Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Stefanie & Jeff at Somersett with Belinda Grant Photography and Los Mariachis Viajeros

I had such a good time at Stefanie & Jeff's wedding and reception a couple of weekends ago! I knew it would be a blast when I was communicating with Stefanie back and forth about her timeline and songs. She really had a complete vision as to how her day would enfold, and it was so gratifying to see it come to life and to be a part of it.

I usually don't post a lot of pictures, especially of decor and the small touches that go into a reception, but I think I should with this wedding. Stefanie really thought of everything and put her own spin on her day.

First she chose Somersett. Somersett is a planned community in northwest Reno nestled between hills with a golf course threading through the community and great views of the surrounding Sierras. In the middle of the property is the community center complete with a clubhouse, community pools and sports facilities, and a commercial area with several shops and restaurants. I have had the privilege of deejaying their community holiday swim parties and it is a well-run organization with great people making sure everything runs smoothly. This day was no exception.  They had their ceremony out on a golf tee with the mariachi group Los Mariachis Viajeros providing the seating music. When the time came, I played the processionals- "Sweet Child of Mine" by Vitamin String Quartet for the bridal party and a beautiful version of the "Bridal Chorus" (Here Comes the Bride) for Stefanie and her dad. When Stefanie and Jeff were married and had kissed and been introduced by Pastor Dan to everyone, I played "Happy" as their recessional. After that, the guests went into the clubhouse for cocktails and more Mariachi Viajero music while I moved across the street to the upstairs reception room, the Loft.

Up in the Loft I really appreciated all the work Stefanie and her sisters and friends had put into the room. Near me, right beside the dance floor they had baskets of flip-flops for their guests so they could ditch the high heels and dance the night away. The bar had a great selection of tequilas, Mexican beer, and Mexican bottled coke and other sodas to lend an authentic flair to the evening. Better yet, there was a bucket of coozies with Jeff & Stefanie's names and date on them as a special remembrance of the evening. Very cool!
They had a photobooth, a candy table that was very well stocked, and everywhere the decor matched the red roses placed all around the room.

Finally the favors to take home (not including the coozies) were small little cacti and other succulents. So unique yet so fitting for occasion.
As the guests began to arrive from the clubhouse, traditional Mexican appetizers were served- several types of ceviche, home-made salsas, and chips and quesadillas. Yum!  The guests enjoyed themselves while the bridal party finished up pictures with Belinda Grant. Belinda is a phenomenal photographer who I am always excited to work with. She has a very journalistic style as well as taking stunning posed shots. She'll see something happening on the dance floor or at a table and rush over to capture it. A great example of this was as Stefanie and Jeff were walking downstairs towards the reception, she saw a geometric pattern in the pavers below and had them pose as she took pix from the balcony above. Spontaneous but really cool! I tried to get the same shot on my iPhone watching her, and you can imagine how much better her shots are!
Right after that we all welcomed the bridal party in to the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin" and then Stefanie and Jeff entered as "Timber" by Pitbull played. The Mariachis Viajeros then took over the music for a while and I was impressed by their ability. The best mariachi group in Reno by far. They moved around the room and played while the dinner buffet was being readied. Uriel, Stefanie's father was such a cool host and dad. He was constantly checking that everyone was having fun and he requested some music from the Viajeros that I realized was all about northern Baja California. Being from San Diego myself I asked him about it, and it turns out that he is from Mexicali, a border town very near my family's camping spot that I have been going to since I was small. We talked about the area, music, and San Felipe and I really felt so at ease with Uriel and Stefanie's family. He even helped sing a Norteno song below and really got the crowd into it. Such fun!
Uriel and Los Mariachis Viajeros!
The buffet line then began, and Belinda Grant has a great specialty shot that I really like: as I released a table, those tablemates  would come up to the dance floor and get a picture taken by Belinda before they joined the buffet. Such a fantastic idea! Here are the bride & groom & head table starting it off- I know Belinda's shot was 1000% better than mine. That's why I'm a DJ and not a photographer...  :)

