There are a lot of wedding ceremonies taking place on the same property as the wedding reception. Many professionals are providing sound support for the wedding ceremony for free. I’m sure there are those who think this is ideal but…
Who actually bears the cost of something for free? In the case of free wedding ceremony sound support services, I have personally witnessed these services provided by a number of different vendors. Here is a bit about what I have seen and continue to notice within chat groups that I am connected with:
Free ceremony services usually involve the bare minimum of equipment. It’s intentional. The goal is to provide something that’s considered to be a bonus and “ceremony sound support” can be done very cheaply. Many providers aren’t including even one microphone on a stand. The vendor typically installs one speaker in the far back or off to one side and that is the same place where they stand to control the music. With one speaker on a stand, their music player (usually a laptop) and possibly one microphone on a stand, it’s a quick installation and tear down after the service. Sounds ideal, right? Well, if you went to a movie theater (or for that matter, stay home for your next movie) and experience only the sound coming from the left rear speaker (or the right rear, it doesn’t matter). You will still hear the dialog during the movie but won’t that be a little upsetting? For one thing, the people you see in front of you have voices that come from behind you. Your brain will comprehend this but it might feel weird the whole time.
I have also seen where the officiant is provided with a handheld microphone to use during the ceremony. They can speak into that mic and even hold it closer to the bride and groom for the exchange of rings and vows but every officiant I have worked with needs both of their hands for their materials. Requiring that they also hold a microphone is awkward at best. Putting a microphone on a stand usually isn’t the best either because those who speak may not be the same height or even close enough to the microphone for it to pick up their voices. The best microphones for a ceremony are a wireless headset or lapel microphone. I put one lapel mic on the groom and one on the officiant. Don’t have a groom? We’ll figure it out…. One mic will typically work for the couple and another mic should be provided for the officiant. Sometimes even more mics are needed. Each person speaks at a different volume so an audio technician should be making constant adjustments at an audio mixing board. This ensures the best volume no matter how someone turns their head, how they are facing or which direction the wind is blowing. Yep, wind is an issue to be dealt with too. Those microphones are almost always at 90 degree angles from each other so if one is picking up wind noise (despite a wind screen), then the audio technician has another microphone which they can rely on more heavily.
Some professionals are using the two or three inputs built in to the back of their one speaker to adjust those volumes. In that case, they must stand behind their speaker to make those adjustments. It’s the most simple of the ways to offer “free” wedding ceremony services.
I don’t do things as I’ve described above… Well, except for the two wireless lapel microphones. Most officiants and grooms don’t want to wear a headset mic and a lapel mic on the groom can be positioned so that the bride’s voice is also picked up by it. I include at least two speakers, installed front left and front right, so that the voices come from the direction of those who are speaking. I control all of the volumes from behind the last row of guests, usually at least 25 ft behind the last row. I also include feedback suppression equipment within the system and with a digital mixer, control the low frequency roll off so that wind noise is greatly reduced, if not eliminated completely. The extra effort to run all of the cords out of walking paths and to include the additional equipment makes this service a much better experience for all of the guests who are coming to see and HEAR you marry each other.
You’re only going to do this once. Are the free services right for you or would you rather pay a modest fee so that your guests have the experience you invited them to? Only you can decide. Choose carefully. 🙂