Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sierra Army Depot Holiday Ball at Grand Sierra Resort

I usually blog about weddings I am privileged to emcee but I do entertain at other functions like birthday parties, corporate events, non-profit functions and I especially love to give back to our military men & women, who sacrifice so much for us.
McQueen JROTC Color Guard opening the evening's festivities
One such organization which does a critical but sometimes unheralded task for the armed forces is the Sierra Army Depot, up north of Reno on the 395.  I have been honored to be their entertainment for their annual Holiday Party for the past two years and they are an amazing group of people- dedicated yet not afraid to kick up their heels a bit.  I love the traditions they hold dear, like the color guard above.  Last year my own son participated in the opening Colors, as he was a member of the Washoe County JROTC Color Guard.  This year it was even more special for Col. Dexter, the Depot's commander, as his own son was a part of the Color Guard from McQueen High (the younger Dexter is on the right and that is his dad just over his left shoulder).  After the Colors were posted, the Col. Dexter called the JROTC members back up and recognized their dedication and that of their advisor.  Then various toasts are made by certain attendees starting with a toast to the United States, then the President, then the Army, then the other services, then to the soldiers, then to the Depot, then very poignantly to the Fallen Comrades, and finally the ladies are invited to have a seat and the men toast them.  Very cool.  But the most touching moment is when a small table is singled out and the contents of the table are explained to the attendees.  The table represents MIA/POWs and those who haven't returned and that there is an empty place for them as they are always in our thoughts and prayers.  Following some remarks by the Colonel, a great dinner was set out by Maria and her able staff in the Tahoe room of the Grand Sierra Resort.
iPhone catching some dancing
The rest of the night was filled with music and dancing and some fun raffle gifts.  I love this crowd and the variety of music I play.  Everything from Garth Brooks to the Gap Band.  New stuff like Psy and Ludacris and oldies like Bill Haley and the Isley Brothers.  Just a fun crowd with the vast majority of songs played being requests.  Thanks to Lori at the Depot for making everything so easy and fun for me.  It was a pleasure to play for this crowd once more and I hope it becomes a long tradition.  

Happy Holidays everyone!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jenn & Dennis at the Grove at Southcreek with The Decorated Bride

Before the "I do's"
Is it possible to plan a fantastic wedding in two weeks?  Yes!  Especially if you have great family support and vendors willing to go the extra mile, and Jenn & Dennis had both.  It was the last beautiful day before the cold weather hit the Truckee Meadows and they decked The Grove out in fall colors, both outside and in.  I had received a call from Jenn's mom just two weeks prior telling me that the couple had just booked The Grove and was I available?  I met Jenn, Dennis and Jenn's Grandma Patricia between a dental appointment and tux fittings down in Carson City and knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of their day.  We hammered out the ceremony music, the order of events and the music for the reception in an hour or so and nine days later I was playing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder as their recessional.  Jenn looked ethereal in her beautiful dress and with make up by my favorite artist, Corey from The Decorated Bride.  The ceremony was beautiful- warm and only a bit breezy and with a heartfelt and loving ceremony officiated by "Pop", Jenn's grandfather.  As the guests filed into The Grove for cocktails, the bridal party posed for pictures as the wind steadily increased.  It was the edge of the cold front rushing in, and the timing for the ceremony was perfect, as was the rest of the evening.
The 1st Dance, Van Morrison's 'Into the Mystic'
Teresa and her whole crew at The Grove are absolute professionals.  They give impeccable service and make everyone feel special.  Teresa is always in the background, helping guests, lining up the bridal party, and just making sure everything runs perfectly. The bartenders Jay & Amanda are fun and always have a smile on their faces.  Waiters Roberto and Marco are efficient, happy, and by far my favorite waitstaff in the area.  And Shaka's food is always outstanding- a real treat compared to the cookie-cutter food that some places offer.  I had to complement him on his shallot mashed potatoes- absolutely sublime!  Even the presentation is outstanding.  I normally don't take pictures of food, but the chicken was so delicious, and when I went back for seconds I realized that it isn't just thrown in a pan for the guests to fish out.  It was arranged artfully.  It just illustrates the time and quality they put in to everything they do there.
Not perfectly symmetrical  because the DJ has already removed a slice or two...
Jenn & Dennis finished their pictures and I announced them for their Grand Entrance to the chords of "Home" by E. Sharp and then faded into their first dance surrounded by bubbles the guests were blowing.  Jenn is a huge Van Morrison fan, so I played several songs by him throughout the reception.  After the delicious dinner, their Best Man and Maid of Honor toasted them and then the newlyweds toasted all their guests.  Both the BM and MoH are in the Navy serving our country, and both took leave and flew thousands of miles to be there, despite the short notice- one from New York and one from Japan.  Very cool.  Dancing started up again, with a great Father/Daughter & Mother/Son dance in which the B&G invited all the moms and dads and their kids up.  That is always a classy gesture.  The Anniversary Dance was fun as well, with Patricia and Pop (the grandparents) being the last couple on the floor, having celebrated 50 years of marriage!  What outstanding role models for the B&G!  Indeed, I was amazed they'd been married so long as when I met Patricia at the consultation I thought she was Jenn's mom, not her grandma. 

