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.

Jim and Pam are still together. There is hope.

On the rare day that I'm feeling pessimistic about the world or sad about something in my life, I will often stop and think, "Jim and Pam are still married. As long as they're still together, there is hope."

Sometimes I go back and watch their wedding. It brings me such joy.

I miss those characters from The Office more than you could imagine. 

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.  

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. 

The Professional Best Man: A bride’s best friend, too.

Four years ago, I proposed a new job for myself:

The professional best man.

I was serious about the proposal but less than hopeful about my prospects, but since publishing that post back in 2011, a number of remarkable things have happened:

  • Four grooms have attempted to hire me. Two lived in California. Two lived in the UK. Geography and timing (the weddings were taking place during the school year) prevented me from taking any of these gigs.
  • Three reality show producers and a documentarian have contacted me about writing, consulting, and/or starring in a series about a professional best man. Two were in the US and two were in the UK.
  • Kevin Hart, the actor and comedian who stars in the upcoming The Wedding Ringer (based upon the concept of a professional best man), contacted me and acknowledged that I had the idea first. He did not offer any financial compensation.

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So my dream of working as a professional best man is still alive and well, but it’s recently been pointed out to me that I have been missing an entire segment of my potential customer base:

Brides.

Sure, a man might find himself in need of a professional best man, but it’s equally likely (and perhaps even more so) that a bride might feel that her future husband is in need of a professional best man, too.

She may love her man, but does she love her man’s best friend?

Not always.

And even if she thinks that her fiancée's best friend is a great guy, is he competent enough to handle all  of the the responsibilities of a best man? Is he going to remain sober on the wedding day? Is he going to plan a bachelor party that will make her future husband happy while eliminating the possibility of alcohol poisoning, naked women, and police involvement?

If not, I’m your man.

I have met many outstanding best men in my role as a DJ, but I’ve also met 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 helpful in any way.  

Besides, why burden your fiancée's best friend with all of these responsibilities when all he really 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, minister, 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 allow me to ensure that the band, DJ, minister, photographer, caterer, and any other vendors are serving the bride and groom to my exceedingly exacting standards.
  • I have extensive experience in dealing with irritable in-laws, drunken guests, angry ex-girlfriends, belligerent uncles, wedding crashers, 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 criminally- 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 plan a bachelor party that your fiancée loves while also ensuring that he does nothing that he 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 your fiancée has 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 if he is capping off an amusing and heartfelt toast), will keep you fiancée's best interests in mind at all times, and is skilled and experienced enough to ensure that everything goes smoothly on your wedding day.

Doesn’t your fiancée you deserve another friend on his wedding day? A friend absent of personal needs and petty grievances. A friend who will guide him 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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Don’t say goodbye to the bride and groom. Just leave. Let it be your final gift to them.

Slate’s Seth Stevenson argues in favor of not saying goodbye.

Ghosting—aka the Irish goodbye, the French exit, and any number of other vaguely ethnophobic terms—refers to leaving a social gathering without saying your farewells. One moment you’re at the bar, or the house party, or the Sunday morning wedding brunch. The next moment you’re gone. In the manner of a ghost. “Where’d he go?” your friends might wonder. But—and this is key—they probably won’t even notice that you’ve left.

I am an enormous fan of ghosting. My wife, however, would never allow it. My wife’s goodbye ritual takes at least 20 minutes and includes the scheduling of at least one future social engagement and engaging in at least one conversation on an entirely new topic before the farewell is complete.

For me, ghosting will never be a reality. Nor will it be for most people. Social conventions are incredibly difficult to change, and they are even more difficult to ignore for the vast majority of people.

It takes a special kind of arrogant rule breaker to ghost on a consistent basis.

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But there is one social engagement where ghosting shouldn’t even be an option. It should be standard practice:

A wedding.

As a wedding DJ with almost two decades of experience, I believe that ghosting at a wedding is not only acceptable but represents an act of kindness and generosity toward the bride and groom.

Every weekend, I watch as brides and grooms are pulled off the dance floor during one of their favorite songs by friends or family members who feel the need to exchange idle, meaningless, and soon-to-be-forgotten pleasantries before saying goodbye.

Don’t do it. Just leave.

