Friday, December 13, 2013

Daniel & Alexis at Admiral Kidd Club on San Diego Bay

Every so often I get a chance to go back to Southern California and deejay at some of my old stomping grounds. While I am getting close to 200 weddings up here in the Reno/Tahoe area, I began being a part of people's special days down in San Diego and I have been privileged to be a part of well over 500 weddings down there over the years, as well as hundreds of other events.
When I had the chance to be a part of Daniel & Alexis' big day this summer, they hadn't yet decided on a venue. Daniel serves our country as a member of the Coast Guard and I mentioned the fact that the military bases have gorgeous clubs with great deals for active and retired service members. The venues are often on prime real estate with million dollar views but at very reasonable rates- rates that could give them a lot more leeway in their budget.
My favorites in the San Diego area are the North Island Officer's Club, where they filmed "Top Gun" and which has expansive views of the beach, the Pacific, and the Coronado Islands offshore; the Sub Base, where you are right on the bay looking at North Island, sailboats, and the occasional nuclear attack submarine; and finally the Admiral Kidd Club which sits right in the middle of San Diego Bay overlooking the skyline and all the activity on the water. There are other great military venues- officer and enlisted clubs at Miramar, Camp Pendleton, and MCRD, but for unforgettable views these three are far and above my favorites.
San Diego Bay and Skyline from the ceremony site
Daniel & Alexis decided on the Admiral Kidd Club- great choice! I have done probably two dozen events there over the years, from weddings to holiday parties, to Fleet Receptions. It has several spaces and a gorgeous lawn overlooking San Diego Bay. My least favorite space at the AKC was the Skyline Room upstairs- it was paneled in wood, somewhat dark, and the wooden dance floor was probably put in during the 40's or 50's and it made my vinyl skip sometimes on my turntables when I had a large, enthusiastic crowd. I developed special padding all those years ago specifically for this room, which worked well for other wooden floored venues and even on ships and boats. Now, with my catalogue all digitized, skipping records is no longer an issue, but I still wondered about the look of the room, especially for a day wedding like Alexis and Daniel's.
I arrived on a beautiful Saturday morning and began setting up outside for the ceremony.  When I started moving equipment inside, I found, much to my delight, that the room and indeed the entire Club, had been renovated in the 13-14 years since I had last played there. The building and the rooms within all are updated, lightened, and even the electrical outlets were replaced with modern circuitry. What a great renovation! I spoke with a server I remembered from all those years ago who is now a Banquet Captain, and she showed me the changes and is very proud of her venue. I had to agree. I loved the place before, and it is even better now. The food and service was as good as I remember as well. If you are planning a wedding down in San Diego and are a veteran, active duty, or have a retired service member in your immediate family, I can't stress enough the benefit you can take advantage of in these Clubs.

The ceremony took place overlooking San Diego Bay, with Phil the officiant giving some great advice and solemnity to the nuptials. The bridal party entered to Canon in D, while Alexis chose the traditional Bridal March by Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain for her entrance. During the ceremony, Bree, a bridesmaid and Daniel's sister played "How He Loves" on her guitar while the guests sang along (with lyrics printed in the program). Bree is in high school, but her talent and maturity are well beyond her years and everyone loved her rendition.

After pictures the bridal party and newlyweds arrived upstairs, joining the guests and being introduced by yours truly while Lifehouse's "Halfway Gone" played in the background. A benediction & lunch immediately followed with a pair of buffet lines expertly prepared and filled with food by the Admiral Kidd Club. Another observation about the military clubs- their food is great! Much better than most of the hotels and substantially more reasonable. The servers are all as efficient and friendly as I remembered as well. It was a great group working there back when I was there often, and it remains so today.

Toasts, then dancing ensued, with Bree once again exhibiting her many talents, singing and playing the guitar for her brother and new sister-in-law. Alexis then danced with her dad Abel to "Angel" by Casting Crowns and halfway through their dance I invited all the fathers & daughters up to share the moment with them. Likewise when Daniel danced with his mom Laura to Mark Harris, the other moms & sons joined them halfway through as well.  I love when the brides & grooms do this!  Everyone will remember this moment even more than ever by Daniel & Alexis' gesture.

The Money Dance soon followed, as did the cake cutting, Anniversary Dance and the Bouquet & Garter tosses. I loved the fact that Alexis had input into the song selections that reflected her experiences overseas and with her friends. It really made the afternoon that much more special.

