I am still spinning from the amazing night at Elissa and David’s wedding at the Plaza this past Saturday. OMG Y’all! A wedding not to be believed. Details you can not imagine. Guests who really wanted to party, clients who really knew how to organize and articulate what they wanted, but also trusted the expertise of the team they assembled. And what a team it was! Arthur Backal and I have been doing parties together for…well, for so long I can’t even say! We have always had a similar approach to flow and timing, and are very simpatico with regard to sensibility. We always go to great lengths to present the absolute best of what we are offering. When Starlight and State-of-the-Art (with Leslie Mastin and Henrik) are together, sparks fly! Add Steve Rice of the Plaza Hotel to the mix, and you have a sense of family that only years together can create. I am particularly fond of the Plaza Hotel (and Emily Reifel as well), as I started my band-leading career in that Grandest of Ballrooms, and have always been thrilled to walk through those doors. Remember, that was the scene of the Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones nuptials, and there is a favorite photo of me standing next to their wedding cake which made the cover of HELLO magazine in London. My bride and groom from this weekend, Elissa Rome and David Emden, are stars that shine equally as bright. Together, we had so much fun planning their wedding, and we truly enjoyed the whole process leading up to their special day. Countless hours were spent discussing options, cultivating new ideas, and putting personal touches on poignant moments. Even though they were excited and recommended Starlight to all of their friends who got engaged, I knew that they really had no idea just how amazing and POWerful the music and performance would really be at their wedding. To say that it was incredible is an understatement. The night was beyond any of our expectations, and the joy and exuberance in the room was inspiring. I would love to go on and on about how fabulous the band was, but even though this IS my website, I always feel a little shy about tooting our own horn like that, so I will wait for David and Elissa and their families to post their comments and impressions below. For now, here are some elements that went into making the evening spectacular.
We worked very closely with Elissa and David to prepare the perfect music selection for the pre-ceremony and processional music. Our “Custom Ensemble” consisted of harp, 2 violins, oboe and upright bass. Since the aisle in the Terrace Room is long and the processional begins on the upper level, we had enough time to plan for separate and unique pieces of music for each set of marchers. Consequently our processional program included the following selections:
“What A Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong)
“Maybe I’m Amazed” (Paul McCartney)
“In My Life” (The Beatles)
“The Time of My Life” (by David Cook) for the groom and his parents,
“And I Love Her” (The Beatles)
“Til There Was You” (The Beatles)
and a luscious and swirling version of “Just The Way You Look Tonight” for the bride and her parents.
The recessional music was light and uplifting with “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, after which guests entered the infamous Palm Court for the cocktail hour.
Up in the ballroom, the Starlight Orchestra opened the doors playing “Stereo Love” while guests entered and the room and filled the dance floor. Elissa and David made their grand entrance to Chris Brown’s “Forever,” and danced alone for a few moments until their families joined them for “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. Halfway through, the guests were all invited to join, and we packed the dance floor again with more party favorites until it was time for a rousing hora, with family members up on chairs. After the appetizer the bride and groom had their “official” first dance to “When You Say Nothing at All” from the film Notting Hill.
It’s funny how no two parties are ever the same. The same band, even in the same ballroom, even for the same kind of affair (this one a wedding!) are never exactly the same. While we prepare in advance for special music that is requested, and we map out a timeline for the evening, most of the musical choices and the ideas for maneuvering between them are made spontaneously in the moment. I have always felt that the ability to sense and know what material to play next is a divine gift, for which I am so appreciative. Part of my “pre-performance ritual” involves a kind of meditation, where my intention is to be open to the energy of the group; and to offer the right thing, in this very moment, for this crowd, celebrating THIS couple!
I have never shared that before in my articles, and it is a huge part of what I do and the thread that weaves through the entire Starlight organization, particularly with all of the Starlight bandleaders. Our skill and our art goes way beyond just leading a band comprised of amazing musicians and performers. In fact, having a band full of amazing people is just where it STARTS.
So on THIS night, at Elissa and David’s wedding, the POW moments just kept coming and coming. The magic between the guests, the band, and the blueprint for the evening was, as Leslie put it, “beyond the beyond.” The love in the room was palpable, with the level of energy to match!
Our repertoire included a good mix of R&B hits, 80’s arena rock (that would be ME on guitar rocking out to Guns N Roses and AC/DC, thank you very much!), and lots of Top 40. One of my favorite moments was kicking off the after-party; Arthur dimmed the lights, the band played “Firework,” and waiters came onto the dance floor with trays of champagne bottles with lit sparklers coming out of the tops!
After that we went into “Hypnotize” by Biggie, which is one of David’s favorite songs, and two “rappers” appeared onstage. The crowd went wild! After that, we kept it totally current and played tunes by LMFAO (“Party Rock Anthem,” (FloRida) “Club Can’t Handle Me,” and on and on and on til the wee hours.
Wow! It was quite a night. I got home at 5:00 AM, went to sleep, and believe it or not, got up ready to perform for another incredible wedding at the Hotel Pierre, which is a story for another day!
My highlight of Monday was the phone call I got from David, who spoke with me for almost an hour before giving the phone over to Elissa. We all shared something very special, as did everyone who was in attendance. That’s the beautiful thing about weddings; we all share in the LOVE that we are celebrating, and it stays with us for as long as we let it!