Saturday, September 1, 2018

Brett & Cameron at Silver Legacy's Grande Exposition Hall


There are weddings and there are weddings. I've been fortunate to have deejayed at nearly 900 now, and every wedding has had something special about it- about the couple, about the crowd, about the venue, about the events and moments celebrated within it. The list goes on. As a DJ privileged to witness these moments, I have many favorites but it's hard to pick, say, the top five weddings ever. Well, if I were to have to pick my top 5, Brett & Cameron's evening last weekend would easily fall into this category. That is really saying something- that is roughly the top half of one percent of all the weddings I've played at, and my brides and grooms are already a notch above so that is really saying something! What, do you ask, made Brett & Cameron's wedding so special? Everything!

First and foremost there is the happy couple. Brett is a college educator and highly organized, energetic and opinionated. Opinionated in a good way. He knew what he wanted down to the smallest detail. His vision was extensive and inclusive, and his enthusiasm would not be deterred. On our original meeting, I was just amazed at his ideas and thoughtfulness, his sense of humor, and his love for Cameron. On our next meeting, I met Cameron as well, and he seemed the perfect ying to Brett's yang. He is a peace officer and has a solidity and serious nature that is a perfect mix to Brett's impetuous energy. He lets Brett be Brett with a twinkle in his eye and an all-consuming love. His sense of humor and kindness must make him an extraordinary first responder- someone I'd want in my community. They are so natural together. I knew it would be an extraordinary night and I was so happy to be a part of it.

They chose the Silver Legacy as their venue. Most of their friends and family would be coming from Oroville, the Central Valley and the Bay Area and they wanted them to have a magical weekend, not just a magical night. They even had a couple they had met in Japan come across the Pacific to share in their day! This attitude, where they were always thinking of their family and guests, permeated their planning and manifested in so many ways that night.

The Silver Legacy is a favorite venue of mine. In a city of casinos, The Silver Legacy and their associated properties consistently rise above and beyond the norm. I am always amazed at their professionalism and their ability to make whatever their clients dream come to fruition. I've deejayed in the Silver Baron Ballrooms many times and I spin tunes for thousands in the Reno Ballroom for several large events, but I had never deejayed down in the Grande Exhibition Hall. This modern set of adjoining ballrooms can be made into a huge space for conventions and concerts, and indeed the evening before Cameron & Brett's Big Day, a Phillip Phillips concert took place there. Brett & Cameron wanted a club-like atmosphere, so they enlisted Eric, the main audio/visual guy for the Silver Legacy, to be their lighting tech that night. My mind was spinning! What fixtures would be available? Could I tap into their sound? It was a DJ's fantasy come to life!

I have a very credible set of lights and my JBLs kick butt acoustically, but Eric just smiled and said that Brett & Cameron could have the concert setup that Phillip Phillips and company used the night before. All I had to do is plug my board in and spin! Think of a top-of-the-line nightclub and multiply the lighting and sound by ten. It still gives me goosebumps! But I'm getting ahead of myself...

The evening quickly approached. I worked closely with them and we had put together music and an ambitious, spectacular timeline that would punctuate their evening perfectly. Everything they did was unique, classy, and most importantly, said "Cameron & Brett" through and through.
The guests enter...
The soon-to-be-married couple greeted and welcomed each of their guests as they came into the Hall. They would hug and talk with each guest, get a portrait photo against a backdrop with them, and then give them a gift bag that also told them which table they were assigned to. I thought this whole idea was genius. I know there are old traditions of not seeing your spouse before the Big Moment, and I respect that. I vividly remember seeing my wife when she appeared at the door of the church as I awaited her on the altar. I get it. But on the other hand, that reinforcement of their appreciation of their guests coming and sharing in their most special day just set a fantastic tone that never diminished an iota the rest of the evening. The guests would then find their tables, visit the bar, and had an opportunity to watch a slideshow of Cameron & Brett playing on a huge screen. When the last guest had been welcomed inside, the Silver Legacy began their dinner service.
Swag!
Cameron & Brett had a special menu that night: their favorite finger foods and appetizers. Their guests piled their plates with all sorts of goodies and the Silver Legacy folks had everyone through the three buffet lines in no time at all. B&C had a chance to eat some of the delicious offerings and then Eric, running his lighting boards behind me, played a cool movie trailer on the screen that featured Brett & Cameron and their upcoming adventures together (of course created by the happy couple).

When the trailer ended and the applause subsided a bit, I played "Eye of the Tiger" and introduced Cameron like he was a heavyweight champion coming into the ring "All the way from Oroville CA, weighing in at 160 lbs." etc... He ran down to the stage, illuminated by an industrial spotlight from Eric, ready to defend his championship belt and the audience responded with cheers and applause! I then faded out Survivor and brought up the Theme from Rocky and similarly introduced Brett. The crowd, already loving the spectacle, went wild!

They then grabbed microphones I had placed nearby and again welcomed and thanked their guests and family. They had planned several different entertainments and they started by calling up some of their best friends and closest family for a fun and festive game of musical chairs- Brett's team vs. Cameron's. When that was through several rows of chairs were set up on the dance floor and we gave everyone a five minute warning- the ceremony was about to begin!

Everyone took their seats and their officiant Carol Baisinger-Criddle, their officiant took the stage. I had not worked with her previously but she knocked it out of the park. Brett & Cameron had designed the ceremony to not only reflect them but also to start and end at specific times. It was a tall order, in the chaos that sometimes befalls the best-laid plans, to start and end at a specific time, but it started right on schedule. At 7:57pm, a two-minute video started playing, a humorous yet sweet prelude to what was about to happen. Again the preparation of these two! At 7:59 sharp Carol explained that while the two grooms would come down the aisle as individuals, they would leave together, unified in love.

