The Weight of “Opportunity” (or, could the music industry ruin my wedding?)

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If you thought the music industry was the only line of business where men are a majority, small opportunities are seized with desperate passion, money is hard to come by (unless you’re in the top 1%), and you live and breathe your passion… it ain’t. This Fall, I’m getting married to a mountain guide, and let me tell you, the mountain guiding industry is exactly the same.

About a month after booking our honeymoon flights, my fiancé was invited to join a team of rock and alpine climbers to start training and planning for a big, high-altitude expedition in 2013. The first, mandatory, five-day training session is literally on the five days right before our wedding. And a second 10-day training session starts two days after the wedding. His initial reaction was, “Oh well, I can’t do it.” Mine was, “Let’s see what we can do.” After sleeping on it for a few days, I’m realizing I should have kept my mouth shut.

Here’s the thing. If I landed a showcase for a record label or was invited to tour with Sheryl Crow for the week immediately following my wedding, I’m not sure what I would say. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but then, a wedding and honeymoon is a once-in-a-lifetime event (ideally). And while you know what will come out of a wedding, you can never predict the results from any career “opportunity.” The definition of opportunity is “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” Possible, not certain.

Either of us taking on a career opportunity and altering plans that we’ve set brings us back to the old way of working our relationship. We’ve got plans, then something comes up, and we rearrange our plans to fit it in. It feels desperate, disappointing, and unmagical – the world of romance and “we’ve made a long-distance relationship work!” is sullied. Our friends and family who have been rooting for us will see the situation and say, “Of course they had to postpone their honeymoon. They couldn’t even make wedding plans work with no glitches.” It’s very typical of us, when ironically, all I wanted was an “atypical” experience, for us – i.e., one that was “normal” and didn’t involve mountainous logistics (literally and figuratively).

On the flip side, I understand the industries we are both biting into. What I’m creating is a successful career for both of us, but does that mean that putting off wedding plans is worth it? How can you judge what is “worth it” when wrestling between your personal and professional life?

Is a honeymoon an opportunity? Absolutely. We are lucky to have been given the opportunity to create a life together and establish a planned retreat to set the tone of our marriage. So I need to look at my personal situations as opportunities, and weigh them against the professional opportunities.

But, where do you draw the line between career and personal life opportunities? Does your career always come first? How do you balance between conflicting opportunities?

Cheryl B. Engelhardt is an established pianist/singer/songwriter who has toured the US and Europe, licensed songs to over a dozen TV shows, and who composes music for films, national ads, and Cheryl is the author of “In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump-Start Strategy,” an incredibly effective, results-oriented eCourse for independent musicians who are serious about breaking through plateaus in their careers. Because you are a loyal Echoes reader, you get a ridiculous 70% discount off the regular price by typing in IHEARTDM in the “discount code” field. Cheryl’s next workshop will be held in NYC in August 2012. For more info, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @CBE.

And yes, she and her fiancé chose to keep their honeymoon plans intact.

50 thoughts on “The Weight of “Opportunity” (or, could the music industry ruin my wedding?)

  1. Point is, this date at Bluebird was already set long before my wedding was. But that same weekend was the only weekend we could do the wedding. So we got married, went to a nice hotel, then the next eve I played in front of friends, fam, and a wonderful audience that was entertained by the fact that I was married the day before! Haha, my wife understood. We had to work the next week anyway so we took our extended honeymoon a month later for a week. A good relationship works together and accepts the other person, and we make it a priority to make time for each other and making that count. It doesn’t have to be the conventional way to be a happy marriage. I’m surprised at all these posts saying that working during the time you want to honeymoon is not having your priorities straight. How close minded can you be?

    1. Hi Guitarman. It’s great that you and your wife had such an amazing wedding weekend that you were lucky enough to include a great gig! I think the key is being on the same page and as long as you are, everything will feel right. I am sure that the other comments supporting the honeymoon over the work opportunity are not close-minded but merely a demonstration that they got the article- that my fiancé and I are committed to creating more career opportunities in the future and want to start our marriage out work-free. Of course, post-wedding desires differ for EVERYONE, this is just what we chose to do. Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. Just do a showcase in Las Vegas and have a wedding and honeymoon in Vegas….. you must think creatively in both music career and marriage/relationships too! Think! 🙂

  3. I like embracing the possibility of and/and rather than either/or. Sounds like the wedding dates are available, and a couple of days after for relaxing. Can you go on the training with him? If you had a big gig, could he not go on that adventure with you? The important thing in a partnership between two people is that they can be in each other’s lives. I don’t know if that is possible for you, but you might consider it.

