Engage! is renowned for its exciting array of world-class speakers, which include the leading lights of the global wedding industry, top editors, thought leaders in all aspects of luxury lifestyle, and creative entrepreneurs doing unique things across the events industry. We are thrilled to present our exciting and esteemed speaker and media for Engage!23 The Boca Raton.
Will Guidara is the author of the National Bestseller Unreasonable Hospitality, which chronicles the lessons in
service and leadership he has learned over the course of his career in restaurants. He is the former co-owner Eleven
Madison Park, which under his leadership received four stars from the New York Times, three Michelin stars, and in 2017 was named #1 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
He is the host of the Welcome Conference, an annual hospitality symposium that brings together like minded people
to share ideas, inspire one another, and connect to form community. A graduate of the hospitality school at Cornell
University, he has coauthored four cookbooks, was namedone of Crain’s New York Business’s 40 Under 40, and is the
recipient of WSJ Magazine’s Innovator Award.
- Author, Catalyst, and Executive Coach, Author of "Wonderhell"
Laura’s secret superpower is seeing your greatness and reflecting it back on you, so that you can get “unstuck” — and achieve extraordinary results.
A frequent contributor to Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, Harvard Business Review, and Oprah Daily, Laura’s 30-year resume is defined by her entrepreneurial edge. She served as a Presidential Appointee in Bill Clinton’s White House, helping shape AmeriCorps; left a leadership role at respected national search firm to expand a tech start-up; and founded, ran, and sold her own global search firm, partnering with the full gamut of mission driven corporate and nonprofit executives.
Laura is turned on by the audacity of The Big Idea and that larger-than-life goal you just can’t seem to shake. She’s an instigator, motivator, and provocateur, and she’s never met a revolution she didn’t like. Just ask her enduringly patient husband, two almost-grown sons, and two troublesome pups with whom she lives outside of Boston, MA.
- Founder and CEO, Luxury Institute
Milton Pedraza is the founder and CEO of the Luxury Institute. He is globally recognized as one of the world’s leading luxury industry experts, as well as a leading private investor and entrepreneur in a new category he has coined as Creator Empowerment Technology. Milton is a shareholder in DataLucent, Cryptid Technologies, Diamond Standard, EmpwrData, Replika Software, Firework, Citizen Me, and MTC, among other game changing innovators. He is the most sought-after Advisory Board member by game-changing, creator empowerment and luxury startups.
Luxury Institute is the world’s most trusted research, consulting, training, and elite business solutions partner for luxury brands. With the largest global network of luxury executives, experts, HNW and UHNW individuals, Luxury Institute empowers brands with high-performance, leading-edge solutions from the best minds in the industry. In the last 20 years, Luxury Institute has served over 1,100 luxury and premium goods and services brands. The Institute has conducted more quantitative and qualitative research with affluent, HNW, and UHNW consumers than any other entity. This expertise has led to Luxury Institute’s high-performance relationship building education system, Luxcelerate, and its online course: The Mastery of HNW Relationship Building. Each dramatically improves the relationship building skills of luxury professionals.
Milton has served on the boards of top-tier luxury brands, as well as tech startups. He is a member of the Advisory Board at The UHNW Institute and is a frequent speaker at corporate events worldwide. Milton is the most quoted global luxury industry expert in top-tier media. Prior to founding the Luxury Institute, his successful career included executive roles at PepsiCo, Colgate, Citibank and Cendant.
Milton is a frequent guest speaker at Columbia, has lectured at Harvard and has been recognized as a top Latin Entrepreneur by Stanford. Milton was born in Colombia, raised in the USA, and has served as a senior executive in several countries. He has conducted business in over 120 countries and speaks several languages.
- President, Marcy Blum Events
Marcy Blum is a renowned and internationally sought-after event planner and entertaining expert, boasting an impressive career spanning over 35 years. With a unique blend of creativity, innovation, and a touch of humor, she has earned a well-deserved reputation for crafting extraordinary events that leave a lasting impression.
Born with a keen eye for detail and an unwavering commitment to her craft, Marcy has consistently pushed the boundaries of event planning, infusing each occasion with a sense of wonder and delight. Her ability to stimulate the senses and captivate guests sets her apart in the world of event planning. Her dedication to creating seamless and enjoyable experiences for her clients is a testament to her expertise.
Marcy’s journey in the world of events began at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, where she honed her skills and developed a deep understanding of the culinary arts. Over the years, she has masterfully blended elements of theater, cuisine, décor, and ambiance to curate events that are nothing short of spectacular. Her unique approach has earned her the title of an “eventiste,” reflecting her harmonious fusion of artistic vision and practical execution.
Recognized as a top event planner in the world by esteemed publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Marcy’s work has received widespread acclaim. Her impressive portfolio has been featured in numerous publications, including People, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Women’s Wear Daily.
- CEO and Creative Director, Mark Ingram Atelier
Upon graduating from the prestigious NYU with a business degree, Mark Ingram’s fashion career began at the legendary Fifth Avenue specialty stores Bonwit Teller and Bergdorf Goodman. As a young merchandising executive at these venerable institutions in the early 80’s, Mark was exposed to the world’s top designers and arbiters of style. By 1986, Mark had embarked on a successful wholesale career in New York’s garment center, securing merchandising and sales management positions with designer and luxury goods manufacturers. In 1995, he joined the renowned bridal house Amsale as National Bridal Sales Director. In this role, Mark traveled to the best couture bridal stores, meeting brides-to-be nationwide. All of this helped prepare him to realize the dream of opening Mark Ingram Atelier in 2002, which now celebrated over twenty years as a premiere bridal retailer in New York City.
In 2018, Mr. Ingram established his own namesake collection, ‘Mark Ingram Bride,’ as a response to hearing firsthand the gowns that his customers were missing the most. The collection is inspired by a devout appreciation for chic, quality, and impeccable design, sold at his Flagship Atelier in New York City and esteemed bridal retailers both nationally and internationally.
- Founder, Chief Creative Officer
Bryan Rafanelli, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Rafanelli Events, works hand-in-hand with his clients to transform their weddings into unforgettable experiences. Known best for his customized approach to every project, Bryan and his team marry a unique and exquisite sense of style with careful attention to detail to ensure each event is truly exceptional.
Over the past 26 years, Bryan has built a company that prides itself in bringing its production and design expertise forward based on solid business tenants and processes for success in the full-service event planning space. His approach takes clients through the concept, design and execution of every detail of their wedding, creating enduring memories that last a lifetime. He has built a company to last from the bottom up and surrounds himself with a team that has the ability to pivot and change course during the toughest of times.
Bryan’s dedicated team of design and production individuals act on the philosophy that they are in the relationship business, and that every wedding is a unique creative challenge deserving of a one-of-a-kind celebration. His wedding clients include Fortune 500 families, public figures and successful entrepreneurs.
Rafanelli Events’ expertise extends beyond weddings, including destination and private events, corporate gatherings and non-profit fundraisers ranging in size from 15 to 15,000 attendees.
Bryan released his first book in the Fall of 2019, through Rizzoli. The book, titled “A Great Party – Designing The Perfect Celebration,” with the foreword by Chelsea Clinton, shares Bryan’s secrets for creating unforgettable parties, soirées, and gatherings.
