The Lee Effect

One reminder about my blog. I seldom, if ever, use real names when writing. I never know what I might say that a client may wish to keep close to her friends and family. I use the names Kay and Buckley for the bride and groom of the weddings. Should I ever meet a Kay and Buckley in real life, their wedding is free.

I do not remember how I met Kay, but I have been looking forward to her wedding for a while. As Kay picked out her songs I could tell the music was going to be diverse, and in some cases, not your usual songs for a reception.

Every wedding has a story. Most weddings have elements that provide a learning opportunity. This has both. Since my favorite part is the story, I will start with that. If you do not care about the story and simply wish to learn, skip down to the line of “#’s.”

Chattanooga, three days prior to Kay’s wedding, had completed a month which set a record for the least amount of rainfall. At least that is my recollection from a recent news report. The remains of Tropical Storm Lee were scheduled to arrive the day after her wedding, but as usual, mother nature does not take orders from the weather channel.

Kay’s wedding, both ceremony and reception, were at The Grandview, a picturesque property atop Lookout Mountain near Rock City. As the rain moved in, it was apparent most of our planning that had been done was going to need to be modified, changed, or thrown out the window. The decision was made early in the day to move the ceremony into the Grandview house. Space would be tight, but everyone worked together to put together the ceremony for Kay and Buckley.

Kay and I had some common histories, though she does not know it. Kay lost her father at a young age. I had the honor walking my sister down the aisle at her wedding. I know the emotional roller coaster that ensues thinking of a lost parent on the happiest day of your life. Two important men in Kay’s life walked her down the aisle. Because of the change in plans, the aisle was much narrower than planned, making the trio a bit more difficult, but everyone made it and the ceremony proceeded. If anything, the new arrangement only emphasized how important these people were to Kay, as the change in the aisle was not going to change Kay’s plans.

Buckley’s uncle presided over the ceremony. He did a wonderful job. As he instructed Buckley to seal the marriage with a kiss, Buckley quickly took a shot of breath mint and kissed Kay. Everyone laughed, and you might think it “silly,” but hey, guys, not only did he get the obligatory wedding peck, Kay leaned in for a second, more passionate kiss! There could be a lesson for all of us guys there!

From this point, the affects of the rain begin to be seen in the logistics of the evening. The original plan was to have all of the guests move to the large patio to enjoy cocktails, hors devourers, and of course, one of the best views in Chattanooga. The rain required everyone to stay indoors, which meant not everyone could be in the same room. The cool headed staff of The Grandview kept everything in check. Most of the guests went to the room that is normally used as the “green” room for the wedding party and family. There is a bar in there and the buffet table was set up in compact fashion. Meanwhile, David Smith was finishing the photographs with family in the “ceremony room” (which will be called several different things throughout the evening). Once the photo session was complete, Grandview moved tables and chairs into the room and guests came back to sit and enjoy their dinner in what is now the “dining room.”

During this time, I was re-arranging some of the sound equipment. I moved the ceremony system into the room with the food so the guests in there could enjoy some of Kay’s chosen music. I then re-configured my main sound system so the guests in the dining room could enjoy our selected dinner music. Because of the new configuration, the sweetheart table would not fit in the dining room. I provided my small table so Kay and Buckley would have a small table to set their drinks and plates while they enjoyed their food and talked with their friends and family.

Our next modification came in how to do the first dance. We (Grandview, me, and Nancy-more on her later), decided to move everyone out of the room while Grandview moved out the tables. The room would now turn into the dancing room. Before we would do this “flip” we would cut the cake. This could make it easier to get people out of the room, by being able to serve them the cake.

At this point, the skies had been kind for some time. Weather RADAR showed plenty of cloud cover, and a temporary break in the rain. During the dinner period, Grandview set up some “pop-up” tents on the patio to provide some shelter from a small or temporary shower if guests wanted to go out to enjoy the million dollar view. I asked David Smith (the photographer) if he was a gambling man. I asked if he thought there was still enough light to get pictures on the patio if we did the dance out there. He confirmed there was and agreed with me, the chance was worth it. Kay loved this venue, so much so, she opted to not use the back up facility Grandview has in the event of rain. It was certainly her wish to have a dance on the wonderful patio overlooking the city in the dusk of the evening. We decided to do it, but time was not on our side, we had to move fast.

I went inside and quickly started telling people to move outside to the patio for the first dance. After going through the house telling everyone our plan, I was surprised when I arrived at my starting point to still see guests taking their time in moving to the patio. I know I am the representative of the bride and groom, as such, I want to be as cordial as I can. However, we needed to move, and move fast. I ushered people, with a bit more sense of urgency, and everyone responded well and began to move to the patio.

One note here. Kay’s mother had some medical issues which made it a little hard to move around. No matter what, we were not going to have the first dance without Kay’s mother being near by so Kay could see her. Moving her mother to the patio was not an option, she would be unable to use the steps and the elevator was on the other side of the house, which would have taken too much time for us to get her there. We brought her mother to the porch that overlooked the patio. The distance was not far, but we had to get many people off of the porch, onto the patio, to have enough room for her to sit comfortably along side the people who were helping her mother get around.

We got everyone in place, most importantly, Kay’s mother. I announced to everyone Kay and Buckley would share their first dance as husband and wife. It was a classic Nat King Cole song. About a minute into the song, the sprinkles started to come. The rain started to come a bit faster. I could tell Kay and Buckley were not going to let the rain stop this special moment. I was not going to let the rain ruin Kay’s beautiful dress, hair and make up, she looked like a magazine cover shot all night. I took my umbrella and provided rain cover to them for the rest of the song.

