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!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Matt & Karleigh at The Grove at Southcreek with Reno Photobooth

Had an absolute blast last night at The Grove at Southcreek being a part of Karleigh & Matt's fantastic ceremony and reception.  What was not to like?  A great, fun, amazing couple.  Welcoming, happy, tremendous family & friends.  And one of the best venues & staffs in the Reno-Tahoe area- it all added up to a very memorable night.
The wedding was performed by Rich, the bride's uncle, who had never officiated at a wedding before!  He was a natural, however, and gave the ceremony insight, emotion and a reality that could only come from a close member of the family.  He should do more weddings!  Karleigh's vows were sweet and I especially liked the part when she added "frustrate" to the list of love, cherish, care for etc.  Very funny & heartfelt!  Then Matt spoke his vows which were carefully made up of lyrics from Journey tunes (his favorite band). Super unique and fun, and the sentiment from those words he made his own.  Some of the best vows I've ever had the privilege of witnessing!  Oh, the music!  
Karleigh came in to Vitamin String Quartet's version of 'Faithfully' and had their recessional accompanied by the theme from the Big Bang Theory followed by VSQ's 'Don't Stop Believing'.  I told you they were Journey fans!  I liked how they picked Friday the 13th for their wedding date.  For them it is special.  Their first date was a Friday the 13th forty nine months prior (and Matt is a HUGE 49'er fan) so in this case the 13th was extremely lucky for the two of them.
Pinwheel centerpiece
While the BP and families had pictures taken, the guests went inside and were treated to a slideshow of pics from Matt & Karleigh's life together along with some of Shaka's amazing hors'deurves.  Karleigh is a school teacher and she had some very innovative ideas for decorations and favors.  I really liked the pinwheel centerpieces, and even more than that they had keepsake programs made into those 'cootie catchers' that the girls used to make in school when I was young.  You open one flap and it has the parent's names, the next the bridal party etc.  Very unique!  The always fun Jo from Reno Photobooth Company was there with one of her booths for the guestbook.  The guests would pile in, get some fun shots that they could take home, and sign a small card.  Later, the B&G will marry up their copy of the pics with the card for a unique keepsake guestbook.  What a great idea!  Finally, they had some brochure-like cards made up inviting their guests to brunch the following morning and softball later that day, complete with maps to the aforementioned places.  What a great idea to keep the weekend going!
The rest of the evening was magical.  The BP entered the reception to 'Stone in Love' and were soon enjoying a delicious dinner from The Grove's master chef Shaka.  I have spoken of his talents before, but he makes a simple buffet dinner memorable.  The chicken picatta and the almond vegetables were amazing as was everything else.  With Julie overseeing everything and efficient staff members like Roberto keeping everyone happy, The Grove is a real class-act.  Karleigh & Matt had a great first dance with 'Faithfully' by Journey and soon the place was rocking!  Later Karleigh danced with her father to the 'Theme from Summer Place' and Matt with his mom to 'Simple Man' by Skynyrd.  The cake was just a small one to cut, as they had hundreds of cupcakes in four different, delicious flavors.  The Anniversary dance had lots of couples over 20 years up, with the last couple having been married 44 years!  I was happy to be able to play lots of songs from the 60's, 70's and 80's as well as some current favorites, and the dancing never paused, keeping the DJ busy & happy all night long.  Karleigh & Matt ended the night with more Journey, as they were whisked off in their limo as everyone cheered and clapped.  What a job I have!  Great people, great music, great food, and a couple celebrating their love. Thanks to Matt & Karleigh- I wish you many, many happy years filled with love & music!
The happy couple!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Corey & Crystal at Lakeland Village, Lake Tahoe with Reno Tux Shop & Dreamcatcher Photography

This past Sunday, when temperatures were peaking in the high 90's down in Washoe Valley, I was happy to be up on the beautiful shores of Lake Tahoe, a part of Corey & Crystal's wedding at Lakeshore Village.  The temperature was perfect- in the 70's and the lake reminded me of a Caribbean beach- what a memorable ceremony site!
RB Nathaniel & FG Avery right before the processional.
Avery & Nathaniel, followed by the rest of the bridal party walked down to 'You've Got a Friend in Me' from Toy Story while Crystal & her dad Brent entered to one of my favorites, 'Marry Me' by Train. Tesla at Reno Tux Shop sure had Corey, Nathaniel & the rest of the guys looking sharp!
Beach wedding!
After a beautiful ceremony, Crystal & Corey exited to 'I Do' by Colbie Caillet and were off for pics with Gary from Dreamcatcher Photography.  All the guests headed over to the Lakeshore Room for drinks and food and waited for Corey & Crystal's arrival.  They came in as the 'Imperial March' from The Empire Strikes Back played, and it was a great moment.  After some mingling, the B&G danced their first dance to 'Lucky' by Jason Mraz.
First dance!
Dancing then ensued, first with Crystal and her dad Brent who danced to 'I Loved Her First' by Heartland, then with an Anniversary Dance that was dedicated to Corey's folks, Barb & Fred.  After cutting the cake the dancing continued, with LMFAO and Justin Bieber being very popular.  Some Shuffling and Sliding was also on the dancing playlist, and Corey did a spot-on impersonation of Mick Jagger which got everyone cheering.
Thanks to Crystal and Corey for inviting me to be a part of their day.  Both were gracious, fun, and had an amazing glow of love & laughter all day long.  A great pair!  Congrats you guys!