Ed Libby is an internationally renowned event designer and creative director. Iconic for his larger-than-life floral sculptures and breathtaking fountains overflowing with flowers, Libby’s signature style plays with grandeur of scale, the transformation of familiar spaces into something brand new, and the use of all five senses. He began his career designing floral arrangements from his home, and grew his business into Ed Libby & Company Events, a pioneering design firm that was the first of its kind to blend art with live entertainers. He has worked with top hotels including MGM National Harbor outside of Washington, D.C., and the world-famous Bellagio in Las Vegas. He is also one of the most sought-after event designers for celebrities planning weddings and other over-the-top events.
Libby has been recognized as one of the World’s Top Wedding Designers by publications including Brides, Architectural Digest, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, BizBash, The Knot, and Destination Wedding Planner Congress. His television credits include art directing the season 2 premiere of America’s Next Top Model, VH1’s LaLa’s Full Court Wedding, Style Network’s Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, TLC’s Cake Boss, and The Today Show. His corporate clients include City Harvest, Jose Andres Group, Tommy Hilfiger, the ASPCA, American Express, The New York Stock Exchange, The Blackstone Group, Patrons of the Art in the Vatican Museums, the Super Bowl, Citizen Watch, Harber London handbags, and The Honest Co.
Born in Haiti, Guerdy Abraira moved to Paris with her family at the age of 1. At 9 years old, her parents decided to move to Miami where Guerdy went to secondary school and college. She quickly fell in love with the art of hosting and event planning and made this her career.
Living and traveling around the world expanded Guerdy’s palette of various global cultures. Outspoken and energetic, she points out her Haitian heritage mixed with a Parisian hometown flare as the basis for her unique aesthetic and work ethic. Guerdy’s hard work paying off is evidenced by her many accolades, including being named one of Harper’s Bazaar’s Top Planners in the World as well as making the coveted list of Vogue’s Best Wedding Planners in the U.S., Canada, and Overseas.
Guerdy was sadly diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2023 but resiliently won this battle as of this November. This health battle has surely affected her outlook her life and work and she shares this journey on the BRAVO TV series, “Real Housewives of Miami”.She is the first tv personality to bravely share a cancer battle beginning to end on reality tv hoping to bring awareness and inspiration to the world. Guerdy resides in Florida with her two boys and her longtime husband of 20 years, Russell, who is her high school sweetheart.
- Chief Creative Officer / CEO, HMR Designs
Named one of the top Wedding and Event Designers in the world by Harper’s Bazaar, VOGUE, Brides and Martha Stewart Weddings, along with being recognized as Top 40 under 40, Rishi remains one of the most highly coveted event designers among discerning clientele and notable figures alike. An advocate for fully transformative design, he specializes in celebrations of all kinds – all while adhering to the firm belief that service and guest experience are the cornerstone to great events and the definition of true luxury. From galas, to weddings, to milestone celebrations, any event is in his wheelhouse.
An educational background in Finance and an MBA from Indiana University has afforded him the ability to lead the HMR team from a fiscal perspective – though it’s his artistic passion that allows him to design the fantastical events he is known for. As much of a creative visionary as an astute business leader, Rishi’s insistence on unconventionality has continuously transformed the landscape of event design while granting him the honor of designing events for some of the most notable figures, families and organizations in the world.
A loyal Chicago native and avid traveler, Rishi regularly seeks inspiration from whatever cultural landscape he can find himself in. The destination event and wedding world has allowed Rishi and the HMR team to embrace so many incredible regions and pockets of the world to create spectacular events. Regardless of the marvelous adventures in design that await him, Rishi will always consider himself an artist at heart.
- Managing Partner, Master Connection Associates
They call her the ‘Radical Mentor’ for a reason. She never stops, she says it like it is and throughout all the ups and downs of the crazy hospitality and events business, she was a light of positivity who helped many people not only survive but thrive.
As the founder of Master Connection Associates, Cindy Novotny is an icon in the hospitality and travel industry. Her specialties are leadership, sales, and customer service excellence. She is ‘a force to be reckoned with’ and brings a stage alive with energy and passion.
Her exposure is vast including luxury hotels, events, automotive and real estate.
Energy, passion, and drive guarantee Cindy’s message will captivate each person in her audience. Her targeted message and popularity have no boundaries as she addresses groups across the world. Her charisma and humor combined with in-depth knowledge leaves the audience with reality-based skills and actionable items.
Having traveled 10 million miles, the term ‘road warrior’ may have been coined about Cindy. She has worked with executives all over the world helping them adjust their focus, improve their teams, and enhance service delivery and sales. Having logged those 10 million miles Cindy loves the smell of jet fuel in the morning, with her case packed she’s ready to embark on her next journey!
Her second book “My Secret to Stamina” is in the final stages to be released in 2023.
- Executive Director, Stafford Creative + Co.
Lea Stafford is the Founder and Executive Director at Stafford Creative + Co. (formerly Lea Stafford Events), an international event production and design brand based in the SF/Bay Area, established in 2012. The company proudly holds National Women’s Business Enterprise, Minority Supplier, and Green Business certifications.
Stafford is a visionary entrepreneur dedicated to promoting representation, conscious living, and sustainability. Holding degrees in both Interior Design and Political Science, Stafford’s journey began in the world of interior design 20 years ago. Over time, expanding her expertise to include event production and design, as well as lifestyle branding. Traveling and immersing herself in new experiences allows her to continue her growth.
Having now produced a vast range of events, such opportunities have allowed her to work on a number of projects which have included celebrities, dignitaries and political figures.
Beyond her professional accolades, Lea is a devoted mother of two teenagers and has been happily married for 18 years. Her strength lies in extracting intention, and her passion for curating meaningful experience shines through in a multitude of ways.
Her unique blend of bold creativity and purpose has propelled her to build an award-winning brand committed to making a positive impact on the world, while creating a strong sense of belonging and community.
- President, H Three Events
Hugh was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and has now established himself as the city’s premier event designer and lifestyle expert. With his distinctive eye for detail and boundless creative energy, Hugh takes his clients’ wildest dreams from imagination to reality.
While firmly established as Nashville’s go-to expert for events and weddings for A-list celebrities that include actress Nicole Kidman, and country superstars Brooks and Dunn, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Little Big Town, Wynonna Judd, Kenny Rogers, and Kings of Leon Rocker Nathan Followill. Hugh has been featured across the country on CBS, CMT, ABC TV, PEOPLE MAGAZINE, INSTYLE MAGAZINE, USA TODAY, VOGUE, HARPER’S BAZAAR and BRIDES offering his unique, fun approach as a Lifestyle Expert with his trademark style & sense of humor distinctively branded “Hughlarious”!
After graduating Belmont University in business management, he initially interned with WTVF-TV NewsChannel 5 in Nashville on their daytime talk show “Talk of the Town”, and then eventually partnered with music industry power broker Anita Hogin to form H Three Events in 2007.
H Three Events is now composed of himself and Kate Steele, with Hugh’s witty attention to design, and Kate’s logistic expertise, they produce events and weddings world-wide with glowing reviews. “She pays the bills, and I decorate…. It’s a marriage to me!” – Hugh
When he’s not in a ballroom or a destination, you can always catch Hugh in a comedy club. He has teamed up with comedian Leanne Morgan, and they will have you in the aisles! Follow him @HughHowser on Instagram, you’ll see!
- Founder and CEO, Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants, LLC
Sonal J. Shah is the founder and creative force of Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants, LLC. USA’s most renowned, premiere celebrity expert on South Asian and Cross Cultural weddings, Sonal J. Shah and her firm has built a stellar reputation for conceiving, designing, and coordinating an extensive roster of meticulously choreographed, luxury South Asian weddings.
