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Soul Food: Engage!2016 Sea Island

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Whoops, this is a long one, folks!

Just attended my fifth Engage! in the stunning Sea Island, Georgia, y’all. That exclamation point is, appropriately so, a part of the name, because you simply cannot talk about Engage! without a little oomph in your voice.
A quick description, for those of you who haven’t yet attended, but will sign up as soon as you finish reading this: Engage! is a three-day luxury wedding business summit, held two to three times a year, in the most fantastical of places all over this planet. 350ish fun people show up, and are treated to some ‘opulent kickassery’, as I like to call it.

So yeah, I just got back from my fifth one of those, making me a bonafide five-baller. Still so high off of sniffing those magical fumes that are Engage!, that I didn’t even care that I forgot both my suitcases at the hotel. (I just got them back via FedEx, and it made traveling home much easier, so it’s all good in the ‘hood).
And as I was having dinner with one of my friends this week, she asked me: “Why do you keep going? What do you get out of it, besides an over-the-top three-day vacation? How isn’t your money spent better elsewhere?”
Boom, boom, boom, in succession.
The why, what and how of it all.

And without hesitation, it made me realize, just how much I actually do benefit from attending. But not in the ‘traditional’ sense, if you want to call it that. I don’t run around, handing out business cards like tasty ice cream sandwiches on a hot day at the beach. I don’t ‘talk shop’ all day, errrday, with every single person I see. I don’t sell myself, frankly and honestly, because I quite suck at it.
But that’s okay.
Because I don’t go to Engage! to pimp myself out.
I go because it is good for my soul.

SO good.

It all starts a few months before, with that anticipation.
Researchers in The Netherlands (shout out to my homies!) did a study where they interviewed a horde of people, and they found that travelers felt most excited and happiest before their trips. Anticipation is an art. Psychologists suggest that actively dreaming about all the positive stuff that could happen during your trip actually increases your happiness significantly, leading all the way up to the vacation itself.
And if you’ve ever attended an Engage!, you know you are free to dream as big as you possibly can, because chances are, they’ll blow your expectations clear out of the water. I mean, I once stood forehead-to-forehead with Salt (of ‘n Pepa fame) and scream-sang my lungs out to the tune of Sweet Child ‘O Mine. That was pretty freaking epic.
I start thinking about my next Engage! right after getting home from my last one, and just the thought of hopefully attending another one, makes me really, really happy. 🙂

But it’s not just the anticipation.
When I arrive, I am legit giddy-giddy-gumdrops to see and hug and squeeze so tight a mob of fellow Engagees, whom I’ve missed like whoa. Anyone who’s ever met Paige, Jenn Stein, Aimee, Ali or Andy, knows that seeing them is akin to being reunited with your very favorite cousin over the family holidays.
And my left coasters. I never see these people because they chose to live on the warm side of the country (smart.), but when Engage! rolls around, we all meet up and shenanigans ensue, every single time. Or my girl Vanessa, who has 37 different meanings for the word ‘dude’ and the BEST smile. Realizing Anja shares my love for old school hip hop and tearing up the dance floor together. Being reunited, and it feels so good, with my Southern belle, Sarah. Inappropriate snugs with Kristi. And those GFTGL sisters, who are so undercover ridiculous and sassy and funny, I la-la-love being around them.
One of my dearest friends I met #becauseofengage, and now, ridiculousness on the dance floor, getting lifted high into the air and twirled until I am dizzy by Worley is a must every single time.
Not to mention, all the new folks I get to add to my collection of wedding framily each Engage!
I smile so big, just thinking about all of the good, kind and kickass people I can add to my tribe. My roomie, Michelle, (Dirty D and you were da bestest roomies ever!) whom I bonded with over our budget fashion scores (who doesn’t love a good deal?! I only spent $18 on my gala dress, dude!), my fellow photog Jacqui, who wooed me with her British accent and who bawled alongside me during that goosebumps-all-over Amazing Grace performance. Or my girl Lydia, and that EPIC side-eye (still gives me chills!). My new gym-buddy Michael, even though we never actually made it to the gym together. And shout out to my love Hen Hen. 😉
Even hanging out with my CT crew at Engage!, who all live a hop, skip and a jump away, brings us closer together. And that is brilliant.

