When I launched my DJ career, it was ancient times

My partner and I started our DJ business 21 years ago on a whim. We had no experience and no equipment but thought we could make it work.

Since 1997, we’ve performed at more than 400 weddings. I’ve also served as the minister at more than two dozen weddings, including the wedding of an ex-girlfriend. 

We’ve done weddings for the same groom after his marriage, divorce, and second marriage.

I've DJ'd the weddings of Elysha's college boyfriend, my ex-girlfriend, and my ex-wife's ex-husband.  

We have many, many stories.

Though we constantly contemplate retiring, our company goes on. We’ve reached the point in our careers that we turn down many weddings. We pick-and-choose our clients and wedding venues carefully. We only work when we want to work. 

2018 might be our last year in business. 

A lot of time has gone by since our first wedding. When I started my career as a DJ in 1997:

  • Smoking was still permitted inside most wedding venues.
  • Digital photography did not exist in its current form. Every single professional photographer was still shooting with actual film. In fact, my partner and I carried two extra rolls of film with us after multiple photographers had run out of film at weddings.
  • Digitized music did not exist in any realistic form. Every song that we played was purchased at a brick-and-mortar store like Strawberries.
  • We still played some songs on cassette tapes.
  • There was no GPS or even online mapping website. Directions to wedding venues and client’s homes had to be taken over the phone and written down by hand.
  • MMMbop, Tubthumping, and Barbie Girl were the hot new songs.  

Twenty-one years is a long time to be doing anything.

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Professional Best Man (and the amazing things that have happened since I first proposed this job)

Five years ago I proposed a new job idea:

Professional best man.

It remains a role that I am waiting to fill. Let me explain.

Although I meet many outstanding best men in my role as a DJ, I also meet many who are too nervous to deliver the toast, too drunk to assist a groom in need, and too disinterested in the role to be of any use.

Besides, why burden your best friend with this role if all he wants to do is have a good time at the wedding as well?

Instead, hire me. Your professional best man.

What, you may ask, are my qualifications for such a job?

They are, admittedly, quite extensive:

  • I’ve attended more than 500 weddings as a DJ, guest, groom, member of the bridal party, and best man, so there is little that I have not seen. As a result, I will be ready and able to assist in almost every unexpected or unusual circumstance.

  • My experience and expertise will allow me to ensure that the DJ, photographer, caterer and other professional staff are doing their jobs to the best of their ability and serving the bride and groom to my exceedingly exacting standards.

  • I have extensive experience in dealing with in-laws, drunken guests, angry girlfriends, belligerent uncles, and any other potentially disruptive wedding attendee and am adept at deflecting these distractions away from the bride and groom.

  • I can deliver an outstanding toast. I am often instructing tragically unprepared best men on what to say just minutes before their toasts and making them sound quite good.

  • I am a skilled party planner and will give you the bachelor’s party of your dreams while also ensuring that you do nothing that you will regret the next day.

  • I possess a wide range of interests and am skilled at ingratiating myself to a wide range of people. I can do jock and nerd equally well and rarely meet someone who I cannot find common ground. We may not be best friends after your wedding, but for the duration of our nuptials, I will be surprisingly likable and chameleon-like in my ability to blend in with your group of friends. And who knows? One of my best friends is a former client. It could happen for you, too.

And what if you want to hire a professional best man but have a friend who also wants the job and would be upset to learn that you went with a professional?

No problem. Simply have two best men.

One who will get drunk during the cocktail hour, hit on one of the bridesmaids during photos, deliver a humorless speech, and forget to end it with an actual toast.

The other will not drink at your wedding except when capping off an amusing and heartfelt toast, will keep your best interests in mind at all times, and is skilled and experienced enough to ensure that everything goes smoothly on your wedding day.

Don’t you deserve another friend on your wedding day?

A friend absent of personal needs and petty grievances on your big day.

A friend who will guide you through and past every awkward, annoying, unfortunate, and potentially disastrous moment of your wedding.

