I was thrilled to "meet" celebrated wedding & honeymoon industry consultant Rebecca Grinnals, president of Engaging Concepts based in Celebration, Florida, earlier this year by way of the small wedding blog world (Rebecca featured my liveBooks website design and my blog vendor tours on her blog, Weddex. And actually, she talks about my vendor tours as an example of standing apart when she presents!).

Rebecca and her fantastic managing director Kathryn Arce had a vision a year ago to tap their pool of uber-talented industry friends and create a unique top-tier networking event. And so Engage!08, the symposium, was born in June. I was not able to attend then, but did make it for their follow-up event, The Encore, held this week at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes!

This was the first time I have attended a networking event that wasn't geared just to photographers- wedding or otherwise- and I loved talking about things other than Canon's latest lens to hit the market for once! Instead, I feel like I have expanded my Rolodex to include 80 new (and some already known) wedding friends, all of whom are operating at the top of their game and share the same drive and ambition I do each and every day. Despite the differences in our actual job titles, there were many universal themes in our job descriptions discussed and dissected throughout the course of the day.

The speaker line-up included Carley Roney and David Liu, founders of theknot.com; Sean Low, president of Preston Bailey Designs as well as:

Sylvia Weinstock, cake designer extraordinaire (fyi, she only has one pair of those signature glasses, she shared, and they cost her $1500).

Simon T. Bailey, author of "Release Your Brilliance."

Jill Meister, a producer of the CBS's "The Early Show."

And Rebecca, left, gave a great overall of the state of millennial matrimony (Katherine is right).

I was so happy to finally meet Liene Stevens of Blue Orchid Designs in Scottsdale, a blog friend.

And Bee Kim, founder of the weddingbee.com blog (recently sold to eHarmony.com!).

I was thrilled to make some new connections, too, like Randy Fenoli, fashion director at Kleinfeld in NYC.

Emarie (love her name!) Chervinskas of La Tavola linens in Napa. Gorgeous fabrics!

Traci Romano of Traci Romano Events in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Larissa Banting (left) and Randy Gritz (center) of Weddings Costa Rica.

Ali Phillips of Engaging Events by Ali in Chicago.

And Peter Hillenbrand of Walhill Farm in Batesville, Indiana. Yes, little Batesville! Where J grew up! J knows the Hillenbrand family well, especially Peter's cousin Dick. Such a small world! Peter owns Turtle Nest Inn on Little Cayman Island, and now has started a wedding venue venture back home.

And there were so many more amazingly interesting attendees (I will be excitedly following them on Facebook now that I actually know the face to place to their business name)!!

Check out the beautiful custom swag bag, made by Cindy at Tulla Belles, and packed with fantastic samples, books, magazines, and other goodies like a music CD by Tim O'Neill from myweddingmusic.com (rated #1 in wedding music on Amazon.com), a Kate Spade notebook, custom keychain, wedding planning binder (perfect!), a copy of Sylvia Weinstock's new book (Sylvia Weinstock's Sensational Cakes), and on and on. Christmas in October!

Even tho this symposium was smack-dab in an already-busy fall, I am so glad I carved out the time to come and soak up a wealth of knowledge from my peers and industry trend-setters. I don't know that I can accurately quantify everything I learned in just this one day yet, but I'm quite confident I will surely experience its benefits for months and months to come (especially since we have an "accountability exercise" partner to check in with regularly!) both on a business and personal level (what a timely conference to attend while planning our wedding!).

Rumor has it the next symposium will be on Grand Cayman!


  1. Anonymous8:04 AM

    so great to finally meet you! I'll try and practice keeping my eyes open with a camera flash. :)

  2. Nice...miss socialite :) Proud of you for getting out there sweets! We miss you and look forward to you coming home today!

  3. hi emilie!

    it was fantastic to meet you too!

    do you mind if i borrow a pic or two from you? i was too nervous to take any. :)

  4. Anonymous11:14 PM

    Emilie -- It was really great to meet you yesterday. Your pictures are wonderful. And I hear, too, from a VERY CREDIBLE birdie that the next Engage will be in Cayman!! Very excited.


  5. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Hi Emilie! It was so great meeting you. I had the pleasure of looking through your site and am so excited to see more of your work, your photography is amazing. Can't wait to see you again.

  6. Hola Emilie,

    Great meeting you. I just looked at you site, incredible photos. We need to bring you to Costa Rica.


  7. Emilie-love all the pics! It was great to meet you! I think I might have to jump on this blog thing!

  8. Wow, I am impressed girl! You didn't waste a second there, you are going to be the biggest thing since lobster rolls ;)


  9. Anonymous12:47 PM

    Wow!! Your photos are so beautiful!! I wish I was able to attend the event. It would have been great to meet the many professionals I've been networking with online. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Maybe we will meet at the next one.


  10. Emilie!!
    What a pleasure to meet you! Great shots and I really hope we get to connect again soon. Remember, any advice you need about your big day, just drop me a line.

    Hmm, Cayman Islands. Never been but hey, for Engage? I'm there!

  11. Anonymous1:15 AM

    Hi Emilie. I've just gotten my travels and I'm excited to read all the blogs! Yours is fantastic, I feel like I was there again! It was so nice meeting you and I hope our paths cross again. Let me know if you'll ever be in San Diego.


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