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What Does a Boston Wedding DJ Cost, and Why? And Related Issues with Other Wedding Vendors

More and more “professional” green-thumbed (and often part-time) DJs enter the Boston wedding marketplace each and every day, armed with hard drives of music freshly copied from their friends or the Internet, gleefully ready to showcase for you brides and grooms their months of seasoned experience, and anxiously beating up very trustworthy and reputable, truly professional DJs, on the basis of pricing. As such, I feel it is my duty as one of the latter-referenced professionals to help educate you, the bride and groom, or family member or friend assisting in the planning process, on what genuinely goes into a genuine professional’s performance, and what the real end-of-the-day fiscal takeaway is for your DJ (or other wedding vendors, for that matter) after all the hard work is finished.

I’ve been a full-time DJ in the Greater Boston wedding (as well as corporate and private event) market for more than two and a half years now. I was part-time for more than eight years prior to 2010. Making this switch, from operating in a part-time capacity while working a steady 9-to-5 during the week, to putting everything — especially my family’s financial well-being — on the line, was and remains to be an often risky and scary proposition.

I am proud to run my own small business. I am proud of the services I provide, the vast majority of my customers are a joy to work with and for, and the testimonials I receive from brides and grooms (and their parents and other family members and guests alike) drive me to keep doing what I am doing. I’m even more proud to say I’ve managed to grow into a full-time venture despite a down economy. But I cannot say it has been easy, or will grow much easier moving forward. As I mentioned earlier, there has been quite a lot of competition lately, mostly on the basis of vendor pricing.

Let’s get down to brass tacks: dollars and cents. Most truly professional wedding DJs nowadays in the Greater Boston and Massachusetts markets, are charging in the range of $1,200 to $4,000+ per wedding for their packages, all depending of course on many details, including but not limited to: venue, travel, size of wedding, time of year, date, last-minute scheduling availability, length of day’s events (number of hours), specific setup complexity and requirements, and specific services needed or requested such as number of system setups for ceremony, cocktail hour, and the main reception area, dance floor lighting, uplighting, photo booths, slideshow services, and more.

Not even being specific to weddings, have you ever overheard someone say (or even said yourself), “Where does this guy get off charging so much to play music off a laptop for a few hours?”

First off, so you know from the start, when a full-time career wedding DJ receives a check from you for all the time and effort put into your wedding day, he or she does not run to the bank, cash the check,  abandon all of life’s responsibilities (including paying taxes and bills), and jump on a plane to the Bahamas for a week in the sun.

Hypothetically, let’s say that the professional DJ you have hired has quoted you the minimal $1,200 for a bare-bones five-hour wedding package, which you feel is reasonable. You actually shopped around, and in the process, turned down a few other folks quoting $1,500, $1,700, $2,000. Let’s presume this is the DJ’s career and sole means of surviving — how he takes care of his family, feeds and clothes his kids, pays his mortgage. While most people with a 9-to-5 job have a steady paycheck year-round, hopefully and generally have half-decent health benefits, paid sick and vacation time, and a basic company-matched retirement plan, many professional wedding DJs in the Boston area do not enjoy these “luxuries,” including the DJ you’re hypothetically hiring here.

In addition, these DJs do not usually have five or six available days to work each week, in order to make a decent year’s wages; it is more like only a couple of “bread-and-butter” days (i.e. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays). [Note: This is not to say these are the only "work days" for the DJ, which we'll discuss a bit later.] So, even if the wedding DJ was fortunate enough to book a wedding on every weekend date, it would be a maximum of 156 bookings per year — which, so you realize straight away, never happens, especially in New England, considering only a brave few decide to marry during the potentially treacherous winter months, and most couples avoid getting married on or near certain other dates, such as Thanksgiving, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Easter, etc. Also playing a role in a limited number of potential wedding dates for a DJ: many couples wind up choosing the same handful of most popular dates each year, which are usually Saturday evenings, holiday weekends, and quirky dates like 10-11-12, or 9-10-11.