It was a gorgeous afternoon with great people and a happy bride and groom. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday down in San Diego!  Thanks to everyone at the Admiral Kidd Club and thanks especially to Daniel & Alexis for allowing me to participate in their day. Congrats you two!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Jim & Laurie at the North Tahoe Event Center with Jeramie Lu Photography

As a wedding DJ, I get to work with amazing brides & grooms at gorgeous venues with extraordinary wedding professionals, and Laurie & Jim's reception this summer was no exception.
Yours truly. Hope I didn't break Jeramie's camera!
(photos by Jeramie Lu Photography)
As a wedding vendor, you have to have more than a professional interest in the couple's day. It will be one of the most important moments in their lives and they are entrusting an aspect of that day to you. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously, as should all your wedding professionals. You should have a comfort level with them after a meeting or two. They should be communicative and flexible so they can concentrate on bringing your dream into reality. I can't understand vendors who don't have that fire to give that couple 110%; to go above and beyond ensuring that the experience is even better than their clients imagined. Unfortunately there are many out there who view their service as just a job- another gig- another payday. Avoid these vendors at all costs!

Jeramie Lu of Jeramie Lu Photography shares that fire for his clients satisfaction like I do. He is all of what you want in someone capturing those special moments on film: organized, passionate and very talented. 

His organizational skills are such that he contacts the other vendors well prior to the day of just to let them know he will be photographing the event so that any coordination issues will be smoothed over long before the wedding day. He is always thinking about possible shots-indeed thinking with his camera clicking away. One sequence of his I loveI love is of a bride & groom cutting the cake and the first shot is of them, the second is of a loving mom looking on, and the next is back to the bride & groom a mere second or two later. He understands the rhythm and flow of an event and is always ready to capture it. He is passionate about the light, the way the bride's train falls to the sand below, and countless other things that go into framing a perfect shot. I think he believes that the next shot will be the best, and the next after that... kind of like I think when I play a song- never content to rest on the last one but always striving for perfection. His talent and point of view are indisputable. The artistry he weaves and tale he tells with his camera will last long after the minor memories of the day fade away, reawakening them when viewed to enjoy once again. That's what you want when you hire a wedding photographer. I don't refer just anyone to couples. A bad referral will reflect poorly on me. Jeramie Lu is one photographer I do refer without any reservations whatsoever. 
Grand Entrance!  (Jeramie Lu Photography)
If you need a further example to illustrate the difference between someone who takes a picture and a true photographer like Jeramie, take a look at the next couple of pix. I forgot my small digital camera that day, and if you've seen other blog posts you can tell that I was made to DJ, not to take photographs! However, I still tried to grab a few, using my iPhone. Look at the difference between someone who doesn't know what they are doing, like me and a great chunk of the photographers out there, and then look at Jeramie's view of the same moment. No contest.
My iPhone photo...
Jeramie Lu's version... Just a bit better :)
I love the joy on Laurie's face!

Laurie & Jim got married at a church in Incline while I set up at the North Tahoe Event Center. If you haven't considered the NTEC, you might want to check it out. It is right on the beach- a ballroom with huge windows that make you feel like the Lake is part of your day. They allow you to bring in your own caterer and decorate as you'd like: a blank slate that can become whatever you've imagined.  They had the tables all decked out in white and red, mimicking their colors, and many other special touches were evident that complemented the vibe without taking away from the breathtaking views of Tahoe. They arrived and proceeded to do family and bridal party shots with Jeramie on the beach outside. Guests mingled within and without on the large patio watching Jim & Laurie and taking in the lake. Before long, they and their BP entered to rousing applause with "I Gotta Feeling" playing in the background. After a heartfelt benediction by their pastor, everyone went across the hall to another room where the buffet line was set up. Another great feature of the NTEC. As dinner was finishing up, the best man Clive gave a very energetic toast followed by a sentimental Christina, the Maid of Honor. A proud papa, Laurie's dad Dennis then welcomed Jim into the family and before long the newlyweds were on the dance floor swaying to David Crowder's "Come and Listen."
Dennis then took his daughter's hand for their dance as "I Loved Her First" punctuated the moment perfectly. Dancing then continued until 10pm with only a couple breaks for the cake cutting and a special Anniversary Dance- "Unforgettable" by Nat & Natalie Cole. The last couple dancing just had celebrated 50 years of marriage the month before. What an example for all of us!
Beautiful bride with her proud dad
Happy groom looking on...
Lots of requests were made and played, from Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" to the Electric Slide to Ronan Keating. It was a super fun crowd and I was so happy to be able to be a small part of a great couple's day and evening. Thanks to the North Tahoe Event Center, photographer extraordinaire Jeramie Lu, and thanks most of all to Jim & Laurie. Congratulations you two!