Kay had a special dedication planned for her mother. Her mother had been scheduled to leave around 8:30, which was approaching. I wanted to ensure everyone could hear this special dedication and this would be the most opportune time to do it since everyone had moved to the patio for the dance and the increasing rain would mean it might be the last time everyone was together. After moving Kay to one of the tents on the patio, I announced Kay had a special dedication for her mother, the song started, and we listened to “People” by Barbara Streisand. Kay wanted to go up the steps to share this song with her mother so I held the umbrella as we walked up to the porch. This was truly a special moment which produced many a teary eye.

After this, we moved inside, where, during the dances, the Grandview had now created a great room to be used for the rest of the celebration. There was not as much dancing as what might have been had the rain stayed away, but I know everyone had a great time. What was planned as a grand event on the patio overlooking the city became an intimate event where everyone enjoyed catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones.

I knew everyone enjoyed the affair when I noticed most were still in the house when it was time to send Kay and Buckley off for the evening. Everyone made their way outside (another break in the rain) with a provided cone of rose petals. Kay and Buckley made their way through the rain of rose petals into a beautiful classic car provided by a family friend. As the car drove away I could do nothing but sit down and think back on how wonderful a reception I just witnessed.

Not much went as planned, but even so, the true reason and meaning of the reception shown through, the love shared between the new husband and wife. They had smiles all night, he seldom was not holding her hand, or kissing her arm, or shoulder. Love will always win. Always.


Now, for the lessons!

Pulling off Kay’s wedding took monumental teamwork. Kay designated Nancy, a family friend, to be the coordinator. Normally, I cringe when I hear a family friend will be the coordinator. Nancy was a true exception to the rule. She was organized, decisive, and never lost her cool. I am thankful she was there. Grandview is known for their view and their exceptional staff. Under pressure, they did not fail. While the rest of this is going to be about me, I freely admit, any success I had could not have been realized without the invaluable help from these people, as well as others.

Years ago I did a wedding where the rain changed all of the plans. I got a letter a couple of weeks later asking if she would get a partial refund since I was not able to do everything that was planned. While a lesser DJ might have been angry, I took it as a compliment, as it proved she had no clue of all of the extra work I did. This was before I had a blog, so I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts.

I am often asked why I charge more than most DJ’s in the area. Many people decide to hire other DJ’s because they are so much cheaper than my company. This reception has provided me with many examples of why there is such a price difference.

Many DJ’s charge so much less because they do not see playing music as a job, much less a career. I have heard them say to brides, “I love this job, that is why I don’t charge a lot.” I believe them. For the amount of money they charge, I know they do not make much, if anything from a wedding. The only reason they would do that is they truly loved the work they did. After all, who would give up weekends with families for little money if they did not love being a DJ. Guess what? I also love being a DJ. I have shared this feeling many times on this blog. However, loving being a DJ is not enough. In fact, I do not think it is in the top five. What I love more than being a DJ is giving new couples a worry free, wonderful, memorable, and fun reception. Do you think these cheap DJ’s care about YOU, or do they care about being a DJ? Ask them, “Do you care about your clients?” (they will always say yes of course), then ask, “What prior actions have you done to prove you care about your clients?” This wedding has many proofs of this. More importantly, I would do the same, or more if necessary, for all of my brides.

I usually load my sound system one or two days before the event. On the morning of this wedding, I had to remove most everything from my car and load a different system knowing there was a good chance of rain.

When I arrived at The Grandview, I went to the manager to assess the situation. I was fully expecting to be told the back-up venue was now going to be used. It was not. After getting the rough plan of the evening, I began my preparations. I had to set my system on the porch. I created a “mobile” system which would permit me to quickly roll my system into the house should high winds join the rain. Such a set up takes me about 30 minutes more to set up than my normal system. I use a facade to hide my wires and items I might place on my table. To do so here, required I elevate my facade to prevent water from pooling around the sound system, which was also a high traffic area. This adds about five minutes to the set up. My location was directly in front of a large window where many guests would be. This meant the area seen normally only by me, had to be just as presentable as the alter where they would be standing. This requires a lot of extra work to minimize the amount of equipment to be seen. It will require extra work all night as nothing I need will be on the table, I will need to reach down under the table in my drawer for everything I need, every time I need it.

After my system was set up, tested, and ready to go, I began helping The Grandview to move chairs around. Why would I help them? Because doing so helped Kay have the wedding she wanted.

When it was time to eat, the new room configuration prevented Kay and Buckley from having the private table they wanted. In fact, they were simply sitting in two chairs at the entrance to the room. I found a matching table cover (a deep blue) and provided them with my table I bring for various reasons. Why would I take the time to set up a table for the bride and groom to have a place to eat? Because I care about them.

Kay really wanted to dedicate a song to her mother. I knew the best time to do so would be right after her first dance. However, I knew I would far from my system and to do this in a seamless fashion, would require two people. Therefore, while everyone was going to the patio, I enlisted someone to help me. I told him to “push this button when I say, dedicated to her mother.” I did this in case I had to stay on the patio for the entire song, which I would, if the rain came back.

Before we started the dance, I instructed several guests to move these four tables out from under the tent if the rain came hard to allow for Kay and Buckley to dance under the pop up tent if we needed to do so. Do you think the DJ who does it because “he likes to dj” would have the forethought to make such an arrangement?

I also placed my umbrella nearby in case we needed it. As it turned out we did. When Kay and Buckley continued to dance with a slight rain, I held the umbrella so they could stay on the patio. Most of these less expensive DJ’s, I would bet, would not subject their tuxedos to a rain shower so the bride would not need to.

