Peek inside the stunning Victorian redbrick home of wedding planner Kate O'Dowd
When Kate O'Dowd got married, she didn't wear white. She didn't get married in a traditional wedding venue like one of the many expensive castles around Ireland, and she didn't do any hair or make-up trials in anticipation of her 'big day' look.
She was, it seems, anything but a traditional bride. It wouldn't be for everyone, she notes, but it suited her.
If you're wondering why this is relevant, it's because Kate has just recently set up, with her good friend Jen Power, a wedding-planning service, Love &. Plus it's good to know that your wedding planner doesn't have set notions as to what a wedding should be.
What Jen and Kate do have is tons of experience and creativity in the area - Jen as an events organiser who has worked with events companies such as HipHip and Salt Styling, while Kate worked as a fashion stylist and as editor of wedding magazines. She launched Image magazine's Bash in 2013, and edited it for four years, winning the Magazine of the Year award in her first year.
Kate, who hails from Kildare and is the eldest of three - she has two brothers - says her creativity would have come from both parents. "My dad is a retired teacher, and he's currently writing a novel. He always encouraged us to read and write. My mum had her own sewing business. She made everything around the house, and most of our clothes," Kate notes.
After school, Kate studied at IADT Dun Laoghaire and did English, media and cultural studies, followed by an MA in fashion journalism in London.
"I always liked fashion and I liked lifestyle writing. By doing the MA in fashion journalism, I was trying to find a practical use for my degree. I'm not a devourer of the news. I used to beat myself up over that, but it's not my aptitude; I'm more interested in people," Kate says.
Her fashion-writing course involved an internship with an English weekend magazine for six months, which was great experience, if terrifying. "When I started, I was taping up boxes, and if I made too much noise, I got into trouble. There was a lot of me carrying the style director's bags. It taught me always to be nice to interns," Kate says with a laugh.
At her next internship, in Image magazine, she found the staff welcoming, and, after a few months, she got a staff job as editorial assistant, quickly rising up the ranks in her 10 years there.
During her IADT years, she had met Brian Price, the man who became her husband, and together they had their elder son, Teddy, in 2012. "While I was on maternity leave, Image had this idea that they would start a wedding magazine, and asked me to become editor," Kate says.
Bash was a sumptuous magazine, full of amazing bridal shoots and wedding banquets, and Kate was responsible for all of those. "I never thought much about weddings before that, but I realised a wedding has bits of all the things I like doing and that I'm good at," Kate says.
It was while working with Jen Power at Bash and its successor, Image Brides, that the two women first talked about becoming wedding planners, and they finally set up their business, Love &, in April this year. Already, they've had quite a few commissions. "When I was working on the bridal magazine, I felt that the wedding planners were rulers of the wedding game, and at times it felt like there was no fun in it. Also, the aesthetic was so similar from wedding to wedding. They were creating something that was so perfect, you couldn't touch it. We want our brides and grooms to be experiencing the event, rather than standing back and looking at it. I love digging things out of the couples about themselves that are important, that they may not even have realised, and incorporating those into the wedding plan," Kate notes.
Wedding planning as a business is a relatively new concept in Ireland and Kate feels it's long overdue. "The way I see it, planning a wedding is a job, and in few other cases would you be expected to learn a whole new skillset, a book of contacts, just for one occasion," she observes. "If you can afford it, it makes sense to work with experts."
Kate even thinks it can be cheaper in the long run to hire a wedding planner. "The range in prices, say, for a florist can be bananas, particularly if you don't know what flowers you're asking for. Also, if you're renting table linen, sometimes it can be cheaper to buy the table linen and flog it online afterwards, as rental prices can be crazy. If you're working full time, you don't have time for all this research."
Kate is, of course, committed to creating the style of wedding the couple wants; "If they want ethereal and white and twinkling candles, that's fine; it would be boring if we did everything the same. You end up doing something completely different every time," she explains.
Kate favoured a laid-back wedding for herself, with a small reception in a city-centre restaurant. She had colour and lots of playful touches, including signs saying 'Little Family, Big Love' - Teddy was a year old when they married.
A similarly playful colourful aesthetic has permeated Kate and Brian's lovely home in Dublin 3, which they bought just before they had Teddy. "I remember sitting on my yoga ball in this room, because we had no couch, while I was pregnant with Teddy. It was a really stressful time to buy, just before he was born, but we were really lucky to get this house. We had wanted Portobello, like everyone, but everything needed humungous work," Kate says.
The conversion work in their now-home had already been done: the kitchen had been nicely converted, with lots of light courtesy of roof lights; and the attic had also been converted, and is now an office for Kate. There are also three bedrooms - Albert arrived 18 months ago - and two reception rooms. They have a cat who only drinks flowing water, so there is a fountain on the landing for her. "She was driving us mental at the tap the whole time, so this fountain is the only place she will now drink from," Kate explains.
The original floors were all good, and all Kate and Brian had to do was a lot of painting. "The last owners liked reds and greens; dark colours," Kate notes, adding that while the kitchen is now painted a duck-egg blue, all the other walls are white. The doors of all the rooms are pink. "We had white doors, and it was missing a bit of contrast. The pink doors make me very happy. My poor husband, whose masculinity died that day, painted the doors," Kate says with a laugh.
The furnishings are a mix of things from skips and junk shops and lots of Ikea, which Kate changed up with new knobs. "The knobs are from Tiger. Or Sostrene Grene, the Swedish chain. I'm desperate out there. There's a chair I regret to say I queued two hours for, along with every woman in south Co Dublin. I wanted more; I got the last one. I thought, 'I can't use it for anything, but I can't leave it now'," she laughs.
If Kate seems a tad obsessive, no worries, she's the kind of person you need to plan your wedding.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine