Just Back From: Engage! 14

Courtesy of John Cain Sargent/Engage!14 Photography Team

I’ve been lucky enough to attend Engage! The Luxury Wedding Business Summit 12 times now, and I cannot say enough how much the experience has enriched me both personally and professionally. If you don’t know, this is THE top wedding conference, where pros at the top of their game drop everything to share inspiration and insights. Even if you don’t know the attendees, you know their events; these are the ones you see in magazines from Brides to People —and the ones you DON’T see, because their clients are that exclusive.

Engage was founded by the incomparable Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce of Engaging Concepts, and grew out of their simple desire to connect all of the amazing talents in the events community. The effect their idea has had on my life cannot be overstated, and I am so grateful and proud to call them my friends.

Courtesy of John Cain Sargent/Engage!14 Photography TeamCourtesy of Engage!14 Photography Team

The most recent conference took place in June at The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch. Though not my first time to the Vail Valley, it was my first time at the hotel, and I loved it. Set slopeside just a few miles of west of Vail, it’s all wood and fireplaces and cowboy cool, with excellent, attentive service and even their own mascot: a sweet, slobbery St. Bernard named (of course) Bachelor. We took over the hotel, which led to us calling it “Camp Engage.”

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor GulchCourtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

The event was designed by planner Aimee Monihan, of Tropical Occasions and Mountain Occasions, and Denver-based firm Design Works.  In tandem, this crew and the amazing Engage support team transformed The Ritz into our own playground. It all started with the welcome reception area, warmed by reclaimed wood and metal, pale pink couches, personalized pillows and gorgeous flower arrangements, and fun touches like retro-style buttons and an oxygen bar.

Courtesy of Engage!14 Photography TeamCourtesy of Engage!14 Photography Team

Parties included a tented welcome party in Bachelor Gulch Village, complete with Veuve Cliquot tower and a mechanical bull. (I was ridiculously proud for staying on for 38 seconds—those things are hard!)  The next night brought intimate dinners around the area, which gave attendees the chance to talk one-on-one with Engage’s esteemed speakers. I was hugely honored to help host a dinner at the Park Hyatt, alongside the ridiculously talented designer Ed Libby of Ed Libby & Company, powerhouse hospitality expert Cindy Novotny of Master Connection Associates, New York City planner-rebel extraordinaire Jes Gordon  and Kfir Gavrieli, founder of Tieks ballet flats. (I’m a big fan of these shoes, BTW— super cute and compact enough for travel!) This was followed by a dessert party at the hotel, complete with cozy tents, s’mores on sticks and a John Denver impersonator. When in the Rocky Mountains, right?

Courtesy of Engage!14 Photography TeamCourtesy of Engage!14 Photography Team

The whole week was filled with the cleverest food presentations, from fondue stations to local bourbon.  There’s not enough room to show every tasty morsel, but here’s a sample to inspire you. Those mini caprese salads? Genius!

Courtesy of Engage!14 Photography TeamCourtesy of Engage!14 Photography Team

And did I mention the customized swag, provided by the incredible Gifts for the Good Life — seriously, these people take gifting to a whole new level! They only work with corporate clients but have ideas you can steal for your own wedding, from embroidered totes and straw hats in three colors to bandanna-wrapped “survival kits” stuffed with necessities like sunscreen and altitude remedies, all customized in the Engage color scheme. I also loved the beautiful, tactile stationery and elegant (wooden!) name tags by Vanessa Kreckel and Two Paper Dolls.  (Her company also did this website, we might add!) I wish I could live in Engage World every day, where details matter and beauty for its own sake is reason enough to extend the extra effort. It makes you look at the world differently, and see possibilities where you didn’t before.

Courtesy of Engage!14 Photography TeamCourtesy of Engage!14 Photography Team

Want more behind the scenes? Check back for part two, where we’ll talk about what we learned from the speakers, and show off the Dirty Dancing-inspired (sort of) gala party.

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