The DJ pays higher taxes right off the top: 9-to-5’ers pay 50% of the Social Security and Medicare pool contributions while their companies put in the other half; this is not true for sole proprietors, who pay 100% of those taxes themselves. So, the $1,200 paycheck comes in, and 30-35% goes right to estimated tax payments. So, now the “big payday” is down to, say, $780. This DJ then needs to put aside a small piece, toward his own retirement planning, because no one else will help with that: let’s call it only a minimal 5% (read: not enough).  Now, the score is $720. He hasn’t yet paid his even modest monthly advertising bills, monthly liability and disability insurance premiums, monthly website expenses, monthly equipment purchases and maintenance expenses, and other expenses related to the wedding services he’s providing you (e.g. $35 for a roll of extra wide tape to ensure your guests don’t trip on any wires and get hurt; $15 to get the tuxedo dry cleaned; the $25-$60 in gas, tolls, and lofty Boston parking garage fees; $10 on fresh reliable high-end batteries for the wireless microphone on which your best man and maid of honor will deliver their toasts;  $5-$25 on unique to your day mp3 purchases, and more). This is not an exhaustive list by any means. For the sake of argument, the DJ is now taking home just under $450, and needs to help run the house hold, and finally try to squeeze out a few bucks left somewhere to actually spend on something fun and leisurely.

Something to bear in mind: this may have been his only booking of the week. This is not to say he did not bust his behind on the other days: the methods he employed to help you find him in the first place; the time he spent on meeting you, helping you feel comfortable during the initial conversations and booking process, via phone calls, emails, and/or in-person meetings; the time he spent during the weeks leading up to your big day, helping you plan the flow, your music, your tastes and preferences; the time he took to reach out and coordinate everything with your other vendors; the time to load his vehicle the day of your wedding, hours before he plays the first song; the time traveling to your venue, loading in, setting up, on hands and knees taping wires across the floors, sound checking, all, again, hours before the first announcement is made or song is played.

Then, it’s show time, and your DJ musters every bit of experience and confidence he has, to strive to justify the immense trust you have placed in him for making the biggest day of your life, absolutely perfect — this is a pressure few people may ever experience in their 9-to-5 job.

After five or six or seven hours of giving his all to you and your guests, everyone heads home (or continues the after-party, hopefully!) — well, everyone except the DJ. He remains up to an hour after your party ends, packing up, staying later than even some of the catering/wait staff, and then getting ready for the seemingly long night-ride back home.

If you chose a career self-employed photographer, videographer, wedding planner, florist, or other vendor, please keep in mind that in many respects, the time and care spent on your wedding day (and for some, like photographers and videographers, the hours and hours of post-production time spent after your wedding day, too!), and the subsequent final financial benefit to the professional, are similar to those I’ve expressed above.

So, please take care to be conscious of all that will go into your wedding day, and while understanding the budgeting concern we all share, remember how valuable your chosen vendors will be one of the most important days of your life — please try to do right by them. (And my wife just told me to add a final note, based on many conversations she’s had with me over the years: a hand shake and sincere eye-to-eye “thank you” at night’s end goes a very long way!)

For more information, or to connect with me further:

http://www.DJJohnDudley.com
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/john-dudley/21/811/39a
http://www.youtube.com/user/DJJohnDudley
http://local.weddingchannel.com/Wedding-Vendors/DJ-John-Dudley-Entertainment-Wedding-Reviews?ProfileId=406669
http://www.weddingwire.com/reviews/dj-john-dudley-entertainment-chelsea/8964866f08b90265.html

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Chris & Dinah’s Picture Perfect Outdoor Wedding in Concord, MA

On the first Saturday of September, on the historic, lush green grounds of The Old Manse in Concord, MA, Christian and Dinah were set to be married. For a couple who together appreciated the outdoors and all it had to offer, this was the perfect site for their wedding day. The gravel drive brought you to the front doors of the modest home where famous American philosophers Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau did some of their finest thinking and writing. Adjacent was the white tent topped with sails waving joyfully in the light breeze, under which the couple’s wedding guests would enjoy an evening of food, music, and celebration. Down the soft path to the lower yard we went, strolling between small apple trees, arriving at a fairytale ceremony site, stream and antique boathouse in the rear, set in the foreground with a large stone, representing the strong foundation on which this marriage was being built. Just steps beyond lay the site of the first shots of the American Revolution. The sun was bright; the air was fair.

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An instrumental duo provided soft music for the ceremony, and we provided the Justice of the Peace, and the couple’s guests, with wireless microphones.  Two features of this ceremony were unique to me, and I loved them both. First, the Justice of the Peace passed the wedding bands to a guest and asked they be passed around to each person in attendance and that everyone make a prayer or wish for the couple. Also, later in the ceremony, an opportunity was presented to the guests, in which they could share aloud a story or well-wishes for the couple. It was great to see so many people have the confidence to speak and make the ceremony that much more special and memorable for Dinah and Chris.

Following the ceremony, guests partook in cocktail hour on the lower lawn, as the bride posed for photos in the nearby field, the sun’s rays complementing her lovely complexion. Up the hill and under the tent, the final touches were put on the dinner and dancing area. Once everyone was there and seated (greeted by “lobsters” at their seats!), the bride and groom themselves were introduced grandly into the tent, to a long round of applause, and made their way to the dance floor for their first dance to “Moves Me Deeply” by Will Kimbrough. We then introduced the Father of the Bride for a welcome toast, who in turned brought up his new son, the groom, who introduced the rest of the head table himself (and did a tremendous job!).

Dinner music was a mix of the couple’s love for blues, classic country, and bluegrass, including a set of bluegrass cover tunes of classic rock songs that we found. This wedding was a bit offbeat, and in following suit, so was the cake cutting ceremony – they actually did a pie ceremony, with several flavors of freshly baked goodness from a farm just down the road in Concord! We helped them find the perfect song: “Country Pie” by Bob Dylan. After a joint parents’ dance, the dance floor opened up, the party went strong for several hours into the night, and the guests were able to indulge in the delectable baked treats. The last song of the night, “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, was a real hit – an upbeat song with a very sentimental touch.

Big thanks to the bride and groom, Dinah and Chris, for letting us be a small part of their big day. Shout outs to the day-of wedding coordinator Karen Murphy of Celebrations by Karen F. Murphy (http://www.celebrationsbykfm.com), Becky and crew at East Coast Grill (http://eastcoastgrill.net), photographer Matt Grazier (http://www.grazierphotography.com) who took photos a million times more amazing than those we took and display here, Sperry Tents (http://www.sperrytents.com), pie provider Verrill Farm (http://www.verrillfarm.com), and of course, the managers of The Old Manse.

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2012 Spring Weddings Recap (Part 3)

Nothing But a Party Crowd at Coco Key Hotel & Water Park Resort in Danvers, MA

Married about a year beforehand, Vickie and Paul were looking very much forward to a second ceremony, and more importantly a great party, for their family and friends. On a warm Friday evening in mid-May, they did just that. Following a lovely vow renewal ceremony, including a purple and jade (the day’s colors) sand ceremony, inside the spacious and gorgeous library of the hotel, it was off to the ballroom for the celebration.

The musical tastes of the couple were eclectic: Rat Pack and other upbeat lounge tunes for cocktail hour, and a mix of country, line dances, top 40, 90’s hip hop, and 90’s boy bands (for the bride, of course) during the reception. I lead an interactive centerpiece giveaway during dinner, which had folks dancing around the tables to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” — and the cameras were a-snapping!

The bride’s ceremony processional song was Nick Lachey’s “This I Swear.” The bridal party was grand introduced to “Give Me Everything” by Pitbull, with the bride and groom entering to “Marry You” by Bruno Mars. The cake cutting song was “Stuck Like Glue” by Sugarland. There was both a bouquet and garter toss, and the last song of the night was “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks, where all the guests got in a big circle, swayed and sang.

Note: The CoCo Key Resort is currently undergoing renovations and will be re-opened as the DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore in the fall of 2012.

Venue/Catering: Stefanie McCowan, http://www.cpbostonns.com/
Photography: Barbara Lynch, http://www.barbaralynchphoto.com
Photo Booth: Photo Fun Box, http://www.photofunbox.com
Uplighting: DJ John Dudley Entertainment, http://www.djjohndudley.com

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2012 Spring Weddings Recap (Part 2)

A Classy Yet Fun Affair at the Commander’s Mansion, Watertown, MA

In late April, Natalie Wu and Josh Levine joined hands in marriage, celebrating inside a historical home in Watertown. There were beautiful sites to be seen by guests as they arrived, from paintings, to classic furniture, and even a large projector screen that I provided, on which photos of the bride and groom scrolled along during cocktail hour, to the tunes of upbeat lounge music and upbeat pop songs from various decades.

There was no grand entrance for this couple, who enjoyed socializing with their guests the entire day. Toasts took place in a lovely spot, on the grand staircase, and dinner service took place upstairs in various rooms of the house. Later, downstairs, the couple performed their cake cutting ceremony to “The Sweetest Thing” by U2. Dancing commenced after that, and soon it led into a Hora, a celebratory circle dance in the Jewish tradition. The bride and groom, both seated in chairs, were raised up in the circle’s center by their strongest guests as everyone else danced around them. Guests really let loose as the night went on, ending on a high note, singing loudly in a tight circle to “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey.

Photography: Amanda Ambrose, http://www.amandaambrose.com
Florist: Chaba Florists
Venue Coordinator: Rae Grassia, http://www.commandersmansion.com/
Catering: Beth Heller, http://www.eastmeetswestcatering.com

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2012 Spring Weddings Recap (Part 1)

Cinco de Mayo Celebration at the Hilton Boston Logan Hotel, Boston, MA

On May 5, Alison MacDonald and Miguel Nieto tied the know in very festive style! In the spacious ballroom foyer, just at the top of the popular never-ending escalato, the bride and groom celebrated the marriage with family and friends to the sight and sounds of a full Mariachi band during cocktail hour.

After the bridal party’s grand entrance into the ballroom, guests were entertained by the bride and groom in their first dance as husband and wife, a custom mix I made for them, between Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are” and a classic Merengue track, Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente.” There were two “Best Men” and two “Maids of Honor” who proposed toasts before dinner service. Music during the night featured hits from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and today’s Top 40, along with new and classic Merengue and Salsa songs and artists.

Mariachi Band: http://www.mariachiinternacional.net
Photographer: Will Mann, http://www.wmannphotography.com
Uplighting: DJ John Dudley Entertainment, http://www.djjohndudley.com
Function’s Wedding Planner: Samantha Bevilacqua, http://bostonlogan.hilton.com

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The Passionate-Red Themed Vietnamese Wedding of Thuy & Kevin at Marriott Boston Long Wharf

On the evening of Saturday, February 25, 2012,Thuy and Kevin, both of Vietnamese descent, tied the knot and celebrated their marriage at the Marriott Boston Long Wharf.

The cocktail hour of the reception took place in the hotel’s conjoined Constitution, Faneuil, Beacon, and Haymarket rooms, overlooking the pier and New England Aquarium. Guests arrived to the laid back sound of our smooth jazz mix, and were invited to sign a traditional Vietnamese banner scroll in lieu of a guest book.

As guests mingled in the cocktail lounge, we and the exemplary staff at the Marriott put the very final touches on the recently renovated – and magnificent – Harborview Ballroom. The wedding featured red décor, from the uplighting to linens to chiffon chair pads to rose-filled centerpieces and even backlit DJ booth. As the sun went down over Boston Harbor, the room glowed with warmth and richness.

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Entering the ballroom to a bit of traditional Vietnamese instrumental music, guests awaited the grand entrance of the parents and bridal party. Because the bride and groom wished to have most of the introductions spoken in Vietnamese (to accommodate all those who traveled from afar for the wedding!), the groom’s older sister Vivian assisted with the intros. After the wedding party and couple were announced, the family made a point to recognize the siblings and several other important family members in the crowd, which was such an atypical and nice touch.

Toasts and dinner got underway. During dinner, the two sets of table centerpieces were given away. The smaller pieces were awarded to whoever had a penny under their charger plate. The larger rose pieces? Those were awarded to the folks who knew the couple best, via trivia questions provided by the matron of honor. I ran around the room like Richard Dawson on Family Fued, the numerous answers so hilariously incorrect!  After that fun came the cake cutting ceremony, set to the tune of Harry Connick, Jr.’s “Recipe For Love.” The cake was actually an arrangement of three different sized white frosted cakes donning red embellishments, atop thin golden metal pedestals of different heights. The couple was quite neat during the ceremony!

During dessert, the bride and groom shared in their first dance together as husband and wife to a wedding favorite, Etta James’s “At Last.” [Note: traditionally, the couple’s first dance often takes place either immediately following their grand entrance, or as this couple chose, following dinner to kick off dancing.] Following that, the couple simultaneously shared a dance with their respective mothers, to an older Vietnamese song entitled “Long Me” (Y Van). Quite beautiful, both in tune and meaning (find the song and translated lyrics on YouTube).

From there, it was a full-on dance party. The house lights dropped and the party lights got turned on. A little bit in the action, the bouquet was tossed to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” and we even played a couple of fun games (again, at the planning of the matron of honor), which were actually really fun and funny. The first was recruiting five male contestants including the groom, to stand on chairs, pull up their pant legs, and let a blind-folded bride wearing dishwashing gloves try to identify her new hubby only by the obstructed feel of his shin and calf muscle. Then, it was vice versa. It’s important to note that both bride and groom identified their mate!

The next game was set to severely embarrass both of them, as Kevin stood on chairs for the entire room to see, as Thuy ran a hard-boiled egg up one pants leg and back down the other as quickly as possible (having quite a bit of trouble at the halfway point!). And the crowd went wild!

We got everyone back to the dance party after this, there was an impromptu congo line started by the groom, and then before we all knew it, the party was at its end. The final song of the night was selected by the couple: “When You Got a Good Thing” by Lady Antebellum. All the remaining guests circled around the married couple as they danced.

A great night was had by all, including me. A big thanks and congratulations to Kevin and Thuy for inviting me to be a part of their special day. Thanks and shout out to Sonja and the always can-do (and punctual!) staff at Marriott Boston Long Wharf. Everyone, enjoy the photos from the celebration.