Consider the numbers:

If there are 150 people attending the wedding (an average number of guests for the weddings that I do), that means that the bride and groom will need to say goodbye to approximately 75 couples.

In the course of a five hour reception (also the average), that amounts to a goodbye every four minutes.

Since most guests don’t start leaving four minutes into the reception, what it really means is a constant stream of goodbyes during the last two hours of the reception, when the bride and groom are supposed to be dancing with friends and family and having the most fun.

Years ago, I would make an announcement with about 15 minutes left in the wedding imploring guests to join the bride and groom on the dance floor and stay for the last few songs so the bride and groom could enjoy them in peace.

“Don’t make the bride and groom spend the last few precious moments of their wedding saying goodbye to you.”

The announcement rarely had any impact on the selfish jackasses who thought that leaving 15 minutes early was more important than the happiness and enjoyment of a bride and groom on their wedding day, so I stopped making it.

But if there was ever a social event to ghost, it’s a wedding. The bride and groom will never remember who did and didn’t say goodbye to, nor will it matter to them.

I promise you: There has never been a bride or groom in the history of the universe who were concerned with saying goodbye to their guests in the midst of their reception.

If saying goodbye is important to you, stay until the end. Wait for the music to stop and the lights to come up. Then say goodbye.

Otherwise, just leave, damn it. Let the happy couple be happy.

I went to Maine to officiate a wedding for a couple I had never met, and it wasn’t crazy.

My friends think I'm a little crazy. Three days before the start of my school year, I headed to Maine to officiate the wedding ceremony of a couple who I had never met.

The bride is a fan of my novels. We met online a few years ago after she read Something Missing and reached out to tell me how much she liked book, and over the course of time, we got to know each other. She went on to read all three of my novels, and she got to know my family thanks to social media.

Yes, it’s true. I drove for more than 17 hours over the course of three days in order to reach my destination and return home.

Yes, it’s true. I arrived at a cabin filled with people who I had never met.

Yes, it’s true, all of this was happening in my last few days of summer vacation.

My friends couldn’t understand why I would sacrifice three precious days of vacation in order to spend a total of about 30 minutes marrying a couple who I had never met.

Some of them thought it crazy to drive into the woods of Maine to meet someone who could very well have been an ax murderer.

More than a few thought it ludicrous that I wasn’t charging this couple a hefty sum of money to officiate a wedding four states away.

I went to Maine to marry Charity and Brent because when life presents you with a unique and unusual experience, you take it. A fan of my fiction asked me to play a role in one of the most important days in her life.

How many authors are given that opportunity?

How many people are given that opportunity?

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Despite the long drive and the time away from my family, I had an experience that I will never forget.

I stood on a rock beside a crystal clear lake and assisted as two people promised to spend the rest of their lives with each other.

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I met some amazing people along the way, including Truc, who somehow managed to cook a five-course Vietnamese dinner for two dozen in a tiny cabin kitchen in a place where questions like, “Where is your ginger?” engendered responses from supermarket employees like, “I’ll need to get my manager.”

I met Shelly, her husband, and her sons, who run a second-generation boy’s camp by the lake that teaches young man how to build canoes from scratch and paddle them across open water.

I met Sahar, the fire-eating, sword swallowing circus performer who entertained us with a death-defying spectacle after the wedding.

I met a painter from San Francisco. Fire fighters from Wisconsin. Many more. People from every corner in the country gather in Maine for this celebration, and I was fortunate enough to be there with them.

Yes, the drive was difficult, and the traffic was horrendous.

Yes, I missed Elysha terribly.

Yes, it would’ve been great to have spent the time swimming and biking and golfing and playing with Charlie and Clara.

Yes, I had a book to finish and could’ve used the time to wrap it up.

Yes, I had a classroom to prepare and a garage to clean and a thousand other things to do at home, but never again will I be presented with an opportunity like the one I had in Maine last week.

Sometimes you say yes because the question will never be asked again.

The New York Post’s Kim Kardashian - Kanye West wedding announcement was quite educational.

A couple days ago, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got married.

I wasn’t aware of their wedding (or their engagement, for that matter) until I saw it mentioned on Twitter.

