What’s the Best Microphone to Use for a Wedding?


Two Cents: Help me be heard without breaking the bank

What's the Best Microphone to Use for a Wedding?

Q: Hi APW Crew,

My wedding ceremony is taking place in a small rural community hall with no built-in sound system. I was planning on playing music for the ceremony via iPod through a small stereo that we are bringing to the hall. Then I realized: do I need a microphone so that the guests can actually hear the words of the ceremony? There will be approximately a hundred people in the room and I don’t want them to be struggling to hear! Have any APW readers encountered this situation? What did you do about it? Can you recommend a brand or type of microphone that doesn’t break the bank but still works with a normal portable stereo system?

Thanks!

A: We at APW think you generally need a mic when there’s over, say, 25 people, particularly if you’re outdoors or in a situation with a lot of background noise. This goes double if any of the elders are hard of hearing. You’ll be shocked at how fast a ceremony can turn into, “That seemed really nice… from what I could hear.” Which means, of course, you have to decide on types of microphones (Stick mic? Body mic? Old school mic with a cord?) and figure out how to get your hands on one (renting is awesome).

So, Hive-mind, did you use a microphone for your wedding, and have ideas on renting or buying one that’s pretty easy to figure out? (Maybe you needed one when you chose to DIY YOUR MUSIC?) BONUS: Any stories about which ones to avoid?

If you want the APW community’s two cents, send it to QUESTIONS AT APRACTICALWEDDING DOT COM, and we’ll do our best to crowdsource you some answers!

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  • kelly

    AGREED. I didn’t think we needed a microphone for the ceremony, particularly because the ceremony and reception were taking place in two different spots and I was being cheap and didn’t want to pay for two set-ups, but the DJs really insisted. I can’t imagine the disaster if they hadn’t! I would definitely recommend one if you’re going to have 100 people in attendance.

    • Eenie

      Yes to microphones. People came to your wedding to hear your ceremony. The food, drinks, and celebration is just extra. Don’t spend hours crafting this perfect ceremony and then skip on amplification, or use an officiant who doesn’t know how a microphone works. Test it out before hand. I’ve seen it work really well when the officiant wore a lapel mic (hello, doing most of the talking) and then took it off his collar to hold by the couple while they repeated their vows. So we heard the couple instead of the officiant. It was really nice and one of the best ceremonies I’ve been to because you could hear everything.

      • MC

        We did this, too! It worked great. I’ve been to wedding where people used cordless mics but I liked being able to hold both of my husband’s hands even while we said our vows!

        We did have one cordless mic for the people doing readings – they all did them in a row so they just handed the mic to the next person.

        • Eenie

          Yup. The readings can easily be done with a traditional microphone and/or podium. There’s just something about the couple holding hands, looking in each others eyes, and saying their vows. The lapel mic seemed unobtrusive but let the audience in on that special moment.

  • Chelsea

    We’re just using a regular hand-held mic and renting two nice speakers from Guitar Center for $80!

  • Lawyerette510

    our ceremony was ok without a microphone because it was 50 people gathered in a circle around us somewhere very quiet and our venue had a microphone for toasts for dinner; however, I really regret not renting better speakers for the music for the dance-party part of the reception.

  • Sarah

    I dunno how this is going to work out, but we’re renting a $150 sound system and a $50 lapel mic, picking it up a couple days before the wedding, and dropping it off the day after. The sound guy told me that the lapel mic will pick up what we’re saying better, so we’re putting it on our officiant. This way, we won’t have to put the mic right in front of our mouths (downside of a handheld mic, it has to be really close to your mouth to register).

    We’re setting up the sound system by the ceremony, and then moving it to the dancing area afterwards (but we have a band playing for the first three hours, so the music gap doesn’t matter for us logistically), which our DJ friend will hook into for the music.

    • Eenie

      Yes! I’ve seen lapel mics work really well. When the couple is speaking, you can have the officiant hold it away from their face and closer to the couple. This way the officiant isn’t louder than you, it’ll be the other way around. Test it out during the rehearsal! Have extra batteries!