Brett chose Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" and walked down the aisle and joined Carol up on the stage and waited for his husband-to-be to join them. Train's "Marry Me" then accompanied Cameron as he walked down the aisle, perfectly punctuating the moment. Looking around at the family and guests watching them unite up on stage, I was filled with pride and had to thank God for the opportunity to witness this ceremony. For everyone watching was aglow, looking on the two men who stood before them to profess their love and cement their bond together. It was a perfect moment. I teared up a bit, because what was on display was pure love. In the eyes of both families and all of their friends was an expression of joy that was not clouded by outdated ideas of gender or discrimination. Love is love is love and whenever I am privileged to deejay a same-sex reception it always seems bigger than the couple and the marriage- it's an acknowledgment that the world is changing for the better and that more love in the world is always better than less.
Vows...
The ceremony continued on. I became nervous. The clock was ticking and lots of words were said, and it was getting closer and closer to 8:18pm. Why the fixation on 8:18? We'll get to that in a moment, but just then Cameron took a mic and said his personal vows to Brett. All clock watching was forgotten as his funny yet poignant words encapsulated his journey with Brett and his hopes for the future. As people cheered for his words, Brett took the mic. His vows were just as fitting- he didn't pull any punches with their journey up that point and with how he felt about Cameron. Then he headed over to their sweetheart table and further punctuated his vows with props and visual aids. It was funny, sweet, unexpected, and again so unique.

Carol finished up the ceremony, pronounced them husband & husband, and then said my cue: "You may kiss the groom!" At that moment I started "Love Me Like You Do" by Ellie Gould at 3:08 into the song which perfectly framed their kiss and triumphant walk back down the aisle as a married couple. Fantastic. And I looked down at the time: 8:18. Brett and Cameron had timed it perfectly. Eric and I kinda looked at each other and nodded our heads and smiled. Perfect. It was 8-18-18, and they probably had kissed right about 18 seconds into that minute. Imagine that!  Married at 8:18 and around 18 seconds on 8-18-18.  So unbelievably awesome.

Cameron & Brett headed out to the foyer to take a moment and sign their marriage license and then I introduced them for their first dance, "Say You Won't Let Go" by Boyce Avenue, accompanied by the "Dancing on a Cloud" effect from my Nimbus. Magical. Eric had spots washes perfectly set up for their dances and everyone started to get a small taste of what dancing would look like in a few minutes :)
Mother-Son Dance
The happy couple then took the microphones and toasted everyone present and then made a special toast to their families- especially their mothers. They then invited their moms up to the dance floor and I played "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban as Cameron danced with his mom Stephanie and Brett with his mom Annette. After a minute or two they switched and other family members joined them dancing. It was another fabulous moment in a night filled and still to be filled with fabulous moments.  After they finished to applause and wet tear ducts, I announced that their Money Dance would soon follow. I told everyone that it would be quite different than other Money Dances that they may have experienced before :)

Indeed, the two of them had taken it upon themselves to give their guests a night they'd remember, many of those touches already in evidence. But the Money Dance should maybe have been called the "Money Dance Off" because with Beyonce playing in the background, Cameron challenged his new husband and Brett eagerly accepted. Two money jars were placed on either edge of the stage- one for each groom, and Brett lead off with some very enthusiastic lip syncing to "Formation" which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone packing the dance floor to watch. Cameron then followed with some slick moves to Drake's "In My Feelings"- the crowd went wild!

Not to be outdone, Brett followed that up with "7/11" by Beyonce and had a hundred fifty people waving their hands in the air in unison. I even saw one of the Silver Legacy ladies bussing tables with one of her hands up. So awesome! The crowd was in a frenzy by now. Then Cameron went into Apache mode as Sir-Mix-a-Lot's "Jump On It" played. (That was my favorite, but I'm Old School). It was a tight race!

The third and final round started with Brett doing a very good Bruno Mars impression to "Uptown Funk." By this time most of the audience were dancing, but everyone was jamming when Cameron's last choice, "Bring em Out" by TI came on. He was joined by Brett and everyone else and then we went into the Wobble and the dance floor never cleared from that moment onward. Brett and Cameron were on the dance floor all night long, which always makes for a fun night, and Eric behind me, on his thousands of dollars worth of video boards, used all kinds of effects, gobos and washes to create best lit dance floor I've ever been a part of, and I used to DJ clubs back in the day.

I have to give kudos to the grooms. They didn't have to go that extra mile for the lighting and sound. But they did, thinking that they wanted to have a party that would be the one that everyone always looks back on in wonderment; the one everyone compares any future reception or party to.  Brett & Cameron: mission accomplished! Eric was phenomenal. He wasn't just a bored tech. He enthusiastically worked his magic on several dozen moving heads, washes, spots and a couple of hazers. And the sound from the two concert-level arrays hanging from the ceiling was unbelievable. The lighting itself probably was worth at least $100,000 and I don't even venture to guess what the arrays cost. Fantastic. Great grooms, enthusiastic crowd, and phenomenal sound and lightshow... basically a DJ's dream.



We had some neat dancing moments. "Livin' on a Prayer" followed by "Don't Stop Believing" had everyone singing. Brett led everyone in a 10 minute Beyonce mix (his favorite artist). Latin songs were super popular- stuff like "El Za Za Za", "Suavemente" and '"Sabor a Mi", and 90's hip hop along with current hits and a wide variety of requests filled the evening. The dancing briefly stopped while they cut their cake, fittingly to "Cake" by Flo-Rida. Those Central Valley people really know how to party and midnight came and we still had a large crowd. I played a few into the morning and then everyone packed up and hit "The Row".  Party of parties, check!

