Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mike & Georgie with Zinser Photography and Zinser Photo Booth

I had the honor to be a part of Georgie & Mike's big day a couple of weeks back at a private home in the Silver Knolls neighborhood along with a hundred other fantastic people. I loved the vibe the whole day and evening, as everyone pitched in to take the ceremony and reception over the top. It was one of those weddings that people will be talking about for years to come and there are so many reasons why.

First and foremost are the happily married couple. From the moment I met them, I saw that incredible bond they share and sensed that they couldn't wait to make it official and start their journey together. Georgie is full of laughter and life and Mike has a wry wit and an silent strength that blend perfectly together. They have a level of comfort together that I liken to the same level of closeness my wife and I have after being together almost 30 years now. They are a couple you'll see still deeply in love 60 years from now.

I met with them about 5-6 weeks prior to the big day at Georgie's brother's home, where the ceremony and reception would take place, and frankly I was a bit concerned. There was nothing but dirt in the backyard where in a few weeks a reception would take place. They talked of grass, a gazebo, tents, tables and a pond, and I hoped they could get even half of it constructed before their date. Ken & Kathy, Georgie's brother & sister-in-law were another of these reasons why the day was such a resounding success. They were such gracious hosts and got their home and yard into amazing shape, and when I arrived all those things they envisioned were there. What a great backyard venue!

Another several reasons it was such an amazing event were the vendors and friends providing exceptional service during the day & evening. Their photographer was Evan Zinser from Zinser Photography who is one of the best out there, if not the best. He is such a great guy, and his photography is fantastic. He works effortlessly with the bridal party and guests to capture those important moments, establishing a relationship with them that lasts beyond their day. Indeed, two or three couples at the wedding had had Evan photograph their wedding or do their family portraits. It says something about him that they feel like he is almost family instead of just a vendor.

Same with Mike at Zinser Photo Booth. He made the photo booth experience come alive for the guests and is patient with those first-timers and also with the kids that came back time and again. He is one of those vendors I love to see at my events because I know he has his stuff together and will treat the guests correctly. Super fun!

The third person that made the event go above and beyond was their caterer, a family friend who came out of caring retirement just to do their dinner. He had amazing smoked pork & beef loin with all the fixings that really stood out as being very delicious- better than many of the BBQ caterers I see  throughout the year. The beef especially was perfectly cooked and tasty (in this reporter's humble opinion) and the hand-tossed caesar salad was really delicious. Nobody went hungry and many came up for seconds and thirds...
Georgie's entrance!
As I said though, Georgie & Mike were the true catalysts of the evening's fun though. Their happiness infused everyone with the same, and a special moment at the beginning of the ceremony set the tone for the rest of the evening.  After the bridal party walked in to "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz, I started up Kevin Rudolf's "Let It Rock" and the guests looked around expectantly. After a couple of seconds, Ken & Georigie on Ken's ATV roared up and the crowd went wild! 

They dismounted their ATV chariot and I started the Bridal Chorus as she and her brother walked the final steps to meet Mike at the gazebo. The energy and love in the crowd was electric- one of the best entrances of a bride I can remember in over 700 weddings. So fun!  After a special ceremony that included Georgie's two daughters and had them join hands with Mike & Georgie to signify their new family bond that they share, they departed to "Eye of the Tiger" to much cheering from their guests. What a way to start off a wedding reception!

After some pictures with Evan, they returned to the reception with their Grand Entrance and went right into their first dance, Savage Garden's "Truly. Madly, Deeply" which seemed so perfect for the moment and for them.

The rest of the evening never let up in fun and celebration. After the delicious dinner and fantastic toasts, they cut their cake while Mraz's "Lucky" punctuated the moment. Then the real dancing began interspersed by an Anniversary Dance and the Bouquet & Garter tosses. I played a huge variety of music from Benatar to Ben E. King; from Chicago to Shaggy; from Sinatra to Flo Rida and everything in between.  We went long into the night and I even got to play some EDM and 90's pop and hip-hop before we were through. The last song was a memorable one- the newlyweds dancing to "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars while everyone else danced around them and sang. Just a magical night in perfect weather with absolutely amazing people. What more could a DJ ask for?