Swinging with Glenn Miller...Amazing time. Incredible pictures!
(Thanks Jeramie Lu!)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Amanda & Brett at Edgewood Tahoe

The world is a different place now than when I began deejaying weddings back in 1988. Brides used to have to rely on adds in the yellow pages or on seeing a DJ at a wedding fair for an impression on what that DJ could offer. There was no Youtube to view previous work or Yelp or Wedding Wire for reviews from contented (and not so contented) couples. Truly it is so much better now- a couple can make an informed decision from a variety of sources, and even Skype or FaceTime with prospective vendors hundreds or thousands of miles away. But one thing hasn't changed in all those years: the best advertising is word of mouth from happy clients. Nothing is better than that. It is someone who loved what you did for their event and would hire you all over again if they had the chance. And they, when a friend or loved one has a special day coming up, wholeheartedly recommend you to that person. It is a compliment that cannot be measured in words or even by a stellar review, and it gets me even that much more fired up than I already am to make sure the new couple's day matches or exceeds that of referring couple.
The bride arrives!
I still go down to SoCal several times a year to do weddings & events for people that I developed relationships with over many years even though I haven't lived there since 2000. I have been deejaying in Reno/Tahoe now for 4-5 years and it pleases me to no end that a large percentage of my business now is due to referrals from happy brides and grooms from my work up here. Such was the case with Brett and Amanda. They had heard of me through Nicole and Jason (see blog entry) whose wedding I was privileged to attend and perform at in 2012. Knowing how great Jason & Nicole and their friends and family were made me super excited to be a part of Amanda & Brett's big day.
Absolutely stunning day!
Brett & Amanda don't live in the area, but like so many couples wanted their day to be set in the spectacular natural beauty that is Lake Tahoe, and they picked my favorite venue up there: Edgewood. Edgewood Tahoe is a first-class establishment right on the lakeshore. Not only is the scenery gorgeous, but the building's architecture is uplifting and perfectly complements the pristine lake and the meticulously cared-for golf course that surround it. Going hand in hand with the postcard views both inside and out is the attention to detail and dedication to professionalism exhibited by the entire staff from groundskeepers to bartenders and from coordinators to wait captains. Edgewood is special, and so are they to be employed there. Professional, efficient, competent, and friendly are words that come to mind immediately when I think of Edgewood staff. Delicious is what comes to mind when I think of their food. You won't get the same old cuisine there- every dish is amazing! Two of my favorites aren't what you'd normally expect. The sliders they do for appetizers are outstanding and leave your guests salivating for dinner.  And when dinner arrives, everything is superb but my favorite is their grilled veggies and pasta salad. The veggies are colorful and always perfectly cooked- not to crunchy but not limp, and the pasta salad is filled with artichoke hearts and other goodies that take it beyond normal pasta salads. Anyway, I digress. Back to the happy couple!
MOH April toasts the newlyweds
I was in constant contact with Amanda throughout the process, mostly by email, and I loved the fact she'd think of one important detail and send it to me immediately. She sent me a timeline pretty early on and I'd adjust it accordingly as we'd add songs or events, all the way up to their wedding day. Having everything down and set months ahead is great, but I could see their ideas develop to fruition as she'd send me changes and adds, and it seemed like a more dynamic process that way.
Group shot on the deck!
Their ceremony took place on the green, right beside the Lake and next to the North Room. It was a gorgeous day as only Tahoe can deliver, and my poor photography even looks semi-decent in those surroundings. Michael Buble's "Close Your Eyes" played while the bridal party entered and after a planned dramatic pause, Amanda in an absolutely stunning dress arrived just as Hunter Hayes began singing in his song "Wanted". Reverend Ron Sayed delivered a thoughtful ceremony and when he introduced them to the crowd's cheers & applause, Brad Paisley's "The World" escorted the newlyweds down the aisle. It was a picture-perfect moment in a picture-perfect day!  The guests then headed up to my vantage point on the deck just outside the North Room for drinks and appetizers while family and the BP posed for  pictures right below them.
First dance as husband & wife!
As pictures concluded, I invited everyone inside to their tables, we welcomed Brett & Amanda to their reception, and a fabulous dinner buffet commenced. Champagne was ready right after dinner and no time was wasted as toasts were made to the B&G. The efficiency of Edgewood- I've written about it in previous blogs- is first-class. I started to check to see if the champagne was going to be poured soon only to find them ready to pass out 150+ filled flutes right at that moment! I've been doing this a long time and for a venue to get a jump on me is rare, but it happens often up at Edgewood.
This young man dedicated a song to Amanda...

and then had the moves to back it up!

