April 04, 2018

Five Things A Wedding Cinematographer (Videographer) Wish You Knew

You've probably heard over and over again that your wedding day will fly by. You'll be so caught up in everything that comes with a ceremony and reception that it will be over before you know it. It's true. You'll be full of emotions, and you'll have family and friends who all want a special moment with you. That's why choosing a great cinematographer (videographer) is so important. He or she will be able to capture moments that you didn't see or moments that you forget about in the hustle and bustle of your wedding day.

I interviewed Ken Branson of MasterM.I.N.D Productions based in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina to find out the five things he wish you knew about wedding cinematography.

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The first thing is to CHOOSE FROM A RELIABLE NETWORK OF WEDDING PROS.

According to Ken, when you choose from a reliable network of wedding pros you get a group of people who already know each other, and they know how the group will gel and work together. Ken also says this kind of group will step in and help each other when help is needed. Southern Noir Weddings is a great example of this.

Next, PAY TOP DOLLAR FOR YOUR MAKEUP ARTIST.

Ken says it's very upsetting to him to watch a bride look at her video or photos and express disappointment with her makeup. It's one thing to do your own makeup or have a friend do it for a special night out, but it's a whole other situation on your wedding day. Not everyone is equipped to handle wedding day makeup. Ken says there's a lot to consider. "You have to look good in photos, you have to look good in videos and you have to look good in person."

The third thing Ken wish you knew is YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

"Make the necessary investment to capture a timeless memory that can be told for generations to come," says Ken. Think about your timeline for the day and make sure your cinematographer will be there for the things that are important to you. Ken provides this example; "If you have a sparkler exit, put enough time in after the reception to include the sparkler exit." Ken says if you don't allow enough time and you have to bring your guests outside for a mock sparkler exit, a lot of them will leave and not enjoy the rest of your reception. 

Fourth, DEVELOP A RAPPORT WITH YOUR CINEMATOGRAPHER.

"It's important to understand how they work, their style, what they do naturally because if it doesn't fit within your vision, you may not want to go with them," says Ken. The cinematographer says he likes to ask brides and grooms what they want to see when they press play. He says that gets them verbalizing their dreams and helps him understand what is important to the couple.

The final thing Ken Branson wish you knew is TRUST THE PROCESS.


Ken stresses that the post production process is lengthy and takes a lot of creativity. "It's more than just stitching times together. It's more than taking when you were getting ready and putting it beside the ceremony and the ceremony beside the reception and say there you go ma'am, sir, there's your day, because that's not visually interesting." Ken says he likes to take the time to put all the pieces together so you'll want to watch the video over and over again. Ken also says he likes to get intimate with the track he chooses for the video. He may listen to it in his home, and in his car before making a decision.

The bottom line for Ken is to see his clients have fun on their wedding day knowing that their day will be captured in a manner that exceeds their expectations. 

Have questions for Ken? Leave them in the comment section below.



February 05, 2018

Five Things Wedding Planners Wish You Knew & The Southern Noir Wedding Show

Planning a wedding is exciting! There's no denying that. Hiring a wedding planner is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It's not practical for everyone, but for those who can, do it! When you get a good one, you'll be less stressed if not stress free on your wedding day, he or she can help you make the best choices for your budget and the planner will make sure the wedding day flows as it should.

Sometimes the best intentioned brides and grooms make the planner's job difficult. I interviewed Wedding Planner Elana Walker about five things she wants engaged couples to know.

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Number 1, Trust Who You Hire. "If you hire a professional, lean on that professional and their guidance and advice, and they will lead you to the promise land," says Walker. 


Number 2, Your Budget And Your Guest List Go Hand In Hand. Elana says, "when you cut your guest list you're eliminating so many different elements, like the number of people you need to feed, the number of tables you need, the amount of cake you need." 

