Pure, Unadulterated Exuberance: The 2011 Wedding MBA Features Luxury, Greatness, and a 1.4 Billion Dollar Supermodel-Mogul

Wedding Painter, Sam Day, captures WMBA'11 on canvas

After presenting at last year’s Wedding MBA conference and seeing the amount of content and connections assembled under one roof, returning this year to the Las Vegas Convention Center as an attendee hungry for more was a no-brainer.   (Already bought my pass for 2012.)

The 2011 Wedding Merchant Business Academy, produced by the Hegarty family, once again featured the A-listers of the wedding professional community.

Seminars were presented and private events were hosted by industry notables like Carley Roney, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The KnotSonny Ganguly, SMO of WeddingWire; Tammy Elliot, President of The Perfect Wedding Guide, Sasha Souza, celebrity wedding planner and founder of Wish Upon A WeddingAmy Wilkens, publisher of Martha Stewart Weddings; Peter Merry, author of The Best Wedding Reception Ever and director of the The W.E.D Guild; Susan Southerland, celebrity wedding planner and author of The Susan Southerland Secret; Andy Ebon, The Wedding Marketing Authority; Alan Berg, producer of the Wedding Industry Leaders Conference; and Kathy Ireland, CEO and chief designer from Weddings by 2be and Kathy Ireland Worldwide.

Carley Roney- Co-Founder & EIC of The Knot

Among the 10 new wedding trends that Carley Roney revealed was “a return to luxury and classic elegance.” She sees a lot more black-tie events on the horizon but was quick to add that “formal can still have personality.” Roney said that brides are seeking “pure, unadulterated exuberance” on their wedding day.  They want pleasant “surprises” and “ways to wow” their guests like a having bakery-styled food truck outside the venue so family and friends can enjoy a late-night snack on the way home from the reception or an early treat with the morning paper the next day. Another trend that Carley mentioned was something my wife and I did for our Wedding back in 2005.  For the non-traditional couples who don’t mind seeing each other before the ceremony, Roney presented the option of taking your portraits and family photos before the ceremony.  This allows newlyweds to enjoy and not miss any of the cocktail hour festivities (typically one of the best parts of the entire celebration due the abundance of cuisine and mixology, visiting opportunities and relaxed atmosphere).  As a Wedding Entertainment Director and Event Producer, I can help facilitate the timing of this desirable alternative with the planner, executive chef, venue principal, photographer, cinematographer and of course, your preferred sources of entertainment.

Andy Ebon, in his usual forthright-reality check-way reminded everyone that “just because you are unique, it doesn’t mean that you are useful.” And, “Don’t idolize, become inspired.”  And,  “You need to have 360 degree awareness.” He also reminded business owners that in a complimentary fashion to facebook and twitter, “blogging is still one of the most important things you can do for your business” to allow clients to discover the ‘online soul’ of your product or service.   Ebon, who helped me create the MMP Blog back in 2008, featured  photographer Jazmine Star and Marilla Cupcakes as stellar blogs.  He subscribes to the same philosophy of Sonny Ganguly who said that “social media allows you to humanize your business.” Speaking of Sonny, I really loved what he had to say in reference to Wayne Gretsky’s famous quote about being “where the puck is.” He said, “I’m not a huge fan of hockey, but I am a huge fan of greatness.” Well said, sir.  As always, the Wedding Wire guys entertained the crowd and encouraged us to go further with mobile technology.  They even offered a free QR code for their clients.

The Susan Sutherland Secret

Susan Southerland, who is one of the most dialed-in wedding professionals I know, shared her knowledge about how to manage client expectations of the personality-driven bride and how to deliver an experience that goes above and beyond simply helping a couple’s fairytale come true.  After interviewing numerous brides and asking how things went before their big day, Susan determined that wedding professionals who were great listeners, solution-oriented, respectful, humble and genuinely excited about their client’s celebration were swiftly chosen over their equally qualified  contemporary.  The classic staples like work quality and professionalism were mentioned as well.

Southerland is the Wedding Expert for Tammy Elliot’s firm, The Perfect Wedding Guide. Tammy did a great job of making all the attendees identify their current strengths and weaknesses as well as future opportunities.  Elliot also discussed the goal of being “consciously competent,” being able to duplicate your success at will. It was pretty deep and definitely made the gears start spinning.

The Knot offered up a few tech and social nuggets that had people checking their Klout score, looking into Qwiki and Uber– and then considering a Facebook business page view upgrade with Flipboard… which was just mentioned in Vanity Fair magazine.    The Knot also recognized a few companies in their annual “Best Of” awards which recognizes excellence in marketing, branding and social media.  The honorees included; Amy Zaroff, Michael Will Photography, The McNamara Alumni Center and Desiree Spinner. (I love her little messages: laugh. play. celebrate and dream. love. wed.)