Thanks to Evan at Zinser Photography for turning me on to such a great couple, bringing me 7-Ups, and for being the best in the business. Thanks to Mike at Zinser Photo Booth for going above and beyond once again. Thanks to Ken & Kathy for their hospitality and for making me feel so welcome. Thanks to all the family and guests who made me feel like I was a one of them instead of just a hired hand. Finally, thanks to Mike & Georgie for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing and fun day and evening. Best of everything you two!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 Tips to Help You Choose the Right Wedding DJ

Hiring a wedding DJ can be very stressful. The DJ's experience, performance and professionalism will have a large impact on your reception, through the music played, events announced and just his or her personality. Fortunately there are many different ways to help you narrow your search and hopefully find the DJ who will be perfect for your event. I have narrowed it down to 10 tips- some may be more or less important or applicable to your situation, but when all is said and done see #10.

Before you make that initial contact, use the following five tips to get a short list of potential DJs together so you can compare and contrast styles, prices, and professionalism.

1) Friends and family

Find out who have used DJ services in the past few years and what they thought of the experience. If it was negative, stay away from that company! Even so-so recommendations should be thought of negatively. The DJ's #1 job was to please the client, and while an average job is better than a poor one, there are plenty of DJ's who will do their utmost to exceed their client's expectations.

2) Check their website 

A good DJ's website will answer a lot of your questions before you even think of them. There may be links to videos or picture galleries or testimonials which can give you a feel for the company when in action. On the other hand, no website, or a poorly constructed one might be a red flag. Many DJ's do weddings as a side business, and their professionalism and organization may not be up to par with an experienced professional. If they just have an email or phone number chances are it is their second job, and when it comes to your wedding you don't want to be second.

3) Look at their reviews

In this information-filled world we live in you should be able to find reviews of the DJ or company you are considering on the web, whether on Yelp, Wedding Wire, Facebook or Google+. These can be very helpful giving you a window into someone else's event and their impressions of the DJ. Use your common sense and read between the lines. Some DJ's will have friends review them to bolster their rating or just to pad their numbers. These are usually easy to detect as the real reviewers are very passionate and bring up unique details. 
Just as important as those reviews is a lack of them. This is probably due to one of three factors: 
   a)  It could be an inexperienced DJ, just starting their business.
   b)  Some older DJs may have technology issues.
   c)  or worst case they may be trying to stay under the radar because of potential bad reviews. 
There really isn't any reason an experienced DJ or company wouldn't have reviews if they have been active in the last few years unless it is one of the reasons above.

4) Ask your other wedding professionals

Have a photographer that you love? Venue coordinator who is very helpful? A super-nice baker who you just hired for your strawberry-champagne cupcakes? Many times they are a great resource for DJ recommendations. They are putting their own reputation on the line as well when they give out a name, so they most likely have your best interests at heart when they do.

5) Check their blog, social media, and memberships to professional organizations

A blog can be a very effective window into a DJ's mindset, experience at a certain venue, and may give information on whom they have worked with. Maybe you like the DJ's enthusiasm, or how he/she set up at a certain venue, or even find that your caterer has worked with them in the past. Good stuff to know, even if it is coming from that DJ's keyboard. Same goes for social media. 
Being active in local or national wedding organizations shows a level of commitment to their craft and a desire to be continue to learn and to be connected with other professionals in their area that only magnifies how seriously they take their job.

Now that you've done your due diligence and have a short list of potential DJ's, you've come to the most important part of the search- contacting and interviewing them.

6) How responsive are they?

Customer service is critical in a once-in-lifetime event like your wedding. The way a DJ communicates with you could be a good indicator of how they will be before and on your day.
Do they answer their phone, texts, or emails promptly? You should not have to wait more than 24 hours after your initial attempt to contact them for a response. Ideally it should be instantaneous or within an hour or so, but especially on weekends and evenings their time may be occupied by an event, so a little leeway at those times should be expected. Being a great DJ is not just about the wedding day- it is helping the couple through decisions, giving advice, and just staying in touch.

7) Meet with them!