Number 3, Your Wedding Planner Is A Human. "We have families, we get tired, we get happy, we get sad and we want to be there for you as much as possible also but please understand we are humans as well." 
Number 4, The Most Important Thing On Your Wedding Day Is Getting Married. "Sometimes people put a little too much pressure on everything going perfect but if you hire the perfect wedding planner, you'll never know when anything has gone to the left."
Number 5, Don't Listen To Everyone's Opinion. "This day is about you and your fiance', and everyone will have a ton of opinions." Elana goes on to say, "these are your memories until you don't remember anything anymore as opposed to your guests who will leave saying oh my God that was amazing but then they'll go on to the next wedding and the next wedding and won't remember the little details. Do it for you, not for them."
Elana is the woman behind the Southern Noir Bridal Experience happening February 18th at the Raleigh Marriott City Center in Raleigh, NC. It's a wedding show curated for the southern bride of color. This show is designed to be an impactful experience to help brides and grooms plan the weddings of their dreams by introducing them to the top notch vendors in the area, educating them on the different aspects of wedding planning and providing a series of inspirations for their big day.

I'll be there along with my husband Randal "DJ 360" Calloway of 360 Elite Entertainment

Randal will provide the sound for the show and I will emcee. We'll also have a booth so that we can meet engaged couples. 

WHAT TO EXPECT:
VIP Bridal Shower Brunch from 11am - 1pm
Groom's Lounge
The Area's Top Vendors
Vendor Panel
Give Aways 
Swag Bags
Hor D'Oeuvres and Beverages
And More
Get your tickets here. 

Are you engaged and going through the process of planning your wedding? I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. Leave your comments and questions below for Elana and me.  

Happy Planning!

November 13, 2017

What To Wear To A Wedding From The Tracee Ellis Ross for JCP Collection

The Tracee Ellis Ross for JCP Collection was just released yesterday. Whooo hoooo! I'm a big fan of Tracee's and I got excited when I saw the ads for her collection. I was even more excited when I heard about the By Kikisoul Pop N Shop Meetup at the JC Penney at The Streets At Southpoint in Durham, NC. Thank you Kiki and Tierany for a great event. I went along with my sister and niece and we were thrilled at what we saw. Based on the lines at the registers, other ladies were also impressed.


Since I write about all things weddings, my approach is showing you options from the collection you could wear to a wedding as a guest, specifically a winter wedding.   

 My sister Michelle is wearing the Glorious Elbow Sleeve Fit And Flare Dress. This is my favorite dress in the entire collection. It's so lady like! The color palette is beautiful, and the hemline is the perfect length to be able to sit for dinner without any problems and then comfortably dance the night away. You won't believe the price! It's $34.30 when you use code 6SHOPJCP at checkout. 

My niece Jacinta is wearing the Kindness Long Sleeve Mock Neck Bodycon Dress. She totally rocks this dress which hugs in all the right places without looking like she's trying too hard. The print is interesting and fun and it's youthful. Perfect for a young woman like her. It goes for $34.
 This model got big applause when she came out of the dressing room wearing the Miracle Long Sleeve Kimono Jacket over the Joy Of Life Strapless Jumpsuit. This is a really comfortable look for a winter wedding. It gives you a pretty pop of color for the ceremony and dinner and you'll still look hot once you turn up on the dance floor and take off the jacket. The jumpsuit is $59 and the jacket is $59. 
I came home from the event with the Illuminated Long Sleeve Velvet Bodycon Dress. I don't plan to wear it to any weddings I'll MC this winter. I think this will be just right for New Year's Eve. I'll pair this dress with some sparkly jewelry. I love the texture of the fabric and this dress felt so good to wear. It hits about mid-calf which was perfect. I may have the sleeves altered just a bit because, as you can see in this photo, they're just a hair too long.   
This collection truly has something for everyone. The sizes go from small to 3X. I think the way the pieces are named is pretty cool too. They have names like glow, kindness, glorious and illuminated. How could you not feel glorious wearing a piece named glorious? If you see a look you like, I suggest you order right away or get to a JC Penney store quickly. As of this writing, many of the selections are out of stock online or the sizes are limited. What a great launch! Way to go Tracee and JC Penney.

October 17, 2017

Vegan Wedding At River Landing In Wallace, NC

Jordan and Charlene Deva were married in May at River Landing in Wallace, NC. I got to know them over several months because I choreographed their first dance and had many dance lessons with them.
I was also their emcee and my husband Randal was their DJ. I learned pretty quickly that these two know who they are and they know what they want. I really admire those qualities. They are vegan. Charlene has been vegan for 15 years. Jordan has been vegan about three years. He made the change while dating Charlene and coming to the realization that they'd probably spend the rest of their lives together.

When Charlene and Jordan started planning the wedding, they made food a priority. "Creating a vegan wedding was at the top of the list of things important to us. We're foodies anyway so we wanted to make sure the food would be amazing because it was a great opportunity to showcase how great vegan food can be for our family and friends," said Charlene. The couple says the chef and staff at River Landing had experience with vegan food but had not done a completely vegan wedding. Jordan says they had to make their wishes crystal clear with their venue coordinator. "It took a couple of conversations before she got that we were having a completely vegan wedding. She'd say, you could have other things for people who don't want vegan food. We were like, no, we don't want to do that. Paying to have an animal killed is an ethical qualm for us."     

The couple talked with their chef, Chef Ben, a lot! They insisted on tasting as much of the food as possible. "Because we cook so much, we knew recipes that would work so we came to him with a lot more ideas and recommendations up front and even loaned him our cook books because we knew exactly what we wanted." The menu included vegetable curry, vegan enchiladas with mole' sauce, vegan sushi, pizza, black bean cakes, and sweet and sour vegan meatballs. "We gave the chef a recipe from a book for pizza and some of the appetizers. Yeah, it was good. He made some tweaks. They really worked with us. Our experience at River Landing was pretty great," said Jordan. 


Charlene's favorite dish from the wedding was the vegetable curry. She really likes spicy food. She says her only disappointment was the sushi. "Something about the rice was mushy. That surprised us because we thought that would be one of the easiest things to do. Instead of fish, just use vegetables." Jordan added, "I think maybe they didn't use sushi rice and prepared it too far in advance." 

Kaiya Ramsey of Details Cake Design in Raleigh made the wedding cake. The design was stunningly beautiful. Jordan and Charlene knew the right questions to ask to make sure it also tasted good. "Vegan baked goods are easy but there aren't a lot of wedding cake bakers who specialize in it. At a wedding show, that was our question, vegan cakes. When we talked to Kaiya she said absolutely and she knew her stuff so we felt confident going with her because she had done it." said Charlene.

Jordan and Charlene did not indicate on their wedding invitations that the menu would be all vegan but they did ask wedding guests to let them know about any food allergies or sensitivities. "We've been to many weddings and we couldn't eat anything and not have the energy for dancing or enjoying the party. We eliminated allergens from the food choices to be considerate to people," said Charlene.  The couple said they did have conversations with family and friends to let them know what kind of food would be on the menu. They didn't hear any direct complaints about the food. "What we did hear was how much people loved our wedding. People said it was the best wedding they've ever been to and a lot of people commented on how good the food was," said Jordan.

The vegan lifestyle not only applies to their food, but what they wear as well. Jordan made sure to shop for clothing and accessories that did not come from an animal. That meant no wool, or leather. He wore a white linen suit and his shoes were faux leather. Charlene wore two gorgeous gowns. Neither contained silk or pearls. Jordan said, "when you're vegan for health reasons that's one thing but when you're vegan for ethical reasons, it's something different."


As a wedding vendor, I ate the same food as the wedding guests and didn't realize things were different until I looked at everything on my plate and said to myself, "there's no meat on this plate." It wasn't until after the wedding was over and I complemented the chef that I realized it wasn't vegetarian as I thought, but rather vegan. The food was absolutely delicious. I didn't miss the meat at all. It was a new experience for me and one I feel so privileged to have been a part of.

Do you have questions about this experience or are you planning your own vegan wedding? I'd love to know. Leave your comments in the comment section below.

All photos by Mike Bambuch of George Street Photo.

