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.
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!
On October 29, 2012 the tristate area was absolutely devastated by hurricane Sandy. This will forever be remembered for the destruction it brought to our beloved Jersey Shore and the many families who are left without homes, with a long road ahead to recovery. It can be hard to find the good in something so bad, but here it was so easy to see. Communities across the state came together in every possible way to help their neighbors in this extremely difficult time. Donald, from The Mill in Spring Lake is one of those citizens doing everything he can. He runs operations at the Mill, a popular venue for weddings and other parties. Donald had a Saturday night on December 1 that was open and he decided to make use of the night in the best way possible. He gathered up volunteers from all over and put together a night to remember for all of those that have lost their homes from the storm. He was able to get approximately 15 volunteers to help set tables, serve food, and clean up at the end of the night. He had several employees that stayed to work double shifts, but working that second shift on their own time to help out as well. In the end, he also had over 240 guests that would be showing up to party and, if just for four hours, forget about the tragic events of the storm. The last piece of the puzzle was of course the entertainment. Donald decided to make a call to Mike, owner of Elite Entertainment, and ask if he had anyone willing and available to donate their time for the party. When Mike made the announcement, I jumped at the opportunity to do what I can to make this party happen.
The night of the party I showed up about an hour and a half early to get setup and get an idea of how the night will go. It was then I learned just how much Donald had in store for the guests of this beautiful holiday party. First, they had over 60 prizes to give away in a Chinese auction which they handed out five tickets per guest to spread out as they wished among the gifts. Included was everything from scarfs, blankets, and pillows to lamps, dishes, and jewelery. All a great start to get people started on replenishing what they lost. On top of all those prizes, there were also many more gifts for children that were being given away as well. But instead of a Chinese auction, this was much more exciting for the children. I was instructed to put on the song “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” and get the crowd amped up for the arrival of the big man in red. Santa himself showed up and all the children in the room had a chance to sit on his lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas and then also walk away with a gift right then. It was an amazing site to see the smiles on the kids faces as they got to see some real Christmas magic that night.
While all the gifts were great, we still had plenty of entertainment for the guests to enjoy as well. Besides have me DJ the party, there were also five live performances spread throughout dinner time. The live portion of the show was kicked off by a girl named Rachel who was performing in public for just the second time. Listening to her sing and play guitar you would think she had been doing this for years. She performed a song she had written herself about the storm and sounded fantastic, the crowd agreed. Following Rachel was her friend Emily who took over the guitar and sang just as beautifully as her friend, again pleasing the crowd, bringing absolute joy to everyone in the room. The next two performances were from Jennifer and Michael who gave me background music to play for each of them and sang Broadway style songs. Both of which again had just incredible voices along with some nice dancing during breaks to really make them a joy to watch.
For the last performance, Jennifer and Michael teamed up to do a duet of “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree“. This was a very upbeat number and I knew would be a great way to team up with Jen and Mike to open the dance floor in a very different way then your standard party. I had them start inviting people up throughout their performance and then kicked the party right into gear with “Runaround Sue“. No one hesitated to get up and dance the rest of the night away as I took them through the decades from the 50′s up to the 80′s. I also broke up fast paced high energy dance sets with a couple beautiful slow dances for the lovely couples.
In the end this will always be a night that everyone in the room, especially me, will never forget. It felt absolutely amazing to be able to donate my time to such a worthy cause and to be able to make so many people, over 240, so happy for that four hours after all they had been through. While I know this was simply one night to help forget about what has happened, I know the power of fun and laughter when going through such a tough time. And when you combine all the talents and volunteers that we had that night, all gathered for the sole purpose of being happy without the distractions of business and how much this and that costs, you are guaranteed to have a great night that will never be forgotten.
Is there anything cooler than two teachers being introduced into their wedding reception to the thunderous drum roll of “Hot For Teacher?” On Saturday, November 17th I had the honor of pulling that feat off. And as Ben and Mary’s guests went nuts while they walked in (with David Lee Roth screaming “got it bad got it bad got it bad”) I knew this was going to be a special night.
Ben and Mary were a fun couple to work with. They picked out a handful of songs and each and every one of them were good, solid dance floor fillers. And the songs matched my goal of providing a good mix of music with older songs like “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “Sweet Caroline” to eighties hits like “Shook Me All Night Long” and of course Bon Jovi’s “Living On a Prayer” and some newer dance songs like “We Found Love” and “Dynamite.” Ben and Mary’s family and friends were receptive to everything and the dance floor was filled all night.
The wedding was in The Crystal Ballroom at the Radisson in Freehold and this was my first time working there since they installed lighting in their ceiling panels. What a difference that makes! This room that was already pretty cool now comes alive once they light that up and start using the effects. I loved it. Plus I got to finally work with a photographer from Abella Studios. I’ve followed Abella on Twitter for a while now and they are very entertaining. They also blog after their weddings so I’m looking forward to seeing the images they put up.
Mary was nice enough to leave me this very complimentary Wedding Wire review.
When I read it I was very happy to see she mentioned that I get to know my clients and make them feel special and would do anything to make their day perfect. I think if you could sum up everything that my career has been about, that would hit the nail on the head. Thanks Mary for that awesome review! I wish you and Ben the very best in your new life together as husband and wife!
Brooke & Chris
Cocktail Hour & Wedding Reception
Raven and the Peach, Fair Haven, NJ
Friday, November 9, 2012
Why I loved DJing this Event……