It was an absolute joy to perform at a wedding last weekend for a couple as warm and hospitable as the state they flew in from. Brittany and Jamahl (or Britt and Malli) are one of my favorite wedding couples of all time. They flew up from Houston, TX for a wedding day here in Boston.
Both were so relaxed when we met about a year ago and shared in our initial Skype chat. Meeting the couple face to face several months back to begin planning, inside the stunning and cavernous lobby of their chosen venue, The Liberty Hotel in Boston, they were the very same in person — perhaps even more so. As I tried to make them feel comfortable, they returned the favor and expressed their desire to have me partake intimately throughout the wedding day, so I would “feel like family.”
Brittany is from the border of Texas and Louisiana. She is one of the most genuine and considerate young ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing — her now husband is a very lucky man, a sentiment with which he fully agrees. Jamahl is from Newton — another class act. The couple met in Connecticut while in college, almost ten years ago. One look at them, and you know they are a match made in heaven.
The day was a beautiful one. After a wedding service at a Newton Baptist church, an intimate group of family and close friends joined the couple at the hotel for the reception. Aside from having candlelit dinner all around the fourth floor balcony under the hotel’s main rotunda, the cocktail hour, formalities, and later dancing, all took place in a small unique foyer and several adjoining rooms, each of which held something nice: in one, the place cards, ornate bird cage for special notes from guests to the bride and groom, the cake, and favors; in another, a fully stocked bar; the third, a flat panel monitor that we provided on which a recurring slideshow of the couple’s memories played throughout the evening; and the fourth, a talented and very personable local caricature artist who captured guests’ images into youthful cartoon portrayals of themselves (we were happy to help arrange this service for the couple).
We created perhaps our cleanest musical setup to date in this unique yet challenging space, with our main speakers filling the foyer and first pair of rooms with tunes, and utilizing a second audio setup with piped music in further down the hall and into the second set of smaller side rooms. The best man’s and matron of honor’s toasts were so warm and heartfelt and sparked many tears. The cake cutting — during which Jamahl ended up wearing more than he actually ingested — was hilarious, as Brittany afterward held up her dress with one hand and pranced away from her groom to avoid potential retaliation. The couple’s first slow dance was breathtaking, and then their guests made the dance floor a blast.
It was terrific working with Erinne Bundrock and crew at The Liberty Hotel, photographer Vail Fucci and her talented second-shooter team (photo above courtesy of), and one joy of a caricature artist Laura.
Congratulations and thanks are due to Britt and Malli once more for being truly amazing.
Please check out my friend Vail Fucci’s blog and photos from this special day right here.
Thanks for reaching. Cheers.
John Dudley ~ DJJohnDudley.com
The last several months have flown by. Tonight as I write, listening to “Battle Born” album by The Killers (the album that fueled much of my Boston Marathon training), there are tears in my eyes.
In less than 24 hours, this incredible journey comes to an end. Months at the gym, days in the streets. Sore joints, battered muscles, black nails, blisters the size of small countries, and searing memories that drove me along the way.
I love and miss my brother. I miss my father. My mother misses them, too. After seeing what I’ve seen, and living what I’ve lived, it is hard many days not to wake up a hardened pessimist.
Today, I went to church. I listened for God. Through the priest, He spoke: “Look to discern God in your life.”
God, through His will and grace, has created this entire opportunity for me. He provided me with a network of the most genuine, caring, and generous friends and family (and complete strangers!), who have supported me all along the way and continue to do so. People not merely paying lip service to my effort and the cause, but digging deep, giving big, and providing constant nourishment for my heart. I never did expect to receive so much. I am so grateful.
We all face our own difficult and heartbreaking trials and tribulations. Life puts us to battle on a regular basis. But we are given many opportunities as well. Each day, each breath, each moment: miracles and gifts.
We as a people simply cannot wait any longer. It is time to be positive. We will take this moment to help make a change in the life of someone who desperately needs it. We will muster our skills, our resources, and our kind words, and we will create change. We will not sit idly by and do nothing.
We will give hope to those who have little, or none. We will love. Forever and always, on a daily basis, we all will feel like I do tonight: that anything is possible, and that human beings and this world are simply beautiful. There is a great hope for all us. And you, like me, will weep at this beautiful revelation.
I want to thank God, my wife Alison, my mothers, family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers who have given so much in consideration of the memories I hold so dearly.
Tomorrow, when I push my body, heart, and mind to limits they’ve never before encountered, I will think fondly of my brother Ryan, my dad, and several other treasured souls. I will think of the young children and families who visit The Children’s Room saddened and struggling with one burning question: “Why?”
Feeling so incredibly blessed and overcome with emotion tonight, I just want to thank you all. I sincerely hope that my experience might inspire you to make a change for the betterment of another person, big or small. We are all battle born only so that we may triumph, so that we may share our experiences and help one another. May God bless you. I love you all.
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:
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.
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.
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
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
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