I know who Kanye West is. As a wedding DJ, I play his music from time to time. I couldn't pick him out of a lineup, but I know a few of his songs.

He sings Gold Digger, which brides occasionally ask me to play despite the obvious stupidity of this request for their wedding. 

I still can’t pick Kim Kardashian out of a lineup either, and other than the existence of her reality show, I never understood why she was famous.

Thankfully, The New York Post’s wedding announcement has cleared up all of my confusion (though I’m not sure why Bruce Jenner was walking Kim Kardashian down the aisle):

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How to Stop a Wedding: Much better advice than what Slate had to offer.

Slate recently published a piece advising readers on how to stop a wedding. The editors of Slate loved this piece, declaring it on Twitter to be one of the most popular articles ever amongst Slate staffers.  

The advice is decent, albeit a little obvious.

  • “Think about why you want to break up the wedding.”
  • “Approach the bride or groom several days or weeks before the wedding.”
  • “Organize your thoughts.”
  • “Be graceful.”

I don’t exactly think “Be graceful” is the kind of advice that people are looking for when trying to stop a wedding.

Not exactly helpful.

And what were the alternatives to this advice?

Don’t give any consideration to the reasons for wanting to break up the wedding. Just g with your gut. Enter the conversation as mentally disorganized as possible. Wait until about 15 minutes before the ceremony and be as rude as possible.

See what I mean? I hardly think that the advice that Slate is offering is groundbreaking.

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In my life, I have attempted to stop two weddings. Both times, I used the same strategy, and and both times, my attempts failed. This may make you wonder why I am qualified to offer advice on this topic.

Perhaps I am not.

But two things:

  1. Slate makes no claims that the author of this piece was ever successful either, so I am at least as qualified as the author of this piece (which is actually a collection of anonymous WikiHow contributors).
  2. Despite my attempts to stop the weddings, I remained close friends with both brides. After each subsequent divorce (I was at least correct in my prediction about the future of these marriages), both brides acknowledged my attempt to save them from disaster and thanked me.

I didn’t stop the wedding, but my attempts did not damage my friendships with these women.

Slate also offers advice on how to stop a wedding in process. I think this is  stupid. If you haven’t tried to stop the wedding by the time the actual ceremony begins, then you need to keep your mouth shut. There are too many other people invested in a wedding day for you to ruin it by your inability to speak up beforehand. And in the event that you are wrong and the marriage lasts (which is entirely possible), you will have placed an irreparable black mark on the couple’s special day. 

Divorce is a simple process these days, especially when there are no kids in the equation. Wait a month or two and then check in on the party in question. Inquire about the status of the marriage. Ascertain your friend’s level of happiness. Attempt to break it up then if necessary.

In both of my cases, the person who I was encouraging to stop the wedding was also a woman who I had once dated. In one case, this had amounted to a single date. In the other, we dated exclusively for about four months. I remained friends with both women after our romantic relationship ended. I attempted to stop these weddings because their future husbands were not good men. I had no interest in resuming a romantic relationship with either woman.

There were no ulterior motives.

My advice to stopping a wedding is simple:

If your intention is to stop a wedding in order to win someone back or win someone over, don’t. If the person in question is happy in his or her relationship, you have no right to open your mouth. Every day, men and women get married, and every day, there are those who wish that they were standing beside the bride or groom instead. Love is not always reciprocal. In fact, it’s rarely reciprocal.

Deal with it.

If you are attempting to stop the wedding because you believe that the marriage is doomed, either because it’s a bad match, or the person in question is settling, or the future spouse is not a good person, then proceed with the following steps: 