[This wedding experience was shared by full-time Boston-area wedding specialist, DJ John Dudley. You can find more information, tips, ideas, testimonials, videos, photos, and more at http://www.DJJohnDudley.com, http://www.YouTube.com/user/DJJohnDudley, on Facebook (DJ John Dudley Entertainment), and on Twitter (@thebostondj). We welcome your questions, comments, needs for wedding advice, etc.]

Our Massachusetts Wedding Retrospective, Part 3: The Ceremony

In a miraculous move by Mother Nature, the humidity remained as we approached and reached the parish steps, but the rain stopped altogether. The precipitation even held out for the bridesmaids and my bride, though the bus driver had an umbrella open and ready, just in case a deluge struck between the sidewalk and the safety of the parish foyer.

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I sweated things out in the sacristy with my best man as guests and the rest of the bridal party arrived. Rays of sunshine even began to glide in through the stained glass window portrait of some saint or another. Those beams, along with some reassuring words from my oldest friend, helped keep my peace. We posed for a few photos, when suddenly my best man’s fiancée came hustling into the holy apartment, my smart-phone in hand. Apparently, the nurse tending to my father-in-law decided to make an incoming call to us on Skype, instead of awaiting our planned outgoing call to her. It was mere minutes before the start of the ceremony, and now we could not figure out how to navigate the circumstances. We could see her, but she couldn’t see us; and, we could hardly hear her through a lagging cell signal and poor (yet expected) audio. The priest somehow deciphered the nurse’s words; we ended the call, dialed the hospital room back, and all was well!  We were so pleased to see and greet my new dad, who was decked out in a crisp white tuxedo shirt and berry bowtie, matching the rest of the wedding party. With that, our friend flew back into the main room, to grant our dad a quick hello to all of our friends and family, and then a much anticipated view of the grand procession, his daughter and wife walking down the aisle, arm in arm.

The church organ was brilliant; the bridal party walking past the lacey white pew bows with vibrantly colored bouquets, lovely; our flower girl, precious, and more so, thorough. (As she reached the front pew, and her daddy, she turned the basket upside-down. Then, upon not being satisfied where the final petal dropped, she bent down, picked it up, and tossed it once more. At that point, daddy pulled her off the runway and into the pew.) I stood there in awe as my stunning, classic-looking bride approached, bright white bouquet of spider mums in hand, veil in hair. (My guests continue to tell me how large of a smile I wore at that time.)

The Mass began. Under the meticulously painted dome over the altar, our readers – Alison’s oldest childhood friend, her uncle and cousin (a bridesmaid), and my aunt – kicked off the services. Alison and I had handpicked much of the wedding ceremony liturgy, with some support from our priest. We chose to include a Unity Candle ceremony in our services. Some parish priests allow this, others do not; you need to ask for permission. We were very glad we were granted the opportunity. In the Catholic tradition, the candle, or rather its flame, is a symbol of Christ, the light of the world. Our mothers approached the altar and ignited the individual flames Alison and I would later use in our part of the ceremony. When the time came, after our vows and rings were exchanged, we took our individual candles and lit the larger center candle, symbolizing our separate lives being joined together, and extinguished the separate lights of the side candles.

Our best man and maid of honor came close as we exchanged our vows; as we did, in complete honesty, more sunshine poured in through the long stained glass windows. [If you haven’t read our earlier post, our custom vows are copied here for your convenience. They were written by yours truly, two nights prior, in approximately 20 minutes:

John/Alison, my best friend and partner,

You love me, and I, you.
You inspire me to be a better person.
You inspire me to change the world.
You remind me to care for myself.
You remind me to breathe.
You are imperfect, but you try your best.
You forgive readily, and are always forgiven.
You accept me for who I am, and you make me stronger.
You are my rock in times of frustration and sorrow.
You are the light of my day.

These things I promise in our marriage together;
I commit to progress, not perfection.
I commit to strength in God, our family, and friends.
I commit to the practice of patience, listening, passion, and compassion.
I commit to be true to you, in good times, and in bad.
I commit to care for you, in sickness and in health.
I commit to love and honor you all the days of my life.]

For other couples getting married in the Roman Catholic Church, yours vows are something else you will need to review in advance with your priest. To clear up any confusion: you may be allowed to write your own, or you may be denied that opportunity. It is up to the discretion of the individual priest. However, if you do receive the go-ahead, you must include certain standard points (for example, faithfulness in sickness, health, wealth, poverty, etc.) in your language, and again, have it all reviewed by the priest. The Church does not offer much, if any, leeway on those points.