When you initially contact a DJ you can get a good feel for him/her through your conversation, but even if you have a good experience over the phone or email, the true litmus test is when you meet with him/her (if you live in a different area try Skype or FaceTime).
By taking 30 minutes to get to know the DJ you & your fiancé can really make a better determination about whether he/she is right for your wedding. Do you feel comfortable with him/her? Does the DJ understand your tastes in music? Does he/she bring excitement to the meeting, a passion for what he/she does? Will they help you plan the events and music and then take over on the day of, letting you enjoy what you have worked so hard towards? Seems simple, right? But chemistry and understanding between the DJ & the client are critical and could be what turns an average reception into one that people will be talking about for years to come.

8) Cross your "T"s and dot your "i"s

Make sure you get a contract. Read it and know what it entails. Remember it is an agreement to uphold as much for the DJ as it is for you. If something is not to your liking, discuss it with your DJ. They can make an addendum or an adjustment for your particular situation.
Make sure your DJ is legitimate. Do they have a business license? Liability insurance? Good standing with the BBB?
Make sure the DJ you pick is the one who will show up that day. Some companies have multiple employees and you may not get who you thought was going to do your wedding. Get it in writing. Bait & switch is rampant in this industry.
Do they have a backup plan? What if your DJ gets sick? Do they bring extra equipment with them so if a speaker blows or a laptop quits they can continue without any interruptions?
Will they be ready on time, preferably early, and will they be appropriately dressed?
Insist that all charges are delineated before the event begins. Make sure that the DJ will be available if you choose to go into overtime.

9) Book as early as possible!

One you have found that perfect DJ, don't wait to book him/her. By contracting with them, you reserve that date, and that is one less thing to worry about. I recommend at least 6 months in advance, a year for the busier summer Saturdays. Remember, the same things that attracted you to the DJ's website, Yelp account, or won you over when you met are will attract other potential clients. Great wedding DJs are a finite commodity- don't settle for an average one!

10) Go with your gut!

Sometimes the choice isn't completely black and white. One DJ might seem more fun while another more attentive or organized. Sometimes money separates your choices. Sometimes the choice, on paper, is almost identical.
When it comes right down to it, the best pick is that DJ you feel most comfortable with.  Remember that while equipment and price are important factors, you are really choosing personality and experience. Anyone can buy the best equipment and then charge you a great rate, but will they do a great job? 
Hire that DJ who puts your desires at the forefront, who gets your vision and who will make it happen. Above all, hire that DJ who loves his/her job and who is excited to have the honor and privilege to be a part of your day. Don't settle for less! There are lots of great DJs out there, you just have to find them. 

I hope these tips have helped- good luck and congratulations!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Katie & Christian at the Chism House with Capriotti's Catering and Pastor Dawn Pidlypchak from South Reno UMC

I had a fantastic wedding at the Chism House in Reno a couple of Sundays ago. To tell you the truth, I am lucky to have been chosen to be their DJ, not just because their wedding and reception were a blast but also because I broke one of the cardinal rules of a wedding professional when we were just getting acquainted: always, always be on time to a meeting.

I had had a great conversation with their coordinator Paige and we set up an evening meeting for the next week to discuss their day and my services. I am a huge believer of a face-to-face meeting or Skype or FaceTime as you can really get a feel for one another and see if you are a fit for the event. I had had a meeting earlier that day down in Carson City and thought I allowed myself enough time to have the that meeting, travel back to Reno, and still have plenty of time to meet with Katie & Christian, but I misjudged the interval and went way over on the earlier meeting. As I was speeding north I was able to let them know what had happened but I felt like a complete ass. While I was only a few minutes late, I pride myself on my punctuality and professionalism and I felt I had let them down. When I arrived I apologized and told them straight out that if I were them, I would not hire me. We then proceeded to have a great meeting and they neglected to take my earlier advice and chose to include me in their special day and evening. I am so glad they did!