September 25, 2017

Multi-Cultural Wedding Music

Multicultural weddings can be so much fun! I'm a lifelong learner and I always considerate it a privilege to get a peek into a culture that is not my own. Randal and I get to do that through music. We've been very fortunate to DJ and MC lots of weddings for couples from all over the world.
Our Kenyan groom Greg and bride Barbara with his parents and sister

Yesterday we had a bride whose family is from Haiti, and a few weeks ago we had an Iranian bride marry an Indian groom. In May, we had a bride whose family is from Congo and in June, a bride from Brazil. Last year, we had a groom from Kenya, a groom from Ghana, a bride whose family is Italian and Iranian. Over the years we've DJed weddings for a Chinese couple, Haitian couples, a Russian bride and a couple from Israel. Whew!
Randal with Iranian bride Rozita and Indian groom Abiroop
All of these weddings required a lot of extra work. Much more work than preparing for a wedding for a couple that enjoys R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop or Country. I interviewed Randal via Facebook live and asked him how he prepares for multi-cultural weddings.


He said the first thing he does is have a conversation with the couple to make sure he understands their expectations. This is not a time to assume anything. He asks for favorite artist names and song titles.
Haitian flags waving at the Louis wedding. Photo by Lady Iman Photography

After he's talked with the couple, Randal does a lot of research. That means understanding customs and traditions, and knowing what certain music is for. For example, one of our Haitian couples wanted a carnival feel to their wedding and a lot of the music was super lit. Another Haitian wedding was totally different. The mother of the bride didn't want that same mood and made it very clear what she wanted played for certain portions of the wedding, for example, cocktail hour, dinner and party time.

For a lot of Americans, Bollywood is the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Indian music. For our Indian groom, Randal learned that he and his family and friends did want to hear Bollywood style but that couldn't be the bulk of the music. They wanted to hear music in their language from the southern state of India they're from.

It's really no different that preparing for a hip-hop party at a club. I would go crazy if the DJ only played dirty-south all night and I'm from North Carolina . I love Petey Pablo, Outkast, and Lil' John (yeah, I'm old school) but I can't listen to that all night. I need A Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z, and E-40 too.

We are thankful for the multi-cultural clients who have hired us to DJ and MC their weddings. As Randal told me "when people go crazy (on the dance floor) in any language, it's fun."

What questions do you have about multi-cultural weddings? Post your questions in the comments below and DJ 360 will answer them. Did you have a multi-cultural wedding? Please share details about your big day in the comments below as well as any insights that may help brides and grooms.   

May 10, 2017

Real Wedding: Courtney and Mario

Courtney and Mario were the sweetest couple. Back in October, my husband Randal DJed their wedding and I was their MC. Their spirit just exuded love and kindness so Randal and I knew their wedding and reception would be fun and full of meaning. 
Here are my 3 coolest take-aways from their wedding reception. 

1) The venue looked amazing thanks to all-star planner Elana Walker! Their reception was held at the Raleigh Marriott City Center and designed by Fresh Affairs. The entire room was piped and draped. The pipe and drape made such a difference. I've seen this room without it and it's not nearly as stunning. If you're working with a bland or basic room, invest in the pipe and drape. The white and gold decor was very sexy and featured beautiful centerpieces. The monogram and lighting from K2 Productions were awe inspiring. 

2) The music. Courtney and Mario enjoy hip-hop and they worked with Randal to choose great songs for the wedding party to enter the reception to including TI's Bring 'Em Out, and Missy's Where They From. This couple was full of surprises and I loved it. They entered the room to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's You're All I Need To Get By and then Randal mixed in the Method Man/Mary J. Blige version of the same song. Courtney and her dad started their father-daughter dance the way you might expect with the sweet Isn't She Lovely, and then they turned up to Randal's custom mix of It Takes Two, All The Way Up, Rollin' With Kid N' Play and Atomic Dog. They even had sunglasses as props.

3) The toasts were really meaningful. This couple chose people to toast who were comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. They shared sweet stories, offered advice and make a lot of us cry and laugh at the same time. I always cringe when I see a person who is scared to death try to deliver a toast. The person trying to read off a cell phone, hold a microphone, and hold a glass of champagne can also be awkward. If you ask someone to toast and that person tells you he or she isn't up for it, believe 'em!

