Ever since our First Annual Southern Weddings Team Retreat last August, all of the SW gals have been looking forward to our next one. Getting the entire team together is a rare occurrence with Marissa and Kristin working remotely, but the chance to spend quality time together focusing on how we can best serve our amazing readers and each other has become crucial. We love that team retreats are now a part of our office culture and we soak up every minute of strategizing, learning, and, indeed, late night slumber party heart-to-hearts.
Our three days together are invaluable, so Kristin and I spent the two months prior assembling a schedule for the team to make sure all areas of our work together would be covered. It was jam-packed full of goodness, but here are the pared down highlights:
The fun started on Sunday with all of us getting gussied up for our annual team photo shoot! We were lucky enough to have Katelyn James drive down from Richmond to shoot with us, 140 Salon on site for some Southern blow-outs, and Lula Makeup on hand to work her magic. Unlike past years, the weather was breezy and beautiful! Not a drop of sweat threatened our hair or makeup, we’re happy to report.
Working with the women at Southern Weddings is truly a privilege and Kristin and I can’t begin to explain how grateful we are to spend our days with them! We knew that this retreat was much more than just strategizing for the business portion of Southern Weddings. It was a time for us to feel pride in the South, reflect on all that we’ve accomplished as a team, and show each other love and gratitude. We worked with some amazing vendors to surprise the gals with goodies along the way, including a Dixieland Monogram clipboard and a gorgeous robe from The Bride’s Maids Shop waiting in their rooms after dinner. So after some Southern fare and frozen yogurt on Chapel Hill’s famous Franklin Street, we headed back to our retreat headquarters at the Carolina Inn, hopped into our robes, and gathered in Emily, Lisa’s and Morgan’s room for a pajama party.
The next morning, we dove into work for what I dubbed, “Big Ideas Day!” But first things first. In order to get us all in the proper frame of mind for a day full of big ideas, we wrote the Southern Weddings anthem — a musical rendition of our company mission set to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama! I’m dying for us to make a music video, so y’all stay tuned.
After warming up our vocal cords, we shared the results of the StrengthsFinder quiz we took a few days prior, and discussed how each of our strengths impacts our company as a whole. It was so much fun seeing everyone’s results and understanding how they can help us work together even better! We each came away from the conversation with a defined purpose: Lisa and Emily inspire connections between all of us, all of you readers, and the ideas we share. Morgan and I cultivate trust for Southern Weddings by providing consistent messaging and visual cues. Marissa and Kristin fuel relationships by reaching out to our partners and generating the funds we need to continue our work. Lara defines our direction and provides the momentum needed to do all of this!
After lunch at the Carolina Inn Crossroads Restaurant, some of the SW gals had the opportunity to lead their own mini-session. We love learning from each other, and have discovered that each of us brings special skills or knowledge to the team that makes us better at what we do. Morgan’s session was by far the most interactive and creative! She gave us a lesson in watercoloring, and we each got to try our hand at painting peaches. Emily passed down her top six lessons she’s learned during her past six years at SW, and Lisa shared her writing and editing tips.
As our paintings dried, we discussed what we imagined our company would look like in 5 years. How did each of us view our future? What projects or goals did we have in mind? What would make Southern Weddings a place we could continue to love and grow in?
All of this talk about our big ideas and overarching concepts ended with Kristin teaching the team how to dance the Carolina Shag! As you can see, Emily picked it up like a pro, and I slowed Marissa down with my two left feet.
The last day of our retreat (dubbed “Action Items Day!”) had plenty of surprises. One of my favorites was a round of The Newlywed Game between department partners (Emily + Lisa, Marissa + Kristin, me + Morgan), officiated by Lara. We answered questions like, “What is your partner’s favorite Southern food?” and “Is you partner more likely to channel Dolly Parton or Taylor Swift at karaoke night?” Emily and Lisa won the game, with Marissa and Kristin trailing by one point!
The big ideas we came up with the day before wouldn’t see the light of day without a proper plan of action, and one thing we wanted to improve from last year’s retreat was taking on more than we could handle. We’re still a small team, and while we’d like to do everything, we’ve learned to focus on doing what we can do better.
Over a delicious lunch of BLTs and Cheerwine at Merritt’s, we discussed how to best use our newly renovated office space, how to make Kristin and Marissa feel more involved in our office culture (always a challenge when you work remotely!), and how we can improve our workflow.
With full bellies, we returned to the Carolina Inn for another round of mini-sessions! Kristin shared her secrets for striking up conversations with strangers, Marissa taught us Advertising 101, and I shared some background on the Southern Weddings Style Guide, why it’s important, and how to propose creative ideas.
Kristin and I planned some fun work breaks throughout the retreat, but nothing will top our afternoon tea at the Carolina Inn. It was the perfect cover for Lisa’s surprise bridal shower!! We have boundless amounts of love for Lisa and her beau, Dave, so we’re saving a full recap of her shower for another post, but here’s a little peek from Julia Wade to hold you over!
A look at our conference table mid-retreat! We’re so thankful for The Mason Bar Company for keeping us hydrated, May Designs for supplying our journals (which are now filled to the brim with notes!), and Thimblepress for providing the beautiful state flower prints that remind us of our love for the South and the importance of growing in love.
Returning to work after the bridal shower was challenging, but we had some exciting things ahead of us. The rest of the afternoon was spent flushing out ideas from the day before and then opening up the conversation for any other topics that were on our minds. We ended the retreat with an old activity borrowed from the Making Things Happen Conference. Each of us randomly picked another SW gal’s name from a hat, and then wrote an encouraging note to her. I’m saving the letters to mail out in the coming weeks and love the idea that the gals will be surprised with a thoughtful letter!
Despite all of the excitement over the past three days, my favorite part of the retreat was the very end — a casual team dinner at a favorite local eatery where we encouraged, praised, and celebrated everyone (a concept from the book “How Full is Your Bucket?“). Throughout the retreat, we had been writing “drops,” or small notes of general positivity, to share with each other at the end. Reading them aloud over dinner was a reminder of how special our time together is, and how lucky we are to work together. Until next year!