Normally my blogs are on the great weddings that I’ve had the absolute honor and privilege of entertaining at, but in this case, I’ve decided to expand a little further onto the spectrum of celebrations, to a 25th wedding anniversary. On Saturday, April 27th, I was able to help Jamie Okozko surprise her parents, Joanne and Lester, at the Galloping Hill Caterer’s Club, in Union. I had previously entertained at their friend’s 25th wedding anniversary back in September, and was looking forward to matching the high level of success from that party. I thought this would be a tall order, but because of the wide range of music requested, I catered to the “Different Strokes for Different Folks”, and this group was absolutely amazing. Jamie originally gave me a list of Top 40, Classic Rock, Oldies and Country. I was instructed to play country during dinner, and stick to the rest of the playlist the rest of the night. Let me say, Jamie knew what she was talking about when she said this. People were clapping to the beat as they rocked out to songs like “Toes” and “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band as they enjoyed their meal. But once dinner was done, we got the party rolling hitting Classic Rock and Top 40 songs like “Shook Me All Night Long” by ACDC and “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. After a short break in the action, the Swing and Lindy crowd made there presence known with classic hits like “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller Band. Not to be outdone, the Motown fans wanted some of the classics, like “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “We are Family” by Sister Sledge. I can go on and on with various requests that ran the musical gamut from hip hop, to big band and electronic dance music, but words truly cannot do the guests at this party justice. Everyone walked away satisfied and with a smile on their faces, and it was my pleasure to oblige. Behind all of this was the love shown between these two people who have found 25 years of marriage, and will undoubtedly find another 25 just as wonderful! Congratulations to Lester and Joanne Okozko!
I worked Kim and Scotts wedding at McLoone’s Pier House in Long Branch and Mike Walter, my “boss”, worked there the next day. The Thursday before he told me to keep the place standing so I did the best I could. We had such a blast partying with Kim and Scott. There is nothing better than working a wedding when it’s your referral because everybody knows what to expect… a slammin party from me (haha). Everyone danced from start to finish. Instead of the traditional sit down dinner, Kim and Scott wanted McLoone’s to set up cocktail stations around the room to keep open all night. This way people can eat when they want and dance when they want. No sitting down. We kept it upbeat most of the time with only a couple slow songs. The music Kim and Scott wanted was great. They loved the 80′s sing a long stuff and wanted a ton of old school club and hip hop. A bunch of people came up to us at the end of the night to grab business cards from us, so I hope to party with this group again soon. So, Mike Walter, I think I kept the place standing for ya.
Small group in a big room. We were in the big room (Janine’s room) at the Crystal Point in Point Pleasant. As always the wedding was perfect with Jeanine running the show and the staff doing an amazing job. It was a smaller wedding with a huge dance floor which sometimes can be a challenge, but not with this group. Jessica and Tristan’s guests were ready to party. Right from the start, before the party began, only the wedding party were hanging out in the room. We did a sound check and my assistant Rob Habermann played a TLC song. Next thing you know, the members of the wedding party were dancing around and acting wild. That is always a great sign of a good party. That’s exactly what happened. The dance floor was packed all night with a huge mix of music. If there is one thing I know from doing this so many years is that if you have a Bride and Groom, along with their wedding party, dancing all night, all the guests will join in on the fun.
At one point in the middle of Jason and Lauren‘s wedding, when the dance floor was jam packed and the energy in the room just couldn’t get any higher, I said on the microphone, “I love theater people!” The guests erupted in applause and when I made eye contact with Lauren she smiled from ear to ear. This was a truly unbelievable celebration.
When I met with Jason and Lauren they had shared with me their love of theater. They are both involved in community productions and they also have a passion for all things theatrical, both live performances and movies. In fact they asked me if I could do a mix for their cocktail hour of all Movie Themes and I happily obliged (’cause that’s how I roll). And as the saying goes “Birds of a feather flock together,” so it only made sense that so many of their guests were “theater people” too. So when I blurted out “I love theater people” it was based simply on the fact that, in my experience, actors and people involved in the arts tend to cut loose more easily. They are more apt to dance and enjoy themselves, especially early in the night. Jason and Lauren’s family and friends were a perfect example of this.
