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Creating the Wow Factor with Your Venue Design | Interview with Kaitlyn Haines of Gathered East | Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Maybe one of the most exciting parts of planning your wedding day is bringing your design and vision to life for your celebration! Today, we’re chatting with Kaitlyn Haines, owner of Gathered East, about bringing the wow factor to your wedding day. She’s sharing her tips, tricks, and how to budget for the impactful design you’ve dreamed of since you stepped foot in your venue. There’s so many things to consider when it comes to transforming your space, so let’s dive in! 

Creating the Wow Factor with your Venue Design tips from Kaitlyn Haines of Gathered East on the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Meet Kaitlyn.

I am the owner and creative director at Gathered East where we offer month of coordination to full service coordination. We serve couples all around New England: Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. I worked at Mohegan Sun for about eight years doing large scale events and then was able to pare it down. And I loved that aspect of event planning. But then, I helped plan my sister’s wedding and that really jump started my career in wedding planning specifically. Not only do we help actually plan wedding days, but we help clients bring their designs and visions to life. 

So, let’s talk about designing a wedding! Where do you start? 

Obviously, you start out with a budget. The first thing we need to know when clients come to us is what their budget is for the event – and how much they’ve already used. Your venue often eats up a lot of that budget, sometimes up to 50% of your budget. So, we break it down after that. You can’t start designing a wedding day without an idea of your budget. 

Creating the Wow Factor with your Venue Design tips from Kaitlyn Haines of Gathered East on the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

How do couples come up with a budget for their wedding day? 

Sit down with your family and your fiance to determine who’s contributing what to the wedding day – and now you’ve got your overall budget. From there, you can begin to break down what you’d like to spend on each category: like your stationery, rings, beauty, venue, and so on. During this process, hiring a planner can be a great step! They often know the percentages you’ll want to consider for each vendor category. They’ll also help you look at what you want for your celebration and determine what truly is (or isn’t) possible. You don’t want to go into a design session thinking your whole day will be covered in gorgeous white flowers… and then you only have $1,000 left in that category. 

Okay, so if they’ve got a budget setup and their venue, how should a couple start the design process?

I always recommend having my couples walk their venue again. Go back and look at the space – the walls, the ceiling, the design of the current space. Figure out what you can and can’t do based on the venue’s rules (for example: maybe you can’t hang things because it’s a historical space/building). From there, it’s much easier to start the design process because you know what’s actually possible. It’s always a great idea to look online at the space to see what else has been done – Instagram and Facebook are great for this. 

After that’s done, you need to really focus on what you want. I encourage couples to look at their Pinterest boards and inspiration and decide on three pieces they like the most. This helps narrow the focus and ensure they’re getting a cohesive vision formed. Once that’s done, it’s time to hire your planner if you haven’t already! 

A planner/designer will help you look at the remaining budget, your inspiration and your venue to help you determine what will make the most impact in the space that you have. 

Creating the Wow Factor with your Venue Design tips from Kaitlyn Haines of Gathered East on the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

That makes so much sense! So if a couple already has a planner and then hires you, what are you going to be helping with?

So if they do hire us, we create an entire vision board based on what we’ve discussed and their budget. We can help determine if your money can be used somewhere else. For example, if your caterer already includes flatware, glassware, and linens, then there’s no reason to upgrade and waste money there when you could spend it somewhere else for a bigger impact. 

What are some ideas couples can use to make a big impact on a tighter budget?

Well, first, I’d be mindful about what you upgrade. You’d be surprised at the impact you can create without extra stuff all over your table. I think chargers can be a nice way to upgrade your place settings but they add up quickly, so be mindful! Another easy way to change the look of your space is a chair upgrade. Going from a plain folding chair to a white chiavari will elevate the room. Linens are another way to upgrade your space. Most places will include simple white or ivory linens. You can add texture with an overlay. Again, be mindful of your space. You don’t want to come into a room with a purple carpet and put blue tablecloths out. It won’t work. 

Are there certain things that our listeners should think about as far as florals when it comes to designs? 

Absolutely. If you’re working with a space that has super high ceilings, using tall arrangements can definitely help close the gap between the ceiling and the table. But, if your space has a lower ceiling, that kind of arrangement wouldn’t really make sense. Tall ceilings really give you a lot of space to play with. Whether you use a mix of tall and short arrangements, tapered candles, or something else, creating a variety of pieces to look at is great for your space. It’s also important to remember you don’t have to use the same thing on every table. This helps your eye and your budget!

