Cayman gets engaged

Wedding professionals at the top of
their sector were in Cayman from Monday to Thursday to discuss the state of the
industry.

Engage 10, held at the
Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, is a very prominent conference for the wedding
industry, and delegates came from around the world for a series of talks,
seminars and presentations.

Famous wedding planners,
photographers, cake makers and other sectors were represented at the event,
including Sylvia Weinstock, Marcy Blum, Colin Cowie and Randy Fenoli.

At the opening session, Darcy
Miller of Martha Stewart Weddings had the attendees’ attention for an hour of
insight into the industry. She talked delegates through some observations on
the current wedding scene, noting that there were certain elements that brides
liked to incorporate.

An important part of weddings, she
said, was a more thoughtful approach where the bride or groom would
personalise, for example, place settings and use craft techniques to create
elements of the decor. The day would incorporate individual elements meant
something to the couple.

In this way anyone who was at the
wedding would know that this was something truly connected to the bride and
groom’s day, rather than just the amount that was spent.

People often go as far as
incorporating absent pets into decorations, noted Ms. Miller, who showed examples
of dog-shaped cookies that were given to their guests.

Themed weddings were also central,
she said, and talked the crowd through the story of a pair of school
sweethearts who returned to the place where they’d originally met in order to
get engaged and had school-themed elements of their wedding.

In response to a question as to
whether she ever got tired of wedding themes, Ms Miller said that it was vital
to remember that whether there had been multiple weddings on the same theme
over the years, for a guest it was always brand new and that was crucial.
Delegates then freshened up in their hotel rooms before heading to a welcome
beach party on Seven Mile Beach.

The second day was packed with
insights into the industry with talks on everything from the current state of
the sector to customer service.

Oneisha Richards of the Cayman
Islands Department of Tourism noted that it was the second year that the
conference had been held in Cayman, in conjunction with the Engaging Concepts
Company. She said that the goal was always to hold the most unique weddings of
style and distinction rather than the largest number of weddings.

Cayman, she noted, has wedding
professionals with the talent and ability that is equal to any big city. With
the Cayman Islands also staking a claim to be culinary capital of the Caribbean,
she said, there were a plethora of high-quality restaurants and venues to
choose from.

Rebecca Grinnals of Engaging
Concepts – the Department of Tourism’s romance consultants – said that the
market has changed dramatically within the last year.

Three major wedding magazines have
been lost and another magazine has doubled its number of issues on the same
readership.

“The market is flooded; everyone
wants to be in the wedding business. Brides want it all… on a budget,” she
said.

Ms. Grinnals said that everyone
wants the best deal possible and the greatest luxury remained that of time.

Social media

A recurring theme of the conference
was the wedding industry’s relationship with technology, notably social media
networks including Twitter and Facebook. Ms. Grinnals said that brides are now
fully-immersed in technology and gave a number of examples of how social media’s
pervasive nature had a global reach.

Carley Roney then talked delegates
through a survey of brides that had been undertaken which found, amongst other
things, that the cost of the reception venue was nearly half of the luxury
budget, defining luxury as a wedding costing over $40,000.

She spoke of the opportunities that
were opening up in China, which had 10 million weddings a year, a growing
population of wedding professionals and a current obsession with New York Style.
There are people with a lot of money, but nothing to do with it, she said, so
the market was ripe if handled properly.

Another seminar was a wedding
industry survey that Two Bright Lights had put together from around 700
professionals based in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. It spoke of
social networks, blogging and online marketing techniques, pricing strategies
and where different sectors of the industry would be best off spending their
time and money.

The key was to market smarter, rather
than harder, she said, noting that smart use of social media could generate
higher revenue dependent on what level of the industry the business in question
was at.

A series of targeted breakout
sessions took place on Wednesday and a tour of Caymanian wedding sites rounded
things off on Thursday. Assembled delegates had an opportunity to see the local
area for themselves including trips to Stingray City and Rum Point.

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