After dinner, Maid of Honor and Stefanie's sister Jocelyn led off the toasting with an emotional and funny tribute. Dads Uriel & John and other bridal party members gave nice toasts as well and right after that they cut their cake. After enjoying a few bites Jeff & Stefanie then started off the dancing with "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James & the Shondells. Such a unique and inspired choice!
First Dance!
Uriel then came up to dance with his daughter for the father-daughter dance. Unlike most of these dances I see, they chose a fast song, Elvis's "Jailhouse Rock" and it brought the crowd to their feet. 
Soon thereafter we were dancing non-stop with a huge variety of music, from Elvis Crespo to Avicii to the Beatles and Pitbull.  At the first slow break we had a perfect Anniversary Dance, with Antonio and Maria the longest married at 40 years. Other than the bouquet and garter tosses, the dancing never let up. Such a fun crowd, so much so that we went an hour over our original stopping point :)
Thanks to the terrific people at Somersett for all their hard work. Thanks to Belinda of Belinda Grant Photography, a true professional and just a great person to work with. Thanks to the talented Mariachis Viajeros. And finally thanks to Jeffanie (Jeff & Stefanie) for letting me be a part of their memorable day and evening. Felicidades you two!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mark & Georgia at Longboards at Plumas Pines with the String Beings

I am a spiritual person. I believe that love conquers all, cutting through time and space.

Weddings are a perfect example of this as they not only celebrate the bride and groom's love for one another, but also celebrate the love that is shared by family and friends, the love shared by other committed couples sharing in that day, and finally for the love we have for those people who are dear to us but have passed on.  It is so fulfilling to be a part of a wedding celebration that accommodates all of these facets.  I sometimes think that I can almost see that emotion permeate and snowball through the course of the evening into an almost visible aura of pure joy. Okay maybe I am going off a little hippyish here (no I don't own any Birkenstocks or have any medicinal prescriptions to visit any dispensaries) but it is true. That's why to me, weddings are the most fun a DJ can have. To be able to participate in one of these weddings that hits all these parameters is such a pleasure, and a perfect example of this was Mark & Georgia's reception last month.
The String Beings!
Mark & Georgia don't live in the area- they had planned on a destination wedding to the gorgeous Plumas Pines area in the California Sierras with the reception at Longboards Bar & Grill. Mark found me on the internet and we spoke on the phone once or twice, and we were off and running. They hired the always phenomenal String Beings trio for their ceremony and for cocktail and dinner music, and while they got married across the way on a beautiful golf green, I set up inside Longboards. Longboards Bar & Grill is a beautiful venue overlooking the Plumas Pines golf course and the surrounding forests and mountains. Up on a rise, the views are quite dramatic. The interior is very lodge-like but with a modern flair that goes perfectly with the surroundings. I had not worked there prior to Georgia & Mark's evening but as the staff were so helpful and friendly I immediately felt at home.

First Dance
Georgia & Mark had planned a very simple yet elegant timeline, and it couldn't have gone any better. I introduced them when they arrived at Longboards after taking pictures and that was basically it for me for a while. The String Beings really are special. They entertained everyone with classical pieces and arrangements of popular songs and really did an excellent job. I have a lot of string trio or quartet songs that I use for seating or dinner music, but those songs don't match up to a well-practiced, talented live trio like the Beings. I had the pleasure of being set up close to them so I really could hear the intricacies and nuances in their playing.  They were very gracious too, playing a request or two from the guests and conversing with them between songs when the guests wanted to know a song title or what have you. They are highly recommended if you need a strings group.
Mother-Son Dance
As dinner wound down, toasts were made and everyone moved to the dance floor as the String Beings played their last song of the evening, "Could I Have This Dance" for Mark & Georgia's first dance. It was a great moment which just continued as we went into "Celebration" and invited everyone up to join them. The special dancing continued with a Mother-Son dance, "You'll Be in my Heart" by Phil Collins where Georgia got to dance with her sons Matt & Anthony. Multiplying an already special moment, Mark brought his new Mother-in-law Dolly onto the floor a few moments later and then they had me invite all the mothers & sons and fathers & daughters to come up and join them.  This is what I am talking about when the love in the room just builds and builds. Guests come to a wedding prepared to see special moments for the bride & groom, and the next thing they know they are dancing with their parent or child and having a special moment of their own they will remember forever. An Anniversary Dance accomplishes much the same thing, honoring those guests and family members for their commitments to one another whether it was 3 hours ago, 3 years ago, or 73 years ago. These are the moments that take a wedding to the next level- one that will be remembered for as long as the participants live.