I want to thank Carol Baisinger-Criddle for her great officiating and fantastic attitude. It is clear she enjoys what she does and is great at it. Thanks to the outstanding captains, waiters, and bartenders from the Silver Legacy. Top notch as always! And of course thanks to Eric. His technical knowledge and enthusiasm for his job was such a asset to an incredible night. He wanted to go above and beyond for Cameron and Brett, and he did.

Finally thanks to Cameron and Brett. Two nicer and more genuine newlyweds I can't recall. The night was all about you two, and you worked hard to make it just as much about your guests and family. So unselfish, yet still you were the stars of the evening. Shining stars at that. Thanks so much for letting me be a part of your celebration! I'll remember it for as long as I live. Much love and happiness together!
Cameron, the DJ, and Brett at the end of the evening.



Thursday, August 23, 2018

Morgann & Danny at Silver Lake Stockton Family Camp with Chloe Ramirez Photography


I really get to deejay for the the best brides and grooms at the best places. Take this past weekend's couple for example: Morgann & Danny.

Morgann is a first grade teacher and has a gift for organization that really shone all throughout the planning process. She had a very clear vision of what she wanted for their most special of days and it was spectacular. When certain venues didn't quite fit her dream, she continued to search and found a beautiful mountain retreat that she, Danny, and their guests could have all to themselves: Silver Lake Stockton Family Camp.

This camp was started in the twenties by civic leaders from Stockton California as a refuge from the hot Central Valley summers. It is a 10 minute walk from Silver Lake, sits behind another, more commercial camp, and has nothing beyond it but National Forest land. Some forty rustic cabins and a dining hall make up the bulk of the camp and when you are a guest there, the staff does all the cooking. The staff, headed by Ron and with Chuck as bartender, were super helpful and friendly. They had had only one other wedding there prior to Morgann & Danny, and they were happy to share their little corner of mountain paradise with Morgann & Danny and their guests. They had done a welcome BBQ the night before and had scheduled a farewell breakfast for the next morning, so it was a wedding weekend, not just a wedding day. It really is a great vibe when your guests don't have to depart after the reception or can come early and spend extra time with everyone else. Morgann's vision was coming into focus.

The wedding site was another outstanding choice. A meadow gradually merges with Silver Lake about a quarter mile from SLSFC leaving a breathtaking view of the water and the surrounding Sierras. Chairs and a white runner were set up but there was no need for an altar or arch- a large slab of granite rises up from the meadow making a perfect focal point and vow area.

I set up under a large pine and waited for the nuptials to commence. A generator was required as, in the middle of this natural splendor, there weren't any plugs within 500 yards or so ;)  My Honda 2000 again performed flawlessly and provided me with the ability to mic their officiant David and play music for the pre-ceremony and ceremony.

I loved their musical choices! They wanted reggae for the seating period before the ceremony, so I had a great time picking choices that just put an exclamation point on their fantastic setting. Many of the guests could be seen enjoying the music and a fun, yet unique tone was set. The wind then came up a bit, as it is apt to do in the mountains at times, and the white runner that Morgann was due to shortly walk down on became twisted up. Several guests jumped up and became an instant 'Honor Guard' of sorts, keeping the runner in place. It was a great example of everyone pitching in to make sure that everything goes smoothly. When Danny and David were situated on their granite dais, a decorated electric golf cart pulled up with Morgann inside. She had picked a perfect and unique song for her processional, "Impurity" by Kaizen which she had practiced walking down the aisle to a couple times previously. She got out of the cart, fixed her dress and timed her walk perfectly. The 'Honor Guard' faded back as she approached, having done their jobs with distinction, and the tempo of the song continued to grow as she came closer and closer to that slab of granite holding David and her husband-to-be. I was so happy that all of her effort and planning had blossomed into the perfect processional. 

David then took over and performed a wonderful ceremony, highlighted by some very personal readings and vows that Danny & Morgann had chosen. When all was said and done, kisses were exchanged, and they recessed triumphantly to "Easy Love" by Sigala. They then turned and everyone got in a group drone shot, which framed by the lake and mountains must be a spectacular photo.

Photography (and drone shots) were aptly taken care of by Chloe of Chloe Ramirez Photography out of SAC. I'm sure they are 1000% better than these iPhone shots of mine ;)  She and her second shooter were very professional, fun, and easy to work with all throughout the day and evening. It is always a pleasure to work with professionals and she was top-notch. She tirelessly worked to document the entire event and I'm sure her photos will be amazing.

Ron, the head honcho at the Silver Lake Stockton Family Camp, was also fantastic to work with all day and evening. He and his crew worked tirelessly all evening and they do it for the benefit of their non-profit camp so that people can continue to enjoy the mountains and the traditions that have been kept up there for nearly one hundred years. Hopefully it will still be here in another hundred years, and will have been the scene of many happy wedding celebrations. It's a venue where you know that your dollars directly fund the camp so that families and children who might not ordinarily be able to enjoy the Sierras can do so. It's a win-win.

Morgann & Danny came back from photos and had a grand Grand Entrance. Chloe had everyone come out on the broad steps below the hall and, with the drone hovering above, the newlyweds entered to "With You" by Dirty South. After a little while longer, everyone moved to the opposite side of the hall and sat amongst the pines and enjoyed a dinner prepared by Ron & Co.