  • SarahG

    Yes to the mike. SO yes. I’ve been at weddings where people thought it would be fine not to mike, and I couldn’t hear a thing — it’s such a bummer after you’ve spent so long putting the whole thing together (though of course, It Will Be Fine if that happens). If you have a DJ, they might have equipment they can rent you. Ours did — I think it was $75 for a stand mike and he ran the electrics, which was priceless to me to not have to troubleshoot. But you can also rent them cheap — just make sure you test it and have a friend who knows audio or is a techie geek person. You can do it!

  • I actually just bought this PA system for work. We hold lunch & learn events that average about 50 people. They are indoors and if the person speaking isn’t good at projecting their voice (which emotional brides/grooms/etc. tend to have trouble with), we were having trouble with the people further back being able to hear clearly. For $120 and free 2 day shipping with Prime, our problem is solved. It’s easy to use, super portable, and amplifies loud and clear.

    http://www.amazon.com/Hisonic-Rechargeable-Portable-Microphone-Cigarette/dp/B001H42HD6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431446344&sr=8-1&keywords=portable+pa+system

  • Susan

    We rented a PA system and mic from a local music store for about $150 — this was recommended to me as we could get a much better quality system for the same amount of money as dropping $120-150 to buy a system (that we also have no future need for). We actually only ended up using the speakers (to play all of our DIY music) and not the mic because we tested the mic at our rehearsal and found that as long as everyone knew to project while speaking, the acoustics of our (quiet, not windy) outdoor site were good enough for our 75 guests to easily hear.

  • cdn

    Soooo, perhaps this is gauche and inconsiderate, but I really hate the idea (for us) of having a mike during the ceremony. It gives me the vibe of us performing our vows for an audience rather than making important promises to one another. This is, admittedly, from folks who would prefer a private ceremony but couldn’t reconcile that want with the idea of hurting our families. SO. I really can’t imagine saying my vows into a microphone; being that it’s an outdoor ceremony, but in a quiet location, with about fifty people (and the older, hard-of-hearing folks up front) – is it absolutely terrible for us to forgo a mike?

    • Eenie

      Would you be upset if no one but you and your partner heard the ceremony? If the answer is no, don’t get a microphone. But realize that anyone who made effort (travel, vacation days, money, etc) may be disappointed that they couldn’t hear the ceremony. Like others have mentioned, you can get a lapel mic that doesn’t need to be so close to your face.

    • Rowany

      What we did was have our officiants hold the mic for us. It felt much less awkward that way and we could just focus on looking at each other, we didn’t even see the mic in our peripheral vision. Remember that even if the officiant could project without a microphone, he/she would be facing toward the guests; since you’ll be facing each other it’s much less likely to carry unless you face the guests, which is obviously even more performance-like.

    • Amy March

      I really think it is. Sitting through a ceremony that I just can’t hear is boring, sad, and feels extremely inconsiderate.

    • Eh

      Our officiant did not use a mic. She was previously a school teacher so she has a booming voice. (I have seen her do outside ceremonies without one so I wasn’t concerned about her doing ours in a theatre without one.) My husband and I can both be soft spoken so we used a lapel mic on my husband. It wasn’t intrusive since no one was holding it and neither of us noticed it was there so we just acted normal. (plus people couldn’t really see the mic since it was black and my husband was wearing a dark suit.) Even with the lapel mic some people at the back had a hard time hearing me.

    • Alyssa M

      We had a quiet outdoor ceremony with about fifty people, and if you want people to hear, you’ll need something. A way of looking at it that is slightly different than “performing” is that your vows are being witnessed. Just like in most states have to have someone witness signing the license… your people are witnessing those big promises you’re making.

  • MeganW

    Anybody use their phone and a bluetooth speaker? Contemplating this option as we are in a no power location and running out of “room” on our generator.

    • Lauren from NH

      I was just about to ask if there was an app for this…

      • MeganW

        I’ve read good reviews about the megaphone app but haven’t tried it out yet

    • Mandi P

      I would be interested to know this, too…

    • Alyssa M

      I’m a little late commenting here, but that’s what we did for music, and it worked great. However, my husband would not let us use a phone for a Mic because according to him “no phone Mic is ever going to be good enough quality sound for that set up.” He’s a tech guy, not a sound guy, so YMMV.