Don’t you deserve the services of a professional on your wedding day?

A professional best man.
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Since I proposed this idea back in 2011, a number of surprising things have happened:

  1. Three grooms have attempted to hire me. Two lived in California and one lived in the UK, and their wedding dates dd not align to my schedule, so I had to decline.

  2. One groom hired me, explaining that he was marrying a woman whose culture demanded that the best man be an unmarried, never-before-married friend, and he had no one in his life who met these qualifications. I explained that I did not meet the qualifications, either, but he didn't care. He planned to lie to his fiancee and tell her that I was a lifelong bachelor. My wife wasn't pleased, but I agreed. After hiring me and planning for six months, he backed out without explanation.

  3. A bride strongly considered hiring me for her husband, who is "a great guy" but lacks any real close friends. Ultimately she decided that it might hurt her fiancee's feelings to hire me and opted not to.

  4. At least three television producers - two reality show producers and one documentarian - have contacted me about appearing in their television shows. We explored the possibility in all three instances, but nothing came of it.

  5. When The Wedding Ringer, a film about a professional best man, came out in 2015, the actor and star of the film, Kevin Hart, contacted me, crediting me with coming up with the idea first.

I await the next step in this journey to make this job a reality. At least once.

Wedding advice: No impromptu toasts.

Wedding season is upon us. On Saturday my partner and I will begin our 19th season as wedding DJs.

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When we started back in 1996, we still had a cassette deck in our rig and had no cell phone, laptop, or GPS.

I don’t know how we did it. 

Almost two decades later, I’ve learned a great deal about the mechanics and etiquette of a wedding. Throughout the 2015 wedding season, I’ll pass on some of my hard earned wisdom from time to time, and if you have a question related to weddings, please feel free to ask.

Today’s topic:

Impromptu toasts.

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My advice:   

As charming as an impromptu toast may seem, it’s not. Don’t do it. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Wedding and receptions are often timed to the minute. An unexpected five minute interruption can cause problems that you cannot begin to imagine.
  2. The order in which people are chosen to speak is often decided upon for a very specific reason. The bride and groom, for example, may ask the Maid of Honor to deliver the final toast because she is funny and will alleviate some of the weight of the Best Man’s toast, which references the groom’s grandmother who died two weeks ago. Your unplanned toast may ruin the carefully constructed order entirely.
  3. Brides and grooms choose the people to deliver speeches carefully, and they often receive more requests for people to speak than they can accommodate. Oftentimes a request to speak is declined for the sake of time or a myriad of other reasons (If we let you speak, we’ll have to let Uncle Joey speak, and that would not go well). Assuming that your toast will be welcomed and appreciated is oftentimes not correct and can result in the need for awkward explanations later.  
  4. If the bride and groom had wanted you to speak, they would have asked you to speak.
  5. Delivering an impromptu toast or speech is an excellent way of appearing like an attention-seeking narcissist on a day when you are clearly not supposed to be the center of attention.

If you want to say something charming and lovely about the bride and groom, do so privately. Propose a smaller, less formal toast when they stop by your table. Offer a private toast when you find yourself alone with the married couple. Or just take the couple aside and say a few words.

If your goal is to say a few kind words to the bride and groom, you don’t need the microphone and the attention of every guest in order to do so.

If you feel like you need the microphone and the attention of everyone at the wedding in order to make your toast, ask yourself if your toast is less about the bride and groom and more about you.

It almost certainly is. 

I have 15 jobs. So you probably require my services in one way or another.

As the New Year approaches and the endless possibilities of the coming year loom on the horizon, I always like to take a moment and reset my current occupational status, in the event that you or someone you know will require my services in 2015.

While occupations like teacher and writer seem like fairly obvious inclusions on the list, there are also several less obvious jobs on the list that may seem a little silly at first, but let me assure you that they are not.