They had cupcakes instead of a traditional cake, and while that isn't all that unusual, the number of flavors was.  They had eight or nine flavors- each looking absolutely mouth-watering.  Normally I see 2-4 flavors... Just another example of the thought and planning they achieved in two short weeks.  They cut their cupcake to "Better Together" and then tossed the bouquet & garter to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "Legs" respectively.  After that it was solid dancing for the rest of the night.  For a smaller crowd, they were fun on the dancefloor, especially during the group dances.  I even snuck a Metallica song in for Dennis, as they are one of his favorite bands.  All in all, I was sorry to see the night end, but again they did it up.  Teresa had sparklers ready for the guests and Jenn & Dennis left through a sparkling archway.  What a special evening!  Thanks for letting me be a part of it Dennis & Jenn!  Your family & friends were amazing and of course The Grove crew was outstanding, as usual.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jason & Nicole's Wedding at Sunnyside Resort on Lake Tahoe

Sunnyside Resort up at Lake Tahoe was the spectacular setting for Nicole & Jason's ceremony and reception late this summer.  It was a bright and sunny Saturday without a cloud in the sky, and the deck was filled with loved ones and friends sharing their special day.  Nicole had handkerchiefs placed on every chair embroidered with "Cry Happy Tears" and her aunt Kelly performed a uplifting and personal ceremony that had everyone using their handkerchiefs one moment and laughing the next.  Nicole entered to Vitamin String Quartet's version of Clapton's 'Wonderful Tonight' while her bridal party preceded her with VSQ's 'Bittersweet Symphony'.  When the newly married couple exited the ceremony, their recessional was Iz's 'Over the Rainbow', which always is a crowd favorite.
View from the dock.
The DJ's view!
As the bridal party and family took pictures around the resort, the guests were treated to appetizers and mimosas and I played classic rock as per the bride and groom's choice.  It was fun entertaining not only their guests but the people coming for lunch at Sunnyside's terrace.  It was a fun and happy crowd all around.  A lot of that has to do with the great staff at Sunnyside.  Everyone is attentive, efficient and and very amicable, led by the competent duo of Mel & Erin coordinating the event.  They were outstanding- always making sure every small detail was correct and that every guest was happy and taken care of.  Same with the wait staff and even management- they couldn't do enough for everyone, even keeping the DJ hydrated and fed.  And the meal was outstanding!  I was lucky enough to have lived in Guatemala for a year, and the fishing down there is amazing.  We would catch mahi-mahi (dorado) all the time and eat it fresh, so I am not eager to try mahi at local places here, as it always tastes a bit old.  Not so at Sunnyside!  The mahi was flown in the night before and tasted like it had just been caught- boy was I impressed!  Apparently they are affiliated with resorts in Hawaii, and they have it shipped directly to them.  The rest of the food was delicious as well, even if it wasn't shipped quite as far to get there.  Bravo to the chefs and management.  First class!
Jason & Nicole's first dance as husband & wife!
After the tremendous meal and some heartfelt toasts, the newlyweds cut their baseball-themed cake and then came back out onto the deck and danced their first dance to "Amazed'" by Lonestar.  The Father/Daughter & Mother/Son Dance then followed (Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing") and then open dancing.  Nicole & Jason are big fans of modern pop and club music and that was the soundtrack of the rest of the afternoon, with some slow songs interspersed here and there to bring in the romance factor.  The bride & groom had some great moments taking pix near and in the lake, and when they left the reception, they rode off on a jet ski!  Very cool and unique!
Dancing on the deck
It was great to play for such a fun crowd and I got some neat requests from bridal party members and guests for their first dance songs, allowing them to re-live their wedding days as well.  "Blue Hawaii" by Elvis was one such request from a pair of grandparents, and they immediately were on the floor beaming like newlyweds.  I love being able to recreate special moments, as well as help create new ones.  Thanks to Nicole and Jason for inviting me to be a part of their day.  Thanks to their great crowd of family & friends who were so great to talk with, and thanks to Mel & Erin and everyone at Sunnyside for their hard work and dedication.  What a spectacular afternoon!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ken & Melissa at the Chism House in Reno

I had the pleasure to be a part of Melissa & Ken's beautiful day at the Chism House in Reno recently.  If you haven't considered the Chism House for your outdoor, garden wedding and reception, it is well worth a look.  It is just west of downtown Reno- a tranquil oasis in the midst of suburbia.  The house dates from the 1800's and has quaint dressing rooms and plenty of great picture opportunities.  But the garden is the main attraction.  They have a lawn and pond where most ceremonies take place, and a permanent tent set up on the other side of the property complete with a dancefloor and tables and chairs.   A huge plus is that you can bring whichever vendors you'd like to go with the venue, which is not always the case at other venues.  Another plus is that it is just a couple of minutes away from all the downtown hotels, and many brides & grooms arrange for shuttles and rooms, keeping the party going all weekend.  Jerrine is one of the Chism House coordinators and she worked hard all evening making sure every little thing went smoothly.  I was so appreciative of all her help.
It was a warm Friday, but the ceremony by Russell was fun, very personal and quick.  Melissa and her bridal party all entered to Josh Radin's "Today" and the newlyweds exited to "Hey Soul Sister" by Train, with everyone singing along!  It was a fun group.  As the bridal party and families posed for pictures, the guests headed back to the tent and tree-shaded western end of the property where they enjoyed cold drinks and some big band and crooners that Melissa & Ken had selected for cocktail hour.
When pictures were through, Melissa & Ken had their Grand Entrance through the archway with "Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster" playing them in.  Very fun couple!  Everyone was soon enjoying a BBQ dinner in the gorgeous evening air.
Cutting the cake!
Cake and Toasts soon followed, and then the dancing began.  I love that this young couple really knew their music and picked "Our Love Is Here To Stay" by Louis Armstrong as their first dance.  Never will I hear that song again and not think of them.  And that is the idea- pick a song and make it yours, and they certainly did.
Dancing to Satchmo...
The rest of the night was filled with laughter, dancing and music.  Melissa & her dad danced to Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" and Ken & his mom danced to "Simple Man" by Skynyrd.  "Unchained Melody" was the Anniversary Dance, and I loved their playlist had things like Kool & the Gang (there was a special dancer for "Hollywood Swingin"), Elvis, the Doors and Wiz Khalifa.  Really a wide variety which kept everyone happy.  When the limo arrived and it was time for the last song, Melissa & Ken exited the party with Josh Turner's "Time is Love" playing them out.  Just a fantastic evening under the stars.  Thanks to Jerrine at the Chism House and most of all thanks to Ken & Melissa for having me play their big day.  Congrats you two!
The Happy Couple!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Virginia & Mike at Silver Legacy's Silver Baron Ballroom with Philmclips Video & Zinser Photobooth

