Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stephen & Juliette at Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn with Bijoux Events, Camelot Party Rentals & La Tavola Fine Linens

If you have read previous blog posts of mine, you know that I absolutely love what I do, where I get to do it, and above all, whom I get to do it for.  Every wedding seems to be the best one yet- I thrive on all that enthusiasm and excitement, and my phenomenal brides and grooms just shine on their day. Such was the case this past weekend up at Squaw Valley with Stephen and Juliette.

When I met with Stephen & Juliette I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of their wedding. They are fun, easy to get to know, and the love that they have for one another is always apparent, even in a conversation with their DJ. It is an easy fluidity with which they speak, always mindful of the other,-that loving glow of happiness tangibly there. They were funny, full of life, and had some definite ideas on how they wanted their day and evening to look, feel, and sound. I am 100% all about that. I love to tweak the music, events, and the general vibe to match that vision that they have in their minds, hopefully surpassing their expectations. You don't want your wedding and reception to be ordinary- you want it to be the one that others want to emulate, and this one was extraordinary.

First off, they chose Plumpjack as their venue. Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn is a special place near the tramway at the edge of the Village up in Squaw Valley. It is its own complete venue and the general Squaw Valley visitors, even numbering in the thousands as they did that day (it was Squaw Valley's Earth Day celebration) seem miles away. There is a outdoor creekside spot for ceremonies, an intimate pool area with outdoor bar, grill and lights strung between trees and cool granite stones for cocktails, and two stories of available reception space. The food is always delicious, the servers friendly and efficient, and all my parties there have rocked the upstairs dance floor to the point that I am thankful I don't run turntables and vinyl anymore :)  Spectacular venue, and it was a beautiful April day that seemed more like a day in June or July.

To further differentiate & accentuate their day, there were countless decor and style touches put in place by Jessica from Bijoux Events out of Santa Barbara. Jessica, who is also Juliette's big sister, really went above and beyond in so many ways. There were fantastic chairs from Camelot Party Rentals and spectacular coverings from La Tavola Fine Linen. There were flowers everywhere & lots of chalkboard signs around the property to guide guests to the various events. There was a very unique setup upstairs for both dinner and dancing. So many small touches that just multiplied the special feeling of the evening. And her organizational skills were top-notch. Her communication with Bonnie and the rest of the Plumpjack staff left nothing to chance, and she was always ahead of the events, making sure that the next one was already coordinated and set to go off perfectly. She was a true professional to work with and made my job so much easier. Yet she was also able to enjoy the wedding & reception as a member of the bridal party and sister to the bride. And late that night, when I was finally packed up and leaving, there was Jessica taking care of umpteen details of cleanup and takedown. Fantastic job Jessica!

The ceremony was in that outdoor spot that seems to have the mountains surrounding it in all directions and a brook busily babbling beside it. I played "First Breath After a Coma" by Explosions in the Sky for the bridal party entrance and then the Piano Guys' version of "1000 Years" for Juliette's walk down the aisle. Officiating was PJ, Jessica's husband, and his friendly voice almost cracked a few times as he presided over his sister-in-law's nuptials. It was his first time doing a wedding, but it did not show. He did a great job and it added yet another personal touch to the day.  Stephen & Juliette read vows to one another that had everyone smiling & sniffling a bit, and then they were kissing and being pronounced husband & wife. Juliette had me keep the recessional song a secret from Stephen, and when it played it seemed to perfectly punctuate the moment: Taylor Swift's "Love Story".
DJ in training :)
I had set up a small system for cocktails and soon everyone was enjoying drinks and appetizers around the pool. Juliette & Stephen had some specific artists in mind for the mood they were trying to achieve, and I got many compliments about their choices and my expanding on that vibe. The newlyweds only took about 30-40 minutes for the after ceremony pictures, so they were able to enjoy the cocktail reception as well. I couldn't resist though... Stephen is an IRS agent so I had to play "Taxman" by the Beatles which got a lot of smiles and people singing along. Very fun!
First Dance!
Soon we all were headed upstairs for dinner and the rest of the reception. When everyone was seated, I introduced Juliette & Stephen and they danced their first dance to "Drunk on You" by Luke Bryan. When they had finished and the cheering had subsided, I handed the mic to Juliette's dad Tom and played a couple of curious requests- first an EFX track featuring cows mooing and cowboys calling. Then I mixed in a snippet of the William Tell Overture (the theme from the Lone Ranger) and that surprised and got a big smile from Tom. He then proceeded to tell the guests in his welcome speech that the song has a special meaning to his family at their summer secret camping spot. Another fantastic way that a moment was made even more unique and poignant.