One of the unique things that Jason and Lauren wanted to do was change the order of events in the beginning of the reception. After cocktail hour the “template” says to do bridal party introductions, followed by first dance, parents dances and then the toasts. This is the format we use at probably about 90% of our weddings. Jason and Lauren wanted things a little different. They asked if I could get all their guests around the dance floor before I introduced them. Then, instead of going into their first dance could I play Hava Nagilah and lead their family and friends in The Hora? Once again, I happily obliged (’cause as I mentioned, that’s how I roll).
This was actually an awesome way to start the celebration for Jason and Lauren. I think it set the tone for what would be a great dance party. It let the guests know right out of the gate that this was a festive occasion.
Jason and Lauren gave me very few requests and no restrictions (ie. there wasn’t anything they didn’t want to hear). As a wedding DJ it’s rare to get this much free rein over the programming and to be honest it put a little added pressure on me. After all, if I couldn’t get people up I had no one to blame but myself. Thankfully, that was never a problem. From the opening Hora through the last dance, whenever there wasn’t food being served Lauren and Jason had a full dance floor. A lot of that success can attributed to our newlyweds. Lauren and Jason were on the dance floor almost the entire night. And in my experience, having a bride and groom out on the dance floor is a sure fire way to get a lot of people up.
Besides the packed dance floor this was a fun evening for me because I got to work with a lot of cool people. The wedding was held at Doolan’s in Spring Lake and Bob was the Maitre d’. Bob and I go back to his days at The Old Mill Inn and it’s always fun to work with him. Lauren and Jason had also put their full faith in the Elite family. Besides booking me for the entertainment, they booked our photography company, Elite Digital Images, our video company, Elite Video Productions and they added on our uplighting and photo booth. They were even nice enough to pose for a picture with the “Elite Crew”.
My thanks to Carrie from Elite Digital Images for providing me with these great shots:
As I said this was truly an unbelievable celebration. My congratulations to Jason and Lauren. Here’s wishing you a lifetime of health and happiness. Mazel Tov!
When I first sat down with Victoria and Tom to discuss details for their wedding (way back in October of 2012) I was immediately excited to DJ their wedding. This is a couple that loves dance music, and especially some of the great disco songs that came out of the 70s and early 80s. And not just the popular ones but some really great but obscure songs like Arpeggio’s “Love and Desire” , “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” by Gonzalez and The Trammps “That’s Where All The Happy People Go.”
Unfortunately for Vicky and Tom, their original wedding date had to be postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. When Vicky called me with some dates that worked for their banquet hall (The Molly Pitcher in Red Bank) I told her we could definitely accommodate any date because even if I wasn’t personally available one of my other DJs could do it. But even as I said those words I was thinking, “I WANT TO DJ THIS EVENT!” So I was very relieved when they picked a Saturday in February where I was available.
The delayed wedding gave us a chance to have some fun with their introductions. Vicky and Tom had originally selected Barry White’ “First Last and Everything” to be introduced to but with the new date they changed it to Ce Ce Peniston’s “Finally.” Before I introduced them for the first time as husband and wife I added said, “After a delay cause by Hurricane Sandy I can finally introduce to you…”
When I have a music list like Vicky and Tom’s I get a little anxious hoping that their guests respond to their songs. I could tell by the attention to detail this couple had put into selecting the songs that they really love their music. And they love to dance. So as I prepped my music list and made some edits in advance of their wedding, I was secretly praying that their guests shared their passion. I’m happy to say that everyone did. From the first dance song of the night through to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” (what else would you end a Disco-heavy night with?) the dance floor was jammed all night. And nothing brings this DJ more joy than seeing a packed dance floor and knowing that my mixing and programming has something to do with it.
Besides getting the chance to play some awesome songs that I don’t often have the opportunity to spin, I loved Vicky and Tom’s wedding because of the people I worked with. The Maitre d at The Molly Pitcher was a man named Cristian who I have worked with for many years (either at The Molly Pitcher or the Oyster Point). Cristian is one of those uber-cool Maitre d’s who is great to work with. He just makes everyone feel comfortable and at ease. I also worked with a photographer named Anthony from Innovative Productions who was fun and easy to get along with. Plus the Elite crew on site consisted of myself, my music mixer David Friedman and both Chris and Tom Monaco who were running the add-ons (Up-lighting and plasma TV). Nothing ratchets up the pressure more than beat mixing with a Monaco in the room but I’m happy to say I rose to the occasion.
