Archive for the Weddings! Category

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 19

Posted in 35 Things Learned in 35 Years, College Traditions, Texas Aggie Weddings, Weddings! on December 19, 2010 by djscottshirley

19) Honor Tradition!

Traditions exist for families, schools, religions, countries and cultures. Many traditions have ancient roots, that have long been forgotten.

One good definition of tradition is “something that must be done a certain way, and nobody can remember why.” Perhaps the most famous explanation of tradition comes from this classic scene from “Fiddler On The Roof,” presented here in its full glory:

I think my favorite part is when he admits, “I don’t know why.”

But traditions add a lot to a celebration. Traditions link us to our past, to our roots, and to our ancestors. They connect us with our faith, with our associations with friends, schools, and clubs…they connect us to each other.

Big Fat Greek Weddings are COOL!

And traditions can be just plain fun. If you have danced the hora at a Jewish wedding, or watched the kalamatiano dance at a Greek wedding (above), or witnessed the Alcatraz dance at a Peruvian wedding, you know what I mean. Traditions add a special element to any celebration.

Many schools and sports are steeped in tradition. Yachting traditions blend the nautical with the military, and there is nothing quite like the blue-blazered spectacle of Opening Day festivities at the Fort Worth Boat Club, complete with the Blessing of the Fleet and the Setting of the Watch by cannon fire!

Yacht Club officers in traditional non-conformist uniforms.

What about a group of Texas Aggies belting out the Aggie War Hymn?

This school has a long list of traditions, from standing up at football games to becoming engaged beneath the Century Tree. We have a Blog category for college traditions, and one just for Aggie Weddings. At one Aggie Corpsman’s wedding, they cut the cake with his sword.

The famous Century Tree at Texas A & M University, where Aggies propose.

Other schools joke that “if the Aggies do anything twice, they declare it to be a tradition!”

Regardless of age or origin, traditions have a special place in our hearts, and will always be honored – in a proper spirit of celebration – at Party Machine Celebrations.

Love New York? There’s an App for That!

Posted in Let them eat cake!, Weddings! on December 17, 2010 by djscottshirley

This couple had a thing for the Big Apple, and their baker caught the spirit:

Of course, Party Machine Celebrations has all the right stuff for a New York state of mind, whether it’s music, backdrops, projecting the Manhattan skyline on the walls, or the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the dance floor!

I Wanna Be A Wedding DJ!

Posted in Professionalism, Weddings! on December 4, 2010 by djscottshirley

“He made it look so easy!”

When an expert does his job well, he makes it look easy. It can be a joy to watch an experienced pro perform his craft. Whether it’s a pilot landing an airplane, a mason laying bricks, or a window-washer on a tall building, they seem to work almost effortlessly. If you’re really good, you make it look like fun – think of Tom Sawyer white-washing the fence.

Of course, these people all have specialized training, tools, and safety gear. More importantly, they have years of experience.

Through the years I have tried many of these “easy” jobs. Something rooted deep in the male psyche makes us men insist on fixing things ourselves. So I have repaired plumbing, tiled the bathroom, installed my own air conditioning, painted inside and out, and even roofed my own house. Sure, I could do it – slowly, and not always very well.

For each of these duties, I had to do some research, a bit of reading, and consult others who had experience at these jobs. I had to borrow, buy, or rent specialized tools. And it always took me twice as long as the trained artisans who do these jobs as their career. Several times I injured myself, and earned a trip to the Emergency Room. How do the pros do it, without getting hurt?

I have even flown an airplane – it’s easy! Anyone could do it. Of course, I don’t know how to land the plane; I let the experienced pilot do that part. And I wouldn’t want to try it on a stormy night.

When the job gets tough, experience counts!


It’s like the commercials – so easy a caveman could do it!

Under ideal conditions, when performed by an experienced professional, ANY job can look easy! And an experienced professional wedding MC makes it not only look easy, but also FUN. Watching the DJ smoothly introduce the wedding party with wit and humor is a joy – but guests never see the 20 hours of meetings, paperwork, phone calls, scripting and preparation required to make that five minutes perfect.

Nor do the guests know about the faulty electrical outlets, nor the RF interference, nor the time spent with a Real Time Analyzer and Digital Delay to eliminate the echo in the room. They don’t know that 20 people worked feverishly for several hours to make the ballroom look breathtaking. They don’t realize that the smiling MC in the designer tuxedo, who seems to speak so effortlessly, practiced those introductions many times – and has been in that ballroom since noon!

A Stark Contrast

The professional Master of Ceremonies exists in stark contrast to the stereotypical amateur hobby DJ. Neal Howard, an experienced professional in Atlanta, shares this image of the DJ you DON’T want at your wedding:

Sadly, tragically, Cousin Darrell is what many brides end up with, when cost is considered more important than experience. He’s the “low bidder,” and is often the Death of the Party.