Instead of going right into dancing after the toasts, Brett invited everyone to go out on the deck for a group shot. Just a great picture of a great and supportive crowd! Once they had gotten the shot, everyone went back inside and watched Amanda & Brett dance to "Give It All We've Got Tonight" by George Strait for about a minute or two before Gil cut in for the Father-Daughter Dance. Gil, Amanda's dad, contacted me secretly to choose the song, and it was a great surprise to Amanda when "My Little Girl" by Tim McGraw came on. Truly the most sentimental dance of the evening!  Gil was gracious in that soon afterwards we were calling up Tito, Amanda's step-father to step in. A class act from a classy dad. Mitchie, Brett's mom was soon up and dancing with her son and then the bridal party joined everyone. An unforgettable moment and a great photo op! The Black-Eyed Peas then started the general dancing off, and it really never faded all evening- matter of fact the dance floor became more and more crowded as the evening wore on. There were many memorable moments throughout and when it was time to head back to the hotel, Thompson Square's "If I Didn't Have You" was a great choice the newlyweds made for their last song. I had an absolute blast- I got to visit with and remember Nicole & Jason's wedding and be a part of an equally memorable day, that of Amanda and Brett. Thanks to Edgewood for everything they do so well.  Thanks to Nicole & Jason for their referral and above all thanks to Brett & Amanda for allowing me to be a small part of a magical day and evening. I love what I do and people like you two are why. All the best and many, many years of happiness!

Jason & Nicole!

"Little White Church" played during the toss!

A great crowd... So fun!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Kelly & John at the West Shore Cafe & Inn with Liane McCombs Wedding & Event Planning & Marielle Hayes Photography

Lake Tahoe is ideal for an outdoor wedding and reception. There are really few places like it in the world, and with the variety of services and venues available, the clear alpine Sierra skies are the limit. I have done dozens of weddings and events up at the Lake and every now and then I get to experience a new venue, and with the help of John & Kelly I was able to play at the West Shore Cafe & Inn at Homewood, at the western edge of Tahoe.

Kelly & John had definite ideas and a vision for their day that incorporated their personalities and tastes, and they really hit a home run with their guests (and their vendors, especially this DJ). First they found this fantastic venue- normally a restaurant with a few rooms on the upper floors for visitors, but when a wedding is planned they shut down the public restaurant and give the bridal party and guests exclusive access to the property. The Inn is as much situated outside as in, and its large deck, private dock, and side gardens give the guests an unfettered chance to roam and experience the fabulous views of the lake and of the party and Inn from the dock. Nicole and her staff were exceptionally friendly and super competent, and they set up furniture, heaters and cafe-style seating all around the deck and dock and put up chairs in the side garden for the ceremony. I heard so many compliments about the staff and the venue all night long- on a lake with many gorgeous venues, this one is truly special and unique.

To help document their day in the finest way possible, they had Marielle Hayes as their photographer. Her work is superb (see the link to real pics of the wedding, not cheesy DJ ones) and her dedication was extraordinary, as she was in her third trimester! She did super, and to help her second-shoot she had Kaylynne Kroshus who is becoming one of my favorite photographers as well. Two amazing artists capturing every moment! I am in awe of their photographic talent, as I have none myself...

Finally, adding to the venue, the photographers (and a mighty good DJ lol), John & Kelly had Liane McCombs of Liane McCombs Wedding & Event Planning as their coordinator. I've written about Liane before. She is a force in the local wedding world and her knowledge of events and how to keep them running smoothly is encyclopedic. With Liane on the case, I can relax as she is constantly monitoring the event and a myriad of details, both small and large. I really cannot remember any hiccups or missteps during the entire event, and a great majority of that is due to Liane's diligence. 

The ceremony was officiated by Kelly's brother Brian, who I thought did a great job marrying his sister and new brother-in-law. A grandfather was under the weather and could not attend the ceremony or reception, but with technology as it is, there was no reason for him to be left out of the day. A family member had a iPad and used Facetime to transmit the entire ceremony and some of the reception so Grandfather could witness it in real time. After the ceremony, I could see him congratulating the newlyweds through it. Very cool! Just one more amazing touch to a special day.

