Once again, I have had the opportunity to once again attend Engage, the luxury wedding summit hosted twice annually by Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce. While I did my best to blog, tweet, and Instagram my way through the week in real-time, I've found that the best way to share the experience is by looking back on it a few weeks later.
When you are in the moment at Engage (much like when you are in the moment at a wedding) there is a sense of being overwhelmed; by the people, by the branding, by the gifting, the food, the music, and everything else that goes along with it. I am not a person who tends to be star stuck by the celebrities on the silver screen, I don't follow sports, and my musical education focus on Air Supply, Jay Black and the Americans, and Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge. (I was raised in an Italian house in New York, by a father who loved doo-wop. Don't judge me.) But put me in a room full of people whose work and personal process I watch, admire, and aspire to...Well that's just a whole different story!
And so here I am, a few weeks later, looking back at my notes on the day of New Year's Eve. Did I learn anything? Was it worth it? Will I go again? My answers are yes, yes, and undoubtably yes!
Top 4 Highlights of Engage - The Moments, the Mentors, & More
1. I got tipsy with Ed Libby, Ellen Black, Michelle Rago and a cast of characters you wouldn't believe! Inappropriate as it may be, I have to lead with this. While running back and forth between my room and the gifting suite I happened to run into Ellen Black and Ed Libby, fresh back from one of the Montelucia's excursions and perfectly coiffed, as always. Before I knew it, a bottle of scotch appeared, and Ed poured generously to those of us that gathered around. Our group went from standing to sitting, moved off to a restaurant, pulled over additional seating, and multiplied like Gremlins! Now, I am not a big drinker, so getting tipsy was easy. But what I am is a really, really good listener. And so I sat and I sipped. I listened to personal stories, professional tales, watched the titans get excited and heard of past disappointments. There was no posturing. No putting on airs. No "let me pretend to be something I'm not". Those two hours fed my soul and inspired me in a way that no presentation or class could have. Sitting amongst these people I once again came to realize that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. Regardless of our market, the level of luxury we service, the type of business we run, we are the lucky custodians of your wedding dreams, the fairy godmothers and godfathers of your lives, and all artists in our own right.
2. Memories are powerful.. Being remembered by people you respect is an awesome feeling. Whether they remembered my shoes (I am forever in the highest of heels!) or my stories (thank you Cindy Novotny for not forgetting) or my last pregnancy (Brian Worley, you are adorable!) there is value in the act of remembrance. It costs you nothing to pay attention and be nice. Taking note of something, holding onto it, and making an effort to show people that you have paid attention is a special gift. In this next year, it is my goal to continue to listen, to remember, to dazzle, and to make others feel as special and important as others have made me feel.
3. Motivation and Education are the only ways to Get Better. Simon T Bailey - I have been a fan for afar for years. Meeting you, sharing in your infectious laugh, and listening to you was a moving experience. Your deep belief in pulling (rather than pushing) and the idea that "What you want, wants you" shall be my guiding perspective in 2014 and beyond.
Marley Majcher - "But are you making any money?" forced me to look beyond "the pretty" (which is what I love) and focus on the process. You made me better in under an hour, and I thank you for sharing, for being invested in the rest of us, and for your honesty.
Cindy Novotny - What on earth could I possibly say? You never fail to enlighten and motivate in the greatest of ways. Listening to you is the kick in the ass so many of us need from time to time. Thanks for helping us get out of our own way!
To all of the Celebrity Weddings Planners, Event Designers and Speakers - but most especially to Marcy Blum, Mindy Weiss, Ed Libby, Randy Fenoli, Michelle Rago, Sylvia Weinstock, and Kristen Banta - Individually, your work inspire us all. Together, you prove that there is something for everyone, that hard work and dedication make the world a more beautiful place, and that behind "the pretty" that we all love so much is a good amount of crazy, a little bit of wine, a whole lot of stress and the stuff that legendary stories are made of. You are the Harvard, the Yale, the Road Scholars and the Coaches of us all. Thanks for taking the time to show up.
To Lauren Grove, the Editor of Every Last Detail Blog, THANK YOU! I asked a question about properly structuring a submission that those on the editor's panel failed to answer. It was the only (and biggest) disappointment of my time at Engage. You, however, turned that completely around. Rather than allowing me to feel silly and stupid, you took the time to seek me out after the panel and give me a quick, concise, and immediately applicable answer to my question. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity and knowledge!
4. Brand the Bleep out of your wedding! As someone who tends to believe that more is more, I loved being overwhelmed by the repetition of color and pattern at every turn. There was no doubt that we were there at engage, to be engaged, and to engage with others. All couples seek to plan weddings that will be remembered. If Engage thought me anything from a design perspective it is that by finding and committing to one simple, elegant thread and replicating that piece over and over again you can instill a sense of belonging and forever brand your event into the memories of those who have attended.
I keep all of my Engage notes neatly typed and organized in my Evernote app, and I try to read through random sections of them at least once a month, sometimes more. Twice a year, I read through them all from start to finish, just to relive the experience, refocus my intensions, and motivate myself to be better. Not just for me. Not just for you. And not just for the pretty, which I love so much. But because along with these titans that I respect and admire so much, I am the gatekeeper of your wedding wishes, your wedding planning gladiator, and by being a better me, and giving a better wedding to you, I am - in my own small way - making the world a better place, one memory at a time. Thank you to the Montelucia for hosting us. What a spectacular property! Thank you to the team at Elan Artists for documenting our trip and for showing me just how strange I look when snapped mid-sentence! Photo will not follow! But also thank you for snapping me while I hung on every word!
Thank you to West Coast Music for getting and keeping me on the dance floor, to all off the speakers, mentioned or not, and to Todd Fiscus for setting the gala stage. Love and hugs to my new friends and the people who touched me; Carla Ten Eyck, Gigi de Manio,Kim Eppolito, Kelly Revels (love you!), Sanders Hulsey, Lauren Grive, the fabulous girls at House of Moira Designs, Matthew Myhrum...I know that I am missing a few!
Thank you to Miss Angelica who rocked her baby bump and made every moment fun!
Most of all, a big thank you to Rebecca and Kathryn for another engaging event! The countdown to my next Engage begins now...
Check out this gallery of photos!