My best man took the rings from his pocket, worried even more they would fall from his hands, after the priest sprayed a generous amount of Holy Water on them. They did safely make it to our fingers instead of the floor, and we finished the ceremony with a tear or two in each of our eyes. Our friend continued to roam the parish with my cell phone, capturing the ceremony from all angles, for the viewing pleasure of our dad. We often peered over to dad by way of the video call, waving and smiling, and our guests did the same.

After a very heartfelt and meaningful sermon, an extended period of ‘sharing peace’ (Alison and I kissed or shook hands with every member of our large wedding party), and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we arrived at another blessed concession by our priest. He had allowed us to invite two members of our family (Alison’s cousins — one, a piano player; the other, a vocalist) to perform a rendition of Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” as our post-Communion meditation music. I still sing or hum the song to this day, more than a month later, on a regular basis. The performance really stole our breath away, and we will never forget it.

Finally, the Mass had ended, and it was time to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” The cell phone and Skype call made a final pass around the audience, and our dad and guests waved goodbye to each other. (The phone battery died just as the Mass ended!) The church organ cued up. Alison and I were beaming ear to ear and practically skipped down that aisle. Our bridal party followed us to the back of the church, and immediately back to the front again. We had planned to take a few formal bridal party shots, and then photos with Alison’s side of the family, with our photographer at the parish. We had arranged to pose for photos with my family once we arrived at the reception hall. We were in a race against daylight and anticipated late-day thunderstorms, to snap photographs outside there, overlooking the valley.

In the fourth and final installment of Our Wedding Retrospective, it is party time. Get ready to learn of great ideas for fall-themed centerpieces, slideshow setups, drink specials, and much more!

——————-

[This Wedding Diary is written by full-time Massachusetts wedding specialist, DJ John Dudley. You can find more information, tips, ideas, testimonials, videos, photos, and more at http://www.DJJohnDudley.com , http://www.YouTube.com/user/DJJohnDudley , on Facebook (DJ John Dudley Entertainment), and on Twitter (@thebostondj). We welcome your questions, comments, needs for wedding advice, etc.]

Our Massachusetts Wedding Retrospective, Part 2: Pre-Ceremony

Somehow, following a long, raucous post-wedding rehearsal dinner at the local Polynesian pop-spot, Hu Ke Lau, I still wake up bright and early in our master suite at the Hampton Inn Chicopee, with two of my groomsmen stirring in the adjoining room. Through our negotiations with Sandy at the hotel, we had procured one of the hotel’s two master suites for our wedding weekend, for two nights, one of which was complimentary (a stipulation we set with the sales manager, upon our block of rooms selling out), the second of which was at the discounted rate we arranged for our guests’ standard rooms. [Note: A friend of mine in the hotel industry in Boston once told me that it costs a hotel approximately $17 per night to maintain most rooms, so when you bargain for a hotel block for wedding, be polite but hard-nosed, as now you know the whole story.] Some of the guys stayed with me, while some bridesmaids stayed over at my mother-in-law’s house with my bride.

That morning, after a complimentary breakfast at the hotel (something other local top-brand hotels in the area did not offer), I took off with the maid of honor to receive the manicure my mom-in-law had so lovingly and readily booked for me. This was only the second ‘mani’ of my life, accepted only slightly less reluctantly than the first. As we ventured out we encountered rain, and according to the Weather Channel, we could still expect a solid sixty percent chance of rain well into the early evening. We kept our fingers crossed. Rain aside, we had other issues that weighed on our minds, namely Alison’s father, who was now guaranteed to miss the entire wedding day due to the status of his health. He found himself bed-ridden in the intermediate care unit of the hospital instead of rightfully by his daughter’s side at the altar. (Although both Alison and I were raised Roman Catholic and still practiced our faith, a church marriage was one of the few wishes her father and mother held most dear.)

The fantastical thoughts and discussions I had shared with Alison and family the few days leading up to this one now turned more pressing and realistic: What if I could set up a Skype teleconference between that isolated hospital room and the warm interior of St. Stan’s? After the salon appointment, I, with the support of my best man, his fiancée, and my new cousin-in-law, ventured to my new dad’s bedside. We had many concerns, including being able to tap into the hospital’s restricted wireless signal, positioning the laptop so that everyone could see one another later in the day, properly instructing and trusting hospital staff to operate the program and accept the incoming call when the time came, and of course, ensuring that my father-in-law would be found fashioned in the crisp white tuxedo shirt and berry bowtie we brought along with us. (The man had always been an impeccable dresser, and we would certainly not have this day be different from any other.)

