Venues can have restrictions that limit your live band capabilities – if you want an evening party you must read on!
Many congratulations to all the newly engaged couples out there on the hunt for the perfect wedding venue. This blog has been written to catch you before you put pen to paper and reserve your dream wedding venue, only for that dream to turn into a nightmare when you discover that you aren’t actually allowed to have a full-on evening party due to the venue’s entertainment restrictions. We don’t want to put a damper on things or sour the fun of scouring stately homes, converted barns and beautiful hotels to find your ideal wedding venue, we just want to make you aware of a number of vital questions to ask before you commit and sign a venue’s Terms and Conditions. Read on to discover why!
A growing number of wedding venues now impose very strict and stringent entertainment rules, with some keeping these secret until the final stages of planning and some only revealing their restrictions when the bands arrives. The strict rules imposed by some venues affect the ability of our amazing wedding bands available for hire to put on a show that matches their talent and ability, especially when given no notice to plan for a restricted performance. Many venues don’t even consult a professional musician before setting their conditions, causing no end of frustration to wedding bands hindered by rules that often don’t make sense.
Rather than simply list the many weird and wacky rules encountered by our wedding bands, we thought it’d be a good idea to speak to the manager of one of the leading wedding bands available and ask him to tell you a story or two about his experiences with venues. Hopefully the stories shared will empower you to question potential venues and avoid falling foul of a nonsensical rule that ruins your evening entertainment.
Meet Paul from The Beat Union, one of our top selling wedding bands, on top of their game and out there performing at a huge number of wedding celebrations, all over the world! We asked him to share any wedding venue horror stories he could remember, hopefully giving you an insight into what can happen if the relevant questions aren’t asked when you book your wedding venue:
“Where do I start??! I’m not going to name and shame any wedding venues within my comments, but have shared this information with Entertainment Nation to ensure that if asked they can pass it on to any couples looking to book a venue.”
“So our first real issue with a venue dropped when we were booked to perform at my brother’s wedding a number of years back. Obviously, with it being a family affair I wanted to ensure that the entertainment was perfect, with an amazing party atmosphere, a full dance floor and just that everyone would have a great time! Sound limiters were creeping in at this time, but certainly weren’t common place.
I spoke to my brother and future sister-in-law to check about any conditions the venue had to ensure we could have a ‘party’ on the evening. They venue had told them ‘the sound limiter’ mentioned within the terms of their contract was just a hand-held meter that was ‘used down the garden’ and that it was ‘never a problem to a band’ and that they’ve ‘had loads of bands here and they’ve always had a great time’.
Fortunately, for the sake of my brother’s wedding, we were booked at the same venue about a month prior for another wedding. Upon arrival at the venue we were instantly told about the power cutting sound limiter and were told it’s ‘no problem at all for bands’. This was the first we had heard about said limiter, but we got on with our business, set everything up and got ready to sound check. We started to work on the sound and quickly realised we had been lied to – the sound limiter was set at a very low level. To explain a little more about a sound limiter: they generally work on a traffic light system, with their limit being the red light; if you continuously perform at red light level for a set number of seconds, the limiter will cut out the band’s power. We tripped the sound limiter a number of times, just trying to get a decent sound. We’re not amateurs and had used limiters a number of times leading up to this performance. They claimed 110DB was the limit, with us suspecting it to be around 80-85DB. I used ‘rods’ (lighter drum sticks) and about three towels to dampen my snare drum, which just about got us through the performance.”
(As an idea of volume, 80DB is the noise you would hear from city traffic from within a car, a food blender would usually kick out around 85DB, with a petrol lawn mower hitting the heights of perhaps 90-95DB.)
“After numerous attempts to persuade them to turn the limiter off (by myself and the ((not so)) happy couple who were gutted by the situation), the venue refused. The music sounded flat (not in tone but in volume) with little to no bass frequencies allowed. The guests asked us to turn it up a number of times, for which I had to explain why we couldn’t. They could stand a foot from the speaker and have a conversation. I was just totally deflated as this not only really impacted on the couple’s evening party, stopping guests from having a great time, but also made us sound a touch limp no matter how passionately we performed, not at all giving a true reflection of The Beat Union’s capabilities. On this occasion the couple would have been much better off just hiring a DJ, as it’s much easier to boost the volume of compressed recorded music when working with a limiter, with it being practically impossible to compress acoustic instruments in a live setting.
