Can a wedding band play with a sound limiter?

12th January 2022

If you have chosen the perfect wedding venue for your big day it can be a bit of a worry to find out that they have a sound or noise limiter installed if you intend on having live music or a DJ at your wedding reception. 

If a wedding venue has a sound limiter you are still safe to book a band or DJ but it’s a good idea to give them some warning so that they can prepare in advance. A band may need to bring a smaller drum kit or even an electric kit while a DJ may bring a smaller sound system. 

Why do wedding venues use sound limiters?

A growing number of wedding venues are installing noise limiter devices to prevent sound above a certain level becoming a nuisance to the local community. Sound from a party can travel a surprising long way especially if there’s a band with a live drummer. 

Sound monitoring and limiting devices are intended to allow party guests to enjoy themselves and make noise up to an agreed level without too much disturbance for the venue’s neighbours. They are often installed at the request of the local council after complaints or on condition of the issuing of an events licence.

What do sound limiters do?

Sound limiters at wedding venues monitor the overall volume of sound in the local environment and are usually placed in the function room where the evening reception is held. Some venues simply use sound monitors and will ask members of staff to work with the band to keep the volume down if it is above a certain level but many have limiters which temporarily switch off the electricity once the volume is above a certain level for more than around five seconds.

This can obviously interrupt the party but it’s also not very good for the band’s equipment so it’s a good idea to try to avoid this as much as possible.

How do bands prepare for playing with a decibel meter?

These days professional wedding bands and DJs are quite used to dealing with sound limiters as they have become so common at wedding venues across the country. DJs will often bring a smaller sound system or can simply “turn down” until the desired volume is reached.

“Turning down” is a bit more tricky for a live band for a number of reasons and a band that sounds quieter to the audience than the DJ can actually be scientifically louder and set off the limiter. This is because of the difference in how live music and pre-recorded music are produced. Without getting too technical the basic difference is that pre-recorded music has been carefully balanced, edited and mastered to give it a very consistent overall sound level.

The sound that a live band makes is a bit different because it is produced by multiple live instruments like a drum kit or a guitar amp and it also hasn’t been mastered. This means  that the overall volume is less consistent and can get really loud for short periods while relatively quiet at the rest of the time. The band needs to be much more aware of their volume dynamics to reduce the loudest parts and avoid setting off the limiter which takes a bit of extra skill and experience. They can also bring special equipment such as an electric drum kit and in-ear monitors if the venue has a particularly quiet noise level.

Will the wedding venue tell me if they have a sound limiter?

Yes they should and most will tell their clients about the noise limiter although it’s not always clear what the implications of the noise limiter will be. The venue should be able to tell you if they have had live bands on before and whether it had caused any difficulties. 

In reality there are very few wedding venues that have not made provisions such as sound-proofing to allow for evening entertainment at reasonable levels as it is one of the basic facilities that are required from such a venue. 

Will a sound limiter ruin the music?

If the band isn’t prepared and their set is constantly interrupted by the power being cut then of course that is a problem but the sound limiter shouldn’t ruin the music for you or your guests if you have a professional wedding band and you have given them some notice about the situation. 

With a combination of skill, awareness and the right equipment it often won’t make much difference to the sound at all and if the band does set the limiter off once or twice it’s not really that big an issue because the power to the stage is usually back on within ten to fifteen seconds. We’ve had a few weddings where this has happened but the drummer kept the beat going while the audience sang along until the band could join in again, which is often a really fun moment for everyone. 

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