Mastering Weddings, Part 3: Best Production Equipment for Wedding Bands

Mastering Weddings, Part 3: Best Production Equipment for Wedding Bands




This livestream is focused on all aspects of production, particularly in the context of weddings. This segment marks part three of our mastering weddings series, delving into everything from front-end planning to monitoring and lighting equipment – all essential elements for executing a flawless wedding production.

Watch it here!


Front End PA Systems

Organizing live sound production for weddings comes with its own set of challenges. To kick things off, let's delve into front-end PA systems and explore their significance. Drawing from my experience since 2009 in wedding performances, I can attest to the critical role that the right PA system plays. With weddings typically hosting between 80 to 300 guests, we needed scalable and adaptable PA systems that were easy to transport and could accommodate varying crowd sizes.

For weddings with up to 100 people, and those beyond 100, we identified a couple of PA systems that met our needs. Our primary goal was to find systems that were flexible, effective for different event sizes, and convenient to transport. Here’s what we discovered:

One of our top picks is the Yorkville PSA1 Line Array tops. These systems are available at retailers like Guitar Center in the United States and Long & McQuade in Canada. Line Array systems, such as the PSA1, provide excellent sound coverage due to their design, which includes four speakers pointing in different directions. This wide sound distribution is ideal for wedding settings where the audience is often close to the stage. Unlike traditional speakers that are more directional and require more equipment for full coverage, Line Arrays offer a simplified solution.

View on Long & McQuade

These speakers are also stackable, allowing for easy scalability to suit larger events. They can be mounted on top of subwoofers, which I'll discuss next. For our setup, we use 15-inch subs paired with these speakers. To enhance portability, we added wheels to the back of the subs, enabling them to be rolled like carts. This modification significantly reduces the physical strain of moving heavy equipment and speeds up the setup process.

Efficiency is paramount at weddings due to the tight schedules we often face. With limited setup time and the challenge of navigating through venues like hotels with freight elevators, every minute counts. Our PA system fits neatly into the back of a minivan, specifically

a Toyota Sienna, which allows us to transport all our gear, including the subs, tops, and cables, while still accommodating four passengers.

In summary, the Yorkville PSA1 Line Array tops combined with 15-inch subs create a powerful yet compact system that is perfect for weddings of various sizes. This setup fits within a small footprint, making it ideal for venues with limited space. The system's portability and ease of use make it a practical choice for wedding sound production. 

For Smaller Crowds and Tight Venues

If the crowd size is really small or the venue is particularly tight, the Yorkville PA system might be overkill and could look overpowering, especially for a duo or solo performer. In such cases, I recommend the Electro-Voice Evolve 50s, a versatile and sleek column speaker system.

View on Long & McQuade

These column speakers are compact and aesthetically pleasing, making them ideal for smaller setups. They feature a mini mixer on the back, with the Evolve 50M model offering a larger mixer with six mic inputs and additional channels for auxiliaries. This system is highly versatile; I’ve used it for everything from solo performances to seven-piece string groups. The Evolve 50 also includes built-in reverbs and delays, a parametric EQ on every channel, and a mini graphic EQ for the whole system. Additionally, it supports Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to stream music directly from your phone.

The Evolve 50s are great for crowds of about 100 people or less. In larger settings, the sound tends to dissipate because the column, at around six feet tall, doesn’t project far beyond the dance floor when the room is packed. However, for smaller events, this system is easy to transport. The subwoofers have cases with built-in wheels, and the column speakers have their own carrying case, making the entire setup portable and easy to move.

One downside is their longevity. While the Yorkville systems are easy to repair and have readily available replacements, the Electro-Voice systems can be more challenging to service. We had issues with one of our Evolve 50s shortly after purchasing, and it took months to repair. There are also reports of volume knobs and channels failing. Despite these issues, when functioning correctly, the Evolve 50s sound fantastic and are convenient to use.

To recap, the Electro-Voice Evolve 50s are excellent for small venues and crowds of up to 100 people. They offer great sound, are easy to transport, and include a range of useful features. However, be aware of potential reliability issues and the difficulty of getting repairs quickly.


Front-of-House PA Systems, In-Ears vs. Wedges, and Monitor Mix Preferences

Moving on to monitors: in-ear monitors vs. wedges. This is a significant topic and one that even my band continues to explore. As an audio tech, I prefer in-ear monitors because they make mixing easier and reduce the need for loud stage volume. This generally results in a cleaner sound for the audience.