Dinner was a buffet and was delicious- Plumpjack always does such a great job. Soon Bonnie and her team were bringing champagne around to the tables for the toasts which were lead off by Stephen's dad Mike, followed by his brothers Danny & Brian and ended by our coordinator/MoH Jessica. Tom had kept the next song, "Sunrise/Sunset" a secret from his daughter, and everyone loved their father daughter dance. Next Nina, Stephen's mom, came up and took the mic for a moment. She wanted everyone to know that the Mother/Son song she had picked out was perfect except for one thing- the word "friend". She said the song said everything she wanted to relay to Stephen, but she wanted everyone to replace "friend" with "Mom" when they sang along.  So I started up their song, "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne Warwick and everyone sang along, emphasizing "Mom" every time. Just another magical moment amongst many. Did I tell you I love what I do?

Dancing started up with "Bang! Bang!" which Stephen & Juliette knew would get everyone up in a hurry. It then continued non-stop the rest of the evening. It was an enthusiastic crowd and every song seemed to get them more fired up. Juliette & Stephen had picked a few songs but most of the rest of the evening I was inundated by great requests and was able to craft some very fun mixes. I liked the fact the the newlyweds had specific "no plays"- after all, it is their day and they should be able to hear  what they love or not hear what they don't. They did not want any organized or line dances such as Cupid Shuffle, YMCA, Cotton-Eye Joe etc. For some DJs this can be a problem. Many DJs have sets they rely one no matter the crowd, and those songs tend to get people up onto the floor. They are fun, but kind of cliche so many brides & grooms are nixing them for their reception. I personally like the challenge of not using those songs to fuel dance floor participation. It makes my choices and mixing much more important and the mix becomes a living, breathing, dancing entity that everyone responds to. Matter of fact I did not have one request for a song on their "no play" list. To me, that means I was hitting on all cylinders :)

An Anniversary Dance highlighted the first slow break- I was cool that there were multiple couples still up after I reached 40 years. Just a great feeling and inspiration to Stephen & Juliette and to all of us. I also loved the fact that right afterwards I played a request for "Moon River" by Andy Williams and the dance floor remained packed- even the younger couples were feeling the vibe. After a great oldies set, Brian and Danny, Stephen's brothers, led everyone singing a Sto-Lat, a traditional Polish song celebrating happy moments. It apparently means 100 years of happiness, and though I am part Polish I hadn't seen this before. Very cool moment!

The rest of the evening was spent on the dance floor playing everything from the Gap Band to Bruno Mars; from Sweet Caroline to Gold Digger; and from Sam Smith to Garth Brooks. I loved that Juliette & Stephen had sneakily found out some of their family's and friends' favorite songs and had me dedicate and play them. Jason Mraz serenaded Brian & Shawn. Linda (Juliette's mom) rocked to Bob Seger with Tom, and our officiant/coordinator duo PJ & Jessica had a moment of their own amidst all that they had helped bring together that day with a little Coldplay.  When at last the clock conspired against us, I played a last song request of Juliette, "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers. Everyone went crazy though when I mixed in and reprised "Love Story" right at the end. Stephen & Juliette had one more perfect moment in a day & evening full of perfect moments.
If I was a better photog, this pic would be spectacular- even so it is my fav :)
Thanks to Plumpjack for everything. Thanks x 1000 to Jessica at Bijoux Events for all of her hard work and artistry- a true labor of love. Thanks to PJ for a fantastic ceremony. Finally, thanks to Stephen & Juliette for allowing me to be a part of your amazing day and evening. So much fun! Congrats you two!
Last song... "Baby just say Yes"

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