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Wedding Noise

Wedding Bell Blues – Turn Down the Noise!

By now anyone with a hearing loss has a good sense of what places pose a risk to their hearing from noise – sports stadiums and arenas, rock and roll and hip hop concerts, construction sites, subways, restaurants, bars and many more. Usually we can avoid noisy places, make adjustments, or simply substitute other venues and activities if the challenge is too great.

I’m going to add wedding receptions to the list. I attended one just this past weekend and it’s too bad. Such joy and family love was evident and shared from the moment the guests arrived.  But by the end of a very long, very loud day and evening despite all the wonderful camaraderie, my date and I were ready to leave. In the course of four hours, I had made more adjustments to my hearing tech and my seating then I could have ever imagined and was frankly concerned about my hearing after dozens of years of being careful. Yet as careful as I was, my ears are ringing today.

I get it. Owners of wedding venues know how to provide everything a couple could want. The entire day is set up to juice the experience with the perfect setting, food and music.

The main dining room at this high-end venue where guests were seated at tables for ten was a perfect storm of poor acoustics. The wooden dance floor from end to end, metal and prefab structures, and the decorated ceiling bore no evidence of buffering in a room that was as tight as a refrigerator with its door closed.

At the front of the room was the DJ standing behind two powerful speakers shouting into a microphone and pumping music from the moment we walked in. I surmised that the volume reflected the DJ’s own hearing loss from being a DJ too long. He was ratcheting up the top and bottom ends which meant unbearable sibilance and heart thumping bass beats that caught your ears in the middle of a deafening combination.

The “noise” never stopped for almost four hours and made the delicious food practically dance off the plate. From the get go, we all reached for our ears and could barely chat with each other unless it was mouth to ear.

As is the case at wedding receptions of course, we were a captivated – and captive – audience, happy to be there for the bride and groom, family and friends, but conscious also of our space and how it was being invaded by noise to an uncomfortable degree.

The different age groups at the wedding reflected at least 50% adults – parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and neighbors who surely understood the auditory onslaught. Yet what could they do about it?

I’ve lived long enough with hearing challenges to not let this go by unannounced. As nicely as I could, I met with the mother of the groom and asked her if she could ask the DJ to turn down the volume but most importantly, to roll off some of the top and bottom ends to be less penetrating. She understood and knew that many others were feeling the same thing. She then met with the DJ and the music cooled for about 30 minutes. But by the time the main course had arrived it was back to ear splitting levels.

Fortunately, there were two outdoor patios and a nearby bar in the hotel to which some retreated after a few token dances and exchanges of pleasantries.

With the noise peaking, the young folks were now dancing and  singing to their hearts content – unaware or ignoring the damage that may have been happening as they savored their time together.

One salient fact was a dead giveaway that the venue was already aware of the wedding bell blues. The women discovered that in the ladies’ room they could get a pair of ear plugs that the venue provided. Oddly, the men were not so lucky. Those ear plugs became very popular very quickly once discovered – until they ran out halfway through the evening.

Planning a wedding and reception? If you want your guests to enjoy the affair and feel comfortable, here are some tips you might want to employ.

How to Ensure Your Wedding Isn’t Too Noisy

  • Check with the venue about the acoustics in the main reception room or wherever the music will be played.
  • Inquire about the structures to see if any noise abatement has been used. Has the venue done a noise meter reading to check how loud it gets during a reception?
  • Ask if there are any noise limits or protocols for the DJ or orchestra/band.
  • Inquire about other rooms or spaces where guests can retreat if it gets too loud. Will people be able to bring their food and drinks with them?
  • Ask the venue to have enough ear plugs for every guest or ask your guests to bring their own.
  • Finally have the DJ take a 15-minute break every hour especially during mealtime.

Yes, you may get some funny looks, but I would tell the proprietors some facts about hearing loss and that their place shouldn’t be an accident waiting to happen for your guests.

And yes, this may sound a little curmudgeonly, for after all, it’s a wedding and a once in a lifetime celebration. But try it anyway. You’ll educate another venue proprietor who just might start to get the message. And that would be good for us all.

To the bride and groom. All the best.

I said “ALL THE BEST!”

Stu Nunnery

Stu Nunnery

Stu Nunnery is a writer, speaker, recording artist and hearing activist. He has recently returned to making music after a 35-year hiatus and presents workshops and performances about his journey with bilateral hearing loss.

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