This could be the most important review wedding and event photographers ever read. Here's why:
Excessive noise is incredibly damaging to your hearing, and the damage is irreversible. And weddings are LOUD. Really, really loud. If wedding vendors were regulated by OSHA they couldn't show up without massive ear-protecting headphones. And while that might look strange on the wedding day, there are some things that work wonders at different price points:
1: Expensive: You can get all kinds of earplugs specially made for your own ear canal. If you're a musician, maybe you already have them. Great! But the chaos of weddings is tailor-made to lose earplugs, so we have never even considered these (also because the next option is so good)
2: Cheap: Etymotic ETY-plugs. These are sooooooo goood. I, being a geek, have often wondered how Superman's sense of touch works. He can feel incredibly fine detail through super-sensory powers, but he certainly doesn't feel getting hit by a missile in the face more than a normal person. So there must be a threshold where the curve of sensory overload just sort of slopes down to almost a stop. That's what it feels like to wear these earbuds.
You can still easily have a conversation at normal volume. The general sounds of a quiet summer day in the forest are only dampened the tiniest bit. But you can also walk directly in front of a too-loud DJ speaker blasting to a giant concert hall and be OK. In fact, you can hear people speaking at normal volume far *better* in wedding receptions, and the only problem is you have to remember that they can't also hear you unless you yell.
This will not only save you from permanent hearing damage, but it opens up shooting opportunities. On many packed dance floors, the only place to stand is right in front of the speakers, which are so loud even drunk people know they're bad for them. This allows you to get in, out, and around, and all sorts of close angles of dancing that might be otherwise difficult.
Highly recommended, we have bought well over 20 pairs (see the part about not buying expensive ones). But you should also buy:
3: Super cheap ones: The foam earplugs that cost $3 for 20? Keep a bunch of those in your bag. Because it's easy to lose plugs and too important to even go one job without. But if you do…
4: Free: Because your hearing is crucial, take care of it even if you have no other option. Go to the bar, get a paper napkin. Tear off half, and then tear that in half. Take those strips, fold them over, dampen them very slightly … and put them in your ears. They should be large enough to fill the canal and also to be able to easily pull out again.