Then we were in for a special treat arranged by the family, specifically all of the cousins. About a dozen of these cousins began singing a special song with custom lyrics to the bride and groom using the music of "Living on a Prayer" which cousin Dean strummed on his guitar. It really brought the house down and was just many of those moments that night that pulled everyone that much closer together.
Flash mob starts to gain momentum!
They didn't stop though! As more general, open dancing began, I played "Happy" by Pharrell Williams to start everyone off. Unbeknownst to the newlyweds, many of the guests had planned a flash mob for that moment and they did such a great job that it was infectious and soon almost everyone was on the dance floor with them.
"Jump on it!"
Dancing then ruled for the rest of the evening, punctuated a bit later by Georgia & Mark cutting their cake. I was able to play such a fun variety of music to such an enthusiastic dancing crowd all night long. Everyone knew the moves from "Thriller" and "Apache" and did Cha Chas and Shuffled. When the last song played, "We are Family" everyone was on the dance floor singing along at the top of their lungs. Such a fun crowd!

Back to my starting point: the love that Mark & Georgia had for each other was glowing brightly all night. You could see it when they danced, when Mark watched Georgia from across the room, when she grabbed at his hand when talking with friends and family.
The love of family and friends was apparent as well, with the cousin's song, with the toasts, the flash mob, and hundreds of little moments that added up to something bigger in its entirety as people just enjoyed each other and the moment.
Finally the love for and from those who have passed or cannot be with the couple was also apparent. Usually it manifests in small ways, sometimes perceptible, sometimes not. Many times it is felt during a slow song, as the dancers relive another dance in the past when those loved ones were present. It was definitely there that night but if you had asked me that night I wouldn't have been able to put my finger on it exactly.

A week or so later I received a nice email from Mark and he asked if I had had a specific request for a certain slow song. I had several for other songs- one I remember well was one for "Georgia on my Mind" by Ray Charles that was just perfect for Mark & Georgia, and as a last slow song I played Anne Murray's "Could I Have This Dance" so they could relive once again their first dance that the String Beings had played so perfectly, but this was "Over the Rainbow" by Iz and though I had played it, no one had requested it.

I have perhaps 10-15k slow songs. Of those there are probably several hundred I play with any regularity. "Over the Rainbow" is in that 300 song category. With the requests from the group and Mark's playlist, I probably played 2-3 slow songs that I chose, so it was basically a 1% chance I'd play that song. But I did. And here is where love can reach across the world and even across life at a reception. "Over the Rainbow", Mark related, was his dad's favorite, and when his dad passed, Mark's son (who lives in Hong Kong and couldn't make this wedding) had fashioned a beautiful rendition and played it in his honor at the funeral. Mark said that when he heard the song he immediately felt that his son and dad were with him. Could it have been a coincidence? Yes, unlikely, but yes. However in 26+ years of doing weddings I see and hear about these things all the time. If you are wondering if you are connected with that loved one halfway across the world or with someone who has left this life, the answer is yes. Love has no boundaries.

Thanks to Longboards for such an elegant setting, meal and service. Thanks to the String Beings- I am in awe of your talents. Finally thanks to Mark & Georgia. You couldn't have been more fun or gracious and the same for your family and guests. I so enjoyed being a part of such a joyful celebration. Congrats!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sharlene & Bryan with Gullickson Photography at Piper Opera House in Virginia City

Life is good. You never know what is around the corner. Love was what was around a corner for Bryan & Sharlene, and by allowing me to be a part of their day, they introduced me to some really cool Nevada history.