Many people thought it was silly back in 1997 when my friend and I decided to become wedding DJs, even though we had no experience, equipment, or knowledge of the wedding industry whatsoever. We simply declared ourselves wedding DJs, bought a pile of equipment that we didn’t know how to use, and began the search for clients.

Nineteen years and more than 400 weddings later, we’re still in business.

The same could be said about my decision to become a minister in 2002. Or a life coach back in 2010. Or a professional best man in 2011. Or last year’s declaration that I was a public speaking coach. Or last week’s announcement that I am now a presentation consultant.

All of these positions have either become profitable ventures or at least received interest from potential clients.

The lesson: If you want to do something, just start doing it.  

So here is a list of my 14 current occupations and an explanation of my services. I hope I can be of service to you in 2015. 
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Teacher. Sorry. I’ve got a job teaching already, and I love it.

But in about four years, a partner and I plan on opening a one-room schoolhouse for students grades K-5, so if you’re looking for a school for your child at that time (or looking to donate money to build the school), contact me.

Writer: In addition to writing novels, I’ve also written a memoir, a book of essays, a rock opera, a tween musical, and a screenplay. I’m also the humor columnist for Seasons magazine.

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I’m always looking for additional writing gigs, in particular a regular opinion column and/or advice column, so if you have a writing job in need of a good writer, contact me.

Wedding DJ: My partner and I are entering our 19th year in the business. We’ve have entertained at more than 400 weddings in that time. We’ve cut back on our business in recent years, ceasing to advertise or even maintain a respectable website. Almost all of our business these days comes through client or venue referrals, as we prefer.

If you’re getting married and need a DJ, contact me. 

Storyteller and public speaker: I deliver keynote addresses, inspirational speeches, and talks on a variety of subjects including education, writing, storytelling, productivity, and more. I’m represented by Macmillan Speakers Bureau.

I’m also a professional storyteller who has performed at more than 60 storytelling events in the last three years and has hosted story slams for literary festivals, colleges, and more. I’m a 15-time Moth StorySLAM champion and GrandSLAM champions whose stories have appeared on The Moth Radio Hour and This American Life.

If you need someone to entertain, inspire, inform, or emcee, contact me.  

Founder and producer of Speak Up: My wife and I produce a storytelling show called Speak Up. We are based in Hartford at Real Art Ways with additional shows at venues throughout the region, including local schools and The Mount in Lenox, MA.

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If you have an audience that would be interested in storytelling, or you’re a storyteller looking to pitch a story for one of our shows, send an email to speakupstorytelling@gmail.com.

Minister: In the past ten years, I’ve married 13 couples and conducted baby naming ceremonies and baptisms. I’ll be marrying two more couples in 2015.

If you’re getting married and are in need of a minister, contact me. 

Life coach: In the past four years, I’ve worked with four different clients, assisting them in everything from goal setting to productivity to personal relationships to career development.

If you’re looking to make changes in your life and become a happier and more successful person, contact me.  

Tutor: I tutor students in grade K-12 on everything from general academics to college essay writing.

If you’re the parent of a student in need of academic support, either regularly or occasionally, contact me.

Storytelling and public speaking coach: For the past two years, I’ve been teaching storytelling workshops and coaching storytellers on an individual basis. People often take my workshops in hopes of performing in storytelling shows and competing in story slams, but they also take these workshops to improve job performance, enhance communication skills, and get their friends and family to finally listen to them.

My real mission is to eliminate the scourge of PowerPoint from this planet, one story at a time.

If you’d like to improve your storytelling, public speaking, and/or communication skills, send an email to speakupstorytelling@gmail.com and get on our mailing list. 

Writing camp coordinator and instructor: Last year my wife and I launched Writer’s Abroad, a four week long summer writing camp for students ages 11-16. We had an outstanding inaugural season and plan on an even better second year in 2015.

If you are the parent of a child ages 11-16 who loves to write and/or could benefit from four weeks of intensive writing instruction designed to improve skills and inspire writers, this camp may be for you. Contact me.

