Engage!09 Wedding Business Conference Recap

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This past week I spoke at a wedding business conference called Engage!09 in Grand Cayman. I know, my job takes me to really difficult places, but hey, somebody has to do it.  Engage!09 is a conference for wedding professionals who work in the luxury bridal market and brings together the best of the best for education and networking.  As usual, I am terrible at remembering to pull out a camera (or even bring one), so here are some photos of this year's event as seen through the lens of some of the other people there:

Harmony Walton, founder of the Bridal Bar and I in front of the welcome banner Rebecca and Kathryn had arranged to have at the airport as everyone arrived.  Harmony and I only get to see each a couple of times a year, so it was fun being able to catch up with her on our flight from Houston to the islands:

engage 09

On Sunday evening, there was a welcome party on the beach so that everyone could meet and greet before the sessions began on Monday.  The party was designed by the uber talented and incredibly down-to-earth Michelle Rago. It was the perfect mix of chic and casual. Here is part of the set up before:

michelle rago beach wedding engage09

And with people enjoying it. I was so excited when Heather Crabtree and Jennifer Thinnes of Outstanding Occasions (facing the camera) and Teresa Wilson (in pink) from Camelback Flowershop decided to attend this year and it was fun bonding with them and staying up chatting by the pool until 3 am . . . .

engage 09 outstanding occasions camelback flowershop


On Monday I had lunch with Laura Novak, a photographer and brilliant business woman (we've decided it is now our tradition to eat lunch together at every Engage! event) who spoke on a panel on Tuesday and Darcy Miller from Martha Stewart. No photos of our lunch, but here is a shot of Darcy speaking:

darcy miller engage09

Celebrity Eventiste Marcy Blum spoke on "Everything but the Wedding", but perhaps the most interesting part of her talk was the question and answer session when the topic of kickbacks and commissions came up.  Bottom line: you can make a lot of money taking kickbacks in the short term, but they hurt you in the long run. It's best just to avoid the situation all together.  Sean Low wrote a great post about the compromises wedding professionals may be tempted to make here.

marcy blum engage09

Here is another shot of Marcy to better show off her yellow stilettos. I have no idea how she walked in heels that high:

engage!09-staceykane-1307

I don't have any photos yet of the second day or of my sessions.  The attendees were split into four groups and rotated to four different sessions, which meant that I, along with my fellow panelists Bee Kim of Weddingbee and Lara Casey of Southern Weddings, spoke four times in a row. It was interesting to see the varying dynamics of each group and how that shaped the questions asked (which were quite different each time).

On Tuesday afternoon we had the afternoon off and what was meant as a short twenty minute swim may have turned into five hours of ocean time chatting with new and old friends. The beach is totally my zen-like happy place and quality time is my love language, so I am so grateful that I was able to have that afternoon to combine both.

That evening, Jo-Anne Brown and her team from Celebrations Ltd turned the main ballroom at the Ritz into an island themed glam party. They used draping to cover the four large chandeliers that would have detracted from the look they were going for and to also create a natural flow in the room for the food stations and lounge areas for everyone to relax in:

cayman islands destination wedding

engage09

Here is a photo of the lovely Stacey Kane, a photographer from Maine (and the person responsible for all the photos in this post, minus my mediocre iphone shot at the top) and Linda Murray, a fellow Pink Initiative board member:

engage!09-staceykane-1606

Here is a video that Bee Kim from Weddingbee took of cake designer Sylvia Weinstock and Randy Fenoli, from TLC's Say Yes to the Dress fame and fashion director at Kleinfeld Bridal busting a move on the dance floor . . . at the beginning of the night:


randy fenoli sylvia weinstock engage09

On Wednesday, Sylvia spent about twenty minutes trying to talk me into using match.com because, and I quote, "where else are you going to meet anyone these days? I buy my groceries online from Whole Foods and they deliver them right to my door. You can get anything on the Internet today, even a husband." Thanks, Sylvia, I'll keep that in mind. You can now follow Sylvia and all of her wit and wisdom on Twitter here.

And here are the brains behind the Engage! events - Rebecca Grinnals (right) and Katherine Arce (left) of Engaging Concepts doing introductions on Monday morning:

engage09 rebecca grinnals katherine arce

These two ladies are quite possibly some of my favorites in the entire industry and I will forever be indebted to their foresight and on a personal note, their faith in me and my vision for my companies.  I owe much of my career thus far to Rebecca as she opened doors for me that would have been near impossible otherwise.  They have shaped much of the wedding industry as we know it today and have done so quietly from behind the scenes (Disney's Fairytale Weddings, anyone? Rebecca co-founded it).  Of anyone in the industry who deserves to have an ego - it's them, and yet they don't.  They are gracious, humble, and are truly people to learn from and admire. If you are a wedding professional and ever have an opportunity to work with them or to attend an Engage! conference, please don't hesitate to do so.  They are worth every penny.



Photos by Stacey Kane; top photo provided by my phone (Stacey better watch out, she may have competition soon); video from Weddingbee

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