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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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Stunning Autumn / Fall Season Monique Lhuillier Gown for Sale!

Off-White Silk Satin Strapless Sweetheart Top w/Bodice Gown & Hand Tufted Shirt

Perfect for a fall wedding in New England (ours was in mid-October). White (really, off-white) caricata strapless draped bodice gown with hand tufted skirt, silk satin, ruching on the neckline, embellished accent at waist/belt. A similar dress can be found on the designer’s website, in fall 2011 collection called ‘life,’ which is priced at $5,000-7,000.

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The bride was a size 8, at 5’9” tall with 1.5” heels. A few minor alterations were done, making the dress a bit more streamlined from the original, a bit more A-lined.

Here is an article which puts the designer’s dresses in the top 10 of wedding gowns:  http://www.weddingclan.com/monique-lhuillier-wedding-dresses-gowns-top-10-rated.html

The estimated value of the gown is $4,000+. The asking price is $1,600. Gown has been professionally cleaned and pressed, ready to go!

Please call Alison at (413) 575-0231 for more information.

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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 4: Finally The Reception!

We headed steadily southward across the Western Massachusetts countryside toward the Hampden Country Club, in a bus filled with joy and champagne. The impending rain was still on our side. The bloated clouds would soon provide a silver backlit canvas for the remainder of our wedding formal photos.

We pulled up to the front of the venue, members of the bridal party hustling off the bus and rushing around, passing bouquets and boxes this way, coats and champagne that way. The function coordinator Kim met us at the bus, along with members of her crew, and immediately began taking drink orders and providing piping hot hors d’oeuvres. Inside the majority of our guests were already celebrating to upbeat music and an open bar, a massive display of crackers and cheese, fruit, vegetables, dips, and antipasto items, clearly visible through the glass front doors.

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Still in a race against the dissipating daylight and the approaching thunderstorms, we shouted to one another as we rushed along to the left hand side of the venue and its low-rising rock wall and stairs, by which we would photograph. We had so much fun using our own creatively as well as taking suggestions for poses from our photographers – both the hired guns and our paparazzi guests. [Our photographer, Julia Pai, and her assistant, at one point were so focused on the task at hand, that Julia instructed our function coordinator, who was trying to pass around more appetizers to members of the bridal party, to go inside. It seemed funny and somewhat rude at the time, but in hindsight, it was good to stay focused on the portraits. The bacon wrapped scallops were delicious, but they would not create the lasting memories our photos would.] The rainbow shaded forest of maple and birch and oak and pine, and the pure perspective of our hilltop venue, took everyone’s breath away.

All was not perfect, though. As we were down to our final ten minutes of sunlight, I realized my mother was still nowhere to be found. Our second shuttle bus arrived at that moment, and as I and others tried to usher my mom to our portrait site, she refused to go (“the grass is wet, and my stockings will get wet and uncomfortable – I’m not doing it!”). I hollered at her, insisting that she come, as bridal party members; despite her stubbornness, I would not let my wedding day pass without my beloved mother in those photos, for posterity’s sake. We quickly renegotiated the site, down the hill onto the concrete patio, with mere minutes left to spare. In the end, my mother and I, as well as my other closest family members, took the shots as planned, and they turned out perfectly.

At the exact moment my best man and I finished our last photo together outside, darkness instantly swept over us and it began to downpour. God was certainly on our side this fine day! We went inside and joined everyone in the “bridal suite,” which was actually a portion of the golf club’s locker room, which was nicely designed for our wedding purposes. Everything was clean; the sofas and chairs were off-white wicker covered in floral cushions, and the carpets were equally bright. The time to venture upstairs and prepare for the grand introductions came quickly, and away we went.

Everyone lined up behind a large room-dividing curtain, nervous and discussing what creative moves they would make as they were introduced into the room. [I’ve seen some bridal party members enter the reception at this time with beers and wine glasses in hand. Some see this as tacky; others find it fun. I believe our entire wedding party left their bottles and glasses behind the curtain, by their own volition.] As we prepared ourselves, our DJ, according to our wishes, got everyone to their seats while he played “Enterlude” from the band The Killers’ album Sam’s Town, which in effect greeted our guests and thanked them for joining us for the day. My mother was then escorted in by my cousin’s fiancée; Alison’s mother entered with her son and granddaughter/our flower girl. These folks came into the room to the Glee version of “Sweet Caroline,” as my parents-in-law are huge Sox fans. Next came the bridesmaids and groomsmen, paired up, and they danced stylishly into the room to the upbeat funk of “Shotgun” by Jr. Walker & The All-Stars (the song is more commonly known as the theme to The Cosby Show). Finally, Alison and I received our introduction as “…a couple who will change the world as we know it: Mr. & Mrs. John & Alison Dudley,” set to a version of The Killers’ song “Bones,” which I had edited. The room erupted as the curtain was pulled back, and our faces too erupted, into beaming smiles.

We made our way to the dance floor, and as we arrived, we faced each other. Salsa music came in over the speakers. We took a lot of liberty in altering the short routine we had failed to practice thoroughly. Alison showed her flair, spinning the dress wide and flashing her shoes. Our guests hooted and hollered. I played second fiddle, as a good husband should in this scenario. The salsa track, “El Menu” by El Gran Combo, faded out after about a minute and the song drifted romantically into the soft touch of Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” [I had edited these two songs together as well. Some may ask, How did you choose these songs? Well, a salsa track was a definite, as Alison and I had taken salsa dance lessons a couple years prior. We chose this one for its slower tempo and food-related love lyrics. For the Sting track, I actually heard it twice as I suffered through a root canal not more than two weeks before the wedding; it provided me a short bit of comfort for me then, and later it hit both of us as a very moving song, with references to a long future together, children, etc.]