Presentation consultant: Since posting about this position a week ago, I have heard from two people who have expressed interest in hiring me for their fairly new companies at some point in the future. I may also have the opportunity to take on a partner in this business.

If you are a person who delivers content via meetings, presentations, workshops, etc. and would like to improve your communication skills, contact me.

Professional Best Man: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, four grooms and two reality television producers have inquired about hiring me for their weddings and television shows that are wedding related. Geographical constraints forced me to reject all their offers thus far. I am still awaiting my first gig.

Productivity consultant: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2013, I’ve had one inquiry about my services.

If you would like to become a more productive person in your personal or professional life and are willing to make changes in order to achieve this goal, contact me.

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Professional double date companion: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, I have had no inquiries. That does not mean the job is a failure. Just that it has yet to succeed.

If you’re dating someone for the first time or have been on several dates and need that important second or third opinion on the person in question, contact me.

Professional gravesite visitor: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, I have had no inquiries. That does not mean the job is a failure. Just that it has yet to succeed.

If you have a gravesite in Connecticut in need of visiting, contact me.

A simple declaration and a smidgen of self confidence can launch a business and change your life. Just look at my mother-in-law.

Yesterday I barged into a friend’s office and told her to launch a new business. I’ll refrain (for now) from telling you what this business is and what she will be doing, but it’s a no-brainer in terms of profitability. She’s perfectly (and almost uniquely) qualified for the job, will earn a lot of money doing it, and will help many people in the process.

It’s also a business that doesn’t really exist in the world at this moment, and it solves an enormous problem.

She’s going to be an great success with hard work and a little luck.

To my surprise, she seemed agreeable. Excited, even. She asked some questions about taking a class at a local college or becoming licensed, but I pushed back on those ideas and every other question that might delay her launch.

“No,,” I said. “You’re just going to start. Buy some business cards, declare yourself open for business, and find your first client.”

Too many people spend far too much time talking and planning and strategizing about doing something instead of just doing it.

Eighteen years ago my best friend called me and asked me if I wanted to become a wedding DJ and launch a company with him. I had no experience in the DJ industry. No equipment. No music. No knowledge of music outside of a few, not exactly wedding-friendly genres. I’d only been to a handful of weddings in my entire life and didn’t know how a wedding was supposed to be run. I had no training. No mentor. No experience.

My friend was in an identical position, but we didn’t worry about these obstacles. Didn’t look for training or seek out a mentor. We declared ourselves wedding DJs, and six months later, we were working at our first wedding. Since then, we have performed at almost 400 weddings and about 100 other events in five five different states.

One moment I wasn’t a DJ, and the next moment I was. It didn’t happen via a complex process or specialized training. It was a simple declaration.

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I followed a similar path in becoming a minister, a life coach, and a teacher of storytelling. One day I simply declared myself to be these things, and just like that, I was.

My mother-in-law has done something very similar. Years ago, she began selling merchandise on eBay. She started by raiding her own closet, looking to convert handbags into cash (so she could buy new handbags), but as women began purchasing the unused item in her closet, they began asking if she would be willing to sell the handbags and clothing in their closets as well.

A business was born.

She soon found herself selling thousands of dollars of merchandise on consignment for other women. Before she knew it, she had a growing stable of clients. 

For years now, she has been selling high-end clothing, accessories, and jewelry online. It has grown into a successful, profitable business and her primary source of income, despite the fact that she was forced to work on a dial-up modem for years.

Her husband eventually came onboard as well, constructing a photography studio in their basement where he shoots images of the merchandise. He has since transformed himself into a professional photographer whose images are so good that customers have accused them of using stock photos rather than actual photos of the merchandise.

Their home has become a warehouse of merchandise from clients from around the world, and my mother-in-law is now a top seller on eBay.

Just this week, she opened her own online store called Babsy’s Closet.

