There’s a reason that politicians use teleprompters whenever the TV cameras are on: nobody wants their view obstructed by an unsightly piece of technology, or script, or anything else that detracts from the image. The same rule applies to weddings, and the last thing your photographer wants is an industrial-sized microphone blocking his or her view.
That’s why a lot of couples opt for something a little different… but this is really a technology question, so what’s the right fit for you?
The question of whether to use a microphone and if so, what type of microphone comes up often in the discussion of wedding ceremony logistics. Whether you or the couple making the arrangements for the microphone, or it’s the friend or family member who has been asked to perform the ceremony who is in charge of figuring out the sound system, here are the standard options and our thoughts in regards to each.
Old School: There are a couple scenarios where not using a microphone is fine, such as an elopement where it is just the couple, or for a ceremony with a small number of guests (about 15 or less). The reason we recommend using a microphone in almost all other scenarios is that it is very tough to project your voice (talk very loudly) and still convey the emotion of the words in the wedding ceremony.
...can you hear me now?
Nobody wants to hear the bride yelling her vows.
The guests wants to hear the ceremony, and with all the effort that you are putting into your ceremony, you want everyone to hear it without straining. Also, if the couple is reading their vows and/or doing a ring exchange, some guests will miss what is being said in the absence of some form of amplification.
The Standard Setup: A handheld microphone (wired or wireless) can work, but it can be challenging. If this is the only option, it can work, but most officiants find it difficult to hold the microphone and their ceremony script. Then, add in the rings and other ceremony pieces, and this can be a recipe for disaster.
On the positive side, a handheld microphone can be held out during the wedding ceremony when the couple is reading their vows, and exchanging rings. This setup does offer a certain mobility, which allows the officiant move around while delivering the ceremony - if practiced.
Now With a Stand: A microphone on a stand (wired or wireless) is a better option since it allows the officiant to put the microphone aside during the ceremony. A good microphone stand also can be turned toward the couple when they are speaking during the wedding ceremony.
The downside is that if the officiant needs to move during the ceremony -- for example, to a table to help with a sand ceremony -- the microphone has to be taken out of the stand, or the stand has to be moved. Also, if the microphone is on a stand, it will be in all of the ceremony pictures.
If using a microphone and a stand, our advice is to make sure the stand can be easily lowered and moved out of the way during important parts of the ceremony.
I Wanna Get Free: Lapel microphones are an increasingly popular and cost effective solution. This is a small microphone that clips onto the officiant's jacket or shirt and is usually the easiest, and preferred option since it is unobtrusive and moves with the officiant.
The downside is that it either has to be held out to pick up the vows, or used in conjunction with a standard microphone (e.g. handheld) so that the couples’ vows and words during the ring exchange can be heard. That, or everyone wears a clip-on microphone. That can get complicated, since most lapel mics run through a receiver/broadcaster, which also has to be clipped to the wearer’s clothes. Good luck making that work with the bride’s wedding gown...
if it's an outdoor ceremony, you're going to need something to help folks hear...
In Conclusion: Now that you’ve had a logistical rundown of your microphone options, what’s the best fit for you?
Our advice is to start with the space and find a solution that offers sufficient audibility and looks appropriate. Consider the ceremony location itself: is it an outdoor park or amphitheater, where even a great public speaker’s voice will get drowned out by ambient noise? Or is it in an indoor ballroom or hall, where sound is contained and already carries well and just needs minor amplification?
But just like everything else, it’s important that you practice and test your equipment. In this case, that means using the microphone during the rehearsal and seeing if it’s possible to hold it out of the camera’s view (as much as possible), or making sure that your clip-on microphone will pick up the couple’s voices properly.
No matter which way you go, remember to have the friend or family member who is officiating the wedding ceremony test the microphone beforehand, and have an idea of how they are going to manage the microphone during the ceremony. Ultimately, if it’s a big space (indoor or outdoor), guests will expect some kind of amplification, and the microphone will look and feel just fine - no matter which one you use.