6/2015: Bridal Veil Falls

002 RMNP100Back in January 1915, Congress and President Woodrow Wilson designated an especially scenic area of Northern Colorado a national park. Later that same summer, Rocky Mountain National Park was officially dedicated with hundreds attending the ceremony. Over the years, the park has been visited by millions of people from all over the world. The lakes, vistas, and mountains of this 415 square mile park have been featured in books, movies, calendars, and TV shows for decades. Now in 2015, the park is celebrating its centennial anniversary. Less than two years after the devastating floods that ravaged the area, the park is now back to normal and is expecting record visitation this summer. The heavily damaged Fall River Road is expected to open on July 4th weekend for the first time since the floods 21 months ago.

th[9]I’m hoping to add to those record visitation numbers by visiting the park every week or two to hike, run, and bike it’s roads and trails (in between weddings, of course). The goal is to also raise money for dog-based charities nationwide by getting up to 100 sponsors over 100 days to make donations to their favorite animal charities while I log hundreds of miles within the park. The finale is September 4th, the 100th anniversary date of the park’s dedication. This adventure, called the B.A.R.K.100 kicked off last month on May 28th with a bike ride up Trail Ridge Road followed by a hike to the aptly named Bridal Veil Falls (pictured) a few days later. This hike was also the kickoff of my summer wedding season.  I’m happy to say, that just two weeks in, the sponsor list has grown to over 20, and a half dozen animal charities are benefitting from the generosity of my sponsors. If you’d like to join the growing list of sponsors and support your favorite animal advocacy organization, just click the link above.

Planning a visit to the park this summer?  Here are a few link to help you plan your own adventure:

RMNP – General Website

RMNP – Calendar Of Events

RMNP – Things To Do

RMNP – Weather & Forecast

Visit Estes Park

Estes Park Wedding Association

5/2015: Della Terra

Back in the ’90s, when people mentioned weddings in Estes Park, the first and sometimes only venue that came to mind was the Stanley Hotel.  At the time, Estes Park was nowhere near the wedding mecca that it is now.  There were only a handful of wedding sites in town. That has certainly changed and 20 years later, thanks to the Estes Park Wedding Association, the town is not only one of the state’s premier wedding locations but a top destination wedding area with over a dozen first-class venues hosting hundreds of weddings every year by couples from all over the country.

Jenn begins her processional to ceremony with her father.  Photo courtesy of Elevate Photography.

Jenn begins her processional to the ceremony with her father on March 28th. Photo courtesy of Elevate Photography.

The venue that has garnered possibly the most buzz in the last decade is Della Terra Mountain Chateau.  Built in 2009 by two families, it’s unique in the fact that it was built first and foremost as a wedding venue (full story here), whereas most other locations in Estes are lodging and resort locations first with on-site facilities for weddings. The site is located on the west side of town bordering Rocky Mountain National Park.  The ceremony site is literally 20 feet from the park boundary. Wedding guests and family can also spend the night in one of the chateau’s rooms – most have waterfall showers and a hot tub. I had the opportunity to spend a night after a wedding a couple of years ago and it was an incredible experience especially the breakfast the staff prepares in the morning for the guests.

John & Ali moments after tying the knot on April 11th.

John & Ali moments after tying the knot on April 11th.

In the six years it’s been opened I’ve done dozens of weddings here, but in the last month I was hired for three weddings in less than 3 weeks. I was super excited for a couple of reasons – first and foremost, I get to spend a couple of weekends with three great couples entertaining hundreds of their family and friends, plus I got to leave all my equipment overnight saving me hours of setup / breakdown time – the final two were on back to back days. Honestly, I felt strange leaving the venue 15 minutes after the last dance with only my laptop. Amazingly, all three weddings had unseasonably mild spring weather with temperatures around 60 degrees, another reason to consider an “off-season” wedding in Estes Park.

4/2015: Carnival Cruisin’

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Our ship, the Carnival Liberty docked in St. Lucia.

A couple of years after I first started DJing when I lived in New York, I received a phone call from a talent scout from Carnival Cruise Lines.  They were looking to fill a DJ spot on one of their ships for the summer.  He mentioned it would be a minimum 6-month commitment and the pay would be $1,000 per month plus room and board on the ship.  I told him I’d let him know in a day or two.