She and her team maintain the highest level of service as they strive to have each celebration surpass every bride’s expectations. She has built connections with the finest hotels and luxury resorts around the world. RP Report said that Sonal’s name is synonymous with “high quality, platinum weddings, especially in the South Asian community.”
Based in New York City, she has organized weddings around the world and has been featured in Crain’s New York Business, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal,The Washington Post, The New York Times, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar as well as on television on Style Network’s Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? and Married Away. She has been named one of the ‘Best Wedding Planners in America’ by BRIDES and ‘Best Wedding Planners in NYC’ by PartySlate.
Seven years in the making, her first book, The Complete Guide to Planning the Perfect South Asian Wedding, was published at the end of 2013.
- Founder & Creative Director, Cocktail Academy
Matt, founder and the innovative force behind Cocktail Academy, has been infusing creativity into the beverage industry since 2014. His full-service beverage agency has swiftly carved out a significant niche within the experiential marketing realm, championing the art of storytelling through meticulously crafted cocktails. With his roots firmly planted in hospitality, Matt’s transition into the marketing sphere has been marked by a distinctive approach that resonates deeply with a clientele comprising the world’s most prominent spirit brands.
Always at the forefront of innovation and disruption, Matt has curated bespoke beverage experiences for industry giants like Bacardi, Beam Suntory, and Pernod Ricard. His most transformative collaborations, however, have been with Diageo, where his game-changing strategies have set new standards for brand engagement through ownable drinking rituals. As he continues with Cocktail Academy, Matt’s vision is clear: to redefine the narrative of cocktails as a medium for connection and storytelling. With an unwavering commitment to excellence and an ever-evolving creative zest, Matt is poised to lead Cocktail Academy into a future where every cocktail is a conversation and every sip, a story unveiled.
- Owner & Creative Director, Tara Guerard Soirée
Recognized as one of the nation’s leading tastemakers, Tara Guérard has earned a widespread reputation for her exceptional ability to create spectacular settings celebrating life’s most anticipated occasions.
For over 25 years, clients across the United States and abroad have turned to Tara for her impeccably executed events infused with Southern hospitality. With a core business in event design, Tara has expanded her brand to include furniture design and her letterpress printing company, Lettered Olive. She maintains offices in both Charleston and New York City.
A noted style expert, Tara has been featured in several national publications, including Food & Wine, InStyle, Southern Living, Traditional Home, Town & Country Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides, and was named a top wedding planner by Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She has also made appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, The Nate Berkus Show, and the Style Network. Her sister company, Soeur Events was founded last year (2022), to train wedding planners.
Tara lives in South Carolina, with her husband, Russell, their children, Aiken, Myers and Lila, and springer spaniel, June.
- Owner, José Rolón Events
A nuptial maestro for more than a decade, José has made a name for himself with his chill vibe and generous command, with his planning and design aesthetic making him one of the top rising wedding planners in NYC. He’s frequently sought for his expertise on The New York Times, Brides, and more, as well as his work featured with Martha Stewart, Essence Magazine, New York Weddings, and named one Biz Bash’s Most Influential Event Professionals.
José’s currently the co-host of new wedding series Wedding Talk with Tara Lipinski and Jove Meyer, and has co-hosted various shows across all media platforms.
José with his three children took TikTok by storm during quarantine! As a result, he’s been featured and had appearances on the TODAY Show, Ellen’s Game of Games, PEOPLE, GMA, and The Drew Barrymore Show. Was named Tiktok’s 2021 Latinx Trailblazers. If that wasn’t enough, José and his family graced the cover of Parents Latina Magazine being the first gay dad to ever do so.
José’s been an Engage speaker both for breakout and main stage and is excited to bring back his wedding series, The Wedding Buzz, live on the main stage at Engage!.
- CEO and President, Creative Edge Parties
Carla Ruben is the Founder and Creative Director of Creative Edge Parties based in New York and Miami. For over thirty years, she has explored every aspect of the hospitality business, including catering, award-winning restaurants, event venues, and her newest endeavor – a 10,000 sq. ft design lab where she reimagines how food can be presented.
Her unwavering commitment to changing the perception of the word “catering” has led her to the never-ending exploration of how to create “food as design.” She works with her team to develop culinary experiences that transcend the outdated silver tray service. Whether she is finding a way to lower food from the sky or spin it onto a table, her passion started what would become the most significant shift in the catering industry in decades.
Carla has been featured in Vogue, People, Brides, NY Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and The New York Times. She is the mother of a wonderful 18-year-old (who will hopefully attend college next year) and spends her summers in Greece knitting.
- Executive Creative Director CEP Florida, Creative Edge Parties
After completing four years of study at the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales University, Jeff embarked on his impressive 27+ year career at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. He began as a cooking intern and pastry cook, gradually progressing through roles such as banquet waiter, banquet captain, and banquet trainer, culminating in his position as the Senior Event Planner for Social Catering. Throughout his career, Jeff has collaborated with favorite planners, contributing to the planning of charity galas, weddings, and events for celebrities, sports figures, and socialites.
Among his memorable experiences, Sophia Vergara’s event stands out as the most enjoyable, while he took pride in making Rush Limbaugh’s third wedding the gayest wedding ever. Jeff has also orchestrated weddings for famous sports figures, showcasing his ability to create fabulous events even when unfamiliar with the sports world. After a mid-life crisis, Jeff found his happiest place surrounded by food as the Executive Creative Director of Creative Edge Parties South Florida. A self-proclaimed foodie, he devours culinary delights and, under the guidance of Carla Ruben, owner of CEP, now handles responsibilities such as exclusive luxury catering sales, foodie marketing, tasteful social media, and collaborates with the chefs and design team to create innovative and delicious food items.
Who says you can’t eat where you work?
- Attorney and Founder, Legally Set | Perfete
Kunbi Odubogun is an industry leading Business Attorney, Speaker and Digital Media Expert with over 12 years experience in the Legal and Events industries. She is a Partner at Oduberg, a boutique business law firm that provides legal services to creative entrepreneurs. With a keen eye for detail and an unwavering commitment to her clients’ success, Kunbi has built a reputation as a trusted legal advisor to startups, small businesses, and creative professionals.
In addition to her work at Oduberg, Kunbi is also the creator of Legally Set- an online shop offering legally sound, attorney-drafted contracts for entrepreneurs, event pros and creative business owners; and Perfête- a luxury celebrations publication with over one million monthly impressions across platforms.
A frequent Engage! speaker, Kunbi has shared her unique knowledge of Events and Law across several prominent platforms including The Knot, Wharton, CNN, Cosmopolitan, Bridal Guide, Bella Naija and more.
She continues to empower entrepreneurs with easy to digest legal and business knowledge to ensure they are legally set to succeed.
When she is not Lawyering or Publishing, She’s juggling life as an over-caffeinated mother of
two and binging Criminal Minds, because life is about balance.
- CEO, The Media Socialites
Persephone Maglaya is the CEO and founder of The Media Socialites, a 360-marketing agency specializing in luxury weddings and events and renowned for its global reach and prowess in storytelling across all digital landscapes. With a legacy rooted in global influence, her brand boasts a unique narrative, starting with a strategic role as Director of Business Development for Bridal Fashion, Registry, & Retailers at industry giants WeddingWire and The Knot. There, she innovatively spearheaded campaigns for iconic brands such as Target, Crate + Barrel, and Kleinfeld Bridal. In her quest to decode the synergy between data and visuals, she also created @bridal_vogue, a digital powerhouse with a following of over 230,000 on Instagram, aiming to discern the psychology behind users’ online interactions—and provide authentic connection to the power of social media.