The Party Machine receives calls almost daily from young DJ wanna-be’s looking for work. I have trained many young DJs in the last 35 years. The good ones, who have what it takes to become professionals, are willing to serve as an apprentice to more experienced DJs. Many young wanna-be’s are too impatient for that, and seem oblivious to the need for developing professional skills. Minnesota DJ Tyrone Blue, another experienced professional, has created this bit of humor that demonstrates the arrogance of ignorance:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Young Lance could be the next Cousin Darrell! He’s gonna clean up.

May The Force Be With You – and Chocolate!

Posted in Let them eat cake!, Weddings! on December 2, 2010 by djscottshirley

We have seen cakes decorated in school colors, in the shape of animals, and made to look like a football stadium. We have seen lots of cakes made to look like video game consoles, basketballs, footballs and such. If you’re a fan, there’s a cake waiting to be made for you.

A friend sent me the ultimate Groom’s Cake for the Star Wars fan:

They cut the cake with a Light Saber!

Stay tuned to the Party Machine blog for more fun cakes!

Weird Ethnic Traditions, Part 1

Posted in Weddings!, Weird Things at Parties with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by djscottshirley

One response to “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen at a wedding?” This was the big question at the Southwest Entertainer’s Conference a few years ago.

I did a Peruvian wedding, and saw for the first time an Afro-Peruvian dance they call “the Alcatraz.” The bride had a napkin tucked into the sash of her gown, such that it resembled a tail. As she danced, a man followed behind her with a lighted candle, trying to light the napkin on fire. The bride’s goal was to shake her booty so fast that he couldn’t light her fire.

Here is a comical attempt at the Alcatraz I found on YouTube, using a Bic lighter.

I wonder if the classic Doors song “Light My Fire” was inspired by a Peruvian wedding?

Thirty-five years of the Party Machine has taught me to never assume I have seen everything! Somewhere, there is always something else that’s just plain weird.

DJ Cost, From the Flirty Blog

Posted in DJ Stuff, Professionalism, Weddings! on November 11, 2010 by djscottshirley

It’s not always easy to convey the reason that an experienced professional DJ and Master of Ceremonies costs more than an amateur hobby DJ, especially to people who have never seen a professional at work. But Wedding and lifestyle blogger Stacie Tamaki has written the ultimate treatise on the subject, reprinted with her permission in its entirety here:


How Much Should Your Wedding DJ Cost?

Honestly? Probably more than you were planning to pay.

Why?

Because this isn’t easy to say, I don’t say it lightly: When it comes to Wedding DJ’s, Brides and Grooms can and should expect more professionalism than the status quo that has been perpetuated as “acceptable” for far too long.

And that’s not just my opinion. Over the years I’ve talked to brides, grooms, friends, other wedding professionals and even wedding DJ’s and everyone seems to agree that the bar for Wedding DJ professionalism has been set (but even more oddly, accepted) at an often shockingly low level of expectation. In many cases the quality of the service provided falls well beneath the level of mediocrity. IMO that’s not OK because the reputation of the entire DJ industry is damaged every time a DJ falls short. It’s created an atmosphere of apathy where people in need of a DJ often hope to pay very little for one simply because they expect so little in return.

This post isn’t about bashing what I consider to be average or stereotypical Wedding DJ’s. For the most part I don’t think there’s anything particularly deceptive about how most of them run or market their companies. It’s not a bait and switch scenario. Clients hire them with their eyes wide open, understanding the level of service they will receive. Some are willing to contract an average DJ because they think what they’re seeing is “as good as it gets.”

In some cases their expectations are so low they don’t even try to find a qualified DJ or MC because they don’t realize good DJ’s exist. Recently I stumbled upon this blog post on Vegan Bride titled “Phil Birdsell Saved the Day!” written by her real life groom. It’s a perfect example of what this article is all about. He and his bride weren’t going to hire a Professional DJ… Until they met Phil Birdsell who completely transformed their perception of what a wedding DJ can be and exceeded all of their expectations.

I know a common misconception is that all DJ’s are “cheesy” or as MC’s they are “obnoxious” on the microphone. So the logic is: Why pay a lot for someone who is most likely going to annoy or disappoint you? For some companies those may be accurate descriptions of the types of services they provide. But I want to share with you today that not all DJ companies are like that…

Some are good.

Some are really good.

A select few are truly great.

CONSIDERATIONS

IMO the major factors that really matter when it comes to price are:

Budget
If a particular DJ doesn’t fit your budget, keep looking for the most qualified one who does. You want to choose the right DJ to entrust your reception to: One who is going to try their hardest and do their best for you, not the first one you talk to or the most convenient one.

What is a DJ Worth?
The answer to this question varies based on your needs, expectations and priorities and the level of talent, skills and customer service a DJ is able to provide to you.

