Kaitlin Kolvet, Event Planner, La Fete Weddings
Interview by Laura Piety
A Rverie Conversation with Kaitlin Kolvet, one half of luxury wedding planning company La Fete Weddings.
Based in Santa Barbara, La Fete offers full service event organization and can take care of everything from your rehearsal dinner to your post-wedding brunch. With access to some of the best vendors in Southern California, years of experience and exquisite taste to match, this is the team you want to organize one of the most important days of your life. I've known Kaitlin for a while and she has to be one of the most hospitable people I've ever met. Even before I knew she was an event planner, I was struck by her innate ability to set people at ease and make them feel welcome. I sat down with Kaitlin in Los Angeles to talk about her recent marriage and how it has influenced her work, as well as her advice for brides-to-be, from crucial timelines to avoiding Pinterest. We've also featured a selection of beautiful images from some of Kaitlin's favorite weddings, all of which should inspire anyone with an eye for design and wonder. This is a must-read if you are currently planning a wedding... or hoping to one day!
Introduce yourself, La Fete Weddings and how you got into the industry.
My name is Kaitlin Kolvet and I’m a wedding planner with La Fete Weddings, a full service design and coordination company. I run the business alongside my Mom, Colette Lopez, who founded La Fete 15 years ago.
I’ve been entertaining with her since I was in kindergarten and always had a huge passion for hospitality, which extended naturally to weddings. During high school I worked for different catering companies to get a feel for service inside and out, which ensured I became a napkin-folding perfectionist and service snob! That’s really helped at La Fete as we pay great attention to detail and pride ourselves on carefully looking after our clients' needs.
I joined La Fete when I was 18 and initially helped with our ‘Day Of’ weddings while my Mom handled the ‘Full Service’ events. Four years later we decided to concentrate on Full Service weddings only to maximize our identity as a unique mother-daughter team. This meant clients could have access to two full time planners, rather than one planner and a few interns; while vendors could interact with two people throughout the process, as well as on the day of the event.
Our partnership and synergy is successful because many of our clients also work with their Moms to plan their weddings. People feel like they can trust our mother-daughter dynamic. I recently got married myself, which means I have a fresh perspective on being a bride, while my Mom connects to the brides’ mothers. Additionally, if a client doesn’t have a great relationship with her Mom, mine is able to step into that role and give advice as needed.
How many weddings do you do per year and who are your clientele?
We do about 12-15 per year. We have expanded into helping clients look after the whole wedding experience, from the rehearsal dinner Thursday, welcome party Friday night, wedding day on Saturday and the post-wedding brunch on Sunday. As well as being great fun, it also enables us to create a coherent wedding weekend story for our clients. The majority of our events are Santa Barbara destination weddings and many of our clients come from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. So, in all, we do about 12-15 weddings, but each one can comprise of 3-4 separate events.
What's been some of your favorite design elements for projects?
We make each event extraordinarily unique. We organized a wedding last year with the closest we’ve had to an unlimited budget. The canopy draping was unbelievable. The sun filtered through, hitting the billowing ivory fabric perfectly. I remember watching the amazed reactions of the guests as they entered!
We did a beautiful event at the Bacara, which is just north of Santa Barbara. Our bride’s color scheme was deep rich purple mixed with gray. The guest count was a little smaller so we were able to do it in a circular room with a silver metallic dance floor. We used a mixture of chairs to create a unique environment, with part of the table surrounded by round white leather banquettes and the other half with silver chiavari chairs. The mixture of circular elements worked beautifully, especially when accented by purple uplighting.
We've done a safari wedding. We brought in a live giraffe and a baby zebra, and designed the space to look like a flat-roofed safari tent with hardwood decking and tons of wood elements. We draped the canopy in white muslin fabric to resemble mosquito net material, and added a variety of tropical flowers to finish it.
Sometimes my favorites come down to people we work with. We had one darling couple who had a metallics wedding accented with coppers, pewters and silvers. Each table had different table linens and an assortment of chargers, napkins and chairs.
I’m excited about an upcoming wedding which will include custom bars and wallpaper wrapped columns. We’re also working with an amazing new invitation designer for it, a husband and wife team based in LA called Bliss and Bone.
How have you navigated working with family?
We have a natural chemistry that enables us to support each other. My Mom really engages in the logistics and I’m her calming agent! On the day of the wedding I like to deal with the vendors to relieve pressure and allow her to focus. She becomes the hub and director while I take care of the moving pieces of set up, so she can do what she’s best at.
I know that generally, working with family can be difficult, and we inevitably disagree occasionally, but I honestly believe we have a really special bond. We finish each other’s sentences. When we’re designing we totally understand what the other is thinking and bounce off each other to create the perfect master plan. We also go to a lot of events and trade shows together to keep us constantly inspired.
How do you help a bride brand their wedding?
