Peter Naughton Productions - Syracuse/Utica Wedding DJ

One Sound System or Two?

Peter’s Pointers: One Sound System or Two?

It’s not just a matter of curiosity, but it can impact pricing: will one sound system be sufficient, or will your event require two?  In this edition of Peter’s Pointers, I’ll explain the factors involved in that decision.

Why Does it Affect Pricing?

You may have noticed my up-front pricing list mentions a nominal additional charge if your event requires two sound systems.  The reason is simple: setting up two systems requires more time and labor than setting up one.

That being said, I generally don’t recommend two systems unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Being married, I understand how wedding costs can add up, so I try to avoid that extra cost.  However, there are some itineraries where it would be impossible to provide coverage with just one system.

One Space = One System

If you only need DJ service for a “standalone” reception, in one space at one venue, there’s no question!  One sound system should be sufficient in virtually all cases.

Two or More Spaces = ???

We only need to explore the potential need for two systems if you need sound in multiple spaces.  Some examples:

  1. Outdoor ceremony and cocktail hour, followed by indoor reception
  2. Cocktail hour in the lobby, then move into the ballroom for reception
  3. Ceremony in one room, reception in another ballroom

I’ve done two-location setups for all of the above examples and more.  The primary deciding factor is distance.  How far apart are the two spaces?

Example of Two Locations, One System

DJ Peter Naughton at Skyline Lodge at Highland Forest in Fabius
Skyline Lodge’s DJ location is right against the wall facing the outdoor ceremony area.

The layout of Skyline Lodge at Highland Forest in Fabius makes it possible to cover outdoor and indoor activities from the ballroom.  There’s just one wall separating the outdoor ceremony space from the indoor reception area, and the DJ table is located against that wall.  Thanks to a nearby window, it’s very easy to run a speaker cable outside so there’s sound on both sides of that wall at the same time.

One speaker outside allows guests to hear the ceremony and the music.  The other speaker stays inside so that (a) guests who don’t want to go outside can still hear everything and (b) there’s no “gap” in audio coverage as guests move indoors from the deck.  Once the outdoor portion of the festivities are over, that outdoor speaker moves inside so we have more volume for the dance floor.

Example of Two Locations, Two Systems

The Beeches in Rome has a beautifully-manicured outdoor ceremony area, but it’s on the opposite end of the building from their ballrooms.  The distance makes two systems necessary.  One system provides your microphones and music for the ceremony.  The other system is in the ballroom, with cocktail hour music underway by the time your guests make their way from one area to the other.

Many other “outdoor ceremony / indoor reception” venues are similar in necessitating two setups, including Borio’s in Cicero, the American Legion in Cicero and Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes.

How About Three Locations?

Click for a larger view
Click for a larger view: Planning the equipment moves for Sara and Bill’s wedding day

Yes, it’s even possible to provide sound in three locations with two systems.

Perhaps the most-frequent location so far has been Wolf Oak Acres in Oneida. Outdoor ceremonies lead into cocktail hour on the upper-level of the barn, and the rest of the reception on the lower level of the barn.  In these cases, System #1 is set-up at the ceremony site, while System #2 is set-up for cocktail hour.  Once the ceremony ends and recessional music is going, I quickly head to the barn.  Cocktail hour music is underway by the time guests enter the space.  Then, I head back to the ceremony site to tear down System #1, move it to the barn’s lower level and set-up again for dinner and dancing.

Pictured at right is my game plan for triple-location weddings at Traditions at the Links in East Syracuse.  System #1 covers the outdoor ceremony space.  Once the ceremony is over, System #2 is ready to handle cocktail hour, while System #1 is torn down and moved to the ballroom for dinner and dancing.  At both venues, this chain of events provides a seamless transition for your guests.

Example of a Close Call

Some venues recommend cocktail hour in the lobby or hallway outside the ballroom.  At a certain time, they make a big “reveal” of the ballroom.  If my DJ setup inside the ballroom is against the wall facing the lobby, we can use one system.  I just run a speaker cable through a doorway to provide music in the lobby.  Similar to the Highland Forest example above, having speakers on either side of the doorway provides for a “seamless” transition.  Once everybody is in the ballroom, that speaker comes in as well, enhancing the coverage for toasts, dinner music and dancing.

However, if the DJ table is on the far end of the ballroom, away from the doors, it’s a different story.  Most ballrooms are too big for a speaker cable to run all the way across and outside.  If the DJ table is across the ballroom, we may need a second system to cover cocktail hour.  That being said, most cocktail hours are OK with just “background music” anyway.  If the venue is already piping Musak into the lobby, you could rely on that, and contract me to start at the time the ballroom opens.

What About Two Different Venues?

As of this writing, I’ve done two weddings where the ceremony and reception were at two entirely different venues.  I have another booked for the coming year.  However, this is not always possible.  I can only be in one place at a time.  I may need access to the reception venue significantly earlier than a DJ would normally arrive.  Some venues are OK with that, some are not.

There also needs to be ample time for me to make the move between ceremony and reception.  Last but not least, this may cost more than simply adding a second system because multiple-venue setups usually require much more prep time than the typical event, and you’re also paying for my time moving between venues.

I always try to work out these details before any quotes are offered or contracts are signed, so there are no surprises later.  As much as I love a challenge and I’d love the business, I know my limits.    If I don’t feel it would be physically possible for me to handle things in both venues, I would let you know.

Not Sure?  Ask!

This post isn’t intended to set forth “rules” for you to figure it out on your own… but just some examples from previous experience.  I’m always happy to discuss your specific plans and circumstances in further detail.  If you’re not sure if your event will require one system or two, let’s talk!

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