While maintaining her decade-long position at WeddingWire and The Knot, Persephone’s entrepreneurial spirit birthed The Media Socialites as a side venture. Today, it is the go-to digital marketing agency for original content creation, social media management, photoshoot editorials, influencer partnerships, and beyond, serving various business needs—regardless of size or scope. In the last five years, she, along with her husband and Chief Data Officer, Eduardo, has collaborated with over 130 global partners, ranging from budding enterprises to well-known brands. Their comprehensive expertise spans content strategy to execution and paid media on intricate platforms such as TikTok, Google, and Pinterest. Under her leadership, The Media Socialites has emerged as one of the fastest-growing female-centric entities in the US, celebrated for its proficiency in capturing target audiences, seamlessly converting them into loyal clientele, and predicting client needs before they even know they need it.
Beyond her professional accolades, Persephone is a devoted mother to her twin sons, Laurent and Roman. She diligently balances her bustling career with quality time, ensuring cherished moments with her boys and frequent dates with her husband, Eduardo. When she’s not snuggling the twins, enjoying quality time with friends and family, or jet-setting, you’ll find Persephone exploring the latest nail and beauty trends, catching a nearby workout class, or catching up on The Kardashians.
- Owner/Principal Designer, Lynden Lane Co
Barbi Walters is the Founder and Principal Designer of Lynden Lane Co. – the company sought after for architecting transformative events and designing interior spaces that reflect style, heritage, and human connection.
As a dynamic mother-daughter team, we approach each project with expertise, agility, and a sense of humor. Our passion is fueled by creating unmatched environments from the ground up and daring to push conventional boundaries. We pride ourselves on being both the story’s writers and the editors. We craft the inimitable and then refine it, allowing us to produce a kind of grandiose that is always intentional, authentic to its environment, personal, and full of life.
- Lawyer and Photographer, The Artists' Lawyer / Magi Fisher
Magi Fisher is a luxury wedding photographer and licensed attorney. Her journey has taken her from photographing professional surfers while swimming in some of the world’s most epic waves to receiving a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law. Today, Magi photographs a limited number of luxury weddings with her husband, Scott, around the world. Simultaneously, she provides legal counsel to creative business owners through her law firm East & Bay Law, and contract template shop, The Artists’ Lawyer, with a specialization in contract negotiations, trademarks, copyright and licensing, and business strategy. With the marriage of her two pursued passions and crafts, she provides entrepreneurs with balanced insight and advice from someone who truly understands both sides.
- Owner/Founder, Mariee Ami
Neillie Butler, the Founder of Mariee Ami, has been in the event industry for nearly two decades. Most of Neillie’s days are spent overseeing the strategic planning and logistics for our celebrations happening all across the globe, as well as offering mentorship to the next generation of event professionals who make up the planning team.
After two decades in business, Neillie still spends time planning weddings but has come to enjoy the strategic side of entrepreneurship just as much.
- Owner, Abby Jiu Photography
Abby Jiu began her career as a fine art wedding photographer in 2009. In the intervening years she’s been named a top wedding photographer by Martha Stewart Weddings, and her couple’s days have been featured in People, Brides, The Knot, Over the Moon, Washingtonian Weddings, and Inside Weddings. Her signature aesthetic — timeless, light-filled, and boldly romantic images inspired by her couples’ heartfelt emotion and presented with an editorial edge — has made her one of the most highly sought after photographers for discerning couples and wedding professionals alike.
Abby’s art is strongly influenced by high fashion, interior design, and international travel. She’s had the honor of photographing weddings throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Europe in her decade-long career. Her approach to every event she documents is individualized and rooted in each couples’ unique story and locale.
Abby is based in Washington, DC, where she lives with her husband Jamey, and two kids, Cooper and Coco.
- Founder, Creative Director, Jacin Fitzgerald Events
Growing up working for her family’s hardware store within a family of entrepreneurs instilled Jacin with a strong work ethic (and good handshake) from a young age. Jacin got her start in the events industry working for a seaside event venue in 2003 and after gaining extensive global experience in all facets of events, from marketing, management, and strategy, to production, design, and florals, went on to launch her own company in 2009. Since then, Jacin Fitzgerald Events has landed a coveted spot year after year on the elite “world’s top planner” lists, with work regularly spotted in publications such as Town & Country, The New York Times, Vogue, and Martha Stewart, to name a few.
A self-proclaimed “laid back type A”, Jacin thrives under pressure and is known for her effervescent personality and optimistic outlook. Jacin works diligently to make sure her clients, team, vendor partners and anyone in her presence feels taken care of, appreciated, and welcomed.
When not working, Jacin enjoys exploring the nearest farmers market, hosting dinner parties and spending quality time with her husband, Pat, and Australian Shepherds, Rhody and Blue.
- Artist, Corbin Gurkin Photography
Corbin has photographed weddings in locations as diverse as the beaches of Thailand to the State Rooms of The White House, but it is the uniqueness of her clients’ stories that fulfill her creative nature.
Corbin’s niche is effortless imagery that evokes genuine feeling over forced poses, while gently guiding her couple’s through the photographic experience. To tell a compelling visual story, she brings a keen eye for styling and detail to her work,
making her one of the most sought after editorial style wedding photographers in the industry. Corbin’s work has been regularly featured in Vogue, Martha Stewart Weddings, Harper’s Bazaar, Over The Moon and Town & Country.
True to her wanderlust spirit, Corbin shares her time between Stockton, New Jersey and Sandwich, New Hampshire.
- Founder and Creative Director, CLG Creative
Carrie Goldberg is the founder and creative director of CLG Creative, a fashion styling and creative consultancy serving personal, bridal, and corporate clients worldwide. With Carrie at the helm, CLG Creative’s body of work is further elevated by a top-tier team of stylists whose expertise spans the worlds of fashion, fine jewelry, e-commerce, travel, PR & Marketing, and more.
Throughout her work, Carrie channels her background in editing and art direction from her six- year tenure as the Weddings & Travel Director at Harper’s BAZAAR and prior to that as the Senior Fashion Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings. In collaboration with fashion and weddings’ best, CLG Creative strives to consistently elevate the look and feel of event fashion, creating looks that are print-worthy, refined, and tastemaking.
- CEO, Anais Events
Amrit Dhillon-Bains, CEO Anais Events leads a premier full-service international event company that specializes in the planning and production of custom South Asian weddings & celebrations. With a commitment to preserving the traditions and culture that make these celebrations so special, she works closely with couples to incorporate them into their events in a meaningful, modern, and memorable way.
Named one of the top wedding planners lists of Over the Moon, Amrit and her team are well known for creating beautifully designed and perfectly executed weddings. With several prominent clients in their diverse portfolio, Anais Events is a leading name in cultural weddings globally, keeping the traditions and culture of these celebrations alive in modern times.
- Owner, Élan Artists
ÉLAN ARTISTS is recognized as a leading entertainment, performance, and headliner production company both nationally and internationally. Specializing in custom, innovative, and deeply impactful immersive entertainment experiences, our roster includes award-winning recording artists, high caliber musicians, handpicked Broadway, cabaret/cirque actors, singers, and dancers, multi-media artists, and elite DJs. ÉLAN also identifies and produces headliner talent, facilitating streamlined and effective celebrity entertainment for a broad spectrum of events.
