Part 1: The Pursuit of the Perfect Wedding

This is Part 1 of 4.  This blog was scary to write.  I unloaded all my thoughts with complete honesty.  I have spent years in this industry worried about being “too professional” and scared if I say the wrong thing I might scare someone off from hiring me.  I’m not scared anymore.  Over the course of this year I am releasing all information and not holding back.  I’m an outspoken, honest man that has been around more than 2,000 brides in his career and personally DJ’d/MC’d at more than 500 weddings.  RMF Entertainment under my wing was a part of 2,040 weddings. I have truly seen it all and I wanted to offer up my insight in an authentic way instead of a “professional” one.

You will learn a lot and I hope you take some of what’s said and think of how or if it might apply to you.

(Keep in mind I write how I feel, not for a grade on an English test.  I don’t care about grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  This is like a journal not a thesis paper.)

In The Beginning

I have written several blogs during my time in the wedding industry.  Most of them are on the RMF Entertainment website.  It all began in 2002 for me when I wanted to make extra money in college.  Me and my roommate at the time decided to max out a credit card and buy some gear.  Back then it was a way different game.  People respected the fact that you might not have a song because we had to play everything off CD changers with external amps hooked to the speakers.  Using CDs alone was a challenge.   We tried getting as much music as we could, and every gig we would walk in with huge books of CD cases hoping we had everything we needed for a great party.  My first wedding ever was at the Elks Lodge in Missoula.  We charged $200 for the entire evening.  (Insert the eye roll).  There we were getting bossed around nonstop by people wanting the perfect day.  $200 at the time seemed amazing, hell my apartment rent back then was only $250 for my portion so it felt like I was rich.  We tried booking as many gigs as we could, but never took it that serious.  We were more interested in DJ’n sorority parties and being young adults, but it was a start.  A start to something that got bigger then I could have ever imagined.

In 2004, I was one of the most well-known hip hop artists in the state of Montana.  I traveled around opening shows for the likes of Tech N9NE, 50 Cent, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and more.  I always thought I was gonna make it big and be a rap star (insert another eye roll).  I graduated college the same year, and never wanted to work for anyone else.  I bounced around odd jobs from about 2004 to 2006 and when I lost my job at the beginning of 2007 is when I found myself in a strange place in life. I was 27 years old, broke, and my budding hip hop career was dust in the wind.

It just so happened at the same time, my best friend from college was moving back to Missoula because he was tired of the corporate life and working 9am-9pm 5-6 days a week.  We looked at each other at that point and RMF Entertainment was officially born in the spring of 2007.  Our goal at the time was to simply create a life where we wouldn’t have to work for the “man” anymore.

Fun, Fun, Fun

In the beginning we were having a blast.  Creating the brand, website, spreading the word, booking the first few weddings.  It was all new and it was exciting.  Similar to when you first meet that special someone.  The honeymoon phase of a relationship is no different than the beginning stages of building a business.  Sure there are challenges but I was so eager to be the best in the business that nothing could get in my way.  Weddings were so much fun back then too.  People were hiring us off word of mouth and we were working with brides that were laid back with lower expectations.  Both me and my business partner had a great circle of influence in the Missoula area so we took advantage of that when it came to growing our business.  People definitely had their doubts about us being a “DJ” for a living.  Especially when it came to my pain the ass mother in law questioning me why I would try and support her daughter off playing music (I can’t insert a big enough eye roll here).  That’s a story for a whole different blog, but we were motivated and began making connections with the right vendors, brides, and networkers.  Before we knew it by 2008 we had one guy hired, and we were doing 2 weddings on the same day for most of that year.

Weddings were nothing but FUN in the beginning.  Have I mentioned that yet?  I attribute that to the fact that brides and grooms expectations of us back then were low.  I started out only charging $500 for an 8 hour wedding (My prices start at $1500 for 5 hours now.)  I also credit the fact that I was in my late 20s and being younger at a wedding allows for you to vibe more with the younger adults and wedding parties.  These days I get hit on more by the bride’s mom or aunts then I do a bridesmaid.   Yes I’m a little older, but hey I’m damn good at what I do and with time comes incredible experience so at least I have that going for me.

