4/2014: Bash & Crawl

220Last month I signed on for the Estes Park Wedding Association’s two-day bridal planning weekend that included a Saturday ‘Bridal Bash’ and a Sunday ‘Bridal Crawl’.  Held on the March 1st / 2nd weekend, it was billed as “Wedding Planning With Altitude” and attracted couples eager to get wedding planning information in Colorado’s wedding capital, Estes Park.

307The entire weekend was fairly well attended, although an ominous weather forecast on Saturday may have scared off some couples.  Almost 100 brides and grooms attended both events with many coming not only from the Front Range area, but around the country.  I met one couple that came all the way from Florida to attend the event.  The event was well publicized on the Estes Park Wedding Association website.  It was a fun-filled weekend for everyone and I even heard that a couple even got engaged on site!

301Saturday’s event which was set at the YMCA Of The Rockies convention center featured a full-course dinner and bridal fashion show for all couples attending.  There was also a featured speaker panel featuring association members giving tips on wedding planning and tips on hiring your wedding team. I was asked to speak to attendees regarding questions to ask your DJ before hiring them. After the dinner, fashion show, and speaker panel was the vendor showcase where couples had the chance to walk around and meet with the various wedding professionals. To wrap up the evening, a door prize giveaway featured hundreds of dollars of donated wedding services.

306Sunday morning’s Bridal Crawl at the Stanley Hotel featured a light breakfast for all attendees, vendor showcase, and guided bus tours of all the association’s amazing wedding venues. For the second year in a row, I played tour guide and got a chance to lead a small group to Peaceful Valley Ranch, Wild Basin Lodge (both near Allenspark), and Taharaa Mountain Lodge on the south side of Estes Valley.  These three venues are the southernmost venues in the association.  The association is already planning the next wedding planning events – an early November bridal show and a March 2015 Bridal Crawl.  Stay tuned!

Photography courtesy of Cathcart Photography.

3/2014: Brides Talk

Windsong_0119_5x72[1]A couple of weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion that was sponsored by the Association Of Bridal Consultants entitled “Brides Are Talking”. It took place at Northern Colorado’s newest wedding venue, The Windsong Estate.  This great spot is located about 5 miles east of Fort Collins on a hill overlooking the entire Front Range and surrounding plains.  Windsong looks like it will be one of the area’s most popular ceremony and reception venues as they are already mostly filled for most prime dates in 2014 and are booking dates through 2015.  I’m looking forward to my first wedding there this June.

101Five couples (four that were in the process of planning their wedding, and one that already had their wedding last year) were part of the panel.  They were asked a variety of questions from the audience which consisted of more than 30 wedding professionals (vendors). It was a unique opportunity to see what couples are thinking before and after the planning process to help better understand and serve brides and grooms who are planning the biggest day of their lives. Here’s a sampling of some of the subjects covered and some of the information the panel shared.

What was your method of contacting vendors?  Overwhelmingly, most couples contacted their vendors initially by e-mail.  This seems to be the simplest, most convenient form of communication.  The phone was ranked second, followed by text.  All couples agreed that whatever form of communication was used, the next step was an initial consultation.

What sources were used to find vendors?  Overwhelmingly, the top answer was a referral whether it be from their wedding venue, another vendor hired, or other couples that have gotten married.  The internet was also used via Google-type searches or Wedding Wire and The Knot through their reviews and ads.  Print (bridal magazines) and bridal shows were also used, though not nearly as much.

What were some of the things that made you NOT hire a vendor?  The number one answer was not returning calls and e-mails in a timely manner.  Amazingly, some vendors never returned messages. Other answers included service charges and hidden fees that were not divulged until they saw the contract, venues that overstate actual occupancy, rude and arrogant behavior, and companies that are so large that they didn’t feel they would get personalized service.

What were the top things that made you hire a vendor?  The answers here were across the board and there was not a clear cut #1 reason.  Some of the top answers included being flexible, a good value (versus the lowest price), being a good fit personality-wise, and someone who understand the expectation of the bride and groom.

DSCN2876Here are some other comments that were made by the panel that were interesting. Most couples like itemized contracts (versus all-inclusive) because that way they know exactly what they are being charge for. Out-of-state couples like vendors who have the accessibility to have their planning meetings via Skype.  Most couples do not like numerous follow-up calls / e-mails in the days following an initial consultation while they are still trying to make a decision.  Outdated information and pricing on websites was a turn-off as well as a lack of web presence.