The funny thing (as in ironic not ha ha) is that I have worked in the wedding industry for 13 years and by far know more vendors who do not charge enough for their services than those who overcharge. So many people who work in the wedding industry do so because they love to make people happy, they’re really not in it for the money. Some barely charge enough to break even on the cost of their labor, supplies and equipment. (When I was a custom bridal accessory designer I spent a lot of energy talking brides out of things they didn’t need because IMO when it comes to wedding accessories, less is more. Less will always look classic and elegant while too much can look costumed or silly.)

Are DJ’s Who Charge More Worth More?

They can be but it may take research on your part to verify if a company is charging what they’re worth or if they are simply being opportunistic. The sad truth is that any company can “look” legitimate. All they have to do is build a nice looking website, print up some business cards and brochures and start advertising. They may even have some impressive credentials. But those things alone aren’t a guarantee of anyone’s current level of professionalism or your satisfaction as their client.

On the flip side of buyer beware is knowing that paying a premium price for something doesn’t always mean it’s overpriced. Whether or not something costs “too much” can be determined by the answer to this question: Is it worth what it costs? You can spend $5,000 dollars on something that’s worth $10,000 and get a great deal. Or you can spend the same $5000 on something that’s only worth $50 and be completely taken advantage of.

My POV is: “Value is not relative to price but to the quality of the product or service you receive in return for your investment.”

DJ as MC
And what about their Master of Ceremonies skills? Especially if you haven’t ever seen them perform before I urge you not to just send out an email or chat on the phone before hiring a DJ because they will almost always be acting as your MC. You need to meet them in person. During your face to face consultation you can see their personality and even ask them to stand and do an introduction for you. When they do, watch for the following elements to see if they have mastered the MC skills needed to do a great job at your wedding:

* Facial expression and demeanor: Do they smile and look happy to be there?
* Body language: Do they slouch, rock or shift about nervously once they begin speaking? Or do they stand straight and tall with confidence?
* What are their speaking skills like? Do they talk so fast you can barely understand them? Or are they so timid you can’t imagine them getting everyone out on the dance floor?
* Do they sound engaged, interested and excited to be there or is their voice flat as if they are reading a nutrition label on a box of breakfast cereal?
* What does their voice sound like? Do they speak with sincerity in their own voice or turn on a different affected performance voice once they’re speaking into a microphone? (Or spoon or ballpoint pen, whatever is handy during your consultation.)

After taking Mark Ferrell’s MC workshop it is now much more apparent to me how undervalued and overlooked MC skills have been in both the past and present. It’s all the more shocking because everything the MC does is an integral part of your wedding reception and should be considered when you are choosing your Wedding DJ.

WHO DO YOU HIRE?
The first and most important question would be: Were you referred to a particular DJ by someone you know and trust, who hired them for an event and were thrilled by their service? Or were you impressed when you saw them successfully performing at another event? If your answer to either question is yes, that may be all you need to know when it comes to selecting who to hire.

If you’re starting from scratch, here are some tips that may help you decide if a company is going to delight or disappoint you. If you can answer “yes” to all or most of the questions below you’re definitely on the right track to finding a DJ of quality.

Does the DJ you are considering hiring:

* Have a Business License?
* Use a Written Contract? Do they guarantee the date, their arrival and departure time and the rate they are charging you?
* Have Quality Equipment?
* Are They Insured?
* Own a Vehicle Large Enough to Transport all of the Needed Equipment? Or will they forego the correct equipment because they don’t have the space to transport it?
* Come Prepared with Back Up Equipment?
* Dress Appropriately?
* Not Use Inappropriate Language?
* Not Drink Alcohol on the Job?
* Bring an Assistant When Necessary? i.e. not enough time allowed for set up before guests arrive or lots of stairs that their equipment must be carried up and down.
* Are they a member of an organization that has real standards for business practices and ethics? A group where not just anyone can pay to be a member.

But here are the intangibles:
These are the things that you can’t always discern from a website. These are the things a trusted testimonial from someone you know or an eyewitness account can confirm. Does the DJ you are considering hiring:

* Rely on Expertise not Ego?
* Deserve your trust?
* Have Solid MC Skills?
* Know how to Use Their Equipment Properly?
* Understand the Pacing and Timing of the Reception?
* Have a personality that reflects your own and/or the type of event you would like to host for your guests?
* Care About Your Wedding? Are they honored to be a part of your special day or is it just a job to earn money?

There is a Big Difference Between how “Professional” and “Stereotypical” DJ’s View Weddings
To me there are no exceptions, every DJ is one or the other. It comes down to integrity and the choice they make when it comes to how do they approach your wedding day? You will find both types of DJ’s within owner operated and multi-op companies. Professionalism is defined as competence and skill. The Professional understands and cares that your wedding is special and will use their competence and skills to help make it enjoyable and memorable. For the Stereotypical DJ’s, the common perception is that they treat weddings as just another “gig” on their calendar.

Do you remember in the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” when Julia Robert’s self centered, no frills character makes the analogy that she is “Jell-O” and in the same breath labeled Cameron Diaz’s sincere character as being “Creme Brulee?”

Professional DJ’s are the Creme Brulee
They are honest, have integrity and treat being a DJ as an occupation, not a hobby. Professionals know that their business requires commitment, effort and integrity to be successful. They treat their clients with appreciation and respect because they care about the fact that weddings are special events.

I’ve noticed over the years that because they get to know their clients so well, many owner operated “Professional” vendors in all categories, often create friendships with their clients that may last for years or decades. That’s a great thing!

A Professional DJ will incur many overhead expenses to maintain their company and the high level of service they provide to their clients. These costs have to be factored into the price they charge for their services to create a profit margin. The expenses may include but are not limited to:

* An annual business license
* Registering their business name (DBA) with the city
* Business Insurance
* Association Fees
* Computer and needed software
* Collateral/Printshop: Brochures, business cards, letterhead, etc.
* Website which includes: Design, development, monthly hosting fees, annual renewal for their domain name, periodic updates to their webmaster, etc.
* Continuing Education: Attending educational industry events, workshops, seminars and conferences
* Graphic Designer: Logo design & collateral development
* Equipment: Initial purchase, maintenance and repair
* Company Vehicle: A DJ has to own a vehicle large enough to transport their equipment to and from your event. Some own a dedicated vehicle and others purchase a larger personal vehicle than they actually need on a day to day basis simply to be able to transport their equipment on the weekends.
* Gas and mileage: Some events and consultations may entail a 4+ hour round trip to reach the wedding venue
* Vehicle maintenance and repair
* Paying assistants when required to do their job properly
* Advertising: Bridal shows, magazines, etc.
* Hiring a book keeper or accountant

Stereotypical DJ’s are like Jell-O
Sometimes Jell-O does hit the spot, it can have its moment. But as Julia said in the movie: “Jell-O can NEVER be creme brulee!” The Stereotypical DJ’s have made being average an accepted standard. Many often treat being a DJ like a hobby. Their most common offenses, many of which you may have witnessed in person or have seen portrayed in movies or on tv that have helped to perpetuate the stereotype are: Being late, incorrectly pronouncing the bride or groom’s name during the introductions, not knowing how to properly use their own equipment, not following the timeline for announcements, dressing or acting inappropriately; hitting on guests, drinking on the job, using inappropriate language or using inappropriate humor.

I know. I get and empathize that these are the reasons that some of you are considering making your own mixed music cd or playlist and may forego hiring a DJ. You just don’t want to risk “that guy” showing up and ruining your wedding reception. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you didn’t before I hope you now realize that there are highly skilled, experienced, talented, caring Professional DJ’s out there. They do exist!



So, How Much Should your Wedding DJ Cost?

Because different areas of the country have different price ranges, and different couples have different needs and budgets, it isn’t possible for me to give you a definitive amount.

The best guidance I can offer is directly related to the following factors:

* Do you want your guests to be able to hear the ceremony and vows by using an additional sound system not provided by your venue?
* How important is the success of your reception to you and your fiance? Do you want classy intros, someone who entertains (as opposed to interrupts) your guests, unobtrusive sound systems that won’t look tacky in photos and great music & dancing for your reception? How things sound and how successful the dancing goes is especially important if you’ve hired a wedding videographer.
* If you haven’t hired a professional wedding coordinator, do you need the DJ to help you create and execute your wedding day timeline to make sure all of the introductions and announcements are made at the appropriate times? Are you going to count on them to ensure that the photographer and videographer are in place for elements like the toasts, cake cutting and first dance?
* Do you want a DJ you can trust? That knowing they are there will give you peace of mind that everything is going to go smoothly and that their presence will positively impact the success of your wedding and reception?
* Have you ever hired the wrong person to do an important job? You didn’t realize until things went wrong how important it was to you. Or maybe you were just too busy to be overly concerned and thought you could get by. Whatever the reason, regret basically sucks when you know you could have had a better outcome if you had done things differently.

If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, you will want to hire the best, most Professional DJ you can afford. What do good DJ’s charge? I will say while there is always the possibility you can find a better than average DJ at any price point, if you want a really good or great one they will probably charge at least twice as much as the average estimates you’ll receive.

I hope this post has explained why and that I’ve made the process of locating, recognizing and qualifying a good DJ easier for you. – Stacie Tamaki

Equal Time for Okies

Posted in College Traditions, Let them eat cake!, Weddings! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by djscottshirley

Everyone’s getting into the act!

It’s safe to say there has been a Groom’s Cake for every major university.

Here is an entry for all you Oklahoma fans:

Sooners want in on the college cake trend too!