Any who, anyways!  Weddings were a lot more enjoyable back then because of those reasons above and here’s where I want to share my opinions and insight.  As you read, keep in mind that not everyone falls into these categories.  This is merely my experience and speculation over the years and when you’ve been in the industry as long as myself you have a pretty big sample size to go off of.

My goal with the rest of this blog, which turned out to be long as hell by the way, is to give advice, insight, and offer my thoughts on the wedding industry now.

First I want to share with you 3 major reasons why most weddings have went from FUN to a really uptight and stressful experience.  To those that disagree with me, especially those vendors in the industry, I’ll buy you a beer later and we can hash it out. 😉 I guess as long as you’re buying that is…

1. Social Media was still nonexistent.

In fact we were still using MySpace at the time we started RMF Entertainment.  Facebook was still a college kid only app.  Snap Chat, Instagram, Pinterest, and the likes didn’t even exist.  When people were at a wedding 10 years ago they didn’t worry about their damn phones, taking 1,023,829 selfies, recording themselves, likes, shares, posts, or any of it.  I could write a completely different blog about how Pinterest has ruined weddings but I’ll save that.  Well kinda save that… Let’s talk Pinterest for a second.  That site is bogus to me!   Most women love it, but what happens is brides and mothers of the bride get on there and the worst thing you can do starts happening:  COMPARING!  What you all see on there comes from 100k budgets in some cases.  Brides see all these fancy set ups, flower arrangements, decorations, decorative lighting, and more thinking “hey I want my wedding to be just like that.”  The average cost of a wedding in Montana is 21k on the high end.  Sure some cost a lot more and others less, but regardless 21k is a lot of money.  But it’s not the kind of money that can produce most of those Pinterest weddings you are seeing.  Yet brides want what they see and go out trying to get it done only causing stress that doesn’t need to exist in the first place.

That’s just a small example.  Social media is such a broad topic and could be discussed for hours, but I truly think it’s ruining the way we interact.   People used to enjoy each other at the weddings they attended and now it’s all about snap filters, the right sides of the body for a picture, texting, and the absolute worst is when everyone turns into a photographer during ceremonies with their phones out.  I LOVE the venues in Montana that don’t have cell phone service.  There are a few venues that you almost know for certain that are going to be good weddings and fun parties because people don’t have service and they are staying for the night at the property or venue that the wedding is being held.  They are essentially forced to interact with each other without the temptation of a cell phone.  Most of you reading this don’t even remember what it was like before cell phones got popular, but I can assure you weddings were a blast when people were less focused on their cell phones and more focused on the people they are actually with.

2. Wedding Planners.

This one is tricky.  I have wonderful friends that are wedding planners.  In fact I have a lot of respect for some of them that I’ve grown up in the industry with.  I would gladly give you their information if you want to hire them.   I guess I should technically reword it and say “Wannabe wedding planners”.  Hands down 50% of “wedding planners” are shitty.  The same could be said for any vendor category, but the “I’m gonna be a wedding planner” fad is spreading through the industry faster then an STD in a trailer park.

Here’s why:   You all know the type… the friend, sister, aunt, mom, or old college roommate that has the alpha personality that offers up their “expertise” because heaven forbid you spend some extra money on someone that knows what they’re doing. I can’t stand working with these type of so called planners.  Most of them have zero experience and can barely organize their own birthday parties let alone a 20 thousand dollar wedding with 200 guests.  Weddings require months of detailed planning, invites, communication with vendors, the venue, and a whole lot more!  A good wedding planner has schedules and is creative in their planning.  They are forward thinkers and good communicators.  They have a vision and execute that vision ANDDD they know how to navigate their way through a wedding and planning a wedding with other reputable vendors.