  4. Personally, I think you should have gone on the tour. If your wife knew you were a musician when you got married, then she should know that sometimes those things come up and you have to rearrange things. The money from the tour could have given you more money and you could have gone on a better honeymoon.

    Yes, the industry sometimes strains marriages, but if they know about your music going into the relationship, then they shouldn’t hold you back. You can take a honeymoon anytime, but industry opportunities only come around once.

  5. Good on you two! I think you made the right choice. 
    A big reason why there are so many failed marriages is that people gave priority to something other than the relationship.
    I don’t believe it’s always true that “you don’t know what is going to result from a wedding” because I do believe in self fulfilling prophecy. If both of you believe a marriage should last a lifetime, and you both work to maintain that objective, it will. If one, or both of you believes that marriage is something like a pair of socks or a car that only lasts so long, then that’s exactly what’ll happen.
    It’s also nice to have a person around to lift your spirits when the career things go wrong.

  6. The wedding is one thing—and everybody wants to have a nice wedding—but it is the *marriage* that needs to work. The wedding is a day; the marriage is the rest of your life (I’m resisting the urge to say “hopefully;” you *promise* it’s forever, so I’ll hold you to your promise). Part of making a marriage that works means understanding each other’s careers well enough to recognize those opportunities you must take and those you can pass on. The important thing is not whether or not you take the gig, but whether or not you can agree that the gig is worth taking. I don’t think it’s like you have to choose between your career or your relationships. I mean, *because* I love my wife, I want to see her succeed in her career, eh? The important thing is that you’re on the same page at any given time. 

  7. I second (or is it third?) the comments about not knowing what will come out of a wedding. I’d postpone mine in a heartbeat for a good opportunity – if I was sure (or almost sure) it was a good opportunity 🙂 . The reason being, a relationship doesn’t stand or fall on one single day of commitment and celebration. It’s about the sum total of your time together. If a wedding gets postponed, your relationship is no worse off (many of the most stable couples I know aren’t getting married at all). But missing an important career opportunity in a field you love could be something you always regret.

    1. Thanks for your reply, Lia! I am committed to having impeccable integrity in my life, so that means doing what we say we will do, when we said we would do it, and making things work. My fiancé and I have a phrase we like to live by: “Let’s have it all!” (easier said than done, but a great motivator for figuring out how to make things work…. in this case, what works for us is keeping our plans).

  8. While great opportunities that lead to better things do certainly exist in the music business, I think there’s an over-emphasis on looking for that “big break.” A successful musical career, as in any other profession, is not made by a single moment but by a long process of building, just as it is with one’s character, of which your art is but a reflection.  Nothing builds character more than to let your heart be the tamer of your ambition.(I forgot the “but” – thought it merited taking the time to repost to ad.)

  9. While great opportunities that lead to better things do certainly exist in the music business, I think there’s an over-emphasis on looking for that “big break.” A successful musical career, as in any other profession, is not made by a single moment but by a long process of building, just as it is with one’s character, of which your art is a reflection.  Nothing builds character more than to let your heart be the tamer of your ambition.

  10. The biggest misconception of people that do not make enough money to support themselves with their art is that it is one show that makes them. It is a constant grind, look how long it to Iggy Pop to sell a 100,000 albums,,,I’m still not sure how the the stoodges are fairing… If you wanna be a artist get ready for a lot of nothing, Van Gough sold a couple of paintings through his brother, than couldn’t take it any more.

  11. Came across a profound quote recently that seems apropo: “If it’s meant for you, you won’t have to beg for it. You will never have to sacrifice your dignity for your destiny.” -Chelsis Porter

    One can argue, the career opportunity is there because you did the work to get there. But guess what: relationships are work, too. I say this as a person who’s been with my now-husband since I was 20 years old, and that was over 20 years ago. We both come from broken homes, so it’s not like a sheltered view of what makes relationships tick goes into what we know. In fact, it’s the opposite: we know people are imperfect, and that relationships are entered into by two people who need to make sacrifices to make it work. But what they are sacrificing for is something both wholeheartedly agree is worth the price, and more!

