I have often struggled with working in the wedding industry. I come from the NGO world, specifically a sector that solved problems involving extreme poverty, so to now work in the wedding industry -- and the luxury end of the industry at that -- can sometimes just feel SO out of sync. It's a healthy tension, I think, and one that I have spent countless hours talking through with colleagues who often feel that same tension in their own lives. How do you reconcile having access to so much when so much of the world has so little?
I still don't have a clear answer and I'm not sure there is one, but here are three things I know for sure:
1. Celebrations have existed since the beginning of time in every culture and span every socioeconomic class.
2. I love entertaining and its power to make people feel valued and accepted.
3. I believe wholeheartedly and with 100% of my being that all people have a right to live fully, not just merely.
To some, the Engage! conferences and the events that accompany them may seem like a great time and a fantastic party -- and they are -- but they have a more profound impact than meets the eye. They're not just inspirational; they create memories and form bonds that go deeper than business.
Two years ago I was told by three different doctors, after being unexpectedly hospitalized, that I would never be able to have children. Later that week I boarded a plane to West Palm Beach to speak at Engage!10. It was a rough time to say the least.
Those window signs are made out of carnations . . . proving that a flower is only as boring as one's imagination.
This past week was my first time back at The Breakers since that event. Every Engage! has been special to me, but this one particularly so. The last evening was the gala dinner, and the room was decked out in a "love" theme, conceived by the talented Kym Bichon and executed by the event team at The Breakers.
Love, indeed. I looked around that room and it was full of people who have over the years become more than colleagues, but true friends. People who have sat at the hospital with me, nagged the nurses on my behalf, snuck in snacks so I wouldn't have to eat gross hospital food. People who have said "Me too, I've been there, here's my story and why you'll make it through yours." People who have given me keys to their homes and said, "If you ever just want to get away from it all, please come use our guest room." People who have listened to my crazy dreams for my business and instead of saying, "Good luck!" have said, "Fantastic! Let's make that happen."
Harriette Rose Katz has been planning weddings since 1978.
One of the things that wedding industry veteran Harriette Rose Katz observed in her session on the first day was the one thing everyone in the room had in common and that was, "We are all moved by and committed to the beauty of celebration."
Joan Bever, Jeff Fowler, Randy Fenoli, Rebecca Grinnals, Kym Bichon
Jeff Fowler and Kym Bichon. Menus by Lehr and Black.
The beauty of celebration is something that goes deeper than table linens and flowers and gilded menus. At their core, celebrations remind people that life is worth living. Life is hard, there is no way around that. It is full of sorrow and unexpected drama, but it is also full of joy. Joy is a choice, and the beauty of celebrations is that they give center stage to joy and give people strength to move through life's hard moments to the next opportunity to celebrate.
The Breakers' wedding team, from left to right: Katie Gillespie, Salvatore Racicot, Kym Bichon, Jeff Fowler, Joan Bever, Sascha LaGreca
The weddings team at The Breakers gets this like no one else. This week they pulled out all the stops, not to show off, but to remind people that they matter and are special and that life is too short to not stop and celebrate the good. The details that they and the Engage!12 sponsors put into the events -- the linens, the flowers, the menus -- remind people that they are worth taking time for and spending creative energy on. This type of beauty is one that is worth being committed to and I have a feeling this type of beauty is why many of us stay in this crazy industry even when it doesn't always make sense.
Photos courtesy Elan Artists, Scott Clark and Chellise Michael, except photo of The Breakers team courtesy Donna Von Bruening.