Monday, June 8, 2015

Celena & Anton at The Hyatt Regency Incline Village with Belinda Grant Photography and Blake's Floral Design

We are blessed in the Reno/Tahoe area with beautiful natural surroundings, first-class hotels and dining, and top-notch venues that really attract destination weddings. Many couples spend time together skiing nearby or enjoying Lake Tahoe and want to share these surroundings with their guests. Some grew up here and still have family and friends and have no hesitation when planning to pick one of our amazing venues for their special day. This really is telling when you hear where these couples are from or live now. We sometimes take the area for granted, but when these couples choose the Lake, the Valleys or the Sierras I am so honored to be chosen to be a part of their celebrations.

One such couple is Anton and Celena. Anton's folks live in the area but he is a lawyer who met and fell in love with another lawyer, Celena, working in NYC. They now live in Brooklyn and both work as public defenders or for the state, dedicating their talents to the noble cause of a court system that represents all people equally and fairly. I was impressed with the two of them from the get go when we first met. Extremely bright, deeply in love, and conscious of the legacy they are creating, both in the public arena and in the life and family they were joining together. I immediately wanted to be a part of their special afternoon & evening.

They were planning the whole thing very quickly and though our initial visit was brief, I was honored to be chosen to be a part of their vendor team. Throughout the rest of the time between then and the big day we stayed in touch though phone calls, through Skype, and through quick emails & texts. We were able to formulate a plan for the music and events and last Sunday it all came together up on the shores of Lake Tahoe in beautiful Incline Village.
The Hyatt's Kendra straightening Celena's dress just before she walked down the aisle
They picked the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort on the beach at Incline Village. I like the Hyatt because it is truly a one-stop resort with cabins, hotel rooms, a casino, and most importantly gorgeous areas on the Lake to be married and celebrate in. The ceremony was held in the beautiful Lakeside Cottage Green- a stunning meadow within the Lakeside Cottages that looks right down the entire Lake. I was appreciative of the Hyatt staff, especially Kendra the coordinator and Guillermo one of the helpful workers who made my job easy while setting up and while later moving. I played some classical and string quartet selections as guests began arriving for the nuptials.
Beautiful setting for the ceremony!
When everyone was ready, Derrick, our officiant and Anton stepped up and awaited the bridal party. I played "All You Need Is Love" while the BP walked down the aisle and then a string version of "Can't Help Falling in Love" for Celena's entrance. The ceremony was really well done by Derrick (I believe it was his first one) and included a couple of readings that spoke well of the commitment and love that Celena and Anton share. When all was said and done, they kissed and were pronounced husband and wife and they made their way back up the aisle to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by the Funk Brothers. Pictures and cocktails then ensued with me being able to play lots of Motown and classic rock & roll that they had picked for their guests.
Beautiful bridesmaids & flowers :)
I have to say that not only were the bride & bridesmaids glowingly pretty, but the flowers and bouquets by Sharon Buckley at Blake's Floral Design were amazing! I took a pic of the bridesmaids because I thought the dresses with the bouquets were spectacular, and I don't usually notice these things! 

Speaking of pictures, one of my favorite photographers, Belinda Grant of Belinda Grant Photography was snapping pictures all throughout the afternoon and evening. She and her crew were constantly at work posing shots, getting candid images and running a photo booth at the reception. Belinda is so talented and innovative- the shots she frames are unlike anything anyone else does- she is always looking for unique angles and perspectives while being so personable and fun. There are many photographers with talent and experience. There are many that are super friendly to be around and work with- that connect with the bride & groom on a personal level. Most photographers have a good deal of one but are missing the other. Belinda is one that achieves all of these characteristics and at a high level. I am always happy to see her at a wedding because the professionalism and just the pure fun factor goes up a bunch of notches :)
First Dance!
I was kind of sorry to leave the Cottage Green- the guests were swaying to the music and enjoying the fantastic weather and views but dinner was about ready so we went inside to the Lakeside Ballroom where the views and party continued. Soon James Brown was doing double duty in the background as I introduced the bridal party to "Get Up Offa That Thing" and then Anton & Celena to "I Feel Good". They then went into their first dance, "All of Me" by John Legend and after that Anton's parents Dimo & Dora welcomed everyone to the reception.

The distances and diverse places the guests came from was really inspiring. Anton's family comes from Bulgaria and Celena's family is Puerto Rican and Irish. Add a bunch of guests from both coasts and lots of places in between, family from Bulgaria, and a Jamaican bridesmaid and you have an outstanding and fun group of people that gathered from all over to celebrate with Celina & Anton. Nothing can beat that.
Dora & Anton
Anton then danced with his mom Dora to Lennon's "Beautiful Boy", an inspired choice. The first of three courses then was served and dinner was on. As the final course was being finished the toasting was started, and three exceptional toasts really set the tone. Omar, the best man, talked about friendship, college and law school and about Anton's character & humanity- what a great way to start off! Keisha, a fellow lawyer and colleague of Celena gave a poignant speech about what a force Celena is, how she does her job so well yet still exemplifies motherhood and family. Finally, and I may have this out of order, Celena's sister and MoH Caitlin spoke. She really hit a home run, and considering her fellow toasters' oratory skills, she even outshone them. Just totally from the heart, talking about the importance of family to Celena. Such great toasts!

