I have been lucky enough to be involved with Engage! Luxury Wedding Business Summits from its inception, and can truly say that attending these conferences has changed my business, and my life. I’ve made dear friends, built incredible relationships with top event pros around the world, and garnered insight into life and business. And beyond all that, I’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun! The most recent Engage! took place in November 2015, at Four Seasons Resort Orlando. Here are my key takeaways:
The Welcome Party: Take New Inspiration from an Old Classic.
The Engage! kick-off party took inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. Alice is one of my favorite literary characters, and a true traveler at heart: open-minded, curious, brave and goes with the flow. The party took place in a series of tents on the lawn, vibrant with color and humor everywhere you went, from the whimsical backdrops to the elegant Raj Tents, made in India. This is not your children’s storybook, but a new way of looking at an old favorite. I approach travel planning the same way; even if it’s the same classic destination, each traveler brings their own experience and taste to the table, so each trip I plan is an entirely new take on that “story.” It’s all about keeping perspective and fresh eyes — then, everything trip can be as unexpected and colorful as Wonderland.
The Sessions: Inspiration Is Everywhere, If You’re Open to It.
Engage! Summits are centered around connecting top wedding and event pros from around the world. Everything is branded beautifully, but also with meaning, like these great pencils (from Gifts for the Good Life).
The slew of inspiring speakers included Marcy Blum, Michelle Rago, David Beahm, Brian Worley and Todd Fiscus, all incredibly talented business people who inspire me by their smarts and by their souls. But the one who surprised me most was Barbara Corcoran. I must be the only person in the world who hadn’t seen Shark Tank, but now I’m a true fan. She shared her unorthodox path to success with honesty and humor, and her career is a lesson in itself: Be true to yourself and your values, and the right kind of clients will follow — in my case, couples who are as passionate about travel as I am, and want to go the extra mile (literally) for an amazing experience.
But Engage! isn’t just about learning; it’s about sharing what you know. I was honored to lead a destination wedding panel with celebrity planner Brooke Keegan, Venue Report founder Courtney Purdie Fausner, and editor Erika Hueneke of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, sharing our experience and perspective with the planners, hoteliers and creatives in attendance. And it reminded me: The best thing about travel is sharing what you discover — a key trait of my travel network around the world, and how I get some of my best intel on what’s worth it and what isn’t. To continue getting, you have to keep giving — that’s just the way travelers work.
The Big Surprise: The Joy of Travel Lies on Who You’re With.
I live in Florida, but I am not a fan of theme parks; quite the opposite, in fact. (Lines and crowds, ugh!) But when Engage! announced — complete with a marching band, confetti cannon and special appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Mouse — that we would all be going to the Magic Kingdom for the night, the excitement was infectious, even for me.
It turns out, running around the park with my chic colleagues-turned-children was pretty special, as were the rides and fireworks show. It reminded me again of the power of travel — it’s about where you go, yes, but more importantly about how you feel where you get there, be it an amazing beach in the Maldives, the African savannah at sunset, or even, yes, Disney World. After all, any place is magical when you’re with people you love.
The Gala: Magic Is Made By the Details.
Engage is always a whirlwind of energy and events that culminates in the formal gala on the last night. This one was designed by the fabulous Jose Graterol Designs of Miami and was a stunning vision made real, with architectural centerpieces, mirrored accents, ornate lighting and a monogrammed dance floor. The ice bar containing frozen lemon slices and stick-straight flowers blew my mind — so modern and cool, but also perfectly elegant. The killer band flew in from LA, courtesy of West Coast Music. (They were on their way to play at Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello’s Palm Beach wedding that weekend, but we got a sneak preview–too fun!) It took a lot of work to bring the night together, but the end result was worth all the effort and expense — much like the perfect wedding, after a year of planning.
The Team: Community is Everything (as is Hard Work).
None of this would happen without the hard work of Team Engage, led by Katherine Arce and Rebecca Grinnals. The planning that goes into the event is beyond — it starts six months out (at least!) and involves the creativity, ingenuity and hands-on help from dozens of people. Here they are in all their sparkle before hitting the dance floor for a job well done. Thanks for giving me great inspiration to take into 2016 — love you all!