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The Engage 09 Encore details were just released.  I am really looking forward to what Rebecca and Kathryn have in store for this luxury wedding business summit in Las Vegas this October.  They are in Vegas as we speak getting all the details nailed down.  You can follow Rebecca and Kathryn on Twitter for the skinny on Engage09 Encore :: Las Vegas.

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I’ve gotten a slew of emails about my experience at the previous Engage conferences so I’ve put together a recap of my Cayman adventures here for you.  (You can also read my recap of the Engage08 Encore here)

When Rebecca and Kathryn emailed me about speaking at Engage 09 :: Something Blue in Grand Cayman, I was in an airport headed to … wow, I don’t remember. Too much travel this year.  Seriously, I pulled out just a small portion of my boarding passes from this spring yesterday and gasped. This image is a whole other blog post in the making…

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Anyway… when I got Rebecca’s email I literally squealed!  Those poor other passengers.  I am pretty sure my email back to Rebecca had enough exclamation points in it to wrap around a small country.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity and to have spent time with some of the most inspiring people I know.

My Cayman journey:  I woke up at the ungodly hour of 3am to catch my 7am international flight.  Glad I did, because apparently everyone and their mother catches international flights at the crack of dawn.  Who knew!?  Last time I took a flight overseas was for my 21st birthday.  It’s been a few years.  I got there early enough to get breakfast at the little organic cafe at RDU and spend some time with my Times.

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There are a few luxuries I realllly appreciate in life.  One of them is my Delta medallion status.  Now, stay with me here….  This year I traveled more than I ever have.  And I tend to uh…. over-pack.  (I am working on this.)  So, airlines are mean and they charge you for bags now.  Plus, I always got charged for my overweight bags.  (I’ve had to lug magazines all over the country this year… for example- 100lbs to Indianapolis for Eventology in April)  So, I applied for the Delta Reserve card which has a $400/year annual fee.  OK, yes that sounds hefty.  Wait for it… wait for it…  So, with this card comes one very special perk.  Yeah, the Sky Club with free wifi and complementary first class upgrades are nice and all, but this perk outweighs them all.  Literally.  They don’t charge me for overweight bags!  Funny story:  For the first 3 months I had the reserve card, I didn’t know about this perk.  I just thought people were being nice and not charging me.  I still think there’s a lot of kindness in the world, but the moment I found out about this “no baggage fee” thing, I did the math and I have saved over $2000 in excess baggage fees so far.  Worth the $400?  Heck yes.  So there you have it.  Dear Delta, for my glowing testimonial, can you send me a few extra companion tickets so I can see my friends more often or something?

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Above:  watching Saturday morning cartoons in the Sky Club while I waited for my connecting flight, the absolutely lovely Tiffany‘s passport holder that Rebecca and Kathryn so graciously gave to all the speakers, and the breathtaking view of Cayman as my plane landed.

The magic of Twitter:  I sat down on the plane and twittered something about being happy about getting a first class upgrade.  @iMatrimony twittered: sitting in first class on the way to Cayman.  I replied: hey @iMatrimony, I think you’re sitting in front of me : ).  It was great to see Stephanie Johnson Hunt on my flight and get to meet her wonderful husband. We arrived in Cayman together after sipping a few mimosas and were greeted by island music, friendly smiles and this great Engage welcome banner.

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As if it could get any better…  Walking into the Ritz Carlton that afternoon was unforgettable.  Talk about top notch service and attention to detail!

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I was ushered to the reception desk where I was handed a small Ritz bag, told they upgraded my room to ocean front (hello, how amazing!!) and everyone behind the desk glowed about Engage… how excited they all were that we were there.  image below :: Kyle Barnes

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As I waited for them to input my info into their computer, I opened the bag and found a card from my dear friend and Eventology roomie, Jeannine. image below :: my iPhone

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I think the front desk people must have thought I was nuts.  I got teary eyed and told the lady who was checking me in all about Jeannine and how sweet of a friend she is.  She sent me a very thoughtful gift and an encouraging card wishing me well during my speaking platform.  It was the perfect way to start my trip.  Thank you, sweet Jeannine!

A young woman escorted me to my room and told me all about the lush property.  Let me just say that at that moment, I really felt like I was on vacation. images below of the Ritz and beautiful Laura Hooper samples :: Arden Photography

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I walked into my room to find truffles and surprises galore.  I kept saying out loud: “wow, I just can’t believe Rebecca and Kathryn.  I am so blessed, so lucky, so lucky!”  If anyone knows how to go above and beyond, it’s the dynamic duo at Engaging Concepts.  image :: my iPhone

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I opened my balcony doors as the sun was just beginning to set and just sat there in awe.  “How did I get here?” I kept asking myself.  It had been a crazy wedding season for me.  More stress than I can begin to tell you.  People ask me all the time how I balance planning weddings, running a magazine, a daily blog and life.  This spring, I didn’t.  I just did my best and made it through.  Not even 24 hours before that, I had just gotten off a plane from almost 11 weeks of straight travel.  That first day in Cayman, I started to breath again.  More than all the truffles and surprises in the world, the greatest gift was looking out at the ocean as the sun set deep into the crystal blue sea.

We were treated to a spectacular welcome gala on the beach designed by one of my favorite people on the planet, Michelle Rago.  images below :: Arden Photography

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No detail was left untouched.  A private shoe valet welcomed us onto the “Blue Carpet”.  I kept thinking about that scene in Sex and the City where Carrie loses her Manolo’s.  So, I stuck my fancy Target sandals in a very safe spot.  One of the highlights of the trip was getting to be interviewed for an upcoming national television program about Engage and destination weddings.  The crew came to the welcome party to capture all the magic.  I can’t wait to see the segment and will keep you posted on the details!

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The atmosphere was unreal.  I could have been at Walmart with this crowd and had the time of my life, so the scenery made this experience over-the-top amazing.

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One of the many event sponsors was Tortuga Rum.  The combination of the first class service and cuisine from the Ritz, Tortuga signature drinks and Michelle’s design was unforgettable.

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Walking the blue carpet with my girl Harmony Walton from Bridalbar and the beautiful Rebecca Grinnals.  Rebecca with two of the most amazing men on earth:  Randy Fenoli of Say Yes to the Dress fame and his handsome partner, Michael Landry of Gucci.

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Rebecca has the greatest parents.  I had the pleasure of meeting them on a recent trip to Watercolor and fell in love with their warmth and inviting spirits.  I see where Rebecca gets her charm and contagious happiness from!

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Stacey Kane and my fav Savannah gal, Donna Von Bruening.  Planning diva Ivy Robinson, the stunning Lisa Hoffman of Ceci NY fame, Modern Bride editor Antonia van der Meer, and Cynthia Boyett from the Ritz.

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Two of my favorite women in the wedding world- Heather Crabtree and Terrica Skaggs.  And the couple who inspires me to love deeply and have a blast every day- Sylvia Weinstock and her adorable husband.

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My new friends Alison Hotchkiss and Thayer Gowdy.  I will be writing an entire post of both of them in the near future.  I feel so blessed to have met them!  Rebecca and design queen, Michelle Rago.

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Someone really should have gotten married that night.  This would have been a to-die-for reception.

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How stunning is this phalaenopsis and manzantita peice?!  images :: Arden Photography

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Below: catching up with wedding business guru Sean Low who has been so kind to me this year as a mentor and friend.

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I can still hear the steel drum band playing from the ocean.

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What happens when you bring the best of the best in the event world to a tropical paradise?  A first class private fireworks show from Fireworks, Ltd., of course.  What a magical night!