At the time, I was single and still living with my parents, so a 6-month stint on a cruise ship seeing the sights and working nights would have been a fun change of pace.  All I would need to bring were my records (yes, this is back in the vinyl days), and a few changes of clothes.  They would even pay for my round-trip flight between New York and Miami. On the other hand, I’d be away from home for half a year and my growing DJ business would take a major hit.  The money was an issue as well, $1,000 a month for working 7 nights a week was barely minimum wage back then, and I thought that after a few weeks it may become tedious doing pretty much the same thing night after night for six months straight. I ultimately called him back and politely turned the offer down.  Still to this day, I regret that decision. The “coulda, woulda, shouldas” creep into my mind once in a while, and I wonder what it would it have been like.

I’ve been on several cruises as a passenger since then and have always been intrigued by the day to day workings of the ship, behind the scenes production, and its staff. Last week, we just returned from our third Carnival cruise, and I decided to interview the resident DJ to really see what life is like on board a cruise ship in the year 2015.

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JC and I after he was finished hosting in the comedy club on the second night of the cruise.

His name was JC, and he’s originally from Cancun, Mexico.  He’s been working on Carnival since 2013, and I could tell by the short time I chatted with him and seeing him at work over the week we were on the ship that he really enjoys his job. His duties include not only being one of two DJs on the ship, but also MCing some of the evening events like the comedy club. Like most cruise ship employees, multi-tasking is part of the job.  I asked him what the pros and cons of his job were.  A definite plus was that he is allowed to live with his girlfriend on the ship (she also works for Carnival).  They both share a cabin. He mentioned that although he usually works 7 days a week for 4 to 6 months at a time, he gets 2 to 3 months off in between contracts. Each employee signs a contract for a few months at a time and can renew after their break.

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Newlyweds Mike & Suzy enjoying their combination wedding / honeymoon.

JC also doesn’t have to provide his own music or equipment as Carnival provides everything. Of the few negatives he mentioned, the main one was cabin size which he mentioned was about the size of our guest cabin.  Personally, I think I’d go crazy if I had to live in a 100 square foot room with all my belongings for 6 months, but I guess you get used to it. As is always the case on every vacation I take, I ran into some newlyweds who just got married. Mike & Suzy had just tied the knot in St. Thomas that afternoon and were getting back on the ship to continue their combination wedding / honeymoon when I asked them for a photo. They were also one of the couples that were featured on the ship’s “How Well Do You Know Your Spouse” show which was both hilarious and a bit embarrassing for the three couples on the stage that night.

Join me next month when we’ll be visiting one of Colorado’s top wedding venues, Della Terra Mountain Chateau.

 

3/2015: Lost Wages

20150226_163528[1]While February is known as the month of love for most couples, to most DJs it’s known as the month of Mobile Beat Las Vegas (MBLV), an annual conference for wedding and mobile DJs attended by hundreds from all over the country and as far away as Australia and the UK.  Just as the polar vortex was spinning over Colorado, I hopped a flight to sunny Sin City for a few days of education, networking, and watching folks sit for hours at slot machines.  It ain’t called “Lost Wages” for nothing. I guess I shouldn’t talk…while I was there, I bet $10 my Colorado Rockies would win the World Series this year.

20150226_150358I’ve attended all 18 of these Mobile Beat conventions dating back to the mid-1990s. They started at the south end of the Strip at the Crowne Plaza, moved to Tropicana and every few years shifted to another old-school casino / hotel like the Stardust in 2005.  For the last few years it’s been at the Riviera. Yes…that Riviera. If you notice, there is a theme here. This convention is usually at one of the low-to-mid range, smoke-encrusted, Sinatra / Rat Pack-era joints. It may be because most DJs are too cheap to spend more than $19 on a room, but I think it’s because most DJs revel in the fact that their room will be blown up within a few years when the hotel is imploded. If you doubt this, remember most DJs love to spend tons of money of lighting, special effects, and smoke machines. True to form, the Riviera was sold a few months ago, will close for good on May 4th, and will be a pile of rubble by year’s end.

20150224_113443 (1)Nonetheless, each year, for me it’s a no-brainer to attend. From new innovations in DJ technology, software, equipment, computers, and lighting, to marketing and hands-on performance workshops that focus on microphone technique, grand entrances, and personalization.  Sharing new ideas with other DJs and simply catching up with friends that I haven’t seen in a while is a highlight for me and well worth the price of admission. OK, I’ll admit the nightlife in this town isn’t too bad either!