When dinner plates were pushed aside and champagne and cider glasses filled, Danny started the toasts, thanking all the many people who had helped to make this weekend come to pass, especially his new wife who had really knocked it out of the park. More toasts were then offered up and then, under the trees and surrounded by their friends and family, they danced to their first dance as husband & wife, "Danny's Song" by Loggins and Messina. I heard so many compliments about the appropriateness of the selection- I mean obviously the title and the groom's name match but even beyond that. The lyrics seemed to encapsulate them perfectly.  As the song ended and the cheering died down, I began "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel.  Morgann stepped out with her dad Gerhard and Danny with his mom Nikki, and again the musical selection seemed ideal- their moment transcendent. I am so unbelievably honored to witness moments like these.



Dancing followed inside with more reggae, current hits and hip-hop as well as some electronica. It was a fun crowd and I had lots of requests. James Taylor did interrupt the dancing for a bit ("How Sweet It Is") while M&D cut their delicious cake. As the dancing continued, people would slip out, head to their cabin, and slip back in wearing more comfortable clothes and shoes. Indeed, a blazing fire-ring down below the steps complete with s'mores added to the rustic charm, and as the last dance was played people made plans to meet beside the fire and continue the evening.

Such a fantastic afternoon and evening spent with a fun bride & groom and their crowd. Thanks to Chloe Ramirez for her stellar work and coordination. Thanks to Ron and Chuck and the SLSFC crew- so great to work with and talk to. And finally, thanks to Morgann & Danny and their friends and families for making it so memorable and fun for me. As I've said in the past: I love my job and whom I get to do it for :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Crystal & Jimmy at Genoa Town Hall

Genoa Town Hall
As a wedding DJ, relationships are what drives the business. Obviously the loving relationship that spurred one person to ask another to be his/her spouse, to declare that love via a ceremony in front of friends and family, and then celebrate that love with a kickass party is the major factor in being a wedding DJ, but there are many other relationships that contribute as well.

A referral from another vendor with whom you have a great relationship means so much, as they are putting their reputation on the line recommending you to a couple. And a referral from another DJ- well that is very meaningful, as we wedding deejays strive for perfection, and if we aren't available we want that client that knew enough to seek us out because of that dedication to have someone who is equally dedicated play their event.

But to me, the most important relationship is between the clients and myself. This is probably one of the most important days of their lives and I want it to be perfect for them. I want to exceed their expectations. But most of all, I want them to have a great time with their friends & family. I want them to look back on their day with nothing but amazing memories and I want the same for their guests. I want their wedding to be the yardstick with which all future weddings are compared. So when a couple whom has seen me at a previous wedding asks me to be a part of theirs, I take it as a fantastic compliment, especially when the bride of the previous wedding will be the coordinator. This was the case this past weekend with Jimmy & Crystal at Genoa's Town Hall.

Crystal is the kind of person that is everyone's favorite friend or relative. She is vivacious, funny, and empathetic. Her coworker, coordinator and BFF (and my past client) Erin said it best during her toast, about how lucky she is to get to work alongside her best friend everyday. She is also a great mother- her son Braedan is one of the most polite, kind and bright boys I've ever met, which says a lot about her parenting skills.

Jimmy seems to never frown. He is laid back and exudes a happiness and calm that seemed to infuse the night with a challenge to all of his guests: "Try to have as much fun as I am having tonight!" And that challenge did not go to waste- Jimmy & Crystal's crowd were fun, happy, and ready to celebrate. But Jimmy is serious as well. Crystal was a single mom when they met. Not only did he make a lifelong commitment to Crystal but he made the same commitment to Braedan, and the happiness that shines from all three of them, together as a family, is palpable.

So when you have a bride and groom (and Best Man/son) like these three, it's a pretty safe bet that the people in their lives are pretty special and fun as well. And that was certainly the case.

I had the honor of deejaying Erin and her husband Curtis's wedding last summer. They had their reception at the Auto Museum, and it was a fun crowd, dancing the night away amongst classic cars. Crystal was Erin's Maid of Honor and gave an emotional speech similar to Erin's on this night. Erin took over coordination of the reception, which in a blank slate like the Genoa Town Hall is a large task. She coordinated the decorations, the food and alcohol, the photo booth, the DJ and photographer, and did so with efficiency and organization. The weather threw her a curveball when it started pouring right before the reception, but she altered the floorpan and adjusted where the photo booth would set up, and the guests weren't any the wiser. Coordination is a continual series of adjustments where you put out small fires that spring up and streamline what is working well, along with keeping everyone on a flowing timeline, and she really excelled at it. Her husband Curtis was a big help as well, and even young Braedon helped me with some lighting and keeping the little ones amused and out of trouble all night. It was the kind of party in which everyone seemed invested to some extent, making sure that it went as smoothly as possible.


Crystal and Jimmy had had a small ceremony across the street a bit earlier, and many of the guests had not seen them yet, so I knew the Grand Entrance would be more special than most: in fact it is one of my favorite ever. It was simple for the DJ- I introduced the Best Man Braedan accompanied by Bruno Mar's "Uptown Funk" and he did not disappoint. He danced for about ninety seconds with the crowd cheering and clapping, and then I introduced the newlyweds. They danced in to Bruno, joined Braedan for a few moments, and then settled in to their first dance, "Turning Page" by Sleeping at Last. It was perfect. Braedan's enthusiastic dancing built up the excitement and then the utter love and happiness the couple dancing in front of them sealed the deal. I'm creeping towards 900 weddings now, and it is one of my most favorite moments, let alone favorite Grand Entrances.

