The top influential people in the US wedding industry – including king of wedding planners Preston Bailey – are coming to the Cayman Islands for a wedding summit this June.
‘We’re so excited because we’re literally going to get the who’s who in the wedding industry,’ explained the Department of Tourism’s romance consultant, Rebecca Grinnals. Her company Engaging Concepts is producing the exclusive summit, Engage’09 Something Blue with the CI Department of Tourism as presenting sponsor.
It takes place at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman from 21 to 24 June.
Confirmed speakers range from editor in chief of In Style weddings Rosie Amodio to wedding cake celebrity Sylvia Weinstock and Alison Hotchkiss who has just written a new destination wedding planner book.
Also Cayman’s own JoAnne Brown of Celebrations will be a featured panel speaker during a break-out session
‘What we really look at it as being is ‘this is the place to be if you’re in the wedding industry’. And if people aren’t coming they’re going to be following very closely who’s coming, what came out of it,’ said Ms Grinnals.
She said that getting key influencers in the wedding market here will generate a lot of interest about the Cayman Islands.
‘All these big-name wedding photographers have blogs of their own now and a lot of them have huge audiences on their own blogs, so these audiences track everywhere they go, what they do, who they’re meeting, so we want to keep getting the buzz out in the marketplace that people are talking about Cayman.’
She explained that the situation is win/win for the Cayman Islands because the event takes media and wedding familiarisation trips, which would be done on a smaller scale anyway, to another level.
‘This is taking that and blowing it up because we’re going to have 150 of these biggest named people in the wedding industry here for four days and the great thing about it is right now we have 25 confirmed VIP speakers.’
Alongside the speakers and the media, there are just 125 available places for attendees as the event is being kept intimate in nature.
Highlights of the summit will include a welcome party, networking events and seminars.
There will be plenty of showcasing what Cayman has to offer also, through a choice of excursions.
A VIP dine-around will also take place, with each of about 15 of the top restaurants in Cayman being the venue for a VIP speaker to host a table of 10 attendees over dinner.
The cost of the actual summit for attendees is US$2,000.
‘It’s really good value if you look at everything that it includes because of the access you have to these people,’ said Ms Grinnals.
There is a 10 per cent discount for anyone wishing to attend from the Cayman Islands.
But Ms Grinnals warns that they do expect to sell out very quickly after registration opens on 2 February at 9am online on the website www.engage09.com.
But even if local people involved in the wedding industry in Cayman do not register to attend, there are other benefits that will be afforded to them.
During the summit there will be Cayman Islands wedding showcase at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and anyone in the Cayman Islands wedding business who wants to showcase their offerings can do that at no charge through a display and interact with the attendees.
Also, there will be a photographic display on the art of Cayman weddings at the Ritz-Carlton gallery. Cayman wedding photographers can submit photographs for this and the best images will be chosen to showcase the Cayman Islands as a wedding destination.
‘All of the attendees for that entire week will be going across that bridge and they’ll see the beautiful images of real Cayman Islands weddings,’ explained Ms Grinnals.
Details of each wedding and the related vendors will be on a plaque by the photo.
‘So we’re trying to infuse the things that make Cayman so special into the event without it being just a huge commercial and to get the message out that way,’ Ms Grinnals explained.
Speaking about the Cayman Islands’ focus on destination weddings and the romance market, Ms Grinnals said, ‘The few guiding forces are that we want to attract more lucrative group weddings that spend more money because of the economic benefit of those weddings. If you’re going to focus limited capital, budgets, energy resources, people you need to focus on what gives the biggest return.’
The other guiding force is that they want to showcase Cayman’s great quality service providers.
One of the ways the story is told currently on the romance section of the www.caymanislands.ky site is through real weddings and showcasing couples who have wed here.
In fact a whole new stand-alone mini Cayman Islands website for romance will launched at the Engage ’09 summit in June.
Commenting on the status of the destination wedding industry, Ms Grinnals said that although now in unchartered territory with the US recession, after 9/11 destination weddings didn’t go down because a higher percentage of people abandoned plans for a big hometown wedding but opted for a much smaller destination wedding instead.
‘On the flip-side what we are seeing with destination weddings is that people are cutting their budgets,’ she noted.
‘They are much more judicious with the way they spend money. A couple of years ago there were seven course meals, fireworks while now people are cutting back a bit.’
Another potential impact may be that the number of guests at destination weddings may go down if some of those guests simply don’t have the money to travel.
But she is quick to add that weddings are notoriously recession resistant.
The indications are that Cayman is doing well with destination weddings and honeymoons, she said.
Also, there’s been a shift to honeymoons closer to home, something that is advantageous to the Cayman Islands.