In this industry, there's so much glitz and glam going on (in front of the lens)--from industry parties to lavish retreats and affairs that make many people want to be a part of the lifestyle. And yes...wedding professionals do get to surround themselves with beautiful things and copious amounts of champagne on a fairly regular basis (hey, there are perks to this job!); however, we're rarely posting pics of ourselves creating endless spreadsheets, detailed timelines, or brewing our sixth cup of coffee as we work on a tedious task. What I'm saying is it may APPEAR to be all glam, but there's a lot of mundane grunt work in what we do, too. We just don't post beautiful images of that.
So for the last few years, I've been wanting to create a retreat that was focused on our challenges as business owners...including staying in our pajamas all day (work-from-home problem!). When I called my friends Rebecca Woodman Taylor and Parris Whittingham and asked, "What do you think? Is this a crazy idea?" they were both on board and we excitedly set out planning our first-ever "intimate wedding industry retreat"--now dubbed Event Chat. We wanted to pull in other professionals whose work we admired but perhaps hadn't worked with before. Our goal was to continue to expand our networks and focus on folks whose philosophies were more aligned with our own.
When we arrived one-by-one at the Berkshire Lake House, each of us was filled with nervous anticipation, excitement, and curiosity all at once. This was a different kind of industry retreat, so none of us were quite sure what to expect. Most of us had either never met or had perhaps met only once or twice, so it's always nerve wracking to be thrown into a group of people you don't really know and be expected to bear your soul! During this week of intensive group fireside chats (and super-loud nightly games of Heads-Up), we discussed not only our goals as small business owners, but we also got real about our fears and insecurities. We gathered as a group to make breakfast in the kitchen, ate family style lunches and dinners, broke off into small groups, fell asleep on the couch, gained amazing insights into each others' businesses, stayed up way too late just hanging out and walked away from this stronger than ever before. In every sense, we arrived as strangers and departed as family. And we can't wait to do it again!
Planning this four-day retreat in the Berkshires looked quite similar to planning a wedding, really. Rebecca, Parris and I needed to line up vendors to provide our meals and accommodations suitable for us to sprawl out and take over the property. We needed large tables and rentals for special dinners, a beverage service to get us through the week (remember? champagne?), transportation to take us on our field-trip day, and so on.
We were SOOO completely blown away when the Berkshire Lake House offered to sponsor our entire week's lodging needs! At best, we were hoping to find something affordable in order to keep our ticket prices low, so when they contacted us and said they'd be happy to host our event, we were (and still are!) immensely grateful. As we continued to reach out to local businesses to secure the things we needed, many of them offered to donate their goods/services and were supportive of our efforts to bring out-of-town event professionals into the Berkshires. Our welcome and farewell dinners, provided in "our home" by Red Lion Inn Catering and on-location by Race Brook Lodge, respectively, were both abundant and wonderful. And Chloe Wine Collection kept us hydrated in high-fashion! To these folks, we are eternally grateful.
As you can see, I could go on and on and on and on about how amazing this retreat was...from the setting to the content to the lives changed by our coming together. But instead, I'll let you judge for yourself, via these amazing images provided by Syed Yaqeen and Rebecca Woodman Taylor.