Overall, it was fun evening of networking with many of my wedding friends, especially since we don’t get to see each other too often during the off-season. And what’s a social event without great food?  Special thanks to one the area’s top caterers, Greenspoint Catering for providing the awesome cuisine!

2/2014: Mass Vegas

This month I’ll be writing about two recent educational opportunities I had on either side of the country.  One in Massachusetts, hence the first half of the blog title “Mass”, and the other in Las “Vegas”.

Professional Process

Feb 2014 blog peter merryI traveled to the East Coast in November to attend Peter Merry’s Professional Process, a two-day workshop that teaches DJs new ways to take their businesses to the next level by offering fun, unique ideas to their clients.  Some things that are covered are organization, advanced planning, consultations, and preparation.  Unique interactive ideas are also discussed such as wedding party grand entrances, spotlight dances, and many other interactive reception ideas.  This is actually the third time I’ve taken this workshop and each time, I learn new and exciting things that I can suggest to my clients.  Many of my brides and grooms are already familiar with Peter Merry as I suggest they purchase a copy of his book, The Best Wedding Reception Ever” after they hire me.  The book’s tagline, “Your Guide To Creating An Unforgettably Fun Celebration” says it all.

dj tbwre

I headed west just last week to attend the annual Mobile Beat DJ Convention in Las Vegas.  It was my 17th consecutive year attending this conference where hundreds of DJs from all across the country converge to learn new things and see the latest gear.  I treat it as more of a working vacation than anything else – after all it is Vegas!  Some of my fellow attendees have dubbed the entertainment capital ‘Lost Wages’ after they lose large sums of money at the city’s blackjack and poker tables after the seminars are finished for the day. Colorado was well represented at the conference.  Fellow DJ colleagues Leonard Kiel, Larry Nosbish and I found plenty of time to network and enjoy the evening activities like the Bellagio’s water show:

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This year’s Vegas convention was a little different because in addition to the four days of almost non-stop seminars, I also attended a half-day workshop focus group on advanced Master Of Ceremonies & Wedding Party Introductions training with nine other DJs from around the country.  Because it was a small group, we each had time on the microphone and was critiqued based on presentation and overall performance.  What an amazing opportunity that was!

Needless to say, my brain was about to explode with all the information that was covered last week.  I’m now thinking I may need a non-working vacation from my working vacation.  More on that in my May and June blogs this coming spring. Stay tuned!

1/2014: Year In Review

1489606_10152067627573684_765805095_oAnd what a year it was.  2013 marked my 20th year DJing weddings in Colorado. It was certainly marked by lots of high points.  The one low point was the September floods that affected the weddings in Colorado, and in particular the Estes Park area for the last three months of the year.  I personally had a few weddings that were moved to other areas (see my October blog), and know of several business owners in Estes that either went out of business because of the flood or were nearly brought to the verge of closing shop because of it.  The good news is that as of last month, all roads into town have been repaired and Estes Park is pretty much back to normal. In fact, the Estes Park Wedding Association is planning a full weekend of wedding planning activities for couples in early March.  The two-day Bridal Bash & Bridal Crawl (March 1 & 2) will be attended by dozens of couples, and is being billed as a weekend of “Wedding Planning With Altitude”.  I’ll be there both days, participating in the Meet & Greet on Saturday and returning for a second year as tour guide for the Sunday venue tours.

images[8]Music-wise, 2013 was very exciting.  Continuing a growing trend over the last few years, there were plenty of new tunes that got wedding guests to the dance floor.  The song of the year was undeniably Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”.  Thicke has been a mainstay on the R&B charts for a decade, and this was his first real crossover hit.  Making it even more popular was its similarity to Marvin Gaye’s claasic “Got To Give It Up” which is the ‘Soul Train Line Dance’ song. Thicke is currently involved in a lawsuit over this, but that’s another story altogether. The top “First Dance” song of the year was once again Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted”, and the top “classic” request was “The Cupid Shuffle”.  Love them or hate them, those were the most requested songs of 2013.  Check out the Mobile Beat Top 200 listing on my website’s “Resources” page for a complete listing of the top song requests submitted to DJs around the country.