Following our dance and a round of cheers, the bridal party remained flanking the dance floor as they did during our first dance. We went right into our toasts. Alison’s mother started with a welcome and thank you, on behalf of herself and her husband. Alison had two toasters: her cousin, and her closest friend (maid of honor). I also had two: my two best friends. The bridesmaids’ speeches were very touching, as they typically are. My groomsmen’s toasts were brief, both touching on our friendships, with very funny sentiments (and neither toast shared anything embarrassing about me, which was very pleasing). Even my DJ, who is a good friend and colleague of mine, also shared a few personal, very sweet words about Alison and me. Lastly, I, in my father-in-law’s stead, led the evening’s benediction, thanking God for all he had given us.

[Interjecting a couple of side notes here… First, for those brides or grooms out there who may share a similar story at their wedding, I was without the company of both my father and younger brother, both of whom had passed away. I wanted to honor their memory, and did so in a couple distinct ways at the reception. I brought along two photos of us, which were fashioned with leaves and placed right next to the matted photo we used as our guest book. I included their names in my benediction. I also had my DJ play a couple of hand-selected doo-wop tunes by The Drifters; these songs we listened to, as my dad would croon, on long car rides my family shared when my brother and I were young. For my brother specifically, who passed due to a drug overdose, both Alison and I wore a silver overdose prevention ribbon pin, on our dress and tuxedo, respectively.

Second, with respect to our centerpieces, which we reviewed in prior posts, we had many last minute problems and changes. The large log slices into which we had planned to drill three-inch wide holes and then have the bridesmaids place their bouquets, to serve as centerpieces for about a third of the tables, were not able to serve as such. My valiant do-it-yourself (DIY) approach resulted in many logs with a one-inch hole in them – not adequate – and left in our backyard. One completed slice made it to the reception, which served to display my bride’s bright white bouquet on our sweetheart table; we flanked this on both sides with the bridesmaids’ bouquets, as you can see in the photos. We replaced this failed concept last minute by going to A.C. Moore and purchasing five very-thin and sanded wood slices, and used our wood-burning tools purchased from Michael’s Crafts to write special messages on each, like “Eternal Love,” or the date of the wedding, or a heart with our initials inside. We surrounded each on the tables with more artificial leaves and small battery-operated tea lights purchased from Michael’s. We actually used leaves and the small lights on every table. The handpicked forest item, potpourri style vase idea, referred also in a prior diary entry here, turned out as lovely as expected, though we ended up using this concept on two-thirds of the tables. Everything on the tables matched nicely with the brown lace chair bows, which we again purchased online for $0.60 a piece, and which our function coordinator so generously offered to tie onto the chairs.]

It was time to eat! We had gone with ‘stations,’ as opposed to formal plated meals. We wanted a free-flowing atmosphere at our reception; we did not want folks stuck at the tables all night. The menu featured two carving stations of turkey and steamship round of beef, sides of mashed potato and squash, cook-to-order pasta station, lobster bisque and minestrone soup, and garden salad seasoned with extraordinary custom-made vinaigrette. People all grabbed a plate or two of something or other, and headed back to the tables. It was just about this time that we went over and performed our cake cutting ceremony, set to Alison’s choice in music, a live version of Sarah McLachlan’s “Ice Cream.” The cake, baked and decorated by the function venue with our cake topper and artificial leaves, came out perfectly. Our concept for the top tier had a lovely result: it appeared as if the bride was shoving the groom into a pile of leaves. [We found this topper on the internet; multiple websites featured it.] There were no fork on the table, so after we sliced and pulled a small portion of our white cake with Grand Marnier vanilla frosting, we delicately fed it to each other with our fingers. [The woman always eats first, then the husband!] We sealed everything with a sugary sweet kiss.

Right after our cake cutting, we took an opportunity to surprise my uncle with a cake of his own. His birthday fell on the day of our wedding. With his family and friends singing the song, cameras snapped away, a huge smile on his face (he’s usually a very low-key, private guy, but he ate this up!). Then, if there were not enough sugar already in the room, my mom-in-law presented me with my groom’s cake, a surprise to me even though it sat right next to the wedding cake – I swear, I didn’t notice it! This edible art was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and many guests said the same thing. The cake was a chocolate and peanut-butter filled DJ’s turntable complete with headphones, microphone, and a record that featured my name and a photo of Alison and me. Again, the coolest thing I had ever seen and definitely one of the most thoughtful!
My mother and I then shared our much-anticipated slow dance together, to her choice in song, Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” With that, the formalities were finished, and it was party time! [For couples seeking a high-energy, quick-pace wedding: it took just under one hour to go from the grand entrance of the bridal party to the dance floor party!] Everyone had a blast to the music; my friend the DJ even tossed me the microphone so I could lead the Cupid Shuffle – I couldn’t escape it. Our most reluctant family and friends all made at least one visit out to the dance floor, which made us very happy, to see them enjoying themselves. Of course, the open bar (especially our seasonal signature drinks for the night, Spiked Apple Cider and pumpkin beer) kept the night extra exciting: a couple of our friends started a round of invisible double-dutch at one point, leaving one very good friend of mine laid flat out on the floor after ‘getting his legs caught up in the ropes.’

The photos kept snapping. People kept dancing. Faces kept smiling. After a couple hours of nothing but dance, it was suddenly over, and our guests were shouting at me to get into my shuttle. Apparently, Alison and everyone else were already inside it! I jogged through the main corridor, with friends and family to my left and right, giving and getting high-fives as I went along. I hopped up the stairs of the luxury bus to a round of cheers as the door closed behind me.

What a perfect day.

[This Wedding Diary is written 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.]

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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!

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