When the ceremony concluded everyone moved to the deck while the bridal party posed for pictures. Kelly & John, instead of a sit-down dinner had various stations set up with delicious salads, veggies, hors d'eurves, and skewers of chicken and beef. It was a casual, but gourmet-casual!  Servers passed delectable little bites around and kept wineglasses full. In just a little while, the bridal party returned from pictures to "Bring Em Out" by TI and we welcomed the newlyweds accompanied by the Beastie Boys' "Make Some Noise" and the great party atmosphere kicked into high gear and never really diminished all night. Soon we were toasting Kelly & John as they stood at the foot of the dock surrounded by friends and family. The dancing started with Steve dancing with his daughter Kelly to "Father & Daughter" by Paul Simon, which led in to John and Kelly's first dance. They started with a couple of verses of Ben E. King's classic "Stand By Me" but then surprised everyone when Rob Base's "It Takes Two" suddenly cut in. Everyone jumped in to dance with the bride & groom and the dance floor never emptied the rest of the evening. I played from an extensive playlist they had given me and took requests off the floor and people danced to everything from Icona Pop to Stealer's Wheel; from the Beatles to the Black Keys, and from Michael Jackson to Zac Brown Band. A diverse and fun playlist. As night set over the lake, they tossed the bouquet and garter, had a brownie bar for dessert instead of cake, and had a photobooth up and rocking inside the Inn. It was truly a memorable evening, one that the guests and this DJ won't ever forget. Perfect day, perfect venue, perfect crowd and above all, a perfect couple! Thanks to West Shore Inn, Liane McCombs, Marielle Hayes, and Kaylynne Kroshus for all your superb help and hard work. What a team! But thanks most of all to Kelly & John for sharing their day and evening with me. Congrats you two!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Eric & Megan at Wild River Grille with the ceremony at Honey's Garden at Rancho San Rafael

Eric and Megan impressed me from the very start of our first meeting. They had a definite, unique  vision of their upcoming wedding & reception and a warm, loving vibe with each other that was infectious, making me want to be a part of their special day. I am a lucky guy. I get to share in a couple's most perfect day and do my small part to make it conform to their vision and hopefully exceed their expectations. I was so happy when they selected me to be their DJ.
Honey's Garden
They planned their ceremony in a special little glen in Rancho San Rafael Park called Honey's Garden. It is surrounded by trees and comes complete with a babbling brook and koi pond and is a fantastic gem hidden amongst the Arboretum just down the hill from the Ranch House where I have deejayed many times before. I was unaware that amplified sound could be used there, and when Eric checked into it, he found that yes, you can use limited PA for wedding music and microphones- you just can't have your dance party there. No worries! I got there early, set up a ceremony system, hooked into power with the help from a friendly park employee, and began playing some light background music. Brooke Smith-La Fata was a great help before the ceremony keeping me informed and lining up the bridal party. Soon I was playing "Storybook Love" by Matthew Lister for the bridal party and then a special version of "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Ingrid Michaelson which I had mixed the week prior for Megan. She loved the version except for a stray note that Ingrid hits early in the song. I was able to excise that part and no one was the wiser, and Megan came down the hill into the Garden glowing from the inside out. Many deejays don't particularly like providing ceremony music and amplification as it can be quite a bit of extra work. It was a completely different location than the reception site, and it was down a hill and a bit of a haul, but it was so great seeing her cross over the bridge into the Garden, and seeing the emotion on Eric's face (and on everyone else's as well) when she appeared. Nothing like that moment. I'll never forget seeing my wife when she appeared down the aisle twenty-six years ago, and I know Eric will have Megan's image etched in his mind in the same manner for the rest of their lives. I love being a small part of the ceremony as it is such an honor being a part of a couple's day!

After they had said their vows, Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" got everyone in the party mood as they recessed from the ceremony. The guests and I then packed up and headed to downtown Reno while Megan & Eric roamed the scenic park getting their pictures taken. 

