This DJ Bride Mixed Beats at the Reception of Her Garden Wedding at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland
There's something so compelling and enthralling about a well-written love song. And for this musically minded couple—their real-life journey was worthy of a chart-topping hit. From the beginning, music has been a bond that's united Dominique (Dom) Young (a firefighter/EMT) and Doneshia (DJ Chan Don) English (a DJ and product marketer). The duo initially met through a mutual friend at a concert in Washington, DC. And then, a few weeks later, as fate would have it, Dom happened up DJ Chan Don, who also goes by Donnie, playing a set at a venue in DC. From then on, the two were inseparable.
Donnie recalls how Dom's support for the music nonprofit she launched, LoudHER, stuck out to her—"I was so stressed leading up to the [launch] date and everyday Dominique would support me, help me find a level of calmness," recalls Donnie. "The day of my event, she invited her family and close friends and it immediately felt like they were my family. At the end of the night, we had a mini celebration and talked through so many life things at an IHOP. I knew then that this was a person I could trust and love."
When Dom was ready to propose to Donnie, she selected Rawlings Conservatory in Baltimore. She brought Donnie to the botanic garden under the guise of a photo shoot, but ended up popping the question. A few months later, Donnie turned things around and proposed to Dom at an art exhibit in DC. While the duo was, understandably, eager to tie the knot, they ended up extending their "engagement [because of the pandemic ] so that we could have all the loved ones we wanted on our special day. We also knew we didn’t want to have to limit the number of people in our wedding."
After their pandemic delay, the couple selected Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, as their venue. The choice of a botanic garden was a nice full-circle moment that harkened back to Dom's proposal nearly two years prior. The couple explains that they, "originally wanted to pick a venue in Savannah, Georgia, because it was a midway point between both of our hometowns, but we decided to go with a venue closer to DC to make things more convenient. Also, choosing a botanical garden was somewhat of an extension of the engagement, which was at a conservatory. We love being surrounded by flowers and greenery!"
The couple settled on a "garden oasis" vibe for the botanic garden wedding. A fitting choice as the couple notes that "flowers have been our love language from the beginning of our relationship." The duo even explains that their, "color palette was akin to a flower. Many shades of green and pops of reds and white for an accent color."
In addition to their special emphasis on flowers, music was, naturally, another huge priority for Dom and Donnie when planning their wedding. "For our wedding, we knew there had to be a musical element at every step. We hired a violinist for the ceremony and cocktail hour, and had a go-go band and DJ for the reception," says Donnie.
Selecting the right music pros was critical for the couple. "When working with my music pros, I made sure we each had a phone call to discuss how we wanted their performance to feel. It was super important to have one AV vendor that supplied the audio from beginning to end. Our AV vendor, New Wave Audio, attended every call with each musician to get their AV needs and each site walkthrough. For our wedding, we wanted to build up to a big party," explains the couple. When looking for vendors, Donnie encourages other to-be-weds to seek out vendors who have a willingness to work with all vendors, have creative ideas, and a curiosity about both the wedding day and your journey as a couple.
Although the couple hired a DJ for the reception, Donnie also took to the turntables for a bit during the evening. "I knew I would DJ during the reception, but I was pretty hands-off with the music for the rest of the evening," says Donnie. "I hired a really good DJ friend, Alex Love. I provided a list of songs I knew I wanted to play and also asked our wedding party to share five or six that they would want to hear. It is so important to provide a 'do not play' list. If you aren’t familiar with the DJ, ask to hear a mix of their music." The DJ-turned-bride goes on to share that DJing her set was her favorite moment from the wedding. "It was amazing to DJ in front of our biggest supporters. Most of my family members live across the US and don’t often see me perform. It felt like such an accomplishment to see everyone have fun."
The music selections throughout the wedding were highly curated to reflect the couple and their partnership. "Blending our musical references was really important to us and made for some special moments. With me being from the South (Alabama) and Dominique from the DC area, we wanted to incorporate both music genres of Southern rap and go-go into our day," says Donnie. Dom goes on to note that since she is from DC, "go-go has been a huge part of my life and culture. The New Impressionz go-go band’s performance was my favorite musical moment."
In addition to looking to their roots for playlist inspiration, the couple also ensured their song list was as perfect as possible by starting the planning process with plenty of time before the big day. "We share a playlist on Apple Music, so in the months leading up to the wedding, we would add songs individually," says Donnie. "Then we went through the playlist to see what we would stick with and provided that to our DJ. That gave her a sense of the vibe we wanted for the ceremony, cocktail hour, reception. You don’t want to pick every song for your wedding day. Give the DJ some space to work their magic."
For other to-be-weds in the throes of wedding planning, the couple encourages others to "go with the songs that bring up the best memories," when building a wedding playlist. "Memories from when you were in college, concerts you’ve attended together or songs that your families played. There are so many options to pull from," to make the event magical with an epic setlist.