Everyone is a Person First :: What I learned at the Engage 2013 Wedding Conference // Montelucia Resort and Spa, Scottsdale

I am a social butterfly. Always have been. I got my first D in 3rd grade because I'd rather be talking to my classmate and hearing about their day then concentrating on math problems. So, I wasn't a scholar but I did complete college with not a horrible GPA and am the first of my hispanic family and first of my siblings to graduate so I am no dummy. Let me tell you a quick story.

When I was a young girl I remember being totally devastated and embarrassed in elementary school because I failed a test. I cried and cried and was totally dramatic explaining my horror to my Mom that evening and she looked me square in my eyes and said, "Cicely, teachers are people too." I never knew what that meant truly until I became an adult (whenever that was!) but I somehow had the courage to talk to my 5th grade teacher and tell her how sorry I was for not applying myself and was wondering what I could do to make it up. Mrs. Manning looked up at me and had the pile of test papers on her desk. She grabbed the pile and ripped all of them in front of me in half then threw them in the trash. I could not believe my eyes and ears as she said to me, "Don't worry about it. Everyone messes up sometimes."

My mom was right. My teacher was a person, a human, she had feelings and compassion.

Fast forward to today.

I was basically peer pressured to go to the Engage 13 Luxury Wedding Business Summit. I had heard about it since the first one by a past bride of mine that worked at the resort it was kicking off at. "You have to come, Cicely. It's going to be amazing and unlike anything in the industry."

At that time I was a smaller company and the investment to the conference was something that wasn't in my bank account not to mention the travel and accommodations, etc. Years passed and the Engage event repeated over and over and it's popularity skyrocketed. I followed, learned about my peers going and frankly was torn between jealousy and not wanting to "follow the crowd". I was resistant now and stubborn to going. Even a little bitter to be honest.

Then the news of Engage coming to Scottsdale came. Ugh. How could I miss it now? It was being hosted at one of my favorite resorts (that is the only one that requires a planner) so how could I not support them and go. Traci, who works at the Montelucia basically told me I was an idiot if I didn't go.

Well, again..I am no dummy.

So I signed up.

My younger sisters wedding was the weekend before the summit so I literally kissed my family goodbye as I left the house headed to Montelucia. I was leaving my out of town guests that I was lucky to see once a year so this better be good, right?

I drove to the resort. Parked my car and took a deep breath. From one whirlwind to another. I was nervous. I walked in Castillo Lucena at the resort to register.


This picture captures what I was feeling like taking those first steps. Timid, curious, hopeful and nervous.



From registration I was instructed to head to the opening session.

Here I come!


Traci, kicked it off with a little introduction. She's the one that pushed me to go the most. Yeah, she is the one that called me "the idiot" if I didn't. It was all out of love I know.


Then the two geniuses behind this conference, Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce took a few minutes to welcome all of us. What these ladies said in the first 2 minutes is the key element of what I took away from the entire 3-day experience. Basically, egos have been checked in with the baggage and we are all people first.

I didn't quite understand this at first but not soon after I did. Like, really did.


I clutched on tightly to my roomie and industry homie, Jennifer Thye at first. She was my security blanket for a second because as outgoing as I am I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Soon after we vowed to "get out there" and kick some ass and make connections. Jenni and I knew each other and getting to know each other more wasn't the point. We had to jump in feet first. We could save the bonding for late nights in our king bed.

We were then invited out to the lawn area to mingle and loosen up a bit before the first opening sessions took off.



Excited to see who from Phoenix was presenting like  my friends Melissa Jill and Amy Mancuso.


Super cool seeing legends like Ed Libby taking iphone pictures of the amazing view of Camelback Mountain that we take for granted often.


Don't know how this happened but I guess us Mexi-Mix's are drawn to each other.

Cicely meet mexi-jew, Sarah Natasha Horowitz. Sarah meet mexi-italian Cicely Rocha.Miller. Us beans gotta stick together. (not pc...i know). She begin to enthusiastically show me RAD pictures of a shoot she had just shot in Phoenix. Pretty cool chick and glad I met her.


Then back to the ballroom for some inspirational and relatable chats. I couldn't write fast enough.


Now friend, Eddie Zaratsian spoke about his journey to where he is today and his partnership with Restoration Hardware.

He was so real, so raw and obviously nervous which made him someone to fall in love with fast. I caught him a bit later in a hallway alone where I had said he did a great job and you could see a sigh of relief. "You think so?? Thank you! I was so nervous!" Love me some Eddie.


Loved the moving chat with Carla Ten Eyck as she told a story of a recent tragic death of a fellow photographer. Tears flowed through her message as she also talked about her kids and family. Never to forget the camaraderie and reason for living.


Friend, Liene Stevens blew me away with her presentation about todays bride and our current client needs. Liene and I begin our careers in the same place at the same time and I am in awe by her successes. Go mami!


Darcy Miller spoke about upcoming trends and things to be on the look for. A lot of it was about reinventing. Cool.


Then it was party time. A few minutes to do a quick change into something warmer and we were off to the pool. Yes, the pool but it was filled with grub, music and tons of entertainment and booze. Which is alright by me!


The band was fantastic and the dancing seemed to be immediately insanely packed. Even the hora was done. I mean...COM MON! What a party to start the event off with!