And of course, Kathy and Rebecca. They are like the moms at the dysfunctional family reunion, always busy in the kitchen, whipping up the very best home-cooked meal for a bunch of starving people, craving that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ only Engage! can provide, ready to fill them up with warmth and good memories.
How they do it, I don’t know. Perhaps they snagged a little bit of fairy dust during their time at Disney. Or maybe they’re not human. Either way, whatever they do, I am so damn grateful for it.

The summit itself…well, words can’t accurately describe the feeling of a Speakeasy silent disco with 300 jubilant people putting their pinky rings up to the moon. Of Coke floats with Santa. Of the need to stand and cheer so loudly for Donna spitting some much needed truth. Of every single detail being impeccable. Of fancy-schmancy champagne breaks and get-in-my-belly Southern comfort food. Of walking into a gala with life-sized TREES inside, looking like freaking Fern Gully came alive. Of the BEST entertainment and SO much dancing.
All. Of. The. Dancing.

Engage! for me, is like plugging your phone in to charge after a long day of being at 5%. It leaves me with a 100% battery life, and grateful AF for being able to be a part of something so incredible. If anyone hasn’t had this exact experience attending, please, please come find me at the next one (I have blue hair, I am not that hard to find) and let me introduce you to all these wonderful souls, who will happily move over to make a place for you at the dinner table, and then sit and enjoy Kathy and Rebecca’s tasty green bean casserole and sweet mashed potatoes.

So, perhaps I don’t ‘engage’ in a way that would be expected.
But I am cool with that.
I go to be around my tribe.
I go to be around happiness. Kindness. Ridiculousness.
Leave every last bit of me on the dance floor.
Soak in my fellow attendees’ enthusiasm and energy.
I go to meet fresh faces, new kindred spirits.
New cousins to add to the dinner table.
I go to be around my family.
And that alone, is worth the price of admission, and then some. 🙂

 

Cheers y’all,
xo-LDee

Super-duper, awesomesaucy, rad photos by Jennifer Domenick & Elisha Coleman, Gigi DeManio, Paul Morse, Carla Ten Eyck, Joel Callaway and John Cain Sargent.
Gifts For the Good Life styled swag photos by yours truly.

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From the moment it starts, Engage! is an experience unlike anything else! This team is friggin’ brilliant.

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This girl. She spoke candidly, honestly and straight from the heart. I loved every word.

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Engage! 16 on December 4, 2016. Photo by Paul Morse

Par for the course. 🙂

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My dinner crew. We were the loudest table.

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I legit danced for hours every single night. Thank the universe for silver sequined Converse!

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Engage! 16 on December 6, 2016. Photo by Paul Morse

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Words to live by ♥

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FERN. GULLY.

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Some of the Engage tribal council ♥

Engage! 16 on December 6, 2016. Photo by Paul Morse

I can do that. Totes. 2016-12-14_0011

All of the feels.

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ALL OF THEM.

Engage! 16 on December 6, 2016. Photo by Paul Morse

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The stellar photography crew! 2016-12-14_0021

And those two cooks in the kitchen, whipping up all that goodness and kickassery 🙂

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And me in my $18 dress, which I loved!   2016-12-14_0013

I got to style and photograph the swagaliciousness for this Engage, which I LOVE doing and makes my heart so happy. 🙂

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One Love Organics. I really love their ish.

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Every night, we were treated to a turn-down box full of goodies.

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These things were fan-tassle-tic. (Sorry, not sorry. That was punny.)

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No engage! is complete without the best snackage. And all of it is 100% fat-free, sugar-free and calorie-free! 😉

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They just come up with the funnest stuff. Shout out to my hand model, C10ike. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Soul Food: Engage!2016 Sea Island

  1. “DUDE” as Vanessa would say….. and I mean sooo many things as I write that – a Tribal council language for sure!
    This is my very favorite blog ever written about Engage…you my dear are the SHIZIT!!! And I love you!!!!❤️

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