Tahoe Wedding Entertainment Takes a Big Leep Forward
A horse and carriage, a bagpiper and two drummers parading down the road would certainly turn the head of any passerby on Highway 28 in Lake Tahoe. But to Jeff Leep, it was simply all in a day’s work.
The groom in this Indian wedding wanted to arrive at the ceremony in style. He and his best man rode in a horse-drawn carriage, with a fleet of limos trailing behind them while, ahead of them, a marching bagpiper, snare drummer and bass drummer led the procession in festive fashion. The musicians were carefully selected and procured for this grandest of grand entrances.
It’s a role Jeff Leep relishes as booking agent for a wide variety of entertainment through his Reno/Tahoe-based company, Leep Entertainment. “I love making a party great!” enthuses Jeff, who also happens to be a band leader and a versatile musician who plays the saxophone and flute.
Jeff calls himself the “Rosetta Stone” of musical entertainment, because, according to him, he decodes the potentially overwhelming and confusing world of musical entertainment to unacquainted brides and grooms. In turn, after procuring the right musician, DJ or performer for the couple, he helps the entertainers understand the couple’s needs from a buyer’s standpoint. “I can interpret the needs of both sides and create a great deal, a win-win situation for everybody,” he said.
Jeff’s mother was an opera singer, so he started out in the classical music world as a bassoon player for the Reno Philharmonic. In his mid-twenties, he branched out to jazz and rock ’n’ roll, performing in a variety of bands.
It was during that time that he discovered he had an aptitude for business. “I saw other band leaders making all kinds of mistakes in these little bar bands, in dealing with the owners and whatnot,” Jeff recalls. “And so I then decided to become a band leader and became successful at it.”
Eventually, in the early 1990s, Jeff opened a talent agency in Reno, booking his own band, other bands, DJs, and a variety of talent, such as classical pianists, caricature artists and strolling magicians.
Today, Leep Entertainment provides musical entertainment to corporate events, high-end social parties, traveling shows with big-name performers, Broadway touring shows… and, of course, weddings.
Their weddings run the gamut from three-hour nuptials in mother’s backyard to seven-hour celebrations at major hotels, but each event is unique, Jeff explains. “We don’t just use a formula and stamp out the same type of wedding every time. We make it unusual, different and customized to the brides and grooms’ needs. The bride generally will have an idea in her mind. And we help her be able to create that vision as best we can within her budget.”
Selecting the best possible entertainment for a wedding couple often requires fine tuning, and “I’m like a human resources director,” Jeff says. “Let’s say they want a piano player. Well, I’ve got ten different piano players that I can bring in. Do they want classical, do they want Broadway, do they want jazz, do they want rock ’n’ roll, do they want somebody who could sing? You know, all those things that buyers have never thought about before.”
Regardless of the choices his couples make, Jeff is very confident with the entertainment he provides, whether it be his own band or somebody else. “I only hire the very best people, the very best DJs, the very best musicians. I trust them like solid gold that they’re going to take care of the brides and grooms,” he says.
That’s certainly music to a wedding couple’s ears.
Jeff Leep’s Top Tips for the Nearly-Weds Planning Their Big Day
- Invest in entertainment.
After procuring big-ticket items like the venue and the food and beverage, couples would do well to budget for music, Jeff believes. “The music is going to set the flavor. It’s one of the things people are going to remember most about the wedding,” he says.
The pièce de résistance is when guests come up to the bride and say, “’You know, we had a great time tonight. The food was great. But where did you get that DJ or where did you get that band? They were outstanding!’ It makes everybody feel good, and the bride’s getting compliments from her own guests,” Jeff remarks. “That’s what everybody remembers, the entertainment.”
- Consider the ages of your guests.
Selecting music for all age groups—a little bit of Sinatra, Dean Martin or the Glen Miller Orchestra for the grandparents, selections from the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s for the parents, as well as the songs favored by the bride and groom and their friends—can go a long way toward guest satisfaction, he said.
“In my opinion, the best weddings have music that allows each age group to have at least something that they can relate to,” Jeff observes. “When you’re planning your music, don’t forget people that are older and younger than you are.”
- Have a solid emcee.
A master of ceremonies is essential to keep the guests informed and help with the flow of the event, according to Jeff.
“The power of the microphone is incredibly important because you want to let the guests know what’s going on in the reception and cocktail hour. You have to have an effective and concise person at the microphone. An effective and great master of ceremonies will talk and make simple announcements, usually one or two sentences.”
These announcements, for instance, could include the arrival of the wedding couple to the dance floor or when the buffet line will open. Good DJ’s will not only supply the musical entertainment, but will be able to skillfully emcee the reception as well.
- Hire a professional.
Jeff recommends investing in a seasoned professional if your budget allows, versus having that “friend from college” deejay your wedding for free. The advantages to hiring a professional are many, beginning with experience, skill and the ability to read a crowd.
Jeff explains that before the wedding, when consulting with a DJ or band, the wedding couple should provide a “must playlist” and a “no playlist.” The “must playlist” will detail all the special songs the couple wants to hear, but the “no playlist” will consist of forbidden songs.
YMCA, according to Jeff, is a classic example of a song that can pop up on either playlist. “For some people, if you don’t play YMCA, they’re going to be mad. And for other people: ‘if you play YMCA, we’re going to have to choke you,’” he chuckled.
“But then in the middle, there is this gray area. And this gray area is where the DJ or band needs to be able to use their judgement,” he continued. “A great DJ or a great band leader like we have at Leep Entertainment will be able to what they call ‘read the crowd.’
“It means they’re looking out. They don’t know (ahead of time) what kind of guests you’re going to have. Sometimes it’s all one type of people and one age group. Usually, it’s a variety of people. Sometimes, it’s people from other countries. Or half the audience is Italian. This might alter the songs outside of the ‘must playlist’ and ‘no playlist,’ the songs that the DJ has discretion to be able to choose, that they think is best. You’re going to trust the DJ to make the proper selections at the proper moment. That’s reading the crowd.”
The professionalism will also extend to conduct and appearance, such as adhering to a no-alcohol policy while working or making sure to dress in keeping with the style of the wedding, whether it be a formal affair or a luau.
Last but not least, all musicians, DJ’s and performers should be properly licensed and insured, which is a requirement of many venues.
These are all standards that Jeff Leep holds for himself as well as the professionals that Leep Entertainment supplies to its clients. Jeff remarks, “I have no worries, knowing that I’ve provided the very best talent to the brides and grooms for their wedding, and that makes me feel good at night.”
Photos courtesy of Pink Frog Marketing Solutions.
The Best of Tahoe Weddings for 2020
In 2020, we learned to love a little deeper, to cherish the things that matter most, and to connect with each other in ways we never had before. While weddings may have changed, we made the most out of everything this year gave us. Many might say that this year tested them in ways that no other year before had done, but in the end, we still found something worth celebrating. Here’s a look back on some of the best moments that 2020 gave us here at Tahoe Engaged, and the incredible couples and vendors who brought them to life.
Amazing Tahoe Weddings
Love Conquers COVID
Marisa and Dacklin’s love story played out quite like your favorite romantic comedy, with the perfect ‘meet-cute’ in an airport and endless adventures together. They got engaged at the end of 2019 and began planning their perfect wedding. But when COVID-19 hit and the world shut down in March, their plans quickly changed. Marisa, being a reptile biologist, takes the science behind the pandemic very seriously and did not want to plan an event that could put people at risk. She conducted endless research and planned a meticulous and socially distant wedding that allowed everyone to celebrate safely. From bubble guns to maracas to reduce droplets, socially distant tables and individually packaged meals, accommodating vendors and respectful guests, Marisa and Dacklin’s wedding was a celebration to remember.
Venue: The HideOut | Photographer: Sarah Rittenour Photography | Videographer: Vow + Covenant | Zoom Coordinator: Wedfuly | Flowers (wedding party, arch, centerpieces): Inspirations by Gina | Decor for Ceremony Aisle: Mama Earth Farm with arrangement by Cynthia Shambaugh | Lavender: Bluestone Meadow Farm | Masks: Marissa D Poulin Designs | Cake: Sugarcoated Cupcakes | Beverages: BevMo (South Lake Tahoe) | Bride’s Dress: Emerald City Gowns | Tailoring: Lammay | | Hair and Makeup: Rah Hair Studio | Rentals: Premier Event Rentals | Rehearsal Dinner Food: Ray’s Take n’ Bake Pizza | Wedding Dinner Food: Swingle Meat Co., Mama Earth Farm
Eloping to the Top of Tahoe
Liz and Matt were originally going to have a family-only, 20-person ceremony in South Lake Tahoe in July 2020. They had already done quite a bit of planning when the coronavirus brought an abrupt halt to their progress. They hemmed and hawed for a few months about what to do. After giving themselves the space to grieve the loss of their original plans, they decided to move forward with their lives and elope! Liz later confided, “I’d always secretly found the idea of eloping so romantic.” Liz and Matt used their elopement as a chance to really get away and enjoy each other. With endless possibilities, they chose Lake Tahoe. They knew that they wanted their wedding day to include hiking, their dog, music, and drinks at sunset. Their photographers, VILD Photography, found the perfect mountaintop location. Liz and Matt hopped in their Jeep with Louie, their canine companion, and said “I do” as the sunset over the Sierras.
Photographer: VILD Photography | Florist: Twine Floral Co. | Hair Stylist: Rah Hair Studio | Bride’s Dress: Show Me Your Mumu | Groom’s Attire: Indochino | Ring Designer: Ben Shemano Jewelry
A Heavenly Experience
Two adventurers at heart, Jason and Angela spent 7 incredible years traveling and growing together. Jason planned the perfect engagement after a rigorous trek with Angela to Mt. Everest Base Camp. At just over 17,000 feet, the trek to Base Camp was one of the most intense and challenging feats they’d ever accomplished together, but it was one they’ll never forget. To keep the adventure flowing, they decided to get married at the top of Heavenly Mountain in Lake Tahoe. They planned an entire weekend of festivities for their guests and their sweet corgi, Basil, even made an appearance in the ceremony. It was truly to most epic Lake Tahoe day!
Venue and Catering: Heavenly | Photographer: VILD Photography | Florist: South Lake Tahoe Enchanted Florist | DJ: Cornerstone Entertainment | Cake: Flour Girl Wedding Cakes
A Celebration for All Seasons
It’s been said before that rain on a wedding day is good luck. If that’s the case, then Tara and Aaron’s wintry wonderland celebration – which included rain, slush, and snow – must have meant infinite luck and prosperity. Tara and Aaron’s romance began as a whirlwind. They met at a party and quickly fell for each other. Aaron travels frequently for work and soon after they began talking, they jetted off to Hawaii together. The rest is history. Tara and Aaron chose Truckee’s Lodge at Tahoe Donner for their nuptials on what was meant to be a sunny afternoon in September. Mother Nature had other plans. Experiencing 3 seasons in one day, they were forced to bring their wedding indoors, but that didn’t slow them down! They celebrated with the ones they love under the cover of a tent with lawn games and popcorn for the bride who doesn’t love sweets. It was a day they’ll never forget!
Venue & Catering: The Lodge at Tahoe Donner | Bride’s Gown: Swoon Bridal | Cake & Desserts: Lake Tahoe Cakes | Floral Designer: Love and Lupines | Photographer: KSL Wedding | Wedding Planner: Marcella Camille Events
Fantastic Tahoe Vendors
Inspirations by Gina
Gina Lett Shrewsberry discovered her love for floral design by way of her event planning business. She began by offering florals as a part of her wedding packages but loved it so much she made the full time shift over to floral design. Though this year has meant she’s had to adjust her sails, Gina welcomed the challenge. She’s used her time this year wisely, offering delivery and personalized floral arrangements as well as designing for much smaller events and elopements. She puts extra love and care into her designs, and loves to create something truly unique and awe-inspiring.
Blue Sky Events
Kerry of Blue Sky Events began her career in event planning working at Zephyr Cove Resort as a college student at the University of Pittsburgh. After meeting her now-husband, Jason, and receiving her dream job offer from Zephyr Cove Resort, she made the permanent move to Lake Tahoe. Jason and Kerry eventually decided to go into business for themselves, and so Blue Sky Events was born. The two grew their business into an event planning powerhouse, planning events around the area as well as up and down the West Coast for companies such as Google. Though the 2020 season is unprecedented for them, Kerry believes that they can endure anything. She misses creating beautiful events terribly, but looks forward to a bustling 2021 season doing what she loves most.
Michelle of Swoon Bridal inherited her love for ‘beautiful things’ from her mother, Kendyl. After working in bridal in the Bay Area, she returned to Reno/Tahoe to share her love with local brides. A year after her mother passed away in 2008, she opened the doors to Swoon Bridal in Reno in her memory. Michelle and the Swoon team take pride in the diversity of their hand-curated collection, bringing designers from all over the world into the area. Through the pandemic, they’ve discovered unique ways to continue to cater to their special brides from virtual appointments to socially distanced dress fittings. Michelle and her team continue to live by the motto ‘love isn’t cancelled’ and look forward to seeing their new brides married in the new year.
Northstar at Tahoe
Nestled atop the Sierra Nevada mountains sits the Zephyr Lodge, with panoramic views and wide-open spaces of everything that the Lake Tahoe region has to offer. Northstar at Tahoe’s wedding destination is built with reclaimed materials and boasts an epic dining hall and patio that can accommodate up to 300 guests. Northstar also offers all-inclusive wedding weekend packages, making it simple for their couples to leave much of the planning to the pros while enjoying their weekend with family and friends. In addition to mountaintop nuptials, Northstar offers a multitude of entertaining activities both on-site and in the area during the summer months. Fun-filled favorites include golf, mountain biking, youth activities, swimming, retail shopping, and dining. Its proximity to Lake Tahoe also makes it the perfect destination to celebrate your Lake Tahoe wedding!
Beautiful & Beloved Photography
On their website, Blanca & Brandon Photography is described as “a photography husband and wife team that runs on caffeine, loves a good cupid shuffle and is so in love with our job!” So Tahoe Engaged was delighted when Blanca and Brandon had a moment to share some background information about themselves and their business… and most kindly, some of their beautiful photos, too.
Get to Know Blanca and Brandon
Originally from the Reno/Tahoe area, Blanca and Brandon met at Truckee Meadows Community College during a yoga class. After college, Blanca moved to LA, and they dated long distance for two years. Then Brandon then moved down to be with Blanca, and they began working in photography together. They began their photography business as headshot photographers, a unique market in Southern California. But they longed to be back in their homeland.
After returning to Tahoe in 2017, Blanca and Brandon spent a lot of time learning about the local wedding industry and working together with other wedding professionals and photographers. As the local wedding community is very tight-knit, Blanca was impressed at how everyone in the area was so welcoming and willing to help them succeed. She remarked, “with over 12,000 weddings in Lake Tahoe every year, there is enough for everyone to succeed!”
B&B’s Business in the Time of COVID- 19
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the events industry, Blanca and Brandon made adjustments to their business to fit the changing times. They photographed more elopements and did their best to accommodate their couples who needed to postpone their weddings until next year. They also took on more portrait photography and offered some new specials to new potential clients outside of their wedding couples. Typically, Blanca and Brandon participate in 30-35 weddings per year. But in 2021, they’re considering opening a few more wedding dates to more couples in order to make up for this season.
A Reno Tahoe Love Story
Blanca and Brandon developed an incredible way to give back to the community by creating “Reno Tahoe Love Story” – a conglomerate of local wedding vendors who donate their services for one day each year to an extraordinary couple.
For their inaugural giveaway in 2019, vendors included Swoon Bridal, Haven Florals, La Di Da Beauty, Rebel Pioneer Bakery, Pretty Little Paper Co., and Cohen Creates. Each vendor donated a service in order to put together the perfect wedding for a lucky couple. Couples could enter the giveaway by submitting their love story through Blanca and Brandon’s website. The vendors carefully read through 40+ applications and chose the winners.
Blanca and Brandon intended to continue this giveaway yearly, but unfortunately, they were unable to this year due to COVID. But Reno Tahoe Love Story will return in 2021 with more vendors participating.
Blanca & Brandon Photography has a bright and airy style and a passion for capturing all things love, making them an integral part of the Reno/Tahoe wedding community. Be sure to keep an eye out for Reno Tahoe Love Story 2021!
Creating Floral Magic in Lake Tahoe
Tracey Duncan, Owner of Create with T, is originally from Placerville, California. She moved to Dana Point in Orange County at age 15 when her father changed jobs. Her first job in high school was at a local flower shop, where she discovered a love for all things floral. Tracey has always been intrigued by the outdoors, nature, and flowers. So after high school, she decided to get her degree in Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona.
Tracey met her future husband, Josh, while attending Cal Poly. After graduating, Tracey began working on large-scale design projects like parks and parking lots. Meanwhile, Josh decided to start his own landscape architecture firm, Conscious Environments, Inc., and the two then began working together.
But Tracey and Josh’s true love (besides each other) was the Lake Tahoe area. So together, they hatched a long-term plan to relocate.
Tracey’s attraction to flowers had always remained strong, and she had a real passion for design. So she went back to school to get an Associate’s Degree in Floral Design and Shop Management. Tracey found that the transition from landscape architecture to floral design was almost seamless, as many principles such as color theory and design properties are similar. Her experience gave Tracey the confidence to start her own business after moving to Lake Tahoe. She began working with other local florists, then got her business license and opened Create with T in 2017.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world this year, Tracey had quite a few wedding postponements and cancellations. But she has been as accommodating as possible, adjusting to how each wedding changed. She has also expanded her home-based business by renovating her garage into a full-service studio, complete with a walk-in refrigerator to keep her floral arrangements fresh. This has allowed her to take on larger jobs and store flowers longer than before.
Tracey now offers a weekly client service which gives her the freedom to create beautiful and unique designs. She has also begun to offer home deliveries and more “every day” floral arrangement services for birthdays, anniversaries, and other life events.
During this difficult time in the world and in the wedding industry, Tracey is grateful for the support of the local Lake Tahoe events community. She hopes that events and weddings will be able to come back full force soon in the future. Until then, she is happy to support her community in any way she can.
Blue Lotus Photography
Courtney Aaron Photography
Kevin Sawyer Photography
Over the Moon at Swoon
Swoon Bridal is Reno/Tahoe’s premiere bridal salon and is owned and operated by Michelle Depoali. Michelle is a proud 5th generation Nevadan who wanted nothing more than to add something special and beautiful to the local bridal scene. Michelle, a University of Nevada Reno alum, landed her dream job in San Francisco at the famed Marina Morrison salon after writing her master’s thesis on bridal gowns. After cutting her teeth in the bridal industry in the Bay Area for a couple of years, Michelle decided to return to her hometown of Reno to bring some bridal magic to the area. At the time, Michelle’s greatest cheerleader and endless supporter, her mother, Kendyl, had just passed away. Kendyl had gifted Michelle with a love for ‘beautiful things’, something that Michelle quotes on an almost daily basis, and she became the inspiration behind the opening of Swoon. A year and one day after she passed, Swoon Bridal opened its doors for the first time.
With her background in fashion, Michelle thoughtfully brought the best designers and wedding gowns to the Reno/Tahoe area. If there’s one aspect of Swoon that is so incredibly important to Michelle and her team, it’s the diversity of their collection, from both a design and price standpoint. Michelle and her team place incredible care into the selection of each dress that comes through the door, attending Bridal Market in New York City and Chicago as well as various designer releases throughout the country.
“What makes Swoon special is our bride. Our Swoonies come from all walks of life, with different styles, diverse backgrounds, unique body types, and a beautiful story to tell. It’s our great honor to be a small part of telling their wedding story exactly as they always imagined it.” – Michelle Depoali, Owner of Swoon
To the team, that means curating the Swoon Collection from bridal designers all over the world, from Tel Aviv to Minneapolis to South Africa, in order to bring a fresh and unique selection of ‘beautiful things’ to the Reno/Tahoe area. Michelle mentioned that in big cities, brides may have to go to up to seven stores to find what they are able to find under one roof at Swoon.
During the pandemic shutdowns, the Swoon team, like many others, adjusted their sails and innovated their appointment and dress buying process. They attended Market over Zoom in order to keep fresh styles flowing. And to help brides during these trying times, they held ‘Virtual Swoonings’, in which brides could send their gown photo inspirations, and each consultant would showcase each dress on a mannequin via Zoom.
This adjustment, though not ideal, truly showcased each consultant’s talent for finding the ‘perfect’ gown for their brides. If a bride liked a certain gown, she was able to take it home for a try-on carefully guided by a Swoon consultant. Though Swoon can now take in-person appointments, they maintain strict guest limits and COVID-19 protocols to keep everyone safe without missing out on the full Swoon ‘magic’ experience.
This year has changed the way people get married at least for the foreseeable future, so Swoon has options for the bride on a shorter timeline. Typically, gowns are purchased to order, with a sample dress in store for try-on, and then purchased directly from the designer as close to the bride’s size as possible. This process takes anywhere from 3-6 months, and a 2-3 month window is recommended for further alterations. Swoon works with some designers that can make a dress on a ‘rush order’, and for the bride who needs a dress quickly or would like to save on her gown, Swoon offers many in-store samples available at a discounted price.
Michelle and her ‘Swoonies’ truly believe that there will always be room in this world to celebrate true love, and so, they will continue to do just that. The dresses, the Swoon magic, and the brides that grace their beautiful pink walls, all give way to the extra special experience of being ‘Over the Moon at Swoon’.
Photo and Video Credits:
Store Images – Gagewood | Dress Images – Cindy Rahe | Boomerang – Tony Castaneda Films
A Lofty Location for a Wonderful Wedding
Walk down the aisle in one of the most breathtaking venues in the Lake Tahoe region. Nestled among towering mountains, Northstar California boasts all the splendor that this area has to offer. While Northstar is most renowned as a premier ski resort, it is also the perfect location for your Lake Tahoe wedding, and an excellent place to enjoy nature with the ones you love most.
All weddings at Northstar are held at the awesome Zephyr Lodge, which sits atop the mountain at 8000 feet elevation. The Lodge is accessible only by gondola and chairlift, affording guests the unique experience to see the Sierra Nevadas from the air. Zephyr Lodge operates as a fully functional restaurant during the winter ski season, but lends its charming ambience and panoramic views to weddings from June to September during the gorgeous alpine summers.
Zephyr Lodge is a rustic modern masterpiece on the mountain. A LEED certified building made with reclaimed materials, the Lodge complements the majesty of the surrounding alpine landscape beautifully. The restaurant is no stranger to a big crowd and can host up to 300 guests at a time, with cocktail hour held outside on the patio and the reception indoors. Due to its vast open floor plan, couples have the opportunity to customize their own layout within the space.
1. Katherine Nicole Photography
2. The Goodness Photography
3. Theilen Photography
4. The Goodness Photography
One of the wonderful advantages of hosting a wedding at Northstar is their all-inclusive wedding weekend package. This offering includes such details as linens, flatware, tables, staff, chairs, and much more within the price of the package. Northstar seeks to make the wedding planning process simple by including an Event Manager with each package who specializes in helping couples plan their wedding menus, overseeing set up, and managing on-site staff. Furthermore, couples have the opportunity to add on an Event Package, which includes details such as the dance floor, table numbers, outdoor lighting, and the ceremony arch.
1. Nichols Photographers
2. The Goodness Photography
3. Lily Rose Photography
In addition to mountaintop nuptials, Northstar offers a multitude of entertaining activities both on-site and in the area during the summer months. Fun-filled favorites include golf, mountain biking, youth activities, swimming, retail shopping, and dining. The property is also very close to North Lake Tahoe for those looking to enjoy aquatic activities. Guests can take advantage of free on-site transportation within the grounds, and can opt to charter buses to off-site events throughout the weekend. Northstar also has a variety of restaurants where couples can choose to host a rehearsal dinner or farewell brunch.
Northstar strives to provide an incredible wedding experience from start to finish. With endless options, helpful staff, and the backdrop of the Sierras, it’s impossible not to fall deeply in love with everything this magical place has to offer. If you’re looking for the perfect place to say “I do” in Lake Tahoe, look no further than Northstar California.
Photo Credit: Nichols Photographers