ÉLAN ARTISTS performs for upper echelon social, corporate, branding, fashion, gala, and wedding events; notably at Barack Obama’s Inaugural Balls, the Clinton Foundation Galas, White House and State Department Dinners, the Alvin Ailey Gala, Martha Stewart Weddings, CAA, and Goldman Sachs. ÉLAN has also provided in-house entertainment and thematic programming for luxury fashion brands including Hermes, Ralph Lauren, Valentino, LVMH, Ferrari, for elite cultural institutions, notably the LA Phil, Hamilton, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, and NYPL, and prestigious universities, Harvard, Columbia, and NYU amongst others. ÉLAN has curated personal entertainment for Martha Stewart, George Soros, CAA founder Michael Ovitz, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Gwyneth Paltrow in addition to performing at the weddings of George Lucas, Michael Jordan, Sofia Vergara, and Serena Williams to name a few.
Recently, ÉLAN ARTISTS has either produced or shared stages with celebrity performers including Usher, Diana Ross, Journey, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Keith Urban.
- Owner and Creative Director, TPD Design House
Empires start with a story. There are entire kingdoms built on legend, myth, and, in the case of artist Vanessa Kreckel, a kitchen table side hustle that launched a creative universe.
In the pre-hashtag era of 2000, back when Hillary lived in the White House and Blockbuster was alive and well, Vanessa had a recurring frustration that unwittingly spoke to the future of 21st century branding: why did so many personal invitations focus more on logistics instead of the actual clients celebrating? Inspired by the possibilities of graphic design, Vanessa began crafting wedding stationery that conveyed couples’ stories through illustration, color palettes, typography, and smartly mixed materials, each collection easily doubling as a couples’ love story manifesto. Two Paperdolls was born.
Vanessa’s story-first designs quickly sparked national attention everywhere from BRIDES and Martha Stewart Weddings to PRINT and Communications Arts. With an eye on the creative possibilities in corporate branding, however, along with a natural penchant for the unfamiliar, Vanessa’s work was about to expand far beyond paper.
From a state-of-the-art warehouse outside of Philadelphia, Vanessa runs what is now called TPD Design House, a full-service agency of storytellers who never use the word “no.” Vanessa and her female-led team of graphic visionaries, web ninjas, project masters, and production wizards service corporate and niche luxury businesses in branding, web, and custom stationery, keenly translating stories into any medium, physical or virtual. Clients including The White House, Comcast, Patrón, Verizon, Flour Shop, Engage! Luxury Wedding Business Summits, and Neenah Paper have taken Vanessa’s unique brand of storytelling across the globe.
Things came full circle in 2014 when Vanessa’s wedding to her wife, Lauren, was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings — along with their custom paper-and-wood invitations, of course. When she’s not busy running TPD, Vanessa is often traveling, gardening, and indulging in another creative passion, interior design, in the home she shares with her wife, her sons Cash and Landon, and her daughter Portland.
Vanessa holds a B.A. in Communications from Cedar Crest College and a degree in Graphic Design from the Moore College of Art & Design.
- President, Nuage Designs
Building upon the foundation of his education and career in luxury hospitality, Brazil native Pablo Oliveira drew upon his passion for design and global travel when he established Nüage Designs in 2004. Under Oliveira’s direction, Nüage has grown from the vicinity of Miami’s culture-rich Little Haiti to reach an expansive community of creatives nationwide and abroad in its 15 years of success.
The brand is globally regarded as a leader in couture linen and furniture rentals for events, having served top event planners, celebrities, and luxury hotels worldwide with unparalleled design offerings delivered with the highest standard of service.
Oliveira’s commitment to creative innovation led him to establish full in-house production capabilities, where each linen is individually hand-cut and sewn in his Miami, FL headquarters warehouse. This hands-on approach is an extension of his quality standard that starts with carefully selecting, designing, and sourcing textiles that offer a modern interpretation of timeless style. For this reason, Nüage Designs meets a complete spectrum of linen rental needs – from large-scale event productions to bespoke, tailored projects for the discerning designer.
Oliveira’s commitment to creating a joyful and collaborative working environment that celebrates its employees’ talents is a key element to the company’s success. His tight-knit team is encouraged to draw upon their passion for design and service to push the company forward creatively and ethically. In recent years, this has manifested as community support, outreach to local and national non-profit organizations, and a renewed commitment to sustainable practices that reduce the company’s impact on material waste accumulation in landfills.
“We strive to work as a team to elevate the experience of planning, designing, and enjoying an event by consistently and successfully delivering high-quality products while anticipating and exceeding our clients’ needs. At Nüage Designs, we are committed to providing memorable and unique experiences for our creative partners, who we consider an extension of the Nuage family.”
- Founder, Shannon Leahy Events
With offices in California and Maryland, Shannon Leahy Rosenbaum of Shannon Leahy Events plans and designs stunning weddings all over the world.
Shannon has been named one of the top wedding and event planners in the world by Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, and Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. Shannon also co-hosts a podcast called Wedded for wedding planners and has an online shop selling professional templates at weddedshop.com
A Shannon Leahy wedding is characterized by clean line design, a carefully orchestrated flow and an incredible attention to every detail. She is renowned for her ability to remain calm in stressful situations and is beloved for her candor and creativity. Clients who come to Shannon for her keen eye for design, her wealth of wedding knowledge and her easygoing nature often become lifelong friends.
When she isn’t planning weddings with her fabulous team, she enjoys cooking, skiing, and dancing to the record player in her living room with husband, Joe, her sons Guy (5) & Miles (2) and of course her dog, Bodie.
- CEO + Creative Director, Jassi & Co Creative
Since establishing Jassi & Co Creative in 2005, Jassi has built a reputation for creating events that are both visually stunning and extravagantly fun. Inspired by travels abroad, fashion, theatre, art, music, and architecture, she has refined her keen eye for design and passion for perfect details. Constantly pushing boundaries to produce innovative and refined designs, her work has been featured in leading industry publications. Jassi proudly serves on the executive board of JCS South Florida & The Jewish Leadership Academy, and volunteers her time to various organizations . She currently resides in Miami with her husband and children.
- Founder/Lead Stylist, Beth Chapman Styling + Consulting
Beth Chapman is celebrated for her roles as a bridal boutique owner, stylist, business mentor, author, and wedding fashion expert. Beth’s genuine desire to craft unforgettable shopping experiences for brides, led her to launch The White Dress by the shore, a luxury bridal boutique, in 2004.
Beth is the founder of Beth Chapman Styling + Consulting through which her passion and expertise serve as guiding lights, illuminating the path for aspiring entrepreneurs and brides alike.
As a sought-after stylist, Beth has a natural flair for assisting couples in curating their perfect wedding ensembles. Beth and her team of stylists travel the world providing day-of-wedding dressing services, creating picture-perfect moments.
As a wedding industry consultant, Beth imparts wisdom and knowledge to bridal store owners and wedding professionals nationwide through her courses, membership and speaking engagements.
Beth’s words and voice resonate within many renowned media outlets, including The Today Show, The New York Times, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Beth is also the co-author of two books, The White Dress in Color and The White Dress Destinations.
Beth’s greatest joy in her role as a mother to two remarkable children. Alongside her husband and fur baby, Koda, she calls Guilford, Connecticut, home.
- Event Designer + Planner, Lemiga Events
There is an art to entertaining. It’s exactly this sentiment that drew Michelle Gainey to found her own event design house in 2004. Named by Harper’s Bazaar, Brides, and BizBash as one of the top event designers & wedding planners in the world, Michelle has planned, designed, and produced events worldwide.
From celebrities like Cardi B and Idris Elba to brands like BET and Four Seasons, Michelle designs iconic events and has made her mark in Atlanta and beyond as a tastemaker of hospitality for the past 18 years.
Her design process reimagines familiar concepts, intertwining every element of the event to the heart of her client and what they want to express. She connects to the deeper purpose of creating moments where every detail is intentional.
Michelle is beloved by her clients for her calming presence, expert guidance, and gift for taking an event beyond what they could envision. What makes her designs so iconic is her ability to artfully compose distinctive experiences.
Outside of events, Michelle empowers other creative business owners and cherishes time with her husband and three children, who inspire her to continue creating legendary life moments through a heartfelt approach.
- Owner & Creative Director, Eva Clark Events
My obsession with weddings began on a 7-week long summer vacation, in Europe, when I was 10-years old. While in Spain, I witnessed a wedding that was being held at a 17th century palace-turned-hotel. The glasses of fresh sangria, intricate lace and celebratory dancing made a huge impression on me. As a girl from modest, southern roots, I’d never seen anything like it. Little did I know that experience was the beginning of a journey that would lead me across the country and around the world in the pursuits of once in a lifetime event experiences. When it came to my own wedding, my budget was Spanx-tight (even by 90’s standards). I embraced simple elegance while honing in on the most meaningful aspects.
As a designer/planner, I am thrilled to see the emphasis on personalized weddings that has emerged in the last 10-years. I want the couple to feel that their wedding is a true expression of who they are so that their story is the essence of the event. I want their guests to know precisely who’s wedding they are at, from their first impression, upon arrival, to the send-off. There are no cookie-cutter events here. Lush garden-like floral, with a dash of whimsy, is a huge component to most of my events as is dynamic paper goods and tablescapes. We are all about anticipating the guests needs and evoking their senses in an unforgettable manner.
Travel abroad and timeless, romantic events are my love language. I still become giddy when I see the end result of a room transformation, when the lights have been dimmed and every candle has been lit. My favorite moments of the wedding day are the reception reveal and the first dance. I still cry sometimes!
Since 2003, I’ve successfully completed over 500 weddings, including work that was chosen as the backdrop for a major music video of a chart-topping single. In addition, my weddings have been published in The Knot, PEOPLE Country, Martha Stewart Weddings, BRIDES, Inside Weddings, Carats and Cake, Southern Living and more. In 2014, my luxury wedding services expanded to Europe. For three consecutive years, I’ve been named a “Best Planner in America” by Condé Nast BRIDES.
Eva resides in a suburb of Atlanta with her husband, three daughters and two rescue dogs.
- Deputy Editor, The Knot
Esther Lee is the The Knot Deputy Editor for the magazine and digital, overseeing the Features & Travel verticals on The Knot. She has been quoted as a wedding expert in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and The Financial Times and has appeared on CBS This Morning, among other media outlets. In her day-to-day, Esther is responsible for shaping the narrative across destination, news, relationship, and wedding features. One of her favorite topics to cover is Destination Weddings and observing how broader trends influence the spirit of celebrations as they evolve.
In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to awe-inducing destinations and writing and reporting for broader feature stories that reflect the wedding and events industry.
- Owner | Creative Director, Birds of a Feather Events
Thriving on creating something from nothing, Wendy welcomes the creative challenge and complex logistics required to (literally) build an event from the ground up. From design conception to collaborating with the creative team and directing the day-of execution, Wendy respects each stage of the wedding planning process, considering the journey just as important as the destination.
A former television producer, Wendy transferred her talents from directing live TV to weddings. Over a decade since creating Birds of a Feather events, she continues to lean on her problem-resolving skills while remaining quick on her feet on event days.
Wendy uses her love of set design as inspiration to translate the stories of her clients through unexpected details.
Wendy‘s clients connect to her calm demeanor, sharp wit, and surprising knowledge of pop culture. A diplomatic straight shooter, she guides her clients through potentially sticky situations with transparency, tact, and, most importantly–humor.
- Wells Fargo Advisors / Senior Vice President - Investment Officer, Sports & Entertainment Accredited Wealth Management Advisor
- Owner, Founder & Lead Planner - Planned by Cristina
“Wealth is about being able to do the things that matter most to you. I believe that financial guidance should be clear, comprehensive, and delivered with professional expertise & integrity.”
A key focus for Cristina and her team is building and managing multi-generational investment strategies to support clients and their families throughout their financial life cycle. Cristina is relied on by her clients for a variety of services including: 401(k) solutions, retirement planning, estate investment planning, educational savings, and personal investment strategies.
Cristina graduated from New York University, where she earned dual degrees in Finance and Economics from the Stern School of Business. She worked for Citigroup throughout her undergraduate education. Cristina joined Wells Fargo Advisors in August 2014. By leveraging Wells Fargo Advisors’ leading research and technology, she is dedicated to offering her clients the highest level of personal service.
During her time at NYU, Cristina attended her first off-guest-list event as a photography assistant. Before long, she became brazenly captivated by weddings. Following her passion with intention, Cristina incorporated Cristina Capone, LLC in 2018. She is now the owner, founder, and lead planner of Planned by Cristina Capone, a nationally recognized, industry-acclaimed luxury wedding and event planning company.
- Lifestyle editor and writer, BridesS tyle
Ivette Manners is a New York-based lifestyle writer and bridal brand consultant. She is a former editor at Vogue and current freelance writer for various print and online publications including The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Allure.com, and Brides.com. Her work has also been featured in Vogue Italia, Vogue México y Latinoamérica, HarpersBazaar.com, and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, among other major titles. Ivette is a co-writer of Real Simple magazine’s wedding-planning book Real Simple Weddings and founder and editor of BridesStyle.com, a bridal-content website focusing on fashion, beauty, destination events, honeymoons, and planning tips.
She began her career in publishing as an assistant at New York Magazine, where among her other duties, she wrote about the best bridal vendors in New York for the magazine’s Weddings special section.
- Ideaction Consulting
Sam Jacobson helps wedding pros book better clients at higher prices using buyer psychology and behavioral economics.
Luxury event pros call him up when they run out of luck, natural ability, charisma and connections, because the tips and techniques he offers help even the best reach their full potential.
Sam’s spent 17+ years obsessing about how to get couples to pay more for event services. Predictive behavior profiling, value building, communication theory, choice architecture, persuasion tactics. You name it, he’s learned about it – and used it to market and sell over $10,000,000 directly to clients in the wedding industry.
In 2016, Sam started Ideaction Consulting to help wedding pros reach their goals. He and his wife, Katy Taylor Jacobson, offer coaching business and sales coaching, website copywriting and design, a mastermind, and immersive strategy retreats for event companies just like yours.
Check out his podcast, Own Your Business, to hear how you can use the science of sales and marketing to reach success.
If you see him around the summit, ask him to tell you the story of how he and Katy first met on the beach at Engage!14 Grand Cayman.
- CEO, The B Collective Magazine
The B Collective Magazine Collection is an anthology of weddings, birthday parties, styled shoots, and other social events that showcase the splendor of Black culture and the skill of industry leaders. The events and their hosts continue to demonstrate limitless potential in our industry through striking designs, vibrant colors, and innovative ideas. The B Collective magazine stands as evidence that no matter the challenges we face individually, the collective always emerges stronger when we unite.
