Finding That Perfect Song
Planning a wedding comes with a lot of pressure to get everything right. I’m in the process of putting together a May wedding with my fiancé Mary and we’re doing pretty good so far. At least we think so. We’ve got a great location, planner and caterer. But we’re still trying to figure out the music. Should we go with a DJ or a live performer? And what’s the perfect song for when Mary walks down the aisle? And when we have our first dance? And what music should be heard during the cocktail hour or reception? It’s a lot to consider, so I figured I’d talk to some notable names around Las Vegas and find out what they did to make their wedding day not only magical, but musical.
Terry Fator - Las Vegas Strip Headliner
If you’ve ever seen Terry Fator’s show at the Mirage, you know the comedian and ventriloquist offers more than just a puppet show. He’s also a strong singer who performs a few songs straight - without gimmicks - each night. And while he has no problem being onstage in front of thousands of fans, he had trouble making eye contact with his bride Angie while singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at their wedding.
“I couldn’t even look at her when I was singing,” Fator remembers. “Because it would make me cry. So I just had to look down the whole time.” There was special meaning behind the choice of song, which was originally featured in the musical Carousel. It was a favorite of Angie’s late father, a singer in his own right.
Fator was accompanied by harp during the performance, which actually took place during the first of two weddings for the couple. The original plan was to have the ceremony on what would have been the 66th wedding anniversary of the bride’s late parents, but not everyone in the family could make that particular date. “We went ahead and got married in a small impromptu wedding that we threw together in a week,” says Fator.
Both weddings were at the Hilton at Lake Las Vegas, but the second time around, Terry performed “I Must Have Done Something Good” from the Sound of Music during the actual ceremony. “[Angie] had no idea....I had a piano player waiting. He started and I sang the song. It brought everybody to tears. Me too.”
Fator also penned an original tune for the big day called “Your Love Song (Angie’s Song),” about how the simplest of words can be the most effective. “The song was about no matter how hard I try, I cannot come up with a better way to say I love you than ‘I love you,’” he says.
A live band played during the reception, where the newlyweds danced to an evening filled with romantic songs, including John Legend’s “All of Me.” Fator joined in to sing “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. “These musicians and songwriters are poets,” he says. “They express our emotions through words and music.”
Christine Maddela - KVVU FOX5 News Anchor
As a lead anchor for daily newscasts on KVVU FOX5, Christine Maddela is seen and heard on television sets throughout Las Vegas. And just last year, she and husband Christopher, a General Manager for Craftsteak, tied the knot.
It was a ceremony tinged with sadness, since two of the most important men in Maddela’s life weren’t able to be there for it. “My brother died in a car crash in 2008 and then nine months later, my father died of a massive heart attack,” she says. As a way to include them in the wedding, Maddela chose the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta for the ceremony, a place they used to vacation together as a family. “I wanted to go somewhere we had been in the past and made some memories,” she says. “It was really important to involve them as much as I could.”
Music was also important to the couple, especially the groom, who started college as a music major and was a competitive trumpet player. “Music’s always been a big part of his life. I consider him a music snob,” Maddela says with a laugh. “He’s an audiophile and a big music guy.”
For the ceremony itself, the couple read lyrics from songs. The bride chose “As” by Stevie Wonder while Christopher read the words of Kurt Elling’s “All is Quiet” over “Kaifuku Suru Kizu (The Wound That Heals),” an instrumental track by Japanese artist Salyu. Maddela walked down the aisle to an instrumental guitar version of the Beatles’ “In My Life,” a song that also played during a different “walk down the aisle” in front of her late father and brother - her high school graduation.
A mariachi band played during the cocktail hour and then the newlyweds had a little fun. Their first dance began with “I Only Have Eyes for You” by the Flamingos before shifting gears into a high-energy choreographed dance medley, featuring hits by Beyonce, Prince and Michael Jackson - with even a little bit of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” thrown in for good measure. “I just thought it would be something fun,” remembers Maddela. “I enjoy dancing. Christopher - I don’t know if that’s on the list of things he likes to do - but from his musician side, he likes performing. It was really just a time to have fun.”
Mark Shunock - Actor & Founder, The Space
Mark Shunock knows a few things about putting on a good show. “I’m an actor first and foremost, who loves to produce,” he says. The veteran stage performer made a name in Las Vegas for his role in Rock of Ages but now he’s the man behind The Space, a multi-use venue that’s home to Monday’s Dark, a bi-weekly variety show that raises money for a different charity each time.
Shunock threw a different kind of event about five years ago, when he married fellow actor and longtime girlfriend Cheryl Daro. The couple first met when cast in the same show 15 years ago. “I call it a showmance that never ended,” he says with a laugh. “In the business, people talk about having showmances all the time, where you fall in love with your leading lady or leading man. It’s a romance that happens during the show, and when the show’s over, it dwindles. But ours never ended.”
For both the ceremony and reception, the couple rented a rooftop photo studio in Los Angeles just south of the Hollywood sign. “It was about throwing a really fun party for a small group of people,” Shunock says. “It was almost like our wedding was a show. We had it time-lined… and I wanted it to be just right.” The ceremony itself got underway when Cheryl walked out to “A Sunday Kind of Love” by Etta James. “Lyrically it makes sense,” Shunock remembers. “It describes us. We’re just this chill couple who likes to have a good time and hang out with friends. It really set the tone for the afternoon.”
The ceremony took place “in the round” with the couple surrounded by family and friends holding hands. The first dance was “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong. “We had that vintage vibe going,” says Shunock. “We’re both performers. We both sing and love to entertain. I think the songs we had are pretty representational of who Cheryl is and who I am.” The couple also let guests make suggestions by uploading their favorite songs to a website in advance.
John Courtney - Simon Hospitality Group Culinary Director & Executive Chef, Carson Kitchen
Sometimes a bride walks down the aisle to the sound of chickens making noise. Yep, chickens. It happened when John Courtney married his longtime girlfriend Paige during a beautiful outdoor ceremony at the Cowgirl Winery in Carmel Valley, California. “We didn’t have any music set up,” he remembers, although the owners offered to play some French brasserie music in the background. “They were having issues getting it on, but then the chickens started going, so it was kinda perfect.”
As it turned out, the chickens started squawking because Courtney’s father got a little too close to the coop while looking after the couple’s dogs. He moved them out of them way just in time and the noise died down as the bride arrived at the alter.
After the ceremony, the wedding party headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea for a reception at Casanova restaurant. Courtney and his bride looked into hiring a DJ, but figured it was an expense they could do without. They also decided against an iPod playlist or even a Pandora channel streaming in the background. One of the reasons - they just don’t agree on the same music.
“She a country music fan. I like everything but country music,” Courtney says with a laugh. “So her choices probably would’ve had some country in there. I’m a hip hop person. So to go from Jay Z to Reba McEntire... How do you do that?” The couple decided whatever happened to be playing in the background at the restaurant was fine. It turned out to be music from French singers Edith Piaf and Emilie Simon.
“For us, the music was really our friends’ voices,” Courtney says while recalling how guests from out of town were able to easily mingle and reconnect in the small downstairs dining room. “If we had (loud) music, no one would’ve heard each other.”
Zoe Thrall - Director, The Studio at the Palms
It’s safe to say music plays a major role in the life of Zoe Thrall. Not only does she run the state of the art Studio at the Palms, but she first met her husband, Pat Thrall, when the two were on the road together with Steven Van Zandt. Pat was on guitar while Zoe was on keyboards and woodwinds. “We became good friends and over time, fell in love,” she remembers.
Their wedding was a traditional Greek Orthodox ceremony in upstate New York. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Greek wedding, but it’s not 15-20 minutes like most weddings,” Thrall says with a laugh. “It’s about an hour-and-a-half. As my husband says, you feel married at the end of it.”
The couple took a few people off guard - including the priest - by incorporating their favorite music into the ceremony. “This was in the mid-90s. It was a cross section of popular music with jazz and R&B - songs that were important to us when we were courting. After the ceremony, we left the church to a Brecker Brothers song, ‘When it Was’.”
However, Thrall says the live band at the reception was told to stick with traditional Greek music. “Halfway through, they started to play a Stevie Wonder song and my husband went up to them and said ‘No, no, no… We talked about this. Only Greek music.’”
One exception was the number for their first dance - “Song for You,” written by Leon Russell and recorded by Donny Hathaway, among others. “The lyrics are about being a performer on stage all over the world, but the song is ‘for you,’ so lyrically, it worked for us.”
Thrall notes that a lot of musicians were in attendance at the wedding and “even though there wasn’t a big jam at the end, it was a lot of fun.”
Tyra Bell-Holland - President & Chief Brand Influencer, Ava Rose Agency
With the job title of Chief Brand Influencer, you can tell Tyra Bell-Holland likes to do things her own way. As one of the top public relations pros in Las Vegas, she has plenty of experience with big events. So to celebrate her 10th anniversary with husband Rob, she threw a lavish renewal ceremony and reception at Kitchen Table, a busy breakfast and lunch spot in Henderson that also happens to be one of her clients.
“It was the perfect combination of approachable elegance,” says Bell-Holland, who described the look of the party as “shabby chic” with palm trees and chandeliers alongside flowers and mason jars. She says the renewal ceremony was an opportunity for the couple to not only recommit to each other, but also their family which includes three children.
Live music was provided by singer and guitarist Stevenson Brooks, a regular at Kitchen Table who was spotted by Bell-Holland playing brunch on weekends. “His playlist was our wishlist for a party,” she says. “All of the music was in line with what we grew up with - loving the 80s, 90s and 2000s, rock, alternative - and some funk because we’re 70s babies.”
Brooks got a little help from Aaron Ramsey, who joined in on percussion and served as DJ between sets. Professional singer Traci Nelson stepped in to perform a soulful version of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” as a surprise wedding gift. Bell-Holland was working as a concierge years ago at the Bellagio when she first met Nelson, who at the time was a touring singer for Dr. Dre. “We just had this magical connection,” she says of the friendship.
Brooks also performed something special for Bell-Holland’s walk down the aisle. “Our love song throughout our relationship was “Yellow” by Coldplay,” she says. “That song has always reminded my husband of me - and my favorite color is yellow which is kind of funny. That’s definitely our song.” Other songs heard throughout the night included favorites by the Cure, Duran Duran and David Bowie.