9/2015: PTA, Part 1

th[5]I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years that couples are foregoing the traditional gift registries in lieu of honeymoon funding. Honeymoon funding websites like Honeyfund are booming. Just last week, I had an initial consultation with a Denver couple who were planning their 2016 wedding.  Within 15 minutes of chatting, the conversation somehow turned to their honeymoon plans and how they were looking just as forward to their three-week honeymoon in Europe as they were to their wedding day, and how their guests have paid for almost half of their honeymoon. Somehow through Instagram, they found out I was also an avid traveler and we spent the next 30 minutes bouncing travel tips and stories off each other. When we realized what time it was, and they had to get to another meeting, they told me they wanted to hire me even though I hadn’t given them my price yet. I quickly finished my presentation, showed them my all-inclusive pricing, and they happily reserved the day.  I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite weddings of 2016.

thFED1PAQWSo in honor of soon to be newlyweds Steve & Trish, I am going to do a two-part blog post with travel tips I’ve learned over the years to maybe help couples plan their honeymoon or other future trips. The theme is “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (hence the ‘PTA’ title above…no, this blog is not about Parent Teacher Associations). It’s named after my favorite Steve Martin movie. This month will deal with air travel and December’s Part 2 will cover trains, automobiles, and everything else. Next month’s blog will feature three of my favorite photographers covering my Labor Day Weekend weddings, and November will feature a report on my trip to the Wedding MBA Conference in Las Vegas, so stay tuned.


th[8]Planes!  After booking over 100 flights for myself over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the airline industry (with a few exceptions) doesn’t really care about it’s customers. There are some carriers like Southwest and Jet Blue that are doing the right thing, but most don’t really care. Southwest is the only airline that I have joined a frequent flier program with. I’ve heard Jet Blue and Frontier also have good programs, as well. The bottom line is there’s no such thing as the perfect airline but Southwest comes pretty darn close. Speaking of Southwest, why is it that this low-fare carrier is one of the few, if any, that offers it’s customers free non-alcoholic beverages, a light snack, no luggage charges, and service with a smile, yet it comes in almost every time as the lowest price on competitive routes?  I wish other airlines would take note of its business model.

tearupcreditcards[1]If you have a credit card that gives you miles, make sure you are paying it off IN FULL each month. The annual fee and higher interest rates on these cards in many cases negate any airline miles savings or free tickets you think you may be getting. If you carry a balance on these types of cards, the reality is that “free” flight you get every year or two is not free. Just add up the $59 – $99 annual fee and high interest charges incurred between “free” flights. Honestly, if you have good credit, there is no reason to pay more than 10% on any credit card, ever….so pay those airline cards off each time you get the bill, or rip the card up.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that there is not a perfect time to book a flight. The general consensus is 3 to 4 months for international flights and during domestic holiday prime time and between one and two months for domestic flights during non-holiday times. I’ve booked killer deals two weeks out and 6 months out, and it really is about luck and the destination you choose. I have noticed fares are usually lower if you fly midweek, and believe it or not, if you BOOK the ticket midweek. The price also depends on the popularity of the route and competition between carriers.  A flight from Denver to any of the New York metro airports is mile for mile less than one from Denver to Fargo.  Pick big airports. Try to pick routes where there is competition between airlines. If your destination is Evansville, you will probably save money flying into St. Louis or Indy than you will flying directly into Evansville, especially if you need to rent a car anyway.

000For flights to Europe, I highly recommend Icelandair. They fly non-stop from Denver to Iceland with convenient, minimal layover connections to over a dozen of the continent’s major cities like London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam.  Prices are very competitive and are usually lower than most US-based carriers. Furthermore, you can schedule a multi-day layover in Iceland on the way over (or back) without a penalty. You can even book local tours and hotels through their website that pick you up or drop you off from the Reykjavik airport. By the way, I swear I’m not getting any kickbacks or residuals from either Southwest or Icelandair, in case you were wondering ;)