With the grace of God, everything worked out at the hospital, and again with His grace, the same would happen when my best man’s fiancée called the laptop from the Skype application on my Evo 4G inside the church at 3:25pm. I could not thank her enough as she offered to walk around the altar and crowd during the Mass, connecting the world of that hospital room and the world of the wedding. We made our way back to the hotel with safety in mind, as we encountered yet another flash downpour.

After returning to the hotel in the early afternoon with an unnatural sheen to my finger caps and a glowing optimism toward my new father being able to virtually attend the wedding, following one quick check-in phone call to my lovely bride, I did what was natural to me in times of growing pressure: I chatted with anyone and everyone (read: procrastinated). At some point – only an hour before the limo bus was to arrive and transport my groomsmen and me to St. Stanislaus Basilica – I made my way to the room and began getting ready. Within an hour, I found myself boarding the bus with my groomsmen and others, popping open a bottle of champagne, and rolling toward to the church, with rain smacking the windows.

In the third installment of Our Wedding Retrospective, you’ll get to read about and even see photos of the ceremony, so stay tuned!

Our Massachusetts Wedding Retrospective, Part 1: The Final Prep

Hampden Country Club.

The beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows of the Hampden Country Club function space in autumn.

As our Friday wedding date approached, we watched the weather carefully. Although both the ceremony and the reception were taking place indoors, the travel into and out of each, and the travel on the several miles of road between the venues (i.e. the safety of our guests) were still a concern of ours. And this is putting aside the fact that we had planned very carefully in order to ensure that in the event of sunshine, we would have a perfect opportunity to photograph at our reception venue with a glorious sunset as a backdrop, overlooking a lush and multicolored valley. There was more than a week of bold sunshine leading up to our rehearsal dinner, and more sunshine on deck, slotted for after our wedding had ended. As much as we planned and hoped and followed the meteorologist’s every word, the sad truth was we would be going about our wedding day in the rain, with an inevitable 70 to 80 percent change of precipitation. But we were determined to make the best of whatever situation came our way.

In actuality, weather issues aside, both Alison and I needed to have our optimism on high gear anyway. About two or three weeks prior to the wedding, Alison’s dad, who has a history of heart and respiratory problems, was admitted into a Springfield area hospital, where he was to have another important procedure pertaining to his heart condition. Under normal circumstances, this procedure would understandably take a stressful and frightening toll on an individual and their family. With tons of final wedding preparations to nail down and organize, it became a taxing time. It was a bittersweet final path to the Roman Catholic Church marriage, to which her parents so thrillingly looked forward. We did not know how everything would turn out, though hoped Alison’s dad would make it through the procedure unscathed and recover in time still to walk his beloved daughter, my bride, down the aisle.

With tears in at least one person’s eyes at any given time, we worked together with my bride’s mother, and cousins and friends, to finish the following:

fall impressions glass coasters

The glass coasters (sets of two) imprinted with white leaves, in which sat our guests' seating assignments. The coasters served as our thank you favors.

– writing out and packaging with lace ribbon the guests’ party favors / seating cards (glass coasters shown here; a link can be found in our last diary entry);

– welcome (“goodie”) bags for our guests staying in our select hotel block (at the Hampton Inn in Chicopee, a fabulous hotel with nice amenities including a full complimentary breakfast and a can-do staff) which included personalized bottles of spring water (labeled them ourselves with “Alison & John’s Wedding”), chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies from a Springfield area bakery, small autumn-scented votive candles, a schedule of wedding day events and key addresses/directions, and mints that read “thank you” on them;

– writing, designing, printing and assembling programs for the ceremony (which we made on Alison’s mother’s home computer — they came out very classy without too much fuss);

– packaging / organizing everything to be brought to the church and the reception hall (i.e. pew bows, Unity Candles, remaining centerpieces, guest book/matted photo, etc.), and the list of who was to bring what, where.

We couldn’t have finished everything in time without the help of our family and friends. Furthermore, we would never would have had time to finish other vastly important items — like writing our vows!

Two nights before the wedding, we sat down and came up with our pledge to one another:

John/Alison, my best friend and partner,
You love me, and I, you.
You inspire me to be a better person.
You inspire me to change the world.
You remind me to care for myself.
You remind me to breathe.
You are imperfect, but you try your best.
You forgive readily, and are always forgiven.
You accept me for who I am, and you make me stronger.
You are my rock in times of frustration and sorrow.
You are the light of my day.

These things I promise in our marriage together;
I commit to progress, not perfection.
I commit to strength in God, our family, and friends.
I commit to the practice of patience, listening, passion, and compassion.
I commit to be true to you, in good times, and in bad.
I commit to care for you, in sickness and in health.
I commit to love and honor you all the days of my life.

