First things first: due to the nature of this story and particularly what happens in the end, I decided that the only way I would post it would be with all the names missing. It is just way too personal of a thing to share in public without anonymizing the good people who were part of it and protecting their privacy.
On March 21,2009 I had the honor of DJing a wedding for a well-known professional football player from an East Coast team and his fiancee. He was a collegiate National Champion for a West Coast university who now plays Defensive Tackle in the pros, and his fiancee’s brother used to play for the 49ers. His referral to her got me the job.
It was an 8 hour ceremony & reception to be held at a world-famous venue on the Central California Coast. For those of you who know, that is about as classy as classy gets. I mean off-the-map. In fact, I have been told that DJs are a relative rarity at this venue.
The bride and groom four-walled the place. They had every single piece of existing furniture individually blanket-wrapped and loaded by a crew onto a cross-country sized moving van, which was parked down the road. They then brought in custom everything, transforming the private club into their wedding venue. At the end of the night, the truck would then be backed in and unloaded, and by the next morning, you would never know that a wedding had been there at all!
The music was beautifully customized for the ceremony by the bride, and all songs had entry/exit cues. I tied into the superb venue-supplied audio and she walked down the aisle to Chrisette Michele’s “Golden”… absolutely breathtaking. The ceremony was expertly led by their Bishop, flown in from the East Coast.
On to the reception –
I am a jazz nut, so when they asked me if I could play Miles, Mingus, Monk, Coltrane & Diz for cocktail hour through two separate systems inside and outside simultaneously, I just winked, nodded and smiled, and so did they.
After the Grand Introduction and First Dance on a Gobo’d, virgin white, gloss-finish dance floor transported up from Southern California, it was on to the dinner set.
The venue during dinner service
The dinner set was all about Maxwell, D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, John Legend… and even classics like “Westside” by TQ and “Get On Up” by Jodeci. It was just *awesome* watching this crowd slowly start realizing during this time that I understood the vibe and that this night was going to be special!
The toasts happened right after dinner, as a prelude to the Father-Daughter & Mother-Son dances. There were many nice toasts, and some very funny moments, but it was capped of by one of those one, maybe two toasts a year that we as DJs are all lucky enough to hear: the ones that nourish our souls and stay with us long after the wedding day itself, and the ones that remind us of what makes our job so very special and such an incredible privilege.
That last toast was given by the bride’s father. It was as much a blessing, really, as a toast. Given from his seat in his wheelchair, it was delivered deliberately and poignantly, pouring from his heart on to his daughter and new son and all else who were there. It lasted just over four minutes. And when it was over, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the entire room was up on its feet in applause. Somehow, I was able to regain control of my own emotions and I closed the toasts gracefully and segued into the parents dedication dances into open dancing.
The Groom's Cake - almost 100% edible!
Two probing Motown plays got a little reaction, and I’m glad I did it out of respect for the older folks in the room, but when I hit The Cupid Shuffle, the dance floor exploded. Holy crap – there was one of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks and a few other teammates gettin’ down! They were having a great time! Good news: I wasn’t going to get my you-know-what kicked after all! Whew!!
I ended up hanging out with “the quarterback” quite a bit that night. A *cool* guy all the way – appreciative, fun, outgoing and loving his Old School. He was even clowning around with the waitstaff and actually put on a waiters coat, folded a napkin over his arm and started pouring people drinks! How cool is that? I actually got some video of that, as well as a good still shot. And later, when a young lady in the audience plainly lacked the courage, even with the prodding of her mother and the groom, to ask him to dance, I stepped in, put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Heya bud, I *think* there is a young lady over here who would like a dance with you.” He dropped what he was doing, smiled and said “where?”, and then… well, the room got so bright with her smile that I was actually blinded for a moment : )
The night went on, the party raged and the hours flew by. At 12:00, after eight hours, they wanted more, so I played a half-hour of overtime! Great stuff…
At the end of the night, a huge rain and wind storm blew in from off-shore. The wind blew so hard that it basically exploded a huge tree in the parking lot. Large chunks of the trunk flew in all directions and one huge branch smashed into one of the loaded shuttle buses and blew out the entire windshield. Thank god no one was hurt, but it scared the you-know-what out of a lot of people and completely blocked the parking lot exit routes. Eventually, all was cleared and everyone was able to leave safely.
Mother nature at work!
Most importantly, after all was said and done the bride and groom were thrilled… and, so was I.
Fast forward to April 1, 2009 –
I had promised the staff that I would send that pic of “the quarterback” mugging with the servers. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll cc the Director of Events, the Food and Beverage director, etc, all of whom I had met at the event and had raved about the job I did.
It was through this contact with the Director of Events that I learned two things:
1) That I had been officially added to the preferred vendor list at the venue and, I quote, that they would “be referring me to any of their clients from now on looking for a great DJ.” Made my day : )
2) That two days after the wedding, the bride’s father had passed away.
I was shocked.
After sharing with him one of the happiest days of his life, he was gone.
After giving everyone in that room such a gift with his toast, he was… gone.
Just like that.
Then, I remembered:
That because of my participation in an international DJ group that is fiercely dedicated to self-improvement, and thus meeting my friend Jim Cerone and hearing him speak, that I had, just after our industry conclave in Vegas, invested in a tiny, high-quality mp3 recorder to begin recording my entire set every night.
All my voice work, all mixing… all board output, actually, and then critiquing myself after each event.
And so, on that little recorder
was the father of the bride’s wedding day toast to his daughter.
Today, I stopped what I was doing and immediately edited that toast and emailed it to her with a short but very personal note.
How can I possibly describe the feeling that I had in doing that?
So how do I end this story?
Maybe it hasn’t ended.
Maybe it is just beginning.