Vicky and Tom headed to Aruba this morning on their honeymoon but before they did Vicky sent me this text message:
Nothing in my professional life, and I do mean nothing, compares with the feeling I get when I receive feedback like this from a bride and groom. With my own wedding looming (is that the right word?) just 5 weeks away I understand the importance that couple’s place on everything going right that day. I’m so thrilled that Vicky and Tom, after waiting all this extra time, are “finally” happily married.
Here are some photos Tom and Chris took for the zap shots that went up on the plasma screen.
Here’s the story of Nina (now Thompson) and her husband James!
I realize the title of this blog is pretty broad based, but as we enter the busy Winter Season in this industry (and by “busy” I mean with couples reserving their services for weddings later in the year or next year) it is most likely a question that will pop into your head. Bridal Shows take place on week nights (when you’ve probably worked all day long) or during the day on weekends (when, let’s face it, we all cherish our downtime) so while you consider going to a Bridal Show you may also be thinking, “Can’t I just stay home and all see all this stuff online?”
My answer to the main question here is a resounding: “YES! Bridal Shows are worth attending!” In fact, I’d go one step further and say you owe it to yourself to attend at least one or two throughout the planning of your wedding.
I’ll take it from an entertainment point of view to begin with, since, well, as you can imagine, that’s what we do. The famous Wedding Planner David Tutera, in a blog he wrote about the importance of music at a wedding, said: “Whether you choose a band, DJ, or a combination of the two for your wedding entertainment, request to see and hear your musicians/emcee in action before signing the contract.” I happen to think that is excellent advice (not that David Tutera needs my endorsement) but the problem here in New Jersey is that most banquet halls do not allow “pop-in’s” (a pop-in is when a prospective bride and groom “pop-in” to a banquet hall and peak in at someone else’s wedding to check out the entertainment.) And when I say “problem” it’s not like I disagree with the banquet halls when it comes to this policy. I happen to think when we are all working for a specific couple that day we should all be focused on that one Wedding and not be thinking about selling to a future couple at the same time. So when I say “problem” I mean, if you’re going to follow Mr. Tutera’s advice, what are you going to do?
Well, that’s where Bridal Shows or Private DJ Showcases come in. These are opportunities for you to “see and hear” your wedding entertainment before booking them. And when it comes to entertainment, nothing beats the live experience.
Video clips are great. They will often show how packed a DJ or band can get your dance floor, and how eloquent your MC can be. And we here at Elite Entertainment certainly have our share of videos, not only of each MC but also showing our lighting and other upgrades. But we all know the reality when it comes to these videos, don’t we? They are the best of the best and they are edited artfully enough to show “the highlights.” In other words, be impressed if the videos impress you . . .be intrigued if they are intriguing, but take the next step and ask, “this is great, how can we see you live?” Because any reputable entertainment company for your wedding will showcase often enough that you should have a myriad of options to “see them live.” Don’t take “No” for an answer.
So that’s the entertainment answer but I’d also like to expand on this, if I may. Let’s say you have entertainment booked already. Is it still worth attending a Bridal Show? Can’t you see a photographer’s “portfolio” online? Or examples of a videographer’s work on their Youtube or Vimeo channel? What’s the difference if you see a wedding gown in the bridal shop or on a model at a show? And a limos a limo right? Well, yeah sure, but in my experience, the vendors who attend shows are often (notice I said “often” and not “always”) the more professional vendors. They are usually professionals who do this full-time and who understand part of running a successful business, no matter how many word-of-mouth referrals they may get, is getting out and meeting new prospective clients. And (and this may just be me and my old-school thinking) nothing can replace a face-to-face impression. I would much rather meet someone, shake their hand and look them in the eye, and then find out about their work. I would rather speak to someone in person than on the phone (even if it’s a video chat.) And I would much rather go where professionals are looking for me, rather than trusting a Google search.
So as you think about planning your wedding, and you wonder where oh where are you going to find the right entertainment, photographer, florist etc etc etc, I urge you to attend a bridal show (or two or three). Besides researching companies to hire, they can also be fun evenings (or afternoons) to spend with your Maid of Honor or Mom (who are probably dieing to help you with the plans.) Plus, most bridal shows have some kind of door prizes so you may even leave a winner. Who knows. And if you don’t think it was all worth it, please, don’t blame me. Blame David Tutera.