    • Cashell

      I played around with this idea recently. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get around the feedback. The phone picks up the sound from the bluetooth speaker and you get a feedback loop. Most “real” PA systems have mechanisms to reduce and minimize the feedback.

      It may be possible to work around this, but I couldn’t get it figured out. Luckily, there are speakers and PA systems that run from battery, so if power is your biggest concern, there are options.

  • BeeAssassin

    Definitely yes to the microphone. You’d be surprised how quickly sound drops off after the first two rows of people. Heck, I’ve been to small weddings that were mic’ed and people in the back still couldn’t hear because the speakers were all in the front and weren’t loud enough. We had a DJ for the indoor portion of our wedding, but for our outdoor ceremony and cocktail hour we didn’t want to pay for the extra time and equipment, so we used this bluetooth system from Costco (ION Block Rocker): http://www.costco.com/ION-Block-Rocker-Bluetooth-Portable-Speaker-System.product.100215941.html It worked really well, except if you’re planning to do the bluetooth for walking-down-the-aisle music, make sure the device is close to the speaker or it might cut in and out. Plus we now have a great outdoor speaker for parties!

    • Ally

      I had the same one! Used it with the ipad (via usb) and it worked great for 60ish people outside in a park. Would definitely recommend doing a test run though – the switch between music/mic wasn’t obvious and we had some awkward silence before our recessional!

  • Rowany

    Definitely rent a mic, and even if you get a wireless mic, ALWAYS get a wired mic as backup as part of your package. You don’t know what kind of interference might be happening. Even worse than no sound is the scratches of interference!

  • Megan

    We were leaning away from using a mic and our decision was confirmed when we attended an outdoor wedding a few months before ours and the wind generated so much white noise on the mic that it was (in my opinion) significantly harder to hear than if people had just been projecting their natural voices.
    In the end, we were super glad we opted for no mic, BUT everyone involved in our wedding (us, officiant, readers, singers) were some combination of teachers and/or theater folks, who knew how to reach that last row of the audience.
    I’m sure technology has solved the wind-across-a-mic problem, so I’m just saying that if a mic is the right thing for you, and you’re going to be outside, it seems worth asking a sound person how best to handle the ambient background noise that may also get picked up.

  • ruthiee

    We had a small-ish outdoor wedding and went back and forth about having a mic (whether it would affect the “feel” of the ceremony) and ultimately decided that we wanted people to hear the vows that we had so carefully put together. We felt like the celebration of us started with our ceremony and it was important that people were able to share that with us. We purchased a small PA system from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000CHJTG2/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1) and it worked great! We used it to play our walking down the aisle music and a few songs after the ceremony was over (a friend hit ‘play’ on our iPhones as necessary). Our guests said to us over and over throughout the night how special they thought our vows were and how it made them feel connected to us and understand on a different level how important we were to each other. I was a little uncomfortable talking into a microphone but it ended up being perfect because otherwise my voice was so shaky that I don’t know if anyone would have heard me! And a bonus was that we sold the PA system through Amazon after and were able to recoup most of the original cost. Oh and the mic was barely visible in the photos … in fact I didn’t even think about that until I read this thread, and I went back and looked at the pictures and the mic is not something that jumps out at all (at least to me).

  • Bsquillo

    I figure that most people don’t actually need to BUY a mic if they have no future need for it after the wedding- renting definitely seems like the easier way to go. But in case you are in the market for purchasing something, SM58s are an industry standard, and this package with a stand and cable is a really good deal: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SM58pack

    Bonus: Sweetwater is an awesome audio company and has GREAT customer service where you can speak to actual living and breathing human beings. So if you are looking at purchasing some sound equipment, feel free to call and ask them questions. They’re very helpful!

  • Kelsey

    Maybe I’m an outlier, but we had at least 3 sources of speaker/microphone sets we could have borrowed for our wedding. I’d bet that everyone has someone in their circle with access to free or cheap (think pay the friend of a friend with access to come babysit it for 2 hours on a Saturday) borrowed AV equipment. Musician friends, family that is an active church member, someone who knows someone who owns that local restaurant that has karaoke on Tuesdays. If you don’t need anything super powerful, I’d bet you can find a system.

