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Having worked for many years as full time DJ and professional sound and lighting technician, setting up various sound systems and lighting rigs, over the years I have worked in over several hundred different venues. Regularly I have come across similar situations that are not usually even considered by people when hiring a venue for an event. So I thought I should share with you some of my experiences in the hope that they may be useful to you when hiring a venue for your event.
Guests In Rooms Above The Function Room
The number one thing you should insist on is that the venue you choose does not charge you hundreds, and in many cases, thousands of pounds and then put random people who are not your guests in rooms directly above or adjacent to your function room. They should not be coming in telling you your party is disturbing the other guests, as any good venue will have planned to accomodate both you and their other guests. Otherwise, you can guarantee as soon as your party starts or once it reaches 9:00pm, they will have complaints from residents staying in the rooms above and tell you the music must be turned right down. A lot of these venues simply want to make as much money as possible from you and other guests and so will pay no thought as to who they put above your party, including familes with very young children or even elderly people. Obviously they won't want the noise of music thumping all night and by 9:00pm their children will want to sleep and so naturally will complain about the noise. This should not be your problem, the venue knew this would happen before they even booked the rooms out. They are just being greedy, they decided to accept your booking, charging you for a venue apparently fit for the purpose you booked it for (a party, celebration, wedding reception). They knew you would have music and they are fully aware that the guests above will complain. So you need to get tough and ensure they don't ruin your big day, just because they want to make an extra £80.00 or so per room from a few extra people. They will often try to tell you it's OK as long as the music is kept to a reasonable level, but what is reasonable for them more than likely won't be reasonable for you. You would be best advised to look for a venue who will put you and your priorities first and not theirs.
It is worthwhile checking that the main lighting in your chosen venue is controllable so that it can be dimmed when the entertainment starts. Some village halls, for example, have a bank of fluorescent strips which are either all on or all off. This can make it difficult to create the right ambiance. If the venue has dimmers check that your venue will dim the lighting to a realistic level as some will insist on quite high levels of lighting citing "Health & Safety" reasons. Also bear in mind that inside a marquee at the height of summer it will remain very light until late into the evening. Some marquee companies are starting to offer a blackout area around the dance floor, sometimes enhanced with twinkling lights which works very well. Also check that venues with curtains or blinds, will actually block out daylight. If the event starts in the early evening and too much daylight is coming in, it can ruin the atmosphere of the first few hours of the party.
Installed at some venues but not always brought to your attention when booking, are sound level limiters. These work by measuring the level of sound in the room in decibels (db) if a predetermined sound level is reached, the power to the stage area is cut off automatically and will need to be reset. Whereas most of these limiters are professionally installed and don't usually present a problem, I have come across a few venues that have these devices set so sensitively, that the output volume of the sound system or disco has to be set so low to avoid the power cutting out, that it simply spoils the event. If a sound limiter is installed at a venue it is worthwhile asking to go along to an event so you can check for yourself that sound levels are to your satisfaction. Do this later in the evening at around 10pm when you would expect things to be in full swing. It's a good idea to ask the DJ or technician if they have had any problems with the system. Some sound systems and discos will actually refuse bookings at these types of venues because sudden cutting off of the power supply can cause damage to certain equipment such as computers used to control lighting or computers that are used to play music because a full system reset and drive scan is usually required and this can take around 2-10 minutes to get the music or the lighting working again.
Many lighting effects used by DJs and entertainers these days are of a scanning beam or laser type much as you will have seen on programmes such as the X Factor and numerous other entertainment programmes. You will notice that you can see multicoloured beams sweeping around the venue. The main reason you can see these beams is that there is an almost invisible artificial haze being generated into the air by use of a hazer or smoke machine. Without such a device being used, these beam effects would be minimal and you would only see patterns on the walls, ceiling and floor thus losing these dramatic room filling effects. Some venues ban the use of smoke or haze machines for fear of triggering a smoke alarm, banning is usually the simplest solution for them. However, it can sometimes be possible to disable a specific area's smoke detectors and still remain within fire safety regulations (manually operated "Break the Glass" alarm triggers would remain operational). The problem is most venue managers either don't know how to do this or are reluctant to pay for an engineer to do this safely for them, but if pressed, some venues will put a bit more effort into accommodating your wishes and possibly learn something they didn't know themselves!
It is always worthwhile asking for a bar price list prior to booking your venue, particularly if it is a hotel function room. A lot of people have been quite shocked at the prices their guests have been expected to pay for a drinks. The cost of hiring of the venue may have been a little cheaper, but the extra cost per drink that your guests are paying for can spoil the event. I have even observed several hotels charging higher prices in the function room than they do in the main hotel bar. Once this was discovered by the wedding party at one particular event, it led to most of the guests leaving the function room and heading down to the main bar leaving the function room and disco with just a handful of people!
Upstairs function rooms can cause problems for elderly guests and can be a hindrance to the entertainment, the DJ will have to carry all the equipment upstairs, this can be quite a task if they have a lot of equipment. You may think this is no concern of yours, but often the DJ will know the venue and will know that it involves a lot of hard work moving the equipment upstairs and so they will usually add more to the price because of this.
Although most people do consider this, they can forget that when you have a hotel that's full of residents and a function room with 200+ guests, the car parking facilities may not meet the demand, this could lead to some of your guests having to pay for 4-5 hours car parking fees or end up walking quite some distance to find a suitable place to park.
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