April, 2018 – It has just been a month since Engage18! Costa Smeralda, and right after returning it has been an incredibly busy few weeks, so much so that I haven’t had a moment to stop and, as one of my mentors David Beahm says, “breathe” and reflect on the wonder I experienced at the last Luxury Wedding Business Summit.

That’s exactly the problem with those of us who work in the luxury wedding industry: we attend fantastic events, we are filled with enthusiasm, great ideas, best practices offered by the speakers and excellent intentions to put them into practice…and then what?

And then we go back home (or rather, back to the office or on an airplane that will take us who knows where) and throw ourselves into the new adventure convincing ourselves that “we will pick up that notebook again as soon as we can.” I still remember a great idea for gifting to create for my clients that I want to implement after EngageCayman. IT WAS 2014!!!

Exactly. Thanks to the email from Ideaction Consulting, which reminded me how important it is to put good resolutions into practice IMMEDIATELY, and especially thanks to my Team, who on returning from these frantic weeks gave me a good scolding about the fact that I also have to take time for me (almost impossible) and to enjoy the little big successes without running from one event to another, I decided to stop now and tell you, and TELL ME, how this Summit to which I am deeply attached, which for the first time took place in my land, Sardinia, went.

Ps: if you happened to be here by chance, and don’t know what Engage “the Luxury Wedding Business Summit” is, read my previous POST.

Excited, and also a little scared by an event that is in my heart and that -for the first time- takes place in my land, I arrive at a place that was “home” to one of the events that wrote the history of my career in the Wedding market: the Hotel Cala d Volpe.

The jewel in the crown of the golden world of the Costa Smeralda, the hotel opens early to welcome the event. The weather seems to be giving us perhaps the only sunny days of this spring, which makes us energized to face this adventure.

The reception, at Engage!, is always exciting: lots of carefully thought out gifts to get us in the mood and pamper us before the Summit.

The Summit opens with the customary welcome by Kathryn Arce and Rebecca Grinnals, founders of Engage. They pass the baton to Franco Mulas, historic director of Cala di Volpe, accompanied by colleagues from Romazzino, Pitrizza and Hotel Cervo, the “pearls” of luxury hospitality on the Costa Smeralda.

Colin Cowie opens the dance with a bang: “How do we set ourselves apart in a crowded market?” or “How do we differentiate ourselves in a super crowded market?” Great question!

Colin suggests ruthless editing: you have to be really, really good at what you do. (If you do sell/what you’re not really good at, stop doing it and let someone else do it.)

Next, Angela Desveaux, founder of the prestigious WedLuxe and Cayman Vows magazines, takes us into the world of fashion, letting us be inspired by the theme of the upcoming Met Gala. According to Angela, 90 percent of designers’ inspirations in the wedding world come from fashion, from observing the big Brands and the designers behind them.

On the stage, after diamonds designer Zameer Kassam, who exposes us to his method for retaining clients, it’s an explosion of creativity with the arrival of Gabriele Rizzi, founder of Nu Art.

He tells us about the “behind the scenes” in his company of artists, and it is immediately magic when dancers with small hot air balloons start offering macarons to the audience, accompanied by evocative music. A speech consistent with Nu Art and their artistic approach to the world of entertainment and events: to create “unforgettable memories” that will be etched in the mind forever.

And after a coffee break in pure Sardinian Style, amidst cheeses, ricotta and honey, and a visit to the farm at Cala di Volpe-where chickens and baby goats watched us intrigued by the human invasion-we return to the stalls to watch the always bubbly Marcy Bloom.

The queen of weddings, fresh from some major destination wedding experiences in Italy, prompts us to reflect on the difference between collaboration and teamwork.

“Teams have leaders,” says Marcy Bloom. “They have someone who takes the reins if things go wrong, and they have someone who gets most of the credit when things go right. Collaborations don’t have a leader, and everyone is on the same page if things fail or prosper. It’s chaos.”

I completely agree. Even my recent experiences, show that a leader, there MUST be. In any project of whatever nature it is.

The act of collaboration conceives of an outcome shared by both parties, which means that both will feel that they have contributed their DNA to the product/service and therefore have a vested interest in its success. But there will always be someone who DRIVES this process, and this is healthy; this contributes to taking responsibility and to the success of the project itself.

Marcy, at one point, rails against the “wild, all-cost tagging” mood, receiving an ovation from the audience of colleagues.

“Why,” says Marcy, “DO WE HAVE to feel obligated to tag anyone under our photos? From the one who SOLD the fabrics for the napkins to the one who rented the tent. If the CUSTOMER is the wedding planner’s, if the DESIGN is the wedding planner’s, if it was the wedding planner who CHOSE the vendor, PAYING for the service at full price, then the vendor’s right to demand the tag lapses.”

Photos of the event are the property of the client, the photographer (who took the photo) and the wedding planner. No one else’s. The wedding planner, at his or her discretion, may have the courtesy to tag or not tag a collaborator/vendor if he or she sees fit. But Marcy, who knows a thing or two about complex weddings, knows how complex, and aesthetically inelegant, it is to post photos of an event on instagram with 45 lines of links to vendors. It is up to the vendor, once the photo is made public, to publicize the fact that they, too, contributed through their service.

Our weddings are not sponsorships because none of the vendors have, arguably, sponsored anything. Therefore, it would be the case to scale back this mood. I approve and subscribe to it. Specifying that, habitually, I enjoy tagging my collaborations, but not always, and I don’t like to feel forced. As, it seems, do all my distinguished colleagues.

The first thematic dinner, having concluded the summit, is held with a Sardinia theme. I confess, I was very curious to see how Vincenzo d’Ascanio – with the help of Claudia Farina and Marcella Cecere of Nowerelse Experiences (previously host of Engage a Borgo Egnazia) would interpret Sardinian traditions and folklore to offer to an international audience.

The guests are immediately drawn into a “ballu tundu” by the Ittiri folk group, carried away by the enthusiasm (and literally, by the costumed dancers). The typical Selargino wedding float awaits us in the middle of the lawn. The ceremony begins with the customary blessing of the bride, with wheat, rose petals, coins and chocolates, on an ancient plate that will be broken at the bride’s feet as she leaves the house.

One of Sardinia’s strongest family traditions.

Under the poolside barbecue terrace, the women of Oliena are waiting for us: proud, in their beautiful costumes, they embroider precious shawls for us. And then the nougat-maker and weavers, the freshly made “bride and groom’s bread” bring me back inside an open cortes.

International colleagues are, of course, fascinated. And that, I think, is the goal for everyone: to make them fall in love with Sardinia, endless island. Mission definitely successful!

Day 2 at Engage! starts really early in the morning. It couldn’t be any other way, because David Beahm (the one and only) is waiting for us in front of the sea (did I mention that the conference marquee overlooks the crystal clear sea of Porto Cervo?!) to remind us to Breathe.

Breathe! He tells us. And we, as always, believe him. It might even be the only time of the year when I convince myself that YES, because he asks me to, I can do it! Then, of course, I go back to my hectic, non-yoga-practicing life and all is lost, much to the chagrin of David and my father Mario (super yoga and breathing practitioner).

Anyway… I look forward with great excitement to David’s speech every year, because he is the one who, more than anyone else, always manages to hit me in the heart and stomach. It is amazing how these 20 years are a testimony to his strength and perseverance.

He addressed and shared a vast number of topics for us, here are the two that struck me the most:

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them”

It may seem obvious, but in a company, in business, PEOPLE are what is most important that can exist. They are the ones who make 80% of the decisions, even when we don’t think so. They are the ones who should carry your name and brand around the world.

Working with beautiful people, makes business more enjoyable and fruitful; but working with people who–at some point–you no longer trust, who have negative, passive-aggressive attitudes, or have simply lost the spark or trust in you as a leader… well, that’s when they simply have to be let go.

{And there, of course, I thought as a good Italian that in the U.S. we don’t have our laws and that here we can’t “torpedo” someone JUST (“JUST”) because he or she is no longer in the interests of our business and has suddenly become inconvenient or unproductive. But this is Italy, which of the event world still doesn’t care, doesn’t recognize who we are and what we do and forces us to hire indefinitely, and that’s it. Sorry, small polemical post.}

But David’s message was loud and clear: trust your instincts. And, I assure you, since I started following him a few years ago EVERYTHING has changed. I still remain kind, open, helpful. But when people (anyone, including suppliers, employees, CUSTOMERS) are not on the same page and I find that they are disrespectful to me, I torpedo them. Without a second thought. And, I can assure you, I sleep much, much, much better!

The second hot spot:

Live simply, live humbly”.