The bouquet was thrown with the Weather Girls providing the vibe while the garter was removed to "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and then caught to "All I Do is Win". Very fun!
Bulgarian Horo dance
We started open dancing right after that, and the crowd was fun and involved the rest of the evening. There were many special moments in this special night- I was able to welcome Anton's aunt and uncle to the United States in Bulgarian (with a little help from Dimo!) and then we played a horo, a traditional Bulgarian folk dance. It reminded me of Greek horos, but while the Greek songs start slow and gradually get faster, this horo started fast and never let up! 

Another phenomenal moment was when Anton surprised Celena by singing "Wonderful Tonight" to her. She had expected the song but not him singing it to her :)

I was also able to get an East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry going through their suggestions of Biggie vs. 2Pac- very fun! I ended playing a little of everything- from Funk to Reggaeton; Hip Hop to Dancehall; Electronic to the 60's. We ended a great dancing night with Beyonce and then Nina Simone's "Feeling Good", and we all were.

Thanks to everyone at the Hyatt Regency!  Thanks to Sharon from Blake's Floral Design for your fabulous flower artistry! Thanks to Belinda and Leanne from Belinda Grant Photography- always amazing working with you! 

Finally, thanks to Celena & Anton. I love your dedication to one another and to your friends & families- that happiness that emanates from your two is so contagious! Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your special day a& evening.  Nazdrave!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Matt & Maddie at the Tannenbaum with Delicious Designs, Ciprian Photography & Fig Tree Catering

One of the benefits of being a wedding professional is that you meet, get to know, get to laugh with, and ultimately be a part of a fantastic couple's most important day of their lives. I can't tell you how much it means to me to do this. Every couple I have the chance to work with is unique and their love burns brightly, but I think Maddie & Matt are one of my favorite couples ever. Let me tell you why... 

Matt is a member of the Army- one of those professionals that leave on a moment's notice and put themselves in harms way so that we are all safe & sound back here in the States. He has deployed numerous times and that means that it takes a woman with special patience and love to deal with those separations. That woman is Maddie. They are perfect for one another. He is dark & handsome, with a quick wit and kindness that exudes from everything he does. She is blonde, gorgeous, smart and has a teasing gleam in her eye that keeps Matt on his toes. To hear them banter with each other is like watching a prize fight- witticism after witticism all balanced with a love for one another that is almost visible. I am certain if I could see just a little bit into another spectrum, I'd see their love burning brightly- probably brighter than most. When we first met, I knew immediately that they were deeply in love and I was honored to be chosen to be a part of, and have looked forward to, their big day ever since.

They chose Tannenbaum to be the site of their fantastic day and evening. I have done many events there and I am always pleased with it as a venue- beautiful grounds and trees, lots of room inside and out, and flexibility to choose your own vendors and decor. Kiley & Sasha were the Tannenbaum coordinators for Matt & Maddies' event and they did a great job throughout, helping out in innumerable ways. Just great people.

Their choices for their wedding professionals were inspired as well. I was setting up and saw Leigh Anne from Delicious Designs arrive. My favorite wedding vendor! If you don't know Leigh Anne, you should get to know her! A more enthusiastic and talented baker I have yet to encounter. Leigh Anne's cakes, cupcakes, and cookies are delicious and her decorating is amazing. She loves what she does and it shows. Here is what she made for Matt & Maddie:

Champagne cake with lemon curd & raspberry filling.
Pistachio cupcakes with pistachio buttercream frosting.
Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache.
Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting topped with vanilla bean sea salt.
Guinness stout spiced cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting.
Phenomenally decorated butter cookies.
(plus lots of Oreos and M&Ms that she didn't make but displayed with her goodies).

Compared to the picture I took of the desserts, there was very little left at the end of the night :)

Taking pictures all throughout the event was Ciprian from Ciprian Photography. I have had the pleasure of working with him on several occasions and he is a consummate professional- easy to work with and continually snapping shots.  I would have to say he is one of the top photographers in the area both for his ability, professionalism, and his finished work. Again Maddie & Matt hit a home run.

