As a musician and someone who has been setting up sound systems since the 1960’, I believe Jonathan Mark’s column, “When Did Weddings Get So Loud?” (Nov. 30), misses the most important reasons for decibel surplus which causes a large number of wedding guests to spend the first dance set in the lobby and makes ear plugs an indispensable wedding accessory.
In 1966, my band of five people, including guitar, used a total of 300 watts of amplification. Today’s bands routinely use 2400 to 4800 or more. (The Indianapolis speedway with 100,000 spectators uses a total of 10,000). The reason for increase in wattage is multi factorial but mainly is due to advances in engineering that allow more wattage in less weight.
Keep in mind that the bride and groom and their friends don’t mind the loud music, only the adults do. Compounding the problem is that mixing (a technical process) is often sub optimal at a wedding, making the music seem louder than it really is. Another reason is that there are singers who would sooner give up a kidney than give up the microphone. Hence you have to yell to converse during the non-dance time.
But the main reason is that about 10 to 15 years ago some of the band offices hit on the brilliant idea that if they could sell the client a “sound system” as part of the music package, they not only would make more money, but they wouldn’t have to schlep or set up their own sound equipment which is by far the hardest part of any music job. A double win for them. Prior to that every band brought their own sound system for no extra charge. The outside sound companies use technicians who feel obliged to prove their worth in decibels to the band leaders. A vicious cycle.
So, what good reason is there for literally ear-splitting volume at today’s weddings? None.