Japanese Friendship Garden Wedding – Tom and Akiko Cleveland

Venue: Japanese Friendship Garden
Venue Address: 2215 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101-1656
Number of guests: Approximately 90
Services Provided: Wedding DJ and Master of CeremoniesBasic Dance Floor LightingCeremony DJ

Event Coordinator: Swann Soirees
Photography: Love Art Photography
Flip Books: A Little Scene
Catering: Indulge Comtemporary Catering
Cake: Sumi’s Oven
Florist: ArtQuest
Officiant: Joe Cleveland

In February of 2011 I was at the Del Mar Wedding Event bridal bazaar and met Thomas (Tom) and Akiko. I really like the smaller bazaars because you get a chance to really chat with people. For instance, Tom came over and started asking questions and we ended up chatting for at least 20 minutes about his wedding. Akiko was nearby at another booth, and later joined him. Before I even packed up and got home after the bazaar, Tom and Akiko had already gotten online and submitted a quote request! We met, discussed details, and they booked their date. I met with them a second time down the road, and did a site walkthrough with them. We discussed optimal locations for equipment. Of particular interest to many may be my controversial preference of the DJ booth. While many DJs who work at the Japanese Friendship Garden like to have their table up on the porch, to me that was not preferable. You see, I like to ‘connect’ with the guests, and I firmly believe that being easily accessible to guests is a key factor to a successful event. When I’m on a stage or platform, I feel ‘disconnected’ from the dance floor. In the event industry it really is the little things that matter a lot, and I firmly believe that Thomas and Akiko’s trust in my location preference contributed to the degree of success of this wedding. More on that later.

Tom and Akiko had their ceremony at the Koi Pond. This location has it’s own set of challenges. The guest seating areas are divided into two areas. To work with this, I used two speakers on stands, and swiveled each to cover the proper areas. The photo below only barely shows the left speaker, but it was swiveled to the left to support the area you can see over there.

Ceremony Prelude (Guest Seating): Vitamin String Quartet
Ceremony Processional (Officiate, Groomsmen and Groom): Empire Brass / Music of Gabrieli – Canzon No. 16 for 12 Parts
Ceremony Processional (Bridesmaids): Bach – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Ceremony Processional (Bridal March): Lumiere Quartet – Bridal March
Ceremony Recessional: U2 – Beautiful Day (Dennis J Ceremony Remix)

Japanese Friendship Garden Wedding ceremony

And the talented team of Love Art Photography were gracious enough to supply some more professional photos to commemorate the night.

japanese friendship garden wedding ceremony far

For their ceremony interlude, Thomas and Akiko participated in a tree planting ceremony. This a cool ‘green’ idea for a ceremony. The idea is to water the tree together, then take it home and plant it in your garden. The tree is then always as old as your marriage is.

japanese friendship garden wedding tree planting

japanese friendship garden wedding ceremony

After ceremony was over, guests were escorted outside of the venue to take a group photo, then started cocktail hour at the Fujidana.

Cocktail Songs:

Stickshifts and Safety belts by Cake
Apartment Story by The National
Lovers in Japan by Coldplay
In the Waiting Line by Zero 7
All I Want Is You by U2
Let Go by Frou Frou
Marry Me by Train
Somewhere over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo Ole’
Steady As We Go by Dave Matthews Band
Somebody by Depeche Mode
Songs from the Garden State Soundtrack
Hey There Delilah / Plain White T’s
You and Me / Lifehouse

When photos were finished, I got the guests seated, and worked with Brenda and Ania from Swann Soirees to coordinate the perfect Grand Entrance.

Grand Entrance: Novelle Vague – Just Cant Get Enough

japanese friendship garden wedding grand entrance

Immediately after Grand Entrance, we started their first dance.

First Dance: Dave Matthews – You and Me Together

japanese friendship garden wedding first dance closeup

japanese friendship garden wedding first dance

japanese friendship garden wedding first dance tag

We then started dinner. After dinner, we began toasts. I’m starting to see this trend more and more– Toasts being given with cues/speeches read from their iPhones!

japanese friendship garden wedding toast`

japanese friendship garden wedding toasts

We then started Akiko’s dance with her father.

Father Daughter Dance: The Beatles – Blackbird

japanese friendship garden wedding father daughter

And then some open dancing!

japanese friendship garden wedding 1

japanese friendship garden wedding

We took a break after a bit and did the cake cutting.

Cake Cutting Song: Cake – Love You Madly

japanese friendship garden wedding cake cutting

japanese friendship garden wedding cake

japanese friendship garden wedding cake kiss

And then got that dance floor going again. Note that we had all ages on that dance floor until the very end!

japanese friendship garden wedding 3

japanese friendship garden wedding 4

japanese friendship garden wedding 5

Here’s a fun occurrence– Unbeknownst to me until later, Brenda Swann came up behind me while I had everyone dancing up a storm, and snapped the following photo which she posted to Twitter with the comment, “Good DJs really make the party!”. Pretty cool, huh? Here’s the photo she took. I swear it’s me. LOL

good djs make the party

japanese friendship garden wedding 6

For the last dance, I had Tom and Akiko dance in the center with all the guests holding hands in a circle around them.

Japanese Friendship Garden Wedding last dance

And all the guests gave them a big goodbye hug, at my direction!

Japanese Friendship Garden Wedding fun last dance

This wedding was so much fun! Working with Swann Soirees was a delight and together with the other vendors we made a night full of memories that will last a lifetime, and that’s what it is all about, right?

Of course, after the reception was over I made sure to get a photo with the happy newlyweds. Remember that I mentioned I was going to talk more about the placement of my DJ table? During our photo, Akiko mentioned that while she wasn’t on the dance floor and was greeting guests and engaging in conversation with them, she was really enjoying watching me do my thing with the turntables and vinyl. She loved ‘the show’. Tom remarked, “That’s why we hired him!” I just said, “I appreciate that!”

Japanese Friendship Garden Wedding dj

And then one with Brenda Swann… the first of many, I’m betting. I made her promise that we’d get a photo together after every event we do together. She was down with that.


Congratulations to Thomas and Akiko Cleveland and their families, and best wishes for many happy years to come!


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  • Brenda Swann

    GREAT job doing this recap Dennis!! Love that you included all the songs too! Had a BLAST working with you 🙂

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