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Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

Chatterbox: The decibels can ruin a party


It’s spring and coming on June.

Ah, the June wedding season. We all love weddings. We all love the idea of them: new love so optimistic and charming and being able to wish good things for that new love. Of course, we also love the opportunity to get out, be with family, and dance night away … especially these days.

Several years ago, my husband and I attended a wedding. The trip was insane, but the venue was awesome; we were going to see lots of family, and the bride and groom were a wonderful, level-headed, hard working couple who deserved only the very best. It was simple, but lovely. In fact, through the cocktail hour, it was perfect.

Then, the DJ started the music. He plugged his turntables into the amps, his ego into the gig, and his mouth with the microphone … and we were dead on the downbeat. All normal conversation stopped. Elders, middlers, and young alike, starting screaming across the tables, in an effort to talk. When that became exhausting, we shouted only the imperatives.

Remarks as simple as, “Pass the salt,” became a major effort. Some guests resorted to sign language but getting the attention of the person near the salt was an IQ test. Should we wave, bother the six people between us to pass the message, or just throw our dinner roll at our target? Do we need the salt badly enough to even bother?

As the dinner passed and the dancing started, the evening’s frustrated star ramped up the amperage until it, quite literally, became noise torture. Numerous guests complained to him but he refused to do anything. He told people it was technically impossible to lower the volume, or that the bride and groom asked for this decibel. Really? Did they actually request it, like, by its number, or had they sampled different decibels the way they tasted different wedding cakes?

People began to get crazy and yell at the guy. We could actually feel the music vibrating inside our chests. Soon, there were more people out on the deck than there were at the tables, as the guests fled for their safety, but DJ Death by Decibel played on, oblivious to everything.

Shortly after that wedding, we attended another wedding. Again, we were very excited. The trip wasn’t too terribly long, this wedding couple was also cousins so we had lots of family to visit with, and this bride and groom also made a wonderful couple.

Once again, when the music started, all conversation stopped and to salt or not to salt became a monumental decision. In a repeat performance, again, at first, we did the shouting thing. Soon, we moved on to talking only to a neighbor. Then, we shouted into the neighbor’s ear. Finally, our chests began to feel like they were being pummeled with stones.

I had had enough. I waited for a break, so the DJ could actually hear me, and graciously requested that he turn the volume down. I shared, in truth, that one of my close relatives, in attendance, had a stent put in his heart one week prior and was feeling chest pains with every beat. As most DJs often do, he told me he would adjust the volume – and, as most DJs often do, he turned down nothing but my request.

Within two hours, half the wedding guests were out in the lobby chatting and strolling like passengers on the decks of the Titanic before the iceberg. I felt sad that the bride and groom, two young kids, had planned this wedding for months, maybe a year, and half their guests were waiting for the nearest moment they could leave, just to escape the musical torture, which was being paid for. I worried about all those young people working at that venue. They couldn’t leave, and are exposed to this type of thing on a regular basis. I feared for their health. I feared for their hearing.

I have also been at weddings where we were very successfully provided with party-on, crowd-the-dance-floor music that allowed tabletop conversation as well. We know it can be done, but too many DJs can’t turn down their egos enough to turn down the music.

I have come up with a great plan, though. After a short sample, I’m going to ask the DJ for his business card. If he blasts us out of the room, before I leave, I’m going to return it. He’ll hear that message, with music or without.

This is a July 2011 column updated.