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Barbara knew nothing about online sales when she launched this business. She wasn’t an expert on the Internet or even technology. One day she wasn’t an online retailer and the next moment she was. She didn’t take a college class or go to work for another online retailer to learn the ropes. She simply declared herself to be in business, and she was.

My hope is that I will be telling you about my friend’s exciting new business soon, and that you will be recommending her to your friends and family as the need arises.

I suspect I will. She seems excited. I think she sees the possibilities. I know that she is passionate about the subject.

I just hope that she moves quickly. Doesn’t delay. Declares herself in business soon, if she hasn’t done so in her mind already.

There is so much delay in this world. So much calculation and uncertainty.  

While there is certainly a time for strategizing and consideration, many times rapid action and on-the-job training is just as good, if not better.

Brave and bold often defeats cautious and calculating.

What were the three most important decisions of your life?

A recent Quora question asked, “What were the three most important decisions of your life?”

I’ve been debating this question for almost a month, and I have finally settled on three. While many decisions could have occupied these three spots, I decided to favor the toughest and most unlikely decisions of my life rather than the ones that were easy and obvious.

For example, deciding to marry Elysha is probably the most important decision of my life, but it was barely a decision. Who wouldn’t want to marry Elysha if given the chance? It was a no-brainer.

Instead, I found three extremely important decisions in my life that could have gone either way and changed the course of my life forever.

1. Maintaining my innocence when charged with grand larceny and embezzlement.

While being questioned about a crime that I did not commit, the police almost had me convinced to confess to the crime rather than risk a lengthy prison sentence. I spent a minute in a mop closet pondering that decision and ultimately decided to stick to the truth, but it was a close call. The police can apply a great deal of pressure in these moments, particularly when you are a 19 year-old kid without any parents, any money or an attorney.

The result was a brief period of homelessness, 18 months spent working 80 hours a week at two different jobs in order to pay a $25,000 attorney’s bill, a permanent case of post traumatic stress disorder as a result of an armed robbery, and a trial where I was found not guilty.

Had I confessed and accepted their plea deal, I could not have become a teacher. 

2. Choosing West Hartford Public Schools over Newington Public Schools.

In the summer of 1999, my hometown of Newington, CT had offered me a permanent position as third grade teacher in one of their elementary schools. I was asked for a day to consider their offer, but the wait time was merely perfunctory. I was taking the job.

During that 24 hour period, I received a call from a principal in West Hartford requesting an interview. Out of curiosity more than anything else, I agreed to speak to him that day. Three hours later, he had offered me a one year position covering a second grade teacher on maternity leave.

The permanent position in Newington would have been the wise and sensible choice. It was in my hometown and would provide me with long-term stability in a time when teaching jobs were hard to find. But I was impressed by the principal, his commitment to children, and his support for the arts. After much debate, I decided upon the one year position in West Hartford, and 16 years later, I am still teaching in the same school.

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That decision changed my life. I met my wife while teaching at that school school. I met five of my closest friends while teaching, including the principal, who has since retired but remains one of my closest friends today. I met my son’s and daughter’s god parents while teaching at that school. Many of my former students are my children’s favorite babysitters, and one of my first students is our primary babysitter and like a member of the family.

I was given the freedom to create a classroom environment that placed reading, writing, and theater at its core, and I have developed a teaching philosophy that has led to much success in my field. I was named Teacher of the Year in West Hartford and was a finalist for Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

I started playing golf, a game that I love beyond all others, thanks to the friends I met at that school, and ultimately wrote a book about it. 

The school’s community, teachers, students, and parents, have become a second family to me. When my job and my future were threatened several years ago, they rallied around me in ways I could have never expected.

3. Saying yes when my best friend asked me to start a wedding DJ company with him.

In 1997, I was attending Trinity College and Saint Joseph's University fulltime, working on degrees in both English and elementary education. I was also managing a McDonald’s restaurant fulltime and tutoring students part-time at the college’s writing center. I was writing for the college’s newspaper. I was the Treasurer of the Student Senate.