    Look at it this way: the wedding is a celebration of ALL the work you did to create together this awesome relationship, a partnership that you both believe has the potential to nurture and grow you for the rest of your lives. Don’t let an external promise that may or may not pay off get in the way of that. As someone else said, if you’re talented, opportunities will be there. There is also a certain amount of integrity in valuing the important times in your life, your rites of passage, which marriage is definitely one. And one’s art, I believe, mirrors one’s soul. So you want to live with as much integrity as you can, yes? Just my .02.

    1. Love this Michelle! Yes, living with integrity is the ultimate goal for us, which is why we stuck with the plan! And so true- opportunities in careers are everywhere, plus we can create them ourselves. Thanks so much for such a great thoughtful response!

  12. I tend to agree that weddings are very important. Certainly more important than opening for the Beatles, or what’s left of them. I have played at many in my time.

    I’ve also played at a bunch of funerals, and I actually like them more. I don’t know what it is… and I’m not a big fan of Death, or anything like that, but the funerals are more fun.

    Q: What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake?

    A: One less drunk.

  13. great provocative post. really. i am so glad you’re taking this question seriously.

    let simply express what i believe to be the better way.

    never, NEVER put the demands of a career before relationship. the US is littered with the wreckage of marriages (and broken families) that, with the very best intentions, ended because one spouse or both did not consider their relationship sacred. untouchable. want to “set the tone” for your marriage? prefer the opportunity to forego career advancement for this momentous event. it’s hard, but it is the kind of thing which will set a precedent for the next time this happens. then, make the same decision again. your spouse is the most important person in the world. marriage is self-sacrificial service, not compromise.

    a marriage which learns how to prioritize the relationship above all other priorities will reap the sweet benefits of time, provide the best opportunity for the marriage to survive, and set a repeatable example for the kids. 

    skip the hiking trip, the mountain ain’t going nowhere. it’ll still be there when you return from the honeymoon.


  14. sorry, but the arrows I put in my post before and after your quotation that I commented on forced a funky HTML result that made the post unreadable, and I dont feel like typing the whole thing again. But in a nutshell… NO you do not know what is going to result from a wedding.. 55% of marriages in the USA end up in divorce. I also listed a whole slew of fun (not) potential results from marriages… even happy marriages. So my wrap was that if you have a great once in a life-time opportunity that can make life for both of you better, you need to take it. If your betrothed does not allow or understand, then they obviously are not the right one for you.

    1. Sorry about your HTML funkiness and I really appreciate your response. We both examined what we are committed to and chose together (which I am learning is the key here) to continue with our plans. We are very flexible everywhere in our lives and decided to stick with these plans… just this once :).

      1. If you postpone your wedding/honeymoon, etc. now for whatever reason, where do you draw the line? At what point do you put the career on hold to work on the relationship? How ‘understanding’ must the spouse be and for how long?
        I was playing constantly years ago, leaving my poor wife at home with the very small children. I was happy, she was miserable. I then. ecame miserable, too. ( as you can well imagine)
        I had become the absent father in order to pursue my career.
        Only you can decide your future. What price are you willing to pay?
        Thanks for not glossing this over and treating it with the respect it deserves.

  15. >>And while you know what will come out of a wedding, you can never predict the results from any career “opportunity.” <<Oh really??  you KNOW what will come out of the wedding? I am glad you are so sure. But 55% of marriages end up in divorce. OK.. we are still not sure what will come out of that… will you perhaps be a victim of domestic vioence? Will you not be a victim, but falsely claim you are and send your good husband to jail? Will you have kids, will you not have kids? Will the kids come out healthy and happy or deformed and handicapped (God forbid). W ill ether set of in-laws make your life hell? Will you buy a house and then have it foreclosed on? Will you live happily ever after? (I hope so).You are so idealistic, romantic,….and naive.
    If you are an apsiring, struggling musician, mountain climber, lion tame, actor, and get a great opportunity… TAKE THE OPP! If your betrothed does not permit or alow this, then they aint the right one for you.