Creating the Wow Factor with your Venue Design tips from Kaitlyn Haines of Gathered East on the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

So we’ve talked about creating designs for spaces with set elements – like carpets. But what about couples who have more of a blank space to work in, like a tented reception? 

Actually, about 70% of our weddings at Gathered East are tented, like you’re referring to. It’s a blank space and we bring in the rentals for these events. Obviously, you’ll want to begin in the same place: with your budget. But when it comes to a tented event, your impact is a little bit different. You want to create a “wow factor” right away. This is often something like a hanging display, chandelier, something around the dance floor… things like that can create a huge impact. The next thing to consider is that with a tent, you have to cover up a lot of wires! So, it’s pretty common to see more florals – or things like greenery and ferns – throughout tents to cover up some of that. If it’s done right, it’s seriously so beautiful! And you can easily repurpose flowers from other parts of the day to make that happen. I think couples should start with the dance floor and work their way out when they think about designing a space like this. 

I know a big trend has been creating a lounge space in tents. What tips do you have for creating a space like that?

Tents are amazing because you just have so many options and spaces to work with. Creating a lounge space can be really fun for your guests and you can put it wherever you want. One place I love is near the dance floor. You put a low table, lounge chairs, and it’s now a space where they can rest and hang out, watching the dance floor. Think of it like a bar – it’s nice to have somewhere to just chill and relax. I encourage my couples to keep spaces like this IN the tent. As the night goes on and it gets dark, guests probably won’t venture too far out of that tent to relax. 

Can you tell me a little bit more why it’s so important to think about the placement of other rentals that couples choose to have at their receptions – like photo booths?

Absolutely. So say if you have a photo booth or cigar bar or other elements that you want to bring to your wedding, it is super important to have these placed strategically at your reception. Once the sun goes down, your guests are going to limit where they’re going so you want to be sure you’ve placed these in the tent or reception space so they’re used. Again, having a designer or planner help you think through all of the things you want to include is so important. 

I love all of the extra rentals people can add on these days but I think it’s important to remember that the more you offer your guests, the less likely that they’ll be on the dance floor or with you in the same space. If they have games or cigar bars to run off to, you won’t have that packed celebration you might have envisioned. Instead of offering it all at once, think about spacing those little bonuses out throughout the night. 

Let’s talk about lighting. How can couples use lighting at their event? 

Again, it’s something you have to think through – look at your space and what’s available. Remember that in tented receptions, you have less light to begin with because there’s literally no electricity in the tent. The kind of lighting you choose will depend on the mood of your event – is it candles? What about uplighting? Lighting totally changes the mood and vibe of the space – but, it also impacts your budget. Be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars on lighting. But, it’s so worth it. It truly does change the energy of the space – especially when you get to the reception party! 

Creating the Wow Factor with your Venue Design tips from Kaitlyn Haines of Gathered East on the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Absolutely! Okay, tell us now: what kind of trends are you seeing for weddings right now?

We’re seeing a TON of color! I mean this past year was all about color. Everyone wanted to feel uplifted and wanted to celebrate. It was huge for weddings in the last few months. Another thing I’ve seen a lot of is using baby’s breath in arrangements. This used to be such a taboo flower – I mean, no one wanted to use it. Now it’s everywhere. We’re even spray painting them to bring more color into the space. We’ve also seen a lot more focus on lighting – especially things like chandeliers to hang over the dance floor. Finally, we’re seeing a break in the traditional sit down dinner for weddings. Couples want to have that party, to see and be with their guests. So we’ve seen more dance sets happening. Dancing then breaks to eat. It keeps things moving for sure!

I think it goes back to what we started with: what’s most important to you? Does your venue allow for that? Because, as we know, not all venues have the same catering options or abilities. So that kind of setup may not happen at every venue. Think about what’s most important to you on your wedding day or the vibe you want, because that will inform all of your decisions and choices. 

Wrap-Up Question:

What are some key points couples should be thinking about when designing their event space and location to be the most impactful? 

Take your venue into consideration. Look at the space before you start to pick colors or the theme. You want everything to work together. 

Allow what other couples have done in that space to inspire you. This shows you what your venue is truly capable of and helps you be realistic in your vision. 

Lighting is key. It’s often overlooked but the way you light your event will change the vibe of the event. Keep space in your budget for the lighting you want and need. 

Creating the Wow Factor with your Venue Design tips from Kaitlyn Haines of Gathered East on the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Links Mentioned in the Episode

Learn more about Gathered East: Website | Instagram | Facebook 

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