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The next morning, I took a long run down Seven Mile Beach where there was a triathlon going on.  Not a bad place to finish.  images below :: iPhone

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Below: Kathryn and Rebecca wearing their signature something blue.  Right: the conference seats beginning to fill up.  images below :: Stacey Kane

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Introducing the speakers… so much excitement in the air!  images below :: Stacey Kane

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Bella Figura did the paper items which were fabulous of course.  image below :: iPhone

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My new business cards from Thomas Printers.

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I will admit being completely star-struck by meeting uber-editors Darcy Miller (with Darcy below right), Millie Martini Bratten, and Antonia van der Meer.  I also had the pleasure of meeting Verona Carter from Ritz Carlton PR (pictured below left).  I was so impressed not only with the Ritz’s service, but their fervor for business growth.  images below :: iPhone

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The first day of the conference was packed with wedding star after wedding star.   This was like the Superbowl of weddings, people!   images below :: Stacey Kane

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Holly Hatam from Teardrop Weddings did the cutest illustrations of all of the speakers and even sent us stationery to match!  Thank you, Holly!  images below :: my iPhone

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My favorite speakers: Simon T Bailey and Marcy Blum.  Marcy has such an infectious smile and sense of humor.   I am so excited that she will be speaking again at Engage09 Encore.  Her blog is a must read. I’m thrilled about spending time with Simon here in Raleigh this weekend. He has been so giving and encouraging to me over the last year.  When I met him at the first Engage08 Encore, my life changed. I highly recommend his book, Release Your Brilliance.   If you get the chance to hear him speak (come to Engage09 Encore!) JUMP at the chance!   A few morsels I will keep in my “heart drive” forever from Mr. Bailey:


Failure is not final.

How you start the day, determines the day.

Your universal assignment is not necessarily to touch everyone; it’s to touch someone.

Brilliance is released when you are in an environment where you are celebrated.

The future is created in the present.

If you don’t change, you will be changed.

images below :: Stacey Kane

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Kyle Barnes signing the incomparable Sylvia Weinstock up for Twitter and teaching her how to use it on my MacBook.  images :: my iPhone

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Who is the man? Preston Bailey is. His work single-handedly inspired me to be an event designer. If you aren’t already obsessed with all things Preston, get out from under your rock and get inspired. He is a true creative genius.

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Enjoying a lovely lunch on the Ritz patio between sessions. The food was soooo good.

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I’m not a big lunch person, but I devoured every bit of this.  The key lime tart was divine.

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With florist Karen Tran and the brilliant Simon T BaileyKyle Barnes with Randy Fenoli.  images below :: left Karen Tran, right Kyle Barnes

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I wish I could have another wedding for one reason and one reason only:  so I could have the experience of buying a dress from Randy FennoliRebecca was lucky enough to have Randy design her wedding dresses and I only dream of getting the chance to have this man dress me!  He makes every woman feel like a million bucks.  images below :: Randy’s camera… which I’m sure matched his outfit in every one of these shots

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One of the many things I loved about Something Blue was the “VIP Dinearounds” that Rebecca and Kathryn arranged.  I had the pleasure of hosting with the very talented Laura Novak at The Wharf.

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Our crew from left to right:  Southern wedding diva Tara Guerard, Laura Novak, Kyle Barnes, Jennifer Driscoll, me, Kathy Strukel, Carla David, Teresa Wilson, Alexis Wyrofsky, and Raemie Brigman-Jones.  images below :: my iPhone

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Dinner was fab and we chatted over pinot grigio as we watched the sunset.  One person I was so impressed with and thrilled to meet was Teresa from Camelback Flowershop…. savvy, smart, and so creative.  She has a gorgeous shop in AZ that I hope to visit very soon.

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The next day was my big day… time to speak!  I was nervous but excited.  My fellow panelists, Bee Kim of Weddingbee fame and Liene Stevens of ThinkSplendid were incredible of course.  Big news- keep an eye out for Liene’s book on blogging this November!  She is a great writer, so I’m sure her book will be fab.