Their choice of caterer and the food served was inspired as well. Fig Tree Catering did the appetizers and dinner, and it was an eclectic mix of M&M's favorite foods. There were shots of soup, gourmet mac & cheese, hand-dipped corn dogs and a sandwich station with carved pork loin and beef with 5 or 6 sauces. All of these were at different stations- not a typical buffet setup. I was amazed how efficiently everyone was served, and how much everyone enjoyed the atypical fare. It another unique aspect to Matt & Maddie's day and yet again another hit with everyone- including the DJ who had to go back for a second corn dog :)

Maddie & Matt did a "first look" and while I am sure Ciprian got much better pictures, I took a few with my cheap camera from up on the deck. Pretty magical. More and more people began to arrive and after a bit the Bridal Party was entering to a piano version of One Republic's "Feel Again". Maddie and her dad Bob then came down the aisle to "Jubel" by Klingand and soon Tom was officiating their union. Right after Maddie arrived however, Matt grabbed a mic that I had secreted nearby and welcomed and thanked everyone for coming. A nice touch to a beautiful ceremony. When all was done, Maddie & Matt exited to the American Author's song, "Best Day of My Life" which was very fitting.
Dee & friends dancing to Madonna on the deck :)
Pictures then ensued. I stayed outside on the deck playing from a list of cocktail music they had selected. When they moved over to the old chimney for more pix, I happened to play a Madonna song off their list and the girls started singing and dancing as they posed. Maddie's mom Dee then appeared on the deck beside me with several of her girlfriends dancing along to the song. Dee told me that she loved Madonna and when Maddie was small they sang and danced to all of her songs together. Dee said the first word that Maddie wrote was "Madonna" so it is in her genes. I played a Material Girl mix from that moment onward until those pics were finished. Very fun!

We then moved inside and I introduced the Bridal Party to Bruno Mar's "Uptown Funk" and they all danced as they came in. When I announced the bride & groom I played more of "Jubel"- a song that really resonated with M&M. That is what it is all about- making the event match the bride & groom. Fig Tree then had the stations for dinner manned and ready and everyone began to enjoy the food. Toasts followed dinner, then cake cutting (with Joe Cocker's "Feelin Alright" punctuating the moment). Then it was time to dance :)

Maddie & Matt danced their first dance (although they cheated a bit and danced to "Jubel as they entered for their entrance beforehand) to Billie Holiday's "Come Rain or Come Shine"- just an amazing moment for them and for all of us watching. 
Ciprian at work

Bob then came up to dance with his daughter. We had all met and planned the week prior to play another song for his dance with Maddie, but when he left the room Maddie then told me instead to play "White Bird" by It's a Beautiful Day. It is his favorite song, and a week later he was so happily surprised when it began to play that he hugged Maddie even tighter. Just a great moment- it makes my eyes glisten just thinking about it. Another case of Maddie & Matt choosing things to make their reception that much more personal and special.

Matt and his mom Kathy then danced to Cole Porter's "Night & Day" sung by Frank Sinatra. It was a perfect lead into their Money Dance which went about 4 songs and then we were all dancing starting with "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon. The dancing was great- M&M had picked some great music and I filled in the sets with songs I knew would kick butt and had some great requests from the audience.

Etta James slowed us down for the Anniversary Dance followed by the tosses. The girls danced to Meghan Trainor's "Dear Future Husband" as they fought for the bouquet and then the guys gathered around Matt as he removed the garter from Maddie to "Shakin" by Eddie Money. The theme from MNF then punctuated the toss.

I loved every minute of the day and evening. Matt & Maddie's family and friends were almost as fun as M&M themselves and the fun energy never let down. There were many special moments but one of my favorites was when the last couple standing for the Anniversary Dance turned out to be Danny & Shondell. Danny had come up to me earlier and asked if I had "Love Me Tender" by Elvis. He asked if I could dedicate it to his lovely wife Shondell sometime during the evening. It was their wedding song. Absolutely! I told him. Nothing like celebrating 53 years of wedded bliss! So when they were the last couple up I announced how long they had been married and that Danny dedicated the next song to Shondell. When it started up she immediately had a tear and they danced to much cheering and applause like they were teenagers again. So special. Yet special was routine at Matt & Maddie's wedding and reception.

So thankful to be able to work with Sasha & Kiley at the beautiful Tannenbaum- such an extraordinary venue! Leigh Anne from Delicious Designs- your creations were delicious and gobbled up by everyone- you rock! Working with Ciprian from Ciprian Photography is always a pleasure. A true professional. And Fig Tree Catering- you really helped Matt & Maddie make the food delicious and fun, thanks for all your creativity and hard work!

Finally thanks to Matt & Maddie, Bob & Dee, and all the family and guests that welcomed me and made me feel more like a guest than a hired hand. Matt- thanks for your service- we all owe you so much- much more than your humble nature will admit. Maddie, thanks for being such a fun bride! Your smile was infectious and your enthusiastic presence on the dance floor made me strive to give 200%.  Best of everything, always you two!

Viel spaB in Deutschland!