A bride will generally come to us with some kind of inspiration, typically the estate or home they’re getting married at. We also start by sending the couple a questionnaire that asks them everything from their favorite clothing designer and restaurant, to the companies they go to when they decorate their house, as well as how they met and the story of their engagement.
This helps us understand their style so we can connect them with the right vendors.
We also talk about what’s most important to them, whether it’s the flowers, food or entertainment, as these will be the biggest ticket items in their budget. If the clients have a higher budget for flowers, we might refer them to someone a bit more high end, perhaps even a Los Angeles florist, or if they have a lower one we will often try to work with a local vendor who doesn’t have to transport the product from outside of Santa Barbara.
We always say the first piece of branding is the save the date, and then your invitations. Your paper products should carry the same logo, or unique border, that extends through to menus, table number and even the ceiling of the tent design.
I recently did a property tour of a phenomenal estate in Carpinteria. We came across a recessed lighting cove which had an intricate Italian painted leaf border. I instantly wanted to replicate it on the invitations! It’s the little pieces of inspiration that make things special… I want the invitations to match the bar menu, flowers and colors.
I visualize the different elements of a wedding like a beautifully curated blog post with a stream of effortlessly flowing, cohesive images.
How long does it take you to plan a wedding?
We’ve planned weddings as fast as four months but they tend to take a year, or sometimes more. If we have less time we tell our brides to make decisions quickly and get the wedding dress ordered as a priority to avoid rush fees.
When we get booked we send the client the branding questionnaire and a planning binder which also includes information on Santa Barbara and the timeline. We give them a breakdown of what they should be thinking about 18-12 months and 9-12 months out. We also have a custom form for the 3 month marker for all final details, from escort cards to the songs you want to enter and exit to. Obviously there are variations to this, but we generally get everything dialed in by 3 months and then fine tune.
You recently got married, how has that changed your perspective on wedding planning?
I feel like I’m more relatable and have an authority to give my opinion and advice as I’ve been through it personally. Even as a wedding planner there were smaller things I didn't realize the bride takes on, like spending time getting mailing addresses! And even though the groom’s parents plan the rehearsal dinner, you still need to figure out who is coming, what you want to serve, the wine selection and the design- as you want it to fit with the branding of the wedding day. For that reason we’ve created a ton of new organizational tools for our brides... tools I wish I’d had!
If you could give brides your top three tips what would they be?
This is going to sound stereotypical, but I think a lot of brides need to relax, enjoy the process and know everything will get done.
They take on a lot and want to do things themselves, but that increases the stress. Trust the vendors you’ve hired to do their job and understand that they're in it with you! It shows in photos if you're not relaxed and having fun on the day. At that point you don’t have control over anything anyway! It’s time to drink champagne and have fun! Secondly, stay off Pinterest when you've nailed your design direction!
Pinterest can be a blessing and a curse! Brides will show a photographer an image they like from Pinterest but the truth is, they’re not getting married in a field, it’s not going to be snowing, and their dress is completely different. [Insert *blushing* from our editor, Laura Piety, who did exactly that.] Trust that your photographer is going to capture a beautiful image of you. [Which she did.]
Lastly, spend money on lighting. It will completely transform a space, especially if you're getting married on a private estate. At my wedding we up-lit the trees in different colors when the dancing started and it created a magical ambience. Lighting transforms photographs.
If you're going to spend a lot of money on your flowers and centerpieces they should be pin-spotted as you don't want them to disappear when the sun goes down. Candlelight only lights the bottom and just a little more enables them to stay alive all night long.
Uplighting pieces of fabric, or perimeter walls in a ballroom, also makes a really beautiful difference and it’s typically not that expensive.
What would your dream wedding event be?
I wish we could do more beach weddings, but the best locations to do that are in Bali or Hawaii. In fact, there’s an amazing location in Hawaii called Haiku Mill. It feels like an ancient architectural space laden with Hawaiian rocks and accented by chandeliers. There are also beaches nearby.
Estate weddings have always been my favorite, and luckily we specialize in them! When you’re working with a ballroom you’re often limited by the carpet, drapery on the walls, its color or lighting fixtures. But when you’re on a private estate, a park, or somewhere outdoors- which you’re blessed to be able to do in Southern California- you have much more creative freedom.
I don’t think I can pinpoint my dream estate wedding, it’s just something perfectly done for that particular client… and a happy bride at the end of it. In most cases my mom and I have the perfect vision in our heads for our clients and their event, and it's wonderful to see if come to life, but watching the bride enter the space for the first time is amazing.
We always try and sneak the bride and groom in just before cocktail hour so they can see the finished product. It’s amazing to see their faces light up. For that reason our job is extremely rewarding and our favorite part of wedding planning.
For more information visit: http://www.lafeteweddings.com
Images courtesy of La Fete Weddings