GigBar's" and lasers (not for the feint of heart). A good way to add impact to your party lighting is with the use of a smoke machine but beware - they can set off smoke alarms. It is always prudent to contact your venue prior to hiring a smoke machine to check if it is allowed, and then confirm during the evening that smoke alarms are isolated and that it's OK to operate. I also recommend clients to get it in writing in the planning period - that way if the fire brigade arrives on the night you won't be footing the bill (unless they are secretly pre-arranged strippers).
Atmospheric and "special FX"
Just in case your audience isn't already blown away by your astounding beauty, you can put the proverbial "Icing on the cake" with a few extra tricks. The most common is the "Dancing on clouds" effect. This one really blows minds and an audible "whoooaa" always sweeps across the room as the bride and groom take their first dance upon a thick layer of fluffy white clouds. If thats not enough add some cold spark machines into the mix for ultimate impact and wow-factor! Cold spark machines are great for use during the first dance, but can also used during special parts of the evening - think Entrance, Exit, cake cutting etc. They are safe to use inside however do produce a slight smoke so it must be discussed with your venue prior as they, just like smoke machines run the risk of setting off smoke alarms. Last but not least, confetti machines add a good dose of glamour to your evening but user beware - they create a hell of a mess!
Hopefully this guide has given you a few ideas and a little more to consider when planning the technical production aspect of your upcoming wedding. As a part of my wedding DJ service, I will run through all options with you over the phone or during our face-to-face meeting to find the perfect solution for your day. For booking information and to check availability you can contact me here