After their first dance, Jimmy & Crystal mingled for a bit and Erin and company got dinner ready and served. The Genoa Town Hall is a beautiful venue right amongst historic bars, restaurants, and B&Bs but it is also a blank slate. You can bring in whichever vendors you'd like, which is great, but you also have to set everything up and tear it down at the end of the night. Sometimes this can be a problem. Not so with this group. A dozen people pitched in to help Erin, and as I'll relate a bit later, the cleanup crew was the best ever :)

Amongst all of this frivolity were Isabella & Cruz, our bartenders for the evening. They were so fun, and being friends of bride and groom they had volunteered their services. They kept everyone hydrated and still managed to dance quite a few songs (and lead a conga line!). I was appreciative of their help and friendliness. They are engaged as well, so hopefully I'll be watching two of their friends bartend their wedding ;)

After dinner, both dads and Erin made speeches. I've talked a little about Erin's toast, but James (Jimmy's dad) started off, was short and sweet in length, and set a great tone for the toasts to follow. Crystal's dad Mitch got everyone choked up bit, relating how, as a dad, he has been ultra-protective of his daughter and grandson, but that now he can relax because he knows that Jimmy will take on that protective mantle. To me, that is the highest compliment he could have made.

Mitch then started the dancing back up again, dancing with his daughter to "Daddy Dance With Me" by Krystal Keith. A money dance then ensued followed by open dancing. One of the coolest things in an already fantastic evening was their choice of dessert. A huge pile of donuts was on the buffet line, but even better than that was Yogurt Beach right outside. Yogurt Beach! Who knew they did onsite yogurt? But they do! A freezer full of various flavors awaited guests alongside a table with all the toppings. Yum! (I had a vanilla custard with chocolate chips, pecans, and Hershey choc sauce btw). Everyone loved it and it was a very unique and delicious twist to the evening.

After everyone had danced for about forty minutes, we invited Charles and his granddaughter Crystal up for a special Grandfather/Granddaughter dance with Frank Sinatra crooning behind them. Then we invited all the married couples up for the Anniversary Dance for which I played Tim McGraw's "The Rest of Our Life". Not surprisingly Charles and his wife Barbara were the last couple on the dance floor, having been married 59 years! Phenomenal people at this shindig! Lots of other couples were in the twenties and thirties as well.

The rest of the night was spent dancing with a bouquet toss thrown in for good measure. I played a wide variety of music, everything from Buffet to Aretha to Coolio to Journey to Spice Girls. It was a great crowd all night long, but I have to say the last 30 minutes were my favorite. You see, about 20 friends decided to stay and help clean up and break down tables etc. but they were still in a party mood so I started a 80's-90's hiphop mix that kept them dancing, laughing and moving. I went from Salt N Pepa to Vanilla Ice to Montell to Run DMC and on and on, getting spur of the moment requests like Backstreet Boys and Seal. Everyone sang along and the hall was cleared out and cleaned up in no time at all. Finally, to end a perfect evening I played Semisonic. I love how Crystal and Jimmy just naturally found the center of the dance floor- heck the entire Hall- and all their friends surrounded them and sang "Closing Time" to them at the top of their lungs. There is no better way to end an evening than with your best friends and family, who had pitched in to make the day so special, doing one last special thing and singing to the newlyweds. I love what I do!

Thanks to Erin for taking the brunt of the coordination off my shoulders- you did great! Thanks to Cruz and Isabella and Curtis and everyone else for pitching in and going above and beyond. Thanks to Braedan for helping me out, keeping the dancing going all night, and setting the tone for the Grand Entrance. And finally, thanks to Crystal & Jimmy. You two are the best and deserve all of the happiness and more displayed that night. Here's to playing Sleeping at Last at a friend's future wedding ;)

Last dance! Note everything is cleared- what a great crew!



Monday, April 9, 2018

Thinking about my own wedding day & reception- thirty one years later


"Do you remember, when we met..."
Tis the season for meeting with my couples and beginning to plan out their days and evenings for their upcoming weddings. Amidst all these meetings and planning sessions, my wife and I recently celebrated our 31st Anniversary and I thought I'd expand on my memories of our day, and what still resonates three decades later.

We were young and deeply in love. I knew that I wanted to spend my life with my bride to be but there were many obstacles before we could say "I do".  First and foremost was money. We wanted a memorable day and evening spent with each other and our friends and family, but being so young, barely scraping by, we did not know how we'd accomplish the nuptials and the party. We took out a loan, around $2000 if I remember correctly, which in 1987 was about six months rent.  With that and contributions in so many ways from our families, we had a very memorable day and a blast of a party.

First we needed a church. I'm Catholic and my wife is not, so getting married at our family parish would have involved lots of classes and my wife becoming a Catholic. Young, impatient, and in love, religious education was not at the top of our to do list and it would have postponed the nuptials for a year, so we looked for other opportunities. A beautiful church sat up atop a hill. We had no clue what denomination it was or even its name but we both liked the thought of getting married there so we drove up and talked to the pastor. He was Presbyterian, very kindly, and would marry us if we met him for a few pre-marriage counseling sessions. We agreed most happily.

Then we needed a reception site. Being in San Diego, there were many options but cost was paramount. A Women's Club, big enough for our crowd and nicely situated and cost effective became our choice. It wasn't at the beach or in the mountains or at a swanky hotel, but it was nice and it'd be ours for the evening.

Flowers were taken care of by my mom. My wife's dress by her folks. Ceremony music was played wonderfully by a pianist in the family who brought along a friend to accompany her. My father paid for the DJ and my Step-mom provided huge amounts of food from the deli she worked for. Many other family members brought food, helped decorate, and put up relatives who had come in from out of state. A keg or two were purchased along with wine and champagne from Price Club, chilled, and readied at the reception site. It truly was an affair that had many contributors, and it came together perfectly.