thRO5IYJMMTo find the best flight, I use flight search engines like Kayak, Cheap Tickets, and Expedia.  They’re all essentially the same and flights are almost always the same price across the board between the three. I personally like the graphics and easy to navigate Kayak the best. I search for all my flight parameters on these sites by plugging in my cities, dates, preferred times, and non-stop / connecting choices, and they give you the best flights based on time and price points. Once I find a flight, I DON’T book it on the search engine. Instead I go to that airline’s website and book it directly through them to avoid any contractual miscommunications and to assure I’m contacted directly by the airline in case there are any changes. I use Kayak simply to find the best flight over many airlines thereby saving time, instead of going to every airline’s website. Keep in mind that some “low-fare” airlines like Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier don’t always post their flights on these sites so you may need to check them separately. The price all on these search engines is usually the same as the airline’s sites, and on some occasions has even been cheaper on the airline’s.

Until next month…safe travels!

8/2015: Numbers

July 18th was my 1,000th Colorado wedding.  More importantly, it was Lynn & Jim's wedding day. As an added bonus, it was at one of my favorite venues, The Estes Park Resort.

July 18th was my 1,000th Colorado wedding. More importantly, it was Lynn & Jim’s wedding day. As an added bonus, it was at one of my favorite venues, The Estes Park Resort.

Those who know me, know I’m a numbers guy. I’ve been a statistics fan since I was a kid. I still keep stats on everything from my daily exercise regimen, to local weather and climatology, all the way to baseball – yes, I have 20 notebooks of Rockies box scores and stats dating back to Game 1 in April 1993. That’s pretty good for a guy who failed most of his math tests in high school. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I wasn’t a wedding DJ, I’d probably be a statistician for MLB. So when two major number milestones in my DJ business happened last month (my 1,000th Colorado wedding since 1993 and 100th five-star online review since 2012 (Wedding Wire and The Knot combined), I thought it was time for a blog entry about wedding stats. So here we go…


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Wedding season in Colorado is April to October, but the months of November to March are when couples are planning their summer weddings and hiring their vendors.  This is why I don’t dare take a long vacation in January or February, my slowest wedding months but busiest initial consultation months. This variability may vary in different parts of the country. For instance, Florida, Texas, and Arizona have a much more equalized monthly wedding distribution due to the torrid temperatures during the summer in those locations. This tends to skew the national numbers in many national surveys and charts (see both infographics here and below). For instance, from a cost perspective, most total wedding budgets in Colorado are in the $15-20K range versus the $26K national average.  This is because the national number is skewed slightly by weddings on the higher-cost East and West Coasts. The national average $26,984 would be considered a bargain in the New York metro area, especially on my native Long Island. Most Long Island couples spend $25K just at the venue when including the fully hosted bar, $130+ a plate dinner, mandatory 20% service fee gratuity, etc.


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Getting back to Colorado numbers, my monthly distribution percentages for the past 1,000 weddings going back to 1993 ranges from 2% in February to 16% in June. That paltry February number has always amazed me since Valentine’s Day is that month (see more on that, check out my blog from February 2012). Likewise, just 9% have occurred in the first three months of the year, but these are the busiest planning months when my e-mail inbox is buzzing and brides want to hire their wedding team. On the other end of the scale, 68% of my weddings have been May through September. I’ve also noticed in the past few years that October is increasingly becoming a popular wedding month here in Colorado. You do take a risk in October – heavy snow is possible like the 2 feet in 2 days we got back in 2009 but you get incredible fall foliage. Peak foliage is mid-October along the I-25 urban corridor, early October in Estes Park, and late September in the high country ski towns. Saturdays are still and probably always will be the busiest wedding day of the week. 61% of my weddings have been on a Saturday. Fridays have accounted for 23% of my weddings, Sundays 12%, and the remaining 4% are midweek.  That last number, by the way, has been going up every year due to the fact that many venues offer substantial discounts for Monday through Thursday weddings.

7/2015: Indian Weddings

India is a diverse country of more than 1 billion people, and is the world’s most densely populated country and second most populous. It’s also about as far away geographically from the United States but in many ways it’s much like the US. This former British colony is made up of more than 30 states and territories. It’s climate ranges from the humid tropics of the south to the hot and dry western deserts all the way to the snowcapped high Himalayas. It’s also a melting pot of culture and religion. Though Hindu dominates, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sihkism is also prevalent.