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There were four small group sessions and each one ended up being completely different.  Hearing Bee’s story always blows me away, so it was such a joy to get to know her more.  Liene has such a sharp wit and valuable insight.  I learned so much and feel honored to have shared that time with them.  images below :: right Flaire Weddings

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Below left:  Bee and I with my new bff Jeff Fowler and Kym Bichon from the Breakers Resort.  images below :: iPhone

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Bee and I shared some beach time after the panels were over.  I haven’t told her this yet, but there was a moment in our conversation that I will never forget.  And now that she has spilled the beans, I can talk about it.  She told me about trying to have a baby for so long and then getting pregnant when she wasnt trying (read all the details from Bee yourself).   It just reminded me that life gives us such unexpected gifts.  I sat there as the breeze was rushing through our little cabanas and thought about my year… all the unexpected blessings.  It was a very happy moment.  Thanks, Bee, for being such an inspiring business woman, being such a genuine person and for sharing your life with others.  It doesn’t go unnoticed.  Congratulations on Baby Bee!

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Later that night, after mojitos in the ocean, we had the joy of attending the closing night gala.  And what a gala it was!  Just hours before, this room was your average conference room.  Give Celebrations Cayman a few hours and they can turn a conference room into a Cayman paradise!  The decor was amazing, Hpnotiq “Something Blue” drinks delish, and the dancing was INTENSE!  After such an exciting few days, I think everyone was thrilled to let loose and celebrate.

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Yes, that is a GIANT floral starfish.  images below clockwise from top left:: Celebrations Cayman, Kyle Barnes, Celebrations Cayman

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Could this be any more amazing!?  images below :: left Celebrations Cayman, right Karen Tran

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Below with some of the most beautiful, sassy, smart women around- Leila Khalil of Be Inspired PR (call her!), Jill Miester from Get Married (love you Jill!), and Kellee Khalil (call her too!).  I somehow don’t have a good pic of me with all the Get Married girls (how did this not happen ladies!?).  I just have to say how much I adore them.  Meeting Becca and Stacie for the first time was the highlight of my trip.  OK, the next pic is not as fun without watching THIS.  Do it.

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Kellee, Laura Marcusse from Adorn Brides, and Leila.

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Harmony Walton and Stacie Francombe from Get Married.  Chatting with my new friends from Todd Events in Dallas, Mary and Sara Fay.

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Another highlight of my trip was meeting Anthony Luscia from Martha Stewart.  He was so complimentary of what we are doing with Southern Weddings.  Yes, that made my year.  I had a blast ripping it up on the dancefloor with him.  OK, aaaand I fell in love with Todd Fiscus from Todd Events in Dallas.  We spent some quality time together after this pic was taken talking everything from weddings to funerals to relationships to food, oh my!  He and his team are F A B U L O U S.  And, he has one of the best websites I’ve ever seen.

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Read that sign below…  so fun.  This was in the window of a candy shop we passed.

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I don’t know how to scuba dive, but I’d learn just to go on this boat.

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Oh this pic gets me every time.

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Read the full story on this image below here.

Kyle Barnes Grand Cayman Lara Casey

Engage was so spectacular. I met some phenomenal professionals who I have since developed great friendships with and partnered on some exciting projects with. We’ll be featuring Engage alums Ceci NY, Grapevine Paperie, La Tavola Linen, Adorn Brides and several others in our Watercolor shoot next week. I am so grateful for these new relationships and can’t wait to see what develops in the months to come!

