Posts Categorized: TWIG Member Spotlight
The Music Man… and So Much More
Just call him “Sawyer.” That’s the first thing you learn when you meet Chad Sawyer, a music maven and Owner of Moonlight Mobile DJ. But our inquiring minds wanted to know more, so we recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sawyer about his background and his business. And what we learned is that Sawyer is truly a man of many interests and talents.
Born and raised in San Diego, Sawyer took full advantage of its coastal location and year-round warm climate. But one thing kept Sawyer hanging around the house as much as the beach – his parents were music enthusiasts, and there was always a wide variety of tunes being played in his home. Sawyer began to develop a love for dancing, and by the time he was in high school, he became hooked on DJ’ing.
But being a DJ was just for fun (or so he thought at the time), so Sawyer began to embark on more scholarly pursuits. After high school, he spent a year in Japan, teaching English as a second language. While there, he studied martial arts and earned a 4th degree Black Belt in Aikido.
Returning to the US, Sawyer attended the University of Nevada Reno, where he majored in Secondary Education and History, and if that wasn’t enough, he also had a double minor in Japanese and English. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree, he got a job as a teacher of Advanced Placement American History and Government. While teaching, he went back to UNR and earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration.
But all through this time of academic enlightenment, Sawyer’s love for music remained strong. He got some gigs DJ’ing in local clubs, then he transitioned into mobile and private events, including weddings. In 2003, Sawyer took the plunge and started Moonlight Mobile DJ. Now he says, “I couldn’t be happier DJ’ing for a living.”
Fortunately, we were able to get Sawyer to sit still long enough to answer a few questions about his profession:
There’s always the dilemma between having a live band or a DJ for your wedding. How should the couple decide whether to have a band or a DJ?
Cost is certainly one factor in this decision as bands are typically more expensive. Bands do bring something to a reception that a DJ cannot, the power of live animated music. A great DJ on the other hand brings versatility and a much wider library of music. Not to mention, if you love the sound of the original singer and musicians, a DJ is your only option. For weddings, I do love live music during the ceremony and cocktail hour – it adds a touch of elegance, and you can save the DJ ‘til when you’re ready to PAR-TEE!
Once you decide on a DJ, how do you select the right one for you?
Of all of the service providers that a couple will hire for their wedding day, the DJ has the ability to ruin their wedding the quickest! If the photographer is terrible, you won’t know until 3 weeks after the wedding, but if your DJ is bad, everyone is going to notice immediately! A wedding couple places a lot of trust in their DJ.
My recommendation is to interview 2 to 3 DJ’s. Start with a phone interview initially. Even though you are not physically there, tone and voice inflection is important. You can learn a lot with a phone call, Skype or Facetime. Asking the DJ about their style and how they plan to interact with your guests will help you get a sense of what type of person you are hiring.
[Publisher’s Note: At Tahoe Engaged, we take it a step further to ensure that our DJ’s, as well as all of our vendors, have a business license, business insurance and 5-star references from trusted wedding industry professionals and prior wedding clients.]
Can a wedding couple see a DJ in action before hiring him or her?
This is a tough issue because most of the events that I DJ are private, so you can’t see me perform. I do have a video on my website that highlights my style and past events. I also have multiple videos up on YouTube, Instagram and other social media platforms for wedding couples to see.
What are common misconceptions about DJ Services?
Some misconceptions about DJ’s are that we just play music. In a club setting this might be true. However at a wedding, a skilled DJ is a liaison between vendors, an MC, as well as mixing and playing music.
How has technology affected the DJ at weddings?
For the reception, technology for the most part has made accessing songs on the fly incredibly easy.
But cell phones during ceremonies have become a technological drawback. The data streaming on everyone’s phones can interrupt the wireless mics that the couple are using for their ceremony. I always ask guests to place their phones on Airplane Mode, and this helps a lot. Guests can still take photos, but stopping the data streaming allows the microphones to work properly.
Are there reception venues in Lake Tahoe that have restrictions on music?
Yes, there are noise restrictions in Tahoe. All amplified music outdoors must end by 10pm unless other arrangements have been made, or the venue is indoors.
[Publisher’s Note: These same restrictions exist at wedding venues throughout California.]
What have weddings taught you?
Weddings have taught me to be humble, listen to requests, and always go above and beyond for my clients. Customer service is everything.
What is the best advice you give a couple when planning their wedding?
Hire the best professionals, trust them, relax and enjoy your day. Don’t spend time worrying about details on the day of your wedding.
When you’re not DJ’ing, what activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
I love spending time with my kids – skiing, snowboarding, surfing, sailing and hiking… In Tahoe, there are sports for every season!
