engage!13 at The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

welcome_Jeremie Barlow

images courtesy of Jeremie Barlow Photography

Hello friends, yes, I’m back! I’ve taken a break from blogging, but I’m back now and am so delighted to be kicking off my return with a recap of my time at The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina for engage!13. Now brace yourselves, it’s a long post full of amazing images (let’s be honest-do you really want to read right now?)… Be sure to scroll all the way down to the end, you’ll be glad you did!

Biltmore Estate Carla TenEyckimage courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck Photography

So, if you’ve read my blog posts before (here or here), you know of my love for this conference. It’s not really a conference, but more of a summit; let’s call it that! engage! is THE luxury wedding summit to attend. It’s held twice a year at luxurious locations and brings together the best of the best this industry has to offer.

This year, the bar has been raised even higher, by the engage! team and the wonderful team at The Biltmore Estate. Upon arrival to this amazing property, you instantly feel like you’re being swept away. The ride from the entrance to the Inn is full of breathtaking views of rolling hills and gorgeous landscapes. I mean really, is this real life?

Biltmore Mountains Carla TenEyckimage courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck

To start the 3 day adventure that is engage!, I headed over to registration where the Gifts for the Good Life girls never cease to amaze… We received swag unlike any other with branding that was just so cleverly created it makes you want a cup of whatever they’re drinking each morning.

Photo by Allan Zepedaimage courtesy of Allan Zepeda Photography

On day one we got to hear from many industry leaders including Marcy Blum, David Stark and Angela Desveaux (owner & editor of my favorite magazine), to name a few, and enjoy wine, cheese and charcuterie. Between sessions, we not only get to mingle with our peers, but also to the people that some of us look up to. This, to me, is the true meaning of engage!. It’s wonderful to be able to sit, listen and learn from the speakers during sessions, but the networking and lasting friendships are priceless . I’ve met some of my best friends at engage!; people I can call on for ideas or advice any time of day or night!

Lioncrest Allan Zepeda Jeremie Barlowimages courtesy of (from left to right) Allan Zepeda and Jeremie Barlow
opening sessions_Jeremie Barlowimages courtesy of Jeremie Barlow
opening sessions_Allan Zepedaimages courtesy of Allan Zepeda
image1-2_Allan Zepeda image 3_Carla TenEyckimages courtesy of (from left to right) Allan Zepeda & Carla Ten Eyck
Photo by Allan Zepedaimage courtesy of Allan Zepeda

Of course, no party, especially one where wedding planners are involved, is complete without a welcome reception! The Biltmore, along with the kind folks at Pressed Cotton, threw us a Hoedown to welcome us to the south. And let me tell y’all, it was a chalk full of fun! Elan Artists performed while we noshed on some good ole’ southern BBQ, enjoyed a Whiskey bar like I’d never seen before and ended the night with a bonfire and lots of late night chats….

ENGAGE!13images above & below courtesy of Andrew Henderson for Carla Ten Eyck Photography

South Andrew Henderson and Carla TenEyck

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images above & below courtesy of Carla Ten EyckCARLA_TEN_EYCK-101

hoedown food Carla TenEyck

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Hoedown Allan Zepedaimages courtesy of Allan Zepeda
hoedown sweets Carla TenEyckimages courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck
Photo by Allan Zepedaimages above and below courtesy of Allan Zepeda

Photo by Allan Zepeda

On Day two, we were shuttled to another location;  a tented venue named Diana overlooking the infamous Biltmore House. I think I speak for everyone when I say once we walked up the tiny hill, we were all seriously blown away by what we saw. I’m pretty sure if you followed the #engage13 hashtag on Instagram or Twitter you saw this image a couple of hundred times! Breathtaking….

Biltmore house IG picimage courtesy of my iPhone! Instagram picture!

Day two also brought on even more amazing speakers. We got to hear insights from Andrea Wasserman of Nordstrom Weddings, the incredibly smart (and funny) Cindy Novotny, Anne Chertoff, Xochitl Gonzalez, and Todd Fiscus. They shared their thoughts on the industry and what it takes to survive the ups & downs that go along with this business.

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image courtesy of Carla Ten EyckDiana Speakers_Allan Zepeda_Carla TenEyck
images courtesy of (from left to right) Allan Zepeda & Carla Ten EyckDiana Speakers_Allan Zepedaimages above and below courtesy of Allan Zepeda

attendees_Allan Zepeda

ENGAGE!13image courtesy of Andrew Henderson for Carla Ten Eyck

After speeches, we headed back to The Inn to enjoy some lunch boxes to go and everyone headed off to different group experiences located around the Estate. There was archery, rafting, segwaying (is that a word?), garden tours, beer tasting; I mean I can go on forever. The activity options on property were endless..

Experiences_Carla TenEyck_Jeremie Barlow_Allan Zepedaimages courtesy of (from left to right) Carla Ten Eyck, Jeremie Barlow and Allan Zepeda

Then we headed off to group dine-arounds to get to know some of the speakers and attendees on a more intimate level.