212Finally, to the “What’s Hot, What’s Not” world of wedding décor and trends.  Last year at this time, there was a lot of buzz about the movie “The Great Gatsby” and how that would affect wedding themes and fashion for 2013.  Well, the movie wasn’t quite the commercial blockbuster as was hoped, and so went the trend. I didn’t notice any major wedding décor / fashion trends last year other than a noticeable increase in attendant’s bouquets being a different color than the bride’s. A few things that were HOT in 2013…..Food stations seem to be at all-time high in popularity…..Candy bars are huge (like the one here at Kelsey & Nate’s Tapestry House reception above)…..Late evening sliders, finger foods, pizza, and other greasy goodies - an awesome idea for guests who’ve been working up an appetite after 2 or 3 hours of dancing…..The “green / eco-friendly / zero-waste” wedding is still very popular…..Many couples are now opting for donations to their favorite charity in lieu of gifts…..I’ve also noticed couple’s requesting that guests Instagram them photos that they took and have posted their hashtag at the sign-in table.  And last but not least, purple and burgundy are still the most popular colors.

In next month’s blog, we’ll be traveling to Massachusetts and Las Vegas to catch up on what DJs are learning at two of the industry’s top conferences.  Until then…Happy New Year!

117 Betsy & Michael

12/2013: I Do’s In Douglas

051I don’t know what it was about 2013, but I did a record number of weddings in Douglas County this past year – seven to be exact.  That’s a surprisingly large number for a location more than an hour from my home base of Northern Colorado. Douglas has been one of Colorado’s fastest growing counties over the past two decades, and in fact during the 1990s, it was the nation’s fastest growing county percentage-wise.  Likewise the area has also seen a big increase in the number of wedding venues that have sprung up.  A few of these venues were historic buildings that were refurbished (Cherokee Castle), but most have been brand new (Cielo and Perry Park Country Club).  I’ll highlight four of my favorites along with couples that I had the pleasure of working with this past year.

056Samantha & Tyler’s wedding at Highlands Ranch Mansion (photo above and at left) made for a spectacular setting.  This 80-year old mansion is set on the south edge of the growing Highlands Ranch community and was recently re-opened to host private events and weddings.  The building itself is more than 20,000 square feet with over a dozen bedrooms. It has a large reception area on the ground level, and outdoor ceremony area overlooking a meadow with horses.

110Megan & Matt’s September 20th wedding was at The Sanctuary, an award winning country club near Sedalia.  Matt is a golf pro, so this made for a perfect venue for their wedding. The venue has an earthy décor with lots of rocks, fireplaces, waterfalls, and stunning views of the Rampart Range to the west.  An outdoor pavilion is used for the ceremony, then guests move into the lodge for cocktails while the staff turns the pavilion back into reception (dinner and dancing) mode.

arrowhead[1]As luck would have it, I had a wedding the very next day at nearby Arrowhead Golf Course, a venue that has been popular with Denver couples for many years.  Instead of driving more than an hour back to Fort Collins, I just spent the night in nearby Castle Rock so I could attend the morning ceremony rehearsal for Laura & Perry.  Arrowhead can be very busy on weekends with multiple weddings and dozens of golfers vying for space, but it offers a uniquely scenic location.  You can get married on the first tee with the famous sandstone formations in the distance, then have your reception in their outdoor tent or move indoors to the clubhouse ballroom overlooking the valley.

106  Liz & AaronMy wedding season started to wind down at the end of October with Liz and Aaron’s wedding at Spruce Mountain Ranch.  This venue in the Larkspur area has been a well-known Angus breeding facility for more than a century.  But this is no rustic ranch.  It has more of an upscale western vibe complete with a lighted outdoor patio for the ceremony or cocktail hour, and a recently constructed indoor reception hall called Albert’s Lodge that can accommodate 200 people for dinner and dancing.  Liz and Aaron used every bit of space as their guest list approached the 180 mark, and most of them were still dancing at the end of the night!

11/2013: Highest Ever

To wrap up the year in style, this will be the first in a two-month series on my 2013 weddings that took place outside my typical local area (Fort Collins / Estes / Boulder /  Denver).  This month features a wedding at the dramatically beautiful but oxygen-deprived Arapahoe Basin Ski Area back in August.  Next month we’ll journey south to some incredible Douglas County wedding venues.

251By “highest ever”, I mean the highest altitude I’ve ever DJed a wedding.  To be exact 11,550 feet above sea level is the elevation of Arapahoe Basin’s Black Mountain Lodge.  This lodge is well known with skiers and is used as a cafeteria / restaurant during ski season.  To be honest, I’ve skied at A-Basin many times and have had many a midday lunch break inside the Black Mountain Lodge, and never really thought of it as a wedding venue.  I guess it’s hard to imagine these things when there is four feet of snow on the ground and sub-zero wind chills.  But no doubt, this is an awesome place to get married.

