Party on! How to beat venue noise restrictions

Keep the music playing and the crowd moving with expert advice on how to avoid a reception-busting sound cut

We in wedding land are no strangers to party restrictions, from licensing rules to decibel limits and strict end times at certain venues. So how can you ensure your reception doesn’t fall victim to a sound cut? 

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Rule 1: Know the policy
You can run into sound restrictions anywhere, from city-centre hotels with non-wedding guests to remote castles where music can travel for miles (thus disrupting ‘neighbours’ you can’t even see). “I’ve played Thames river boats, 5-star London hotels and country mansions with sound restrictions, so there’s no set venue type,” Matt points out. The key, Kelly advises, is “never assume.” The two big areas to clarify with the venue are finish times and decibel limits, which may require your band or DJ to use a noise limiter when they perform. And if, like us, you’re not super-clear on how loud a decibel actually is, follow this rule of thumb: a noise limit of 80 decibels would be quite low, 90 is average, and 95 is pretty OK.

Rule 2: Don’t panic
“There’s a misconception out there that, ‘Oh no, the venue requires a sound limiter, the party is going to be a disaster’,” Kelly says. “But really what it influences is things like the size of the band you can have.” (Swap the 10-piece band for a 4-piecer and you’re less likely to exceed your decibel count.) With earlier-than-desired finish times, you can also ask the venue if it’s possible to extend (though, as they’ll have to apply to the council for late license, this will most likely cost you extra).

Rule 3: Communicate with your musicians
Knowledge is power, and there are techy tweaks your team can make to get the most out of their sound even if a noise limiter is required. “There are certain things that set off the sound limiter, like certain types of vocals or the position of the mic in relation to the crowd, and professionals can work with it most of the time,” Kelly says. 

Rule 4: Respect the noise limiter
So how does this thing actually work? “Most use a traffic-light system: green, amber, red,” Matt says. “It’s programmed to the unique level setting at the venue, and at green and amber you’re OK. Go into the red for more than the pre-set number of seconds and power to the entire system can be cut.” Multiple factors can affect whether you enter the red zone, like room set up, number of guests and and music style. “Crowd noise like clapping and cheering can also send the noise levels up and cause the limiter to kick in,” he adds, so be sure to follow guidance from the musical pros who know best.  

Rule 5: Stay on schedule
Don’t want your first dance to be the last of the night? Be vigilant about timings earlier in the day – especially if you’re up against a non-negotiable finishing time at the end of the reception.

Rule 6: Plan an after-party
If a noise limit rather than a fixed end time is the issue, ask if your venue will let you stay in the space with your guests if you agree to switch to non-amplified music or an iPod. Or, move on to phase two: we’ve known couples to arrange pub takeovers or book private areas in nightclubs to extend the best night ever.

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Rule 7: Be honest about your priorities
“If you have your heart set on a 10-piece band and partying till 5am, then you need to focus your energies on finding a venue that will allow it,” says Kelly.