February 21, 2017

Rio Lounge Interview Wedding Planner Katrina Otter

Rio Lounge are often contacted by event planners who are looking to hire stylish, boutique furniture for an upcoming event and we’ve worked with some of the best. Take Katrina Otter for example – a Cambridgeshire based wedding planner and event organiser who offers clients a bespoke planning service in the run up to their big day.

If you’ve always wondered what it’s like working in the events industry or are in need of some top tips from an industry expert, look no further than our interview with Katrina.

What’s it like working in the events industry?

“It’s not exactly how people perceive it. A lot of my friends look at my job with rose tinted glasses and think it’s all about eating cake and drinking champagne. They have this pre-conceived idea that I’m J-Lo from The Wedding Planner but in reality, it’s something totally different – the majority of my time is spent on general administration and on most days, you’ll find me in my office in front of a computer.  Ultimately, being a wedding planner is hard work; it involves a huge amount of organisation, admin and all of the rest of the jobs associated with running your own business.”

Why do you think it’s important to hire a wedding planner?

Hiring a wedding planner isn’t a necessity.  However, it’s becoming a popular option for engaged couples because of the benefits it can bring – “especially with the time it now takes to plan a wedding, the amount of choices that are available, the details that are involved and the simple fact that people have demanding jobs and busy social lives. I think there’s an increased fear as well – of failure, of not creating something perfect, so that’s where a planner becomes involved because they can take away some of the pressure that we as a society have managed to create.”

If you want to know the ins and outs of hiring a wedding planner, check out Katrina’s feature ‘Hiring a Wedding Planner – Who, What, Why, When & Where’.

What is the key to pulling off a truly magical wedding/event?

“I ultimately think it’s down to the bride and groom and how they act as they’re the ones that set the tone for their day. If the bride and groom are there welcoming you, having drinks with you, letting their hair down and enjoying the day to its fullest, that for me is the key ingredient to a truly amazing day.”

How do you create a unique client/guest experience every time? Do you ever use the same idea more than once?

Because of the type of clients Katrina attracts, ultimately, a lot of couples come to her with the same brief – classic, elegant, understated luxe. “My couples often have very similar backgrounds, tastes and styles, so I do tend to get very similar briefs. The way I make their weddings unique is by injecting my couples’ personalities throughout – from the favours through to stationery fonts, bespoke menus to unique experiences.”

“I worked with one couple last year whose social lives centered around their local so we recreated a gastro pub vibe for their wedding, including the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients and signature dishes.”

Others won’t have as clear an idea – that’s where a wedding planner comes into play, to tease these ideas out.  Couples may also prefer to stick with the latest trends.  See the Coco Wedding Venues blog for Katrina’s 2017 wedding trend predictions.

How do you bring an idea to life?

For Katrina, this varies from client to client. Some couples come to her with physical mood boards, boxes of samples, or Pinterest boards. It’s a wedding planner’s job to then work with suppliers to bring these ideas (where practical) to life. For those couples who are open to suggestions, it’s a case of looking through magazines, sharing images, talking about likes and just as importantly, dislikes.

How important are suppliers and how do you go about sourcing them?

“I have a preferred list of suppliers but also work with suppliers whose work I’ve seen and admired on blogs or in magazines, as well as recommendations from other planners and those within the industry.”

Katrina tries to meet with all of her suppliers first in order to establish a personal relationship with them. That way, if she does recommend them to a client, she can say ‘I’ve met with them, I’ve worked with them, and I truly believe they’re the right fit for you and your wedding.”

One important aspect of wedding planning is understanding a client’s preferences first, before recommending any suppliers. “I won’t just send my couples a list of 20 photographers and say ‘what do you think?’ I always have a meeting first and show examples to narrow the brief down and truly understand what my couples are looking for.  Only then will I give recommendations and these are based purely on my couples’ preferences.”

Katrina has been working with Rio Lounge for the last two years after meeting Jo (Rio Lounge’s director) at a wedding exhibition. Initially, Katrina used our giant, light-up wedding letters at an event in Cambridge and she’s been hiring our chic and stylish range of furniture ever since.

Do you have a list of essential tools needed before you begin a job?

“I always have a kick-off meeting with my couples to go through a number of questions to understand more about them as a couple, their ideas for the day, number of guests, location, style, budget etc. It’s quite an in depth initial consultation process.”

What criteria would you look for in a venue? How do you go about finding/selecting an event space?

Around 50% of Katrina’s couples come to her with a venue in mind, but for the other 50%, it’s a case of using questionnaires to coax information out of her couples and then gradually narrowing down the options available.

“We talk about different criteria – number of guests, style, location, accommodation (do they want this on-site or nearby), in-house catering or a selection of caterers, ceremony style (does the venue have a license or is there a church nearby) etc. It’s quite an in-depth process because I need to know all of this information first otherwise I won’t be able to narrow down the options available.”

In the past you’ve planned weddings in stately homes, country estates, renovated barns and marquees. Are there any pros/cons of the above?

“All venues have pros and cons, whether it’s due to location, capacity, room layout, licenses etc. The key here it to understand what they are, accept them and / or know how to work around or with them from the outset.”

Would you prefer your venue to be indoors or out? Why?

“I would absolutely love to work in an area where the weather was guaranteed and my couples could get married outdoors and spend the evening dining on long tables under a canopy of festoon lights.  However, this simply isn’t feasible in the UK which is why I’m such a stickler for having a robust Plan B and even a Plan C and D!  So ultimately, for peace of mind, I’d prefer it to be indoors!”

How do you deal with British weather at an outdoor event?

Katrina plans almost all of her client’s weddings with a Plan B and C in mind. “I like to think of all the scenarios and ensure that if my couples have their heart set on an outdoor ceremony, or an outdoor drinks reception and dining experience, that I’ve discussed and made them aware of their options and all eventualities.  That way they won’t be as disappointed if mother nature interferes!”

What is your favourite season to host an event in? Why?

Autumnal weddings are a favourite for Katrina, purely because of the colours and set-up – plumb and berry tones, an abundance of foliage, candles and glorious sunsets.

Katrina also notes a shift in perspective regarding weather. “A lot of couples who have summer weddings have an expectation that it’s going to be a gloriously sunny day. With autumnal weddings, couples have already considered and accepted that the weather may not be amazing, so you don’t have to have “the chat” about Plan B’s and C’s because ultimately they don’t have their heart set on something that might not happen.”

Events involve people, weather and technology: three things that have a mind of their own. Have any disasters occurred during/in the run up to an event?

“I don’t think I’ve done a single wedding or event that hasn’t been hiccup free because weddings are imperfectly perfect. No matter how many eventualities you consider or plans you have in place there is always some hiccup that just can’t be predicted or foreseen – whether it’s the weather, traffic, illness, a late running guest or supplier etc. For me personally, it’s often these imperfections that can make a wedding even more memorable and perfect!”

How do you deal with time constraints? Realistically, how long should you be giving yourself to plan an event?

Katrina usually starts planning a wedding a year in advance but she’s planned weddings in the past within just 10 weeks.

“I think the healthy thing about a shorter timescale is that there’s no procrastination. It’s completely doable unless you turn around and say ‘I want a wedding venue in Surrey for 10 weeks’ time on a Saturday’. Even if you asked me in a years’ time, that brief would still be a challenge! Shorter timescales are definitely doable but it’s about being realistic because you don’t have as many options or the time to consider as many options.”

To find out more about Katrina and her bespoke wedding planning service, check out the Katrina Otter website.