CARLA_TEN_EYCK-606images above and below courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck

dinearounds_Carla TenEyck

After dinner, we enjoyed a Dessert party under the stars with all sorts of delicious goodness!

dessert party_Jeremie Barlowimages courtesy of Jeremie Barlow

Photo by Allan Zepeda

images above & below courtesy of Allan ZepedaPhoto by Allan Zepeda
Photo by Allan Zepedaimage courtesy of Allan Zepeda

But, WAIT, we didn’t end there, after the dessert party was the after party in the form of a speak easy! Attendees had to knock on the door and give the secret password to gain entrance into the party. And, well you guessed it, it was like wedding planners gone wild (I can’t share too many images)! More drinking and more dancing ensued…

Photo by Allan Zepedaimages above & below courtesy of Allan Zepeda

speakeasy_Allan Zepeda

ENGAGE!13images above & below courtesy of Andrew Henderson for Carla Ten Eyck

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As if all of that wasn’t enough, when we got back to our rooms that night all the attendees received a special treat from my sweet friend, Andrea Liss of Hannah Handmade. A beautifully branded gem was placed in a handmade silk pouch, that I’ve already decided I will re-purpose to house my jewelry for overnight trips!

JEREMIEBARLOW_-90002-1image courtesy of Jeremie Barlow

Day three is always a bittersweet day. First off, no one wants to wake up from the amazing night we had before, but also because we know this is the wind down to the last full day of fun. On this day we heard from more amazing speakers (I know I keep saying it, but it’s true) such as Colin Cowie, Liene Stevens, & Mindy Weiss, just to name a few, and we sampled some mini bites by the ever so talented Peter Callahan. Liene’s talk on the millennial generation is always a favorite of mine.

Diana Speakers_Jeremie Barlow

images courtesy of Jeremie Barlowmini bites_image 1 -Carla Ten Eyck_ image 2-3_Jeremie Barlowimages courtesy of (from left to right) Carla Ten Eyck and Jeremie Barlow

After speeches, we enjoyed these amazing picnic basket lunches on the lawn overlooking the Biltmore House. A perfect way to end the day before running off to prepare for the gala!

Photo by Allan Zepedaimage courtesy of Allan Zepeda
CARLA_TEN_EYCK-361image courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck

One thing I always look forward to is the Gala at engage!.. This year’s Gala theme was Gatsby. Karen Tran Florals designed the event that took place in a tent on the south terrace of the Biltmore House and boy did she blow us away. There were feathers and lush flowers and draping and chandeliers and more flowers! Elan Artists was our evening entertainment and we got to enjoy burlesque dancers, cigarette girls, performances and oh yes – MUSIC! Amazing, amazing music by Elan Artists. All the attendees were asked to dress in their best Gatsby attire, and when you ask the folks in this industry to play a part, do they ever! Everyone donned their best Gatsby gear and everyone looked amazing.

Photo by Allan Zepedaimages above & below courtesy of Allan Zepeda

Gala details_Allan Zepda

Gala details_Allan Zepda1images above & below courtesy of Allan Zepeda Gala_Allan Zepeda

Gala details_Carla Ten Eyck

images courtesy of Carla Ten EyckGala_Carla Ten Eyck
images above & below courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck
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We enjoyed incredible food, a fireworks show that puts the NYC fireworks show to shame (just a little), live entertainment and LOTS and LOTS of dancing! What an incredible evening that went on till the wee hours of the morning!

Photo by Allan Zepeda

image courtesy of Allan ZepedaJEREMIEBARLOW_-30042
images above & below courtesy of Jeremie Barlow
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CARLA_TEN_EYCK-684image courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck

To sum it all up.. I’ve said it in EVERY post regarding engage! and I’ll say it again – IF YOU ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF LUXURY WEDDINGS OR EVENTS, engage! is a MUST ATTEND. There is NO OTHER industry event that compares. No other event allows you the opportunity to learn from the best in a non-competitive environment. No other event gives you the opportunity to meet industry leaders, talk shop, meet your peers around the globe, swap ideas and make lifelong friends. Now, I am not saying you will go home and your business will change instantly, because everyone takes something different away. But you will leave differently than you arrived! Also, according to my daughter, no other event gives such amazing swag!

A huge thanks to the masterminds behind engage! Kathryn Arce & Rebecca Grinnals of Engaging Concepts (and team).

 Photo by Allan Zepedaimage courtesy of Allan Zepeda

And to our amazing photography team for the week. Allan Zepeda, Carla Ten Eyck, Jeremie Barlow and Andrew Henderson for all these amazing pictures.

CARLA_TEN_EYCK-858image courtesy of Carla Ten Eyck

Whew! That was a long one!! But, if you haven’t had enough, enjoy these video recaps from I Do Films:

Days 1 & 2: http://vimeo.com/67724505  Day 3: http://vimeo.com/67736554

That’s all, for now… Summer Camp for Creatives was a blast, can’t wait till next time!

PS – if you’re wondering what that fancy font is, you’ll never figure it out. It is the beautiful calligraphy of my dear friend Deborah Nadel Design. She created my logo for me many moons ago and I adore her so very much! So happy she is able to showcase her talents at engage!