I had the pleasure of being a part of Mike & Virginia's reception at the Silver Legacy Casino's Silver Baron Ballroom along with Zinser Photobooth and Philmclips Video.  Mike & Virginia did a lot of planning for their big evening and it helped make a great reception a phenomenal one!  The 300 or so guests came to the Silver Legacy from an offsite ceremony and immediately felt right at home with appetizers and drinks.  They had the always fun Zinser Photobooth ready for their guests, and it was busy all night.  Phil from Philmclips was everywhere, capturing the sights and sounds, and the bride & groom, aware that there were several new mothers and some toddlers amongst the guests had arranged for a "Mom's Room" adjacent to the ballroom for changing and nursing.  What a nice idea!  Virginia & Mike had all kinds of touches that personalized the night and made it very special for not only them but their friends and family.  For example, for the Grand Entrance they had a song for each of their eight of their bridal party couples: everything from Dobey Grey's "Drift Away" to Black-Eyed Peas to "Lean Like a Cholo"... Very cool choices that the BP loved and responded to coming in.

The buffet was delicious and the Silver Legacy had two lines going on either side, getting the hundreds through quickly.  And while they had a cake to cut, they had for the main dessert a strawberry shortcake bar.  Their innovation did not stop there.  They had a great idea for their first dance... 
Michael and Virginia First Dance from craig musni on Vimeo.

They started with a nice slow song and then it evolved into an epic dance that they choreographed themselves.  My two favorite moments were when they revealed to everybody that they were expecting and when Virginia showed her "boots with the fur".  Awesome!  It took us a few meetings and me many tweaks to the mix but it was so worth it!  I forgot my camera that night, but Phil from Philmclips came to the rescue with this snippet.  A great guy to work with and just a great guy!

Following the epic first dance was a Father-Daughter Dance with "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts and a Mother-Son Dance with Skynyrd's "Simple Man."  A night-full of fun dancing ensued with occasional neat special touches by the bride & groom.  For the Anniversary Dance, I played "At Last" by Etta James and Virginia & Mike had me especially honor 2 couples who had their anniversary on the very same day.  Classy gesture.  They also had me acknowledge several birthdays.  It was a great crowd and I played all kinds of music to a packed dance floor late into the night.  What a great party!  Congrats to Mike and Virginia and thanks for including me in your fantastic night!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Leah & Will at Montreux Golf Club with Tiers of Joy Celebration Cakes

I had an awesome time last night at Will & Leah's reception at the gorgeous Montreux Golf Club.  Absolutely great people all around: the bride & groom, their families & friends, and the super staff at Montreux.  
Leah & Will are a great match.  When you meet them, you can tell immediately that they are a couple.  They look great separate- both are tall and good-looking, but they walk into a room and a glow of warmth & confidence & ease just fills the space.  There is no doubt that they are together and are each other's soulmates.  They provided me with an inspired songlist of slow, romantic ballads during cocktails, a great selection of jazz during dinner and some fun dancing selections for later.  That they appreciate music was immediately apparent as the guests' tables were all named for love songs.  
The bridal party entered to "The Final Countdown" by Europe and the newlyweds to "All You Need is Love" by the Fab Four.  Indeed, the Beatles were quite apparent throughout the evening as their first dance was "Till There Was You" and right before that... well I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Father-Daughter Dance
After their Grand Entrance, the servers started bringing out the salads and then the main courses.  The waiters do this incredible ballet when they serve: four or five of them, each with two of three plates.  They wind their way through the tables and simultaneously serve everyone seated at a table.  When I saw their coordination, I was impressed, as the guests had three choices from the menu for their main course!  Not an easy task, but they made it look seamless and were very efficient as everyone had their meal in no time at all.  They were very kind to feed a hungry DJ as well, and I had swordfish on mushroom risotto with delicious sauteed veggies.  One of the best meals I have had the pleasure of trying this year!  Billie, Montreux's coordinator is always hovering around, making sure everything is going smoothly and that everyone is happy- bride and groom, guests, and even the help (me).  It is such a pleasure to work with her and all of the staff there- true professionals!
Will serenading Leah!
The toasts were great, but one line from Gary's toast (Leah's dad) really stuck with me.  He said that 35 years ago, on his wedding day, he looked down the aisle, saw his bride-to-be, and he had never seen anything so lovely.  Until today...  Wow.  Just a proud, happy father.  After the toasts, Will had a surprise for Leah. I helped him with a pair of microphones and with the same guitar that his dad had serenaded his mom on their wedding day years ago, he sang and played a Beatles tune just for his new bride.  What a perfect moment.  Then they danced their first dance, and the evening was off and running.  Gary & Leah then danced to "Unforgettable" by Nat & Natalie, and then all the married couples came up onto the dance floor for the Anniversary Dance, one of my all-time favorites, "At Last" by Etta James.  There were so many couples, the dance floor overflowed into the tables.  There were at least a dozen couples over 20 years, and half that over 40 years!  The longest married couple (54 years!) had also travelled the farthest (Hawaii) and I found out their wedding song, "April Love" by Pat Boone and played it for them later that night.
Cake by Tiers of Joy
The cake was from Tiers of Joy here in Reno at the Victorian House, and it was delicious- red velvet.  Tesla & Leigh Anne do such an amazing job with not only the look of their cakes, but its taste as well.  I don't usually have cake at an event, but with cake from Tiers of Joy I always make an exception.
Leah & Will and everyone at the end of the evening
Dancing was a blast with music from all genres keeping the floor hopping.  The Motown set was especially busy, and I was introduced to a couple of new (to me) songs that rocked the house: "Gangnam Style" by Psy and one that I recently heard in Spain, "Ai Se Eu Tu Pego".  They are now in my library.  Thanks to Leah's folks for making me feel so at home.  Thanks to Billie for her hard work making everything run perfectly.  And thanks to Will and Leah for allowing me to be a part of their night.  It is getting old, me saying this, but I love my job!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kyle & Courtney at Northstar Overlook Pavilion with Reverend Kris Dahir & Tiers of Joy Cakes