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Devi and Matthew share a dance.

Last year I had the opportunity to work not one, but two Indian-style weddings here in Colorado.  This is pretty amazing because the Indian population in Colorado is relatively small. The chance that I would have two within four months is quite unusual. What’s even more amazing is that they were both at the same venue – the Fort Collins Country Club. What’s the chance of that happening? The June wedding featured Devi & Matthew. Much of Devi’s family came over from India for the occasion and it was quite the family reunion. The one thing I’ll always remember about this couple is that she never stopped smiling from the time I met her months before the wedding right up until the last dance. The September wedding featured Sumanth & Cynthia.  This time, the groom was from India. Cynthia & Sumanth had a big traditional wedding in India a couple of months before the Colorado festivities, yet some of Sumanth’s family still made the multi-day flight to the US. They had a really fun crowd with lots of dancing.  They even had Bollywood style dancers entertain their guests after dinner.  Truly one of my favorite weddings of the year. While both weddings incorporated Indian traditions in both the ceremony and reception, they were predominately Western in style.

A post-reception photo with Sumanth and Cynthia.

A post-reception photo with Sumanth and Cynthia.

Weddings in India, are of course, a bit different.  In general they tend to be multi-day events.  Depending on the family’s budget and social class, they can also be quite opulent and grandiose. It’s not unusual to have 200 to 500 guests attend with lots of food, music, and celebration. As with most Asian weddings, Indians celebrate with color as the wedding garments that both the bride and groom wear are colorful and most change attire between the ceremony and reception. Though there is plenty of dancing at the reception, there is also much time spent visiting with friends and family. Since the celebration usually lasts for at least a couple of days, there is plenty of time to mingle as opposed to most American weddings where the couple sometimes seemed overwhelmed and rushed with the limited time factor. Since there are so many regions, religions, and cultures in India there are no set traditions but many include a Henna Party, the Baraat (the men’s party), the Pheras or Saptpadi fire ceremonies, and the very popular Vidai or Rukhsati ceremony where the bride finally says goodbye to her family to be with her new husband.



6/2015: Bridal Veil Falls

002 RMNP100Back in January 1915, Congress and President Woodrow Wilson designated an especially scenic area of Northern Colorado a national park. Later that same summer, Rocky Mountain National Park was officially dedicated with hundreds attending the ceremony. Over the years, the park has been visited by millions of people from all over the world. The lakes, vistas, and mountains of this 415 square mile park have been featured in books, movies, calendars, and TV shows for decades. Now in 2015, the park is celebrating its centennial anniversary. Less than two years after the devastating floods that ravaged the area, the park is now back to normal and is expecting record visitation this summer. The heavily damaged Fall River Road is expected to open on July 4th weekend for the first time since the floods 21 months ago.

th[9]I’m hoping to add to those record visitation numbers by visiting the park every week or two to hike, run, and bike it’s roads and trails (in between weddings, of course). The goal is to also raise money for dog-based charities nationwide by getting up to 100 sponsors over 100 days to make donations to their favorite animal charities while I log hundreds of miles within the park. The finale is September 4th, the 100th anniversary date of the park’s dedication. This adventure, called the B.A.R.K.100 kicked off last month on May 28th with a bike ride up Trail Ridge Road followed by a hike to the aptly named Bridal Veil Falls (pictured) a few days later. This hike was also the kickoff of my summer wedding season.  I’m happy to say, that just two weeks in, the sponsor list has grown to over 20, and a half dozen animal charities are benefitting from the generosity of my sponsors. If you’d like to join the growing list of sponsors and support your favorite animal advocacy organization, just click the link above.

Planning a visit to the park this summer?  Here are a few link to help you plan your own adventure:

RMNP – General Website

RMNP – Calendar Of Events

RMNP – Things To Do

RMNP – Weather & Forecast

Visit Estes Park

Estes Park Wedding Association

5/2015: Della Terra

Back in the ’90s, when people mentioned weddings in Estes Park, the first and sometimes only venue that came to mind was the Stanley Hotel.  At the time, Estes Park was nowhere near the wedding mecca that it is now.  There were only a handful of wedding sites in town. That has certainly changed and 20 years later, thanks to the Estes Park Wedding Association, the town is not only one of the state’s premier wedding locations but a top destination wedding area with over a dozen first-class venues hosting hundreds of weddings every year by couples from all over the country.

Jenn begins her processional to ceremony with her father.  Photo courtesy of Elevate Photography.

Jenn begins her processional to the ceremony with her father on March 28th. Photo courtesy of Elevate Photography.

The venue that has garnered possibly the most buzz in the last decade is Della Terra Mountain Chateau.  Built in 2009 by two families, it’s unique in the fact that it was built first and foremost as a wedding venue (full story here), whereas most other locations in Estes are lodging and resort locations first with on-site facilities for weddings. The site is located on the west side of town bordering Rocky Mountain National Park.  The ceremony site is literally 20 feet from the park boundary. Wedding guests and family can also spend the night in one of the chateau’s rooms – most have waterfall showers and a hot tub. I had the opportunity to spend a night after a wedding a couple of years ago and it was an incredible experience especially the breakfast the staff prepares in the morning for the guests.

John & Ali moments after tying the knot on April 11th.

John & Ali moments after tying the knot on April 11th.

In the six years it’s been opened I’ve done dozens of weddings here, but in the last month I was hired for three weddings in less than 3 weeks. I was super excited for a couple of reasons – first and foremost, I get to spend a couple of weekends with three great couples entertaining hundreds of their family and friends, plus I got to leave all my equipment overnight saving me hours of setup / breakdown time – the final two were on back to back days. Honestly, I felt strange leaving the venue 15 minutes after the last dance with only my laptop. Amazingly, all three weddings had unseasonably mild spring weather with temperatures around 60 degrees, another reason to consider an “off-season” wedding in Estes Park.

4/2015: Carnival Cruisin’


Our ship, the Carnival Liberty docked in St. Lucia.

A couple of years after I first started DJing when I lived in New York, I received a phone call from a talent scout from Carnival Cruise Lines.  They were looking to fill a DJ spot on one of their ships for the summer.  He mentioned it would be a minimum 6-month commitment and the pay would be $1,000 per month plus room and board on the ship.  I told him I’d let him know in a day or two.

At the time, I was single and still living with my parents, so a 6-month stint on a cruise ship seeing the sights and working nights would have been a fun change of pace.  All I would need to bring were my records (yes, this is back in the vinyl days), and a few changes of clothes.  They would even pay for my round-trip flight between New York and Miami. On the other hand, I’d be away from home for half a year and my growing DJ business would take a major hit.  The money was an issue as well, $1,000 a month for working 7 nights a week was barely minimum wage back then, and I thought that after a few weeks it may become tedious doing pretty much the same thing night after night for six months straight. I ultimately called him back and politely turned the offer down.  Still to this day, I regret that decision. The “coulda, woulda, shouldas” creep into my mind once in a while, and I wonder what it would it have been like.

I’ve been on several cruises as a passenger since then and have always been intrigued by the day to day workings of the ship, behind the scenes production, and its staff. Last week, we just returned from our third Carnival cruise, and I decided to interview the resident DJ to really see what life is like on board a cruise ship in the year 2015.


JC and I after he was finished hosting in the comedy club on the second night of the cruise.

His name was JC, and he’s originally from Cancun, Mexico.  He’s been working on Carnival since 2013, and I could tell by the short time I chatted with him and seeing him at work over the week we were on the ship that he really enjoys his job. His duties include not only being one of two DJs on the ship, but also MCing some of the evening events like the comedy club. Like most cruise ship employees, multi-tasking is part of the job.  I asked him what the pros and cons of his job were.  A definite plus was that he is allowed to live with his girlfriend on the ship (she also works for Carnival).  They both share a cabin. He mentioned that although he usually works 7 days a week for 4 to 6 months at a time, he gets 2 to 3 months off in between contracts. Each employee signs a contract for a few months at a time and can renew after their break.


Newlyweds Mike & Suzy enjoying their combination wedding / honeymoon.

JC also doesn’t have to provide his own music or equipment as Carnival provides everything. Of the few negatives he mentioned, the main one was cabin size which he mentioned was about the size of our guest cabin.  Personally, I think I’d go crazy if I had to live in a 100 square foot room with all my belongings for 6 months, but I guess you get used to it. As is always the case on every vacation I take, I ran into some newlyweds who just got married. Mike & Suzy had just tied the knot in St. Thomas that afternoon and were getting back on the ship to continue their combination wedding / honeymoon when I asked them for a photo. They were also one of the couples that were featured on the ship’s “How Well Do You Know Your Spouse” show which was both hilarious and a bit embarrassing for the three couples on the stage that night.

Join me next month when we’ll be visiting one of Colorado’s top wedding venues, Della Terra Mountain Chateau.


3/2015: Lost Wages

20150226_163528[1]While February is known as the month of love for most couples, to most DJs it’s known as the month of Mobile Beat Las Vegas (MBLV), an annual conference for wedding and mobile DJs attended by hundreds from all over the country and as far away as Australia and the UK.  Just as the polar vortex was spinning over Colorado, I hopped a flight to sunny Sin City for a few days of education, networking, and watching folks sit for hours at slot machines.  It ain’t called “Lost Wages” for nothing. I guess I shouldn’t talk…while I was there, I bet $10 my Colorado Rockies would win the World Series this year.

20150226_150358I’ve attended all 18 of these Mobile Beat conventions dating back to the mid-1990s. They started at the south end of the Strip at the Crowne Plaza, moved to Tropicana and every few years shifted to another old-school casino / hotel like the Stardust in 2005.  For the last few years it’s been at the Riviera. Yes…that Riviera. If you notice, there is a theme here. This convention is usually at one of the low-to-mid range, smoke-encrusted, Sinatra / Rat Pack-era joints. It may be because most DJs are too cheap to spend more than $19 on a room, but I think it’s because most DJs revel in the fact that their room will be blown up within a few years when the hotel is imploded. If you doubt this, remember most DJs love to spend tons of money of lighting, special effects, and smoke machines. True to form, the Riviera was sold a few months ago, will close for good on May 4th, and will be a pile of rubble by year’s end.

20150224_113443 (1)Nonetheless, each year, for me it’s a no-brainer to attend. From new innovations in DJ technology, software, equipment, computers, and lighting, to marketing and hands-on performance workshops that focus on microphone technique, grand entrances, and personalization.  Sharing new ideas with other DJs and simply catching up with friends that I haven’t seen in a while is a highlight for me and well worth the price of admission. OK, I’ll admit the nightlife in this town isn’t too bad either!

20150224_074126What I’ve found out over the years attending these conventions is that most DJs are…how should I say it…not the most health minded individuals on the planet. Remember, we rarely get a good night’s sleep on weekends, are given free unlimited Pepsi at the bar at our weddings, and usually make a gut busting fast-food stop on the way home.  I’m as guilty of this as anybody.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I stopped at a 7-11 on the way home from a wedding to get a 8-hour old hot dog with chili and cheese, box of Oreos, or an ice cream sandwich.  I really should have stock in that company.  To alleviate this, two DJs from New Jersey organize a morning run / workout each day of the conference. They start at the insane (for DJs at a conference in Las Vegas) time of 7AM. We may look like zombies when we start, but an hour later, we’re ready to take on a full day of networking and learning. Thank you Mike and Marcello.

IMG_1043418947740[1]As an added bonus this year, some of the workout crew made a trip out to Red Rock Canyon for some hiking and running on Day 2 of the conference after the morning presentations.  This park, just a 30-minute drive west of Las Vegas at the base of the Spring Mountains, is incredible. Set aside as BLM land back in 1967, it has become one of the area’s top day-trip destinations with over a million visitors per year. There are miles of hiking trails, a 13-mile paved loop for driving and cycling, and world-famous rock climbing.  This is a must-see for anyone looking to take a break from the smoke and slots of the Strip.

Stay tuned…next month we’ll be cruising the Caribbean!