However, as a musician, in-ears can feel isolating since they act as earplugs, blocking out the natural sound of the room and the crowd. One solution is to use a room mic placed either in front of the band or behind, aimed at the crowd. This can help integrate the ambient sound into your in-ear mix, making you feel more connected to the audience.

For personal preference, I like to have a bit of reverb and delay in my in-ear mix to avoid the overly clean and isolated sound, which can make me more nervous. It adds a sense of space and comfort, enhancing the overall performance experience.

Continuing on the topic of monitors, both on the floor and in-ear, here are my thoughts and experiences with different devices:

For floor monitors, my personal preference is the NX 10C by Yorkville. The NX 10C is a compact floor wedge with a 12-inch speaker. Despite its small size, it delivers an impressive punch with 300 watts of power. It’s capable of handling high volumes all night, ensuring that everyone on stage can hear clearly. On the backside, there's a built-in mini mixer, and these monitors can be linked together. They also come with a carrying handle, making them easy to transport.

View on Long & McQuade

One standout feature is the hole on the top of the monitor, allowing it to be mounted on poles. In tight setups, I often mount my line array tops on a speaker pole and then mount the monitor on the same pole, angled back towards the band member. This setup saves floor space and, with proper EQing, avoids feedback issues. These monitors are versatile enough to double as front-end speakers when needed. For wide stages or large ballrooms, you can use them as front fills or side fills to ensure even sound coverage. They’re durable and reasonably priced at around $500 each, and they’ve proven to be reliable workhorses in our inventory.

Moving on to in-ear monitors, I recently tried out the Shure PSM 300. This system performed flawlessly with no interference and great sound quality. However, the high price tag of around $1000 each makes it impractical for larger bands. The PSM 300 offers dual-channel inputs, allowing you to mix your own line with the band mix directly on the body pack. This feature can be handy for making quick adjustments on stage without involving the technician.

View on Long & McQuade

For a more budget-friendly option, my band has experimented with a cheaper alternative. This system, which costs around $500 for six body packs and two transmitters, provides a cost-effective way to try out in-ear monitoring. However, it does have its drawbacks, including frequent frequency interference and occasional sound dropouts. Additionally, it can interfere with Wi-Fi signals, which has been an issue for us when connecting our mixer to the router at gigs. Despite these flaws, it’s a decent entry-level option for those wanting to experiment with in-ear monitors without a significant financial commitment.

In summary, both floor and in-ear monitors have their advantages and limitations. Floor wedges like the NX 10C offer durability, versatility, and power, making them suitable for various stage setups. In-ear monitors, while potentially offering a more controlled sound environment, can be costly and may come with technical challenges. Choosing between the two depends on your specific needs, budget, and the nature of your performances.


Lighting for Live Performances

Effective stage lighting is crucial for enhancing your performance. While dance floor lighting can add energy to the event, the primary focus should be on properly lighting the band. Well-placed lighting can significantly impact the overall show, creating an engaging and visually appealing experience for the audience. There are many lighting options available, from simple setups to more advanced systems with effects. Being able to control the lighting while performing allows you to adapt to different moments in your set, adding an extra layer of professionalism and excitement to your performance.

Adding effective stage lighting can significantly enhance the audience's experience, creating memorable moments that encourage audience participation, such as clapping or cheering. A well-timed lighting cue can accentuate a dramatic ending to a song, making the performance more engaging.

When it comes to weddings, the setup needs to be quick and budget-conscious. The Yorkville LP LED 4X is an excellent choice for these situations. This fixture features four bright LED pods with built-in DMX, which simplifies setup. While DMX can be time-consuming due to the need for cabling and programming, the LP LED 4X includes a Bluetooth option for wireless control via an app, offering a more straightforward solution.

View on Long & McQuade

However, wireless DMX can be unreliable due to potential interference. To mitigate this, I've found it effective to connect the fixtures with a cable and use Bluetooth to control just one unit, which then syncs with the others. This reduces connectivity issues and simplifies the setup process.

The LP LED 4X allows for a variety of lighting effects and colors, making it versatile for different moods and settings. It's particularly effective when used in pairs, with one set of lights at the front and another at the back of the stage. This configuration ensures comprehensive coverage and enhances the visual impact from both the audience's and the band's perspectives.

For dance floor lighting, there are many affordable options available, such as small moving headlights from Amazon that can be synchronized to music. These lights are easy to set up and can create dynamic effects, adding excitement to the performance.

Outsourcing Sound Engineering vs. Managing It Internally

Now, let's discuss the decision of whether to outsource sound engineering or manage it internally. In the wedding industry, where professionalism and polished performances are essential, outsourcing can often be the better choice. Attempting to play in the band while managing sound can be problematic because:

  • Sound Quality Control: It’s challenging to gauge the mix accurately from the stage. You can't effectively determine the balance of vocals and instruments while performing.
  • Professionalism: Continuously running from the stage to the soundboard disrupts the flow of the performance and looks unprofessional.
  • Focus: Handling sound tasks can distract from your performance, reducing overall quality.

However, if you do opt to handle sound internally, it might be feasible if your role in the band allows for some flexibility. For instance, if you're a horn player with breaks in your performance, you might manage some sound adjustments. But even then, having a dedicated sound engineer ensures that someone is always focused on delivering the best possible audio experience.

For bands considering this, it’s crucial to have a well-rehearsed setup and clear roles. Some bands use digital mixing consoles that allow members to adjust their own monitor mixes via apps, reducing the need for a dedicated monitor engineer. Still, having an experienced sound engineer can significantly enhance the overall quality and professionalism of your performance.

In conclusion, investing in good stage lighting and considering the logistics of sound engineering are essential steps in delivering a polished and engaging performance, especially in the wedding industry where both presentation and efficiency are key.

If my band is going out today as a nine-piece, I won’t be doing the sound myself. Instead, we hire someone who we’ve trained to handle our sound. They show up, run our equipment, and manage setup and teardown. This way, we’re not hiring a tech company to provide all the gear; we own everything, and they just operate it.

For smaller gigs, like if we’re performing as a five-piece and I’m not playing, I might handle the sound. But I avoid doing both because it's impractical to perform and manage sound simultaneously. Outsourcing your engineering can be necessary initially until you fully understand how all the sound tech equipment works in a live context. However, my recommendation is to bring that in-house as soon as possible.

Owning your sound equipment is a good investment. It opens up additional revenue streams for your band and generally makes financial sense. Although a full rig can be expensive (up to $25,000 for PA, cables, mixers, monitors, and lighting), it will pay off over time. You also need to consider storage and insurance for the equipment, which adds to the cost.

From a quality-of-life perspective, owning the equipment is beneficial because it ensures consistency and reliability. When you own the gear, you know exactly what you’re providing to clients. For instance, if a client asks if they can plug in a projector and have audio for a slideshow, you can confidently say yes because you know your mixer can handle it. If a DJ wants to use your system for a high-energy set, you can ensure your PA system can handle the heavy bass tracks.

Renting equipment was always stressful for me because of the uncertainty. Music stores where I live only allow reservations a week in advance, while weddings are booked a year in advance. This disconnect meant I couldn’t always get the equipment I wanted, leading to added stress and potential last-minute adjustments with unfamiliar gear.

Owning equipment has provided peace of mind and financial benefits. Durable gear, like Yorkville, lasts a long time. I've had my subwoofers and PA tops for nearly ten years with minimal repairs. Investing in good equipment means fewer long-term costs. Even if you decide to go out of business or upgrade, you can sell your gear and recoup some of your investment.

Renting equipment repeatedly often costs as much as owning it. Once you’ve rented a speaker 20 times, you’ve essentially paid for it. Plus, owning equipment means you can sell it later and get some of your money back. In my opinion, it’s worth owning and learning to operate your equipment. If needed, hire someone to help set up and run the system to ensure everything runs smoothly.

In summary, owning your sound equipment provides control, consistency, and financial benefits. It reduces stress and ensures you can deliver exactly what you promise to your clients, enhancing your professional reputation and potentially increasing your revenue. Learning to operate your equipment or hiring a trained professional can further improve your efficiency and the quality of your performances.

About The Author

reuben avery bandleader and musician

Reuben Avery

Reuben is one of the co-founders at Back On Stage and is also a bandleader and musician. When he's not busy dreaming up ways to streamline the live music industry's inner workings, he enjoys performing with his 9-piece event band, practicing his trumpet and spending quality time with his wife and cat.


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