I stood in the middle of a courtyard that could have easily been set in the Tuscan countryside, surrounded by buckets of fragrant flowers under the bright Texas sun. My hands were shaking as I helped our team lay out floral shears by each place setting, right next to the rustic concrete vases that were thoughtfully selected with each attendee in mind, each awaiting a new pair of hands to soon pick them up and lovingly fill them with a one-of-a-kind floral arrangement.
You see, this was the very first session of our April 2016 Illume Retreat, an intimately restful gathering for creative entrepreneurs who strive to build businesses that reflect the core of their life’s best work. The incredibly talented Meredith Speer of Bristol Lane was leading us through a hands-on session on centerpieces, but more than that, we were setting the tone for the community that we would build over the next few days around the table.
As the attendees slowly made their way into the courtyard, we all exchanged shy smiles and enthusiastic hugs. Each of our amazing speakers and guest teachers — Jenna Kutcher, Katie Selvidge, Kat Schmoyer, Shanna Skidmore, Laura Joseph and Shalyn Nelson — immediately started wrapping up attendees in big hugs and captivating them with open-hearted conversations. There were so many emotions floating through the air! From excitement to nervousness to sheer anticipation of what was in store, I can’t imagine a more joyful place to be.
Together, we listened raptly as Meredith taught us the ins and outs of creating a floral centerpiece. We laughed and traded lighthearted anecdotes as we got to know each other in an upbeat, laid back environment. By the time we were done creating our masterpieces, we not only had gorgeous arrangements that we’d continue to highlight throughout the rest of the week, but those nerves and butterflies in our stomachs had settled into a more joyful sense of calm. This is right where we were meant to be. This is where we belong.
After our floral session, we had a few hours to unpack, settle into the resort, and continue to get know each other before our welcome dinner. Wanting to make the most of our gorgeous venue, we returned to the courtyard and surrounding gardens for an intimate dinner under the setting sun.
Gathered around rustic rentals from Birch + Brass, each attendee found her place at the table by hand lettered terra cotta place cards from Wondrous Whimsy, before I shared a few more formal words of welcome. Throughout the entire experience, we were absolutely spoiled with incredible food prepared on-site in the Travaasa restaurant. And our welcome dinner was no exception as we dined on locally sourced, farm-to-table fare until the stars came out.
With full hearts and equally full bellies, we went off to rest up before a full day of education, heart exploration, and practical strategy in the morning. Although I can’t speak for our sweet attendees, I know I went to bed that night with a heart overflowing with gratitude, and full of anticipation for all the life-change that would take place over the next few days.
Join me again tomorrow for a full recap of Day Two of the Illume Retreat!
Rentals: Birch + Brass | Photography: Shalyn Nelson of Love, the Nelsons | Floral Session taught by Meredith Speer of Bristol Lane | Welcome dinner styling: Bonnie Bakhtiari, Kat Schmoyer of Dear Sweetheart Events, and Karis Crawford | Place cards: Wondrous Whimsy; Venue: Travaasa Austin