All these years later, my memories are still crystal clear. 

The first time I saw my wife in her wedding dress is etched upon my brain. Don't underestimate this moment! I know many people favor the "First Look" prior to the wedding, and some arrive together without much thought as to that moment, but believe me, it is so worth the extra effort to stay segregated until he or she is revealed. Some photographers do an excellent job capturing that "First Look" and setting it up so it is nearly as special as seeing them first coming down the aisle, but if you can wait, wait! Seeing my client's reactions, up with the bridal party and officiant, amongst their friends and loved ones looking on, bring me right back to seeing my bride for the first time. It is something you will take to the grave, like holding your son or daughter for the first time. Priceless. Magical. Unforgettable.

It rained. Off and on that morning and afternoon, and pretty steadily during the reception. But it didn't disrupt anything. There were eaves on the outside of the reception venue, and when someone needed some air they watched and smelled the rain come down. My wife loves it when it rains. It was the first day of Spring and it rained, and she was happy. People told us an old wive's tale that a rainy wedding day equals lots of kids. Well, we have two, exactly how many we wanted, and a boy and a girl. So I'm not saying it's true, but as long as you plan for it, rain can be a blessed thing on your wedding day :)

Our first dance. Our song was "Sea of Love" by the Honeydrippers and when I hear it to this day I am transported back to those three minutes when time stood still for the two of us. The rest of the world fades out. You are aware that there are people gathered all around you but they could be paintings or bobbleheads for all you know. Your focus is on that glorious being in front of you, the music, the perfection of those 182 seconds. It seems to last for much longer, but all of a sudden it's over and people are applauding and you come back to reality. 

Getting smashed in the face by my love with delicious cake. I should have foreseen it. I call her 'Brat' quite a bit, even back then. I could give you tips like "don't go first" which is sage advice, but in reality just take one for the team. No one likes to see anyone encrusted with sugary substances, but if it does happen, let it be you using a bunch of small cake napkins to clean up...

Our bouquet and garter tosses. Pretty standard except that the gal that caught the bouquet and the guy who caught the garter ended up together and are still together, and their wedding was one of my first weddings that I deejayed :)

Dancing with almost everyone there. When it comes down to it, it was the celebration with our friends and family that meant the most to us. So many people had touched our lives and we wanted them to be a part of our happiest day. Thinking of my long deceased grandfather dancing with my wife, her dancing with her grandfather who has also since passed, dancing with our young flower girl and ring bearer who now are both past thirty with children of their own, dancing and laughing with friends we still have and those who we've lost- these are the things that I remember most.

The party was epic. My father extended the DJ at least twice. He was an older gentleman, with big boxes and amps and he played 45 records exclusively. But CD's were just starting to appear in force, and this guy knew his stuff. Constructing a mix that kept everyone on the dance floor and appealed to the various tastes in the audience, he was a true pro, and he made me think about becoming a wedding DJ. He set a very high standard for me. I strive to give that same experience to my clients- anything less is unacceptable. When you have a couple deeply in love, with fun-loving friends and family who are ready to let loose and dance, it is the best thing ever. Our DJ is probably long retired and maybe even spinning tunes in the next life, but I want him to know that I carry on in his honor.

So a little more than three decades later, it's not the food nor the party favors nor the decor that stands out- it's those special moments, it's the time spent with dear friends and family, it's the day that completely belonged to the two of us. And all these years later I still smile and tear up a bit thinking of them. May your wedding day be as joyful and may your memories be as bright and warm!
Us and our church today :)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christine & Mark at David Walley's with Rachel Lomeli Photography

Christine and Mark found each other up in the heavens. That isn't so far-fetched when you learn that Christine is a flight attendant and Mark is a pilot for a parcel delivery company. Both radiate a joy for what they do, a love for one another, and an exuberance for the life and experiences that they now share together. From the moment I spoke with them and then later met with them I knew that I would be lucky to be a part of their day and evening.

Having relocated to and fallen in love with rural Nevada, they wanted a place that reflected the tranquility and sheer beauty of living right up against the majestic Sierras. There is no better place for this than David Walley's. 1862 David Walley's Resort to be more precise. This gem of a resort is one of my favorite venues. It has a phenomenal spa powered by the hot springs beneath it. It's restaurant is top-notch (my mouth still waters thinking of an elk stew I had there last winter), and it's event site and staff are the best around. Marie Stokes runs the events there and her friendliness, professionalism, and attention to detail are second to none. Her staff have been with her for years, the food they prepare is fantastic, and the atmosphere is unique and breathtaking. To have your ceremony out on the lawn with Job's Peak as your backdrop... stunning.




Christine and Mark indeed took full advantage of a sunny Fall day to say their vows with the Sierras rising up behind them. She walked in to Canon in D and when all was said and done they exited as husband & wife to Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon.
Rachel at work- obviously all these pics were taken by me- that's why I am a DJ :)
While everyone moved over to the reception site, Rachel Lomeli got some pictures of family and the bridal party, and soon we were welcoming Mark & Christine to their reception. I have to say in a area blessed with great photographers, Rachel is one of my favorites. Not just because her work is gorgeous- it is- but because she is fun to work with throughout an event whether you are a DJ or the bride & groom. Her love for what she does and her relationship with her clients really draws out the best possible pictures. You want the professionals at your wedding to be as happy and as honored to witness and be a part of your day as your guests are. Rachel and Marie fit this description perfectly.