I was busier than I had ever been in my life.

Then Bengi called and asked if I wanted to be a wedding DJ, even though we had no experience or equipment or knowledge of the industry, and I said yes.

Seventeen years later, we remain in business. I have entertained at more than 400 weddings in that time. The DJ company has provided me with much needed income through the lean times of my life.

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I met one of my best friends while working as the DJ at his wedding, and that friendship has led to me becoming a Patriots season ticket holder. That same friend led me back into writing when I had given up hope on ever becoming a novelist and professional writer.

I would not have a writing career today had it not been for him. 

I unknowingly gained 17 years of public speaking experience, which allowed me to step into the world of storytelling and public speaking three years ago with unexpected ease and success. I won my first Moth StorySLAM in large part to the experience I gained as a DJ.

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I have since competed in 24 Moth StorySLAMs in New York and Boston and won 12 of them. I’ve told stories for Main Stage shows and GrandSLAM championships and many other storytelling organizations in New York, Boston and Hartford. I would not be the storyteller and speaker I am today had I not worked for almost two decades as a wedding DJ.

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Telling stories for The Moth led to the founding of Speak Up, the Hartford-based storytelling organization that my wife and I founded last year. In a little over a year, we have produced eight sell out shows, launched a series of storytelling workshops, and have now been approached by outside venues, asking us to take our show on the road.

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The DJ business also led to me becoming ordained as a minister. I have presided over almost 20 weddings, one baptism, and three baby naming ceremonies in that time.

I’d love to hear your three most important decisions if you’re willing to share. Post in the comment sections. Send me an email. Contact me through social media.

Pressure is a privilege

Author Susan Schoenberger posted this quote to her Twitter feed:

"Pressure is a privilege." - Billie Jean King as heard on Fresh Air.

I love this idea. It’s so true.

Many of the things that I choose to do involve pressure.

I stand before 21 students every day, knowing full well that I am responsible for their academic success, and that a portion of their future professional success is in my hands.

I do not take this responsibility lightly. I worry about my students a lot.

I write novels. I choose every word. I create every character, every setting and every scenario. Then I send my story into the world for public consumption and comment.

The success of the book is based almost entirely on my ability to create a story that readers love. The viability of my writing career hinges on the success of each book.

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I am a storyteller. I stand before as many of 1,500 people at a time and share a true story from my life in hopes that they will be entertained and moved.

If I am competing in a StorySLAM, my story will immediately be followed with a numerical assignation of my performance by teams of complete strangers.

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I am a wedding DJ. I am the person most responsible for the most important day in the lives of the couple who have hired me. Along with my partner, we coordinate every minute of the wedding. I feel more pressure on a person’s wedding day than any other day of the year. I understand how important this day is to them.

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There are days when I yearn for a less pressure-filled life. I recently saw a parking garage attendant sitting in a booth, reading a book, listening to  music. While I understand that the person in that booth doesn’t earn as much as someone in my position, I found myself envious of him just the same. He was getting paid to perform a simple, stress-free job that allowed him to read a book and relax while on the job.

There are days when that sounds damn fine.

But Billie Jean King was right. Pressure is a privilege. It leads to a full, rewarding, memorable and meaningful life.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Most of the time.

When I started working as a wedding DJ in 1997, the world was damn near prehistoric.

My partner and I started our DJ business 17 years ago on a whim. We had no experience and no equipment but thought we could make it work.

Since 1997, we’ve performed at more than 350 weddings. 

Over the course of that time, I’ve also married more than a dozen couples.

We’ve done two weddings for the same groom after a divorce and second marriage.

We have many, many stories.

Though we constantly contemplate retiring, our company goes on. We’ve reached the point in our careers that we turn down many weddings. We pick-and-choose our clients and wedding venues carefully. We only work when we want to work. 