  16. Overwhelming statistics suggest that most people do NOT know what will come out of a wedding.  Look up “atypical”. Good luck

  17. two-part comment: 1) a younger brother of mine is an alpine mountain climber who was training for a K2 ascent, but met a girl—he taught her to climb and asked her to marry him when they summited one of the Tetons (and I am godfather to their oldest son). 2) I had a chance for court-side seats when my alma mater made it to the Final Four
    —a once-in-a-lifetime experience by any measure—but I instead shared the experience with my girlfriend on campus; now an ex-fiancee, she *too* became a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

  18. Because weddings should be planned 12 to 18 months in advance, and you must reserve the most important parts of that wedding and reception, like the DJ/MC, Venue, Wedding Planner, etc. and you must pay a non refundable initial payment generally of 50% of the total, there are some significant financial penalties for rescheduling or cancelling a wedding date.   You see, those of us in the industry that create the MOST AMAZING weddings are booked FAR in advance and we only have limited availability.   

    But remember what John Lennon said: “Life’s what happens while you are busy making other plans” and life events come up that may interfere with your long planned wedding.   If you have the talent, they will wait until you are available.  If not, the gig was probably not that important anyway.   Live your life, and your marriage to the fullest capability.  Don’t screw up your wedding on a maybe!    That is just my .02 worth.  

    Good Luck 
    Alan Dodson

  19. Sorry, I just realized that “poor grammar” was an unfortunate turn-of-phrase. Still: work on that.

    And best wishes!

    Hog Whitman

  20. The reason WE in the music business are losing? Is because of our “1%” envy. Because WE call our customers rednecks. Because WE are anti- American. WE are being shunned. Look at CD sales. People are still aquiring our music. They just aren’t paying us for it. Look at movie ticket sales. Look at live shows. All of our revenue streams are drying up. Why? Because WE think WE are better than our customers …

  21. Looking back on a fairly successful 45 year music career, nothing I have accomplished in that realm compares with the lasting relationships of family and friends.  Some of my biggest regrets have come when I forgot that fact along the way. 

  22. “but then, a wedding and honeymoon is a once-in-a-lifetime event”

    Besides the poor grammar, you have much to learn, young Jedi.

  23. I believe that music is supposed to be an expression of our lives but if we do not first LIVE those lives, then we have nothing to express. For that reason, I think it’s important to establish priorities where family comes first. Now, as pros, making a living is part of our commitment to our families. So it’s not as straight forward as it might seem. But a wedding certainly trumps any gig no matter how big it is.

  24. It never ends. I got in trouble for having a recording session on my girlfriend’s (Now wife of 27 Years) birthday. The recording session had been booked in March and I didn’t even meet her until May, but there was still Hell to pay. 

    OTOH, I cancelled a trip last year that was a once in a lifetime experience to record a show. The Show got cancelled one week before the date, so I missed out on both.

    Moral: There will be more jobs, but only one (Hopefully) honeymoon. Life is short, enjoy what you can. 

  25. Well advice be cautious but practical be discipline yet still make sure of the most important thing. Your heart!

  26. I put myself 1, 5, 20 years in the future and envision two or three likely scenarios, looking for what feels best, and where the biggest regret occurs.

    I’m married to an amazing person who’d be ready, if things made sense, to adjust our life for the right opportunity. We just spent 18 months living as nomads, so her money is where her mouth is.

    But would I take an audition with a big name in place of a family event? I seriously doubt it. A maybe for a stranger will never outweigh the sure thing of my wife’s and our little girl’s love.

  27. I’d say family comes first.  I have a hard time believing you’d regret missing an opportunity on your deathbed when you had a good family life, but I know a lot of miserable, old, lonely people who traded family for success and dearly regretted it.

  28. I missed the chance to be Musical Director for a show because the final performance was on my wedding day.  It wouldn’t have been a life-changing gig, but I’m so conditioned to jump on every opportunity that I agonized over it.  Of course, a tour with Sheryl Crow would have been another story…  But, one thing I have learned is that if I wait for “free time” to make plans, they’ll never happen.  Things happen the way they’re supposed to in the big picture, so make your personal plans and give them the same value as your career.

    1. Hi Clare- I love when you say you’re “so conditioned to jump on every opportunity” – it’s so true! This was the first time my fiancé and I were able to not pounce, but reflect first, then choose powerfully. Thanks for a great response!

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