252Emmy & Grant are certainly the outdoor types.  They enjoy skiing (they had skis as part of their centerpieces), and wanted to show their guests some amazing Colorado scenery.  I’ve known Emmy’s mother Rhonda for many years as she is one of Northern Colorado’s top floral designers (Florals By Rhonda), and the flowers she did for her daughter’s wedding were pretty incredible. After the ceremony on the south-facing deck overlooking the world famous cirque A-Basin is known for (above), guests enjoyed a cocktail hour on the west-facing patio (at left) before moving inside for dinner.  I had music going in all three locations, so it was a busy afternoon.

257Guests arrived and departed the lodge via the nearby chairlift as the lodge was half up the mountain, and the only road up is a two-mile, boulder-strewn 4WD adventure reserved for employees and service vehicles. The reception, which lasted well into the evening (here’s Emmy and her father David enjoying a dance together) was inside thankfully, as it got quite chilly after sunset with rain mixing with snow by the time I was loading out.  Snow was even dusting the higher peaks which is not unusual at this altitude in August.

100_2607The only two weddings that I’ve done recently that come close to this as far as altitude is concerned are Mark & Lindsay’s 2010 wedding on the Vail Wedding Deck (at left) and John & Angela’s 2007 celebration at Winter Park’s Sunspot Lodge (below).  Both are in the 10,600-foot range. At these altitudes, you need to take precautions, such as providing your guests with plenty of bottled water during the ceremony, possibly having an oxygen tank handy for some of the older folks from lower altitudes, and going easy on the alcohol.  Remember one beer at sea level has the effect of two at 5,000 feet and three at 10,000 feet.

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10/2013: Keep Calm Marry On

I wasn’t planning on doing back to back monthly blogs on Estes Park weddings, but with the recent floods that affected the town, and the weddings I had up there in late September, it made for some interesting stories.

059 Becky & Beau Sep 14Rebecca & Beau’s wedding at the Stanley Hotel was scheduled for the Saturday after the flood – literally 48 hours after all hell broke loose in Estes Park. Although the Stanley was high and dry, and the waters that flooded downtown had receded, all roads were closed from the east and guests would have had a long 4 hour drive up Trail Ridge Road to get into town that day.  They wisely decided to change venues, and they chose the Magnolia Hotel in Denver, a great boutique hotel a block off the 16th Street Mall.  The staff accommodated the last minute changes, and it turned out to be an amazing evening with guests dancing an hour later than planned.

309 Andrea & KyleTwo weeks later, on the 27th, Andrea & Kyle’s decided to keep their wedding plans intact and have their wedding in Estes Park at Black Canyon / Twin Owls.  They loved the venue so much and truly wanted a Colorado setting, they couldn’t imagine changing plans.  In the week after the flood, the Peak To Peak Highway opened so guests were able to make the drive. Since the majority of guests were coming from Illinois and were planning on spending the entire weekend in Estes anyway, all plans were “a go”.  In the end, almost all their original 100 people on the guest list showed up, enjoyed the changing aspens, and partied like crazy.  What a night!!

331Brandon & Jacque were from New Mexico and planned their entire dream Colorado wedding almost exclusively by e-mail, phone and Skype (the first time I met them face to face was at the ceremony rehearsal the day before the wedding) from their home in Albuquerque.  Ironically, their wedding was also at Black Canyon / Twin Owls just two days after Andrea & Kyle’s.  In the days right after the flood, they decided to move the wedding closer to Denver as they realized most of their guests will be staying in the metro area and didn’t want to worry about road closures and extra driving times.  The Deer Creek Valley Ranch graciously accommodated the couple and although the reception room was a bit of a tight fit, everything went perfectly. At the rehearsal the day before, Jacque gave t-shirts to the families and wedding party (above) that read “Keep Calm & Marry On”, a mantra that was certainly true at most Colorado weddings last month.

332 Sept 30 EstesAs of early October, repairs to Colorado’s mountain highways are going on almost 24/7.  As of yesterday afternoon, Boulder Canyon opened up to Nederland, shortening the current Estes Park trip by about an hour.  Highway 36 from Lyons to Estes is expected to be mostly repaired by December. Like Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park’s roads, businesses and campgrounds should be totally repaired and back to normal by next spring and summer’s tourist season.  In the meantime, we can enjoy the foliage, like this photo taken October 1st just outside the park.