The last sentence is the most important one.  There’s nothing that makes me wanna pull my hair out faster than a wedding planner who doesn’t respect the needs of the other vendors around them.  This is the big difference between a rookie and a skilled planner.  And by rookie I’m talking about the friend or family member of yours who volunteers themselves to do it so you can save money.  The friend or family member that has barely even attended a wedding let alone plan one.  Yeah these “planners” ruin weddings most of the time and I highly suggest inviting them to take a long walk off a short bridge.  Most of the time they are bossing everyone around about things they don’t have any experience in doing thus causing more stress then needed on a day that is supposed to be all about fun.

Unfortunately everyone thinks they need a planner these days. It never used to be that way.  People with appropriate budgets should hire them, but now people that don’t have the budget are hiring Aunt Jane…  Sometimes you just don’t need one.  That’s a fact.  If you do need one make sure you do your research and hire the professional ones with a resume and experience.

3. Picky Brides.

Ladies some of you have lost your minds.  I don’t even know when and where this all started and why.  I have my ideas and some of them stem from reality TV shows that compare and show weddings.  Some women truly won’t even get married in the same venue a friend or family member did because heaven forbid if they do something even remotely similar.  Brides are now spending copious amounts of time trying to be “original” and trying to come up with that one thing that nobody else has done.  You see it everywhere.  From the ceremony music to the decorations to the first dance now being remixed with 123 songs that they want blended together perfectly.

Okay that number is slightly exaggerated, but seriously ladies… some of you are now asking us to mesh 10 songs together for a first dance thinking it’s original when in reality everyone is doing it now.  I get it, you want to be different and want to think of new things, but unless you have a budget of 50k or higher chances are your idea has already been done!

Brides have become obsessed with this concept though:  My wedding has to be way different then the norm and not even close to traditional.”  Some brides and their wedding parties have become their own worst enemy.  It’s sad to watch.  2018 was one of the hardest years in my career as a DJ.  I had a bride get mad at me for playing her own playlist.  Her OWN playlist! Keep in mind I’ve been doing weddings for years and I’ve never in my career had a bride chew my ass for playing the music she requested.  No shit that really happened.  At first she sent her maid of honor up to tell me to change the song.  “Bride hates this music you’re playing” she says.  When I informed her that it was the bride’s most requested list she told me to figure it out then… Also keep in mind there were a lot of people on the dance floor during this time… I tried to change up the music the best I could, but they kept coming up and wanting the music changed.  I was playing through every classic I could think of.  I finally went back to the bride’s list… and again… this time the bride herself comes storming up and telling me she could pick better music.  Lol.  I told her at this point that she did pick this music and she looked at me like I was the dumbass… almost as if she didn’t believe it was her playlist.

(The groom of this wedding tipped me and the father of the bride apologized.)

Another similar story.  Same year in 2018.  I was doing a wedding as one of my first elite weddings.  It was an amazing party.  90% of the entire place was on the dance floor and I’m enjoying the night.  BUT… it was too good to be true.  Up marches the maid of honor telling me the bride wants more upbeat music and to turn off the song I was in the middle of playing.  Guess what though… The groom had requested the song I was currently playing.  So I explained that to the Maid of Honor but she didn’t believe me.  She proceeded to take matters into her own hands and try messing with my gear and changing the song herself.  I got upset and yes I did tell her to “get the hell away and not touch any more buttons.”  That story traveled a completely different way throughout the party that night.  I don’t need to get into details but it wasn’t respectful at all.   The common denominator here is I was sober and she was not so keep that in mind.

Long story short… I again got an apology the next day and a tip from the bride and her family.

Point is those 2 weddings were within 3 months of each other.  There are other examples from that summer that I won’t get into, but what happened to just being with your friends and family and having fun.  You are only going to remember one thing after your wedding is all over and done with:  Did you have fun and enjoy the night?

Make sure you relax, don’t stress about stupid shit that doesn’t matter in the end, and enjoy dancing with your family and friends.  The night will be over in a flash and you don’t want to look back and realize all your dumb stress wasn’t worth it.

Those 3 reasons lead into my next segment.  Are weddings supposed to be perfect?  If you are grateful and thankful for your big day your wedding will be perfect… that’s the only way it will be.