When it was time to help move Kay’s mother back into the house, I help facilitate this. I was in a unique position to help, not only was I nearby, but since I have been at the venue many times, I knew some of the obstacles the causal observer might miss. Recall, her medical condition made it difficult to move around. At this point she was using a walker with two people assisting her. I knew which door going to the patio would work best for her. One door had small step while the over did not have a step. I knew the one that did not have step, which would be easier for her to negotiate, was hard to open fully, but could be by slightly “twisting” the door as you opened it. Would other Dj’s do this? I highly doubt it. When another DJ saw her mother had 2-4 people helping her, it might be thought, “she has enough help.” While she did have enough help physically, helping with the quirks of the venue made their job much easier. Again, only because I cared enough about Kay did I go out of my way to help her mother, knowing her well being would be of great relief to Kay.

When the photographer was getting a family photograph set up on the patio and a light rain was moving, what did I do? I went to the patio to hold an umbrella over Kay while everyone else got into place. Does a DJ who ‘loves to DJ’ have the effort within him to leave his booth to stand in the rain to help the photographer? I bet not.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job. But that is universal in the world of DJ’s. Most love it so much, they are willing to charge little to do it. They think their payment includes the fun they have. However, I love my clients. I want them to have the best reception. I cannot provide them this service by charging $400. Had I only charged such a low amount for this wedding, and prior weddings, this one would have been a disaster. I would not have been able to ensure I had umbrellas located in strategic locations around the venue so I could pop one up at any moment to assist Kay. I would not have been able to create a system on wheels so no matter when, or how fast, I had to change locations, the amount of time without music would have been minimal, maybe none. I could not have had an electrician on my speed dial to ensure I was following proper safety procedures when I was forced to use an outside outlet in a rain storm. If I only cared about “dj’ing” I would not have taken the time to go to the venue twice during the week to take measurements for my lighting and testing the brightness needed at the specific time of day of her wedding.

If I only cared about “Dj’ing” I would not have ensured Kay’s mother was in place for the moments that were important to Kay. I would not have made sure The Grandview knew of the plans as they were changing, I would not have asked the photographer if the lighting was acceptable for him before I moved the location of the first dance.

My point to all of this, don’t be fooled by others and their passion for being a DJ. I can save you the time. There is not a DJ in the wedding world that does not love his job. The gem is when you find one that loves being YOUR dj.

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Last Minute

One night recently as I was about to leave the office I received a phone call from a maid of honor asking if I was available for a wedding. The wedding was in 10 days. She explained to me the bride was very upset as her DJ had just called to tell her he would not be doing her wedding.

Small aside, I am getting more and more of these calls. I have a couple of theories as to why, most of them revolve around people hiring “cheap” DJ’s and those DJ’s get a higher paying job and simply leave the other out to fend for themselves. When you hire a DJ, make sure he/she has a reputation he/she is willing to protect. Short of me, and my staff, all dying on the same day, I cannot envision a situation where we would cancel, much less at the last minute.

I am hesitent in taking a wedding with this short of notice. I put a lot of work into weddings. With there only being ten days, I knew it would be hard to devote the time I needed. Coupled with the fact I was about to leave town for a national DJ conference that would limit even further my planning, I was about to say no. However, by design, I did not have another wedding that day. I asked a couple of questions and decided even if I was only to do half as good as normal, it would still be better than her not having anyone. I agreed to be a part of the wedding.

I was excited to learn one of the true professional photographers was to be a part of the wedding. Meghan from Soli Photography is a class act and I am always excited to know I will be working with her. I know the photographer works closely with the bride long before the wedding so I contacted Meghan for some information. As expected, she was a great help in filing in some of the details Kay did not have time to share with me.

Guest starting arriving at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club as scheduled. Per Kay’s wishes, we opened the buffet service and bar so everyone could eat while we waited for the new couple to arrive. About an hour later, as scheduled, the limousine arrived with the bridal party.

After dinner we had some dancing, mostly for the older guests. Then, the big surprise of the evening. Kay had hired the singer of one of Buckley’s favorite bands to play a couple of songs. When wee brought him from the back; to say Buckley was surprised would be a vast understatement. Everyone else was also surprised, and excited. He played a couple of songs while most of the bridal party danced away. After he sang, he was kind enough to stay around for a bit so some of the guests could have their picture taken with him.

After he sang, the best man was ready to give his toast. Kay and Buckley took their seats on the dance floor while he tried his best to express how he felt. He finally said he could not, but maybe Neil Diamond could. That was my cue to play a CD he provided to me earlier in the evening. The best man, groomsman, and all of the bridesmaids had been practicing a dance routine to a medley of songs including Sweet Caroline, Sweet Home Alabama and Baby Got Back. I predict this toast will become a YouTube sensation in the near future!

After this Kay and Buckley had their first dance as husband and wife. They danced to Crazy Girl by Eli Young Band. It is a newer song with perfect lyrics for a first dance. Afterwards, Kay wanted all of the fathers and daughters present to share in a dance, I Loved Her First by Heartland.

We danced some more, we cut the cake, we even caught a tree on fire during the sparkler exit! It was a great time, I am glad I was able to be a part of it.

I think every event can be a learning experience. If you are reading this, I hope you see the importance of hiring true professionals for your wedding. While I had a great time, Kay told me how great of time she had, guests came up to tell me how much fun they had, I know, had I had more time to plan and prepare, this reception could have been so much better. It irritates me more than most anyone can imagine to find out someone in my profession would treat a client like her previous DJ did. There is a reason some DJ’s only do wedding receptions part time, while I do them for a living. Many of those DJ’s have nothing to lose if something better comes along. I have a 20 year reputation to protect.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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The Playlist that ruined a reception.