Had a blast at Courtney & Kyle's wedding reception up at the gorgeous Overlook Pavilion at Northstar.  Northstar is a special venue which I have had the pleasure of working several times now.  The Overlook Pavilion is a big deck above the skating rink complete with a large open tent, an enclosed bar building, a firepit for later in the evening, and plenty of space for guest tables and comfortable alcoves to sit in.  The meadow next to the party area is a beautiful spot for a wedding ceremony and that is where Kris Dahir presided over a thoughtful & fun exchanging of vows.  I had the pleasure of working with Kris again the following evening and I like how he tailors the ceremony to the individual couples.
Their ceremony
I spent a couple of hours a few weeks back with Courtney planning the music and events.  She is super fun and her music choices set a uniquely upbeat and joyous vibe throughout the ceremony and into the reception.  One of her favorite artists is Jimmy Buffet and we were able to find a Vitamin String Quartet album of Buffet songs for seating.  Imagine 'Margaritaville' done in strings- classy but fun!  Her bridal party members entered the ceremony to a guitar rendition of Canon in D, and then she came in to an instrumental snippet from 'Weather With You', another Buffet song.  She and Kyle then left to the entire song, and began posing for pix as the guests enjoyed hors deurves and drinks.
The staff at Northstar are exceptional.  Joey the wait captain was very involved and efficient all evening and Nancy the coordinator made sure everything ran very smoothly and is a true professional.  Tiers of Joy made Kyle & Courtney's cake, and like I have said in the past, their cakes are as good tasting as they are looking, which is a rarity amongst bakers these days.  I usually like to have a piece whereas I don't any other bakers, but it was cut & passed out efficiently by Joey & staff and the extra pieces were eaten up quickly thereafter.  A couple of things that were really neat: Courtney & Kyle had a Time Capsule and also had s'more favors.  The Time Capsule was a wooden box that they will open on their first anniversary and everyone wrote little notes and left surprises in the box for them.   What a great idea!  The s'mores were a plastic box with all the ingredients that you could take home or break open and use at Northstar's firepit that was lit after dark.
Tiers of Joy Cake
Courtney & Kyle had different songs played for each of their bridal party pairs, from Social Distortion to the Specials to the Beach Boys and Baha Men.  When the newlyweds were announced, they came in to Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars.  Very cool.  Dinner was family style, which is a nice change from the countless buffets I see.  After some great toasts they cut the cake and then danced their first dance to "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" by Thompson Square.
First Dance
Lots of dancing followed, with everything from Clapton to Katy Perry, from MJ to Buffet, and lots in between.  Just a super couple, with a lot of great friends and family who celebrated the night away under the tent and stars up at Northstar.  Congrats to the newlyweds!
Courts & Kyle
Winding around the Pavilion

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Choosing Events For Your Reception


  While many weddings are still held in churches and temples, the growing trend is for the ceremony site and the reception site to be one and the same. I don’t believe this is any statement on religion but instead a realization that many of the reception venues are outstanding ceremony sites as well.  And the Reno/Tahoe area has some absolutely stunning venues.  I can set my equipment up to play those special songs or amplify those vows making most any music or program you have dreamed of possible.

Seating Music
  You may want to impart a certain mood on your guests as they arrive at the wedding site and find a seat.  I can help you pick songs to make this possible and play them as seating commences.  Some people like classical music during this time.  Some prefer jazz or light instrumentals.  There is no right or wrong choice.  My suggestion is to pick beautiful, elegant music that elevates the mood of the people coming to witness your marriage.  I have hundreds of songs that I use towards this end and I can go to some of my best ones if you don’t have a preference.  I usually gravitate towards Enya or Vitamin String Quartet or classical but there is no right or wrong.  Whatever you envision, I will make it happen.  Some weddings have a special song for the seating of the moms or grandparents.  This is a nice touch but it is one more thing you may have to work on during rehearsal so many couples skip it for simplicity.