Weddings at the Big Water Grille
A Spectacular Setting with Spectacular Culinary Creations and a Renaissance-Man Manager
Before we get to the Grille, let’s find out a little something about the man who runs the show there. Jack Chinn is no ordinary restaurateur – we think the term “Jack-Of-All-Trades” must have been named after him!
Jack grew up in Southern California, and majored in Music at California State University Northridge. He was introduced to the hospitality industry at the tender age of 18, when Jack got his first “taste” of food & beverage service at a Chili’s Restaurant in SoCal. In subsequent years, Jack bounced (no pun intended) from restaurant to restaurant and bar to bar, working just about every position within the restaurant industry.
But Jack is a man of many interests, so he took a break from the hustle and bustle of Southern California and landed a job with the Boy Scouts as a backcountry employee at Philmont Scout Ranch. For those of us who have never heard of it, Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy Scouts’ premier High Adventure base, set in 214 square miles of rugged wilderness in New Mexico, offering backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades and training programs. Who wouldn’t want to be a Boy Scout if you could go there!?
After a few years, California was calling again, and Jack’s sense of adventure was still flaming hot, so he became a wildland firelighter for CalFire! Unfortunately, Jack got injured on the job and needed to consider other career opportunities at that point. But this is where the good news begins for engaged couples – in 2016, Jack landed the most amazing job at the Big Water Grille as their General Manager and Event Coordinator!
Perched above Lake Tahoe’s shores in Incline Village, the Big Water Grille is widely known for being a premier restaurant around the lake. Jack has an amazing, dedicated team and an unmatched commitment to be of service to you and your wedding guests. For your wedding, they create culinary memories that last, because the cuisine is exquisite – seasonal, fresh and local. Chef Manny Baez works diligently with each wedding couple to create an award-winning menu.
Photo credit: Jon M Photography
For ceremonies, The Big Water Grille can accommodate your guests outdoors on their deck overlooking the lake, or in front of their large river rock fireplace for cozier winter days.
Photo credit: Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company
Immediately after the ceremony, your reception will begin with butler passed hors d’oeuvres and premium cocktails from their bar. Dinner is served in their multi-level dining room with spectacular views.
Photo credit: Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company
Sunset from the Dining Room
After your scrumptious dinner, you can celebrate in style on the dance floor.
Photo credit: Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company
Jack promises you uncompromising attention to detail and an “elevated” dining experience for your North Lake Tahoe wedding! For more information about having your celebration at the Big Water Grille, please call Jack at 775-833-0606.
Framing the Event: An Artistic Viewpoint
Tahoe Engaged recently had the pleasure of speaking with Emily Williams, Owner of Manzanita Glow, a company that rents natural arches, trees, centerpieces and other visually pleasing structures for weddings in the Lake Tahoe area.
Emily had the best of both worlds growing up, as she was raised on both the West Coast and East Coast. In fact, she attributes her interpersonal skills to being a “military brat.” Being thrown into new environments and having to make friends each time, those frequent moves helped Emily to develop a more outgoing personality, which has helped her to create wonderful relationships with her clients and other wedding industry colleagues.
She began her professional career as a hair stylist after receiving her cosmetology license. Following many successful years in that field, Emily wanted to transfer her artist talents into the great outdoors. But she wasn’t quite sure how to make that happen, so she enrolled in an entrepreneurship class at the University of Nevada Reno. At about the same time, her daughter became engaged to be married. So entrepreneurial Emily decided to design the centerpieces for her daughter’s wedding, using manzanita branches. Emily discovered that she not only loved this work, but she realized that it could be a unique service to help other couples elevate their special day.
Emily decided to name her company Manzanita Glow, which refers not only to the kinds of branches and lights she uses in her designs, but also the exceptional service she brings to each and every client she serves. Emily cares deeply about the sound structure of her finished artistic creations. Of course, Emily has trade secrets and couldn’t share everything with us. But you can rest assured that every branch engineered so that even if you were on the highest peak in Lake Tahoe with high winds, “it’s not going to fly off the mountain!” says Emily.
In addition to manzanita branches, Emily also loves to work with birch and aspen branches. Because she works with branches, people often assume that she is also a florist, which is not the case! Instead, Emily partners with many florists to create the gorgeous finished products of both branches and florals.
There are three expressive words that Emily uses to describe her work: Natural, Ambiance and Anywhere. She explains, “Natural, because we strive to surround events with the beauty of nature by using natural products that are sustainable. I love Ambiance – the lights, the whole theater that is created to transform the space, it speaks to my soul. Anywhere – because I can set up my creations anywhere – lakefront, mountains, you name it! Those three words really define my creativity!”
