Sound Limiters at Wedding Venues (Ultimate Guide for Couples, Bands & Venues)
Sound Limiters at Weddings
As a professional wedding band performing up and down the UK, we are seeing more and more sound limiters (or noise limiters) pop up at wedding venues.
In fact, we see and hear about them so often that we modelled The Hustle wedding band to specifically be able to perform at venues with sound limiters installed!
So, what does this mean for you if you come across a sound limiter?
Naturally, couples getting married, bands who perform at weddings and even venues themselves have many questions regarding sound limiters and what to do.
We’ve split up our handy guide into 3 sections (advice for couples, bands and venues) so everyone can benefit. Click a button below to be taken to your section!
Sound limiter faqs
Before we drop some knowledge, it’s best to do a little bit of explaining and education. Here are some FAQs we commonly see and a bit of background as to what a sound limiter is and how one works.
What is a sound limiter?
A sound limiter is a device that measures sound levels of live bands, singers and DJs in decibels. Some sound limiters are designed to cut the power supply to the stage or performance area when the set decibel limit is exceeded for a sustained amount of time.
How does a sound limiter work?
Most limiters are equipped with a ‘traffic light’ system that will warn venue staff and musicians when volume levels are due to exceed the decibel limit. Whilst some are just are visual aid of the noise level in a room, other sound limiters will cut the power supply to the performance area when tripped.
Why do wedding venues have sound limiters?
Council restrictions, complaints from nearby residents and even noise pollution are just some of the reasons why a wedding venue may install a sound limiter. Installing a sound limiter is often a last resort for a wedding venue and can help minimise complaints, avoid receiving fines and of course ensure they are able to maintain their licence.
Because of this, the decibel limit will not be the same for every wedding venue. You should always ask what decibel limit the sound limiter is set to.
How many decibels is a wedding band?
Typically, professional function bands for weddings will be between 95db-110db.
This can change depending on the size of the line-up, the style of band and the type of instrumentation used.
Is 90 decibels loud enough for a wedding?
When sound limiters are installed for anything below 100db, bands and performers have to start altering their performances and set up to work within the limits. There are bands that can work with a sound limiter of 90db, but there will be a noticeable difference in energy and sound.
Sound limiter advice for couples
So, you’ve spent ages looking at venues, trying to find the perfect space in the right part of the country for the most important day of your life. Let alone going into the cost and availability, finding a wedding venue is probably one of the hardest parts of planning your wedding.
Nothing else can be chosen or decided on until you’ve found that party palace or festival themed wonderland.
You’re set on a beautiful barn in the middle of nowhere, but then you’re told they have a sound limiter! “But don’t worry, we have lots of bands play here, it’s never a problem!”. We do hear this story a lot, but of course it’s not the case with all venues. Many are very upfront, honest and helpful about this sort of thing.
But what does it mean for you? Can you have a band? Or should you sacrifice the night time party so you can get your dream location?
Firstly, don’t panic! If you love the venue but also want a crazy party, take your time, and ask some questions before signing on the dotted line. Most venues will happily hold a date for a short period in order to allow you to look into your options and see what is possible and available. Then ask the venue the following questions, and make sure you get solid answers.
1. WHAT DECIBEL LEVEL IS THE SOUND LIMITER SET TO?
This will be a figure, usually around 90-100dB. Sometimes it can be lower, sometimes higher. Make note of that figure, it’s very important.
2. Is the limiter a shut-off style device, or is it monitored by the venue staff?
Some sound limiters will cut the power and electricity supply when a certain sound level is breached for too long, usually indicated by some warning lights just before the dreaded shut down. Other venues simply have a handheld device that staff keep an eye on and politely ask the band to turn things down. Make note of what they have.
3. Does the venue have any other restrictions for bands?
Sometimes venues insist on electric drums, in ear monitors, using the venues in-house sound system, an early finish for live music or in some cases, only using an approved band.
4. Does the venue have any bands who have played at the venue, who would they recommend?
Once you’re armed with the above info, it’s time to start the fun (although sometimes difficult) task of choosing a band. The key piece of advice we would give here is that your venue restrictions will limit the number of options available to you, so act fast and be prepared to adjust some other ‘essential’ factors you hoped for.
If you have a certain budget but find a band that can work at your venue for a little more, don’t dismiss them. Be as open as possible to the style. Yes, you may have wanted an 80’s synth pop band, but if there’s only one 80’s synth band who can do your venue and they’re booked or way over budget, look at other styles.
Booking a sound limiter friendly wedding band
When you start your search, maybe try looking for ‘sound limiter friendly bands’ or similar, or look at those recommended by the venue first. Many professional bands will make it very clear on their website that they can work with a limiter, but not all do this. When you make an enquiry, be sure to state the venue’s restrictions right away – the last thing you want to do is go through all the nitty gritty about pricing, song lists, times etc and then say ‘oh by the way, there’s a sound limiter of 90dB’.
When you find a band you like, who’re available, within budget, and able to work at the venue – don’t hang about!
Have a good conversation with them, find out what they do to ensure things work fine at the venue and trust what they say. Many bands, and venues, will use an electric drum kit to ensure things work well at a limited venue. (Acoustic drums are the most difficult thing to control, try telling a drummer to turn down!). Don’t be put off by this, often people worry that they don’t sound or look as good. They totally do, in fact, electric drums can often sound better when being used at a wedding venue, allowing more control and a more balanced sound on the dance floor.
“Don’t forget that the band want things to sound as good as possible, they rely on their sound, so they’ll only do things that aid this and make it perfect for your day.”