After U2's Beautiful Day accompanied their Grand Entrance they went right into some heartfelt toasts and then onto a sumptuous dinner. Again I cannot say enough about the food at David Walley's. It doesn't taste like typical hotel/reception faire. And the way Marie and her staff stage the buffet line, it isn't long before everyone is enjoying the deliciousness. I was curious, because I know how efficient they are: how long would it take 120 guests to get through the buffet line (and it had at least 10 selections). The answer? Eleven minutes. Phenomenal. I did a wedding at a different venue not long after and I timed them. 130 people. 38 minutes. Now that is more of a normal amount of time. But this just illustrates the efficiency of Marie and her team, leaving more time for their clients and guests for events and dancing, and just to enjoy their fabulous dinners.
"Come away with me..."
Cake followed dinner, and dancing followed cake. Norah Jones' Come Away With Me was their first dance song, and the universe slowed to a stop for three minutes and eighteen seconds while they danced and sang to each other (I love what I do btw!).

Vince and his beautiful daughter
Christine's father Vince then danced with his beautiful daughter to Unchained Melody and then Gerry danced with her son Mark to Sinatra's Summer Wind. Open dancing then ensued with a great bunch of dancers all night long. They loved Motown and Mellencamp, Timberlake and Neil Diamond, Jason Aldean and Van Morrison. Such a fun crowd!

An Anniversary Dance celebrated love and marriage with Etta belting out At Last and then Christine tossed her bouquet to the strains of Ladies Night by Kool & the Gang.

Dancing then continued only ending much later with Semisonic's Closing Time with everyone joined in a circle around the newlyweds.

I can't tell you how honored and thrilled I was to have been a small part of their day. Thanks to Marie and Rachel and their teams for all their hard work and professionalism. Thanks to Christine & Mark for letting me experience their day and evening along with them. It really makes me happy to do what I do for couples such as yourselves. All the best, always!
The monogram I made for them projected on the spinning ceiling fan. Trust me, it looked way cooler than this ;)



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Brent & Crystal at Redhawk with Delicious Designs and the Traveling Photo Booth

Brent and Crystal. Crystal and Brent. One of my favorite couples ever. From our first consultation I knew that I had to be a part of their day. They exude togetherness and an ease with one another that tells everyone around them that they are a couple. A relationship that is tempered and perfected with glowing affection, wonderful children, and life experiences that only come when you overcome previous difficulties and realize that all of these things have brought you to this person- the one you were meant to spend the rest of your life with. This is what you find when talking with and watching the two of them together. 

They selected the Redhawk Resort for their ceremony and reception venue. They made a great choice. Chardonnay and her crew were exceptional all afternoon and evening. She unobtrusively hovered in the background throughout the event, taking care of small issues and making sure things ran smoothly. She was great to work with from the DJ perspective as well. She brought the lights up and down various times for the optimum photo opportunities balanced with dancing atmosphere. She checked on the guests continually, and the DJ as well. I felt warmly welcomed and well taken care of, so I can imagine what the guests thought :)

It was a spectacular day for the first of April, and the ceremony was framed by the wetlands and golf course. The entire wedding party came in to "1000 Years" by Cristina Perry: five bridesmaids, five groomsmen and Cassidy, Emily, Jake & Cayden (B&C's children) followed by Crystal. I was so proud of the children especially- they took their duties very seriously and were just a fun and well-behaved quartet the entire day and evening. Blake was a bit nervous officiating the ceremony but he had some great lines and was genuine and funny. I was really impressed with Emily (or was it Cassidy?) who had a reading in the midst of the ceremony and was on point with her delivery.

When Blake had pronounced them married, they left to a George Harrison song, "What is Life" which I thought was a cool and fitting song for the moment. I love that album and now when I hear that song I'll think of them. That's the magic of a great song paired with a great moment :)

Cocktails and pictures then commenced. They had a new (to me) photo booth company, The Traveling Photo Booth up and running when the guests arrived inside. Jesse and his helper were very friendly and everyone liked the booth's features. I saw people there multiple times, which always means that it is a fun booth and vibe.

Chris Brown's "Forever" serenaded the bridal party in for the Grand Entrance and shortly thereafter a buffet dinner was served. I got several requests from Crystal and the head table for songs during dinner and everyone was just in such a happy and fun mood. Not hard to imagine though. If you are friends or family with those two, chances are you are pretty cool and fun. Redhawk put out a fine buffet with chicken and beef but what I liked the most was this huge mound of fresh vegetables that were sautéed/steamed. I'm a sucker for fresh and well prepared veggies! As I mentioned, great service from Chardonnay and her crew and before everyone had even been through the line, champagne was poured and served for the toasts.

Lonnie was my favorite person in attendance besides Crystal & Brent. He was their Best Man and he was just a great guy all during the afternoon and evening. Fine choice for Best Man! He started the speeches off and gave a great, heartfelt toast. Crystal's sister and Maid of Honor Deanna followed him with an emotional speech that epitomized sisterhood and their unbreakable bond. What was that? A bit of a tear? Maybe... Then the gentleman that introduced the couple spoke and finally Crystal and Brent. Brent had an idea to start up the "hurry up" music like at the Oscars in the midst of his speech, so I did and everyone enjoyed the moment. 

The cake cutting was next. They had placed glass jars near the entrance of the ballroom- one for Brent and one for Crystal. The guests could then vote via a dollar or two on whom would be smashed by the other. Brent won. Or lost, depending on your viewpoint lol. Crystal smashed him in the face! Not too badly, but I loved this and their other ideas throughout the evening. Fun ideas from fun people. 

