Music for Weddings: Outdoors

Having an outdoor wedding can be extraordinarily beautiful. When planning an outdoor wedding, make sure that the music is just as beautiful. There are many factors that can make wedding music the perfect accompaniment for a ceremony or make it a near miss.

Size of the Wedding: The number of guests one has effects the volume needed for the music. The larger and more spread out the wedding guests are the more volume will be needed so that all the guests will be able to hear clearly. These varied volume requirements can be accomplished by adjusting the number of instruments, the choice of instruments and sound reinforcement.

Number of Instruments: Some use this rule as a standard for determining how many instruments to use: use one more musician for each 50 guests over 150. I believe this can help as a guide or starting point but the type of instruments and sound reinforcement are more important determining factors to obtain a sound that all the guests can hear.

Instrument Type – Unamplified instruments: Other than percussion instruments, the brass instruments and ensembles naturally give the most volume. Some examples would be the trumpet and brass quintet. Woodwinds, especially the flute, would be the set of instruments with the next loudest volume. There is a large difference in volume between the brass and woodwind instruments. The softest of the instrument families is the stringed instruments. Stringed instruments include the violin, viola, cello and harp. When choosing instruments within these instrument families, the higher pitched (the higher the notes the instrument plays) the instrument is the louder the instrument is. For example, in the brass family the trumpet is higher pitched than the tuba and it’s sound is louder and carries farther.

Amplified Instruments: Amplified instruments are instruments that have built-in pickups so that the instruments can be amplified through an amplifier. These are instruments such as electric guitar, electric acoustic guitar, some harps, midi harps, bass, and electric violin. When hiring musicians it important to ask if amplified instruments have built-in pickups. If not, there are potential problems that can occur. (See sound reinforcement.)

Sound Reinforcement: Any instrument, or any combination of instruments, can be used if you have proper sound reinforcement. Some wedding couples use their own sound equipment. This is almost never a good idea. If problems arise, as they often do, one needs to have back up chords and equipment and the time and knowledge to trouble shoot 15 minutes before the ceremony. Professional musicians using their own equipment will be prepared for all circumstances. It is important to realize that for some ensembles and instruments there will be an extra cost for sound reinforcement. Using the correct instrument type and number of instruments can eliminate the need for sound reinforcement to avoid problems and cost. If using amplification, using amplified instruments with pickups built-in will eliminate feed back potential. Using microphones on or next to instruments can be done outdoors but the potential problems are feedback and wind and background noise being picked up in microphones.

Electricity for Instruments: When using any amplified instruments or instruments amplified through microphones, one will need to find out if there is electricity at the location or if it can be set up.

Acoustical Considerations: The volume of the instruments will be slightly louder if there is a wall near the wedding location

Placement or Musicians: Placing the musicians where they can see the aisle and ceremony will be important for starting, changing and ending songs. Having them up front usually works best and wedding guests can watch them during the prelude. This has the added benefit of having the music ensemble in some of the video and pictures. If you have the musicians set too close to the wedding party they will be in all of the pictures. Having them close enough to hear the ceremony is beneficial in case the wedding planner or officiate forgets to cue the musicians for the recessional. If the instruments are placed higher (e.g. on an elevated landing or gazebo) it makes it easier for all guests to see the music ensemble.

Background Noise: Background sounds can cover up or be a distraction from the wedding music and ceremony. Ceremony locations should be checked for nearby planes/airports, roads, wind, wave noise, fire and paramedic stations, boats, and passers-bye.

Permits, Time and Noise Restrictions: Some outdoor locations require permits for weddings. Some outdoor locations require permits or have time and/or volume restrictions for music. Volume restrictions can even happen at resorts because of guest room proximity. It is essential to see if restrictions of permit or location allow time for the musicians and other vendors to set up and tear down before and after the ceremony. If pictures are being taken at the location, this affects this as well.

Temperature: If the temperature may be below 60 degrees, brass will work better than stringed instruments because of intonation (playing in tune) issues.

Dress: When speaking with wedding musicians about dress or costume it is wise to take into account temperature and winds. Short dresses on a windy day are certainly a distraction as are shivering or sweating musicians.

Using Recordings :It has become popular to use recordings at weddings. This is dangerous for two reasons. First, if professional sound equipment and a professional sound person with knowledge and extra equipment are not being used, something could go wrong. Secondly, it is illegal to play recordings for groups of people without paying royalties. If the location or professional sound person is not paying ASCAP and BMI fees you risk your wedding ceremony being shut down. This applies to wedding receptions as well.

Outdoor wedding ceremonies can be beautiful and memorable. Using these ideas and tips can help the music make a wedding ceremony event more special. Wedding music consultants can help make selections for wedding ceremonies and are a good source for advice.