Marcello Pedalino and Kathy Ireland, Wedding MBA 2011

Like many high school kids back in the day, The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was a highly anticipated annual highlight.   One of my favorite supermodels was Kathy Ireland.  Over the years, as my company progressed and I kept tabs on anyone who had a contagious entrepreneurial spirit, Ireland always stayed on my professional radar because the ability to utilize her brains and spirited work ethic as well as her stunning beauty became more and more apparent. Fast forward to 2011 at the Wedding MBA in Las Vegas… Ireland took a few hours out of her busy schedule to make a special guest appearance and share her journey from running a paper route as a little girl to running a 1.4 billion dollar enterprise. The 2000+ attendees, among whom included business owners from all over the U.S, Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand, were treated to personal stories of character building, photos of recently-launched Kathy Ireland 2be designs, (check out the gorgeous shots below) and some impressive video clips of her philanthropic efforts.

When I had the chance to chat with Kathy after her presentation, I told her that she had some of the most tweet-worthy moments of the conference yet when she said things like, “Its never been done- doesn’t mean it can’t be done” and “I never had a family business, but now I have a business family,” and “When it comes to someone’s wedding day, it’s got to be the best… you can’t mess it up.” That last one really hit home because it accurately describes the tremendous pressure we experience every time we’re given the honor and responsibility of playing a major role in someone’s wedding day.

Editor’s Note: I’m sure you can tell from the photo that, yes,… Ireland is still stunning*One of the funniest moments of the conference was when Ireland gave out her phone number so attendees could contact her for professional guidance, inspiration or business collaboration opportunities.  I’ve never seen men find a pen and paper so quickly to write something down!  Including me….  ‘cuz I don’t know about you, but having a supermodel giving out her number isn’t exactly a common occurrence. 🙂

Having breakfast for dinner with friends at the Blueberry Diner in Las Vegas. Life is Good.

It was a pleasure connecting with fabulous professionals and making some new friends this year:  Jane & Patrick Kelly from iDoAppointments, Keri Macana from TPC Las Vegas, Jennifer Fox from Perfect Planning, Gabrielle Lennartz from Black Swan, Charese Feliciano from CFD Floral, Chandra, Dawn and Bea from Mira Bridal Couture Christy Schimpf from Bride and Groom Planner, Barbie Howard from Rocky Mountain Bridal Show, Sheila Dunn from Wedding Guide Bridal Extravaganza, artist extraordinaire- Sam Day & my mate from New Zealand, Nick Logan.

Special thanks to Jodi Harris and her husband Pat, from Sight and Sound, for always making me feel so welcome when I’m in Vegas.  On the last night before returning home, they took me and my good friend, Ron Brown, to the Blueberry Hill Diner for what they said were the best pancakes in the country. I won’t argue that.  They were pretty awesome.  I’ll keep working out just so I can treat myself to meals like this every now and then.

See you next year!  -mp

Jackpot: The Wedding MBA Sends Every Attendee Home from Las Vegas a Winner- Mike Walter & Marcello Pedalino Come Up Aces

Andy Ebon, The Wedding Marketing Authority, speaks to the capacity crowd of 1500 at The 2010 Wedding MBA Conference

It’s nice when something lives up to the hype.    I’ve been hearing about the Wedding MBA for a few years…  things like, “It’s THE convention to go to if you are a wedding professional,” and “the seminars are above and beyond what you’ll find at your typical wedding industry gathering,” and “hold on to your notebooks, laptops and iPadsyou’ll be taking lots of notes from some of the most successful special event gurus in the bridal business.”  The Wedding MBA delivered.

After 2 and 1/2 days of presentations from the likes of Sonny Ganguly & Tim Chi from Wedding Wire, Tammy Elliot & Susan Southerland from The Perfect Wedding Guide, Carly Roney and Alan Berg from The Knot, Julia Markel from the Association for Wedding Professionals International, Andy Ebon from The Wedding Marketing Network and Peter Merry, the author of The Best Wedding Reception Ever I’m exhausted and my brain hurts a little.

Mike Walter and Marcello Pedalino present “Take Care of Yourself” at the 2010 Wedding MBA Conference

There was barley enough time to squeeze in a few runs at sunrise and barely enough energy left over at night for some additional networking, but I’ve got at least 10 new ideas to share with our brides and 5 new concepts to implement into MMP’s 2011 business plan so it’s all good.   After speaking with many of the 1500 attendees, they all seemed to share the same sentiments.