The Pursuit of “Perfect”

After all the weddings I’ve seen and been a part of over the years, I want to offer my honest opinion on what I think makes a wedding “perfect”.  Notice the word perfect is sitting snug in between quotations.  It’s sitting that way because perfect doesn’t exist on a wedding day unless you are in the mindset that what can go wrong sometimes does.  There is always something that will go wrong and how you respond will determine how perfect your day is.

Wind, bad weather, sick kids, late wedding parties, drunk uncles, dress malfunctions, Mics cut out(not with Bradshaw Media though ;)), caterer is running behind, flowers are wrong, and much more to even name.  These things can all happen and you must go into your wedding day knowing only one thing:  It all works out in the end if you embrace the day.

Here’s how you can embrace the day and prepare for your wedding from start to finish.

Number 1:  Have a wedding you can afford.

So many brides and families these days want the fanciest weddings and end up spending half their parents retirement trying to get married that by the time the wedding rolls around everyone is grouchy, stressed, and feeling the pressure of things building up.  Not only is spending too much money on a wedding stressful anyways, but by doing that it raises your expectations to unfair levels.  People know when they are spending way too much money, and when they know that they will look for anything and everything to bitch about if something small goes wrong.  My advice is to ask yourself the max you would spend or can afford, and spend half that.

Where can you save money: Decorations, Invitations, wedding cakes, flowers, have beer and wine only bars, venues, dresses, bride’s maid dresses, Tuxes, horrible wedding planners, and having zero appetizers(believe me appetizers add up super-fast.)

All of the above mentioned items that people think are a big deal are not.  I’m sorry, but it’s the truth and bold honesty. They are luxuries that if you can afford then by all means indulge, but if you are on a budget please know that saving money on the above list is where you want to start.

The vendors below are worth every dollar you will spend.  Some will disagree with me.  I’m hardly ever wrong 😉 Ask my wife… she’ll tell you…

Where to NOT save money:

a.) Photography: Believe it or not this is still an art.  People now think they can bargain shop photographers because they’re a dime a dozen these days.  When I first got into weddings I could name on 2 hands the photographers that were reputable within the industry. Fast forward 10 years and there are thousands of photographers in the area.  Okay maybe not that many, but my goodness they are all over the place due to the digital world.  I’m gonna keep this short and blunt.  Find one that has a massive portfolio, a good reputation, and the reviews to match.  If the price is over $2500 then they are worth it.  You could even throw a good videographer in the mix!

b.) DJs/MCs: Here’s where I’ll get called out for my bias.  I’ve made a living being a DJ so of course I’m going to include DJs in this list.  BUT… The fact remains and I will stand by this forever:  The DJ will hands down make or break your day single handily!  I’ve always told people that the rest of the vendors at your wedding could be perfect, but if the DJ is bad then you will have one of the worst weddings that people talk about.  All you’ll ever hear when your wedding is brought up is “yeah but your DJ sucked and we didn’t have much fun.”  You don’t want that to be your wedding.  The opposite can be said if we turn the situation around:  If all your other vendors are horrible, but the DJ is amazing I can promise you that you will still have fun at your wedding.  The number one thing anyone ever remembers about a wedding is:  Did they have a good time?  You can read a lot more about this on my website, but DJs are responsible for announcements, organization, requests, sound, lighting, and the overall success of the party.

c.)  Food: I don’t think I need to elaborate much on this.  Good food is the cornerstone to any successful event when you are entertaining others.  There’s nothing better than weddings that understand this and have a buffet of food that would make the highest class hotel in Vegas jealous.

d.) Booze: If you are having a dry wedding just lower your expectations because I’ve never seen a dry wedding pop off into the late night hours.  Alcohol despite the way some might feel about it, sets the party off.  This might be sad, but it’s true.  The DJ can be doing everything down right perfect from playing the right music, to taking requests, to engaging the audience, but sometimes people still sit there and stare at you like you’re naked in the street.  But you just wait… Once the booze hits it can turn a party of rednecks standing on the sideline into a Soul Train break dance session.  Alcohol is the one cure all for a good night of dancing.  My advice is to have somewhat of an open bar.  You don’t have to pay for all the drinks, but having at least beer and wine for free is a MUST!  If people can drink for free they will stay if the music is good.

