Ever wanted to see your name up in lights? Is walking the red carpet down the aisle at your Hollywood A-list wedding just a dream? Of course you do, and Joe Cortez, Jason Salmo, Alex Ragonton, Glen Cabrera, Creighton Rodrigues and Denver Cortez can help.
They started Next Level Weddings (NLW) two years ago to provide Maui’s brides and grooms with DJ and MC entertainment. Now they say the requests for high tech visuals and entertainment has grown them into a full-service party entertainment specialists.
“We evolved together from nightclub events that we were doing in Maui,” says Joe Cortez. “We invested in the equipment to do these parties ourselves and started in the corporate and school events realm with glow parties. We even have a glow in the dark bubble machine.”
They had a learning curve going into weddings. They had to learn the new traditions, but also had a lot of entertainment experience from DJ-ing and producing club parties around the island. Meeting with couples to find out their dream wedding was step one. Figuring out how to make the dream come true was step two.
“At our first meeting with the client we go through all the details of what they are anticipating for their wedding,” says Joe. “And then I plan the timeline. The timeline is one of the most important services I provide. It’s the flow of the entertainment, and it keeps the flow of events really tight. Knowing what comes next. Once we have the program and get the other vendors on board, it’s non-stop fun at the wedding.”
Joe says creating and perfecting the timeline is the key to having a smooth and exciting wedding. For them it’s the plan that holds all of the energy to the party.
“I become one with that timeline,” says Salmo. “As MC, it’s my job to roll with the punches, keep the energy up at the party. If anything changes, things need adjusting as the party moves on. I can make it work. I make sure there is never a dull moment. Even simple announcements can be fun and exciting.”
They don’t have any specific packages they sell to brides. Instead, they meet with a couple and ask what they envision for their dream day, and then they try to make it happen. At one recent wedding the couple wanted a Hollywood-style event complete with red carpet interviews as their guests were entering. Cortez and Salmo got to work coordinating a videographer to broadcast the action to television screens inside the ballroom. Photographers played paparazzi as guests arrived and Salmo did E Network-style interviews.
One of their more popular requests is for up-lighting the decor that beams spotlights of theme colors on the walls, or putting a special light that monograms the names of the couples on the walls of the ballroom. First dances get special voice-over messages that the bride and groom get to hear for the first time. Special messages to dad and mom are in vogue, too.
Since the popularity of Youtube, choreographing a dance with the wedding party has become popular and NLW has also been making custom dance tracks and music montages. Cortez and Salmo say their services are geared for any wedding, but most of their business goes toward local brides and grooms, and their weddings tend to be larger.
Another creative way they use to entertain guests is with their version of The Newlywed Game. Called “The Shoelywed Game,” it asks the bride and groom to answer questions about each other by holding up a pink or blue slipper.
“It’s been a dream of mine to be a game show host so this is a win-win activity,” says Salmo. “The audience really gets into it and the bride and groom always have a great time. We leave the creativity to the wedding party but try to bring out their personalities and what they like to do to keep their event unique to them. It’s all about them on this day.”
Joe Cortez agrees.
“Our goal is to create a stress-free environment so they can have fun,” he says. “We are passionate about that, all of us, so that really shows in what we do. All of us have broadcast or nightclub experience and we can bring that pop culture into the mix. One of the new things coming in is a new type of low lying smoke that stays at your ankles and creates a lot of drama while dancing. We call it ‘Dancing in the Clouds.”
Then again, smokey dance floors, red carpet interviews and game shows aren’t for everyone. And that’s where Joel Katz of Hawaiian Steel Guitar comes in.
He plays Hawaiian steel guitar, slack key style guitar, jazz guitar, ‘ukulele and piano. His live music is personal, elegant and adds an intimate touch to a special event. He says he does all kinds of weddings, “from two to 500” guests at the “luxury hotel, private residence, beach or jungle.”
“The steel guitar is the romantic and nostalgic sound of Hawaiian music,” says Katz. “The Hawaiian steel guitar is a unique specialty and I can do this solo for a very full and beautiful sound. I often play acoustic guitar for ceremonies followed by the Hawaiian steel guitar. I can play all of these instruments at an event in any combination.”