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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 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 315 Days: Dance and Shoot

Three hundred fifteen days left to live in Engagementland, and we are making moves. Alison and I have locked up both our DJ and photographer for the big day, after not a whole great deal of work and effort, actually. People keep joking with me when I tell them I’m planning my wedding… “So, are you going to DJ? Ha ha.” Look, I DJ’ed once for a shared birthday party for me and my brother, and it was horrible. Well, it was when I was still using CD’s, so every four minutes, I was pulled away from the fun to mix the music. Regardless, my wedding day is the one day I’m looking forward to having everyone else carry the load so I can put my feet up.

Our budget didn’t really allow for anything but a DJ, and I had just the man in mind: my colleague Craig Sutton at Sutton Entertainment [www.SuttonEntertainment.com]. Craig is a seasoned DJ and entertainment agent and event concept specialist who uses me frequently throughout the year for some of his most important corporate clients and wedding couples. He’s a fantastic guy with a really warm personality, and he’s really become a good friend. Obviously, in my stead, I would recommend using Craig to DJ your wedding. (Thinking about it now, I’m fortunate to have developed such a close relationship with Craig, because trust, comfort and personality-match do play huge roles in choosing a wedding DJ. It honestly would have been difficult for me to go through the process of vetting other DJ’s with whom I even have decent relationships. To this point in my career, I already had a deep appreciation for the comfort level – almost friendship – I try to develop with my wedding clients, and this scenario bolstered that further.)  Ideally, under different financial circumstances, Alison and I would have preferred to have a band and Craig as DJ. We’ve become huge fans of the ‘80s tribute band Fast Times here in Boston, and I’ve began developing a friendship with a couple of the guys in the band even. If you want a really fun dance party at your wedding and you’ve got the dough, look them up [www.FastTimes.biz] and tell them I sent you. You won’t be disappointed, promise.

So, with Craig’s services under lock and key (lucky he had the date free!), we moved on to picking the photographer – another apparently daunting task. When we had our first meal testing at the Hampden Country Club, they had their partner vendor in photography on hand in the room. We looked through the albums and pricing, and everything seemed reasonable at first glance. Alison sometimes tells me I should be a detective because of my attention to the tiniest details: I noticed in the only large format photo the woman had on display, featuring an entire wedding party, both a bridesmaid and the flower girl had their faces obscured by objects or other people. I thought, if this is the one piece brought along to demonstrate and sell their services, we might be better to look elsewhere. And we did. I’ve again worked with dozens and dozens of photographers on different weddings, and a couple did stand out in my mind, due both to their professionalism, personality, and methods. Unfortunately, when sharing these visual artists’ websites with my bride-to-be, their sites sadly didn’t do the photographers any justice, and I simply couldn’t talk Alison out of looking elsewhere…again. (This certainly reinforced for me the importance of the feel and user-friendliness of my own website, which is why I continue to work on it on a regular basis.)

We finally ran into a company called Classic Photographers at a wedding networking night we attended together. I had never worked with them before but we conversed with the owner of the company was very personable, attentive to our needs, and informative.  They are a “large” company with a subcontracted team of about 12-15 photographers in the Greater Boston area. The pricing (our main concern, besides skill set and personality) seemed a bit more modest than others we’d seen or heard, so we gave them a shot by setting up an appointment with their sales director, actually located at their sister-company Classic Tuxedos shop. Prior to our visit, we had been sent links to view about 8 or 9 of their photographers’ work (i.e. online albums); Alison chose her top four, and I narrowed those down to two. To our appointment, I brought along a set of 20 questions to ask your photographer, which I researched and printed out from the web. The salesman took the time to answer all of our questions are patiently and thoroughly as he could (Note: this is always a good sign, regardless of vendor). Although we hadn’t met or even spoken with our remaining frontrunner photographer (by the time we got to the appointment, one of top two had already been booked privately), we had a good feel for her work and style via the albums and the salesman’s background and familiarity with her. So, right then and there, we put down a small deposit on the services for our big day, and they set up a monthly payment plan with us (interest-free!)  up until our wedding. The total package includes six hours of wedding day shooting, an hour long engagement shoot in the summertime, 8” by 8” twenty page album, a DVD with all of our high resolution/auto corrected photos from both shoots complete full and unrestricted reprint rights. We went with Julia P., who is a personalized, artsy photographer and college photography instructor out of Salem, MA: here’s her stuff http://www.classicphotographers.com/featured/julia_p/index.php (Let me be frank here: I am generally not a big fan of “large companies” that are in the wedding business. With my business being primarily just me, when a couple hires me, they know exactly who they are getting, and what they are getting: that is, my personal care and attention, experience, and personality. To me, they’re not just another sale; you know, crunch the numbers, get the bare bones details, throw them into the computer, and leave well enough alone unless there’s an issue. Not to say some people don’t have success with the “big guys,” but generally my take on it is, quality sometimes tends to suffer with volume…and this just isn’t something you desire for your wedding day. But, with all that said, we decided to choose this company because the photographer’s work spoke to us, and definitely because the pricing was right – especially with the help of a $300 discount on the photography package when committing to use their sister-company for the groomsmen’s tuxedo rentals.)

Coming up in our next Diary entry, we will definitely be getting down to the dirty talk of budgeting (I really would have told you much earlier on, but to be honest, we’re doing things a bit ass-backwards ourselves, though we’ve tried so hard not to – hopefully it won’t come back to bite us!), and there also may be a guest-entry from my fiancée Alison on her dress shopping experience.  Thanks for reading!

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Feel free to drop us a line and learn more about us. (We’d like to learn more about you, too.)