20150224_074126What I’ve found out over the years attending these conventions is that most DJs are…how should I say it…not the most health minded individuals on the planet. Remember, we rarely get a good night’s sleep on weekends, are given free unlimited Pepsi at the bar at our weddings, and usually make a gut busting fast-food stop on the way home.  I’m as guilty of this as anybody.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I stopped at a 7-11 on the way home from a wedding to get a 8-hour old hot dog with chili and cheese, box of Oreos, or an ice cream sandwich.  I really should have stock in that company.  To alleviate this, two DJs from New Jersey organize a morning run / workout each day of the conference. They start at the insane (for DJs at a conference in Las Vegas) time of 7AM. We may look like zombies when we start, but an hour later, we’re ready to take on a full day of networking and learning. Thank you Mike and Marcello.

IMG_1043418947740[1]As an added bonus this year, some of the workout crew made a trip out to Red Rock Canyon for some hiking and running on Day 2 of the conference after the morning presentations.  This park, just a 30-minute drive west of Las Vegas at the base of the Spring Mountains, is incredible. Set aside as BLM land back in 1967, it has become one of the area’s top day-trip destinations with over a million visitors per year. There are miles of hiking trails, a 13-mile paved loop for driving and cycling, and world-famous rock climbing.  This is a must-see for anyone looking to take a break from the smoke and slots of the Strip.

Stay tuned…next month we’ll be cruising the Caribbean!

2/2015: Top 10 Links

And now for something totally different….

784Though February may be the least popular month to get married, it is arguably the top month of the year for wedding planning.  Statistics abound that more couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day than any other 3-month period of the year. I usually get more inquiries in January and February than the rest of the year combined. In honor of that, here are my favorite wedding planning links in alphabetical order:

Estes Park Wedding Association

Estes Park Visitor Information

Mark Ferrell – For Brides And Grooms

Mobile Beat’s Top Wedding Songs

Offbeat Bride

Peter Merry’s ‘TBWRE’

Stacie Tamaki’s blog

The Knot

Top 100 Wedding Blogs

Wedding Wire Planning Tools

Stay tuned! Next month I’ll be reporting on my annual visit to the longest running DJ convention west of the Mississippi – Las Vegas’ MBLV!!

 

 

1/2015: Year In Review

th[5]Happy New Year! 2014 is in the books. It was another great year with some fabulous couples to work with.  I’m not quite sure what is going on, but as of New Year’s Day, I’ve got a record number of weddings reserved for the new year. The recession is most definitely over, or it may just be that “Love Is In Air” (somebody cue up that classic hit from John Paul Young from 1978, please!). Speaking of music, this was the year of Pharrell’s “Happy”. It not only was the biggest year on the charts, with a whopping 10 weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but was also the most requested new song at weddings across the nation. Although Mr. Williams has been a household name as a producer, songwriter, and collaborator with just about every artist on the planet, it was his first huge hit as a solo artist. In case you’re interested, the top new first dance song was “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.  The ballad was released in late 2013, though really became popular at weddings this past year.  I also played various instrumental versions of it as a ceremony processional.  More on that later…

estespark-colorado-wedding-photographer-photography-cakeknife-bride-groom-outside-rockies-portraits-lighting-professional-celebration-party-happy-love-cute-unique-marys-lake-lodge-[1]Other new dance floor faves included Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll”, and the Pitbull / Kesha collaboration “Timber”.  In addition to the Christina Perri song mentioned above, the John Legend ballad “All Of Me” was one of the year’s best new slow songs. It’s no surprise that line-dance songs like “The Wobble”, “Cha Cha Slide” and “The Cupid Shuffle” still garnered lots of requests throughout the year.

364On to what’s hot and what’s not. Here are a few of the trends that were getting popular this year. Some couples have decided to forgo the traditional wedding cake for pies or dessert bars. Some have even added a late-night dessert bar or hot chocolate / coffee station.  Family-style dinners are more the norm than ever before.  Instead of the traditional buffet or served meal, the wait staff brings out large plates of food for each table to share. I’ve also been seeing food trucks used for cocktail hour.  Obviously, you need the right outdoor venue for this, but it seems to work well at most venues. Instead of the traditional wedding gift, I’ve seen an increasing number of couples give their guests an alternative option to donate to the couple’s favorite charity.  And finally, since Instagram is now so popular, couples are requesting guests to send them their wedding day photos via this burgeoning social media platform via hashtags.

estespark-colorado-wedding-photographer-photography-cakeknife-bride-groom-outside-rockies-portraits-lighting-professional-celebration-party-happy-love-cute-unique-ourladyofthemount[2]What’s not…The photo booth trend may have peaked. In 2013, almost half of my weddings of my weddings had photo booths.  This year I can think of maybe half a dozen. What I am seeing more of is a scaled-down version of this with just a backdrop instead of a booth (provided by the photographer).  This is certainly more cost-effective and requires less setup time and area. Nonetheless, I would imagine that within the next few years, photo booths will probably be delegated to the “Remember When Bin” along with chocolate fountains and disposable cameras….remember those?  Also noticeably absent from wedding ceremonies this year was traditional classical music.  Processionals like Pachibel’s “Canon In D” are out, and instrumental acoustic / string covers of love songs by artists like Vitamin String Quartet, the Piano Guys, and Boyce Avenue are all the rage. I honestly can’t remember the last time I played the traditional Wedding March.

Special thanks to Marla with CakeKnife Photography for the two black and white photos above from Lori & Sam’s reception at Mary’s Lake Lodge in Estes Park…one of my favorite weddings of 2014.

Speaking of awesome wedding photographers, I just got word that one of my weddings from this past summer, Kassi and Justin’s at Taharaa Mountain Lodge, was featured in Rocky Mountain Bride magazine, and it was photographed by Meghan Ritchey-Wilson with Visual Poetry.  Here’s the link.

12/2014: Tennessee

It was that time of the year again…November.  The days were getting shorter and my wedding calendar was opening up.  I found an open weekend, booked a flight and I was off. Off to the Volunteer State for a wedding conference and to explore the music meccas of Nashville and Memphis.

803Tour stop #1…WME’s Wedding Expo.  Over the years, I’ve found it almost imperative to schedule at least two wedding and / or DJ conferences per year to keep up to date on the latest.  This year has been especially busy with not only weddings but a hectic hiking schedule during the mid-weeks (see October’s blog), so it’s been a challenge to get away for a week.  I chose the WME conference because it was small – just 100 attendees – and in an interesting location for other explorations.  Two days of great presentations and speakers from around the country focused on what was new in weddings. I’ll be covering more on this in next month’s blog – my annual wrap up that features “What’s Hot And What’s Not”.

800Tour Stop #2…Nashville Music City.  I spent an extra day just exploring the “Music City” portion of the city.  When most people think of Nashville, they think country music.  Though it is country music’s capital, it is also a hotbed of songwriters, recording studios, and publishers for all genres of music.  Many non-country artists live in Nashville because of its proximity to all things music.  I found it is sort of like a “L.A. East”.  I also visited “Neon Nashville” which is a 4-block stretch of downtown loaded with bars and nightclubs with live bands that jam from noon to well past midnight.  The street and all the adjoining bars were all packed even though it was a Monday night. Though the music was mostly country at most venues, I also heard plenty of rock as well as one pretty good ’80s cover band that was cranking out the likes of Poison, Def Leppard, and Journey.

801No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to the Country Music Hall Of Fame. A country music fan can easily spend an entire day here, and possibly a weekend. This massive museum traces the history of the genre from its humble beginnings a century ago through to today’s million-selling artists like Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and The Voice’s Blake Shelton.  It’s also loaded with artifacts, instruments, and clothing worn by it’s biggest stars. The huge “Rotunda Room” has the plaques of every artist enshrined in the Hall Of Fame. I was happy to see one of my personal favorites, Ronnie Milsap, was just voted in this past year.  Nearby is the holy grail of country music venues, Ryman Auditorium.  It’s been called the “Mother Church Of Country Music”, and has featured the Grand Ole Opry show for decades. The goal of every burgeoning country artist is to play on this historic stage.  It was also birthplace of bluegrass music in December 1945.  That’s when banjo player Lester Flatts & guitarist Earl Scruggs added mandolin player Bill Monroe to their band and started a new sub-genre of music that continues today.  Today’s “bluegrass / newgrass” artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, and the Avett Brothers can trace their roots back this very building.

809Tour stop #3…Memphis.  When most people think of Memphis, they think of Elvis.  Since I visited Graceland years ago, I skipped it this time in favor of visiting it’s more historic roots – as the birthplace of rock ‘n roll and of course, the blues. I’ve never been a huge fan of the blues and I hardly ever get requests for it at weddings (for obvious reasons), but I thought it would be fun to check out where it all started.  Beale Street is a blast – a two block area of blues clubs and restaurants just a few blocks from the Mississippi. This is where blues legends like B.B. King got their start.  A couple of miles away is Sun Studios, the birthplace of rock ‘n roll. Sam Phillips started this humble recording studio in the early ’50s to record the area’s up and coming talent. Little did he know that he would discover and record the first hits by rock’s early pioneers. Elvis’ first record, “That’s All Right”, was cut here as were the early hits of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison.