Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top Picks for 2013-14

These are my top picks for 2013-14. I tried to pick venues from various price ranges to help everyone out.  If there is anything you'd like to see added to this list next year, let me know!

Best Venues

Atrium at the Inn at St. Johns, Plymouth, MI (High budget)
While it may be very pricey, the Inn at St. Johns is my choice for best food, service and overall venue.  There is nothing quite as elegant as this location, but the price is quite staggering.  Food is 5 star all the way.  While I don't have a proper review written, here are some photos:

Webers of Ann Arbor may not be as unique, but the food is excellent and the remodel they did last year makes a world of difference.  Great service food and a classy, but relaxed setting.  Still a bit pricey, but far less than the Inn at St. Johns.


The Howell Opera House, Howell, MI (Medium budget)
For many, this may not even be on your radar as a venue, but the unique setting (brick walls, wood floor, and glass front entrance area) and historical upstairs area, create some excellent photos!  There are a few choices for caterers at this location.  I recommend Gerard's Catering (see below).  Up lighting can do wonders here, as the venue is a blank canvas.  I've done a few reviews, here is the most recent:

And for the budget minded, I have a tie between...
St Agnes of Fowlerville, MI and the American Spirit Center in Brighton, MI
Both are nice venues that can be improved greatly with the addition of up lighting and a few decorations.

Review for St. Agnes:
Review for American Spirit Center:

Best Caterers

Gerard's Catering (Chef Joe) 517-548-1303
I've been told his prices are reasonable and the food is top notch!



Most Unique Venue

Fox Hills (Classic) in Plymouth, MI
The log cabin look, beautiful outdoor scenery (gazebo for ceremonies), top notch service and five star food make this not only a great venue, but my choice for most unique this year.  It's layout is a bit different, but still works quite well for sound and dancing.  Read my review here:

Best Photographer

Starting from the high end...
Bak Photography 734-429-1111
No one brings more to the table than Mark Bak.  His attention to detail and 30+ years experience are unmatched.  He's done Hollywood stars, politicians and professional athletes.

Lindsay Jane Photography (
Lindsay is a pleasure to work with and is reasonably priced.  She did our wedding 8 years ago and gave us exactly what we wanted.

Thanks for checking out my top picks and be sure to call me for all your entertainment needs...
DJ, photo booth and up lighting (517-404-0418) The DJ Guy

Have a great 2014!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holly Hotel - 5 Star Food and Service with a Catch

The Holly Hotel is a unique historical building in downtown Holly that offers excellent food and service.  So what's the catch?

Because it's a historical building, there are no elevators and the banquet room is on the second floor.  If all your guests are younger (no grandmas and grandpas with walkers or canes) this isn't an issue for you.  For me, it's quite a challenge to take all my equipment up two flights of stairs and back down at the end of the night.  The dance floor is also very small (12 x 12), and is located between two larger rooms, joining them together.

I've been there on at least five various occasions over the last few years.  Two of which took place quite recently.

On November 2nd, Rachel and Tom Wunderlich celebrated their one year anniversary with the wedding reception they didn't get to do the previous year.  It was a Halloween themed reception, with most guests choosing to opt for a more Victorian style of dress.

Rachel is someone I've been acquainted with from my days of DJing Goth/Industrial music at the clubs many years ago and her husband Tom is a perfect match, both of them being very nice people.  They wanted a unique experience for family and guests that included some of the music that I played from the club.  As I rarely get the opportunity to do receptions like this, I was looking forward to it for some time.

I did up lighting for them to set a eerie Halloween mood (the hotel is also rumored to be haunted).  The tables were beautifully decorated to match the theme and even the dinner was customized to match!  It may be hard to read the menu, but I ordered the "vampire steak" which is exactly what I got! (click the pictures to see them in larger detail)

Each table had a jar of candy and each guest was given a "loot" bag.  Guests were encouraged to visit each other's tables and "trick or treat."

It was an amazing evening and fun was had by all.


Two weeks later, I returned for another wedding.

On November 23rd, Shelby and Nick tied the knot at the Holly Hotel.  The reception was held on one side of the room, while the other side had ALL the tables (half of which needed to be moved to the other side), setup for dinner.

Setting up for this event was an absolute nightmare.  I was told the ceremony would start at a certain time and guests were there nearly an hour an a half early.  As there are only one set of stairs and very little room to congregate, most of the guests were in the way while I was trying to load in.  Many, even chatting with friends on the stair case!

To make things worse, chairs had been setup on the dance floor area as well in the are where I would normally setup.  This meant that I would have to setup twice!  This is not a place I recommend to have your ceremony.  While I'm sure the pictures looked great, the chaos that followed was even worse.  I had to wait 45 minutes to relocate my equipment and set everything up properly.  The whole time no music could be played  because they needed the space where I had setup for the ceremony.  The guests were forced out to the hallway by the staircase (an area not big enough for all the guests).

The best way to describe the transformation from ceremony to reception was complete CHAOS!

Aside from the late start to dinner, everything else went very well.  As usual, the food was excellent.

Guests enjoyed themselves and filled the dance floor when the party started after dinner.

Overall, the Holly Hotel is an excellent choice for a unique reception, but I don't recommend having your ceremony there as it's too small and chaotic for both events.  The food is five star all the way and service is top notch.  The stair case can make it difficult for guests, but that's something you'll have to decide on.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lazy J Ranch (Milford, MI) - Maybe a little too lazy!

Kailey and Ryan celebrated their reception at Lazy J Ranch in Milford, MI on October 19th, 2013.  The unique layout created some challenging sound issues to work around.  The Dinner portion of the night took place in one building, and the dancing in another.

I had met with the couple on location a week prior to their wedding.  We discussed setup locations and the OWNER offered the use of his in-house sound system and mic for the dinner portion of the evening.  Both the bride and her mom were very thorough as to what they expected and how they wanted things done (not in a bridezilla way, but in a organized manner).

I arrived about an hour and a half prior to guest arrival (which ended up being nearly an hour early).  I had sound and lighting setup in the first building prior to guest arrival, but not without some issues.  The OWNER did not remember meeting with me just 7 days prior and was hesitant about letting me use his sound system and mic, which turned out to be poorly maintained.  After assuring him that we did discuss it and he said that I could use it, he gave in.  I still had to ask one of his sons to get the mic for me, which held up the introductions a few minutes.  The sound started cutting out during the dinner mix, which turned out to be bad connections on the back of his amplifier, nothing I could fix myself.

Shortly after dinner and cake cutting, the couple took their guests on a hayride around the farm.  Dinner was provided by C&C Catering, which I have reviewed many times before.

The second half of the evening took place in another barn about 200 feet away.  Guests had a good time despite the fact that one of the sons hijacked the dance time for nearly 40 minutes.  When the dancing started, we only had about 3 hours left.  About an hour and a half into that, one of the sons told me that he was going to do some instructional square dancing and that it had been cleared with the bride and groom (I knew nothing about this, so I checked with them).  I turned things over for what I thought would be 10 minutes at the most.  Unfortunately, it just kept going and going.  The couple were also under the assumption that this would only be about 10 minutes.  When I regained control of the entertainment, I had a list of more than 45 minutes of requests and only 25 minutes to play.  I cut a lot of songs that they requested and tried to play the ones that would keep the floor packed (which I did).  The bartender came up to me with about 5 minutes left and said, this is the last song, right?  I said no, I have one more that they requested as their last song.  He said, "NO, this is your last song!"  I was quite surprised at his demand and had to cut to the last right in the middle of a good dance track.  I informed guests that I was being forced to play the last song and apologized for the situation, though it was far from my fault.

I felt so bad for the couple as they were promised many things by the OWNER and he just didn't deliver.  He made sure to mention that he had done 67 weddings so far this year, which tells me it's all about quantity and not quality with the Lazy J Ranch.  While this venue isn't far for me to drive, it's also possibly one of the worst in the area.  I wouldn't recommend them to anyone.  I've done nearly a dozen weddings in barns this past year and you can do no worse than Lazy J Ranch, despite it's nice appearance.

Regardless of all the issues with the Lazy J Ranch, I did my best to make sure Ryan and Kailey had a great night and wish them many years of happiness together!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Venue Review: Fox Hills (Classic Fox), Plymouth, MI

It's not often that I'm at the same venue two weeks in a row.  That was the case the last two weeks though.

Fox Hills (Classic Fox, the older building) in Plymouth is a rustic, well-maintained and beautiful location for weddings.  I was there on September 28th for Emily & Brian's wedding and again the following Friday (Oct. 4th) for Chris & Lauren's wedding.  Both weddings were very different as you'll see from the pictures and descriptions below.


This is the outside of the building.  It's clean, well kept and landscaped very nicely.

The ceremony took place outside (a beautiful day for it) in the gazebo.  The fireplace is in the main room you enter into.  You'll notice it's decorated a bit differently the next week.

Emily and Brian opted for a strolling dinner with various stations throughout the room having different foods.  I didn't take any pictures of the food since each station would have been a different picture and may have looked a little sloppy thanks to my haste in plating.

There were four stations located around the room.  One had beef and chicken tacos with your choice of toppings, another was a potato bar with both mashed and sweet mashed potatoes plus all the toppings.  The third was a hot dog and sausage spread with chili, sauerkraut and everything you could want on top.  The last station was a made-to-order macaroni and cheese bar.  You pick all the ingredients and type of noodle and cheese and they make it for you.  Although, quite simple, the food was very good and had a gourmet touch to it.  While I don't have any pictures, I did however, get a picture of the desserts.  I believe they were brought in by the families, but I don't know if they were homemade or purchase somewhere.  I can say that who ever made them is a true professional!

With the food stations being open for two hours and plenty to choose from, everyone was full and ready to dance.   They had a great time dancing the night away to the very end.

One more thing to note... Jim is the food and beverage manager at this location and I must say that he is hands-on, attentive and there for the guests.  He asked guests if everything was good, if they needed anything and was exactly what you'd expect in a perfect dining experience.  For that reason (and the great food), I highly recommend this location.  Now on to the next week...


The entrance was decorated a bit differently, but the ceremony was still held outside under the gazebo.  Fortunately, the rain held out long enough to complete the ceremony and photos.

Chris and Lauren's reception was a little more traditional, with a plated dinner being served after salad and bread.  It was a chicken wellington with a cream sauce on top.  Snow peas with carrots and red skin mashed potatoes were the sides.  The food was excellent!

Unlike the week before (and the day after this), getting guests to dance was a chore.  They seemed to be more interested in drinking and smoking.  The bartender mentioned that they set a record for most wine drank at a wedding.  The photo booth operator (which they booked long before I was offering photo booth services) also had issues getting people to do photos.  Even the bride said she was disappointed with her guests and that she was very happy with the music.  There's only so much you can do to get people dancing.  If they would rather drink and smoke outside... well, that's a whole different problem.  (The following night was the complete polar opposite with the 20 x 30 dance floor not being big enough!)

Overall, Fox Hills is a great venue, but I've heard that it also comes with a great big price tag.  The food is excellent and the service is great.  If the price fits your budget, you won't be disappointed.

I do have to mention a strange occurrence though...  one of the staff came out on the dance floor and danced with the guests during the Wobble.  I thought this was a little odd and even rude as it's not their party.  This happened with another employee the week before as well.  No one likes wedding crashers and that's what this seemed like to me.  I noticed several of the guests look at each other as if saying "why is this guy out here dancing with us instead of working?"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Venue Review: Stonebridge Golf Course

Last week I did the reception for Jaime & Andy Lapham at Stonebridge Golf Course in Ann Arbor.  Stonebridge is on the higher end of the scale, though from the poor layout of the dance floor, you'd never know it.  The banquet room is laid out in an angled design, with a small dance floor shoe horned into one end (though not quite at the very end), putting guest tables in an awkward location and leaving almost no room for a DJ to setup.

The 4 foot wall extension serves no purpose other than to break up the continuity of the room and force the DJ to setup in a VERY limited position.  The banquet manager suggested that I setup on the other side of the useless wall and face a guest table, which was not only inappropriate due to speaker placement, but would have kept me from seeing the dance floor and reading the crowd. You'll also notice that the power cables are plugged in on the dance floor.  That's because there are no power outlets anywhere behind me, another major layout boo-boo.

Regardless of indoor layout issues, the venue was very nice looking and in pristine condition.  The outdoor ceremony was perfect and power was easily accessible there.  Both temperature and sunshine were made-to-order for this moment.

This was the third time I had been referred from a couple in this group.  I did the best man's wedding last year and also a friend of theirs.  It was nice to see some familiar faces and this group loves to have fun!  I should also mention that they are all among the nicest people I've worked with over the years.

A side note... the food was good, but one of the items served (pork tenderloin with apples), was not cooked.  Both the photographers and I agreed that it was undercooked (very pink in the middle) and chose not to eat it.  This should not have been the case as dinner was about 15 minutes behind schedule.  I would expect better from a venue of this scale, but the rest of the food was good.  Sorry no picture of the food this time as it blurred to the point that it could not be used.

The photo booth got a lot of use and guests signed their best wishes to the new couple in a photo strip scrapbook. Guests danced the whole night right to the very end and finished with a big circle to "Don't Stop Believin'"

Just a few days later, I received this very nice thank you card from the bride's parents.

This reception took place on 9/21/13