The Wild River Grille is perched above the Truckee River just south of the Virginia Street bridge in basically the exact center and cultural heart of Reno. Their food is contemporary, fresh, and sourced locally when possible and it is quite a step above the usual reception fare. The River Room has a great loft-like feel, a huge bar with friendly servers, and windows that look out on the river and city. I arrived and quickly set up my gear in a corner and began playing some background music for the guests arriving from the ceremony. It wasn't too much longer when Eric & Megan arrived and they were introduced with Natalie Cole's "This Will Be" punctuating their arrival. Soon everyone was enjoying the very delicious Wild River fare and I have to credit the staff with being so friendly and efficient. They really made sure everyone had plenty to eat and drink and all with a smile and great demeanor. 
My view of the cake cutting
After dinner the B&G soon were toasting & cutting their cake- actually an assortment of bundt cakes giving their guests choices of several flavors. "Bless the Broken Road" then filled my speakers as Eric and Megan took to the dance floor for their first dance. David then danced with his daughter to Heartland's "I Loved Her First" for the Father-Daughter Dance followed by Pam and her son dancing to Rascal Flatts "My Wish" for the Mother Son Dance. The dancing really never stopped after that.  Alan Jackson's "Remember When" was the backdrop for a great Anniversary Dance with Eric's and Megan's parents both being married for over 40 years. What great examples for their children and for all of us!
First Dance!
I played a large variety of music that night to an enthusiastic crowd. My favorite moments had to be when some 90's pop and hip hop were requested and I strung out a fun mix of everything from Warren G to "Bye Bye Bye" to "No Diggity"... Very cool!  I love an interactive crowd with requests that just build on the moment. I have to thank Brooke Smith-La Fata for all her hard work, the great staff at Wild River Grille, and most of all Megan and Eric for allowing me to be a part of their amazing day and evening. Congrats you guys!
Megan and her dad

Monday, September 9, 2013

Jennifer & BJ at Sugar Bowl Lodge atop Donner Summit

The Lodge at Sugar Bowl
As a wedding DJ, the best accolade I can receive is a referral from a happy client. Recommending someone for such an important part of such an important day is taking a big responsibility for the outcome of that event, and I appreciate the trust put in me by both a former client and a new one.
About a year ago I was so honored to be a part of Jason & Nicole's day at Sunnyside (see blog) and when Nicole's friend Jennifer set her date to be married, Nicole gave her my information. I couldn't be happier. Nicole & Jason's wedding was such a great time and I knew any friend of Nicole's would be pretty special too, so I was excited to be considered for Jenn & BJ's day.
My view of the ceremony.
As Jenn & BJ live quite a distance from me, we spoke on the phone, traded emails, and finally Skyped to finalize the events and music for their day. They have very definite musical tastes, and we incorporated their playlist into the entire day and evening. Many DJ's get flustered with clients who have tastes that don't fit into a standard box. They can't think past their own 'most played' playlists and have a difficult time meshing their style with that of the B&G. Me, I love strong opinions on music. Music is such a large part of our lives- it mirrors our mood and defines our most treasured moments. To incorporate the musical choices of the clients is one more way to make the day completely theirs- to add their essence, both serious and playful to their day. So many times I get people coming up and complimenting me on the music I play, and usually the songs they hear are those that the bride & groom had chosen. For example, BJ really like the Avett Brothers, and while I had some of their music, he really broadened my perspective on them and turned me on to new songs I hadn't heard before. When they were taking pictures, I played a few of them, and he turned and gave me a thumbs up, and went back to his photographic duties. I could feel the bridal party's mood elevate just a little but more, as when the bride & groom are happy & smiling, it is incredibly infectious. I encountered more new (to me) artists through Jenn & BJ such as Iron & Wine and the Morning Benders and am better for it. Part of the benefit of being a DJ is that your clients and their guests expose you to new bands that you may never have found on your own. When you love music as I do, this can be priceless.

BJ & Jenn picked the Lodge at Sugar Bowl for their ceremony and reception, and what a great choice they made!  Sugar Bowl is a fantastic venue for an alpine wedding. The ceremony was held in the meadow adjacent to the Lodge with spectacular mountain views and a babbling stream a few yards away. I played Sufjian Stevens' "For the Widows in Paradise" for the parents entry and Ben Howard's "Old Pine" for the bridal party's processional. I had "Bloom" by the Paper Kites ready for Jenn's processional, but Asa Dean, a groomsman came down the aisle with his guitar on his back, surprising BJ with his own rendition of the song. Asa sounded wonderful, BJ was surprised, and Jenn positively glowed coming down the aisle. When the ceremony concluded, the newlyweds exited to "Anna Sun" by Walk the Moon and their guests boarded the chair lift for a cocktail hour at the top of the mountain.
BJ & Jenn head up for cocktails!
How cool is that?!?  Where else can you invite your guests up for a mountaintop cocktail? When BJ & Jenn were finished with pictures, they boarded a chair and joined their guests at the top of the mountain while I set up on the deck of the Lodge. After an hour or so, everyone returned and found their tables on the deck for dinner, I introduced the bridal party punctuated by Macklemore's  "Thrift Shop," and the reception began A buffet line was set up inside and soon everyone was enjoying Sugar Bowl's delicious dinner. Speaking of the Sugar Bowl, I have to say they have one of the friendliest staffs out there.  Amanda & Megan and their people are top-notch. They really enjoy what they do and are proud of their food and of the Lodge, and their service shows it. At some lodges and ski resorts the staff is very transient and because of this, not as well-trained, loyal or happy. You can tell that Sugar Bowl treats their staff well and it shows in the level of service from the coordinators on down. Great job!

