A Picture Perfect Experience

Your Engagement Photos at Lake Tahoe

Hold it.  Now say “cheeeese.” 

Unfortunately, for many people, this approach to picture-taking can result in photos that are… cheesy.  And if you’re an engaged couple with a wedding celebration approaching, this can be a cause for concern, because you want your photographer to capture your big day in a good light.

But some people are naturally camera shy, or they don’t always put their best face forward for photos.  If you remotely fit this description, we highly recommend you spend a couple of hours in an engagement photo session with your photographer.

Photo:  Fifth and Chestnut Photo Company

Of all the service providers (vendors) that you hire for your wedding, the one that you will spend the most time with on your wedding day is your photographer.  So, not only does your photographer need to be a skilled master of his/her craft, but your photographer also needs to be someone that you are comfortable with.

By scheduling an engagement photo session in advance of the wedding, you will get to know your photographer better and become more familiar with how he/she works.  Meanwhile, your photographer will learn from the engagement photo shoot which poses and camera angles work best, and he/she will develop a better understanding of what kinds of photos you like and dislike.  In short, you and your photographer both benefit from an engagement session, and that’s why many photographers offer wedding packages with an engagement session included.

So where is the best place in the world to go for your engagement photo session??  Why Lake Tahoe of course!!!

Lake Tahoe Engagement PhotoPhoto:  Ciprian Photography

OK, we may be a bit biased, so we recently chatted with a most darling couple, Jesse and Darren from San Francisco, who got engaged in May 2017.  When it came time for them to choose a location for their engagement photos, they quickly concluded that Tahoe was the place to be.  Like many Bay Area residents, Jesse and Darren had spent considerable time enjoying all the fun activities that the Tahoe region has to offer.  Darren told us he had been skiing and snowboarding at Tahoe resorts “for my entire life.”

So on December 10, 2017, Jesse and Darren drove from San Francisco to Tahoe for the day, and met up with their photographers, Capture Create Studios.  They planned to take photos in more than one location, so Jesse brought three outfits with her.  (She ended up wearing only two.)

Their first photo-shoot took place at Sugar Pine Point State Park. The lakefront setting, majestic evergreens and some fresh snow provided a beautiful backdrop.

Next, the couple and their photographers drove down to Emerald Bay.  There, the late-afternoon natural lighting added a warm glow to the world-famous vistas.


So if you’re an engaged couple considering an engagement photo session, how should you proceed?  Jesse and Darren’s photographers, Capture Create Studios, have these helpful suggestions:

  1. Secure your wedding day photographer first! This photographer should be the same photographer for your photo engagement session.
  2. Decide on a geographic location and settings that are significant to you. If you are an adventurous couple and love to hike, ski, or kayak on the lake, then Tahoe is the perfect place for your engagement photos.
  3. Wear clothes that you love and are comfortable. Select at least two outfits and avoid crazy patterns or prints.
  4. Consider having your make-up and hair done professionally. Makeup evens out the skin tone and gives a nice foundation base. Schedule your hair and make-up trial to coincide earlier in the day with your engagement photo session.  During the photo session, have light matte-finish powder or blotter paper available.
  5. Time it right! Your professional photographer knows the most perfect time of day when the lighting is magical for photos, so let the photographer do the scheduling.  Typically, the worst time to photograph is when the sun is at its peak height. Allow for 1.5 hours to 2 hours for an engagement photo session.
  6. Come mentally prepared to let your love shine…have fun with it!

The Owners of Capture Create Studios, Chelsea and Jon Evans, also offered these final thoughts:  “Couples who opt in for engagement sessions actually have better photos on their wedding day – there is more comfort on the wedding day.”

Reflecting on their experience, Jesse and Darren declared, “It was great to get used to the camera and a lot more fun than we thought.  If you are on the fence about doing an engagement session, definitely do it!  For sure we know our photographers are great, and we love our engagement photos.”


Jesse and Darren’s Photographer:

Chelsea and Jon Evans
Capture Create Studios
[email protected]

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.”

Sawyer Moonlight Mobile DJ


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!

Sawyer at Lake Tahoe

I Do’s with Spectacular Views

On a picture-perfect Lake Tahoe afternoon, Pamela and Dan blissfully exchanged wedding vows in an awe-inspiring North Shore setting.  Featuring a vibrant yellow and “Tahoe Blue” color palette, the beauty and joy of their lakefront celebration was expertly captured by Nick Higman Photography.  Nick and his associate chronicled the spirit of the day in photographs to last a lifetime.


As an added bonus, here are a couple of images from the photo booth provider, Cornerstone Entertainment:


While Pamela, a Bay Area native, often spent weekends in Tahoe with her family, Dan grew up in Nebraska where the magic of Tahoe wasn’t known to him until he moved to California after college. However, they both shared a draw to its natural beauty and endless outdoor activities.

During a short vacation from medical school, Dan and Pamela were visiting the sandy shores of Tahoe, beautifully backlit by the sunset and the Sierra Mountains, when Dan dropped down on one knee to pop the question. 

This perfect Tahoe proposal deserved the perfect Tahoe wedding – so one year later, they tied the knot beside those same crystal blue waters.  The couple selected Gar Woods Grill & Pier as the ideal venue to share their special day with friends and family and enjoy the idyllic Tahoe views.

Their wedding vision started with the sunflower, which laid the foundation for the decor.  Pamela had always loved sunflowers. They are bright and cheery, and as warm and inviting as the sweet summer sun – perfect for their Tahoe wedding.

Although they are often do-it-yourselfers, Pamela and Dan also knew when to pull in help from local vendors, who worked together to make their wedding sparkle.  Their Wedding Planner, Events of Distinction, orchestrated the logistics of their day to ensure a seamless execution.  To ensure an on-time performance, Reno Tahoe Limousine transported wedding party members to the celebration in style.

The waterfront ceremony location at Gar Woods provided an amazing panorama of the Lake’s awesome beauty.  Arrangements of sunflowers and wildflowers, creatively designed by Wanda’s Floral and Gift, lined the aisle as Pamela and Dan joyfully exchanged vows.

After witnessing wedded bliss, guests were escorted to the outdoor balcony at Gar Woods, which offered a picturesque location to watch the sunset over the Tahoe Mountains. As a full-service restaurant, Gar Woods allowed guests to select their entrée from their lakeside seats, which added a personalized feel to the delicious dinner.

After dinner, Moonlight Mobile DJ got guests revved up on the dance floor with a festive assortment of everyone’s favorite tunes.  To complement the décor and the Tahoe locale, Sugar Pine Cakery provided a cake adorned with flowers, accompanied by cupcakes and assorted desserts displayed upon tree rounds.

When the last song ended, Pamela and Dan were sad to see the festivities come to a close.  But they were thrilled knowing they had experienced a magical day, filled with the joy of family and friends coming together, celebrating by the shores of Lake Tahoe.


Vendor Credits

Photographer: Nick Higman Photography  |  Ceremony & Reception Venue: Gar Woods Grill & Pier  |  Cake & Desserts: Sugar Pine Cakery  |  Floral Designer: Wanda’s Floral and Gift  |  Bride’s Gown: Watters Wtoo  |  Hair: Kristie Pellegrino  |  Makeup: Kiss and Makeup Reno  |  Music: Moonlight Mobile DJ  |  Officiant: India Wood  |  Photo Booth: Cornerstone Entertainment  |  Transportation: Reno Tahoe Limousine  |  Wedding Planner: Events of Distinction



Countdown to an Amazing Tahoe Wedding

Step 1 – A Sparkling Proposal

The magic of the holiday season is in the air, and now you can begin to plan your fabulous Lake Tahoe wedding.  But first things first – the proposal!

A wedding tradition that has endured the test of time together with the proposal is the diamond engagement ring.  But what is the best approach to proposing – a surprise question-popping without a ring, or a not-so-unexpected proposal with the perfect engagement ring?

In either case, most proposers do not want to take on the burden of buying the engagement ring without consulting their partner first.  Regardless of how you choose to approach the buying process (surprise first buy later, or spoil the surprise and go shop together) it’s important to understand your investment.  Since engaged couples are older and more financially established today, according to The Knot, the average amount spent on an engagement ring is $6,351.  So you need to do your research!