Social Media was definitely the “it” phrase of the week.  You couldn’t go more than 15 minutes without hearing someone mention a possible tip or tweak for utilizing Facebook, Twitter, blogging or youtube marketing for SEO and staying connected to the e-universe we live in now. If you’d like to have your mind blown, check out this video clip that Sonny shared with the crowd about sixth sense technology.  We all had to pick our jaws up off of the floor.

from left: Wedding MBA Chancellor- Will Hegarty, The Knot’s Alan Berg and Marcello Pedalino

Another golden nugget was the universal message from The Knot’s editor in chief, Carly Roney.  She said that “many brides and grooms now value personal expression more than tradition.

The celebrate life team here at MMP Entertainment is happy to incorporate your unique personalities and preferences into your once-in-a-lifetime reception.

Speaking of personalities, you can visit Susan Sutherland’s bountiful site and discover her secret survey offering…  take this quiz and figure out what type of bride you are. It will help us enhance your wedding planning experience by understanding your planning personality. Susan was really dialed-in to the wedding industry and offered valuable insight into the psychology of  today’s bride.

from left: Marcello Pedalino, Author of the Best Wedding Reception Ever- Peter Merry, & Wed Guild members- Shawn Whittemore and Liz Daley

The convention rock stars were hard to miss as they each made several guest appearances and gave multiple seminars. Andy, Alan, Sonny and Peter always had a crowd around them in the halls asking for additional advice, photos for their wall and autographs of their books.

I was very happy to see that all of my friend’s and colleague’s  hard work and dedication to their craft was being recognized.

I’m also happy to report that our presentation, “Take Care Of Yourself,” was very well received . Mike Walter and I, as the new kids on the block at this gathering, spoke about the importance of a Health and Wellness program for the 21st century entrepreneur.

Peter Merry taking photos with his fans and signing copies of his new book, The Best Wedding Reception Ever.

We shared our philosophies and offered solutions on common personal and professional challenges like time management, prioritization, diet, exercise, dolce far niente and overall life balance.  In essence, if you take better care of yourself, you can take better care of your clients.  And if you take better care of your team, you’ll be taking better care of your bottom line.

Special thanks to Dr. Drax from the ADJA for the sponsorship and support, to Will & Patti Hegarty and Shannon Underwood from the Wedding Merchants Business Academy for producing  such a monumental event, to Ron Brown for his production assistance, to Sonny Gallardo for transportation, and to Liz Daley, for sharing a few of her photos for this entry.

:)... a quick mention to a few of the several hundred new friends and wedding professionals  that I met while attending the WMBA…

Mike Walter and Marcello Pedalino

Jean-Loup Bitterlin from Casa De Los Siete Patios in Mexico, Rachael Citron and Heather Balczarek from Glass Slipper Weddings in New Jersey, Jose Betancourt Jr. from Junior’s Band Orchestra in Florida, Olga Goddard from My Favorite Flowers in Utah, Carmen Hocking from A Beautiful Wedding in Kansas, Marc Conneely from Wedding TV in London, Kathi Evans from All The Best Celebrations in New Jersey,  Jody and Tammy Maxx from Music to the Maxx in Texas,  Patrick Kelly from I Do Appointments in Oklahoma, Ali Berberich from The Blue Angel Cafe in California, Eric Goldschmidt from Eventurous in Ohio, Doug Rice from Bridalicious in Texas and Pete Miller from Speaker Coachwho came all the way from Australia!!!

A Little Bit of Soul, the Super Bowl and A Whole Lotta Love: Finding a New Normal in Las Vegas

drew brees

Super Bowl champ Drew Brees submits his father of the year photo

Some of my “job” requirements as an entertainer and entrepreneur are to perform in places like Las Vegas, to eat in restaurants like Carnevino, to listen to guys like Don Piper and to attend shows like Cirque Du Soleli‘s, Love.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world. Well, maybe it’s a tie with this guy.

Mike, Jason and I landed in Vegas on Superbowl Sunday.  Normally, you wouldn’t find me watching football for three hours in a row; but when the underdog team actually has a chance to win and you find out how cool the quarterback is,  count me in.  Even though the game was awesome and the commercials were funny, my favorite part was when Drew Brees held his son up at the end.  Unless you’ve gone to the dark side and become completely cynical and devoid of all human emotions, it was a goosebump-inducing Kodak moment.

Some of you may remember the hit show, Soul Train. “A groove that will make you move real smooth.”  Don Cornelius and the Soul Train Gang used to bring “peace, love, soul” and some great music into America’s living rooms every week.  John Rozz, from Sound Spectrum Entertainment, produced a Soul Train tribute event at the top of the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas to commemorate the show’s 40th anniversary. I was chosen to be one of the performance Emcees.  The event featured classic videos, retro costumes, Text Live, and two of the biggest disco balls I’ve ever seen.   Good times!