**Quick tip** The bar and the DJ should always be in close proximity in my opinion.  Dance parties happen way better when people can grab a drink and walk 10ft to the dance floor.  In addition, most people conjure around the alcohol early in the night and it’s easier to get people dancing if they are right there in the same room. 

Number 2:  Ditch a Timeline

Now hear me out here.  Timelines can be good if you use them as only a reference.  But in my years of experience there is nothing worse than brides, moms, DJs, Photographers, wedding planners and you name it stressing themselves out over a timeline.

I can’t stand them.  Weddings are hardly ever on time.  Someone is always running late, unexpected things always happen, and so many instances can occur that can put you behind.  When people are trying to stick close to the timeline all this does is stress everyone out.

Instead I like an order of events and an organized keeper of those order of events.  I am damn good at it.  Some wedding planners are damn good at it.  Photographers can be very good at it.  When you hire the right vendors timelines aren’t needed.  An order of events is. We will get into my opinion of the perfect order of events in a couple paragraphs below, but for now all you need to do is have an outline of how you want the day to go without times next to them.  This will help reduce stress when things start happening that you didn’t plan on because they will and I can almost guarantee you will thank me later for this one.

Number 3:  The Perfect Order

I do believe this is the best way to format the order of events at your wedding.  There are definitely other ways, but keep in mind the goal is to get to dancing and fun.  The formalities are important, but so is keeping your guests engaged at your wedding so they don’t leave.

(This order of events can only be executed by professionals who have a sense of what and how a wedding should be conducted.  This is truly where the pros and amateurs are separated.  Getting through this order in a timely manner, without rushing people, but also without too much time left in between each event is the cornerstone to a successful wedding day.)

We just talked about timelines and how I think they produce a negative result most of the time.  In order to avoid a timeline you must have someone with experience in leading your wedding through this event order.

  1. Ceremony
  2. Cocktail/mingle time.
  3. Intro of the wedding party/Bride & Groom.
  4. Blessing
  5. Dinner
  6. Toasts ( Near the end of dinner when people have all eaten or gotten their food)
  7. Cake Cutting (People hate waiting for desert. I wouldn’t wait long to cut the cake)
  8. First Dance
  9. Father/Daughter Dance
  10. Mother/Son Dance
  11. Anniversary Dance
  12. Dollar Dance
  13. You can use discretion here. Sometimes I like to get right into the Garter/Bouquet toss.  If people seem ready to fill the dance floor up I’ll get right into dancing and use the Garter/Bouquet toss as a way to break up the evening and let people take a break.
  14. Dance the night away!

There are other activities that some will do such as the Newlywed game and Bridal party dances.  Bridal party dance I usually do last, whereas the Newlywed game I like doing right after the toast before cutting the cake.

Number 4:  This thing here, this thing there

Weddings are a great celebration and most of the time the people planning a wedding have never been married before.  Everything to this point is great advice.  Whether you take it or not is up to you as these things are just my observations and opinions.  I have so many other things to say that I decided to list them out below.  If you take all that’s been said so far, and pair it all up with the advice below then I truly believe your wedding will be an amazing experience!

a.) Don’t start your wedding too early. If you are getting married in the summer, one of the biggest mistakes people make is starting their ceremony at 2-3pm.  I made this mistake when I got married.  If you are looking to have a big dance party and good night with friends and family an ideal start time is 5pm in my opinion.When you start a wedding too early people are exhausted by 8-9pm.  That’s the time you want the dancing to kick off.  If you start too early in the afternoon people get tired quicker, they were up earlier, and think about it… Once 9pm rolls around they’ve already been at your wedding 7 hours if you had a 2pm start time.  This is especially bad if you’re getting married outside in the 90 degree weather in the summer.  The heat will exhaust people and it almost always leads to people calling it a night earlier then you expect.

b.) Pick a venue that allows you more time flexibility. There is nothing worse than a damn good wedding getting cut off by dumbass venue rules.  These days it’s happening more and more.  I’m not sure why yet.  I think venues are just wanting to end weddings earlier, yet some will blame a noise ordinance when they live 1,459 miles away from the next living human.  Either way if you want a good party where people are dancing into the night I certainly wouldn’t pick a venue that drops the hammer on things at 10pm.  Brides and families always think it won’t matter too, but in the end it does.  I don’t want to mention names, but there are venues in Montana that I’ve had all out arguments with because the people paying me (bride and groom) tell me to keep going at all cost…. The venue is yelling at me to shut down… I think you can see where this is going…

c.) Do everything you can to have 90% of pictures done BEFORE your wedding. Sure there will be a few after the ceremony and during sunset hours, but you will love yourself forever if you get most of them out of the way beforehand.  This ties into the next point I make very well.

d.) Don’t leave your wedding for long periods of time. There is absolutely nothing worse than a bride and groom bouncing out of their own wedding for more than 30 minutes at a time.  It down right drives me nuts!  It’s not just me though… Your guests will hate it.  It’s literally one of the worst vibe killers I can think of.  People are there to see you.  Not anyone else.  People want to dance, talk, drink, and hang out with YOU!  They aren’t there for anyone else.  When I was talking about the pictures above, one of the things that is tough to work around is when a photographer has to take pictures of everyone after the wedding.  That can take up to 90 minutes or more at times.  No matter how many appetizers and fun you think you have planned for people, they will get tired of waiting around for you to show up if you are off wandering the country side for too long…

e.) Never do a Bride auction! THE WORST THING EVER!!  Listen to me!  If there’s one corny ass, ridiculous thing you stay away from it’s this.  I don’t care if you don’t take my advice on the rest of what is written in this blog as long as you hear me out on this one!  For those that are unaware:  This is when the bride gets “stolen” by members of the groom’s wedding party.  The DJ then has to play auctioneer to get YOUR guests to bid money to get her back to the reception.   People hate this and usually the people that choose to do it want $1,000 raised to even get the bride back to her own wedding!!!  Your guests are already spending money on traveling, gifts, hotels, booze in some cases, food, you name it.   Also I’ve never seen anyone do this that also doesn’t do the Dollar dance.  So if you do the dollar dance AND this auction you look like a money hungry scam artist.  That’s the truth.  Your guests are already spending tons of money being at your wedding.  Please avoid this ridiculous idea at all costs.

f.) Let your guests request their favorite songs. This is your big day after all, but it’s always a good idea to let your friends and family request their favorite tunes.  Lately brides and grooms are turning in extensive “do not play” lists of songs they either can’t stand to hear or ones that they think are too cliché for their wedding.  Either way you most likely are listing songs on your “do not play” that everyone else wants to hear.  9 times out of 10 several people request those songs and will end up bothering you to the point where you will just give in anyways.  I see this happen all the time.  The only songs I would put on a “do not play” list are songs that invoke bad memories.  Those songs are out there for some people and it’s always a good idea to avoid those.

Everything written above in the pursuit of perfect can and should be taken with a grain of salt.  Everyone is different and has unique situations.

I have seen it all in this industry.  The sad part is though most brides and families rarely listen to advice.  It’s only after the fact they realize they should have listened.   You only get one wedding… I hope… and the unique side of our industry is that you can’t redo a wedding, and you can’t get it right on the next try.

I’m going to wrap this section up and post it.  My next insight, Part 2,  will be into trends such as uplighting, videography, and photo booths.

Part 3 will be a list of my most loved and hated vendors over the years with true stories attached to them.

Part 4 will be the stories everyone wants to hear that should never be told.

I appreciate you taking the time to read through this stuff and understand If you hire me I’ll offer my opinion if you ask, but will always accommodate you in whatever you need.  My goal is to always use my experience and time in this industry to better serve you and give you the ultimate stress free experience.

Ryan Bradshaw
Bradshaw Media
(406) 531-8593