Special thanks to all the photographers who contributed to this post (if I missed a credit, please let me know!) and to Rebecca and Kathryn for one of the most unforgettable weeks of my life.  I learned, I grew, I was challenged and I had the time of my life!  I can’t wait till October!

xo lc

PS- I met so many amazing people at Engage, that I could write a whole book. Instead, here are a few more Engage recaps for you:

Bee Kim’s “Ultimate Recap” on WeddingbeePro

Bee Kim “Live Blogging” from the event

Darcy Miller on The Brides Guide Part 1

Darcy Miller on The Brides Guide Part 2

Darcy Miller on The Brides Guide Part 3

Darcy Miller on The Brides Guide Part 4

One Wed :: Savvy Scoop

Ashley Baber

Susan Moynihan of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Magazine

Harmony Walton of The Bridal Bar

Kristy Rice of Momental Designs Part 1 & 2

Alison Hotchkiss of Alison Events

Karen Tran Florals

Bella Signature

Outstanding Occasions

Blue Orchid Designs | Splendid Communications

Celebrations Ltd. Grand Cayman

Donna von Bruening

Flaire Weddings part 1

Flaire Weddings part 2

Melenbacker Photography

Trisha Hay black.white.bliss part 1

Trisha Hay black.white.bliss part 2

Get Married Blogger Brides 1

Get Married Blogger Brides 2

Get Married Blogger Brides 3

Marion Marshall – Absolutely Blooming

The Weddington

Barbara Hearn

PussBackfoot Blog

Show Comments (18)
  1. Polka Dot Bride

    One of the most sunshine filled writeups I’ve read (not that they haven’t all been glowing!) Engage sounds like a brilliant event and something everyone who attends will always treasure!

  2. Karen Thornton-Brown

    Lara, what an incredibly well written “megapost”. I loved reading about our Cayman extravaganza all over again.

    You describe the warmth, gratitude, excitement and every single emotion I felt throughout the whole Engage experience so well…thank you.

    It was lovely to meet with you too. Unfortunately I can’t make the Encore, but hope to see you again next year!

    Karen
    x

  3. Juliet - Green Orchid Events

    Wow! What an experience. Thank you for sharing. That makes me pumped for Las Vegas!

  4. Laura Auer

    Spot-on recap, Lara! Thanks for showing us your perspective. Rebecca and Kathryn surely outdid themselves.It was great meeting you!

  5. Ivy Robinson

    Amazing Post Lara! I wanna go back NOW!!
    But looks like I’m going to be settling for my coffee and meetings instead:) xo

  6. Lindsey @ Fresh LiME Events

    I totally heart this post. Probably the best one of all the engage!09 posts. Awesome way to relive it this morning and reminded me about all the great connections I made. Totally bummed I can’t go to Vegas. THANKS Lara!!

  7. Carter and Cook Event Co.

    This post was awesome. {as well as this blog} Thanks for all the details, and we are hoping to make it to this event next time. Looks like you had a blast! ~ Ashlyn Carter

  8. Aletha | Pearls Events

    Thanks for sharing your great experience, Lara.

  9. trisha

    Definitely brought back all the fun and inspiration from the event and put a smile on my face this morning! Looking forward to catching up with you again in Vegas!

  10. Sarah & Chris Rhoads

    oh me oh my… it looks like you had so much fun miss laura. looking forward to the good times to be had in vegas!

  11. viola | chewing the cud

    Lara, what a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing. Congratulations on the launch of your new business woohoo!!

  12. Twitted by WEDDEX

    [...] This post was Twitted by WEDDEX [...]

  13. nicole riley

    cannot wait to join you lovely ladies and gents next year!

  14. GET FIRED UP :: HOW TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN, VOL I « Lara Casey

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  15. HANG 10 « Lara Casey

    [...] and I don't plan on missing a single one in the future. Past recaps: Engage08 :: Celebration, Engage09 :: Cayman MegaPost!, Engage09 :: Encore Las Vegas.  Rebecca and Kathryn always raise the bar with these luxury wedding [...]

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  17. Rachel Jenae

    [...] from.  The first Engage I attended completely blew my mind. (You can read my last two recaps here and here.)  Meeting people like Rebecca Grinnals and Sean Low made me want to raise the bar.  [...]