Heather & Justin at the Ranch House at Rancho San Rafael Park with Follow Your Heart Photography

Heather and Justin are a great couple with supportive, loving families, a faith that is visible in everything they do, and a true love that has grown from friendship to best friends to now husband & wife.  I was so pleased to be a part of their special day along with a hundred or more of their friends and family.  They had their ceremony on the east side of the Ranch House, which was a first for me.  It is a nice grassy area surrounded by oaks and apple trees that must have been there since the park was a working ranch.
Heather & dad Bob's Processional
The moms, grandmothers and Kyla (the MOH) entered to 'Over the Rainbow' by Iz while Heather & her dad walked in to 'All Your Life' by the Band Perry.  Before the ceremony started, I was able to slip in some 'Stairway to Heaven' for Justin as well.  Led Zeppelin is one of his favorite bands but he was concerned that it wouldn't go over well during the ceremony so we nixed the original idea.  However I was able to locate an instrumental string quartet version by VSQ that worked perfectly in the pre-ceremony music mix, and most importantly, brought a smile to Justin's face.
Heather, Justin & Rev. George Velarde
George Velarde of Living Stones Church in Reno presided at the ceremony and knew the couple well so it was a very personal and inspiring wedding.  I had the pleasure to witness George marry John & Sara last Fall at the McKinley Arts Center (see blog post) and he is one of my favorite officiants so far.  Another of my favorite pastors, Kris Dahir happened to be officiating a wedding in a grove a couple hundred yards away that afternoon, so the park was filled with love, faith & commitment that day!
After leaving the ceremony to Queen's 'Best Friend', the bridal party began taking pictures with Dean & Tiffany of Follow Your Heart Photography and the guests entered the Ranch House to drop off gifts, sign the guestbook and then out to the patio where the families had set up tables and drinks. Please note that these pics are from the photographically-challenged DJ, not from Tiffany or Dean.  I'm sure theirs are 1000% better!  They were very easy and fun to work with as well!
Justin serenading his bride
After a great evening with an exceptionally poignant blessing by Bob (Heather's dad), a great first dance ('Smile' by Uncle Kracker) and a Bride & Groom dance where Heather & Justin danced with most of their guests, Justin had a surprise for his new wife: a song he strummed and sang just for her!
Heather spinning some tunes!
The guests, family & bridal party weren't just there for the events: they loved to dance and it makes a DJ so happy to have a full dance floor all night long.  I loved how everyone came together before and afterwards to decorate and clean, while still having fun.  Special thanks go out to Edna & Dana who really made sure everything went like clockwork that day.  They went above and beyond.  Thanks also to the amazing family & friends who couldn't be more gracious and welcoming all throughout the event.  Finally, thanks to Justin and Heather for having me a part of their day.  It was so neat to be able to be a witness to their commitment, faith, and love.  Congrats you two!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Holly & Shawn at Arrowcreek Country Club with Jeramie Lu Photography

Holly and Shawn were married at Arrowcreek Country Club this past weekend and I was honored to be part of their day.  The ceremony was held out on the grass overlooking Reno and was special in a few aspects.  First, several of the bridal party members were friends or were in weddings I had previously deejayed- it was nice to be a part of such a great group again.  Secondly, Shawn's grandmother officiated the ceremony and did a great job.  What a cool thing for your grandmother to pronounce you husband & wife!  Finally, Shawn & Holly's vows were heartfelt, honest and full of love for one another.  They exposed their deepest feelings for one another in a light and very human way which moved everyone.  Some of the best vows I've heard in 24 years of doing weddings.
Dave & Cristin walking in to 'Count on Me" by Mat Kearney

Holly & Dad entering to "She is Love" by Parachute
Holly & Shawn leaving to "Faster" by Matt Nathanson
Danielle and her staff at Arrowcreek are fun and efficient.  Danielle is the wedding/event coordinator and she was busy making sure everything went well all day and through the end of the night.  I have to give some props to Blake the bartender as well.  I was setup near the bar and he really connected with the crowd and always was smiling and upbeat.  Arrowcreek has several rooms inside and a tent outside.  We were in the interior rooms- a dining area, the bar & me, and then the dancing area.  It isn't an ideal setup but it worked okay. 
  The bridal party entered to "News Team Assemble" from Anchorman followed by "Ma Sheba Ba" from Zohan.  Holly & Shawn then entered to "Drive By" by Train.  After dinner some great toasts were made, the cake was cut and everyone moved to the dancing room for "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz, Shawn & Holly's first dance.  Regular dancing then ensued with songs from LMFAO to Zac Brown; from Journey to Frank Sinatra.  I was especially pleased that I could play "Like Red for a Rose" for Bevan & Phil whose wedding I was privileged to deejay almost a year ago (here for their blog post).
Bevan & Phil

I had the privilege of working with Jeramie Lu of Jeramie Lu Photography who is a true professional.  He and his second and third shooters captured the day and even placed a iPad on a table with pictures taken before the ceremony while Holly and Shawn were getting ready.  It was a great way for the guests to see some of the behind-the-scenes shots and a preview of the wedding photos.  Jeramie is always easy to work with, a professional, and his work is outstanding.\

  Thanks and congratulations to Shawn & Holly, their families, and friends!
Some Cupid Shuffling