Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kyle & Marika at the Rancho San Rafael Ranch House with Opa Cafe, Delicious Designs, and Petal to the Metal

I love ethnic weddings. That affection may come from the Italian ones I attended as a child but I really think that it is the fact that celebrating your family background can be a profound part of the wedding experience and really make your wedding unique. Your family gets to celebrate their heritage and your guests get to experience what may be to them new traditions, music, and food. I have had the privilege of being the DJ at many different ethnic weddings over the years- this summer's batch included Guatemalan, Danish, Bosnian, Native American, German, and the one I have chosen to blog about today, Greek.

Kyle and Marika are a fun, energetic young couple that wanted to have a fun and memorable wedding and reception that both told a story of who they are and also paid tribute to Marika's Greek heritage. I met with them several times prior to the big day and their planning and excitement was infectious. I always look forward to every event I am privileged to be a part of, but it was even a little more so with them.

They chose the Ranch House at Rancho San Rafael Park for their ceremony and reception. It is a beautiful spot filled with nooks and corners inside, an intimate lawn & grove outside for ceremonies, and a central open courtyard that is perfect for tables and the reception events. I arrived early on that Sunday afternoon to find Kyle, Marika's brother Taso and many others sprucing up the Ranch House with decorations, lots of color, and photos attached to lines crossing the courtyard, which I thought unique and fun. I loved the bridesmaid dresses too: all different dresses in different shades of purple with cowboy boots. The fantastic flowers and bouquets from Petal to the Metal really tied everything together, and when Kyle wore his straw cowboy hat it put an exclamation point on their vibe and style- very country chic!

The ceremony was held on the back lawn and reflected their personalities: bright and fun. The parents and bridal party entered to a favorite of mine, Alison Kraus's cover of the Beatles "I Will", which set the tone perfectly as we all awaited Marika's walk down the aisle. She emerged to the traditional "Bridal Chorus" with her mom and dad, and the joy on Kyle's face on seeing her was noticed even by me, way in the back working on the tunes. A simple ceremony followed and then they retraced their steps, this time as husband & wife to the traditional "Wedding March."  I really loved the fact that they included their dogs in the ceremony as well.  Again, a super-fun couple!

Tradition was the word of the day as the guests entered the Ranch House finding Greek delicacies from Opa Cafe awaiting them inside. Opa Cafe did a tremendous job the entire event with both staffing and the appetizers and the buffet.  I love Greek food and found their tzatziki sauce especially addictive, but for me the star of the evening food-wise was the moussaka- so light and delicate and flavorful! Yum! Everything was delicious as well and most of the guests wandered back inside to the buffet line for seconds and thirds.

When pictures were done, I introduced everyone during the Grand Entrance. First, to the strains of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" came the parents Mike & Janet and Steve & Judy. Then came the 2 ring bearers and flower girl accompanied by Pharell's "Happy." then the extensive bridal party entered to EMF's "Unbelievable", followed at last by Stevie singing "Signed Sealed Delivered" as we welcomed Kyle and Marika to their reception. Champagne toasts were then made and we opened up the buffet line.
After dinner, a very fine Greek tradition began: Ouzo toasts. If you haven't had Ouzo, it is a clear liqueur distilled with anise seeds that give it a black licorice taste. Unlike sambuca it isn't sweet but crisp and and fragrant, and it will keep you warm around a campfire on a cold winter's night (believe me, I know). It was fun seeing dozens of shot glasses filled with the Aegean nectar and everyone partaking in the traditional "Opa" toast as they wished the bride & groom happiness. Now I never drink when I DJ.  Not only is it unprofessional to be drinking a beer as you introduce the first dance etc, it also obviously effects your performance when weaving songs together. Some do drink- maybe it works for them, but I don't as a rule.  Well rules are meant to be broken, especially when the father of the bride and the father of the groom bring me up a shot and insist that I partake with them in honor of Marika & Kyle. So I did one, and only one Ouzo shot. Hard to say no to Steve & Mike  :)

Next Marika & Kyle cut their cake and it and the accompanying cupcakes were extraordinary. Leigh Anne from Delicious Designs is my absolute favorite baker and this is why: not only were the cake and cupcakes beautiful, they tasted even better than they looked, and Leigh Anne always goes the extra mile to please. Not only were several normal flavor combinations, there were special cupcakes made for vegans and people who needed a gluten/dairy-free alternative. Here were the flavors:

Champagne cake with peach filling & vanilla buttercream icing
Champagne cake with blueberry filling & vanilla buttercream icing
Champagne cake with strawberry filling & vanilla buttercream icing
Vegan Chocolate cake with fresh strawberries & chocolate ganache
Red Velvet cake with cream cheese icing
Gluten & dairy-free Red Velvet cake with dairy-free vanilla buttercream

Wow, huh?  I never have cake/cupcakes at weddings unless it is by Delicious Designs.  I had a Champagne/strawberry one and it was fabultastic.  And if that isn't enough, she made a special surprise for Marika & Kyle- actually for their dogs: peanut butter cupcakes that were dog friendly (I did not know that some ingredients in baked goods aren't good for our canine friends). Above and beyond!
"Rock me mama like a wagon wheel"
"Rock me mama any way you feel"
"Hey mama, rock me..."
After the cake was cut and cupcakes devoured, it was time for the First Dance. Marika & Kyle chose "Wagon Wheel" but couldn't decide whether they liked the original by Old Crow Medicine Show or the later version by Darius Rucker best.  The solution?  Play both!  I started with OCMS and mixed it flawlessly to Rucker's rendition, got a few people nodding their heads, and watched as Kyle & Marika spun around the floor.  I love my job! 
Father-Daughter/Mother-Son Dance
More special dances rounded out the evening. A combined Father/Daughter-Mother/Son Dance with Bobby Helm's "Special Angel" got everyone going when Marika & Steve and Kyle & Janet invited everyone up to join them on the dance floor.  An Anniversary Dance featuring Nat King Cole's "LOVE" was a hit along with lots of other requests. It was a fun dance floor, but that fun was taken to an even higher level when Steve and Judy led everyone in some traditional Greek serto and syrtaki dances.  Very, very fun!

When it came time to toss the bouquet and garter, Marika chose "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons for her toss, and Kyle chose "Can't Touch This" by Hammer for his. We just segued into another serto or syrtaki and I am sure even more Ouzo was consumed- I have never seen so many Ouzo bottles at one time before :)

When all was said and done, I had an absolute blast. As the evening wound down and as friends and family pitched in to gather gifts, put away food, and tidy up the Ranch House I noticed Steve & Judy, Marika's folks busy doing umpteen things as I was beginning to break down my equipment.  I thought they might want a moment to themselves so I played their song "Through the Years" and they stopped their hustle and bustle for a moment and danced together like they were the only ones in the universe. A fantastic ending to a fantastic day. Again, I love my job.
Judy and Steve having a last dance :)
Thanks to Rancho San Rafael Park for allowing us use of the Ranch House. I think it is my 7th or 8th time there and every event has been memorable and fun.  Thanks to Petal to the Metal for their inspired arrangements and bouquets which really fit the couple and their vibe. Thanks to Opa Cafe for their hard work and superlative food. Thanks to the always amazing Delicious Designs for their one-of-a-kind cake and cupcakes. Most of all, thanks to Kyle and Marika.  You and your family and friends made me feel more like a guest than a hired hand and I was honored to be a small part of your special day and evening. Best of everything you two!