After finishing our vows, we also needed to connect once more with our photographer and DJ, to apprise them of a couple last minute changes to the day, especially the fully yet sadly anticipated absence of Alison’s dad.

At the end of the day, we both felt quite accomplished — and exhausted — and slept like babies. What was in store for us the next morning?  Yes, you guessed correctly: manicures.

Stay tuned for the riveting second installment of Our Wedding Retrospective!

The Boston DJ’s Wedding Diary: T-Minus 264 Days: Wedding Budget, Schmuget.

It’s the year of destiny: only 264 days left until we climb the alter steps and say our vows. This discussion of budgeting blog entry has come as reluctantly at the actual process of budgeting. Alison and I have had many intense conversations about what we could and should spend on our wedding day, and I’ll be the first to tell you that arriving at a certain level of agreement hasn’t been easy to obtain. We both started with different dreams and visions, concepts of reality and acceptable spending, trying to find middle ground. I would have been happy committing ourselves in front of a small group of closest family and friends, and celebrating in a happy but modest manner, with beer and American Chinese food – chicken fingers and crab Rangoon would have been fine with me! But of course, I know a beautiful bride fantasizes from a young age (as do parents) of a more extravagant day of celebration, and rightfully so.

It really started out with the largest consideration of a wedding: number of guests. We bounced around quite a bit, from a tiny figure to one that included over 150 individuals. After taking a serious look at the cost-per-person at our venue, the Hampden Country Club in Hampden, Mass., we decided that at most, we could have 118 others on the final guest list to celebrate formally with us – ourselves included, 120 in total. Needless to say, with all the wonderful people we love and care about, coming up with this final guest list would not be an easy task either, though it would need to be done, important matters of dollars and sense and making a sound financial decision to start our life together. At a rate of about sixty-ish dollars per person, you can do the math on the heftiest portion of our wedding spending, fortunately assisted in great part by Alison’s parents. (Alison and I, in all honestly, haven’t saved a whole lot for our wedding day, though we’ve now committed to squeezing out a few hundred dollars each month toward the cause.) The reception, we decided, would be 45% of our wedding budget. From there, we made decisions to skimp on the areas of flowers and decorations, hard-bargain a bit on the DJ (a generous friend/colleague of mine) and the hotel accommodations (with the advice of a friend – good stuff to come later, so stay tuned!), and ask some talented family members to help with supply some music for the ceremony. We even decided that our rehearsal dinner would be held at a fun, local Chinese restaurant, to save quite a bit over hosting it at a fancier, more expensive location. (YES, I got my crab Rangoon after all!)

Getting down to more concrete percentages for a modestly priced wedding celebration – that means, you’ve got less than $15,000 in total to “toss around” – a good rule of thumb for your planning is to budget approximately 40% of your total spending on the reception (food/beverage); 8-10% on your entertainment (of course, I’d encourage upwards of 12% to ensure a really memorable experience, though I’m obviously a bit biased); 8-10% on bridal attire; 10-12% on photography/videography (you want to capture your treasured memories on something other than just brain memory); with the remaining percentages, you can be discretionary on things like save-the-dates and invitations, table cards and favors, hair and nails (always important), transportation, and other items. As we’re doing, please don’t overlook the opportunity to create some of these at home, with friends and family, to save some dough and have some added fun. Please do not forget to include in your budgeting the cost of your church rental and Pre-Cana fees (if you’re getting married Catholic, obviously), wedding rings, gifts for the wedding party, vendor gratuities, and of course, your three week honeymoon to a private bungalow in Tahiti (best of luck with that one!).

[If you want a handy tool to help with your budgeting, check this out!  http://planning.theknot.com/wedding-budget]

Budgeting is NOT fun by any stretch, but it’s certainly a good exercise in communication, healthy negotiation and working together, to tackle a tricky problem – something from which your future life as husband and wife will unquestionably benefit.

Coming up in our next Diary entry, we’ll talk hotel accommodation negotiations, and there will be a guest-entry from my fiancée Alison on her bridal and brides-maid dress shopping experiences.  Thanks for reading!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

John Dudley
Owner & Lead Entertainer
DJ John Dudley Entertainment
www.DJJohnDudley.com
John@DJJohnDudley.com
(617) 791-1001

~ Thank You for Voting Us one of the Best Wedding DJs on Boston’s 2010 A-List ~ http://boston.cityvoter.com/dj-john-dudley-entertainment/biz/587133

~ Enlivening events throughout New England for more than 10 years ~

Proud Member of Global Mobile Entertainers Association &
Boston Young Professionals Association

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