I was delighted to be invited by Karen Cinnamon, Founder and Editor of Smashing the Glass – Jewish Wedding Blog, to join her in a Live session to her Brides Group, discussing wedding production. When planning and budgeting for a wedding, it is essential that consideration is given to items such as lighting, dance floor, stage and anything else that needs to be either built or hired in for your wedding day. For many people the term production can be confusing and the level of expenditure baffling. Karen invited me to speak to help her brides understand “the what” and “the why” on this subject. Production is something that many of my weddings require – particularly the outdoor overseas destination weddings and the ones where we book a showband with a big line up – so it’s a subject I do know plenty about.

My intention in this guide is to demystify the subject for you; explaining “the what” and “the why” on this subject.

What is meant by wedding production?

Essentially the term wedding production refers to the “build” or design of your event… anything that is not flowers or styling. You might be reading this and thinking that you don’t actually want a highly produced event, but it is important that you understand what it covers in order to decide exactly what you do and don’t need.

It includes lighting, sound, stage, dance floor, carpet, a PA system for your speeches or for your Chuppah, the Chuppah itself, I have even had to build a staircase at a wedding. So, essentially, it is anything else that needs to be brought in and assembled in situ and generally – but not exclusively – it is mainly the technical stuff.

It is called production because like in the movies, someone takes responsibility for managing this process; you might be dealing with one overall production company, but it could involve several different specialist suppliers.
Generally I would advise against going separately to all of these suppliers. If you have a great deal of production going into an event, it’s a complicated process getting it organised, co-ordinated and actioned ahead of the rest of your suppliers coming in to set up. The only exception would be if you have a wedding planner on board in which case the planner might be able to source some of the items directly and co-ordinate the logistics for you, but in truth even with a planner it often works out more cost-effective and practical solution to work with one specialist production supplier.

A bit more about lighting

There are very many different types of lighting with different purposes, and you do need to consider them all.
Firstly, let’s talk about lighting so that you can see! Usually room lighting is in-built at your venue, but what if you are outdoors? On the other hand, if you are getting married in the height of summer in a venue with lots of glass and windows it’s not a concern. More about this later.

Now moving on to specialist event lighting; at its simplest, you could have some uplighters around the room giving a wash of colour, which is always lovely to have for your party or if you are in a room with no natural light. Couple this with perhaps some party lighting (which if you are having a DJ, might be included within the DJ’s package) and you could be done! A note of caution here; uplighters are great for providing colour, but not great for photographers who ideally need to work in natural daylight, or at least not coloured lighting. So make sure you tell your photographer if you are colour washing.

Next we think about additional lighting for ambient and mood lighting – such as pin spots for your tables. Many of our weddings take place during the evening in Ballrooms, so you might look to light the table centrepieces… otherwise, all of the money you have put into flowers won’t be showcased to their best advantage. But if you are having your wedding meal during daylight hours in a room with lots of natural light, then you won’t need pinspots, or necessarily any ambient or mood lighting at all.

I plan a lot of outdoor weddings in Italy. We have to provide lighting for when it turns dark, otherwise no-one would be able to see. And candle light, whilst lovely, just isn’t sufficient. In these circumstances we look at things like fairylight canopies over the tables, or bulb lighting, where bulbs hang on strings which are criss-crossed over the tables. This adds lighting as a function, whilst at the same time being stylish and decorative; equally we might introduce chandelier lighting as we did for this top table at a recent wedding in Italy.

Moving on from ambient/mood lighting to party lighting. Disco lights, moving heads, laser lighting all add to the party experience. They are not essential, but if you are working with a big showband, it tends to go hand in glove with the experience.

And finally, lighting for impact, such as this façade lighting of the outside of a Villa or the logo below which has been projected onto a building and can be done both inside and outside a venue.

When would you need production?

If you are having a wedding with a large number of guests and a big showband, you would absolutely need to provide a stage, a dance floor, sophisticated sound systems, party lighting as well as room lighting. A “Showband” is effectively performing a show for you, and to do so and get the best out of them, you do need to provide everything that goes with putting on a show.

