This year, the third annual Destination Wedding Planners Congress (DWPC) was held in the beautiful city of Florence. Set in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance and is famed for its history, traditions and breath-taking landscapes. Just the thought of attending the DWP Congress was exciting enough, but knowing that we would be surrounded by such a fabulous buzz of culture as well was the cherry on the wedding cake!

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The DWP Congress is an opportunity organised by QnA International for the crème de la crème of the wedding industry to come together and learn from each other whilst simultaneously representing their destination or product in a global pool of attendees. Each day is filled with conferences and networking sessions, then rounded off by fabulous evening events. We were reeling from a very satisfying and exhausting by the end of the trip.

Prior to the Congress starting, we had just enough time to soak up the sights of Florence in a whirlwind trip, taking in the Duomo, the Uffizzi, the Ponte Vecchio… the list goes on. Also, with world-renowned leather goods, it would have been rude not to buy a new handbag… and shoes… and… Let’s just say, we made the most of our free time. Honeymoon destination anyone?

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As evening drew in, we donned our ball gowns and heels and were taken to the first night’s venue, Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria. Nothing could have prepared us for the spectacular entrance and the crowds of tourists who watched as we made our way up the steps and into the first courtyard, where we all given crowns and slipped sashes over our shoulders – gifts from the congress organisers. From the courtyard, we proceeded up stunning flower-lined staircases and were welcomed into Salone dei Cinquecento, a vast, imposing chamber dating back to 1494. Soft furnishings, food stations, trees bedecked with flowers, and thrones adorned the chamber drawing audible gasps of pleasure from the guests. It was a truly beautiful evening filled with people from all over the world, and we didn’t want the evening to end.

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The next morning saw us arriving at Stazione Leopolda, a former main railway station of Florence that now serves as a 6,000 square metre exhibition space where the congress was being held. We set up our stand then hurried along to listen to fascinating talks from globally-renowned wedding planners from all over the world. We meditated with planner to the stars, Sharon Sacks, then heard from the utterly fabulous event and wedding planner Kevin Lee, who we discovered was the inspiration behind the eccentric wedding planner character in the 1991 film Father of The Bride. Wayne Gurnick then got our brains whirring with facts and figures about the Destination Wedding market and gave us an insider’s view on upcoming trends.

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Following these insightful talks, we moved across to our stand where we awaited our pre-scheduled appointments and we were delighted that our first appointment of the day was with the aforementioned Kevin Lee – a celebrity in his own right and planner for the Grammys, the Oscars and weddings including those of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, and Christina Aguilera. This was followed by more meetings with wonderfully prestigious event design companies including: Julie Perry Events, Along Came Stephanie, Weddings By Franc, Wedding Luxe, Xena Productions Ltd, Tracy Lavin Events, Tailor’d and Privé Events.

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Lunch was an exquisite set up: beautifully-set round tables, with mouth-watering buffets celebrating local and Italian produce with cheeses, antipasti, and live pasta stations with helpful chefs to assist us in experiencing their delicacies. To complete the experience there was a creative fashion show with dresses appearing to be made of giant pieces of pasta. Original to say the least!

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After lunch was a panel discussion with Aditya Motwane, JoAnn Gregoli, Koby Bar Yehuda, Susanna Richardson and Nancy Barkley, who shared strategies on overcoming challenges of a Destination Wedding and how venues can assist. This was of course incredibly useful for us to be privy to before we continued with our one-on-one meetings.

After discussions with Honeymoons and Get-A-Ways, and Tailor’d Events we were invited to listen to the inspirational wedding planner Vandana Mohan before the raffle draw where Corinthia London presented a wonderful city stay to a very lucky winner.

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As evening fell we prepared for the evening’s entertainment at Villa Corsini a Mezzomonte, a venue with over 700 years of history. Greeted by performers and artists we made sure we explored every inch of this stunning historic house, in every room of which there was something more interesting than in the last – artisan food stations, a creative cocktail bar, dancers… the list goes on! The decor and the effort that had gone into the event design struck us as really impressive, however this was nothing compared to the adjoining marquee that we were then seated in for the gala dinner. All of the tables were set around a classic white grand piano and small stage and there was a huge variety of spectacular floral displays. For course after course we were presented with not only delicious food but also treated to eye-catching entertainment and even a fireworks display. What a day!

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The next day of the congress featured an excellent panel discussion focussing on cross-cultural weddings and how to create the perfect fusion within a wedding to ensure that all ethnicities are equally respected. The speakers – Elizabeth Aisien, Fernanda Silva, Sonal J. Shah, Therese Cole-Hubbs and Ziad Raphael Nassar – were true experts in this field.

The next panel featured much acclaimed, UK-based event planner Bruce Russell, along with Ed Libby, and Franc and Mohomed Morani who were discussing venues and the importance of working relationships to ensure a perfect event. Following on from this we enjoyed talks from Tara Guerard and, British entrepreneur Joe Blackman from Collection 26. All of these panels and talks, given by such esteemed professionals, were incredibly valuable to us and it was a marvellous opportunity to learn from the best and soak up the knowledge imparted.

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Our appointments for the day then included: La Folie Events, Flovinno Wedding, Delight Event Management, Theme Weavers International and Best Event Planning Lab – all of whom were an absolute pleasure to meet and we loved discussing both their work and how wonderful Corinthia Hotel London is!

Wendy Daoud El-Khoury from Wedded Wonderland followed lunch, delivering a fantastic talk that focused on the importance of Social Media within the current world and particularly the wedding industry. With such extensive expertise it is no wonder she has over 500,000 followers on Instagram and is, if we say so ourselves, completely and utterly fabulous!

Next up was Olivier Dolz who gave an intriguing insight into organising Royal Weddings and events in the Middle East. And finally the incredible Marcy Blum – American planner to the stars – talked to us about how to sustain your inspiration when planning weddings and events. What a perfect way to end the congress.

On our last evening, we were lucky enough to journey once more into the Tuscan countryside, this time to visit Villa di Maiano where we gazed at the most incredible sunset overlooking Florence from a garden cocktail party. With everyone beginning to wind down from the busy week, we were fully relaxed and able to sample even more Italian gastronomic delights with fresh pasta, chefs cooking pizza outside in a woodburner, and more delicious local cheese and charcuterie. How delightfully spoiling.

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A whole-hearted ‘thank you’ goes to all at QnA International, the DWP Congress, the Firenze Convention & Visitors Bureau and all of our beautiful hosting venues… we can’t wait to see where we’re going next year!

Photo credits:
Hannah Routledge & Studio Fotografico Righi  –  http://www.studiofotograficorighi.it/

With love from Corinthia London,
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