- Founder, Maharani Weddings
Shawna Gohel is the Editor in Chief and Founder of Maharaniweddings.com, the largest website for Indian brides. Shawna’s journey began when she was planning her wedding and was searching far and wide for inspiration for Indian brides. She started MaharaniWeddings.com in 2008 to be that source of inspiration for the Indian community and has since published more than 10,000 articles on Indian weddings. Today, Maharani Weddings reaches Indian brides and bridal enthusiasts around the globe through the MaharaniWeddings.com website and social media channels. Each day, the editorial team at MaharaniWeddings.com publishes 20 to 25 pieces of original content focusing on trends, Indian Wedding ideas, and real weddings. Shawna’s enthusiasm and personality are infused into every detail of Maharani Weddings. Shawna lives in beautiful Los Angeles with her husband and three wonderful children. She enjoys working out, learning new recipes, and volunteering with the local hospital in her free time.
Angela is the founder and creative director of WedLuxe, the industry’s leading luxury wedding media brand and creative agency, extending its global reach to millions of consumers and event professionals through online content, social media, print magazines, events, and experiences.
In 2023, the brand launched WedLuxe Experiences, merging wedding media with curated travel offerings. The platform provides customizable proposals, bachelor/bachelorette trips, and honeymoons through elite partnerships with hotels and tourism boards. Travel Concierge Services are facilitated by The Travel Siblings, affiliates of The Global Travel Collection, Virtuoso members. The venture also includes a new print magazine under the same title, showcasing the world’s best destination weddings with distribution to newly engaged consumers across the US through The Wedding Registry at Bloomingdale’s.
Additionally, WedLuxe Agency, the brand’s award-winning creative services division, offers branding, design, consulting for social media marketing, web development and sales tools, content creation and FAM trip management, leveraging over two decades of experience to assist entrepreneurs and venues in the luxury wedding sector. Among the agency’s notable projects is “Cayman Vows,” created to promote romance and weddings for The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. The project won the top prize, The Gold Award, at The 2018 Adrian Awards for Best Integrated Content Marketing. Angela is also the event producer and designer of The WedLuxe Show, an annual event attracting 2000 guests since 2010, and a finalist for “Best Consumer Tradeshow” by Bizbash. As a Canadian expat, Angela served as the guest creative director of Engage! Banff in 2018. A Florida resident since 2016, Angela was recently honored to be asked to serve on the Advisory Board for the Executive Digital Marketing Program at the University of South Florida.
- CEO & Founder, Aisle Society & Pretty Pear Bride
Shafonne Myers is a media mogul who created the world’s only site for plus size brides, Pretty Pear Bride and is also the CEO of a top wedding media company, Aisle Society. Aisle Society is a network of over 30 wedding blogs where she owns 8 of them and has a software, Matchology, that matches wedding vendors to wedding publications to increase their marketing and publicity efforts through being featured online.
She realized that her true zone of genius is helping brides all over the world see the importance of feeling comfortable in their bodies and having the confidence to step into their true selves on their wedding day and beyond. She demonstrates this by sharing inspiration from couples of all shapes, sizes, sexual orientation and ethnicity through her media company and publications that she owns.
Her mission is to redefine the way the wedding industry sees beauty. It’s not just a one size fits all industry anymore, everyBODY deserves to feel beautiful on their wedding day. She does this through her sites, blogs and education on size inclusive marketing for wedding industry vendors and brands, so they can increase sales in their businesses, become more visible to their clients and become advocates for the inclusion of everyBODY being represented in the wedding
While realizing the need for size inclusive marketing in the industry, Shafonne also noticed that the wedding industry lacked social selling and digital marketing skills. So she is creating education and training through her media company to help wedding and event pros master the art of getting seen and creating greatness online. This is done through social media marketing and sales, including creating an online personal brand, magnetic messaging and content creation, an offer ecosystem and sales funnels to generate more income, impact and influence.
- Owner / Editor in Chief, Destination I Do
When Jennifer and her business partner began Destination Media 20 years ago, it was with the intent to report on all things destination wedding, honeymoon and romance travel related and to fill a gap in the wedding industry. One that would show real couples around the world celebrating their destination weddings. Jennifer’s love of the beautiful cultures and colors around the world has been central in everything printed and shared through DestinationIDo.com. Her goal has been to bring readers helpful information to plan their weddings wherever it is in the world with whomever it is with – regardless of race or gender.
Since then, the media outlet has grown from a small, glossy publication sold around the U.S. to a sought-after brand, known for serving the destination wedding reader wherever they are – from the airwaves to Pinterest and everything in between.
Connected to readers and industry experts on all fronts, Destination I Do creates helpful daily content through their growing website and social media network. Destination I Do is also finishing season three of their podcast with Jennifer as the host.
With more than 25 years of business and publishing experience, Jennifer has seen her international business thrive and grow. She was recognized as one of the “Top 35 Entrepreneurs Under 35” and is a chosen speaker at several prestigious industry conferences and business summits. With a substantial client list, talented contributors and a growing following – Destination I Do is an icon in both the wedding and travel industries.
- Founder, The Bridal Bar
Harmony Walton is the founder of The Bridal Bar, a creative marketing and public relations agency for luxury event professionals and a concierge service for couples to connect with those companies. With over 19 years of marketing and editorial experience in the wedding industry, Harmony’s passion is connecting couples with brands and brands with opportunities to increase their market share. She has helped launch dozens of successful wedding businesses, re-positioned older companies within the changing market and supported countless wedding industry clients both online and offline across the globe. Her company has been recognized around the world and featured in 100+ media outlets, including The Associated Press, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Entertainment Tonight, People Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings and many more.
In addition, Harmony is the host of Bridal Bar Radio on iHeartRadio and the editor of Jet Fete by Bridal Bar, a destination weddings and honeymoons blogsite. Harmony also writes for and contributes to several wedding media outlets throughout the year and works with many celebrities for coverage on their weddings.
- Cofounder and Editor in Chief, Equally Wed | Equally Wed Pro
Kirsten Palladino is an award-winning editor, international speaker, business coach and consultant, and published author with 22 years in media and 14 in the wedding industry. Kirsten and her spouse, Maria (Mo), disrupted the wedding industry more than a decade ago when they cofounded Equally Wed, the world’s leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine, in 2010. Kirsten is the creator of Equally Wed Pro, a digital community providing inclusive education for wedding pros. She is a sought-after speaker for conferences around the globe, and leads inclusivity training workshops for the hospitality industry.
Kirsten has been featured in multiple media outlets, such as The New York Times, CNN, NPR, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, New York magazine, Time magazine, Wall Street Journal, Go magazine, Atlanta magazine, Glamour magazine, The Knot magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, Them, AARP, Entrepreneur magazine, INC. magazine and more.
Kirsten is a longtime WeddingPro educator for The Knot Worldwide, the DEI director of WIPA’s Atlanta chapter, and an advisor to The Knot Worldwide’s Fellowship for Change program. She is the author of Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding, the first and only gender-neutral wedding planning book for LGBTQ+ couples.
Julianne Smith is a multi-passionate entrepreneur as the owner of Garter Girl Creative, an innovative media and marketing company focused on supporting all sides of the wedding and event industries. As a nationally recognized wedding accessory designer, digital media strategist and highly sought after small business educator, Julianne has over 18 years of experience in the industry.