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

~ 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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The Boston DJ’s Wedding Diary: T-Minus 333 Days: Where? And When?

We’ve got 333 days to go, and there’s been a lot going on lately. The first questions we tried to answer, just as I guess most future brides and grooms would, were: when and where. After visiting a handful of venues both in Greater Boston (my home) and Greater Springfield (Alison’s home), in response to some innocent prompting from Alison’s mom (“So, what have you talked about so far, about your wedding planning… Huh, well?”), we chose a facility in the end that really took our breath away.

Now, backing up just a bit, I had a couple of contacts here in Boston with whom I work frequently on other couples’ weddings in my line of work. I was already familiar with the high quality of facilities here – as many Boston DJs would be. We looked into facilities including the Hilton at Logan Airport and the Hotel Marlowe inside the Galleria Mall in Cambridge. I’ve worked at both places many times and both are as classy as you can get; the staff, space, and services are phenomenal at each. Though, as one might imagine, the substantial costs of real estate taxes and overhead in Greater Boston for all intents and purposes priced us out of the wedding market here. Well, not entirely, though the few places we could actually afford did not offer us the all-important “atmosphere” we wanted (e.g. although I’m very familiar with the stellar food and services of Spinelli’s in Lynnfield, we weren’t crazy about getting married along a highway). All of this, plus the facts that my fiancée’s parents were footing a hefty portion of the wedding, as well as that her guest list would be longer than my own, really put the ball in their court – Western Mass.

I’m similar to many born and bred Bostonians, being almost completely ignorant to the world beyond Worcester; but since meeting Alison nearly three years ago, the area is starting to grow on me. Her home town is not very different from my own in many ways. At the same time, Western Mass and the Berkshires offered us a very unique opportunity to wed within an environment all its own. I’ve had the chance to DJ many weddings at barns and similar classic New England rustic venues, so we begin examining that course.

We first made a drop-in visit to a place called the Log Cabin in Holyoke. In all honesty, the view and grounds on the rear side of this venue, for some ceremonies and cocktail hours, are nearly unparalleled. The facility was modestly modern and in decent shape, and we were pretty much sold, again, on the gorgeous view itself – you could see for miles. But, we found ourselves out of luck when the rooms with the best access to the view had minimum guest counts way out of our range (e.g. 175) and very restricted availability; the remaining option in the facility overlooked a highway, which again we did not want. We checked out the Log Cabin’s sister venue, the Delaney House, down the road, but its proximity to an outdated hotel/motel , and its function room which was comparable to just about any other function room anywhere, knocked this place out of the running.

We took a bit of time to visit a Knights of Columbus Hall nearby, of which Alison’s step-dad is a member, and this venue actually surprised us quite a bit. Its exterior was castle-esque and inside there were two sizeable quite modern function rooms; each could hold 250-plus people easily, yet the minimum head counts required for each were very flexible. One room there – for the first time in our multi-city venue tour – was fashioned beautifully for an autumn-décor wedding of 125 people later that same day. (Note: we hoped to choose a date sometime in the Fall of 2011, to harness the power of the New England foliage.) Despite the positives, we could not (again!) get past the fact that the venue was right smack on a rotary, neighbored by the likes of Rite Aid and Denny’s and other similar merchants. The parking (another issue we had to consider) was more than substantial here, as it had been as most of the other venues, but again – no dice.

So, we moved on to a venue which screams (…quietly) New England: the Publick House in Sturbridge. The ride there was stunning, reds and yellows and oranges abound. The grounds were beautiful. Parking was adequate. There was lodging available both inside the House itself, as well as just up the hill. Our cocktail hour would be held inside of an old barn; the remainder of the reception inside what I would describe as a supersized yet uber-comfy country dining room. There was a hutch against one wall; antique sewing machines and snow sleds in the rafters; raw wooden beams everywhere. Our centerpieces likely would have been oil lanterns! The pricing points were even just right. It was seemingly perfect. Though, we had one last place to visit before making our final decision.

We traveled to Hampden, Massachusetts, south of Springfield along the Connecticut border, to see the Hampden Country Club. I can’t honestly recall how we made our way there; but I will never forget driving way, way up uphill, surrounded by trees, finally reaching the top and overlooking a stunning view of a valley that went on for miles. We again dropped in for a visit, knocking on a window of the function space. The general manager happened to be strolling by and let us in, happily and without hesitation giving us an impromptu tour of the facilities. We were floored. The function room was, my guess, about 20-25 feet deep and 120 feet long – that is, 120 feet of nothing but glass and a view of the entire valley. After discussing briefly menu and cakes and parking and pricing and availability (and despite our preferred church and nearest preferred hotel for our guests being 30 minutes away), we were sold. The management did give us one of the best first impressions possible, and everything else seemed to fit the bill. We actually chose the date based on the venue’s availability in October 2011. All Saturday evenings were already spoken for, so we opted for a Friday evening reception in exchange for a small discount on the food and beverage rates. (An afternoon wedding wasn’t our cup of tea: we wanted drinking and dancing, both of which are rarer in the light of day.)So, there we had it: we were locked in to tie the knot the afternoon of Friday, October 14, 2011, and to celebrate that evening at the Hampden Country Club, to the backdrop of a valley seasoned in the shades of New England autumn and a sunset which would cross slowly and directly behind the long, floor-to-ceiling windows of our hall.

Stay tuned, because next time, we will talk one, all, or some combination of the following: discussing and setting our budget (yuck); securing our DJ (no, this is not DIY); choosing a picture-perfect photographer; and dress shopping.

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