This was a beautiful day for a beautiful couple. I grinned from ear to ear when this hand written thank you card arrived in the mail the other day.

K2 Productions put together a beautiful film of the day so you can see what I've described in action.


All the vendors for this wedding day were top notch:
360 Elite Entertainment -DJ/MC
Raleigh Marriott City Center-Venue
Rev. Dr. Harry L. White, Jr.-Officiant
Ashley Cakes
In His Image Photography
K2 Productions-Videography and Lighting
Elana Walker Events-Planner
Fresh Affairs-Floral Design
Winifred Garrett-Harpist 
S. Davis Make Up Artistry 
Ranata Cooper-Hair
CE Rentals
Watts Chapel
Raleigh Dream Events
Royal Banquet & Event Center
Carolina BBQ

March 17, 2017

Giving A Service As A Wedding Gift

If you've received a wedding invitation, you know you need to give the newlyweds a gift. But picking out an appropriate gift is not always the easiest thing to do, even when you have a registry to choose from. Instead of giving a thing, consider giving a service. I recently learned a lot about two ladies in my area of Raleigh, NC who provide services that I think are so valuable and could really be useful to a new couple.
Leah Friedman


Leah Friedman is a professional organizer and owner of Raleigh Green Gables. She helps people declutter their homes and work spaces. Leah believes the last thing a new couple needs is more stuff. "A lot of couples get registries done and get super excited. We did the exact same thing and registered for everything we saw. 12 years later we don't use half of it. That pasta maker was a great idea, but with kids, who has time for that now?"


Leah says she has to walk so many people through getting rid of wedding gifts. She tends to mostly get rid of vases, china and pieces of art. "I think clean lines are in these days. People are drowning in stuff and they're over having so much stuff around which is why I'm completely booked," said Friedman.

Attic Before





Attic After









With a newlywed couple, Leah can help each person reduce what he or she is bringing into the marital home. If the couple is already living together and feeling cramped, she can organize and declutter the space.

When Leah works with clients, she starts with the room that is bothering the couple the most. She works with each person separately. This organizer says most people are overwhelmed when they look at their garage or attic and instead of doing something they do nothing. She says she can transform almost any space in three hours.

Once that space is transformed, all that stuff has to go somewhere. "I offer the service of taking it to charity and getting the couple a tax deduction, or we can put it in their car (for them to handle it). Before I leave, it's going in someone's car," Friedman says.
Pile of stuff in the driveway

If the items can't be donated, Leah partners with Junk Doctors to haul it away.

Contact Leah to get a gift certificate for her organizing services. 

You've heard the saying, "the way to a man's heart is through food." (It can also be the way to a woman's heart, but I digress) So why not give the gift of cooking? Pamela Clark of The Thyme Savor is a chef and professional recipe developer who offers private cooking lessons for couples.
Chef Pamela Clark
Pam believes the gift of cooking is like no other. "There's nothing like the experience of being in the kitchen together, bonding over food, the process of preparing a meal together, that's the ultimate gift. It's a labor of love."

Couples meet at Pam's home kitchen and make a full meal based on their interests. "As we're preparing together, they are getting loads and loads of tips and techniques, whether it's for chopping, breading chicken breast, putting vegetables together and roasting. They'll be overwhelmed with information and inspiration," said Pam.

The cooking lesson lasts three hours and couples have the option of bringing a beer or wine of their choice. When the lesson is over, Pam cleans up and allows the couple an intimate setting to enjoy their meal in her dining room or outside on her patio under the stars.
Couple In Pam's Kitchen
Pam says cooking brings couples together and helps keep them together. "Every couple that's ever left my kitchen is hugging, taking pictures, and sharing what they've learned on social media. One guy proposed in my kitchen. That was so sweet."

Contact Pam to get a cooking lesson gift certificate for the special couple in your life.

Will you consider a service rather than stuff as a wedding gift? Brides and grooms, how would you feel about receiving the gift of a service? Let me know in the comments section below.