I’ve said this many times to younger DJs. “If you are in this business long enough mistakes will happen! And when a mistake happens it’s all about how you react to it and move forward.” There may be nothing more embarrassing than making a mistake at someone’s wedding in front of 250 people. I mean, this is the stuff nightmares are made of. Which leads me to my most embarrassing and disturbing moment of my career.
I was finishing up a very successful wedding. It ending fairly early, around 8:00pm and one of my staff was at a different wedding only 5 minutes down the road. That wedding went until 12:00 midnight so as the owner of a multi-system operation I wanted to see how things were going. I payed a surprise visit and walked in just as my DJ was getting ready to host the parent dances. I settled in and took my place behind the system just as my DJ called for the father of the bride. It was a big impressive Italian wedding with 250 guests on hand. Everything was magnificent and now a signature moment. The father dancing with his daughter. And then……….
The music began and the father just stopped and looked with dark eyes right at my DJ. He screamed over, “This is NOT the right song!!!” And then it happened. In front of 250 wedding guests he looked right at me and singled me out. “YOU! You are the owner of this company. You had better fix this right away!!” I turned 50 shades of RED that moment as I quickly turned to my DJ and whispered, “Where is the correct song?” Being that this was before internet was prevalent with routers and wifi commonplace he had no answer. Apparently my DJ had downloaded the wrong song and had no way to get the correct one. And because I was the owner of this company it didn’t matter that I was not the reason for this BIG mistake. I was responsible! I was accountable for this and it just so happened that I walked in right at the moment of truth and got to experience a horrible moment in my life, because it was a horrible moment for these people. Something I still think about 20 years later!
Well, of course that was the last wedding that DJ did for my company. I did refund $500 to the bride and groom as a restitution but that still did not stop them from leaving us a terrible review on the Knot. A review that I had to accept and could not deflect from as owner. That is why running a multi-system operation can cause you to die young. Like I said, this is the stuff nightmares are made of and throughout my career I have been laser locked in on the details of every wedding I do. I even would wright down the names of the bride and groom on my inner arm if I felt less than 100% sharp. And some of those 3-4 wedding weekends would prove challenging. But there NEVER is a excuse for making mistakes at someones wedding. If you can’t handle the details than you have no business performing at a wedding.
Ok, so I’ve made it clear how serious the business of performing weddings are for DJs. And I treat this business with the utmost of respect and professionalism for my special couples who allow me to pay the bills and make a full-time living as a wedding entertainer DJ/MC. And as I celebrate 39 years in the business this May I still never had played the wrong song for a highlight moment of a wedding ………….until
This past Sunday. I am performing a wedding at a classic historic club in downtown Hartford CT. 100 guests, very classy formal event. The bride and groom are very chill and moderately involved in socializing, but now it’s time for the parent dances. The bride and father go first. Everything is smooth and the moment is sweet. Now comes the groom and mother dance. I set up the moment as a experienced MC should and start their song. The groom stops in his tracks and looks right at me….“This is NOT the song!”
What?????? A chill went down my back as I quickly looked at my forms for the 100th time. It was the song from the planner. It was the correct artist. Everything was exactly correct except the groom refused to dance. I lowered the music and discreetly said to the groom and mom, “Ive verified this is the song but shall we just discuss this on the side and revisit the moment shortly?” The mom said, “No, just play something else” to which I quickly threw on My Wish by Rascal Flats. The groom looked at his mom and made a big shrug and then soldiered through reluctantly. Meanwhile, I kept looking over and over what could be wrong.
Well, all those horrible feelings from years ago came right back and I felt terrible. I asked for the groom to come over and discuss but he just went off to the bar and seemed to avoid chatting with me. I reviewed how I handled everything in mind over and over and over. It’s a remarkably stressful moment when 100 guests are looking at you as if you messed up the BIG moment and yet you know it wasn’t an error that was based on careless lack of attention to detail.
And thus, I had to recover immediately and pack that dance floor without letting the moment tear me down and lessen my enthusiasm. Not easily done. And as I jammed out tune after tune I kept thinking trying to come up with the answer. And then it hit me.
The song requested for the groom/mother dance was New Beginning by Tracy Chapman. I went to the internet to check out the album. I had a hunch. And that’s when I saw that not only was there a song on the album called New Beginning but the album itself was titled, “New Beginning.” That is where the error had to have been made. The bride or groom put down the album name rather than the correct song they wanted. So, I quickly went over to see the mother of the groom and showed her the album tracks. She pointed out the song they wanted was called The Promise. BOOM, we have the answer!
I asked the mother if she would get her son and bring him back out, which she did. I made the announcement without a ton of fanfare but non the less they had their moment. At the end of the wedding the bride came over and said to me, “You were amazing and you handled my mistake so well. It was my bad. I made the mistake. It was me being sloppy because I was so stressed out and gave you the wrong song. Even after you confirmed it with me in our pre-wedding meetings I made a brain freeze and so thank you for working so well through something I messed up!”
As I packed up my gear I kept playing the moment over in my head. A groom turning to me and saying, WRONG SONG! It is a DJ nightmare and something we should never take lightly! Because if it doesn’t bother us then we really don’t care for our clients and if we don’t care about our clients it’s time to go into a new line of work. So as I drove home I kept saying to myself,
“If you are in this business long enough mistakes will happen! And when a mistake happens it’s all about how you react to it and move forward“