Imagine you enter a fine restaurant. It is an establishment with an impeccable reputation for superior food and even better customer service. The chef has been trained by leaders in the industry and is sought after all of the country for his culinary skills. The waiter places the plate in front of you and you see the delicious creation he has made. He made that creation simply based off of what you ordered from the menu, filet, rare, with garnish. What lies before you is something you could not have created in a month of Sundays on your own. You take your first bite and quickly realize, this could possibly be the greatest food to ever grace you palate.

“Send it back!” The shocking words are heard from an adjoining table. Glancing at his plate, you notice he has ordered the same meal that sits before you. “Send it back! I ordered filet, rare, with garnish.” The customer seems angrier than before. He goes on to explain he does not want the little curly fry looking things. He does not want that green goo to the side of the steak and he certainly never ordered butter with his steak. He simply wants a filet, nothing more.

As a DJ, I experienced something similar a while back. Before I continue, I will say, no names I use are the real names. As I am setting up story parameters, please note, this will be a long entry; the story and lesson are too valuable to not be explained in detail.

On Friday, I went to the rehearsal to verify the set up for the ceremony and work with the venue on the timing for when I could set up. The reception was in the same room as the ceremony so I could not set my equipment until after the ceremony. Generally I do not like these situations, as I like to have at least an hour after I set up before the reception for testing and such. Regardless, this situation is not too uncommon, and we work with what we are given. While I was there, I went to the bride, Kay, to ask if it would be okay if I brought some free up-lighting, as we had just purchased it and I want some photographs of it at different venues for advertising purposes. She seemed excited about the idea and quickly agreed. She also confirmed I had the list of songs she emailed me, which I confirmed I did.

We now fast forward to the dinner after the wedding. So far, everything is as planned. No issues in set up, lights are up, music is playing. I might point out; Kay had chosen 5 songs for dinner, three by Harry Connick Jr., a Norah Jones selection, and one by Frank Sinatra. Obviously, I will play many more than 5 songs, but this is not a problem. Her selections were the perfect guide to help me choose songs that would compliment her selections and keep the “feel” she wanted for dinner. During dinner, I had a minor issue which caused me to use a piece of back up equipment. Something to keep in mind when interviewing potential vendors, do they have back up plans/equipment?

After dinner the “planner” (relative) came to me and said they were ready for the dance with the parents. As I announced this, I was horrified to learn “they are ready” meant Kay and the planner were ready. For the record, to say “they” are ready for a dance, generally infers all the participants were ready. I despise this, as the guests were subjected to an avoidable delay and uncomfortable moments as I tried to locate the father of the bride and groom live on the microphone.

After this, it was time for the dancing. Using the provided list, I chose a couple of great songs to kick it off, and everyone seemed to be having a great time with the 70s/80’s selections Kay had chosen. I had a request for “Brickhouse” by the Commodores. A song not on the list but fit very well with the other selections. I played it, and even more people joined in the dancing. Kay came to me and asked if this song was on her list. I said “No,” and explained it was requested and fit well with her selections. She seemed happy and went back to the dance floor.

About 30 minutes later, as I was playing “Love Shack” by the B-52’s, Kay returned to ask if this was on her list. It was not, but again, fit well with her selections and was obviously a crowd favorite. Kay then asked if I had the list. I showed it to her and said, “Yes, right here.” She said I needed to stick to the list. I was quite taken aback, and asked, “Are you saying you want me to play ONLY the songs on the list?” “Yes,” she replied. I explained how this was not a good idea, as her list contained a lot of great songs, and nearly everything I played was from the list, it would not suffice to keep the party going all night. I explained how, a list made weeks ago will not work for tonight. I will get requests, I will read the crowd. Tonight’s guest may not be in the mood for alternative 80’s all night. They may want more or less slow songs. Finally, and frankly, I have been doing this a very long time; I know how to keep both her, and her guests happy. Her list did not contain a single rap song; therefore, there was not a chance I would play a rap song, no matter what the guests wanted. However, based on her list, I knew the types of music she liked, from that; I could derive the perfect set of music for her day.

None of that mattered. The instruction was clear, only the list, nothing more. Now, keep in mind, had she given me this instruction 90 minutes earlier, dinner would have been silent, or repetitive, as she only chose 5 songs for a period of time that required at least a dozen.

Entertainment Solutions has a strict policy regarding music. We want the bride to have the best time possible. We also do not want her uncomfortable. Therefore, if the bride does not want a particular song, or type of music, whether it be “The Cupid Shuffle” or country music, we will abide. Not only will we abide by her requests, we will never tell a guest, “Kay does not want that song.” Doing so will only create the uncomfortable situation (for her) of telling a guest no to his/her request to permit me to play something she did not want.

For those following closely, you now see my serious dilemma. I am stuck playing songs ONLY from this list of songs, while at the same time, not telling the guests I cannot fulfill their requests because Kay only wants me to play these 40 songs.

I told the venue manager to prepare for a short night. I predicted the reception would be over by 9:00 pm (2 hours prior to the scheduled time). I knew this because I knew I only had about 5 more good songs left to play. I also knew, based on the responses to the songs already played, and the requests I had received, the guests wanted something other than what this list of songs could provide. Keep in mind; I am not talking something radical, such as playing rap music where she wanted none. Her list was mostly 70’s and 80’s pop, I could have played another 6 hours sticking to that format.

Around 8:45, the planner said it was time to go. By 9:15, I was packing up. Guests were very upset with me, they had an awful time. I wish I could apologize to the guests. I truly regret it.

I do not like to complain unless I can offer a solution. Therefore, please continue reading to learn how you can avoid this catastrophe of a reception.

