On Tuesday, October 16, 2018, an entire industry came together in the Santa Barbara region for the first ever State of the Santa Barbara Wedding Industry Fireside Summit  “Define. Design. Evolve.”

The event, which was sold out 3 months in advance, was described as “the leading industry event of our area of all time” by one of the attendees.  After 20 years in the Santa Barbara wedding industry as an event planner, trainer and speaker, I witnessed many changes over the years, but none so rapid and dramatic as the last 5-7 years.  And what was happening on a national level was compounded ten fold in the unique niche of the American Riviera:  Santa Barbara, CA with the recent Thomas Fire and Flood , plus the challenges in our area with private estates hosting events.  After observing numerous industry social media groups’ conversations, I noticed there was an incredible opportunity to help colleagues define what was going on so they could custom design a plan best for them, and most importantly:  evolve.   In order to evolve, however, a foundation of understanding had to happen.

The 2018 Santa Barbara wedding summit was founded on the principle of bringing together a community that – to me- appeared incredibly disjointed for various reasons during the evolution taking place,  and needed to come together to take a good, hard look at numbers and data and rebuild a sense of community. I spent 4 months researching the history of the wedding business industry over the last 100 years and then took a specific look at the wedding economy nationally, the California economy, then the Santa Barbara economy (including tourism and weddings) and invited a key expert in private estate weddings in Santa Barbara to speak.  Knowing all the key people to bring together was paramount for ensuring those who invested in their Summit Pass received a return on their investment.  And for those who were not able to afford a Summit Pass, we offered Financial Aid or a Full Scholarship and had a fund set up to help those in need attend.  It was that important that the Santa Barbara wedding industry be brought together.

Because the Santa Barbara wedding industry is always busy with event networking groups and obligations, we created – on demand- a Summit that was a “power happy hour” as I affectionately call it.  It was designed to allow professionals to work a regular day of work and come to enjoy just shy of 3 hours of community, custom content and collaboration and then get them home in time for dinner.  The program included a featured presentation showcasing the results of my research and concluded with a second session of Think Tank Panel experts hand-chosen by me representing a variety of services who have had respect and longevity in the Santa Barbara area to oversee an audience-based collaboration where we suggested several hot topics that local wedding pros are facing .  We threw in some light appetizers, drinks, live piano music and Swag Bags filled with goodies, including our signature Little Black Box with an Anti Stress Kit, including “Grown up Gummies” : vintage Dom Perignon champagne-infused gummie bears and more.

Our public relations and communications strategy included press releases, a social media campaign “30 Days, 30 Reasons Why”, dedicated, custom mini-commercials for each of our Sponsors and much more. You can view some of the strategy on the Facebook event page.

Every detail of this Summit was designed to embrace the industry:  from Event Brand Ambassadors who promoted the event in the community in the months prior to the Summit,  greeted and checked guests in day-of, to the Think Tank Panel Members, and finally one of the most unique aspects: turning the main power over to the audience during Session Two so everyone was in essence a “featured speaker” .

The other magical element of this Summit were the Sponsors who came forward offering their services to help ensure this was an event to remember.  Location and Catering:   The Santa Barbara Club |  Floral Design:  Vignette | Lighting Design: SPARK Creative Events |  Audio /Visual:  Islay Events |  Photography:  Emily Merrill Weddings |  Linens & Custom Made Swag Bags: Creative Coverings | Valet Parking Services:  Blue Star Parking and Valet |  Live Piano by David Campos via Ybarra Music | Think Tank Panel Seating & Design:  Ventura Rental Party & Events |  Videography:  Riviera Productions | General Sponsorship for Scholarship Fund and Misc:  VOX DJ’s , TEAM Hair and Makeup, Choozly, B Studios | Summit Founder, Producer and Presenter/Host:  Kerry Lee Doehr of Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings & Events | Summit Marketing and PR:  Engaging Inspiration

I was so pleased to see the event featured in local media write-ups before the event, and due to the demand, we have created a Webinar with all the data and information from Session One of the Summit available for purchase for those who missed it.

While the event sold out 3 months in advance, we had the opportunity to upgrade to a larger room, about a month prior, offering the availability of a few more Summit Passes, all of which sold within 3 days.  The feedback we received on the Summit was outstanding and there has been a huge cry for the next one and to make it a full day for the 2019 Summit.  We are pleased to announce that we are re-imagining the Summit for next year, keeping what was great about 2018 and turning it up several notches.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy some of the highlights from the 2018 Summit “Define. Design. Evolve.”  below from photographer Emily Merrill.

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Engaging Inspiration provides elevated leadership, communications, marketing and education for the special event and hospitality professional.  It is a sister division to event planning company Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings & Events.