After dinner the bride & groom were toasted and then Jenn & BJ made their way to the dance floor for their first dance, "February Seven" by the Avett Brothers. However, once again the talented Aysa Dean came up and serenaded them with his own version of the song. Very special and memorable!  Augustine then danced with his daughter to "My Little Girl" by Tim McGraw and then Beth danced with BJ to "Over the Rainbow" by IZ.  In a special twist, Jenn then called up several other newlywed couples and they all danced to Adam Sandler's "Grow Old With You" with Jenn & BJ. Enthusiastic dancing then followed all through the rest of the evening.  What a great dancing crowd!  I played such a variety of songs and the floor never emptied.  It was pretty magical as night fell as the deck was lit by candles and twinkling lights, yet you could still see the Milky Way high above in the alpine night sky.
First Dance!
Aysa at work
Dad & Daughter!

Thanks to BJ & Jennifer for allowing me to be a part of their extraordinary day and evening.  Thanks to  everyone at Sugar Bowl Lodge for their efforts and warm hospitality. And thanks to Nicole & Jason for making it all happen for me through a simple referral. I love what I do. I try to make a difference in a couple's most special day, and I am so happy people seem to get that and are so pleased with my performance.  Congrats Jenn & BJ! May the soundtrack of your lives be long, varied and filled with lovesongs!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mato & Amy at The Old 1862 Ranch with Take the Cake Events, Kaylynne Kroshus Photography and Men Wielding Fire

There are many benefits to being a wedding DJ.  You get to meet people from all over, from all walks of life, and all backgrounds. You get to help make an amazing couple’s most special day that much more memorable and fun. You get to work in fabulous settings and venues. And you get satisfaction knowing your efforts were an integral part of the overall experience of the bride & groom and of their guests.
The ceremony
You could attach all of these benefits to wedding coordination as well. There are some coordinators who embody the same spirit and love for their work as I do, and I was fortunate to be a part of a day and evening with a fabulous couple, their family and guests, and my favorite coordinators, Cassie and Pattye from Take the Cake Events.
Lawn games
The couple’s marriage we all were so happy to be a part of was that of Mato and Amy. They are head-over-heels in love and wanted everything about their day to celebrate their love for each other as well as the love for their families and guests.  They had a very clear vision for their day- from the venue to the food to the look of the whole thing. They made sure the day would be perfect- perfect for them and for their guests and it certainly was.
The bar
The venue they chose is really unique. It was the first time there for me and it really exudes the atmosphere that Amy & Mato wanted to bring out- country gorgeous. It is called The Old 1862 Ranch, and it has been an active ranch from that date, lovingly restored by its owners Jan & Jim. Two nicer hosts I cannot remember. They helped out all throughout the evening and talked with guests about the history of their beautiful spot in the rolling Long Valley northwest of Reno. The ranch has extensive acreage and several outbuildings evoking simpler times gone by. They had set up a tent and dance floor on the wide lawn and the ceremony and reception surrounded the stately ranch house.
Dining tent, dance floor, and ranch house
The ceremony was simple yet beautiful. The natural arch of a tree branch provided the arbor for the focus of the event with views of green fields, livestock and distant mountains making for a perfect backdrop.  The bridal party entered to a great version of “Fireflies” by Jurgen Johannes followed by a radiant Amy entering to one of my all-time favorites, Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” The ceremony itself was fairly quick, perhaps quicker than it should have been as the officiant forgot the “I do’s” and was about to pronounce them married!  Everyone, especially the bride & groom had a chuckle as someone brought it to his attention and it was soon rectified. I loved how Mato & Amy and their bridal party just rolled with it and enjoyed the moment. I knew then that it would be a fun and happy group that evening. It will be something they can laugh about for years to come. I would rather have a memorable moment if it turns out fine than a ceremony that fades quickly from memory. Their ceremony, with the beautiful bridesmaids and bride, the gorgeous backdrop, and the love that encapsulated everyone will never fade from people’s memories.  They exited to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne to rousing applause and were off on the wonderful grounds of The Old 1862 Ranch for pics with Kaylynne from Kaylynne Kroshus Photography.

