Event stylist Katy Cowper on perfect parties: event style and substance

Ellerslie Events

If you’re planning an event, you’ve likely come to the realisation that a lot of work is involved before you can pop that first bottle and enjoy some banter and a boogie with your guests.

And with the world having missed out on ‘event life’ for the past couple of years or so, it can be hard getting back into the swing of things and knowing what event styling trends are hot, what aren’t so hot and what will keep your guests talking about your event (in a good way!) in the years to come.

If that sounds like a bit of you, then a read of our chat with Katy Cowper is just what you need to get the ball rolling with this bubbly and immaculate Auckland-based event stylist giving us the lowdown on the key trends ahead for events, the ‘been there, done that’ trends we should let go of, and her tips for throwing a bash that guests will remember for years.

When styling an event, the goal is to style the occasion to match the personality of the brand, product, people or company. Fortunately, you can take your pick from two key trends making an impact overseas: minimalism or bold.

Katy explains, “Inspired by international trends, I believe we’ll see a shift towards minimal events that focus on a couple of design aspects such as florals or stationery, with everything else pared back.”

A minimal approach to styling is welcome news for those focused on streamlining the budget or taking an environmental approach to their occasion. But if that’s not to your taste, don’t be afraid to embrace a more maximal look.

“Another key trend is a bold, modern event using bright hues,” Katy says.

“We see this a lot when it comes to large-scale events, such as weddings and concerts.

“Coachella was a fantastic example of styling with intense colours and vivid neon hues.”

The Smirnoff Activation at the most recent Coachella by NVE Agency

Outdoor dining, concerts and events are increasingly popular post-COVID-19, as people feel safe being in the open air without masks. So it’s hardly surprising that another trend is using colourful lighting to showcase specific sections of an area, creating an otherworldly or futuristic feel.

“Bright, coloured lights to light up trees in an evening event is simple but stunning,” Katy explains.

“However, dramatic lighting and visual projections can also make a considerable impact indoors. A back-lit photo backdrop creates an ‘Instagram worthy setup’ that people will love posting online.”

And with the international plastic crisis and global warming at the forefront of many minds, taking a more sustainable approach to event styling is also in vogue.

“A sustainable approach can still provide that ‘wow factor'” says Katy

Katy suggests utilising hire companies for tableware rather than buying plastic essentials that often end up in the landfill.

“Think outside the box to take an environmental approach to events. For example, could you hire tropical plants instead of buying cut flowers? Could you use twine instead of plastic cable ties? If you have flowers, ask the florist not to use floral foam (oasis) as it is non-biodegradable, non-recyclable and toxic for humans and animals.

“Instead of balloon garlands, get ‘wow factor’ using reusable paper lanterns,” she says.

And some trends have been overdone or don’t appeal in a post-COVID-19 environment, says Katy.

“I’d love to move on from balloon displays – they have been done a lot. Candy buffets can go too. People dipping hands into jars of lollies isn’t ideal from a COVID-19 perspective.”


Katy’s top tips for throwing an event to remember

Dream big but be realistic
Take a vision board of your dream event to your stylist, but remember that you can’t have a Kardashian event on a Kmart budget. Ask your stylist for alternative options and ask yourself what will most add to your guests’ experience.

Small can be impressive
Post-COVID-19, intimate events are on-trend. So, instead of a wedding for 150 guests, consider inviting 40 of your closest friends and family members. Regardless of the size: think a) what is important to us at this event?; b) who is important to us?; and c) how will we show guests they are important to us?

Consider the little details
Always cater to your guests’ needs/wants. Whether it be comfortable seating for elderly guests, providing shade in the summer heat, a supply of cosy blankets in winter, or a cheeseburger delivery at midnight, the thoughtful touches matter.

Provide plenty of sustenance
It’s better to over-cater on food and beverages than not have enough. Nobody wants to leave an evening event with a rumbling stomach where the host felt a few crackers and cheese would suffice as a meal.

First impressions count
The moment someone arrives at an event sets the mood for the rest of the occasion, so make sure your guests experience a warm welcome. And remember that the styling sets the scene for what’s to come – strategic and colourful lighting, tropical plants, or floral displays create an instant wow factor.

Create a point of difference
Unexpected touches add festivity to an occasion. So have fun with your ideas, whether that be live music, cocktail staff making personalised cocktails, or having a petting zoo complete with miniature ponies dressed as unicorns.

To see Katy’s event styling on Instagram, follow @katycowper_events

Get social

Follow @EllerslieEvents on Instagram

decorative background element

Stay in touch

From tips & tricks in event planning through to recipes, interviews, competitions and important updates – sign up to stay in the know with Ellerslie Events.