SAN ANTONIO —
Parties and celebrations might be the last thing on many people’s minds during this time or coronavirus, but they shouldn’t be.
As life continues, so do important occasions that are meant to be celebrated. But how can you do that, while keeping everyone safe? Two local husband and wife duos may have found the answer.
From graduations to weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays, celebrations of all sorts have been put on pause or even worse-- canceled, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Serena and Dominic Fournier of At Last Entertainment said they had to have 60 conversations with brides about having to postpone their dream weddings.
"They were in tears sometimes, you could just feel the emotions right there. And we're just one of their half-a-dozen vendors, so they had to have this conversation a bunch of times... everybody's like I'm so sorry," Dominic explained.
Dominic, who is a professional emcee/DJ, and Serena, who is in charge of entertainment/event planning logistics, said it was about a month of being "at home and feeling upset and depressed and bored" when the wheels started to turn.
"We felt like, you know what? We can offer something unique to couples and people... We really just wanted to make sure that people knew that they could still get together, see their loves ones," Serena said.
Which is how the couple came up with the idea of virtual celebrations.
"The line we started with is, "It's still okay to celebrate. We basically are saying that it may look a little different but you can still feel good about your event, you can still see your family and friends and you can still have a good time," Serena stated.
But to pull it off, the couple needed some help with the technical aspects and graphic design.
Enter Liz and Garrett Armijo of 5050Photobooth. The Fourniers and Armijos were familiar with each other as vendors working in local events.
"We were really excited when they asked us to partner up with them because we're known for our customizations and our graphic designs and I had a lot of fun creating the animations for them," Liz explained.
Liz's husband Garrett, who has a background in IT, said, "It was hard not only for us, but you know to hear from the couples and to hear the stories from everywhere and we wanted to try to figure out something we could do for them."
The partnership between these two couples elevated the virtual events to a whole other level.
"To date, there wasn't really anything fun with the Zoom calls. Everybody had experienced them, but it was, ya know, grandma calling in and voices over everybody and so what we did is we took it more to like a production."
From his home studio, Dominic is able to plug into clients' systems which allows the sound to come off a lot cleaner and clearer than it would if someone was just playing music in a Zoom and sharing it with those on the call.
"We did a...almost like, you know when you're at a Spurs game and the jumbotron comes up and somebody's dancing in the stands and they pop up on the screen? That's what Garrett is doing behind the scenes; he's finding someone who's dancing and being silly and he highlights them on the screen and they pop up and start dancing," Dominic explained.
With a professional host/DJ, quality sound system, professionally produced party graphics, games, dance parties, multiple camera angles, spotlight shots, tech-support, shout-outs from guests who are unable to attend, and a keepsake recording of the event, you might think the cost for these virtual celebrations would quickly add up.
But The Fourniers and Armijos said their main goal is to see people smiling and laughing again.
"This was never a for-profit endeavor. We always intended for it to be us giving back to the community. We don't even worry about covering our costs, they're minimal," Serena explained.
Garrett agreed, "It's one thing to run a business, and you know, we do what we can to pay our bills, but just to be able to give back and use all of our talents and things that we can do well."
Even as businesses open up and some rules are loosened, a lot is still unknown about the future. In the meantime, these virtual celebration wizards are hoping they can help bachelors/bachelorettes, companies, birthday girls/boys, newlyweds, etc. have fun celebrating life's special moments.
"The most important part is fun," Dominic stated, "That’s what people are going to remember. They’re not going to remember if you have cushions on your chairs or not, I mean maybe your one cousin… but at any event it’s always the fun that people remember, so that’s what we’re trying to do, bring the fun into the quarantine.
Garrett added, "It’s important because time is going to continue to move on, so birthdays are still gonna happen, quinceaneras are happening but just because you’re at home doesn’t mean that you can’t still celebrate."
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