Kaylynne is a fantastic photographer. I have had the pleasure of working with her several times and she always has an easy-going vibe with the other vendors as well as the bride & groom and guests. She really captures the feel of the moments and events she photographs, and her work is stunning. Follow this link to see how a real photographer documents a day through her talent and artistic eye. Much better than the pictures I take for my blog... :)
Speaking of music, I really loved the choices Amy & Mato made for their ceremony and reception.  They live in Austin Texas, probably the greatest city for progressive music in the country, and their selections reflected their high music IQ and eclectic tastes. When a bride & groom give me specific songs not just for events but for cocktail hour, dinner and dancing, they are putting themselves into the mix. They gave me a songlist that ranged from Louis Armstrong to Ghostland Observatory, from Johnny Cash to Cake, and from Cat Stevens to the Wheeler Brothers. Many guests complimented me on the selections- I was quick to let everyone know that Mato & Amy had programmed the majority of the songs. It is a day all about them, but they included songs that were special to family and friends and when the dancing started, they encouraged requests. A recipe for a fun night as the dance floor was always humming.

First Dance!

While the happy couple roamed the grounds for pictures, their guests enjoyed a fun bar area and a whole variety of lawn games. They had cornhole, croquet, bocce ball and two sets of mega-Jenga using 2'x4's. The guests that weren't inclined to play wandered around the ranch and sat on the porch and laughed and talked. When Amy & Mato were ready to rejoin the reception, Cassie came over and let me know, and within a few moments we were welcoming them with their Grand Entrance. Men Wielding Fire catering provided the BBQ that followed and soon everyone was enjoying dinner.

All during this time, and well before everyone started to arrive, Cassie & Pattye from Take the Cake Events scurried around solving problems big and small and preparing for the guests and their needs. It is hard to know where to begin describing what a good wedding coordinator does, let alone a great one, and two great ones to boot! They prepared beverages, placed fans, fixed flowers, drove down the road to affix a sign for directions to the wedding, met with all the vendors and helped them with their setup and the schedule, assisted the bridal party, found missing items, figured out where and how things should be displayed or placed, and welcomed the guests and family as they arrived. These and another couple hundred things that I haven't mentioned. They are always the first vendors to arrive and the last to leave, after cleaning up, organizing linens, collecting gifts and making sure the people coming for chairs, tents, and tablecloths the next morning would find all of their items quickly and organized. I can't say enough about them. They went above and beyond with a goal, like mine, to do everything possible to make the bride & groom's day better than they even imagined, and they succeeded with flying colors. When Cassie & Pattye are at an event where I am deejaying, my stress level immediately drops down to almost nothing, allowing me to concentrate on the music and emceeing. Many coordinators can be imperious and bossy. You want them to be assertive, as they are trying to get things done and solve issues that arise, but while being assertive the girls at Take the Cake Events are also friendly and cooperative- just the sort of coordinator you want interacting with your guests and loved ones.
Father & Daughter
Lori and Jenny, Amy's sisters, led off with a pair of tremendous toasts as dinner concluded, and John, Ray and Steve followed up with great ones of their own. Then Mato and his bride started the dancing with their first dance, using "I Can't Believe You're in Love With Me" by Hot Club of Cowtown. They had a few moves to wow the audience with, and their loving enthusiasm warmed the already attentive crowd. Ray then danced with his daughter in the Father-Daughter dance using the appropriate "Daughter" by Loudon Wainwright.  Next Judy danced with Mato for the Mother-Son dance with "I Will" by the Beatles capturing the moment perfectly. Everyone joined the newlyweds for the dancing that followed and it never really let up except when it was time to cut the cake (they also had cupcakes) and toss the bouquet and garter. As the summer night darkened, the lights around the tent and ranch house came on (and a couple of lights from yours truly) and the dancing took over. I played many great requests mixed in with Amy & Mato's playlist, sprinkled with a few choices of my own. I couldn't have asked for a friendlier or active bunch of dancers- it was like the whole day was magical and they were trying to capture some of that magic forever by dancing and having fun alongside the B&G.
Mother & Son
I sure enjoyed the entire experience. Like I said, there are so many positives to being a wedding DJ, you don't mind the load-in or out, especially with a bride and groom like Amy and Mato and their family and guests. I was honored to be a small part of the magic.
Dancing begins!
Thanks to Kaylynne from Kaylynne Kroshus PhotographyMen Wielding Fire, Cassie and Pattye from Take the Cake Events for all their help and hard work and a huge thank you to Jim & Jan for opening up The Old 1862 Ranch for the evening. It is a special place, and they do only a very limited amount of events each summer, and it is really an undiscovered gem. But most of all, thank you Amy and Mato. I truly enjoyed your day and I am so happy for you as you discover the world together.  Magical...

Congrats Amy & Mato!