Meet your merchant: Owner of Joy of Life Events strives to create the perfect day |

Meet your merchant: Owner of Joy of Life Events strives to create the perfect day

Joy Of Life Events' Donna Nice-Hoekstra (right) checks on the finishing touches of her window display in the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce building highlighting the upcoming wedding fair, along with cake designer Debbie Jensen.
Elias Funez/ |

Joy of Life Events

Wedding & Event Design

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Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tues. through Thurs. Weekends and evenings by appointment.

Know & Go

WHAT: Grass Valley Wedding Fair: “A Wedding Affair for All Seasons”

WHEN: 4 p.m. on Jan. 21

WHERE: Nevada County Fairgrounds

COST: Free

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Donna Nice-Hoekstra was born on Christmas Day, baptized on Easter, and — as she likes to say – has been celebrating ever since.

Growing up in Ventura County, she discovered early on that she loved the process of organizing events. At her high school prom, she was the one making sure every last detail was in place before her classmates arrived. She was barely 20 when she landed her first real job at a steak house, then quickly moved on to oversee banquets at a country club in Thousand Oaks.

“I realized I loved planning large parties — loved the festivities and the celebrations,” she said. “It helps that I’m a details-oriented person.”

After studying business, restaurant and hotel management in college, Nice-Hoekstra launched a small catering and event business, “Creative Parties by Donna,” but soon discovered she was more drawn to the “art of the event” than the cooking.

In 2001, Nice-Hoekstra moved to Penn Valley with her husband, Nick, and their youngest daughter, Savannah. Their oldest daughter, Dahlia, had already graduated from high school and was off to college.

After several years of overseeing special events and banquets at the Lake Wildwood Clubhouse and Alta Sierra Country Club, she was eager to spread her wings and take full creative control of the events she organized. In 2005, she launched her own business, “Joy of Life Events — Wedding & Event Design,” and has never looked back.

Since then, Nice-Hoekstra has planned well over 500 weddings and many more parties, receptions and special events.

“When it comes to weddings, I’ve done the full spectrum,” she said. “From churches to barns to outdoor weddings in Tahoe. I just love the art of each event. I’m very visual, and there’s always an art element to it.”

But Nice-Hoekstra’s carefully orchestrated events entail much more than a visual feast. Always “the first in and the last out” at every event, it’s her job to ensure even the smallest detail is taken care of, not to mention resolving last-minute crises and calming the nerves of anxious brides and mothers-in-law.

“My goal is to get people to trust me, then they can relax and enjoy the event,” she said. “Let us take care of the details. For example, on the morning of the wedding, people need to know everything is under control. I give it my all — we usually do no more than 20 events a year.”

Brenda Fontana of Penn Valley has hired Joy of Life Events for five separate occasions — her daughter’s wedding, a christening, a birthday and a Hawaiian luau. This summer, Nice-Hoekstra and her team will create a “party under the stars” at Fontana’s home in the Tahoe Keys.

“When I was new to the area, I didn’t know who in the world to call, and I knew I didn’t want to plan the wedding myself,” said Fontana. “Donna and I met at a Penn Valley cafe and right away I began to exhale. She is amazing, upbeat and straight forward. It was clear she would have everything 100 percent handled. From the party, to the bride, to the families — I didn’t have one worry from the moment I woke up on the day of the wedding until it was over. My parties have been exactly the same way. I’m not kidding — Nevada County is very lucky to have Donna.”

Years ago, when Nice-Hoekstra was approached about producing a Nevada County wedding show, it made sense. Not only does she have a long history of putting on a broad range of themed weddings, she has also been instrumental in creating a streamlined network of businesses and venues associated with special events (, with the sole goal of developing a higher standard of services.

This year, Joy of Life Events will again produce the Grass Valley Wedding Fair, “A Wedding Affair for All Seasons,” from noon to 4 p.m. on Jan. 21 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Free to the public, the fairgrounds’ Main Street Center will be transformed, showcasing some of the top wedding and event vendors in Nevada County. The event will include live music, more than 50 vendors and over $7,000 in free services given away, such as free ballroom rentals at the Gold Miners Inn, a free engagement photo shoot by Savvy Kay Photography, free photo booth rentals, gift certificates from Foothill Flowers, luxury accommodations at Courtyard Suites and more. “Bridal toss giveaways” will take place every hour.

“It’s free — we want everyone to come,” said Nice-Hoekstra. “Events are a real boost to our local economy, so everyone wins. The most rewarding part of my job is watching people absolutely enjoy their own event. They shouldn’t have to worry about anything. They should just enjoy their celebration and the people around them.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email

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