When searching for an engagement ring today, the most beloved cut is the round diamond because it provides the most sparkle.

round engagement ringBrilliant Earth

While the emphasis during engagement ring shopping is rightfully placed on the stone, you can’t properly display your dazzling diamond without choosing an appropriate setting.  Most couples select a prong setting to maximize the diamond’s sparkle.  The most important choice in selecting a prong setting is whether to get four or six prongs.  Four prongs show off more of the diamond, but six prongs hold the diamond much more securely.

engagement ring with 6 prongsTiger Gems

The final element of your engagement ring is the ring itself.  The most popular material chosen for a 2018 engagement ring is white gold. However, to others, platinum is worth the added expense, because it is an extremely hard metal and it will never tarnish.  While white gold looks very similar to platinum, over time the rhodium plating in white gold will wear off and fade to a yellowish tinge. You would need to re-polish and re-plate the white gold ring to look white again.

engagement rings made of white goldHarry Winston

According to The Knot’s survey data, an average of 26 rings are looked at over a period of 3½ months before the purchase is made.  Although online shopping has become more popular, we recommend going to brick-and-mortar stores to buy an engagement ring.  Every diamond is unique, and you should have the opportunity to see and feel a purchase this important.

Begin by identifying reputable jewelers in your area and check the Better Business Bureau and online references for 5-star reviews.  Or to support the local economy in the North Lake Tahoe area, please consider these sparkling shops (listed in alphabetical order):

Regardless of where you choose to shop, never lose track of the reason why you’re buying an engagement ring.  This symbol of your commitment to your future spouse is to be enjoyed together for the rest of your lives!

Choosing a Wedding Theme with Style

Written by Joyce Scardina Becker


The Knot California magazine recently published an article entitled “Wedding Themes 101”.  We love The Knot, but want to set the record straight.  What they characterize as “themes” – Art Deco, Bohemian, Classic, Country, Modern, Rustic, Vintage, Whimsical – actually should be considered as “styles.” 

Modern Wedding Décor
Photo:  Tanja Lippert

Art Deco Wedding
Photos:  Alicia Pyne Photography; Unknown

Whimsical Wedding Cake
Photo:  Mary Costa Photography
Cake Design: Torrance Bakery

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a style is “a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed” such as a style of furniture.  In fact, most couples do not choose a wedding theme, but instead choose a “style.” Over the last several years, “rustic” and “vintage” have been popular styles at weddings, but these are not themes.  Many couples may not have even recognized the difference between a rustic style or vintage style.

A Rustic wedding employs weathered, time-worn pieces (furniture) and accents (accessories) in a more casual setting.  Examples include an old barn, or a vignette of weathered wicker furniture.

Rustic Wedding Décor
Photo Credit:  Unknown

 Vintage applies to more refined furnishings, from the 18th century to the 1950’s, typically more “refined” than rustic.  Think antiques.  Examples are painted French chairs, glided scones, chinoiserie toile fabrics, mercury glass containers, pieces of silver and crystal chandeliers.   

Vintage Bridal Attire and Décor
Photo:  Jodi McDonald

Again, it’s important to note that neither Rustic nor Vintage should be considered “themes” – instead, they are “styles.”  So then, what is a “theme,” and how does it differ from a style for a wedding? 

While style is typically reflected in the type of accessories or furniture used in a wedding, the theme is a specific design concept that starts with your Save the Date and carries all the way through the end of the celebration.  You can design a theme wedding that reflects your heritage, your combined personalities or your lifestyles (we wouldn’t recommend selecting all three, but just one).

Let’s say you are foodies, savoring the opportunity to dine out at innovative restaurants, as well as cooking up culinary delights in your own kitchen.  For your meals at home, you love to try the many spices available to you from local or ethnic grocery stores.  Voila!  You could have a theme for your wedding focused on “spices.”  But your style could be Art Deco, Bohemian, Classic, Modern… you get the picture.

A Spice Rack of Escort Cards
Photo:  Wendy Maclaurin Richardson Photography 
Wedding Design:  Events of Distinction

A fun, eye-catching way to convey your theme is to give it a tagline – for example, “Love Is the Spice of Life”.  When choosing a theme, make sure it can be communicated through not only the save the date and invitation, but also your décor, music, food, beverage, tablescapes and vignettes.  The most powerful way to experience your theme is to see, hear, touch, smell and taste it (an entire experience). 

For example, the wedding invitation could be an Art Deco spice bottle with the invitation text etched on the glass.  For your music, you can select songs like “Hot Hot Hot” and “Cinnanmon Girl”, and for favors, a collection of your favorite spices and recipes packed to go!

Photo:  Wendy Maclaurin Richardson Photography

Creating not only a style, but also a theme for your wedding will truly make your special day uniquely your own!

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.