A great thing Kay did was provide a playlist to me. I have an online planning system that permits you to pick and choose songs, genres, even decades of your favorite music. You can be as general or as specific as you like. The more songs you choose, the better your reception will be. Truthfully, the number of songs Kay chose was perfect. It let me know exactly the type of reception she wanted and the types of music she liked. I could even tell her favorite type of music and I could guess some of her favorite artists.

Keep in mind how many times you have been a DJ at a wedding. Compare that to the person you have hired. While I have no idea how many wedding’s Kay has been the DJ, I would guess fewer than 2. For me, it is more than 200. Experience does matter. Just like the chef at a fine dining establishment, the professional knows more about the subject than most everyone else. Trust in his expertise. Frankly, if you are not going to trust the professional, why pay for him? Kay would have been better off to rent a system from me and simply connect her iPod.

Kay is not completely at fault here. I would bet she has been to a wedding where a less than professional DJ was hired. I bet he played what HE wanted to hear, not what the bride wanted. She has probably read about such horror stories and had in her mind, “I will simply pick the songs he can play.” Every industry has their bad apples. I often think the DJ industry has more than its fair share. This is where due diligence must be employed when hiring the DJ. Entertainment Solutions has been in business for nearly two decades. We have impeccable references from some of the most well respected wedding planners and venues in the area. We have been asked to perform at venues such as The Biltmore. We are not one of these bad apples.

I could have been more clear with Kay during the planning process, however, I did not press near as much as I ought have. This was in part to her busy schedule, and her telling me they are very laid back and just want to have a good time. I have been told this many times, and the receptions have been some of the best ever. Had she ever told me she only wanted me to play the songs from her list, I would have quickly explained how that would not work. If she was insistent on the idea, I would have refunded some of her money and simply sent one of my lesser trained DJ’s to play songs on the list.

We had other issues that I will not go into great detail, but I would be remiss if I did not point them out. The cake cutting was lacking all organization. The bouquet toss was a disaster and people started lighting sparklers 10 minutes before the appointed time. All of that was due to the planner’s, the relative, lack of wedding experience. This is no knock on her. Given the situation, she did the absolute best she could. She followed Kay’s directions to the letter. However, I again point out, Kay gave one of the most important roles in her reception, coordinator, to one of the least experienced people in the room. When you hire Entertainment Solutions, we coordinate those events. We have seen them 100’s of times. We know the mistakes that are made. We know if you give a bunch of drunk people sparklers 20 minutes before the time they are needed someone is going to light one, when someone 20 feet away sees a sparkler being lit, they assume it is time and they light theirs. Before it can be stopped, half of the sparklers are lit! We also know before you do a bouquet toss outside, you check with the photographer for the best place for lighting.

One final note, a little self-serving I will admit. After every wedding reception I have people telling me how great the reception was. I have people telling me it was the best time they ever had at a wedding reception. They brag about how smooth everything went, how professional I was, and so on. While I certainly love these comments, I never really know if they are just being nice, maybe a little drunk, or a combination of both. After Kay’s reception, not a single person said anything to me. This proves, to me, all of the previous comments were in fact truthful and from the heart. The irony, it took an awful reception to prove to me how good my clients think I am!


The Door

As I sit here awaiting guests to arrive for today’s wedding, I have decided to make some notes. I have often considered doing so, but an excuse has always won the internal debate.

My attention is directed at this door. I imagine no one, since it’s builder sanded it to it’s final smoothness, has ever really studied this door. As far as doors go, it is not that unique. Oak, maybe something else, some hinges, a lock put in place many years after the door was first hung, could adequately describe the door to most any passerby.

The door at Patten Chapel in Chattanooga.  Photo Courtesy Soli Photography.

The door at Patten Chapel in Chattanooga. Photo Courtesy Soli Photography.

To me, the door is so much more than that. The phrase, “if these walls could talk…” is a familiar one to us all. I do not envy the stories of the oft ignored walls. I want to hear the door. The moments this door has experienced could fill volumes of tomes rivaled only by the Library of Congress. How many brides have walked through this door? Thousands? Tens of Thousands? I don’t know. But I do know this. This door represents walking out of one life; walking out of a life as one.

In about two hours, she is going to walk up to that door. Someone, maybe her father, is going to reach for the knob. This is the moment I remember. Her, and the door. In mere seconds, the vision she has imagined since she first saw Cinderella will be before her eyes. This is the final moment of The Dream. This is the moment where her dream becomes a reality. This is the moment where wishful thinking and fairytales meld into reality with nothing to discern the latter from the former. Imagination will be replaced with reality, and the reality will surpass even the wildest of imaginations. At that moment, the energy, the anticipation, the culmination of months, if not years of planning will come to a crescendo. THIS is the moment to capture. THIS is the moment that only the door sees. Once this door opens, she will begin her walk to the new love of her life. She will approach the alter. A man, as nervous as he might ever be, stares into her eyes while the door squeezes out the last sliver of daylight to permit her beauty to become the sun of the room.

As the ceremony concludes, after he has kissed her, after the preacher has pronounced them as one, as husband and wife, where do they turn their attention as they walk? To the door. The door that was the exit for her, now becomes the entrance for them to enter the world together. Though no love is lost for those still inside, no greater love exist between two people as they pass the door.

Minutes later, hundreds of people will walk the same path as was just taken by the two of them. But the door knows. It knows their singular journey will be like none before, and none to follow. It will be one of kind, and the door was there for the first step of forever.

How lucky am I? I get to be there, with the door, to witness that step. Every week, couple after couple, allow me to see their first step into forever. For that, I am eternally grateful, and lucky.

Next time you attend a wedding, look at the door as you enter. Imagine how lucky that door is. Imagine, in about an hour, the door will see it all again for the first time.

Please visit my website. I’d love to be there with the door to your forever.

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Summer Nights – 2009

If you have been reading, you know how much I love weddings, but like most anything, there are some “types” I like more than others. When given a choice, I prefer a Saturday or Friday wedding over a Sunday wedding. I have made reasons public before, but, to summarize, generally, on Sunday, guests want to see the wedding, tell the new couple “congratulations” and go home. There is often a lack of celebration after the wedding.

Yesterday was a big, fat, exception! We had an absolute blast! More on that later, first, let me start from the beginning.

I met Hannah through a frequent business partner of mine, Cheryl from Blissful Moments Wedding and Event Planning. Cheryl was the wedding planner for Hannah. After discussing the type of reception Hannah and her mother wanted, Cheryl decided to introduce Hannah to me. I am so glad she did. We met at Cheryl’s office one morning. By the end of the meeting, I was quite excited about the opportunity to be a part of this wedding. At that time, it was not decided if I was going to provide the sound for the ceremony or if they were going to get live musicians. A couple of weeks later it was decided I would get to be a part of the ceremony as well.

The ceremony and reception were to be held at The Fillauer Lake House in Cleveland. A venue with it’s own unique charm that I thoroughly enjoy working. The ceremony was on the lawn under the shade of the many old trees. The song choices were well thought out, “Sunrise, Sunset” for the seating of the Grandparents. Hannah wanted the instrumental version, which is the best choice for a wedding, however, the lyrics of the song are so appropriate, I sometimes wish I could play the vocal version.

The officiant gave a little sermon after the wedding party, less Hannah, was in place. I thought it was wonderful. He compared weddings to Christmas, in that, sometimes we get so focused on the gifts, the event, and the party, we forget the true meaning of the wedding ceremony. He reminded us all to keep that in mind as we watch these two pledge their lives to each other before friends, family, and God.

The reception was held in the barn with overflowing guests all over the grounds of the venue. Hannah and husband are truly blessed with an abundance of people that care for them. The flow of the reception was not much different than many other receptions, except Hannah had a dance with her Grandfather as well as her father. Her grandfather impressed the crowd in that, he danced to the entire song, and gave Hannah several spins, and even a partial “dip!”

Hannah had a “Candy Bar,” similar to a buffet, but full of candy rather than cheese and fruit. There was plenty of other food and drinks, I even took a moment to sample what I believed to be, crabcakes. Whatever they were, they were great! Greg, from Impressions Food Company should be commended for his outstanding fare, and professional staff!

After the toasts, we opened the dance floor. I do not recall seeing the actual floor again the rest of the night. People were having a great time, holding up the groom, spinning the bride, hugs were a dime a dozen, and smiles were universal. We had the bouquet and garter toss about an hour before the scheduled end time. I think 4 different ladies got a piece of the bouquet, and, a very rare scene, there was actually some pushing and shoving for the garter!

As the time was nearing the end I was truly disappointed, not at the reception, for it was blast, but that I knew there was not an option for playing longer. I could have played for hours longer. I had about 7 songs in my head I knew the guests would love and wanted to play them, but I only had time for a couple more songs. I played “Shout’ by the Isley Brothers to try and get any remaining energy out of each person. I followed that with “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, a fun song, and it gives people some time to rest their legs. Time for one more song, so I played the medley of hits from the movie “Grease.” That medley ends with the song, “Summer Nights,” to which everyone sang at the top of their lungs, and which was more than appropriate. The wedding was the day before June, the sun, which had been shining all day, had recently set and tomorrow would rise again to begin the Summer of ’09, a summer of firsts for Hannah and her husband as they start their lives together. What lies before them is unknown, but what I DO know, they have the love and support of family and friends, and the respect of many. I know this summer will be the topic of many a dinner conversation for many years to come. I am so blessed to able to be a part of kicking it off with them.

Hannah, Spike, congratulations to both of you. I thank you very much for allowing me to be a part of your day. Best of luck to both you, and enjoy the Summer of ’09, and every summer thereafter!

Please go to my website to find out if your date is still available

Some professionals who helped make this a wonderful event:

Blissful Moments Wedding and Event Planning

Daisy Moffatt Photography (Daisy is going to have her own article on my blog pretty soon!)

Impressions Food Company

Entertainment Solutions

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The Problem with Wedding Planners

Okay, I will admit, the title was just a tease to get others to read this. In reality, almost all of the wedding planners I have had the pleasure of working for/with have been just that, a pleasure.

There is a joke among many DJ’s, the worst words to hear at a reception is, “Hello, I am the wedding planner.” I usually smile, and point out that I have only had great experiences.

I have heard multiple horror stories, none of which have come close to experiences I have had.

Recently, I had all of the awful experiences combined into one wedding. I have decided to post this, not to bash wedding planners, for one “bad apple” certainly should not take away from all of the great planners that are out there. I am writing this to give the multiple examples of what can happen with a bad planner, and to let potential brides know of some potential issues.

For this story, I am going to use the name of “Betty” for the planner. Though the name is fictitious, the stories are real, and sadly, all occurred at the same wedding.

When Betty arrived at the reception, she was to have the wedding party line up for the introductions, among several other things. When I approached her for the line up, she handed me a program from the wedding, with the numbers written by most bridesmaids, and numbers written my most groomsmen. I was instructed to use this list for the introductions. When asked about the missing numbers, her reply was, “Oh, I don’t remember.” Not a big deal, easily overcome.

Betty was busy working with the bride to get her dressed ready for the walk in. I told her I would be happy to get everyone lined up. She told me not to do it, she would take care of it. At which point, she yelled, everyone get in line in the same order as we did at the church. For those that have not been part of this “inner circle” of a wedding party during the time between the ceremony and reception, it is a very happy time for everyone involved. Of course there are congratulatory remarks the fun ribbing about finally being “hitched” I assure you, very few people know in what order they walked down an aisle at the church a mere 30 minutes prior! This is not insult. My point is simply, everyone there is there because they are close friends and/or family. Their only interest is in the well being, and the celebration of this marriage, not who was directly in front of them during the ceremony!

I finally decided to go against here wishes and line everyone up. I did so, and we were ready for the grand introductions. Or so I thought. I told Betty we were ready to go, she informed me they would come to the ballroom in a couple of minutes. I asked about what the delay might be and if there was anything I could do to help. She politely told me no. I proceeded to the ballroom. Five minutes later I went back to see about the delay. Still no wedding party. Two minutes later, no wedding party. One minute later, we are ready to go. Later in the evening, I asked one of the members of the party about the delay. He replied he had no clue, they just stood there and talked while Betty was reading through some notes and talking with the bride. In fairness to Betty, there may have been some issue of which I was unaware, but when put in the context of everything else that will happen the rest of the evening, I don’t believe that to be the case.

Right after the introductions was the first dance, followed by the daughter father dance, and then the mother son dance. When I am not working with a planner, or when I am working with a good planner, each of the “players” are ready to go. When I announced it was time for the dance with the bride’s father, to my great surprise, the father was not near the dance floor, and appeared a bit surprised by the announcement. The same was true for the dance with the mother. That is nothing compared to what happened DURING the mother son dance. I glanced over to see Betty motioning for me to come to her. I will let you in on a secret about these “special dances.” I never leave, nor should any DJ leave, the system during these type of dances. I have another copy of the song playing at the same exact time as the one that is being heard. I do this in case an error, such as skipping or player malfunction occurs, I can quickly switch to the other version. Sure, it will sound “funny,” but it is better than completely ruining the dance. I shook my head no, and she came to me. She told me to make an announcement about opening the buffet line. I asked if the blessing should come first. (I knew the answer, for I had the schedule) She had no clue about it and said “Sure.” I asked her to get the father of the bride ready (he was on the schedule to do it)

Betty insisted she be the one to release tables. Why she wanted to do this, knowing the staff at the facility does this often, and well, made me curious, but I assumed she knew what to do. Needless to say, the buffet line was a disaster, for the line was too long because Betty basically was letting 2X the number of tables go, at twice the rate, then should have been for the size and selection on the buffet tables.

Now it is time for the toasts. There were two best men, a maid of honor, and a matron of honor. As the scheduled time approached, I asked Betty if she was going to get everyone ready an up front. She told me to just announce it, and everyone would come to the proper place. Awful. I refuse to act in such a manner. When it is time to toast the President of the United States, does the master of ceremonies just get on the microphone and tell people to get in place? Does the Queen of England sit around and wait? Nor should a bride. I instructed her to get the four toasters, I would get the bride and groom. I told Betty where the people should stand. She agreed. However she placed them directly in front of my table. Why is this a problem you might ask? Every picture of the toasts will have a picture of either me, or my sound system in it. I did my best to angle myself out of the picture, but there was only so much I could do, for I had to stay to control the volume, since this also placed them directly in front of the speakers. I don’t assume that Betty, or wedding planner, should know every aspect of my job. However, she agreed to place them where I suggested. Had she said she would prefer to put them in front of me, I would have pointed out why this is not a good idea.

Now we come to the time for the cake cutting. For the most part this went without problem, except for the theme of the night, just do it, and everyone will show up. I was the one that had to inform the staff it was time so they could be ready to serve the cake.

After the cake cutting, it was time for the celebration. I opened the dance set with “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry. I played a song after that, which currently eludes me. Betty then came to me and said we needed to really get the crowd going and should play some upbeat music. I pointed out I was playing upbeat music, and that most people were still getting cake, but there were some dancing. She said I should play a song “like Brickhouse.” I asked, “How about, ‘Brickhouse?'” She said I had already played that song. I corrected her, to which she replied, it was the song before this one. I corrected her again and told her the proper name of the song I played. She asked if I was sure. I assured her, I know music, it is sort of my job. She asked what I was going to play next, I replied, “Kiss” by Prince. She said she did not know that song, therefore, it won’t work. I can point out that most everyone knows the song, but of course, there are some who may not know it. If in fact, by her own admission, she did not know it, how, may I ask, does she know it “won’t work.” I gave her my headphones to listen to the song, and she said that might be okay.

Let me point out the problems with her actions here. I know the wedding planner is often the voice of the bride. I know the bride might tell the wedding planner to tell me to play a certain song or type of music. When this occurs, I react exactly as though the bride has given me an instruction directly. However, this was not the case. Betty was trying to do my job. I do not pretend to be a florist, or a wedding planner. Though I have an opinion on the works of other professions, I would never presume I know more than do they. Betty, or any other guest, telling me what to play is unacceptable. Betty has just as much right to request a song as does anyone else. I always try to play as many requests as possible, but sometimes a request would be better played later in the evening, or might not be appropriate because of instructions from the couple, or because of other reasons.