Julianne is the owner and founder of The Garter Girl,a stylish wedding garter design company she started in 2004, after she couldn’t find a garter worthy of her best friend. The Garter Girl is known for stylish and meticulously handmade wedding heirlooms that are too pretty to toss.
Julianne owns and edits niche wedding websites, including her newest brand, Let’s Get Rehearsed, which is focused on taking the stress out of planning a rehearsal dinner.
Through her namesake media and marketing agency, Julianne helps creative small businesses in the wedding and event industry. Julianne offers done-for-you services, online courses, digital products and speaking engagements centered on controlling content, and brand positioning online.
Julianne has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, People, Huff Post, Engage! Summits, Lifetime, The Knot, Martha Stewart, Brides, and Glamour as well as many top magazines, podcasts, conferences and blogs.
Before starting Garter Girl Creative, Julianne was a political communications strategist, spokeswoman, and media specialist. She livesin Washington, DC with her husband and three kids.
- Senior Weddings Editor, The NY Times
Charanna Alexander, pronounced Sha-Anna, is a distinguished New York-based journalist renowned for her expertise in wedding, love, and lifestyle reporting. With a fervent passion for storytelling and a deep understanding of relationships, she has carved a remarkable niche in the media industry, accumulating over 15 years of invaluable experience.
Currently serving as the Senior Staff Editor for the Weddings section at The New York Times, her commitment to storytelling and capturing the essence of love has made her a trusted authority in the ever-evolving landscape of media.
A native of Los Angeles, Charanna’s formative years were shaped in the vibrant city of New York, where her diverse background and experiences became foundational to her work. Her academic journey led her to Howard University in Washington D.C., where she studied broadcast journalism. Subsequently, she earned a master’s degree in digital media from the prestigious Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.
Charanna’s ambition as a writer and storyteller is evident in her multifaceted career, where she seamlessly blends traditional journalism with the digital age. Her insights into the intricacies of love, relationships, and lifestyle have positioned her as a sought-after speaker in various forums.
With a compelling blend of academic rigor, professional experience, and a genuine passion for her craft, Charanna is a captivating speaker who illuminates the dynamics of modern relationships, offering unique perspectives that resonate with diverse audiences. Her career journey, rising from news assistant at The New York Times to it’s senior editor running the weddings desk, coupled with her academic achievements, underscores her commitment to excellence and innovation in the field of media.
- CEO/Co-Founder, PartySlate
Julie is the CEO and Co-Founder of PartySlate, a photo-rich website where leading event professionals share their work and build their brand. With over 20 years of digital marketing experience with some of the biggest brands in the world, Julie is excited to bring this expertise to the events industry. After she planned 50+ large-scale galas and corporate events, Julie became increasingly frustrated while planning a high-profile cancer research gala, spending hours online looking for ideas and venues, only to find wedding blogs, sterile vendor listing sites, and Pinterest dead-ends. Julie was inspired and set out to create a Houzz-like website to address the $143 billion events industry. Since its founding in 2015, over 15,000 of the country’s top event professionals and venues have uploaded over 1 million event photos to their beautiful profile pages.
- Partner, Ed Libby Events
As a principle member of Ed Libby & Company Events, Inc. for the past twenty-four years, Bob Conti has made a name for himself in the event industry by designing and producing milestone celebrations within the luxury market.
With a background as an executive in visual merchandising, Bob has an exceptional ability to design experiential environments that thrills guests. His favorite events are those which evoke the personality and style of the hosts and guests of honor.
Bob enjoys traveling both domestically and internationally to speak to event professionals about the industry, the luxury market and the changes and business challenges we all face.
Kathryn Arce is the Co-Founder of Engage! Luxury Wedding Business Summits and Managing Director of Engaging Concepts. Her command of flawless event execution is second to none.
A logistical maverick, she and Rebecca Grinnals created an innovative series of luxury wedding business summits in 2008 called Engage! which bring together the wedding industry’s key influencers and tastemakers from around the world to exchange ideas, network and be inspired to take their businesses to the next level of success. all thirty-nine Engage! events have been complete sell outs and met with rave reviews from attendees and speakers alike.
Kathryn brings over 25 years experience in the wedding industry. Her career began as a Wedding Event Manager for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, where she personally planned and executed hundreds of weddings and related events. With an unyielding penchant for phenomenal customer service, Kathryn was instrumental in developing the high standards of service Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings is known for today. She stepped away from the wonderful world of weddings and was the Manager of Guest Services for the flagship Disney Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City where, for two years, she facilitated all VIP Programs & Events.
Kathryn’s extensive guest service training and vast real-world wedding and event planning experience is an invaluable resource for clients looking to “raise the bar” of their wedding programs. She has penned numerous articles on destination weddings and honeymoons which have been published in several travel magazines throughout the US and Caribbean. Kathryn has interviewed scores of wedding couples to capture the essence of their “Real Weddings” for promotion of various hotel and resort destinations and venues alike.
She has produced events and live remotes for The TODAY Show, CBS’s The Early Show and “LIVE with Regis & Kathie Lee.” While living in NYC, Kathryn worked with renowned wedding and special event planner Marcy Blum on high profile events at The Rainbow Room, The Metropolitan Club, The St. Regis and The Pierre. Kathryn worked on such notable weddings as those of Billy Joel & Katie Lee, Donald & Melania Trump, basketball legend Horace Grant, famed novelist Tom Clancy and television writers & producers Jennifer Philbin & Michael Schur.
She was named as a BIZBASH Event Innovator Most Innovative People in Events and Meetings.
Rebecca Grinnals is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on the business of weddings & honeymoons. She is the founder and President of wedding and honeymoon industry consulting firm, Engaging Concepts based in Celebration, FL. Rebecca is a sought after industry consultant, speaker, trainer and business trend expert. She has been a featured guest on CBS’ “The Early Show,” CNN, Entertainment Tonight, CNBC and hundreds of other national and international television & radio programs. She was named as a BIZBASH Event Innovator.
Prior to creating Engaging Concepts, Rebecca co-founded Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons for The Walt Disney Company, and spent ten years developing the concept into an unprecedented success. She directed the complete branding strategy, development and implementation of the program, building it into almost a $100 million per year business for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the Disney Cruise Line. These efforts resulted in over 20,000 weddings and the coveted status for Disney as the # 1 Domestic Honeymoon Destination.
She has been quoted in scores of wedding & honeymoon related articles including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, Cosmopolitan & BRIDE’S to name just a few. She has directly produced wedding events and remotes for, among others, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The TODAY Show” and “Good Morning America.”
Clients of Engaging Concepts include :: The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Hilton Worldwide, Sandals & Beaches Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Asia-Pacific, Loews Hotels & Resorts, Palace Resorts, Hard Rock Resorts International, the Tavistock Group, Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises, Harley-Davidson, the Kessler Collection, Disneyland Resort, various developers and venture capital firms as well as hotels & resorts in China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Barbados, throughout the US & Caribbean and many leading luxury wedding and event professionals worldwide.
In 2008, she and Kathryn Arce created an innovative series of luxury wedding business summits called Engage! which a few times a year bring together the wedding and event industry’s key influencers, thought leaders and tastemakers from around the globe to connect and exchange ideas, innovate and be inspired to take their successful businesses and, in turn, the wedding industry to the next level. All 43 Engage! events to date have been complete advance sell outs with top wedding professionals participating from over 45 states and 30 countries and have met with rave reviews from attendees and speakers alike.