I have always been aware that the world I come from is a normal world; I have never lived luxury, or in luxury. But with tenacity and courage I aimed for that world by starting to work for them. But I am aware that it is not my life! I dress well, I try to eat well, but I don’t always travel business class and my suitcases are not signed Louis Vuitton. I don’t sell my life on social as luxury, although I am careful what I post, that it is stylish and curated, but REAL.

Reality is important, being true to yourself, being honest with yourself. The lifestyle we choose to adopt should not be appearance, but what makes us happy, even if that means reading a book on the couch at home (which is not in the Hamptons or Piazza Duomo in Milan).

David, he bought with his life savings his farm. I, with my husband, my little house in Sassari, in the historic center. Because, after so much traveling to amazing places, it’s nice to come home, to a small, honest place, to go down for a sandwich at the pub and simply chat, showing yourself for who you are. Unique, and humble.

The day continues with the always brilliant Cindy Novotny, one of the most direct and enthusiastic speakers at each edition of Engage! And then Diane Khoury, who talks to us about numbers and business, Duncan Wardle, the true revelation of this summit.

After 30 years as deputy creative director at Disneyworld, he tells us about his world but, most importantly, challenges our creativity with exercises aimed at bringing out our (lost) childlike instincts. Wonderful!

And after a lunch on the grass with guest Stefano Dolce (yeah, from Dolce & Gabbana), we prepare for experiential tours: boat trip to La Maddalena archipelago, nuragic site tour in Arzachena or Cantine Surrau? The choice, for my colleagues, is really tough….

I, meanwhile, prepare my speech, scheduled for the next day.

My heart starts to rise in my throat, and during dinner on the second day I start to feel the pressure. Engage is a prestigious stage, and unlike the speech at Borgo Egnazia, which lasted a few minutes, this time I will have a class-all my own! – of an hour.

The topic? Destination Weddings in Sardinia, of course!

Never before have I felt such a responsibility: to show Sardinia, as I see it, to the absolute elite of world wedding!

But about this special moment, which deserves a separate reflection, I will tell you in the next post.

My speech, I already anticipate, went better than expected! Once I realized that English was flowing faster than my heartbeat (unbelievable but true), it was with that very heart that I wanted to speak and tell the 4 souls of my, our Sardinia. Luxury, Romance, Folk and Nature blended together to create a unique, out-of-time experience. A few tears were shed, in the end, at the presentation of “A Story about Love” the great Charity project that will support my first International Masterclass, November 7-10, 2018 in Naples. So many colleagues have offered to support the initiative, and I can only be honored.


And at that point, after a super-glamourous VOGUE STYLE lunch signed by Vincenzo d’Ascanio in the small square of Porto Cervo, we are ready to return to our rooms at the Hotel Cala di Volpe getting ready to be queens and princes of the dancefloor for a night. Strange, for those who have made it their life’s work to build events!

Engage, for WE, is also this. For once, stripping off the shoes of those behind the scenes and enjoying a night designed solely, and uniquely, for us.

elisa mocci engage summit costa smeralda wedding planner

Engage!’s GALA DINNER, the most anticipated event in the luxury wedding business world, has finally arrived, and the doors of the large greenhouse hosting the setup created by the artistry of Vincenzo d’Ascanio, supported by a team of florists-many of them Sardinian!-and exceptional suppliers, such as EDG – Enzo de Gasperi (present as a special guest at the Gala).

My gala dress, could only represent Sardinia, and who better to represent it than Elisabetta Delogu could dress this dream.

Named (no joke, read the feeds on instagram!) the best dress of the entire evening, it caught the attention of even Angela Desvaux of WedLuxe, super expert in fashion and trends. And I felt like a true queen of the Sardinian luxury wedding, hoping in my heart that I brought honor to this land that I try to promote, in my own small way, around the world.

I think Engage! was, for Sardinia, an extraordinary showcase. I truly believe there is no other event in the world that succeeds in creating networking, friendship and cooperation in a non-competitive environnement like Engage.

Now it will be up to us Sardinians, when my colleagues come back here and bring their incredible events for the most important clients in the world, to show what we are made of!

Photography dream team: Paul Morse, Jennifer Domenick, Phillip Van Nostrand, Scott Clark Photo and Dennis Kwan!

The Team behind Engage!Costa Smeralda GALA: #nowherelseevents #vincenzodascanio #twopaperdolls #trishahay #inspirationlivemusic #antoniogiovanniserra #mastrigiardinieri #enzodegasperi #letterink #preludionoleggio #centromusicaolbia #portocervoevents