When Kristin Kay Sanders and James Robert Hallam got engaged on Mother’s Day 2020, they set a heartfelt intention for their dream wedding the following year.
“Due to the pandemic, we felt inspired and called to put together a wonderful love-filled weekend with all of our closest friends and family after so many people had sat at home with little company and face-to-face interaction over the last year,” James says. “We thought the wedding should provide what folks had not been able to do — get dressed up and eat tasty food while dancing to incredible music.”
On that last note, the couple had one very specific — and unorthodox — source of musical inspiration in mind: the 2003 Will Ferrell frat-boy film Old School. In a famous wedding-reception scene, a band called The Dan Band embellishes the newlyweds’ first dance to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with some, shall we say, “four-letter-word flourish.”
What if The Dan Band could show up and give James and Kristin’s guests the same out-of-nowhere, irreverent, joyful belly laughs after such a long and joyless pandemic year?
To orchestrate their wedding — including bringing in the famous band from Los Angeles — the couple called on Dallas wedding planner-to-the-stars, Steve Kemble.
Kemble crafted a two-day extravaganza for them, April 23-24, 2021 — three events in three venues — all with larger-than-life details that would fit his signature descriptor, “FABULOUS!”
James and Kristin were no strangers to fabulous events and experiences themselves. James — executive vice president of Ben E. Keith Co., and Kristin — an entrepreneur in fields ranging from health foods to private investigation — are theater, arts, and fashion aficionados who have traveled the world in pursuit of all three. One of their favorite dates, they agree, was the opening of the Christian Dior exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2019.
The couple loves a great long-weekend adventure, so that’s exactly what they wanted to give their wedding guests.
First came the Friday afternoon wedding ceremony at Highland Park United Methodist Church’s Cox Chapel, where James and Kristin exchanged vows before 125 friends and family, including Kristin’s sons, Jackson (13) and Christian (11) and James’ children, Georgia (21) and twins Hite and Hale (15).
For her “something old,” Kristin wore her grandmother’s wristwatch — a family heirloom for three generations — which her dad placed on her wrist before escorting her down the aisle.
The bride and groom chose not to see each other before the wedding, and the first time James glimpsed Kristin in her Carolina Herrera gown and hand-beaded veil, he nearly lost it.
“When those doors opened and she walked down with her father, I have never seen something so breathtaking in my life,” he says. “Kristin was glowing and her dress was a beautiful shade of white with roses and just lovely. It was all I could do to not burst out in tears.”
Bride and groom weren’t so successful suppressing tears when they were preparing to exchange their commitments.
“The pastor had a beautiful message about how our love should be a guiding example for all to see,” Kristin says. “Literally, James and I were choking up before we even got to our vows. I looked to see the groom and all the boys were wiping their eyes. I had to pull it together.”
After the chapel service, the wedding party and guests headed to nearby Park House at Highland Park Village for the first of two weekend receptions. The bride changed into a Chanel dress, towering balloon art sculptures greeted guests, and DJ Mark Ridlen kept the party soundtrack lively for the happy occasion.
To pull off the lavish, black-tie reception Saturday night, Kemble and a crew of 85 people worked for two days to transform Dallas Country Club into a magical, theatrical event space for 400.
Twinkling candles set amid a floral wonderland cast a romantic spell for a night of dining, sipping, celebrating, and dancing. A regal black and gold “K & J” monogram created by 5 by 7 Designs adorned everything from favor boxes (containing Kristin’s favorite Nothing Bundt Cakes) to the bar station backdrops.
One of the couple’s favorite details was a 12-foot-tall “LOVE” sculpture made of white roses and greenery that served as a selfie station. Guests also had fun with a smile imprint reader, who would have them kiss napkins and assess their smiles. “Men used lipstick, which was priceless,” James says.
And then there was the cake — “OMG! The cake, the cake!,” Kristin enthuses. “Dallas Affaires created this contemporary, stunning design that had eight layers of pure ecstasy.”
The newlyweds had kept The Dan Band a surprise for their guests, but an unusual decor detail hinted that something unorthodox was about to happen.
“Given That Dan Band was going to be hurling well placed obscenities (as nice as you can) from the stage at the Dallas Country Club, I thought we should bring back the Bud Light 'Swear Jar' to get the audience wondering what in the world was about to happen,” James says. “Steve over delivered as usual and had a single spotlight on a Best Maid pickle jar, and as you would expect, as guests noticed it, they were asking “Why is there a swear jar?”
James and Kristin (in a Ralph Lauren gown for this party) had taken Arthur Murray dance lessons for three months to pull off The Dan Band “Total Eclipse of the Heart" scene exactly as it unfolded in Old School — down to their “surprised” reaction when the lead singer tossed off the first obscenity. The crowd caught on and was quickly laughing along, just as the couple had hoped.
After an hour of Dan Band fun and entertainment, the Jordan Kahn Orchestra — complete with brass section, backup singers, Go Go dancers, and light show — took over the stage to dance the night away.
“The Hallam reception celebrated and danced until the lights were turned on,” James says.
In fact, the bride and groom were having so much fun themselves, they skipped a traditional “grand exit” and were among the last to leave.
“We were having so much fun dancing with everyone,” they say, “the idea of leaving early was not an option.”
Just as they'd envisioned all those months ago.
Wedding planner: Steve Kemble
Ceremony: Highland Park United Methodist Church
Friday reception: Park House, Highland Park Village
Saturday reception and catering: Dallas Country Club
Bridal attire: Carolina Herrera (bridal gown), Alisa Culp for Haute Hot Lingerie (custom veil), Ralph Lauren Purple Label (Saturday reception gown), Chanel (Friday reception dress)
Groom’s tuxedo: Custom Vitale Barberis Canonico, Italy — Neiman Marcus
Floral: Dr. Delphinium Designs and Events
Cake: Dallas Affaires Cake Co.
Entertainment: The Dan Band, Jordan Kahn Orchestra (Saturday reception), DJ Mark Ridlen (Friday reception)
Photography: Danny Campbell Photography, Bryan Chatlien Photography
Audio and lighting: Eagle AVL, Miller Pro Audio
Favors: Nothing Bundt Cakes
Invitations, favor boxes, napkins: 5 By 7 Designs
Linen and chairs: TLC Event Rentals and Production Inc.
Custom bars, food stations, dance floor: Shag Carpet Prop Rentals
Drapery: Quest Events
Party balloon art sculptures: EZ Party Time
Hair and makeup: Jose Hernandez
Transportation: Wynne Transportation
Entertainment booking: Gary Osier Presents, Bravo Entertainment
Accommodations: The Lumen Dallas
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