From this experience I told my brother and then decided to take it up with venue management myself, knowing that my brother had been lied when he booked the venue. Unfortunately, by this point my brother and his fiancée stood to lose a lot of money if they changed venue. Upon talking to the management, I was told that within the venue’s Terms it states: Sound limiter to be used at venue’s discretion. The manager was continually ‘argumentative’ (possibly the nicest terms I can use for now) and unwilling to compromise and solve the problem. After lengthy conversation (some heated) we eventually agreed that the truths had been hidden from my brother and his wife-to-be to secure their booking, and therefore they would override the limiter and leave it off (something they’d told me wasn’t possible on our previous visit – another lie).
I even tried to help the venue out, suggesting they attempt to sound proof (or at least help by adding things such as soft furnishings, curtains etc). They flat out refused, saying ‘it would ruin the style and image of the venue, for which they receive all of their bookings’. They have a glass-panelled ceiling in places – need I say anything more. No attempt to fix an issue, just pass it on to the bands that arrive instead by literally slapping a limiter in and continuously lying to couples and bands.
Long story short, the big day came, we had a great time, the venue stuck to their word and left the limiter off. A top quality evening party was had by all!
We were booked to return to the same venue a month later, hoping something had been done about the limiter, or that we’d be ok to perform without it, but no! Management weren’t anywhere to be seen (probably hiding in their huge garden of lies) and I was told that the limiter would never be switched off again.
I now refuse all bookings at this particular venue. I know for a fact that they still lie to all couples about the limiter and its level. I want to stress, I have no problem working with sound limiters, but only if the couple and their wedding band are fully aware this is the situation.”
“I’ve just realised how much I went on above, so I’ll try and keep this one a little shorter! This was a recent booking (literally earlier this month). All of the details had been sorted with the bride & groom on the call I make to all couples four weeks before their big day. When I asked about any sound limitations, the bride and groom confirmed they hadn’t been told about any being in place. I called the venue the day before the performance just to check if they were able to let us have a parking space, as it was mentioned we may be ‘allowed’ one (that’s another story!). The conversation was all pleasant until she slipped in, ‘we’ll see you tomorrow, oh by the way you are using an electric drum kit aren’t you?’. Apparently this was in the venue’s terms, something the bride & groom would have signed upon confirmation. After lots of discussion with their horrendously defensive wedding co-ordinator, explaining that the band hadn’t been made aware of this, I went away trying to source an e-kit. I was told under no circumstances would I be allowed to use a real acoustic kit, even though the wedding was the next day and that we’d be turned away at the door should we turn up without an e-kit. Still to this day I wonder what would have happened, but for the sake of ensuring the couple weren’t left without entertainment, I sourced an electric kit at the shortest of short notice.
We were told the reason for the e-kit being necessary was that there were bedrooms above the entertainment room and that they weren’t exclusively hired for the wedding (incredibly stupid thing to do for a start). Upon arrival we noted the room for performance was actually top floor, with no bedrooms above (more lies). We were also told on the phone that there was a sound limiter (with the co-ordinator unable to tell us any more about it – it’s level, whether it cuts power etc).
To our absolute surprise, there actually wasn’t any form of sound limiter meaning that we could set the volume for the evening at a nice level (without being told to turn it down at all). It would have made little to no difference to the volume of the music had I performed on an acoustic drum kit, however would have sounded much much better! (Not knocking electric drum kits, but it’s impossible to replicate a live acoustic drum kit.)
The bride & groom to this day are adamant they were never made aware of this (although they said they probably should have read the terms more in depth), even though the co-ordinator says they would have been told about 10 times, at every meeting. Slight pattern of lies going on here, to ensure bookings are made, leaving the booked band to deal with the rules that are thrown at them (sometime the day before). Fortunately, it was a successful evening, but certainly not a fun penultimate day, with the stress of sourcing a good electric drum kit with little time to spare.”
“We’d made the 3 and a half hour drive down to Kent for this one and instantly started on a bad note when the venue manager shouted (yes actually shouted) at me as my van wheel was touching a blade of grass. Please note – it was not an important blade – it was situated round the back of the venue at a point off limits to guests. GOOD START!