You might also have other requirements for example bespoke furniture, a bespoke bar… this is all part of what we call the production part of your event.

For weddings like this, you can expect to spend probably as much on the production as you are doing on the band.

Do you have to have production?

If you are not having a big showband, then the answer could be no. But you do need to think about the following issues: time of day, when it goes dark what lighting will there be, how will you create your party atmosphere, do you need a stage, or a dance floor or can you easily manage without, do you need a PA system for your speeches ? If having asked yourselves these questions, ou don’t need anything other than a PA system for your speeches, you could get away with spending a tiny amount on this element of your day. But I do ask you to remember that for your party/dancing in particular you will want to create the party mood/atmosphere and this will be best achieved by having some party lighting, even if only a minimal amount.

Why does production have to cost so much and why are my quotes so varied?

As with anything in life, goods may be purchased at differing qualities of material and differing standards of service. Production services are no different in this respect:

  • Lighting – imagine if you will, the lighting in your home; the quality of the output will depend to some degree on how much you spend on the lighting unit, and it’s exactly the same for event lighting. Every single lighting unit that is brought into your event will have a purchase price and then the cost of warehousing, maintenance and delivering to and from the event venue.
  • Stage Specification – take for example stage design; this could be a simple stage block covered with carpet – or even not covered, so it’s just a metal platform, or a purpose built bespoke stage with tiers, mitred edges, stairs etc
  • Dance floors – there will a huge difference in cost between dance floors that are well maintained and replaced when they are scratched or past their best compared with a dance floor from a company who just sends out the same dance floor components year after year with no maintenance or replacement of sections that are past their best
  • The amount of production that is sold to you; so for example do they suggest 20 uplighters, when 10 would do it
  • The number of staff allocated to the event – you should satisfy yourself that the production supplier is going to have a sufficiently sized team working on your wedding on the day. If not, and the set up is not complete in time, this will have an impact on all of your other suppliers and could affect your wedding timings in a worse- case scenario. Setting up a wedding with light, sound, stage and dance floor can be a huge exercise and does require the production team to be on site from early in the day in sufficient numbers. Equally, they need to have a team allocated for the “de-rig” at the end of your event to ensure that the venue is vacated fully by the end of the venue hire period

Do I need to work with the venue’s approved production supplier or the band’s preferred supplier?

It’s not essential that you work with a recommended supplier BUT, in the case of a venue, this might not be negotiable. When dealing with technical matters, a venue will often not be prepared to grant access to an unknown supplier and will insist that you use their recommended or in-house team. But if there is no such stipulation you can shop around, but do make sure that all of the supplier’s equipment has all of the legal certification which confirms it is up to standard and that their practices comply with health and safety policies.

In my opinion, if you are working with a showband, it always makes sense to work with their preferred production supplier if possible, because you know that the two suppliers work well together. But make sure you go through each and every item and satisfy yourself that it is essential. And if ultimately you decide not to go with their preferred supplier, I would advise you to make sure the band is involved in the process as you don’t want any problems on the day. I do a lot of weddings in Italy, and often we bring a UK based band, but use an Italian production company. It might not be the band’s first choice of production supplier, but I make sure that I introduce them and that they work together ahead of the wedding.

If the quote from the preferred supplier is too high, talk to the production company about ways of saving money. This is a much better start point that simply shopping around for the cheapest provider. If you go with an unknown on price, you can’t guarantee the quality (and you can’t mess around when it comes to electrical stuff) and also that they will deliver on the day.

In summary, building your event can take a lot of kit; and a lot of staff working many many hours; always from early in the morning and then again at the end to de-rig after the event with a small team remaining on site to manage the event itself. Plus they are paying huge warehousing costs to store all of their kit, and they should be constantly maintaining it and replacing it with more up to date kit. I do hope this helps to explain the reason for production costing so much and I also hope I have helped to clarify what production is and why you need it.

If you would like to discuss further, please feel free to contact me here or by email at michelle@elegantebymichellej.com or you can call me on + 44 7734 976459.

Photography credits:
David Bastianoni
Claudine Hartzel Photography