Now we are about ready to do the bouquet toss. Mind you, we are going to do it about 12 minutes before the scheduled time, for what reason, I have no idea. The dance floor was full, people were having a great time, and it was not late. But Betty came to me and said to do the garter and bouquet toss after this song. As I pointed out earlier, before I would ever be ready to do something at a reception, I would make sure everyone is ready. In this case, my checklist would be, Maid of Honor, the tossing bouquet, the parents of the bride, the photographer, and of course, the bride. I look up and saw only the bride, and the maid of honor. I asked Betty if she had told the photographer. She again recommended the “redneck” procedure of just announcing it, they will come. This is where I lost it. I tossed my microphone down on the table, much harder than I should have, and ran off to get the photographers. I told them we were about to do the tosses, and they asked, “When?” In about 20 seconds was the answer. So I ran back to my area, photographers running right behind me. I get all of the single ladies on the dance floor, I have the bride ready to go. The photographers, and video crew are all ready to go. The bride is standing in the middle of the dance floor, empty handed, no bouquet. Absolutely in-excusable. Why would Betty not know where the bouquet is, more importantly, why would she want to start the bouquet toss ceremony without the bouquet ready! It was at this moment I decided I would not be a part of any more wedding where this “coordinator” was to be working, unless me, Betty, and the bride all met together to assign proper roles and responsibilities.

Now the evening is winding down. The reception, in my opinion, could have been much better. With Betty dictating song choices based on what SHE liked, and what SHE thought would be best, it was hard for me to get a ‘groove’ flowing on the dance floor. The staff at the venue even pointed out, as I was packing up later, that the reception ended much earlier than they usually do when I am the DJ. I explained that my hands were really tied, and there was not much I could do. They said, “Betty?” They too, had problems with her.

If Betty was new, I could understand, if this was her first, or even 10th wedding reception, I could understand. We all have a learning curve. Sadly, Betty seemed to be calm and cool the whole time. Betty really believed she did an excellent job, and I could tell, this is how she operates at receptions.

When you decide to hire me, one of the first questions I ask is if you have a wedding planner. I do this, because I add it to your file so I know who to call for some basic questions, after all, you are paying them to handle the basic details of your wedding. If I discover you have hired Betty, I will either refer you to another DJ, or require the three of us meet face to face. I felt very bad for the bride of this wedding. In the end, she had a great time, however, I know how much better of a time she could have had. I really felt bad for her.

Finally, please note, I have worked with dozens of planners over the years. This is the first, and so far, only, problem I have had with a planner. I know everyone makes mistakes, but the reason these mistakes were so unforgivable, they almost all revolved around simple preparation. Write out the wedding party names, get the people involved ready before starting a portion of the reception. To me, lack of preparation is a serious problem. I make mistakes, but not many! In this reception, I started the wrong version of the song for the bouquet toss, I had the incorrect microphone turned on for a portion of the reception. However, because of my preparation, the mistakes I made were minimized, and corrected within seconds.

I hope this helps all brides out there. Just remember, when hiring a planner, or any “front” person, such as a caterer, or even DJ, make sure they know what role, how big or small it is going to be, and what responsibilities they have.

Thanks for reading!


Starting the New Year Right

January 3, first Saturday in January, two days after New Year’s Day. Most people are sitting at home and relaxing. Maybe taking down some Christmas decorations, watching the 42nd Football Bowl game. Taryn and Mitch were getting ready to start their lives together, and I was preparing for my part of the day, the reception.

I met Taryn and Mitch at a bridal tasting at The Chattanoogan earlier in 2008. It was certainly a pleasure meeting them both, and I knew right away how special this wedding was going to be. Taryn hired me very early in the planning process, which was great! It allowed us plenty of time to do the proper planning for the reception. What I did not know at the time, is Taryn would be spending most of her time in school! We talked several times before her reception and she told me the types of music that she and Mitch liked. We worked out the details for most of the special dances, all except THEIR first dance!

When I arrived to begin setting up everything for the reception, most of the other preparations had been completed. Black chair covers with red sashes, done by The White Table, gave the already lovely room, a feel of simple elegance. One obvious feature of the room was the size of the dance floor, it was HUGE! Needless to say, I was quite excited about that!

During dinner, I went to Taryn to find out if they had chosen their song yet. They had, “Your Song” by Elton John. When I called Taryn and Mitch to the dance floor, they came to the center of the floor as I started the song. The first dance is certainly one my favorite parts of any reception. Every bride smiles, every groom smiles, with just a hint of nervousness. This was no exception, except for one. It has been a long time that I have seen a groom with such devotion and admiration in his eyes. The smile that Taryn had was big and bright enough to make everyone in a 10 mile radius forget about their problems for that moment. The two of them in the center of the floor, holding hands, talking to each other, moving slowly together as Elton sang, “…how wonderful life is, while you’re in the world,” was the highlight of the night for me.

We had a fantastic time. We played music from the 70’s, 50’s, 60’s, 80’s, 90’s, and current music. (I guess I could have just said we played a little of everything!) Taryn had a special request for a song from the Rocky Horror Picture show, that was fun!

Thinking back to this reception, I cannot help but think how lucky Taryn and Mitch, and all couples are, to have found each other. How so many little things contribute to meeting each other. How so many little things could have prevented the meetings. Maybe judging someone based on an opinion of someone else, maybe not going to class that day, or any other reason. It amazes me how, of all of the people on earth, the right two can find each other. I think of the all of the “problems” I have in my life, similar to yours I am sure, paying bills, raising my child correctly, just the daily challenges we all face. Then I see someone like Taryn and Mitch. Two people, with their smile and devotion to each other, it makes me forget about my problems, and enjoy and cherish my blessings. They reminded me how happy two people can be, and how, with just a little bit of effort, any challenge we face can be overcome.

Thank you Taryn and Mitch for allowing me to be a part of your day. I had a fantastic time, but more importantly, I hope you and your guests did as well. It sure seemed they did!

I will post pictures later. This was a blast of a reception, I want to share and give credit to everyone involved in making Taryn and Mitch’s day so wonderful.

Please go to my website to find out if your date is still available

The Chattanoogan
The White Table