I recently traveled to Philadelphia for its first luxury wedding summit — and I was wowed. The city’s innovative dining scene, thriving artistic and sporting communities, and deep history (and historic venues) make it a unique spot. But, more than all of that, I was struck by the genuinely kind, bright, and creative events community in Philadelphia.
At our lunch table — overlooking the Great Stair Hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, within view of the gilded Diana statue — we discussed why the city hasn’t risen to top-of-mind for luxury wedding couples as an East Coast destination spot. Among the theories was a misconception that it is still a rough-around-the edges city, and that there’s a strong old-guard that perhaps doesn’t put forth the kind of modern luxury weddings that are currently in favor.
Well, the 100-plus Philadelphia planners, designers, venue managers, photographers, and more who attended the Elevate Summit aim to change that perception — and are already producing at an aspirational level. You might want to book your Philadelphia wedding now; I have a hunch that its best venues and vendors are going to have pretty full calendars as the city undergoes a bit of a renaissance.
We spoke with the event professionals who worked together to create and host Elevate to learn more.
Tell us how the Elevate Luxury Wedding Summit in Philadelphia came to be. What was the inspiration or impetus?
Caitlin Kuchemba, Owner and Creative Director of Clover Event Co., tells us, “The Philadelphia wedding industry is experiencing a Renaissance. While we have many veteran and generation-based businesses, the majority of vendors in the market are 8-10 years into their businesses and are at a pivotal point of choosing to plateau or elevate their brands.
“Additionally, on a national level, Philadelphia is not often thought of as a luxury wedding market like our East Coast counterparts NYC, Washington D.C., and Boston. We are one of the oldest cities in America, have one of the best food scenes, and have nationally- and internationally-known venues like the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“The goal of the event was to bring together industry leaders in the Philadelphia luxury market to discuss how we can work together to elevate the market and put Philadelphia back on the radar as a destination for luxury weddings on the East Coast.”
What was your vision for how the day would unfold and how attendees would leave feeling?
Kuchemba shares, “Our initial vision for the day was to bring together top leaders in the luxury market for a day of education, conversation, and celebration. Our goal was to treat all guests to a luxury experience filled with inspiration. We wanted them to be inspired by the design and culinary experience, inspired by the content of the educational portion, and inspired by the conversations that they had with their peers.
“We also wanted to celebrate the amazing talent and community we have in Philadelphia at the final phase of the event — which was a happy hour at Jean-Georges. We hoped to ignite a spark in our community that has been long overdue and inspire all attendees to elevate not only their own businesses but each other, as we enter 2023.”
Who were your key partners and what were their roles in making Elevate successful?
Kuchemba and her team lined up a truly stunning team of partners. She says, “From the start of this event, it was important for me to partner with businesses in Philadelphia who shared our same vision of elevating the current luxury market. Constellation Culinary Group was a natural fit to bring on as a partner because of the luxury standard they set in the industry and the high-quality culinary program they run in the city.
“When it came to choosing a venue as our host, the Philadelphia Museum of Art was a natural choice, as the museum is an iconic cornerstone of the city. From there, we brought on additional partners in each vendor category to support bringing the event to life. Each partner gave their time, talent, and team with full sponsorship, because they share the same desire I do: to elevate the Philadelphia market, highlight the talent we have here, and help put the city back on the map as a luxury wedding destination.”
Kuchemba adds, “Robin Ewing and her team at The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia came on board as a hotel partner for out-of-town guests and to host the final portion of our Elevate Summit, which concluded with a happy hour at the esteemed Jean-Georges. Robin and her team provided cocktails and food stations for guests to enjoy while they experienced one of the best views in all of Philadelphia, 60 floors above the city.
“Meghan Papiano and her team at House of Catherine helped transform the various spaces of PMA, from the coffee and registration area in the West Terrace to the stage in the Great Stair Hall and lunch on the balcony. Winsome Floral, Nuage Designs, Revolution Event Production, Something Vintage Rentals, Vision Furniture Event Rentals, and Party Rental Ltd. were all brought on board as partners to bring this design to life. Photo and video coverage were provided by Afrik Armando and Solidity Films, and entertainment was provided by Remixologists and Addison Artists.
“Vanessa Kreckel and her team at TPD Design House provided the stationery and event branding. Additional surprises for guests included morning coffee by Impresso Coffee Co, cocktails by 13th Street Cocktails, and dessert by Nutmeg Cake Design. Guests were also transported from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Jean-Georges happy hour at the Four Seasons by Ace Limousine. The event truly could not have happened without all of our generous and enthusiastic partners.”
Tell us about the learning and networking opportunities available.
“Providing high quality education was also an important element that we wanted to bring to Elevate,” shares Kuchemba. She says, “Artem Lomaz of Ninety Three Entertainment acted as MC for the event, keeping guests engaged and introducing speakers. We brought on Josh Spiegel of Birch Event Design as our keynote speaker. He educated the group on how to elevate ourselves, but equally, how to elevate as a community — becoming luxury vendors for our clients, and pushing ourselves to create next-level events.”
“Panel conversations included discussions around what luxury clients are looking for, current luxury wedding trends, what is expected from vendors in the higher level market, and how we can work to make Philadelphia a destination for luxury weddings again. The panel included Vanessa Kreckel of TPD Design House, Magi Fisher of Magdelena Studios and The Artist Lawyer, Robin Ewing of the Four Seasons Philadelphia, Morgan Bedore of Constellation, and Pamela Rothbard of PartySlate.”
What’s one moment/experience that stood out to you about the day?
Morgan Bedore, Vice President of Marketing and Creative with Constellation, shares of her experience, “It’s hard to pick just one moment from Elevate to call out, as there were so many connections, details, and conversations that made the gathering memorable. It was wonderful reconnecting with industry friends and meeting new industry leaders in our city, but the highlight of my day was participating in the panel discussion with a group of authentic and passionate professionals.
“I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet all the panelists in person before Elevate, so it was great to feel the energy and chemistry between us right away. To have the ability to bounce ideas and best practices off each other while sharing with the larger group was electric, exciting, and somehow seamlessly conversational. I will certainly, personally, take away new connections to those amazing women as a true benefit of the day.”
What makes Philadelphia a perfect city in which to host a luxury wedding?
Lauren Hunter, Director of Events and Dining with Philadelphia Museum of Art, says, “Philadelphia is a fabulous destination to provide a memorable and glamorous, high-end event. We’re a historic city full of artisans and artists, and we love a party of any size. This city has an astounding variety of grand venues, hidden gems, and many ways to enhance your event. With such diversified options in arts, theater, sports, history, and fine and casual dining available to guests, Philadelphia is nothing short of unforgettable for luxury events.”