When we asked Emily about her sources of inspiration or influences on her work, she replied, “I’m a very visual and tactile person. I love complementing and contrasting textures, lines, shapes, and colors. I find it immensely important to listen to the client, understand what their vision is, and match that to my own styles.”
We wrapped up our interview by asking Emily what advice she had for couples planning their wedding: “The best advice I’ve given is to not work with any vendors who you wouldn’t like as guests. Planning your wedding should be as enjoyable as the day itself, so don’t invite anyone into the process who would change that.”
The Countess of Cakes – A Sweet Tastemaker
As the owner of I Do’s by Deb, acclaimed wedding cake designer Debbie Jensen is always on the go. But having recently joined the Tahoe Wedding Industry Group (TWIG), Debbie was kind enough to sit down long enough to answer a few questions for us.
How did you get your start as a Cake Designer?
It all began in Paris, floating through the city like an ethereal creampuff after watching a Croquembouche (the traditional French wedding cake) demonstration at the famed Maxim’s restaurant. I had trained as a classical chef, then spent 10 years in pursuit of pastry, including many trips to Europe for training. My cake decoration skills developed as an offshoot of being a Pastry Chef. My creative instincts and fashion background naturally transferred into this edible art form.
Describe your style of work in 3 words.
Cutting-Edge, Eclectic, Updated
What are some of your most memorable cake creations?
The largest cake I’ve ever made served 3000 people, for the opening of the new San Francisco Library in the early 1990’s. It was an open book in Tiramisu with cocoa paintings and flying winged books, like the mural in their stairwell. It took two moving trucks to carry each half and was put together on site.
For Warren Buffet’s 70th birthday, I made a birthday cake for an intimate restaurant celebration that included Bill Gates among the invited guests. Afterwards, feedback was that other diners were so impressed by the cake that they didn’t even notice the two celebrities! Later, I had the honor to make a wedding cake for Mr. Buffet, which included an Elmer J. Fudd and Petunia cake top and old fashioned copper glasses like Warren’s.
The largest wedding cake I’ve ever designed was for Neal Schon of the band Journey and Michaele Salahi, a reality T.V. star. The theme of their Pay Per View, Palace of Fine Arts wedding was “Winter Wonderland”. The cake was over 6’ tall and was birch inspired with thousands of white sugar flowers.
What’s trending right now for wedding cakes and or wedding desserts?
Lots of fun things are trendy!
- Natural stone elements in marbled fondant, sugar geodes and geometric figures
- Semi-Naked cakes, dripping glazes and multiple toppings such as macaroons, flowers, meringues, etc.
- Hand-Painted Cake designs, and abstract modern art color stripping.
- Vintage Swirl buttercream patterns, other interesting buttercream textures without piped edges, straight clean minimalist designs, the return of buttercream flowers in realistic shaded colors.
- Interesting use of metallic gold and silver-leaf as well as other luster metallics.
- Focal florals that don’t “top” the cake
- Greenery only: ferns to air plants, succulents, olive, eucalyptus and shades of brighter Pantone “greenery”
- Watercolor design and rice-paper prints
- Galaxy glazed cakes and airbrushed designs
- Boho, the modern gypsy!
- Focal Cutting cakes or “Sweetheart cakes” with a styled dessert display of mini fun pastries to doughnuts
- Cake tables can be anything: Vintage furniture, wine barrels, suitcases, or suspended in mid air!
Why should someone hire you to design their wedding cake?
I strive to make each wedding unique. I am very eclectic in my skillset and style sensibilities and have years of experience listening and extracting the key elements from my clients to create not just a cake but a delicious memory!
What is your source of inspiration for your wedding cake designs?
Inspiration is everywhere; first, I try to learn the personalities of the couple and then learn about the venue and time of year. From there, particular elements pertaining to the wedding such as themes, invitations, wedding gown style, etc. can play in. Instagram, Pinterest and other social media aid in this and have revolutionized the cake industry worldwide. I am constantly pushing the boundaries of style and stay conscious of certain trends, but the real gift is in striking a balance of several elements to get the right design. Sometimes couples get engaged and rush into tasting cake before they spend time to formulate enough elements to concentrate on the design. Possibilities are endless, so it is nice to have a starting out point.
What design of cake would you recommend for a Lake Tahoe wedding couple?
It depends on the time of year and the unique setting. A winter white theme could go Boho with geodes, feathers and antlers while a spring/ summer could feature greenery, ferns, floral and woodsy notes. A lakeside view can go Coastal with hints of slivery blues! That’s the fun of a Tahoe based location…. So many possibilities!
When you’re not designing wedding cakes, we’ll find you…
…dancing Salsa with my lovely husband, working on my home and garden, traveling and wine tasting, or entertaining friends and family around my large and well used farm table!