Ceremony Music
  In the 24 years I have been deejaying weddings I have witnessed many changes in preferences for both events and music.  One of the biggest changes has been in ceremony music. 
  When I was a brand-new wedding DJ in 1988, almost every wedding used Here Comes the Bride and the Wedding March for their processional and recessional.  The Bridal party’s processional song was usually Pacbel’s Canon or Ode to Joy or one of a few other classical songs.  Not that this was bad- these songs are beautiful and I still get requests for them, but the advent of the internet and iTunes has really changed music selection.  It allowed people to find new versions of these tried-and-true songs and have them played at their ceremonies.  Then people began to think, “Hey I really love that song by….” and had it incorporated into the ceremony.  Now the old standards are rarely played while a myriad of songs has replaced them.
  This brings me to an ongoing theme of mine: don’t be afraid to put your stamp on your reception, whether it’s a twist on a traditional event or a unique song to walk down the aisle to.  People will vividly remember that you kissed and left happily married while Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer was playing instead of the Wedding March, for example.  Plus whenever you or they hear that song, those memories will come flooding back.

  A couple of suggestions for ceremony music- the processional songs of both the bridal party and the bride should be something that you can find a natural cadence to.  If it has a nice steady tempo you and your bridesmaids will adapt to it naturally and your walk down the aisle will flow that much better.  Also, the mood of the song is important.  It should impart the beauty and focus of the moment.  Finally, you may want to think of the length of the song as well.  The longer the better, because the I can fade out if it is too long, but if it is too short, you may be halfway in your walk when it runs out, if you have a long way to go.  But I can always loop a song so it continuously plays, making almost any short song long enough.

  When you have kissed and the officiant has introduced you as husband & wife, your recessional song can really make this a special moment.  I think upbeat songs work best, and if you have a song that means something to you or is an inside joke to some of your family or guests, so much the better.  Another nice idea is for the bridal processional and the bridal couple’s recessional to be the same song but by different artists.  For example, an instrumental, slower-paced version of a popular song would work for the bride, and when the couple walks away the full-blown regular song gets the crowd in a festive mood.

Ceremony P.A.
  I do have wired and wireless hand-held & clip-on microphones which can be routed through my equipment or the house system.  They can be used for the officiant, for vows, songs or readings.  But performance can be affected by the environment, especially when the ceremony is outside.  Wind, distance, and the proximity the user holds the mic from his or her mouth can affect the quality.  Most officiants are able to project their voices and some don’t like to hold a mic, so check with yours for their preference.  But it is nice to have the ability to amplify and I can help you with any of these needs.


  There are lots of possible events that you can have at your reception.  It just depends on your tastes and those of your guests.  You can do some, all or none of the following events in pretty much any order you choose.  However some events go better at certain times.  I’ve listed them in the most logical order, but again, it is your wedding and how you envision it is how it should be.  You may have another event that I haven’t included- no problem.  Basically what I’m trying to get across is that nothing is written in stone about how you schedule your reception.  You are the boss!

  Setting exact times for events usually does not work well at a reception, except when it comes to the caterers.  They like to know when to serve dinner or pour champagne.  But they are more flexible than they’d admit, and many times it is they who screw up the schedule.  Photographers tend to eat up time.  And just the normal events can go off schedule quickly.  Something you expected to take a few minutes stretches into fifteen or vice-versa.  I’ve found through hundreds of receptions that a list of events in the order they occur works best.  That way we can adjust as we go and if you want to scratch or add an event at the last minute or completely change the order, we can do it and the guests won’t be the wiser.

  Basically besides providing the music at the reception, I’m also emceeing the events, coordinating with the photographers, checking with the caterer and dealing with your guests.  I’m  your reception coordinator, keeping the reception flowing, guests happy, and your other hired help informed and pacified.  Let’s take a look at some possible events:

Grand Entrance
  Usually the bride and groom arrive at the reception somewhat after the guests.  I’ll play jazz or background music for the guests, setting a party atmosphere but without going into dance mode.  Photos at the ceremony site or the bride and groom just wanting a bit of time alone is usually the cause, plus the fact if you want a Grand Entrance, you probably don’t want to beat your guests to the reception.  Nothing is more awkward than announcing the bride and groom to a handful of people or without your loved ones there to cheer you on.
  Some couples want everyone in the wedding party introduced.  Some include their parents.  Some just want themselves.  There is no “correct” way.  Whatever feels right to you.  If you intend on having a Receiving Line (see below) then it is good to introduce everyone in the line.
  One thing about introducing everyone- it takes some coordination.  You have to get everyone together, making sure you don’t leave out anyone who’ll get their feelings hurt, and you have to give me a list beforehand.  Some couples just have themselves introduced and then during the second dance they have the wedding party and family introduced instead.  That works well.
  There is no right or wrong way to be introduced either.  You could do any of the following or something else.  Whatever you are comfortable with, for example:
   “Mr. & Mrs. John Doe” or “Jane & John Doe” or John & Jane” or “The Does” etc…

 Receiving Line
  This is not as popular as it once was.  Usually the more formal the wedding, the more you’ll find it done.  Also you’ll see it at big weddings where the two families don’t know each other well or there are a lot of guests who don’t know the families well. 
  Basically, it is a line that begins or ends with the bride and groom, usually includes the parents, and also the bridal party.  The guests file through and are able to talk briefly with everyone in the line.  It takes some time, depending on the amount of guests and the size of the wedding party, but it is nice in the fact that everyone gets the opportunity to talk and meet and greet everyone in the wedding. 
  Most newly-married couples instead opt to mingle, spending time wandering from table to table which is much more personal and allows you to get to people who may be too shy or disabled to come up in a line.  Some couples do both- have a line and make it a point to mingle as well.  Again, there is no right or wrong way- whatever you are most comfortable with goes.

  This is not done at every reception but when it is done it is usually right before the meal, but often comes before the toasts or after the Grand Entrance.  Most have their minister or priest say something, but others will have a father, uncle, or friend say a few words.

  This usually takes a while.  It is a good time to relax a bit before some of the other events.  It’s usual for the bride and groom, the wedding party, and immediate family to be served or go through the buffet line first.  This is practical for a couple of reasons.  First it ensures you get something to eat!  It’ll be a long, emotional day and you’ll need the energy and the break.  Also, you get ahead of the majority of the guests, which is good, because while they are eating you can mingle or visit tables, the photographers can get missing shots, or you can start with other events.  If you are worried about time, buffets are the quickest for all involved while full service sit-down meals take longer.  I’ll usually play background music throughout, at a lower level so that people can talk with their tablemates.

  The first toast is traditionally given by the Best Man or Maid of Honor, or by one or both of the dads, but it could be given by anyone you wish. A typical reception will start with the Best Man’s initial toast, perhaps followed by the Maid/Matron of Honor’s toast and maybe a family member.  Many couples want me to ask if anyone else would like to propose a toast, either coming up to use the mic or just from their table.  Couples also use the opportunity to toast their guests and thank them for coming.  There really is no set way of doing it. 
  The catering crew will need five or ten minutes notice to pour champagne for everyone.  Some couples have cider or champagne for themselves and the guests use whatever they have in front of them.  The toast is a great way to segue into another big event, like the cake or the first dance.

Cake Cutting
  This is another event which refocuses the event back onto the happy couple.  The caterers will need some notice as they will probably be cutting, plating, and maybe distributing the cake after you make the ceremonial cuts.  This is a great time for the photographers to get some of the special shots they need, and they’ll direct you in getting those poses.  I’ll play some appropriate background music and coordinate the event.  One word of advice: don’t be the first to feed cake to your new spouse…
   The guests will need some time to come up and get cake or have it served to them so after the cake it is a good time to go into another event that only you and the wedding party will participate in such as the First Dance.

 First Dance
   This is typically the most romantic moment of the reception- you and your new spouse dancing to that song that has a special meaning only to you two.  Everyone’s eyes will be on you, flashbulbs will be going off, people will be clapping and yelling, and you won’t even notice.  It’s one of those moments you’ll remember forever.
   Maybe you don’t have a special song.  No worries.  I can suggest lots and one will usually work great.  Maybe you have several songs that mean something.  Also no problem.  We can work them in to following dances or into the mix of the music later on.
   There is no set type of music.  I’ve played lots of songs that haven’t been hits or that their guests maybe had never heard before.  No big deal.  It is what you like that matters.  Also some couples have waltzed, some have done elaborate tangos, and some have just stood still while the world spins around them and enjoyed the moment.
   Usually the entire first song is just for the two of you- others begin to join you in the next song or so (see below).

Second Dance
   This is where the dancing really starts to kick in.  You can have your parents and the bridal party introduced here, and they can get a little of the spotlight back on them.  This is great for the photographers so they can get more shots. 
   Some couples have just the parents join them on the floor the second dance while the bridal party enters on the third.  Other couples have me invite all the guests up to dance floor right afterwards.  Others wait until the third dance.  Again there is no right or wrong way. 

Father-Daughter/ Mother-Son Dance
  Many couples think they should dance with their parents or relatives in the second dance.  That is cool, however it is nice to have a special Father/Daughter and/or Mother /Son dance that is just for them.  It usually is the most sentimental moment in the reception and gets a people teary-eyed before it is finished.
   This dance can be right after the first dance, but some brides like to separate it from the first dances to make it a bit more special.  Some possible songs that might be played include Daddy’s Little Girl, Butterfly Kisses, Through the Years, Daddy’s Hands, My Girl and Unforgettable.  It’s even better if you share a special song with your mom or dad.

Money Dance
   This is a dance where the guests dance with the bride or groom providing they bring up some money.  I’ll play one or more slower songs, depending on the line.  It is a staple at about half the weddings I’ve done.  It is a very old tradition from countries around the globe.  Some couples think that asking for money at the wedding for a dance is too much, as your guests have most likely already brought a present.  However it can be a very meaningful way to connect with your guests one-on-one (and very lucrative as well!).
   Usually there are some guests who will be too shy to cut in on a normal dance to visit with one of you.  This gives them an easy way to do that.  You may have someone just wanting to make your honeymoon that much better with a few twenties, while there may be that little girl with a dollar who just wants to be a princess for a moment and dance with the groom.  Either way you are making sure that your guests have a great experience and also have a chance to help out the new couple a bit more if they’d like to.
   I am very diplomatic, saying that this is their guaranteed chance to dance with you and that it goes for a good cause- making your honeymoon that much more special.
   There are different ways to accept the money.  Some couples have the Best Man and the Maid/Matron of Honor collect the money from the guests in line.  Others accept it when the guests come up- often the bride has a special silk bag to put hers in.  Still others have the guests pin the money on the groom’s tux and the bride’s dress.  This looks cool and can make for some interesting placement of bills, but it also takes a lot of extra time, and more than a few times I’ve seen the bride or groom pierced by a nervous guest…ouch!

Bouquet/Garter Toss
   This is usually done towards the end of the reception.  Traditionally, it was done right as you were leaving for your honeymoon, the last thing as you exited the reception was a fling of the bouquet over the bride’s shoulder.  This is rare now.  Most photographers charge by the hour and they like to get the shots of the tosses before they leave.  Plus most couples now stay until the end of the reception. 
   Typically the single girls and women will gather together on the dance floor and the bride will toss it over her shoulder, with the catcher supposedly the next to get married.
   The same goes for the garter, though the groom usually retrieves it from the bride’s leg before he sends it flying towards the single guys. 
   This can be a very fun event- usually everyone gets a kick out of it.  The photogs will want pictures with you and the two that caught the garter and bouquet and that sometimes is the end of the tosses.
   However there is a tradition that many couples want included after the tosses:
The higher the guy who caught the garter puts that garter on the gal who caught the bouquet’s leg (following me here?), the better the luck for the bride and groom in their new marriage. 
   So I’ll do the garter toss music again, and explain everything, and the guy will sit the bouquet catcher down on the chair the bride just vacated and will put the garter on her leg.  It can be very fun and memorable, but it is up to the bride and groom if they want it done at all.  Sometimes also a child or teen will catch one or the other, making it a possibly very embarrassing event for them so then we’d just cancel the whole thing.  I’ve also had the two people related or even exboyfriend-exgirlfriends who get the bouquet or garter, so I’ll always check to make sure you still want it done or not.
Anniversary Dance
   There are other special dances that you may want to have at your reception.  One of my favorites is an Anniversary Dance, where a slow song is played and all the married couples in the audience are invited up (including you two!).  The song starts playing, and I’ll then start asking those couples married less than a day to leave the dance floor (you!).  Then less than a year.  Then two, three, ten etc. until we have only one couple left.  It gives them and all the other married couples special recognition and everyone will applaud the various couples as they exit, especially the longer they have been married.  For a moment it sends all those couples back to their wedding day, and acknowledges them for their accomplishment and love together.

Novelty Dances
   There are lots of dances that you see at receptions.  Some couples don’t want any of them played, others want them played more than once.  Regardless, I will get requests for some of them so I’ll need to know where you stand.  People either love them or hate them, but usually those who request them will dance to them so if you don’t want one or all of them played I’ll diplomatically tell them I don’t have it so the blame will be on me.
   They are all somewhat corny, but they get people who wouldn’t normally dance up on the dance floor and they can be a lot of fun.  If you two participate, it will break the ice for many people and you’ll get more participation.
   Some of them include the Hokey Pokey, the Electric Slide, the Chicken Dance, the Macarena, the Stroll, the Locomotion, the Limbo, the Conga, and some of the newer ones like the Cotton-eyed Joe, Cupid Shuffle, Cha Cha Slide and the Dougie.

A Few More Ideas
-Announcing close birthdays or anniversaries is a nice way to recognize friends or loved ones.
-A group shot of all your guests can be really cool and a great memory.
-And finally, finding out your parent’s, relatives or friends favorite or first dance song is a great way to make the reception special for them as well.  Be sneaky about it & it’ll be a nice surprise when it is played, bringing them right back to their wedding day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Erin & James at Verdi pines with The Best Barbeque Catering