Sometimes, there are other things that a band may suggest that work well at venues with restrictions. Again, trust that they know what they’re talking about, they’ve been in the situation many times before and know what works.
For example, if a venue has a tricky low level limiter or an early cut off for live music, it may be more beneficial to have the band play a more chilled/acoustic set early on and then offer a DJ service for the latter part of the evening. Either way, speak to the band and once again – trust them!
Sound limiter advice for wedding bands
If you’re a band who is having to face a tricky sound limiter, or want to be able to work at more venues – or basically you want to take yourself seriously because let’s face it, one day YOU WILL HAVE TO WORK WITH LIMITERS; then read on.
Essentially, if you want to work as a full-time band and be successful in this industry, you need to be friendly, flexible and helpful. Simply saying, “we don’t do limiters” won’t help you, venues or clients, so why bother? Nowadays it’s so much easier to work with a sound limiter due to modern equipment.
There are 3 things you need to focus on to enable you to work well with a sound limiter:
1. Be friendly, helpful and flexible with your client
It’s not their fault the venue they’ve fallen for has a sound limiter or tricky sound ceiling to use, so don’t be difficult about it. Ask what the venue is and do the ground work yourself, don’t ask them all the questions. Instead, contact the venue and speak to them directly.
Find out what you need to know rather than expecting the client to do the work – this will help in the long run as both the venue and client will see that you’re on the ball and trustworthy!
2. Be reasonable and friendly with the venue, no matter what
Some venue staff can be a little unsure about their restrictions, they hate them as much as you do, but they have to work with them. Have a friendly chat and see what they need you to do in order to keep everyone happy. Find out every bit of info you can. Levels, restrictions, load in, sound check options, can you see the limiter warning lights etc.
3. Adjust your set up accordingly
Ok, this is the big one that many musicians struggle with. Yes, if you want to work as a professional wedding and party band, you will need to calm it down. You don’t need your 1960’s 200W Mesa Boogie tube amplifier cranked up to 11, you don’t need a giant 10kW PA system, and you may need to accept that you’re not always playing at what you consider to be the optimum level.
There’s a load of technical things that you can do with your musical equipment to limit the sound and each one can justify a blog on its own, so here’s a quick list to point you in the right direction:
Not only will this restrict volume on stage, it will also protect your ears and make it really loud for you (so you’ll be rocking out like you’re playing at Wembley, despite the FOH volume being lower than you’d like).
Drummers can use hot rods or even brushes to limit the volume they produce – as well as padding, sheets or any sound dampness on the kit.
Bassists and guitarists can go directly into the desk and not use an amplifier, this allows better control of the mix as well as less gear to carry.
Don’t just turn up and plug in, take your time to set up and get the levels right without being too loud.
We know drummers don’t always like electric kits, but they give you a great advantage of a volume control. You’re able to put all your drum elements through the PA so this actually will be heard better. They are expensive, so it may be more beneficial to hire them as and when you need one – and this cost can be added to the band’s fee for the gig.
Sound limiter advice for wedding venues
We totally understand that receiving complaints from neighbours is a bad thing, and then being hit with a notice to have a sound limiter installed is even worse. We also understand that it can be frustrating but following a few simple guidelines on how to deal with it will help you to help the band and in turn, that means your couples have a better evening. Everyone wins!
1. BE HONEST ABOUT SOUND RESTRICTIONS
First up, please, please, please be open and honest with clients. We’ve spoken to many clients who’ve got a venue with a nightmare limiter, they’ve been told (by the venue) that bands play there all the time with no issues, yet every band who plays there has issues and some don’t want to play there.
Obviously, it’s difficult to tell a client that they can’t have the band they want, but by being open and helpful and offering solutions, they’ll work with you on it.
2. OFFER SOLUTIONS
When you are advising a client that there are restrictions over bands, explain what CAN be done. Suggest some bands that can work with the restrictions, bands who’ve played there before or a slightly altered schedule to accommodate how things are. The clients will appreciate this and so will you guys as there’s less upset down the line.
3. HAVE A VARIETY OF OPTIONS
On that note, it’s always important to have some good and varied solutions. You may have 3 bands who all work at your venue, and you love them – but do they offer the client any choice? If a couple are told, you can have bands but it has to be one of these 3, they’ll be deflated as they wanted to spend time choosing a great band that reflects their music taste. So, have as big a list as possible, with everything from solo singers, rock and pop bands, acoustic bands, alternative function bands, DJ’s and anything else unique!
4. ENCOURAGE COUPLES TO MOVE FAST ON FINDING A BAND
Encourage your couples to decide on a band ASAP. If you have a dozen bands that can work at your venue, but the couple have chosen a Saturday in July, they need to move fast. Ensure you tell them this and as soon as they confirm the venue and advise they find a band ASAP.
Once the client has found a band, be it one you know or one you don’t, work with the band. Answer their questions, send them an information sheet, give them all the details they need to ensure they’re prepared on the day and have all the equipment they need.
5. Work with the band
Please work WITH the band and not against them. 99% of the bands who will be performing at your venue are full time professional bands. They know what they’re doing, they want to deliver the best live performance and make your mutual clients as happy as possible. Speak to them in advance, take time to go over everything, introduce yourself on the day, be present for sound check and advise if anything needs to change. If the level is loud, please discreetly have a discussion or signal the band, they will make a change, but it may not be immediate.
And finally, be nice to them, musicians are nice people, but they’re sensitive, so offering a drink, somewhere to chill out and a bite to eat will make all the difference!