So I then headed into the ballroom (a little tipsy) to get a sneak peak (sorry!) with fellow Arizona people and to specifically help out a fellow friendor and then for some reason got sucked into finding a steamer and steaming the couch on the stage. WTHeck! Whatever....it was my pleasure and a bonding experience. Kennedy you owe me one. ;) A double on the rocks too.


The next day we walked into the space ready to soak up the wisdom from rockstars in our industry such as Angela Desveaux, Anja Winikka, Brian Worley, Bryan Rafanelli, Jose Villa, Jamie Schoen, Kristin Banta, Marcy Blum, Michelle Rago, Matthew Robbins, Shira Savada, Tara Guerard and Todd Ficus plus many more.

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Love this picture of my friend, Ashley Robinson. She looks as if she is soaking up every word to grow and develop her business. I know she is.

Later than evening we were invited to be a part of a hosted dinner where I was excited to sit by Mr. Sean Low. It was fascinating speaking with him and learn more about his insight to a successful industry. Taught me to never apologize for my worth because I am worth it.

At the dinner I got to do a quick meet with this guy below.


I gotta give a shout out to myself because I am the one that snapped this image of Michael. He, Chellise and Scott were the masters behind all of the images from Engage (all images in this blog post too!) They were shooting the entire freaking time so I took the chance and snagged his camera not knowing anything but "look through the hole and press the button." Not bad, eh?


The next day we were invited to have breakfast with Simon T. Bailey where he challenged us to think about our mistakes but to open our eyes to see the possibilities that lie ahead. What a charming man with a personality beyond words.


Then I had another a-ha moment to stop sitting on something that has been my "pot of gold" and he lit a fire under my ass. Thank you, Mr. Bailey and my tablemates.

At this breakfast is where we were given our Oprah moment. We were told there was going to be a gifting lounge. Holy Gezz-Us.

As we entered the area I felt just like this dude (below). SWEET!!!


Then a few break out sessions were a lot more 'realness' occurred. I was the big mouth that asked a few icons in our industry what their vulnerabilities were. It was pretty awesome to know that I am not the only one that feels like this is a crap load of work and cries and pulls hair out. It felt good to know that I wasn't alone. Thank you for your honesty panel.

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The cool thing is we were rubbing elbows and networking with every type of industry professional. From the uber rad to the small rad. For instance I took my seat for one of the sessions and this charming tall slender woman that oozed something really good sat next to me. I sensed immediately that she was golden but until one of the presenters looked to her and said, "Remember when you photographed Chelsea Clinton's wedding, Gigi?" Then, my mouth dropped and I quickly swung my head around and she smiled so sweetly. Um, yeah, you are kinda a big deal. Then I begin to recount what a funny smart ass introduction I had made to her. Silly Cicely. I quickly wrote her a little note explaining my first impression of her and my awe. She was taken back by the note and had a huge grin on her face. She even asked to keep it. HA HA! She was awesome. Thanks, Gigi for making me feel like I was special too.

Then it was about the gala. THEE gala.


Custom walkways made with perfect spot lighting for a photo moment.


Fantastical cocktails mixed with love from the yummy The Grand Bevy. Right, Josh?


This wall of hydrangea was the most beautiful presentation of table escort "card" presentation I have ever seen. Look who jumps out at you Natalie Hall! ;)



Then I had the opportunity to bond a little with Randy Fenoli (pictured with the fantastic watercolored gentlemans jacket) and the dude to the far left who choked up several times explaining to me what his little baby girl had done recently with fundraising for by selling mistletoe. He was so damn proud. Moved me I tell ya! Steve, I want the world to hear about Stella!


Then it was time to open the doors to see the magic. See my face above (left). Yeah, mouth wide open in awe.


Her too.

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Todd designed and produced a gala that was breathtaking. "Birds of a Feather" he called it. Bravo, Todd and his badass team.


The level of detail was phenomenal. People, we had our menus printed on our napkins. I mean, really? YES!


The night immediately started and ended with a packed dance floor with the sickest band I have ever seen provided by West Coast Music. Let's just say "Bel, Biv, Devoe" showed up and nailed it.


Anyhow, the experience had to come to an end and although I took pages of notes and walked away with a plethora of inspiration and advice I was able to truly get the meaning behind Engage for me.

It's not about fame.

It's  not about fortune.

It's not about where you have gone.

Or where you are going.

It's about humans. It's about being real. It's all about checking your ego, breaking down and being a person. Being relatable.

After all...Everyone is a person first.

So, if you haven't gone before. Go. Don't fight yourself about it again. Yes, it's a lot of money to go but it's worth it. Is it a good return on investment? That's up to me and up to you. Take the people you have connected with and grow those connections. Engage is merely your matchmaker. Yenta. Yenta.

Thank you to those that MADE me go. Even as I kicked and screamed that I didn't want to.

Now, I am planning to go at least once a year. It's in our company's budget starting this year.

Looking forward to receiving my second silver ball.

With all that LIFE has to offer,


Cicely Rocha.Miller // Event Consultant // Life Design Event Planning // Phoenix + Minneapolis

All pictures in this post were taken by the super duper talented crew from Elan Artists. Thanks for the amazing pictures, ya'll.

Oh, and I have to mention that I was beyond myself with the amount of swag we walked away with. Tremendous amounts of thought went into each piece. Like unimaginable. Click here to see a picture from my Instagram of all the stuff we came up carrying. WOW.