As you can tell by my blog, I do weddings all over Nevada and California, but I had never done one in Virginia City until a couple of Saturdays ago. Weird because the following day I was at Gold Hill. I have a great job!

Bryan & Sharlene are such a great couple and Sharlene had such an incredible vision of how her day would play out, and when you add in that with the fact that their venue was the historic Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City, it turned out to be a very special day and evening indeed.
Guests arrive!
We had met several times prior to the wedding to discuss the events and music including meeting at the Opera House with Jodie from Gullickson Photography, and I really felt comfortable with their vision. Piper’s Opera House was built in 1863 and is extremely cool- such a unique site for a wedding and reception! The main floor holds many tables and set up closer to the stage were chairs for the ceremony. Sharlene had meticulously decorated the tables and everything just fit. She really accentuated the Opera House yet made it her own at the same time.
On-stage ceremony spot. Love the private boxes!
I set up in a private box on the side of the stage, a perfect spot for both the ceremony music and amplification, and later dinner and dancing music. As the guests arrived I played classical music to set the tone Bryan & Sharlene were looking for. The Opera House is set up with antiques and display cases with artifacts and period posters and paintings, which gave the guests something to explore before and after the nuptials. It just felt correct- her decor, the Opera House, and the music they chose.


The bridal party walked in to Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” and then Sharlene had a surprise for the guests. As everyone waited for her and her brother Victor to appear through the double doors, I started up the “Imperial March” from the Empire Strikes Back (Bryan is a Star Wars fan)!  Everyone had this puzzled look for a second which then turned to laughter when Sharlene peeked in and yelled “Bryan!”  I then purposely scratched off the Star Wars song and went into “At Last” by Etta James. Everyone had a smile, which only broadened as they caught full sight of Sharlene in her wedding dress coming down the aisle. I have to say, if a dress ever was perfect for a bride, this one was for her. She was luminous as she approached the stage where her husband-to-be Bryan had such an adoring look on his face that everyone could see the depth and specialness of their love- just what you want a ceremony to bring out. That’s why I love the groom seeing her in her dress as she comes down the aisle instead of a “First Look”. The “First Look” is more efficient for pictures and gives the B&G a little more time at their reception but I think that is a small price to pay for that moment. I still have my wife’s image as she entered the church burned on my mind 27 years later, and it is a memory I will have as long as I live. I am sure it is now the same with Bryan.
From up in the balcony courtesy of Gullickson Photography!
After the ceremony, the bar opened up and homemade chips and salsa came out for the guests as the bridal party went outside into Virginia City for photos. Jodie from Gullickson Photography was all over the place all afternoon and evening long getting the perfect photos. Super easy to work with- just what any bride (and DJ) loves. While they were gone making photographic memories, I switched from classical to Big Band & Sinatra- it is sometimes neat to differentiate the musical vibe between the ceremony, cocktail hour, and then dinner- once again Sharlene & Bryan put their own unique stamp on the festivities.

When the bridal party returned, Bryan had me play Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" as I introduced everyone. Very fun! They then enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner from La Reina, a local restaurant and carneceria in Dayton who put out a delicious buffet. After dinner and some toasting, Sharlene & Bryan danced their first dance to "Everything" by Lifehouse, followed by the Bridal Party dancing to Josh Turner's "Will You Go With Me" and Sharlene dancing with her brother Victor to "There You'll Be" by Faith Hill. Bryan then danced with his mom Carrie to the classic "Silver Wings" by Merle Haggard and then the floor opened up to everyone. It was a fun crowd, with everything from Michael Jackson to Johnny Cash to the Beastie Boys being played, and pretty much everything in between. It was a fun night with a fun crowd which danced and went over the original ending time by over an hour. Just a memorable night, a unique venue, a super crowd, and an amazing bride and groom. It's nice to give back to the community as well, and that is what Bryan & Sharlene did. The Opera House is owned by the Storey County School System and when it is rented out, the money goes to the District and also towards restoration.
More great pix from Gullickson! Check out the album here

Congrats Sharlene & Bryan! Thanks for letting me be a small part in your day!