The cake was delicious! Delicious Designs, that is. Actually Leigh Anne makes cakes that live up to her company's name. They taste different than other cakes. The fresh ingredients and flavors really come through. Brent and Crystal opted for a chocolate raspberry top and a champagne strawberry bottom. The latter is my favorite of Leigh Anne's but both were wonderful. The true test of a cake is when it is portioned correctly, are there lots of leftover slices? The answer was no. I saw people come back again for a taste of the other or just another piece no matter which flavor. The small box that included the leftovers at the end was the size of a pie box, and it included their cake top. Delicious is right...

When Brent had cleaned up frosting from his visage, I introduced them for their First Dance. They chose "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts, which I thought signified their lives apart and now together perfectly. They "Danced on a Cloud" which means that I put about 15 pounds of dry ice into a special Nimbus machine and out came clouds of water vapor to punctuate the dance. The kids especially loved the effect, chasing stray wisps around the edge of the dance floor. It was a magical moment and always a favorite time in a reception for me. The bride and groom have been doing so many things all day, and while they are together during the ceremony, the First Dance is a moment almost frozen in time. It allows them to almost be alone together in the midst of all of these happy onlookers. They can talk and laugh, sing to one another- just enjoy each other in a pure moment. Time seems to stand still, then before you know it, the song is over and everyone is cheering. I love weddings (if you can't tell lol)!


Last song
The rest of the evening was filled with dancing with a small break for tossing the bouquet and garter. Crystal chose "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" for her toss and Brent "I Want to Sex You Up" for his, which got lots of cheers and applause when he started singing and dancing. Super fun! I took many requests and had a happy bunch of dancers and we ended the night with another Brent & Crystal favorite, MJ's "Will You Be There".  It was a perfect ending to a fantastic afternoon and evening.

Thanks to Chardonnay & staff at Redhawk, Jesse at The Traveling Photo Booth, and Leigh Anne from Delicious Designs- you all rock!  But thanks the most to Crystal and Brent for inviting me in to their special day and amongst their fantastic friends and family. I really am honored to do what I do, especially for couples like you two. Best of everything, always!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Kristi & Stephen at Sugar Bowl Resort



Want to hear about a perfect day and evening? That pretty much sums up Kristi & Stephen's big day up at Sugar Bowl. 

There are so many things to gush about...

First there is Stephen and Kristi. What a couple! I absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed working with them both prior to and during their wedding and reception. Whether it was an email or a FaceTime session, their enthusiasm for their day and their love for one another always shone through even during the more menial details. I felt excited and honored to be a part of the planning, and then the execution of their vision. They had some fantastic ideas for special moments and songs that just helped take their evening to the next level. I truly love what I do, and to get to do it for couples like Stephen and Kristi really exemplifies that feeling.
The DJ gets his own parking spot?!? Just a first taste of how well the day went :)
Secondly, there is Sugar Bowl. I have had the privilege to work at many ski resorts in the Sierras but for some reason there is a magic about Sugar Bowl that is unique and lends itself so well to weddings and receptions. From the phenomenal staff to the fantastic food to the surroundings that steal your breath away, Sugar Bowl is in a class by itself. The resort is usually quiet in the summer and the guests feel that they have the place all to themselves. 

Kristi!
The ceremony site is lush with grass and flowers, framed by a babbling brook just below and with the mountain rising up a short distance further. The lodge becomes a perfect backdrop for the bride's walk to her husband-to-be as well as a convenient place to get ready and enjoy the mountain beauty. Then, when the ceremony concludes, guests can travel up the chairlift to a small mountaintop chalet where 360 degree views and fields of wildflowers and mule's ear help make a cocktail hour like no other.  
The newlyweds arrive for cocktails!
Photos at 8,000 feet!
Stephen & Kristi return for their Grand Entrance!
When it is time to head back down the chairlift, the large deck of the lodge, framed with flowering hop vines and topped with umbrellas makes for a reception site unlike any other. As day turns to night, the last glows on the mountain switch to a glorious star-scape to dance under. If there is a slight chill in the thinner air, dancing and space heaters warm you up, and since most of the guests end up staying at the lodge or nearby, no one leaves until they absolutely have to. Such was the case with Kristi & Stephan's crowd.



My view of their First Dance!
I loved the little touches the two of them came up with! Their first dance was "Georgia" by Vance Joy but they wanted the song changed a bit- a chorus removed here and the bridge extended there and I was able to tweak it to their satisfaction and they had a first dance to it that was choreographed, elegant, and truly their own.
Irish Wedding Song by special request :)
They had picked songs for their special dances with Dad etc. but also thought about their grandparents, for whom I played the "Irish Wedding Song". I loved that they danced the night away, to songs slow and fast, and songs of their era and songs of today. No wonder Kristi and Stephen are so fun- it runs in their genes :)

I played "Footloose" for Kristi and her family as it holds special meaning and fun for them and a short time later I played Bruce Springsteen's version of "Jersey Girl" as many of Kristi's friends and family are from there. Well, the dance floor was filled with Jersey girls (and guys) singing along for all six and a half minutes with the Boss. Such a fun group! They never left the dance floor. I played a wide variety of music and the intensity level just kept going up! As the evening came on and the sky darkened, I brought out some glow sticks and lights that Kristi & Stephen provided and that just sent them into another level of dancing! Again, there is something about Sugar Bowl that lends itself to fun and dancing, and this night was no exception.

I was so pleased to have been a part of such an amazing celebration in Stephen & Kristi's life together. I love what I do and for whom I do it for! Thanks to Kristi & Stephen and everyone at Sugar Bowl for all the hard work and thought that was put into this day and evening. Congrats you two!
Last song of the night... What a group!