Wow.  For the first time on this blog I'm at a loss for words.  How do you describe a perfect day?  Perfectly in love bride and groom.  Perfect weather in gorgeous Verdi.  Perfectly happy and lovely family and friends.  Perfect food.  And the most perfect venue I have yet worked at in the Reno area.  Each thing on its own made up a big part of a great day, but together the effect was truly magical.  
As you drive up to Verdi Pines it looks like a beautiful mountain house in the trees.  There is a large circular drive which surrounds a pond complete with a small island and a mine car and shaft across the drive.  Anyone would be impressed with the front- it reminded me of the Chism House in Reno, but the front is just the tip of the iceberg.  The back is even more spectacular, but more about that later.  Jim & Erin had chairs set up on the drive facing the pond and small island, where the preacher awaited them. The guests arrived and enjoyed their beautiful surroundings and got to see a very memorable ceremony.  
Erin picked some contemporary music that was perfect for her day.  Her beautiful bridal party entered to Josh Radin's "I'd Rather Be With You" and she and her dad walked in to "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz.  There was a sand ceremony in the middle of the nuptials and she picked a song that I will probably use again for such moments, the O'Neill Brothers' "The Prayer", which was a perfect tempo & tone for the mixing of their two different sands into one receptacle.  Finally, they were pronounced husband & wife and left with Colbie Caillet's "Brighter than the Sun" to the cheering of friends and family.  The family and bridal party stayed out front for pictures and I, along with the guests, moved around back for the reception.
Sand ceremony
The backyard.  You really can't even call it that.  Jim (the owner of the property, not the groom) spent two years sculpting the land, adding rock, plants and thousands of small touches that just scream out the pride he has in his home.  And now Verdi Pines is open for weddings and functions!  It is, for the moment, unknown and undiscovered and the most unique and gorgeous outdoor venue in Reno.  As you come around the house, there is a guesthouse that served as a place for the bridal party to get ready in style.  You walk through a lawn on these incredible flagstone walkways amidst granite boulders that leads up to a huge deck.  The deck has a built in bar made of rock slabs that could accommodate several bartenders, and a large wood plank opposite serves as a buffet station for dinner.  Larry from The Best Barbeque had cold drinks and homemade appetizers ready for the hungry guests-  I especially liked the from scratch tortilla chips and salsa- and the deck continued on from there.  I was on the far side, with a large dance floor amongst flowering plants and cool antiques.  But the deck, while expansive and busy with guests was not the main part of the backyard.  No, that is a 20' tall waterfall emanating from a rocky and wooded hill that empties into a spectacular pond that is many times as large as the pond out front.  Immaculately groomed and planned walkways surround the pond leading you to private benches and stepping stone crossings of the many rivulets also pouring into the main pond.  Grassy areas with the same immense flagstone walkways can accommodate many tables on either side, under willow and pine trees always with a babbling brook or smaller waterfall nearby.  Paths lead to the top of the waterfall, and brave swim-suited guests can jump in from a rock diving ledge and into the water which I am told is 14' deep at the deepest.  Swimming in the pond are dozens of bright koi, and guests were feeding them which drove them to a frenzy like I remembered at the Dole Plantation on Oahu.  My poor describing skills and poorer picture-taking skills don't do the place justice.  It was created with a real vision and a lot of love and the closest I can come in my experience is a cross between a mountain waterfall and Tom Sawyer's Island in Disneyland.  It is almost as if some Disney imagineers had a hand in the place as the attention to detail is mindblowing.  You could walk around the property every day for a month and still see something new and unexpected.  For a wedding photographer, the possibilities are endless.  So many amazing shots that ordinarily you'd have to drive and hike to, taking up hours on your wedding day.  I saw a few spots that they had Erin & her bridesmaids posing in, and I thought, wow, those pictures will be amazing!
The pond looking towards the deck & house from the top of the waterfall.
Speaking of Erin and her bridesmaids: they were all gorgeous and fun.  When you have such spectacular surroundings, you worry that maybe the bride and her maids will diminish a bit in the natural beauty, but it wasn't the case.  Erin's dress looked like it had been designed just for her (maybe it was) and she really looked almost regal- like she floated above all of us mortals (lol).  She was truly a princess that night.  Her maids were in simpler, but beautiful dresses but they shone, like Erin, from within as well as from without.  Cat, Corin & Michelle were so happy for Erin, so helpful and just fun throughout the night, with some killer toasts thrown in for good measure.  The guys were great as well. Jim really enjoyed his friends and family and it was one of those receptions where the love between the bride & groom was so palpable that it spread amongst everyone lucky enough to be a part of their day.
The Waterfall from the diving spot
A secret deck up on the hill
The pond from the guesthouse
After pictures out front, Erin & Jim were introduced and went right into their first dance, my favorite Van Morrison song "Into the Mystic".  They mingled for a awhile while Larry from The Best Barbeque did his magic, and when dinner was ready, Erin's Grandpa Bill said a prayer consisting of a couple of poems that really were neat- one by Robert Louis Stephenson I found very appropriate.  Then everyone loaded up on amazing BBQ.  Larry is one-of-a-kind.  All of his food is made from scratch, and if it is cooked, it is cooked on one of his huge grills on-site.  He had salad, chicken breasts, amazing beef tenderloin, and red potatoes roasted on the grill along with corn, squash and eggplant all painstakenly grilled for a fabulous real-bbq taste.  Even the bread was put on the grill.  The ingredients were simple but of the highest quality, and the time taken to perfectly grill everything was so worth it.  It makes you reconsider what you think bbq should be like.
Jim & Erin's first dance
After dinner the reception started anew with heartfelt toasts and the cutting of the cake.  Erin & her dad Joe then danced to "Never Alone" by Jim Brickman & Lady Antebellum, and then Jim and his mom Jane danced to "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts.  After some initial fast dancing, the first slow song was the Anniversary Dance, which is always my favorite moment.  Erin picked "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri which was an inspired choice. Lots of married couples filled and overflowed the dancefloor, and when the smoke cleared, Erin's grandparents Bill & Doreen were the last couple up, with an astounding 59 years of marriage!  What role models and what a great pair they are!  Erin then surprised them with their wedding song, Nat King Cole's "Too Young", and they danced like they were teenagers again, still deeply in love almost sixty years later.  Wow!  I told you this day & night were perfect!  Doreen even danced to many other songs throughout the evening: everything from LMFAO to Dion to Michael Jackson.  And when a slow song came up, there was Bill & Doreen again dancing like the newlyweds.  Inspiring!
Joe and his beautiful daughter
Jim & his mom Jane
Newlyweds: one pair going almost 4 hours, one pair going on almost 60 years
The rest of the evening flew by as the shadows darkened and the lights came on making the Retreat even more magical.  A friend of theirs (a DJ btw), Roger, serenaded the bride and groom with a wonderful slow song, proving that there are DJ's out there with real musical talent (myself not included lol).  The tosses were fun with Erin's bouquet very much fought over while Jim threw the garter before anyone, including the catcher knew what was happening!  The rest of the evening was filled with music and dancing, with a great dancing crowd and lots of oldies and classic rock being played as well as some current favorites.  I can't thank Erin & Jim enough for having me be a part of their absolutely magical day.  It is one of those wedding days that will really live forever in the memories and bring a smile to all who attended it.  What a couple!  What a paradise setting for a wedding!  What a great bunch of family & friends to enjoy it with!  What a perfect day!
The last dance- great crowd!