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.

Music is not the most important part of my job as a wedding DJ.

Last night I wrapped up my 19th year as a wedding DJ.

When we first launched the business back in 1997, I thought that music was going to be the most important part of my job. Learning to mix songs together with great precision and playing just the right song at just the right moment seemed paramount to me.

And yes, it's true. The primary reason I am hired as a wedding DJ is to play music, but every DJ can play the music. Some are better at mixing music and matching beats, but every experienced, professional DJ can play the music with an acceptable level of skill. 

I have learned that the secret behind our success hasn't been the music but all of the other things that we routinely do during a wedding. 

Last night, for example:

  1. I met with the justice of the peace, who was officiating a wedding ceremony for the first time. She was nervous and unsure about certain parts of the ceremony. I've married more than two dozen people over the past ten years (and have watched hundred of other wedding ceremonies), so I was able to iron out some of the wrinkles in her plan and put her more at ease. 
  2. I met with the best men, who was delivering a toast later that night, and revised his plan a bit, thus ensuring that his toast would be well received and the bride would not feel insulted.
  3. I bustled the bride's dress when she lost a button on the back during the reception.  
  4. I tied the ring bearer's tie after his mother gave up in frustration. 
  5. I fixed the jammed popcorn maker, thus endearing myself to the dozen or so children at the wedding.  
  6. During the cake cut, I extricated a small but exceptionally persistent boy from the scene - and therefore from the photographs - by handing him a microphone and encouraging him to turn it on and play with it. By the time he realized that the microphone was never going to work, the cake cut was complete and the problem had been averted.
  7. I brought a drink to a father who had been sitting in the same chair for more than two hours with his sleeping toddler flower girl draped over his shoulders. The look of gratitude on that man's face was priceless.
  8. I brought the father of the bride his jacket and suggested that he wear it just prior to his dance with his daughter. He thanked me profusely later in the night. 
  9. I extricated the bride and groom from a lengthy conversation with a "friend of the family" - which often means a friend of the mother and father - by recognizing their desire to escape and providing them with an excuse to do so. The looks of gratitude on their faces were even better.

And yes, I played the music, too. It went well. I actually closed out the evening with a series of six well chosen songs that packed the dance floor, including Sweet Caroline, Jessie's Girl, and Don't Stop Believin'.

I would've normally played popular songs from the previous year at the end of the wedding, but I recognized early on that this was a sing-along crowd, meaning they were the kind of people who liked to sing on the dance floor as much as they liked to dance. As a result, I ditched the latest Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor songs in favor of more lyrically ubiquitous tunes. It worked perfectly.  

Music matters. It's just the easy part. 

Despite our best efforts to retire, we have already booked two weddings for 2016 and more are likely on the way. We no longer advertise or even maintain a real website, but we're the preferred vendor at two of our favorite wedding venues, so we continue to book weddings via these vendor lists. Otherwise, brides and grooms need to know us and be referred to us by a former client or friend in order to book us.

It's not the 40-60 weddings a year that we once did. Instead, it's half a dozen Friday or Saturday nights spent with my best friend doing something that we have become quite good at over the course of two decades. 

And mostly because of the little things that we do to make the wedding day a little better for everyone involved.  

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.