Articles Wedding Videography Sound Advice: The Reception

Speeches and toasts at your reception are a chance to share stories: memorable moments from your lives, courtship, and adventures as a couple – it helps if your guests can see, and most importantly hear the speaker….

To mic, or not to mic?

Sharing their stories brings your family and friends closer together.

Do you need a microphone at your reception? Keep in mind that:

  • Your guests may not be used to public-speaking. A microphone can give a nervous speaker more confidence, and help them be heard by all of your guests and of course captured on video.
  • Guests are noisy. At your reception guests will be starting to relax, chatting to one another and possibly finishing their entrées. The speaker needs to be heard over all of this “relaxing”.
  • Guests are polite. This is your big day, so guests (especially elderly guests), are unlikely to complain if they cannot hear the speaker. Using a mic is the best way to ensure that everyone in the room can share in the occasion.

Testing… testing – 1, 2, 3

Ask you DJ or band if they can supply a PA and wireless microphone.

  • Ask your DJ or band if they can supply a public address system (PA) and wireless microphone. As sound professionals they can help with microphone stand position, arrange speakers to suit your layout, and adjust the volume (levels) as each person is speaking - they may even be able to provide lighting. Arrange to have your DJ or band set-up and test the PA before guests arrive and let them know that your videographer will want to talk to them about the best way to record the speeches.
  • When choosing a venue, ask the venue coordinator to demonstrate the PA. Have your partner listen from the back of the room while you talk into the microphone at the front. Listen out for ‘crackling’, ‘humming’, or sudden changes in volume when speaking into the mic.
  • Have your MC find out how to use the microphone – how to to turn it on-and-off, set the volume, and adjust the height of the mic stand.
  • Have your MC retest the microphone after the DJ or band has set-up, to make sure that all of the sound equipment, especially wireless microphones, are still working ok.
  • If you’re using a wireless microphone ask for fresh batteries for your reception as the wireless signal gets weaker as batteries wear-down.

Center stage

Keep speeches in mind when you’re planning table placement, decorations and lighting. Will the speaker talk from their seat, stand next to the head table or will you have a microphone stand positioned at the front of the room?

Standing in front of other guests also reduces the number of impromptu (or inappropriate) speeches.

  • Easy access. To keep the reception flowing, seat speakers where they can easily move to the front of the room, or be handed the microphone.
  • Positioning the speaker at the front of the room makes it easier on your MC. Standing in front of other guests also reduces the number of impromptu (or inappropriate) speeches.
  • Light-up the speaker. If the speaker is moving to the front of the room, angle ceiling lights or position the microphone stand near overhead lighting so that your guests can see who’s speaking.
  • Think about what will be directly behind the speaker. Simple curtains or fabric; tapa cloth or tivaevae; soft wall-lighting; the wedding cake; a fireplace surround; flowers or decorations are all great backdrops for videography.
  • Don’t position the speaker directly in front of a window.
    Video cameras find it tricky to film the combination of relatively dim, artificial indoor lighting and bright daylight – either the window will be too bright (blown-out) or the speaker will be too dark (under-exposed).

Taking the stand

  • Contented guests are attentive guests. Before announcing the speeches ensure that your guests have had a bite to eat and that waiting staff have refilled water jugs and restocked the wine or bubbles for each table.
  • Have your MC introduce your videographer(s), this will help your guests to relax around the cameras, and make the video part of the occasion.
  • Have your MC adjust the height of the microphone stand for each speaker: the top of microphone should be just below the speaker’s chin and not obscure their face.
  • Have your MC introduce each speaker and encourage other guests to show their support through a round of applause at the end of each speech.

Microphone technique - tips for wedding MCs

  • Get to know your video team. Let videographers know when the speeches are about to begin, and check that they’re in position before starting any formal annoucements.
  • Get to know your microphone (and stand). Before the speeches start, find out how to turn the microphone on-and-off, and how to adjust the microphone stand to the correct height for each speaker.
  • Check that the microphone is on and set to the correct volume. While one of the videographers is standing near the speakers at the back of the room talk normally into the microphone. A quick ‘testing, testing, 1-2-3’ should be enough to confirm that everything is ready to go, and will also let guests know that the speeches are about to begin. Tapping or blowing is not recommended as it may damage the microphone.
  • Let guests know when speeches are about to begin. Giving guests a five-minute warning that speeches are about to begin, will hasten breaks and get them back to their tables, with a beverage ready for toasts.
  • Have a glass of water before speaking and avoid indulging in too many alcoholic beverages prior to speaking.
  • Hold or position the microphone in a comfortable position – just below your chin so that it does not obscure your face or your view of the room.
  • Direct your voice toward the microphone, but look toward the head table or guests.
  • To maintain an even volume, keep the microphone still when speaking.
    If you like to gesture while speaking, perhaps to acknowledge key guests, it helps to hold the microphone in your ‘off’ hand: if you’re right-handed hold the microphone in your left hand, and vice-versa.

… if you’re right-handed hold the microphone in your left hand, and vice-versa.

Let your videographer in on the surprise

  • Talk with your videographer about the things that you’d like them to capture during your reception.
  • Provide your videographer with a running sheet for the reception and CD of the music that will be accompanying any performances (such as entrances, dances or family numbers).
  • If your videographer will be recording messages from guests, provide them with a ‘top-10’ list of people that you’d like them to interview.
  • Ask your MC to liaise with the videographer so that cameras are rolling before introducing speakers, toasting the couple or cutting the cake – and especially before announcing any ‘unscheduled surprises’.

The more prepared your videographer is, the better they will be able to capture the magic of your day.

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References and further reading

Published by Tiare Films, 19 Mar 2010.


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