BWBeng

It occurred to me today, as I was working at wedding #353, that when when I started my career as a DJ in 1997:

  • Smoking was still permitted in most wedding venues.
  • Digital photography did not exist in its current form. Every single professional photographer was still shooting with actual film. In fact, my partner and I carried two extra rolls of film with us after multiple photographers had run out of film at weddings.
  • Digitized music did not exist. Every song that we played was purchased at a brick-and-mortar store.
  • We still played some songs on cassette tapes.
  • There was no online mapping website or software. Directions to wedding venues and client’s homes had to be taken over the phone and written down by hand.

Seventeen years is a long time to be doing anything.

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Faking your own death as part of the proposal? Exchanging vows via Twitter? Strange, but still better than this.

A Russian man faked his own death in order to propose to his girlfriend. Alexey Bykov hired a filmmaker, makeup artists and stuntmen to create elaborate car-crash scene, then arranged to meet his girlfriend, Irena Kolokov, at the site. When she arrived, she saw him lying on the ground,  covered in blood amidst a scene of mangled cars, ambulances and smoke.

Bykov planned an elaborate hoax to show his girlfriend what life would be without him. After being told by the paramedic that he was dead, Kolokov broke down in tears. At that moment Bykov popped up and proposed.

She accepted.

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A couple in Turkey, Cengizhan Celik and Candan Canik, exchanged wedding vows via Twitter. Their officiant prompted them to say “I do” with a tweet. They responded by tweeting the Turkish word “Evet,” or “Yes,” on their iPads.

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A recent study found that almost 6 percent of wedding proposals are made over the phone.

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These marriage-related stories seem odd. At least one is possibly insane.

If any of these people came to me for advice, I would advise against these courses of action. 

But here’s the thing:

I also find these people much more interesting and far less offensive than the degree of snobbery that I see and hear in regards to weddings today.

Which is worse?

Any of the people described above or the woman who receives a wedding invitation from a friend and then phones a mutual friend in order to discuss how cheap, tacky or poorly designed the invitation is.

This happens.

Which is worse?

Any of the people described above or the recently married couple who complains to friends or family members about the inexpensive, poorly chosen or unwanted wedding gift that another friend or family member has given?

This happens. A lot.

Which is worse?

Any of the people described above or the person who criticizes a friend or family member (often behind their back) for failing to adhere to all of the marital traditions and customs of their religion or culture.

This happens. All the time.

I once ministered a pagan wedding in which the guests were required to remove their shoes and the bride was required to cut her finger with a ceremonial dagger prior to the exchange of vows in order to consecrate the ground upon which she would be married.

I once worked as a DJ at a wedding where only Celtic music could be played. The bride and groom drank from dragon-encrusted goblets and asked me to teach their guests something called The Mummer’s Dance.

I once worked as a DJ at a wedding that was delayed for almost two hours because the police dog that the bride and groom wanted included in the ceremony was delayed due to a possible drug shipment at the airport, and they refused to get married without him.

I once worked as a DJ at a backyard wedding that included a Slip ‘N Slide (used by both the bride and groom) and a hotdog cart.

After 16 years in the wedding industry as a DJ and minister, I have hundred of stories like this that I could tell. In each of these less-than-ordinary instance, I would much prefer to spend time with these kinds of people rather than the brides and grooms obsessed with ensuring that their wedding looks expensive or just like their friend’s wedding or better than their friend’s wedding or as close as possible to the celebrity wedding that they read about in People magazine a year ago.

Slicing your index finger open with a ceremonial dagger in order to drip blood on the ground is surprising to say the least, but I am always more surprised (and disgusted) by the woman who criticizes her friend’s choice of wedding gown or the man who complains about the quality of the top-shelf liquor at the reception or the bridesmaid who makes the bride’s life difficult by complaining about the dress that she’s been asked to wear.

In the wedding industry, there is nothing worse than pretentiousness, snobbery, overt opulence and the petty, hyper-critical, judgmental attitudes of people who find it impossible to imagine why anyone would ever get married in a way that is different than their own wedding day.