  1. Check with one or more of the person’s closest friends before proceeding. Do not attempt to stop a wedding without obtaining agreement from at least one other knowledgeable, unbiased person. We all make mistakes. This is not the moment to be wrong.
  2. Meet the person alone. Even if the person’s six closest friends agree that the wedding should be stopped, no one likes to be ambushed. No one likes to be outnumbered. Enter the conversation solo. Better to allow the friends and family in agreement to be waiting in the wings, ready to affirm your opinion once the person has been given time to process your words.
  3. Choose a setting that allows you to leave immediately if necessary and permits the betrothed the privacy that he or she may require. This is not the time to meet your friend for dinner at a restaurant. You need to be able to dispense with your advice and exit if that is what the person desires. This will not be an easy conversation. Be prepared to eject.   
  4. Be direct. Explain in clear and uncertain terms why the wedding should be stopped. Be sure to have specific examples to support your concerns.
  5. Tell the person that you are not the only one who thinks this way. Offer names of others in agreement. Encourage the person to seek out their counsel as well.
  6. Offer to assist in the cessation of the wedding. Explain that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to make it possible. You will call caterers. Meet with photographers. Negotiate the return of deposits. Even stand by his or her side when the news is broken to the fiancée. 
  7. Assure the person that people call off weddings all the time. If you have a specific example of a mutual friend who did so, use it. Suggest that he or she consult with this person.
  8. Be prepared for significant turmoil in your friendship, including the possible end of your friendship. This could happen. As I’ve said many times, the easy thing and the right thing are rarely the same thing.

Last month, my wife and I ran into one of the women whose marriage has ended. She told us how happy she was that her divorce was nearly finalized. It was the first time that I had seen her since the dissolution of her marriage, so I couldn’t help myself.

“You know,” I said. “I told you not to marry that guy.”

My wife punched me in the arm (as she is wont to do) and told me that I was a jerk for saying something like that.

“No,” the woman said. “Matt was right. He told me not to marry [that guy], so he has a right to say ‘I told you so.’ No one else warned me like he did.”

It’s true that I didn’t stop the wedding. My advice failed to yield the desired results. But stopping a wedding is hard. Telling someone not to marry the person who he or she loves is hard.

My record is 0-2, but I stand by my advice.

It’s at least a hell of a lot better than what Slate had to offer.

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.

99 reasons that I love Elysha Dicks

Today is our seventh anniversary. Please forgive me this indulgence.

Here are just some of the many reasons that I love my wife as much as I do.

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1. The way she sleeps on folded hands

