| Wedding Ceremony
| Wedding Planning |
How successful your wedding ceremony
is depends very largely on your guests being able to
hear every word. How your wedding ceremony feels is
every bit as important as how it looks, and that's a
tad more complicated because how the ceremony feels
depends very largely on your guests hearing every
Guests will tell you that there is nothing more
annoying at a wedding than not being able to hear
the ceremony. In Australia, the Attorney General
recognises this. Celebrants are required to make
sure that the ceremony can be heard by everyone. It
is part of the Code of Practice we all must abide by
and celebrants are told that we should use a PA
system to ensure that.
When marrying couples ask on wedding forums what
questions they should ask celebrants, it is very
common that "Do they have a PA system
near the top of the list. Which is great. But a PA
system does not fix every audibility problem. The
capacity of your celebrant, the two of you, and
anyone else participating in the ceremony to project
their voices, is important too. A microphone
magnifies sound, but it can't create it.
And that's where you, the marrying couple, come in.
Because the choices you make early in your planning,
and the unexpected challenges your chosen venue
throws up, can have an immense impact on how well
your guests will be able to hear the ceremony.
The problem with ambient noise (sometimes called
background noise) is that it may come and go. It
could be intermittent, or it can happen only under
certain conditions, or at certain times of the day.
On the beach, whether the tide is coming in or going
out, and how windy it is determines how noisy it is.
The tranquil, idyllic bushland setting you fell in
love with can turn into a noisy nightmare if it is
under an intermittent flight path or motor-cross
events are held in an adjoining area every now and
then, and your wedding ceremony just coincides with
those times. A beautiful city park can become a
noisy, crowded, place if a public event is scheduled
at the same time or a random family decides to hold
a child's birthday party near your ceremony site.
Even your backyard wedding could be sound-bombed by
a neighbour mowing his lawn. And then there is
always traffic noise. A problem in some places, not
so much in others, and definitely linked to the time
of the day and the day of the week.
The take-home message of all of this is do your
homework. And then make a decision. Personally, if
an occasional aircraft or helicopter flies over
during a ceremony, I just pause and look up, and
continue when it has gone on its way. I always
suggest that you talk to your neighbours if you're
having a backyard wedding and ask them not to mow or
use power-tools during the ceremony.
Site and venue acoustics
Your surroundings play a huge part in how audible
your ceremony will be. Sound behaves differently
outdoors. Indoors, the acoustics of the space can
make a huge difference.
I'm always relaxed when working in a historic chapel
or decommissioned church. They were designed to have
great acoustics. And, luckily, I have what used to
be referred to as "a fine pulpit voice". In other
words, I can project my voice and it carries. I'm
not so relaxed when working in a modern building,
particularly one that has been re-purposed for
weddings but didn't start out as a ceremony space.
What's on the walls, the angle of the ceiling and
what it's made of, the flooring, the amount of
glass, and the number of openings (doors, windows)
all affect sound. Some surfaces absorb sound, some
make the sound bounce around. Add human bodies
to the mix - they can absorb or block the sound -
and you have a problem to deal with. With any luck,
the venue will have a wired in PA system that has
been carefully balanced. But you need to ask
questions and not just take for granted that the
acoustics will be fine. You also need to take into
account that objects brought in to style the
ceremony space can affect the acoustics.
Your wedding ceremony is not a movie!
Unfortunately movies tend to lull us into a false
sense of security when it comes to background music.
Simple decision. Don't play background music. Why?
Because the background music in movies is added
afterwards and is carefully balanced so it doesn't
drown out important dialogue. When background music
is played while people are speaking in a ceremony it
is going to seriously compromise the audibility of
the ceremony plus it will interfere with the quality
of the sound recorded by your videographer. Schedule
music only for those parts of the ceremony where
no-one is speaking
- The processional (formal walk in)
- The signing of the marriage documents
- The recessional (the formal walk out)
Prelude music (music played prior to the ceremony
while guests are arriving) should be soft and
contemplative so as to not only set the mood, but
also allow arriving guests to hold quiet
Know the needs of your
It would be the rarest of weddings where everyone in
attendance has perfect hearing. As marrying couples
are getting older, so too are their loved ones such
as parents and grandparents. Age-related hearing
loss can be a real problem for wedding guests. The
loving thing to do is to take this into account when
choosing your venue.
You will also need to work with your celebrant and
venue as to where the PA amplifier is positioned in
relation to where your loved one will be sitting.
But you can do more. Various forms of technology can
make a huge difference to those who wear hearing
aids. Some venues will have a hearing loop,
infrared, or FM system. Ask. And make sure you let
guests know ahead of time what is in place.
There are also other devices that can be set up to
connect directly with a loved-one's hearing aid.
These would require your celebrant to be wired up
specifically for that in addition to using the
regular microphone. I have no problems with doing
that. More than happy.
It is a legal requirement that you, the marrying
couple, say the legal words out loud in the presence
of your guests. Everyone present is supposed to hear
them. And everyone wants to hear your personal
promises too. Which means you need to speak up. To
project your voices. A good way to ensure you do is
to speak as if there is no microphone and you want
to make sure that the people at the back can hear
In 17 years of being a celebrant, 15 of them legally
marrying couples, I've never once had anyone
complain that the vows were too loud!
Small children and babies generally have no sense of
occasion. If they want to make a noise out of sheer
exuberance, they do. If they are upset or
uncomfortable, they express that vocally.
Unfortunately, the commonly given advice is that if
a child cries during a ceremony they should be taken
out immediately. Which means parents of young
children are on tenterhooks I've seen advice about
seating parents with young children at the back to
make it easy for them to exit. That upsets me. You
have invited the parents because they, and the
child, are important to you. They shouldn't need to
leave! Of course, if the child has a need that
requires attending to, that should take precedence,
including feeding. There is nothing wrong with
feeding a child while the ceremony proceeds. For
others, a little bit of bribery can work
brilliantly. I'm a great fan of lollipops.
If the baby or toddler happens to be yours, there is
no reason, legal or otherwise why you can't continue
the ceremony while holding them. It can make for
Thanks for reading!