  • Rowany

    Seattle area people: This is whom we rented sound stuff from. One of the speakers didn’t work but for our small wedding that was fine. They were very responsive, delivered to our door, and gave us a partial refund for the non-working speaker. They probably would have delivered a replacement speakers if we weren’t in the mountains with no cell phone reception. http://www.seattleeventrentals.com/audio-packages/

    We got this package:
    Wireless microphone
    2 Wired microphones
    2 speaker stands
    2 powered speakers http://www.amazon.com/Mackie-SRM450V2-400-Watt-Powered-Loudspeaker/dp/B003552MGC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1376704746&sr=8-2&keywords=Mackie+SRM-450+Speakers
    Hookups for an ipod/laptop
    Mixer http://www.amazon.com/Mackie-402-VLZ3-Premium-4-Channel-Ultra-Compact/dp/B00132EJJW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376704595&sr=8-1&keywords=Mackie+402-VLZ3

  • Michelle

    Late to the party but a sound lady here! Definitely get a mic. If you’re purchasing, an SM58 is the easiest and most reliable. It’s wired so you don’t have to worry about interference. You’ll need the mic, a stand (ask around, I bet a friend has one. Or weirdly, the one that comes with Rock Band works perfectly!), and a cable.

    You’ll definitely want to look at the inputs on the back of your portable sound system. Chances are pretty good that it will only have 1/4″ jack inputs, and microphones have a different type of output. No big deal, you’ll just need to purchase an adapter like this one: http://amzn.com/B0002ZPK5I

    The most important thing in your situation is going to be preventing feedback! The easiest way is simply making sure that the microphone stays behind the speakers. (See rudimentary drawing :) )

    Hope this helps! I’m happy to answer any other questions. :)

  • ML

    I’m sad that many of our guests couldn’t hear us at the ceremony, but unfortunately amplified sound of any kind is not allowed at San Francisco City Hall (unless you’ve rented out the whole space after hours/on the weekend). This is one thing people should keep in mind if they’re thinking about getting married there with more than a few people in attendance (we had close to 100 up in the North Hall). I don’t think it’s common for people to have that many people at their daytime City Hall wedding, but just FYI if you’re considering that option.

  • macrain

    For the ceremony, we had no mic. It was indoors and we had about 80 guests, and everyone was close enough together that no one missed a thing. I checked in with our readers to make sure they were cool with it, and we went with it. I got so caught up thinking we HAD to have one and my DOC suggested we go without, and it worked beautifully. In some cases, you really don’t need it.

  • Amy M.

    We bought this one: http://amzn.to/1GsW3dK

    I got it from Amazon refurbished for about $40 on sale one day, so it’s worth looking for a deal. The reception venue has a sound system and microphone, but we bought this for our outdoor ceremony to make it easier for everyone to hear us and the officiant. Small, portable, and pretty loud.

    The ceremony is the most important part! So if you have a couple extra bucks to spend this is my recommendation.

  • K-Grizzle

    During our rehearsal the night before the wedding (we had a Saturday morning outdoor wedding), my mom wisely realized that we needed a mic. Scrambling, we found somewhere that would rent us a mic in a flash and could be picked up on Saturday morning before the ceremony. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about speakers since we had a string trio playing for the ceremony and they already had a PA system set up, just no mic. We ended up with a wireless mic and stuck it in our officiant’s front jacket pocket. It worked out well- you could hear him, you could hear us, but it would have been a lot better to have planned that out beforehand. I think lapel mics would have been super.

  • Yes, yes, yes. I’m a big believer in microphones! Most people aren’t as loud as they think they are and you’re hard of hearing loved ones want to hear what’s being said.

    One caveat… when I officiate weddings, sometimes I announce that I am speaking to the congregation, but the couple are speaking to each other. So they will definitely hear me, but they might not hear the couple. This works well when everything is repeated.

    Definitely, definitely get a mic for the readers.

  • Karen

    We got a guitar amp (= speaker) at a local thrift shop and a wired microphone from Amazon. It was super clear.

  • Brianna

    Shure SM58 is by far the best choice of microphone. It can survive just about any abuse and is widely used.