It came time to load in, the time where we’d get all our equipment into the venue, at which point the venue manager decided to take me to one side and tell me the health and safety rules that had been set for bands. Bar there being a sound limiter, one rule was going to cause us a problem: ‘There must be NO equipment placed on the floor, everything needs to be on the stage.’ I took one look at the rickety, cobbled-together 6ft stage and asked her if she was serious?! I explained that there were 5 of us, our instruments, plus lighting and speakers. She was adamant that these were the rules and even enlisted their ‘security’ to back her up who stood there aggressively staring at me. I informed her that this was unfortunately impossible as the speakers were a ‘sub-pole-top’ system and wouldn’t fit on the stage (and probably collapse it) even if we wanted them to. At this point things got really heated with the ‘security’ chappy flinging his arms out in an aggressive street brawl ‘come on then’ manner! I was flabbergasted by the situation. I quickly declared that we were off and that the pair of them could explain why the band had gone home and refused to perform at the venue (which we were well within our rights to do so).
Things quickly changed and they decided to ‘open discussions once more’ – round 2! We were told we would be ‘allowed’ to put our speakers on the floor but only if they were at the back either side, behind the stage. I quickly tried to explain the principle of microphones pointing back at a speaker causing feedback, but this again became a ‘fight’ quite quickly. The only way I could actually convince her I wasn’t ‘lying’ about this was to set up a speaker at the back and point a microphone at it, for it to squeal! Utter madness! This girl was running/ruining people’s wedding days on a regular basis! The ‘security’ man kept popping in and muttering things under his breath, trying to start aggro throughout the whole evening – highly ‘professional’. Long story short, we performed within limit, with our speakers on the floor where they needed to be. Bride & groom to this day don’t know what happened. Venue added to the blacklist!”
“This one is short and sweet. The venue got in touch directly to say that we must hook into their system and that we weren’t allowed to use our own speakers. Management were lovely about it, and explained they have close neighbours that are causing the council to threaten removing the venue’s entertainment license. We arrived and the sound limiter was a joke, with me unable to do anything but ‘tickle’ the drums throughout the evening. When the guests sang along with the song I actually had to stop playing, otherwise it would have cut the power. Whilst this was terrible for us, fortunately everyone had a great time, and the management were really nice about the situation.
It does however turn out that a couple of years prior the venue had sold off the land to a housing developer, from which houses they are now getting complaints. Shooting one’s self in one’s foot springs to mind. Although lovely staff, it has to go on the blacklist. It’s not possible to have a party at that volume!”
“I am sorry if the above horror stories have at all worried you. It’s not regular occurrence and so many wedding venues out there are lovely and enjoy a good band, just as much as you do! Hopefully my accounts will ensure you ask the right questions prior to booking, to make sure you do get the party you want and deserve on the evening of your wedding!”
Massive thanks to Paul for sharing his candid, illuminating and entertaining tales of wedding entertainment woe! To clarify a few points: within the contracts drawn up by Entertainment Nation between the client and their wedding band, it is the client’s responsibility to check with the venue for any sound restrictions or conditions they may have. It is crucial that this information is then shared with the wedding band. If, for example, The Beat Union has arrived at wedding venue number 2 with a real drum kit, there may have been no performance. Please also note, bands will never suffer violence or the threat of violence from venue staff or guests and have the right to leave instantly, still earning their full fee.
As Paul mentioned, this post is meant to aid you and not scare you. Here’s a number of vital questions to ask a wedding venue to make sure you are fully informed:
You should then do some digging for yourself to check that the information you are being told is the truth. Quite often ’Tripadviser’ will contain reviews of wedding venues, and this is somewhere a previous client can honestly talk about their experience of a venue without the venue having the power to edit, hide or censor.
Another great source of advice is to check with an entertainment co-ordinator here at Entertainment Nation and ask if we have heard of a venue, and if it’s on our list of ‘venues with conditions’ or even our ‘Wedding Venue Blacklist’? We’ll always be honest – we want you and your entertainment to have a great time.
These checks are an absolute must to ensuring your chosen venue can cater for an evening party with a live band! We want to supply top quality wedding bands, who want to provide top quality entertainment, so long as your venue allow them! Good luck with the hunt and give us a shout anytime if we can help!