2. She once yelled at a 90 year-old woman who was cheating in Scrabble

3. The way she is like a mother and a sister at the same time to Clara

4. She once skipped school to play The Legend of Zelda

5. Many of my friends consider her to be the ideal wife

6. She is one of the finest teachers I have ever known

7. She asked to stop talking to watch The Simpsons on our first date

8. She makes me a better storyteller

9. She loves Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Paul Simon and Patsy Cline

10. She feels bad about the spiders she kills 

11. She tells me what to put me on my plate in a buffet line

12. She asks me when Hard Knocks is starting again

13. She can navigate any mall flawlessly but almost nothing else 

14. The way she disappears for two days when she reads a book

15. Her senseless fear of aliens

16. Holding her hand

17. Listening to an audiobook with her on a long drive

18. The new set of parents that she has brought into my life

19. She looks beautiful in a baseball cap

20. She way she puts her hand on my shoulder after a nightmare

21. She knows me better than I know myself

22. The way she plays with infants in her lap

23. The way she runs her hands through my hair while I'm driving  

24. Her aggressive response to people who cut in line

25. The way that my friends have become her friends

26. Her infinitesimal lisp

27. The way she reads her childhood stories to our children

28. Her undercover streak of unrelenting nonconformity

29. Watching her dance

30. The way I knew she was pregnant with Clara before she did

31. Her complete and total lack of jealousy

32. The way she has never told me what to wear

33. The degree to which she hates people who hate me

34. Her love for Battlestar Galactica

35. The way she fills our home with music every evening

36. Her ability to react quickly and without panic in an emergency

37. The partnership we share in writing, storytelling and creativity

38. The way she looks in her green Smith tee-shirt

39. Her lack of concern over what others think of her

40. Her inability to watch any scary movie

41. The way she wraps gifts in magazine photographs

42. Her Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, including the soundtrack

43. The way she looks while wearing a headband

44. Her astounding patience

45. Her “good rice and chicken” dinner

46. Her fierce love of her grandmother

47. Her ability to name almost any song on the radio within three seconds

48. The way she cried when I asked her to marry me

49. Her harsh but frequently necessary criticism of my writing

50. The way she said Charlie’s name for the first time in the delivery room

51. Her timeless beauty on our wedding day

52. Our “South Park is better than The Simpsons” talk

53. The way she looks in a knit cap

54. The extreme diversity of her friends

55. The way is takes about 15 minutes to become her lifelong friend

56. The fact she has not poisoned our dog or cat yet

57. Her untapped, underutilized and yet remarkable design aesthetic

58. Her camera-ready-but-still-natural-looking smile

59. The way she sneezes multiple times, every time

60. Her willingness to eat ice cream for dinner

61. Any cookie or cake that she has ever baked

62. Watching her dance. I repeat because it is my favorite thing

63. She is in the black in career winnings in poker

64. The way she wept when upon receiving news of my first book deal

65. Her love for a Patriots game on a fall afternoon

66. The way she weeps uncontrollably during year-end school speeches

67. The way everyone seems to love her almost as much as I do

68. Her universal and unfailing support of me

69. The way she has never made me feel guilty about being away from home

70. Those moments in life when she is uncommonly proud of me

71. Falling asleep on my shoulder at the drive-in

72. Her unwarranted confidence in almost everything I do

73. Her love and attachment to yet independence from her parents

74. Her rejection of senseless tradition

75. Her tears on our wedding day

76. The way she stretches in the morning as she wakes up

77. The way she looked on the beaches of Bermuda

78. Her lack of investment in trends and name brands

79. Her embrace and love of Christmas

80. The way her former students still love her years later

81. The way she sings to our children at night

82. The way she barely grips the toothbrush while brushing her teeth

83. The way she speaks to our children the same way she speaks to adults

84. Her unwavering defense of my quirks and eccentricities

85. Her genuinely violent yet laughter-filled response to tickling

86. The way she walks when she is tipsy

87. Her grudging acceptance of my last name

88. The way every wedding I attend makes we want to marry her again

89. Her unparalleled, unjustified acceptance of me in every way

90. The inexplicable pleasure she feels in bathing our children

91. The fact that we have never had an actual fight

92. Her talent for filling stockings with perfect presents at Christmastime

93. The way she dances with our children in the kitchen

94. The affection she feels for her own childhood

95. The way she folds a shirt

96. Her reference to me as a “manly hunk of man meat”

97. The frequency at which she changes her order in a restaurant

98. Her rejection and abhorrence of snobbery in every way

99. Agreeing to marry me on the steps of Grand Central Terminal

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The thread of melancholy is unavoidable for this parent

Slate’s John Dickerson writes about the regret he feels about not inviting his parents’ friends to his wedding for Slate’s wedding issue. This paragraph, which deals with parenthood, was especially poignant for me:

There's an indefinite point in your tenure as a parent where you start to realize your kids are leaving you. For us, the first hints came at about age 9. As your kids age, you delight in the new bonds that replace the old ones. No longer laughing over Dr. Seuss, you're now laughing over The Avengers and tomorrow Arrested Development. Or you're watching them pull the wriggling fish off the hook, which was once your job. The moments are so sweet you can usually avoid the thread of melancholy embedded in each of them: With each molting, you reinforce that the molting is happening faster.

I am never able to “avoid the thread of melancholy embedded in each of them.” While I am not a parent who feels that my children are growing up too fast (perhaps because I mark every day in writing), I am constantly aware of the unending series of losses that parenthood represents.

When my four year-old daughter asks me to pick her up and carry her, I do so every time, regardless of circumstance, because I know the number of times I will be able to pick her up are dwindling.

That melancholy shades everything I do with my children. It reminds me of the importance of each moment, but it also reminds me of its impermanence. My nearly lifelong, omnipresent existential crisis has been both a blessing and a curse.

Later this month, I will be telling the story of one of my near-death experiences onstage. While preparing for that story, I wrote this:

There is not a day, not an hour, that goes by that I do not think about my own mortality. I live in a constant, persistent, unending existential crisis. Its causes are two near-death experiences and a robbery that had me convinced that I was going to die. It has contributed to more than decade of post-traumatic stress disorder, an inability to sleep peacefully and an awareness and fear of death that had caused me to spontaneously weep at times.

I spend my waking hours wondering if this will be the last time I hug my daughter, the final time I witness a sunset or the last time I hear The Beatles sing about Desmond and Molly and their home sweet home. I go to bed every night, angry about my need for wasteful, unproductive sleep, wondering if I can shave another minute or two off the scant few hours I already spend in bed.

I look at the world and I see impermanence and decay. I see a planetary population that will cease to exist one hundred years from now.

Dickerson is right in describing these parental moments as sweet. Indescribably sweet. Some of the simplest and best moments of my life.

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I would like to also say that these are unforgettable moments, but I tend to avoid that word because I know that someday I will die and everything will be forgotten.

The ability to avoid the thread of melancholy that is embedded within these moments of parental bliss is something that I cannot do.

I am envious of John Dickerson and every other parent who can.

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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Wedding etiquette torn down by one of the most popular advice columnists in the world. I’m impressed.

Emily Yoffe, the Ask Prudence advice communist for Slate, recently did a podcast in which people were able to ask questions about wedding etiquette via the telephone as part of Slate’s wedding issue.

Yoffe tends to lean toward tradition and formality, which differs from my natural inclinations, but I found myself both in agreement and incredibly impressed by her answers during the course of this podcast.

In response to a bride-to-be who recently learned that her mother-in-law plans on wearing a cream-colored dress to the wedding, Yoffe told the caller not to say a word to her future mother-in-law about the choice of color. Yes, it’s true that it’s traditional for only the bride to wear a white dress to her wedding, but Yoffe assured the bride that no one is going to mistake and the mother-in-law because their dresses are similar in color, nor does the mother-in-law’s dress have any bearing over the enjoyment that the bride should have that day.

Moreover, and more important, she also implored the bride to take the high road if someone commented on the dress color at the wedding by simply stating that she thought her mother-in-law looked beautiful.

The tradition that the bride is the only woman wearing white at the wedding is true enough, but Yoffe is also willing to acknowledge that this is a fairly meaningless tradition, and that the bride’s relationship with her mother-in-law, who has already bought the dress and expressed her love for it, is more important than ridiculous matters of dress color.

Yoffe also acknowledges the likelihood that the bride would speak about the mother-in-law’s decision behind her back and is wise enough to advise against it. I cannot tell you how many times my respect for a person has eroded after listening to them make petty, backbiting, materialistic comments like the ones Yoffe anticipated about someone who is not in the room. 

Another caller expresses her concern over the mounting cost of four weddings that she is going be in this year as a bridesmaid. As a fulltime student with a part-time job, the cost of the dresses, the alterations, shoes and the out-of-town bachelorette parties has become too much for this woman’s checking account to bear. She asked Yoffe if it would be acceptable to not bring a gift to the wedding.

Yoffe says that you are obligated to do “only what you are able to do.”

Then she speaks blasphemy:

“Gifts are optional.”

Except it’s not blasphemy. We all know how much it costs to be a bridesmaid these days with bridal showers, bachelorette parties and wedding costs.

What kind of bride would not acknowledge and understand this when it comes to the bridesmaid’s choice of gift?

A despicable one, perhaps, but you shouldn’t be serving as bridesmaid for a despicable person.

Yoffe goes on to say that you can pick up something small but nice for as little as ten or twenty dollars, wrap it up and you have “discharged your duty.”

Hallelujah.  

What Yoffe fails to acknowledge is the disgusting and all-to-common custom of discussing the quality, choice and even cost of gifts with friends and family members after the fact.

“Can you believe that Aunt Judith only gave me $50?”

“My friend, Tina, went off-registry and bought me this awful looking vase that I’m sure was on sale.”

“What did Kim and Joe give you for your wedding? Were they as cheap as they were with me?”

On this week’s Slate’s DoubleX podcast, Slate editor Allison Benedikt actually argues in favor of bridal registries for this very reason, claiming that the potential gossip material that bridal registries provide is too valuable to allow the tradition die.

If this woman follows Yoffe’s advice and gives an inexpensive gift or no gift at all, it is likely that the bride will gossip about her, maybe only to her parents or sister or favorite cousin, but probably more.

It’s possible that the bride possesses the degree of grace, dignity, restraint and/or perspective necessary to to never speak about the quality of this bridesmaid’s gift, but I fear those people are few and far between.

As vile and disgusting as this kind of gift gossip happens to be, I have seen far too much of it over the course of my lifetime to believe that it won’t happen here.

Still, I agree and admire Yoffe’s advice. She’s right. The cost of the gift should never matter, but it should especially never matter when a bridesmaid is involved.

To hell with the possible gossip. If you spend hundreds of dollars on a dress, shoes, alterations, hair, a wedding shower and a bachelorette party, you should not be expected to also purchase a wedding gift.

Only a loser moron materialistic cretin who sucks at life would say otherwise.

Placing an engagement ring in food is stupid.

Last week comedian and podcast host Marc Maron proposed to his girlfriend by hiding the engagement ring in a stack of pancakes.

I do not understand the decision to conceal the engagement ring in food or drink. I cannot imagine a single instance in which this is the best or most preferred way to propose. It strikes me as a passive, ordinary, possibly  cowardly and an almost certainly sticky way to propose to a woman.

There is nothing romantic about someone reaching into a stack of pancakes or a glass of champagne to receive their engagement ring for the first time.

engagement-ring-fork ring

In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s just plain stupid. 

It’s not like an effective and memorable proposal is that difficult.

1. Choose the right place.

I chose Grand Central Station in New York City because Elysha once told me that it was her favorite building in the world, and I wanted to choose a place that would be around for a long, long time.

2. Say something great.

I didn’t exactly hit a homerun with my actual proposal, but it was serviceable. The police officer was unexpected, but it worked out fine. You can read the text of my proposal (and the description of the actual event) here. 

3. Put the ring on her finger.

Elysha actually took the ring from me and placed it on her finger herself, but this made sense given we were perched on the landing of a busy staircase in a room filled with hundreds of people. No sense risking one of us dropping the ring while I was trying to slide it on her finger.  

4. THEN eat. 

We had lunch at Ruby Foos with the 25 or so friends who came into New York to witness the proposal, followed by a stroll through Manhattan to Rockefeller Center to see the famed Christmas tree.

But this level of extravagance is certainly not required. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the kitchen with your fiancée following the proposal can be just as sweet.

Just keep the damn ring out of the peanut butter.

Butterfly Kisses is not cheesy, damn it.

Butterfly Kisses, a song by Bob Carlisle, was released in 1997, the same year I became a wedding DJ.  I’ve been playing that song for fathers and daughters ever since, and I have always thought the song was incredibly cheesy.

Last night I watched a bride dance with her father to the song. He had chosen the song and had kept his choice a secret until I announced it.

As I stood on the edge of the dance floor, clipboard in hand, waiting to introduce the groom and his mother onto the dance floor, I started listening to the song, paying attention to the lyrics and thinking about my own daughter, Clara.

It was the combination of dust and pollen that generated the tears in my eyes last night, but as I wiped them away, I realized how stupid and wrong I have been for the last sixteen years.

It turns out that Butterfly Kisses is not a cheesy song at all. Not in the slightest. 

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.

My wedding vows

Last month, in conjunction with our upcoming anniversary, I shared some posts that I had written about our wedding in 2006. Those posts originally appeared on a blog that no longer exists, so I wanted to revisit them and share some of my favorites here. 

As a result, readers began asking me questions about our wedding, including what vows Elysha and I recited. Rather than using standard vows, Elysha and I wrote our own vows and kept them secret from one another until reciting them on our wedding day.

I asked Elysha if she wouldn’t mind me posting them here, and she has agreed.

Today I am posting the vows that I wrote for Elysha. Tomorrow I will post her vows to me.

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I used to believe that life would be perfect when all my dreams came true, but then you came along
and I realized that I didn’t know what dreaming was.

Elysha Jaffee Green, you are more than a man could ever ask for
and more than I deserve.

I vow to spend every day of my life
giving you as much as you have given me.

I promise to remember the darkness before you
so that I will never forget the brilliance that you have brought to my life.

I promise to share everything that I have
and to try to give you everything you could ever want.

I promise to stand beside you,
hold your hand,
and be your strong and loving friend
through good times and bad.

I promise to always be the one to go into the basement at night
when the darkness frightens you,
to find you the best parking spots available,
and to shop with you and eat sushi no matter how much I despise both.

Most importantly, I promise to love you,
to love you like no man before,
with all of my heart and mind and soul,
until the end of these days and beyond.

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