So a couple of Sundays ago I showed up at the Chism House extra early and began to set up for their day. I have to say that the Chism House is becoming a favorite venue of mine! I have done multiple events in the past six or so years there, and in the past few years a fresh new management team has taken over and made a unique and pretty venue even more special and beautiful. Every time I arrive, they have made more improvements to the grounds, accessibility, and service and they are now one of the best run facilities in the area. They have created a nice new bar area in a garage that used to be just storage. They have improved the parking lot. The already beautiful gardens seem to burst even more now with color, while the arch for the ceremony is a living, blossoming arbor. And the best part about the new team is their service. Amber and Sherae (sp?) were always hovering around the ceremony and reception, making sure things ran smoothly and helping their guests (and this DJ) with anything that they could. They went way beyond what would be expected of them, making sure the event exceeded- not just equaled- their clients expectations. I can tell they love sharing their gorgeous venue with their guests.
My view :)
I played seating music as the guests arrived and as the countdown to the ceremony began. When everyone was seated, the parents and bridal party entered to "Marry Me" by Train, and as Christian and all the guests looked on, Katie appeared on the porch of the Chism House with her dad Ed as "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz punctuated her appearance and subsequent walk. Dawn, the officiant then presided over a wonderful ceremony that contained a mixing of water poured from a separate pitcher that each mom carried into one receptacle representing the joining of the two families. Not too long after that Christian was kissing his new bride and they were walking down the aisle as a married couple.  They chose an appropriate song for the recessional, the American Authors' "Best Day of My Life", one of my favorites, and soon they were posing for pictures amongst the picturesque grounds.

If you haven't been to the Chism House, the reception is held on the western end where huge old trees give shade and a large open tent and dance floor are situated. Paige had set out lawn games, their guestbook was a puzzle where guests wrote on various puzzle pieces, and along with appetizers and drinks a fun cocktail hour then ensued. It really is a wonderful setting and it doesn't matter whether your table is under the tent or on the lawn as there isn't a bad seat in the place.
First Dance!
After lots of pictures and poses, the newlyweds came around the House and through an arch as I introduced them for their Grand Entrance. They picked "I Feel Good" by James Brown to punctuate that moment and I heard many at the tables singing along as they cheered and welcomed the happy couple to their reception. They made their way directly to the dance floor and without further ado I introduced their First Dance, Hunter Hayes' "Wanted" to a happy bunch of family and friends who watched them dance their dance filled with love and happiness for one another. :)
High-fives from the bridal party after their entrance & dance!
Soon the buffet line from Capriotti's opened up and hungry bridal party members and guests alike were piling their plates with a delicious dinner. There were several types of delicious sandwiches, a meatball station, and lots of fixings and salads. After a while, as people began to push their plates aside and the toasting began. Michelle, the Maid of Honor led off with a great toast and then most of the bridal party then followed with their heartfelt thoughts along with some family members. Christian & Katie then thanked everyone for coming and Katie joined her dad Ed on the dance floor for the Father/Daughter Dance, Tim McGraw's "My Little Girl." Halfway through I invited the other fathers and daughters in the audience up to share the moment with Katie & Ed. This is always a huge hit as dads and their girls get a moment they will remember forever thanks to Katie & Christian's thoughtfulness. When "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts started up, Christian and their moms Sheree and Cindy joined Katie in a Father/Daughter-Mother/Daughter dance. Soon lots of moms and dads with their children accompanied the original four up on the floor and again some more indelible moments were created.

Father-Daughter & Mother-Son dances
The rest of the evening went so beautifully. The temperature was perfect, the dance floor was busy, and all the guests were in such a great mood that we were all surprised when it was time to bid Katie & Christian goodbye. It all went by too quickly! As I played Donna Summer's "Last Dance", the newlyweds had one more twirl on the dance floor as everyone else went out to the drive and lit sparklers for their Grand Exit. They jumped in the back of a classic pickup truck and slowly left the Chism House through a cordon of happy, sparkling guests. Such a perfect send off for such a perfect day and evening!
Last Dance!

Thanks so much to Amber & Sherae at the Chism House for all their wonderful help and exuberance! Thanks to Paige for such a great job coordinating everything. Thanks to Dawn Pidlypchak from South Reno United Methodist Church for such an inspiring and fun ceremony. Thanks to Capriotti's for a delicious and quick buffet line. But most of all, thanks to Christian & Katie for sharing their day with me. May your lives be filled with happiness you two!