Special thanks to my good friends, Beau Kramer, from California, and Ron Brown, from Kansas, for sharing this photo and the encore gallery for today’s entry.

Marcello Pedalino performs at the Soul Train 40th Annivesary Tribute

Marcello performs at the Soul Train 40th Annivesary Tribute

While in Vegas for the show, I attended several business and entertainment-related workshops to indulge MMP’s infinite commitment to continuing education. Topics included; decor lighting design, enhanced customer service techniques for brides and grooms, fresh ideas for Bar Mitzvah interactives, enhanced technology applications for improved social media relationships and advanced production concepts for the new decade. Culinary & hospitality highlights for some of these presentations took place at the Sterling Club, the Capital Grill and Carnevino.

**Editors Note: I didn’t realize that chef Mario Batali’s highly sought-after 7 course “meat tasting” menu at Carnevino was served a bit on the rare side (seared).  The staff was very accommodating and offered those of us who are used to eating our steak at The Outback-…a NY strip that was out-of-this-world in exchange without laughing out loud.  At least, not right in front of us.

p.s. The staff plugs Mario’s iPod directly into the restaurant’s sound system and just lets her rip at random- at a high volume.   Luckily, my group and I were fans of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

The highlight of the week was the presentation given by Don Piper, the author of the best selling book,  90 Minutes in Heaven. Bonnie Traylor’s review of the his book on Amazon will bring you up to speed on the messenger and the message…

Don's Piper's book, 90 Minutes In Heaven

90 Minutes In Heaven, Revell Publishing, 2004

“Written in straight-forward, simple style without a lot of “religionese,” Don Piper has told the story of his devastating accident, his brief time in heaven and his return to a life full of pain and questions. I read it cover-to-cover in two hours and then loaned out my copy. I would recommend this book to just about anybody — to those with questions about faith, questions about prayer, questions about life and death and pain which we all face to some extent.

His descriptions of heaven are human ones — simple, not overly poetic or grandiose, just those of someone who experienced the indescribable and then tried to describe it. I loved the descriptions of the incredible heavenly music and I get the feeling that vast choirs and heightened senses await us there. And despite the incredible experience, Piper found it too personal, too private, and too intimate to share with anyone for over a year after his accident. I’m so glad he found the courage to do so.

I also love the honesty with which he describes his pain and depression and the inevitable questions that we must face when we have close encounters with the Almighty. The God we meet is often not the one we expected, and while we can’t understand why God does what he does, we can no longer deny this God we don’t understand. And while we hold these two things together, our lives are changed and grace is showered down amid the ruins of what we thought was important to us.”

Cirque Du Soleil's interpretation of the Beatles music library, Love

Cirque Du Soleil's interpretation of the Beatles music library, Love

I found Don’s speaking style to be very similar to his writing style.  He masterfully connects with his audience and effortlessly delivers his messages.  The one sentiment that has stuck with me since that day was, “find a new normal.”  No matter what happens, regardless of the circumstances- find a new normal… embrace it, and move on. I know many of the readers of this blog can appreciate the change in dynamic that occurs within a lifetime.  Not only am I finding a new normal, I’m learning that “normal” is an extremely subjective frame of mind.

I liked how Don never sugar-coated how difficult life can be and never pretended that life was always fair.   Most of all, I loved how Don proved beyond a shadow of a doubt how important it is to have faith in someone and to have something to believe in.

Speaking of love, the icing on the cake of a great week in Vegas was seeing Cirque Du Soleli’s interpretation of the Beatle’s, Love show.   Even if you’re not a big fan of the Beatles and only know their popular recordings like me, you’ll still be amazed, wow’d and blown away by the dancing, the acrobatics and the theatrical spectacle that Cirque shows are famously known for. From the opening number of Get Back to the grand finale mega-mix of Hey Jude, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonley Heart’s Club Band and of course, All You Need Is Love, you couldn’t help but to smile and say to yourself, “life is good.”

The Fountain show at the Bellagio

The Fountain Show at the Bellagio

(Honorable mention for the icing on the cake award was sitting outside at the Paris casino’s cafe, Mon Ami Gabi, eating Bananas Foster while watching Bellagio’s Fountain Show across the street. I had the chance to catch up with my good friends, Scott Faver, from Arizona, and Chuck Lehnhard, from Hawaii.)

What a week!

On the flight home, the words of Steve Wynn came to mind… “Las Vegas is sort of like how God would do it if he had money.”

Encore Gallery:

breakdancer (Large)john rozz 2 (Large)costume winners (Large)marcello 4 (Large)guests 2 (Large)guests 4 (Large)guests 5 (Large)mike walter 2 (Large)sean big daddy (Large)soul train dancers (Large)soul train gang (Large)ray mar 2 (Large)

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