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Interview With Pro Wedding Planner Kate O’Dowd | Chupi Journal

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Endlessly cool and utterly inspiring, wedding planner and stylist Kate O’Dowd creates celebrations filled with magic, joy and love through her company Love & Gatherings. She chats to us about finding your wedding style, gives us a peek into her process and shares her favourite wedding decor trends.

Thanks so much for taking time to share your story with readers of The Chupi Journal. For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a bit about you?

I started my career as a lifestyle journalist, working at Image Publications; firstly on the fashion mag, and then as the editor of Bash, which was a niche wedding title, under the Image umbrella. 

When Bash didn’t make it through the last downturn, moving into the real world of events felt like a natural step and Love & Gatherings was born. After spending the first few years doing both weddings and launches for international brands, I made the move to focus solely on weddings and it’s been the best decision. 

I love the pace of getting to work with a couple for a year, or thereabouts, and being involved in such a momentous part of so many lives. I’m a hopeless romantic (and often an amateur therapist), so making magic happen for two people I get to know so well is my happy place.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Joyful, personal and loose.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I drop my two boys, Albert, 5 and Teddy, 8, to school and then (usually – if winning at life) I will run a few kilometres around my ‘hood, before having breakfast and then hunching over my desk until the afternoon, barely coming up for air. 

I always say that the best way to start finding your wedding style is to move your focus completely away from style details and instead think about how you want the event to feel.

During that time, I’ll be working on budgets and design concepts, dealing with suppliers and chatting with clients, procrastinating my (supposedly) daily Instagram post, and drinking one or two coffees. 

I collect the kiddos at 2pm; we might go for a ramble somewhere, or just hang out at home; I’ll make dinner or enjoy some other forms of domestic excitement, while they play, then we eat, read and sleep. 

One of the last big weddings – Image: Lucy Birkhead

But in (a usual) wedding season, all bets are off – then my working days are very long and involve a lot less sitting. 

How do you approach the initial stages of planning a wedding?

First, I meet a couple (or have a long zoom chat, if that’s not a go-er), to get a really good feel for how they vibe off each other, what they’re excited about, what might be making them anxious; whether they have any initial ideas regarding how the day will materialise. 

“I do” never gets old. I get a lump in my throat every time.

Then, I’ll either conduct the venue search (or go to the venue with them, if they’ve already got one); and after that, I begin work on their event concept, design and budget, pitching them visuals and supplier options, and working closely with the couple until we have the blueprint for a wedding day that they are super excited about. 

Where do you suggest couples look for inspiration for their wedding and find their style? 

Well, I wouldn’t go wild on Pinterest, for a start. I’d follow a few choice accounts, like those of wedding sites Over The Moon (for colour and English garden vibes) and The Lane (for all-white Manhattan cool) see which one captures you and then look at some of their real weddings. 

I always say that the best way to start finding your wedding style is to move your focus completely away from style details and instead think about how you want the event to feel. So many people hone in on a trendy piece of décor and then try to work their event around it and that’s not how you end up with a wedding that feels professionally curated, but so natural that it must have grown that way. And that’s what you want. 

A city wedding table – Image: Veronika Faustmann

So, if your wedding is November, for example, and you tell me you want a twinkly, cosy, winter fireside feel, I will recommend that you might want to forget that pampas grass and floaty linen vibe you’ve pinned and perhaps consider hedgerow-style florals, with rich velvets on the table and maybe some William Morris-esque print on your stationery. This way, you’re styling with purpose and not just blindly following a trend.

I’ve had quite a few couples book me for the small one this year and then the BIG one next year (or whenever). They want the big one locked in, so they can feel sure it’ll happen.

If you’re working with a planner, you don’t need to do a lot of research as they will help you find your style, but having a few key Images that you like is always a good way to even get your own head around what you like.

What is your favourite part of the wedding day?

“I do” never gets old. I get a lump in my throat every time. In terms of event planning, there’s so much more focus on what happens after the ceremony, but that first hour is what it’s all about, for me, and, in my experience, couples always find themselves being much more moved than they expect to be … whether it’s three hundred in a cathedral, or fifteen people in a garden, the hugeness of that moment is always the same. 

A Wedding Breakfast – Image: Paula O’Hara

How have you found these smaller, more intimate Covid-era weddings?

I’ve absolutely loved them. Couples are way less stressed about the small stuff and, perhaps because most have been through the mill in terms of rescheduling (and rescheduling) they’re really grateful for their wedding day. These weddings haven’t felt lesser, in the slightest. In fact, they’re bigger, in many ways, because everyone (couple and guests) feels freer to be themselves.

How do you think it will affect weddings in the future?

It’s really hard to predict that one. On one hand, couples who might always have been inclined towards a small wedding, but were perhaps pushed into a bigger one (either by expectation or their own lack of clarity on what felt right), might feel they have more of an opening to do things their way, now. Certainly that’s been the case with many of my couples, over the past year. 

One of this year’s micro-weddings – Image: Ivana Patarcic

But then there are couples who just love the idea of a huge wedding and they will wait as long as they have to, for it. Those couples will be back with a big bang, when they can. I’ve had quite a few couples book me for the small one this year and then the BIG one next year (or whenever). They want the big one locked in, so they can feel sure it’ll happen.

Is there a wedding/ trend that you love right now?

Anything scalloped, send it my way, please. Scalloped napkins, crockery, glassware, candlesticks, stationery; I’m here for it all. Nothing says “Prepare for fancy frolics” like something with a wavy edge.

What are you currently working on, dreaming of, excited about in your life and work?

In terms of work, I’m knee-deep in a new online store that’s my curation of the best candles, candlesticks and (a bit down the road) vases, that I can get my twinkle-loving mitts on. I’ve always loved the idea of a store and this one ties in beautifully with the main brand, allowing me to broaden what I can offer my wedding clients in terms of styling, too. It’s called Centrepiece, and I’m SUPER excited about it. 

The finishing touches – Image: Ivana Patarcic

Personally, then, I’m loving that my boys are emerging from that really labour-intensive first few years and I can now just hang out with them, without having to feel super on duty. I mean, obviously I feed them and keep them out of extreme danger, but I always thought the baby years would be the best (cuteness, etc.). Now, it seems the kid years are proving to be pretty great – they’re their own little people and we have such craic with them.

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